Writing-In Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.
Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.

In general, the November 3rd elections in the city of Harrisonburg were a rather dull affair.  Although citizens had the opportunity to vote for six different contests, only one office, state senator, was contested.  As you might expect, this lack of choices inspired a handful of folks to write-in candidates.  Fellow blogger Rick Sincere often pens an article about the write-in votes in Charlottesville, but what names do people write-in in Harrisonburg?  Well, I decided to visit the local registrar’s office to find out.

In case you are wondering, once the election results have been certified they are made available to the public.  Unfortunately, they aren’t listed on a nice, neat, printed sheet, but rather each write-in vote is printed on a long piece of narrow paper, which resembles a register receipt.  Having previously worked as an election official in Rockingham County, I know that some voters write-in made up or fictitious characters, like Mickey Mouse or “anyone else”, but how many real people could be identified?  For the record, I only went through the data once, so it is possible the numbers I list below aren’t quite right.  Nevertheless, if you live in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, I think you’ll find them of interest.

In the race for the 26th Virginia Senate seat, there were only 14 write-in votes in Harrisonburg, likely low because voters had at least two choices.  April Moore, the Democratic candidate, won Harrisonburg and Republican Mark Obenshain got second.  However, there was a three-way tie for third place between Christopher Runion, Lowell Fulk, and yours truly as we each had two write-ins.

Moving on to the 26th House of Delegates seat where Republican Tony Wilt ran unopposed, there were almost 11% write-ins, the highest for any of the seats in play.  Harrisonburg City Council member Kai Degner took second with 19 votes, followed by Rockingham County School member Lowell Fulk with 14 votes.  Both Degner and Fulk had each previously been the Democratic nominee for this office in earlier elections.  Other write-ins of note included:  Harvey Yoder with three votes, my partner on the radio Andy Schmookler with two votes, local political activist Dale Fulk with two votes, and Harrisonburg Democratic Party Chair Deb Fitzgerald also with two. Many people received one write-in vote including: former Harrisonburg City Council members Dorn Peterson and George Pace, Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, Harrisonburg Mayor Chris Jones, the Virginia Libertarian Party Vice-chairman Dr. James Lark III, State Senator Creigh Deeds from Bath County, former Harrisonburg Republican Party Chairman John Elledge, the 2015 Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate April Moore, 2014 city council candidates Alleyn Harned and Joshua Huffman, and several of my Facebook friends such as: Jeremy Aldrich, Shammara Blanchard, and Matthew Phillippi.

Finishing in second in the race for sheriff with seven write-in votes was Harvey Yoder.  Third was former sheriff candidate Kurt Boshart with five and fourth was Chris Monahan with three.  Other names with one or more votes include: Kai Degner, Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, local TV anchor Bob Corso, former sheriff Glenn Weatherholtz, 6th District Democratic Party Chair Joe Fitzgerald, former sheriff candidate CM Hess, City Council member Richard Baugh, Greg Nesselrodt (one of my good friends in high school), and again one vote for me.  I’m not quite sure why someone would think me as being qualified for sheriff, but that is another issue.

For Harrisonburg/Rockingham Clerk of Court, Renee Evans Haywood captured nine write-ins.  Other names of note included: Kai Denger, Dale Fulk, former treasurer candidate Penny Imeson, former council member Charlie Chenault, school board member Andy Kohen, local TV producer Channing Frampton, Joe Fitzgerald, Chris Jones, Lowell Fulk, a previous clerk candidate Diane Fulk, local political activist Dave Briggman, former HHS classmate W.O. Brown III, and a vote for me.  I assure you that someone wrote me in, but I didn’t do it.

Moving on to Harrisonburg/Rockingham Commonwealth Attorney, many people tied for second with two votes: Dale Fulk, Tricia Nesselrodt, John Elledge, and former House of Delegates candidate Gene Hart.  Other names with a vote include: Lowell Fulk, Andy Kohen, radio personality Karl Magenhoffer, attorney Bob Keefer, attorney Roland Santos, high school friend Edward Panchari, and me, Joshua Huffman.

In the special election for Harrisonburg School Board to replace Dany Fleming, Mr. Fleming captured the most write-in votes with ten.  Other candidates of interest with one or more votes include: Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, Steve Nesselrodt, Tricia Nesselrodt, Mark Finks, former school board member Tom Mendez, Erin Phillippi, Matt Phillippi, Charlie Chenault, Violet Allain (who hosted a city council meet-and-greet for the candidates at her house last year), Channing Frampton, and another vote for me.

Lastly, there weren’t too many write-in votes for Soil & Water Conservation Director.  Dale Fulk had two, radio personality Jim Britt had one, several of my friends had one such as Tristan Flage, Joe Rudmin, and Matt Phillippi, and, again, one person decided to write my name in for this office.

Although some write-in votes are nonsensical or vulgar, for others write-ins are a way to show dissatisfaction with the possible choices, or in the case of the 2015 elections in Harrisonburg, the lack of choices.  And, to the handful of people who decided to write me in, I certainly appreciate your vote, but I’m not running for anything right now.  I hope I can earn your support when and if the time comes again.

Yes, writing-in might be annoying for those election officials counting the ballots, but it can be a fascinating insight into the minds of the disaffected voter.  Hopefully the citizens of Harrisonburg will have at least two choices for every elected office in 2016, in which case we should see a dip in write-in votes in the next election.

Spain, Netanyahu, & The Press

Image from Benjamin Netanyahu’s Twitter page

Yesterday, a judge in Spain issued an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Thus, if Mr. Netanyahu sets foot in Spain he could be subject to arrest and detention from Spanish authorities.  The outstanding warrant also includes: Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman, ex-Defense Minister Ehud Barak, former Interior Minister Eli Yishai, former Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon, Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin, and Vice-Admiral Maron Eliezer.

This situation stems from an incident in 2010 when several ships attempted to bring aid to the Gaza Strip and thus break an Israeli blockade.  Although there were no major incidents with the other ships, when the Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara, nine people were killed in the ensuing struggle and a tenth died later.

However, one aspect of the story that I find particularly fascinating is how various news outlets are reporting it.  Right-wing sources, like Fox News and Breitbart, seem to paint the Israeli defense forces in a positive light while left-wing sources, such as The Huffington Post and the Independent, do the opposite.

For example, here is an excerpt from Fox:

In the 2010 incident, a group of human rights activists — which included members affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, according to authorities – boarded several aid ships to try and break an Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Israel’s navy was able to stop several of the ships without incident, but its commandos were attacked when boarding the Mavi Marmara, leaving 10 activists dead in an ensuing gun battle.

Note that it mentioned that some of the activists were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and that the Israeli forces were the ones being attacked.

Compare that to The Huffington Post:

The case was brought against the men after an attack by Israeli Defence Forces on the so-called ‘Freedom Flotilla’ ships, which were sailing to Gaza from Istanbul and Greece in support of Palestinian settlements.

The long-fought legal battle was focused on the ‘Mavi Marmara’ ship – the head civilian vessel among a fleet carrying humanitarian aid in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Nine activists were killed in the incident in which the ship was stormed by IDF personnel.

In this version, the story goes that the ship was both civilian and humanitarian and was attacked by the Israeli Defense Forces.

In the first story, those breaking the blockade seem to be the bad guys; in the second, it is those enforcing the blockade.

But which is the truth?  Was the blockade legal or illegal?  Were the ships attempting to bring humanitarian aid or weapons to the people of Gaza?  Did the ships provoke the Israeli Defense Forces or was it the other way around?  Did the Israelis have the right to board these ships?  Did the ships have a right to defend themselves?

Unfortunately, your answer to all of these questions may hinge upon what news outlet you choose to read the story.  Presumably liberals would get the liberal version of the events while conservatives get the conservative one.  With these slanted and biased sources objectivism and truth can fall by the wayside depending on whether you wish to show the Israelis as doing everything they can to protect their people from the horrors of terrorism or a group of humanitarians bringing critical aid to a people under the heel of brutal oppression.

So again, what is the truth?  Are the Spanish authorities acting correctly in this matter or is it the Israeli leaders who are in the right?  How can we know?  Do we simply let Fox News and the Huffington Post decide for us?

The Virginia SFL Conference

Robert Sarvis speaking at the conference

Yesterday, Students for Liberty held their first statewide conference in Virginia on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  The event included students from a variety of colleges across the Commonwealth and even a few from neighboring states.  The conference featured a wide variety of speakers including: former Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis, a writer for Reason Magazine, and the aunt of Ross Ulbricht, the imprisoned creator of The Silk Road.

As with any political gathering, I found some parts more interesting than others.  I thought the fellow from Reason was particularly entertaining and the talk of Ulbricht’s trial made me realize how little I knew about the matter and that I ought to learn more (which I explored once I returned home).  I also liked the panel discussion with the leaders of the George Mason, UVA, VA Tech, and William & Mary student leaders.  Although those on the left often treat the Koch brothers as a boogie-men, I appreciate the fact that I’ve gotten something useful from the Charles Koch Institute every time I’ve spoken with their representatives.  On Saturday, it was a portable charger for my cell phone.  I also had a good conversation with the woman at the Ladies for Liberty Alliance table.  Heaven knows that we could use some more good, strong, principled women in the liberty movement (especially locally).

While I sat on a bench during one of the break times, it was amusing to observe which of the conference attendees were introverts, like myself, and which were extroverts.  Although we all share a similar political philosophy, it can sometimes be taxing to be immersed in large groups for too long.

The William & Mary Libertarians
The William & Mary Libertarians

It was great to see so many students from my alma mater (William & Mary) at the conference.  I had the opportunity to speak with several of their members and I’m hopeful for the chance to attend one of their meetings before the end of the school year.

I’m pleased to say that I left the conference feeling encouraged, knowing that a growing number of students in Virginia are fighting to expand our freedoms, and that they are doing so outside of the constraints of the two major political parties.

For those who weren’t able to make it, unfortunately you missed an event that was both great and free.  So, what was your excuse?

Thanks to the students and organization who made yesterday possible.  Anyway, I hope this becomes an annual gathering and I look forward to seeing everyone at the next one!

Pictures of Veterans’ Day in Harrisonburg

IMG_3073Today, around 11 AM, folks in Harrisonburg gathered around the German artillery piece from World War I near Memorial Hall to pause and reflect on Veterans’ Day.  In the half an hour that followed, there were speeches, music, the firing of a handful of guns, and the laying of a wreath and flowers to remember those who have fought on behalf of our nation.

Personally, I found the thoughts of the veterans most interesting.  One mentioned that there are very few veterans serving in Congress these days.  Another spoke about how the country is currently losing far more veterans to suicide than combat losses.  The former soldier in the green uniform talked about his time in Vietnam, mentioning that his greatest fear at that time was not dying, but rather falling into the hands of the enemy.  Although he did not elaborate, he declared that war was the most dreadful of human experiences, causing people to do all sorts of terrible things.  He hoped that either in war or peace, he would never set foot again in Vietnam.

We should be thankful to our veterans for their willingness to serve and protect our freedoms.  By doing so, we shouldn’t allow our politicians to treat these men and women as mere pawns to be sacrificed freely.  War ought to be the option of last resort and our armed forces should only be deployed when our nation is either under attack or under threat of attack.  In that way, we would be honoring the men and women who don the uniform.

Time for a New Majority Leader!

Heading into the 2015 elections, Republicans held a narrow 21-19 lead in the Virginia Senate.  And now that all of the votes have been counted, that seat count remains unchanged.  A few of the establishment politicians retired and were replaced by people who campaigned on a message that was more liberty-minded, more limited government than their predecessors.  Are they more principled?  Well, I guess we will have to wait and see.

Photo from SenatorNorment.com
Photo from SenatorNorment.com

Unfortunately, the current majority leader and the most powerful person in the Virginia Senate is Tommy Norment (R-James City County).  Four years ago, I wrote an article lamenting the fact that the Republicans selected Norment as the majority leader given that he is arguably the least conservative Republican in that body.  Although I lobbied my state senator to vote for a better candidate at that time, my suggestion went nowhere.  As you might imagine, I was (and am) worried that if the Republicans retained the senate after the 2015 elections then we would be saddled with another four years of Norment’s leadership.

However, this year there may be hope.  Yesterday, Senator Tom Garrett (R-Buckingham County) called for a new senate majority leader.  This development is important because it marks the first time that a Republican legislator has publicly opposed the election or re-election of Norment.

Senator Garrett’s argument is that Senator Norment wields too much power given that he is both the majority leader and the finance chairman.  It certainly is a valid concern.  After all, one senator should never have so much authority that he can make the wishes and votes of the others largely irrelevant.  As Senator Garrett explained to The Washington Post, “No one person needs that much power.  It’s happened before, and it’s never ended well.”

However, there are a variety of other reasons why conservatives and libertarians should oppose Norment.  As perhaps the best example, he was a leading proponent of the massive 2013 transportation tax hike.  While Mark Warner was governor, Senator Norment also voted for what was then the largest tax increase in Virginia’s history.

Besides taxes, Norment has repeatedly voted to expand the power of the state government and has opposed efforts to shrink the size and scope of their authority.  In matters of crony capitalism, does it concern anyone else that Senator Norment has received $92,740 from Dominion Power, the state promoted energy monopoly?

Switching to personal issues, Senator Norment’s name appeared on the leaked Ashley Madison list and Norment admitted that he cheated on his wife when he was thinking about getting a divorce.  One does have to ask the question, if a politician is unfaithful to his or her spouse, how faithful can he or she be to the Virginia Constitution he or she swore to uphold and the voters who placed their trust in him?

Virginia Republicans claim that the senate has gotten more conservative.  But, if that were indeed the case, why would they continue to elect one of their least conservative members as majority leader?  Their actions certainly don’t match their rhetoric.

Photo from Senator Garrett's Facebook page
Photo from Senator Garrett’s Facebook page

It’s great that Senator Garrett has taken this public stance, but he needs our help!  Therefore, I encourage each of you to contact your state senator, assuming he or she is a Republican, and urge him or her to stand with Senator Garrett and push for new leadership.  Here is a handy phone list from the Virginia Senate’s website.  You don’t have to be a Republican to be a part of this effort, just a Virginia citizen who is tired of the politics as usual attitude in Richmond.

In addition, although not associated with the official effort, a new community has just sprung up on Facebook called Dump Norment.  I don’t know who runs the page, but I suggest giving it a like to get updates and connect with fellow individuals who also want a new senate majority leader.

Please contact your state senator and let them know that you stand with Senator Garrett and for new leadership in the Virginia Senate.  Call, email, or, better yet, visit your legislators in person.  If enough of us speak out, we can and will make a difference!


Complete by Kutless

Incomplete it all began
The broken state that I was in
I wished that I was someone else
‘Cause I was lost inside myself

I started seeing who I am
The day my life with you began
You clearly solved the mystery
That finding you meant finding me

God, I’m falling to my knees
I’m bowing at your feet
I give you all of me
In you I am complete

It’s all because of love
I’m not who I was
I’m who I meant to be
In you I am complete

God who doesn’t need at all
I heard your voice, I felt your call
Its echoing
I cannot shake you off

The stars that shine they bear your name
They sing the song that gives you praise
You’ve captured me
My heart is lifting off

God, I’m falling to my knees
I’m bowing at your feet
I give you all of me
In you I am complete

It’s all because of love
I’m not who I was
I’m who I meant to be
In you I am complete

I’ve got to tell the world
About the things you’ve done
I want to shout it out, I’m gonna live it now
Amazing grace is why I’m singing

God, I’m falling to my knees
I’m bowing at your feet
I give you all of me
In you I am complete

It’s all because of love
I’m not who I was
I’m who I meant to be
In you I am complete

Scenes From the Polls 2015

In the grand scheme of things, there were no great upheavals in Virginia’s 2015 elections.  Although both Republicans and Democrats hoped to make gains in the Virginia Senate, at the end of the day the Republicans maintained their 21-19 majority over the Democrats.  Here in Harrisonburg all of yesterday’s races were uncontested, save for a senate race in a heavily Republican district.

This year, instead of campaigning for a candidate or a cause, throughout the day I stopped by a handful of polling places in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to take photos of the candidates and activists working at the polls.  My goal was to capture as many of the candidates as possible.  Although I had the itinerary for several of them, most were either elsewhere or didn’t both to work the polls as they had no opponent.

Here are the photos in chronological order:

Lessons From Senior English

IMG_0292I’d like to take a moment today to look back on a person who has been a positive influence in my life.   To do so, I need to rewind to my days at Harrisonburg High School.  I suppose high school is a turbulent time for many young adults.  It is an opportunity to cultivate new friendships, discover one’s interests, and ideally learn a lot both academically and about the world.

Unfortunately, my early days in high school weren’t all that positive.  Although I was very politically curious and opinionated at that time (and, for anyone who knows me, I still am), I often ran afoul of my freshman English teacher as she and I held diametrically opposing viewpoints.  Unfortunately, disagreements flared up often, both in and out of class, and my grades in that subject weren’t nearly as good as what I would have liked.  Given both the hostility and my results, I began to grow convinced of two things.  First, that I wasn’t particularly good at writing and second, it reinforced my beliefs that I should only associate with people who held my most important values.  As one example, in my sophomore English class, I openly declared that I only wanted to have friends who were conservative and Christian, like me.

Moving forward in time, my senior year I had an English teacher by the name of Mrs. Fielding.  I am grateful that she was both a positive and motivating instructor.  Sometimes, either after class or before, I would stay behind or show up early to speak with her on a variety of subjects.  And, during our talks, I discovered that she was a Catholic.  Although I’m sure that I had met a whole host of Catholics before, I believe that she was the first authority figure who identified as such.  However, my time growing up in the Presbyterian Church as well as one of my great uncles (also Presbyterian) had coloured my view of that faith.  As just a few examples, I was told that they prayed to Mary and the saints and venerated relics of the dead, both of which my church frowned upon and thus meant that they weren’t really Christian.  Nevertheless, because I found our conversations so interesting, I wanted them to continue.

At one point she told me a little of her time growing up, when she attended school and some of her classmates derided her as a pagan due to her religious beliefs.  She said “pagan” as if the word had cut her deeply.  Although I wasn’t a Catholic, I remember thinking that this bullying seemed dreadfully unfair.  I thought that assuming that she was as nice a person then as she was in the late 1990s, regardless of her religious convictions, she certainly didn’t deserve this kind of poor treatment.  How would I feel in her shoes?  Some years later, I began to wonder if I was being trained to be like her persecutors.

During the election season that year I skipped one day of senior English when then Virginia Governor George Allen and Attorney General Jim Gilmore came to campaign in downtown Harrisonburg.  I remember that my teacher wasn’t happy about me being absent, but it didn’t scuttle our relationship.

As such, as the year progressed, we continued speaking, often discussing my other favorite subject, politics.  No, it wasn’t part of the assigned reading for the class, but she suggested that I pick up a copy of The Prince.  It is a remarkably short book, but I read it many times and it planted a seed of interest in political philosophy that grew and has continued to the present day.  I count the works of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Cicero, Locke, and Rousseau as some of the most important tomes I have on my shelf.  In addition, I recall that she considered herself a Democrat.  However, unlike the previous Democrats I had run across, I believe that she was the first with whom I could hold civil conversations, even when we disagreed, and for that I was grateful.

Fortunately, as a result of my time in my senior year of English, I began to shed my strong aversion of Catholics and transitioned into no longer viewing them as the enemy, just as simply people with a differing religious perspective.  Beliefs taught early in life are tough to eliminate completely, but in the years that followed, I ended up supporting quite a few Catholic politicians such as:  former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Delegate Bob Marshall, and Delegate Mark Berg, as well as making some Catholic friends.  Yes, although we don’t share the exact same religious convictions, that distinction doesn’t make any of us bad people or worthy of scorn or abuse.

Looking back, perhaps I infused that life lesson into my most recent novel.  The first character you meet leads the reader to believe that the Catholics will be the main villain of the story, and although there are certainly some awful interactions between the Catholics and the Protestants, you hopefully realize that the true enemy is not the Catholics (or the Protestants) or even anyone else who believes what we might consider heresy, but instead hypocritical and immoral people who commit dreadful acts out of fear and in the lustful pursuit of power.  I didn’t begin crafting my first book until several years after college, but I’m sure that my time in senior English helped mend my writing confidence.

In early 2015 (or was it late 2014?), I’m pleased to say that I ran into Mrs. Fielding at one of the local grocery stores after many years away.  I gave her my contact information in the hopes she might have some suggestions of how I could publish one of my books.  Unfortunately, nothing emerged from our brief conversation. But, I still have dreams that something positive will come in the future.

I cannot say how many lives she improved through her class, but I know that I still appreciate everything I learned.  So, here’s to you, Mrs. Fielding.  Thank you!  I hope you have been enjoying your retirement!