The Death of a Friend(ship)

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Today happens to be rather bittersweet for me as it marks the anniversary of the death of a friendship.  Through my adventures in politics I have met a multitude of people, some of whom I have had the honor of calling friends.  I discovered this particular person about six years ago or so.  Over the years we had many adventures together, we talked about politics, we ate together, we sang karaoke together (if you can imagine that!), we even celebrated our birthdays together as they were only a few days a part.  However, if you want to know what people truly think of you, try running for public office.

Unfortunately, when I ran for office back in 2014, I ended up losing several people I considered my friends as they publicly opposed my candidacy, backed my opponents, and some were downright nasty.  During the campaign season I was visiting one of my other friends when she got a knock on the door.  After discovering it concerned politics (a subject which doesn’t really interest her) she called me to the door.  Imagine my surprise when I found this now former friend out campaigning door-to-door with two of my opponents.  It was a moment that breaks one’s heart.  However, I consoled myself that it was just politics and I shouldn’t let this one campaign, even though it was my own, ruin a multi-year friendship.

Therefore, when in January of last year I was invited to meet a nationally known Republican politician, I invited this friend to join me on the adventure, which she did.  It took some time to get to our destination and the trip was fairly uneventful.  Unfortunately, although the organizers of the event had promised us one-on-one time with the official, we were only given the slightest of moments to say hello and snap a photo.  When we returned back to Harrisonburg, this friend posted the photo of the two of us with this elected official…well, sort of.  One third of the picture was missing and I had been cropped out.  I asked why this had been done and was told that this friend was seeking a position within her party and she worried that being seen with me would hurt her political ambitions.

That move reminded of another event which took place several years earlier.  At that time I was fully smitten by a woman who I supposed you would say was the “Yer Jalan Atthirari Anni“.  One day she held a party and invited her family, a handful of her closest friends, and me, perhaps about eight of us in all.  After the event, she posted a multitude of photos of the day on Facebook.  Unfortunately, I noticed, much to my dismay, I was in none of them.  I asked her why I had been excluded, but she didn’t really offer an answer.  It was an exceedingly painful truth to realize that I was little more than her “dirty little secret“, to be used and discarded whenever I proved valuable to her.

Although I am in no way comparing myself to Jesus, these experiences made me think of a Bible verse.  In Luke 9:26 Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.” (NLT).  I have friends who are Republicans.  I have friends who are Democrats.  I have friends who are Libertarians.  I have friends who are apolitical.  I have friends who are Christians.  I have friends who are atheists.  I have friends who are gay.  I have friends who are straight.  I have friends who are white.  I have friends who are black.  I have friends who are women.  I have friends who are men.  I have friends who are rich and I have friends who are poor.  Do some of these people annoy me from time to time?  Of course, such is the nature of humanity.  Do I agree with them all of the time? It is impossible.  But, I would not be ashamed for the world to know that any of these people are my friends.  If I were to treat any of them in this fashion, I do not believe that I could rightly call them a friend.

It is unfortunate that sometimes we are so caught up in ourselves and fail to reflect upon how our actions could negatively impact others, especially those we call our friends.  Although I try to act differently, I’m sure that I’m likely as guilty of this transgression as anyone.  If I’ve insulted a friend I hope someone would let me know for I hate to mourn the death of a friendship.

Obenshain for Committeewoman?

On Saturday morning, while watching the snow continue to fall in the central Shenandoah Valley, I read something on the internet that caught my attention.  My state senator, Mark Obenshain, wrote a Facebook post in support of his wife.  For those who don’t know, Suzanne Obenshain is running to be Virginia’s next Republican Party National Committeewoman.  There is another candidate running too, Cynthia Dunbar.

Anyway, as a way to bolster support for Suzanne, Senator Obenshain listed what he thought were some of her important qualifications:

UntitledSounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  After all the idea of electing a Virginian who has been active in conservative politics for decades is appealing, right?  However, are these points really important to Senator Obenshain?

If we rewind the clock to the 2014 Harrisonburg City Council elections, although all of the candidates had ties to Virginia, to the best of my knowledge only one (or perhaps two) could have been considered a conservative grassroots leader.  Only one of the candidates had been involved in over a dozen campaigns for conservative (or at least Republican) candidates in Virginia and only one had attended the 2008, 2009, and 2013 state Republican conventions along with the 2012 6th district convention.  And, to top it off, this candidate was active in politics for the past 19 years.

If the qualifications Senator Obenshain listed on Saturday morning were so important, one would assume that he would support all candidates who meet them.  However, that is not the case as he ended up endorsing two candidates for Harrisonburg City Council, neither of which had nearly the same level of involvement as his wife, Suzanne Obenshain.  How can I know these things?  Well, it is because I was the “only candidate with these qualifications” listed above in the 2014 city council elections.

Yes, it is exceedingly important to have standards and principles, but shouldn’t a person, especially an elected official, be consistent in their application?  If Senator Obenshain values a steadfast principled activist who has been toiling in the Virginia trenches for years, including one who regularly volunteered for his campaigns, as both Suzanne Obenshain and I have, wouldn’t logic dictate he would stand behind both of us?

Therefore, you have to wonder if any of the points listed in the Facebook post truly matter or are they merely talking points to rile up an “us against them” mentality against someone like Cynthia Dunbar who moved to Virginia about half a dozen years ago?  I could be wrong, but being “one of us” is more an issue of unashamedly fighting for causes we believe in rather than what city, state, or country one happens to call home.  Being a good and true Virginian is less about transitory things, like geography, and has more to do with a person’s code of conduct, honor, and morals.

I don’t plan on voting at the 2016 RPV convention, but, as is the case in any election, I think principles ought to be of utmost importance and being dedicated to them ought to matter.  To do otherwise seems darned hypocritical to me.

Jerry Mandering for Delegate

As I’ve written in several previous posts, drawing political boundaries to favor a candidate or a politician undermines our political process.  Rather than allowing voters to choose their representatives, the system has been turned upside down with elected officials choosing who they will represent, rigging the process so that they will be elected and re-elected.

Today, much like the Gil Fulbright or Hugh Jidette, OneVirginia2021 released a satirical video of “Delegate Mandering” to highlight this issue.  Enjoy!

Seniority Plates

Photo from Senator Dick Black’s Facebook page

This morning, Senator Dick Black (R-Loudoun) announced on Facebook that he has received new license plates for his vehicle.  Each member of the General Assembly is assigned a plate so that their vehicles can be identified easily.  If you see a car on the road that bears the tag “22 Senator”, then you have likely found Senator Black (or someone who has absconded with his property).

However, given that Senator Black represents the 13th senate district of Virginia, it might seem curious that he bears the number 22 instead of 13.  Bizarrely, this numbering system has nothing to do with district number and instead is based upon seniority.  Thus, of the 40 members of Virginia’s State Senate, 21 have served longer than Senator Black.

However, should a senator or a delegate resign his or her office, die, or lose an election, then new license plates will need to be issued to every elected official with less time served than the outgoing member in order to properly reflect this update in seniority.  Depending on how long he or she has been in office, this change could result in a lot of new plates, especially in a large group, like in the hundred member Virginia House of Delegates.

On the Republican primary day in 2015, while volunteering at the polls, I spoke to Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) about this issue.  I observed that although he represented the 29th House of Delegates district, his license plate number was not “29 Delegate”.  He agreed that the numbering scheme didn’t make much sense and offered to sponsor a bill in the 2016 General Assembly session so that the legislators’ plate numbers matched their respective district number.  Unfortunately, the bill didn’t materialize as Delegate Berg was defeated in the GOP primary.

Sure, there are certainly more important issues than license plate numbers.  But, do we really want to “reward” legislators to try and stay in office as long as possible in order to gain a coveted low number?  We don’t renumber legislative districts every year or two when a new delegate or senator acquires office so why in the world should we craft and re-craft so many license plates based upon something the average Virginian would think is so trivial, like seniority?  It may not be the biggest cost savings technique, but if we assigned license plates based upon legislative districts I’m certain we wouldn’t print as many.  Of course redistricting happens too, but it typically comes up once every ten years as a result of the census, not nearly as frequently as either elections to the House (every 2 years) or Senate (every 4 years).

So, isn’t it better to distribute license plates based upon district numbers instead of seniority?  I’m pretty sure that the state government could save at least a few tax dollars by not replacing a multitude of perfectly good plates every two or four years.

Goodlatte Faces Opposition

Representative Bob Goodlatte
Representative Bob Goodlatte

Since Karen Kwiatkowski was the first person to challenge Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s sixth district back in the 2012 elections, conservatives and libertarians in the Shenandoah Valley have wondered when or if Mr. Goodlatte would face another interparty contest.  In 2014, Paul Bevington attempted to seek the nod but fell short of the signature requirement to make the ballot.

IMG_7603Well, today Harry Griego of Roanoke issued a press release announcing his candidacy.  Mr. Griego recently ran for office in 2015, opposing Delegate Chris Head for the Republican nomination in the 17th district and garnered over 47% of the vote.

According to the press release, Harry Griego states, “over and over again voters told me they were unhappy with the lack of leadership and the failure of Republican officials to vote and fight for the Republican principles they campaign on.” As a hint of his possible campaign issues, he mentions, “an end to the expansion of the budget and the crippling national debt.  They want the border secured.”

Will 2016 mark the end of the Goodlatte era of Shenandoah Valley politics that began after the 1992 elections?  Or will Bob Goodlatte fend off this challenge?  Hopefully, this primary will make for some interesting times in the 6th district.