Corruption in Frederick County

A photo of a portion of the crowd
A photo of a portion of the crowd

On Tuesday, August 30th, the Frederick County Republican Party gathered for their monthly meeting.  The room was packed with about 100 people, including Delegate Chris Collins (R-29), Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33), former Delegate Mark Berg (R-29) and John Whitbeck, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.  There was also a fellow clad in a Barbara Comstock shirt holding some of her bumper stickers, most likely a campaign staffer. This was the first meeting of the Frederick County GOP since the Republican State Central Committee upheld the decision of the 10th district GOP to expel Mark Berg and nine other members of the Frederick County GOP from the Republican Party and ban them from Republican functions for the next four years, which presumably also stripped Dr. Berg of his chairmanship of the Frederick County GOP.  Given that development, one would assume that this meeting would likely be quite interesting.

Outside the meeting room there were two tables, one for guests to sign in and another for county party members.  There was also a poster which contained a curious message stating that Frederick County was not Russia.

IMG_3171Inside, there were a variety of additional posters including a supposed quote from 10th district GOP Chairwoman Jo Thoburn denouncing due process and the 1st Amendment, and another declaring that Article I of the RPV Party Plan was unconstitutional.

Shortly after 7 PM, a woman (I’m told it was Rose Focht, the vice-chair of the group), declared that the meeting was likely to be very contentious and therefore announced that a neutral party, Bill Card from Prince William County, would serve as chair for the meeting.  However, as far as I observed, her decision was neither voted upon nor ratified by the membership.  After the opening prayer and pledge of allegiance (offered by Delegate LaRock), the meeting got underway.  It was announced that there were 63 members of the Frederick County GOP present along with 34 guests.

Temporary Chair Bill Card with RPV Chairman John Whitbeck
Temporary Chair Bill Card with RPV Chairman John Whitbeck before the start of the meeting

The chair then declared that the group would vote on a slate of new members to the committee.  There were some murmurs from the crowd that the chair had changed the order of the agenda of the meeting as the addition of new members was supposed to be scheduled for the end of the meeting.  In addition, no one presented a list of these possible members either in writing or verbally.  One member objected, declaring that she wanted to know more about these potential new additions, but the chair ruled her out of order.  Then, one of the applicant new members agreed that they should be introduced, but he was ignored by the chair.  In the voice vote that followed to add these new members, it sounded to me as if the nays were more plentiful. Curiously, as some guests were scattered among the membership, it was impossible to tell if any of the guests had voted in the voice vote.  For example, although a visitor from Harrisonburg, I could have easily added my vote to the total and no one likely would have been the wiser.   Nevertheless, the chair ruled that they ayes had won and disregarded several protests from the audience.

What was even more surprising was that the temporary chairman then called for the meeting to be adjourned without any further business.  Many folks seemed stunned by the voice vote that followed, but the chair again declared that the ayes had carried the motion and thus the meeting was over only about 10 minutes or so after it had begun.  One exasperated member shouted about fascism.

Afterward, people shuffled out.  An older woman left while wiping tears from her eyes.  8 or so people, including Mark Berg, gathered in a circle for a prayer outside the room.

Inquiring into the matter further I talked with several of the members of the FCRC.  I was told that these new members were added to the committee so that one faction would now have sufficient numbers to purge the group of anyone deemed a troublemaker or those who did not support the new leadership.

I spoke with one woman who recorded the meeting and, if I am able to get a copy, will share it as well.

I have to say that although I’ve been going to political gatherings for 21 years now, I cannot recall a meeting so short, or one that was able to ram through their business in such an blatantly corrupt fashion.  One does wonder what sort of fallout will come to the Frederick County Republican Party and the Republican Party of Virginia for allowing these shenanigans to transpire.

A Campaign of Fear and Hatred

As the 2016 presidential election kicks into high gear, the attacks against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to be intensifying.  Everyday we heard things that suggest Donald Trump is a racist and a bigot and is totally unqualified to serve in office.  Others say that Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook and that she’d be in jail if not for her political connections.  Although some people might decry this overly negative campaigning, unfortunately it is the way politics has been trending for quite some time.

For example, when I started out in the mid 90s, I was taught by folks on both sides of the aisle that Republicans shouldn’t associate with Democrats and vice versa.  Adherents to the other political party were stupid, not to be trusted, and often just plain evil.  One should never treat one’s opponent with civility if it can be helped, because they certainly wouldn’t offer you that same level of respect.  Unfortunately, this problem has gotten even worse.

img_2133-1
Robert Sarvis (L) and Ken Cuccinelli (R) in 2013

Toward these same lines, we’ve had a preview of this year’s horribly negative campaigning before, right here in Virginia in the 2013 race for governor.  The Ken Cuccinelli campaign branded Terry McAuliffe as a corrupt businessman who was totally unqualified to serve in any office, let alone governor, while the McAuliffe folks painted Cuccinelli as a right-wing zealot who wished to turn back the clock on the rights of many individuals.  Both sides went heavily negative and although there were positive selling points for both men, these topics were generally forgotten as both campaigns tried to portray the other as an absolutely horrible outcome.  During the campaign, I spoke with some Cuccinelli staffers who actually declared that their primary goal was to expose McAuliffe in the worst possible light so that by Labor Day most Virginians would consider him completely unelectable.  From what I witnessed, I suspect the McAuliffe folks decided to employ a similar strategy of demonization against Cuccinelli.  They both framed the campaign as the choice of the lesser of two evils and voters were urged to vote against either McAuliffe or Cuccinelli rather than feeling positive about either.  As a result, many of my Republican friends then and now still refer to our governor as Terry McAwful.  However, in that ugly morass was a third candidate, Robert Sarvis.  Although the powers that be conspired to keep him off the debate stage, he still managed to capture 6.5% of the vote from Libertarians and those who were sick of the race to the bottom campaigns of both the Republicans and Democrats.

And here we are again in 2016.  We have a Republican and a Democratic candidate who both suffer from exceedingly high negatives.  Unfortunately, many polls indicate that the average American views Trump and Clinton in an unfavorable light.  Odds are, if the Republicans or Democrats nominated a candidate that was at least halfway likable, he or she would be enjoying a huge lead over his or her primary opponent.  The problem is that negative campaigning does work…at least to a point, provided that there are no other candidates in the race.  In November many Republicans and conservatives will hold their noses and vote for a deplorable man like Donald Trump if they are convinced that they have no other choices and that he is the only way they can stop their greater foe, Hillary.  Likewise, many progressives and Greens despise Hillary Clinton for being corrupt and loath the revelation that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the Democratic National Committee rigged the primaries against Bernie Sanders.  However, if the don’t support Clinton how else can they stop a thug like Trump?

Well, fortunately voters do have other options as there are two (or possibly three) other candidates who could garner enough electoral votes to win the election.  They are: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and potentially Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (although working toward it, he has not reached the ballot access threshold yet).

I remain fully convinced that if the United States were like every other democratic nation, which offers voters a variety of choices and not simply only two (or often one) candidates, this era of increasingly negative campaigning would be drastically curtailed.  After all, if two candidates or their campaigns decide to make it their primary mission to prove that the other is wholly unsuitable for office, then voters could choose a third option and reject the campaign of fear and hatred that both of his or her opponents offer.  If a third party candidate could win a major election from time to time, campaigns would soon come to the realization that they would actually have to sell their own candidates and promote their own supposed principles, rather than presenting themselves as the better of two horrible options.  Maybe then we could get candidates that we actually like, ones that can be trusted to uphold some kind of values, and perhaps party platforms would be more than lofty ideals that are often ignored or even repudiated by their own candidates.  Now, wouldn’t that be something!?

Freedom Gulch #10

FGLast night, the folks at Freedom Gulch held their tenth podcast.  Included in the conversation were: Will Hammer, Robert Clemmer, Michael Pickens, Joshua Huffman, Andy Bakker, and Carl Loser.  We discussed a variety of recent political events such as: Gary Johnson’s rise in the polls and possible inclusion in the debates, Representative Scott Rigell’s (VA-2) endorsement of Johnson, the newest candidate to throw his hat into the ring for president and what that might accomplish, the recent Libertarian town hall on TV, and more.

You can find a replay of the live podcast below.

Lessons Learned at the LPVA Convention

IMG_3166
Joshua Huffman & Gary Johnson at the LPVA Convention

On March 5th, 2016, the Libertarian Party of Virginia held their state convention in Sandston.  During the gathering, they presented a panel called “Lessons Learned” consisting of former candidates who spoke about their experiences running for office.  Seated from left to right, the panel consisted of: Andy Bakker (who ran for House of Delegates in the 46th district), Joshua Huffman (who ran for Harrisonburg City Council), Brian Suojanen (who ran for House of Delegates in the 87th district), and Mark Anderson (who ran for House of Delegates in the 33rd district).  LPVA Vice Chairman, Dr. Jim Lark, introduced the panel and LPVA Chairman Bill Redpath served as the moderator.

Although it has taken some time, I have acquired the video of that panel, which you can find below.  Hopefully, it will provide useful insight to those who are considering running for office or those who are interested in learning more about our political process.

I’d like to thank the Libertarian Party of Virginia once again for giving me the opportunity to join their panelists earlier this year.