That Troublemaker from the Shenandoah Valley

Ed Gillespie at a campaign event in Staunton on November 2014

Last week, while speaking to one of my friends about Virginia politics, he mentioned that one member of the Ed Gillespie for Governor campaign referred to me as “that troublemaker from the Shenandoah Valley who is trying to split the vote.”

When I first heard this news I thought to myself, gee, it’s nice to know that I’m so loved by a statewide campaign.  However, when I thought about it more, I now consider the title a mark of pride which I shared at our local tea party meeting late last week.

This event reminded me of a passage in the Bible in which King Ahab calls Elijah a troublemaker because Elijah questioned many of Ahab’s actions.  He didn’t do so out of malice, but because he wanted what was best for the people of Israel.  His loyalty was not to a king or a political party, but rather to God and the welfare of his people. Therefore, “When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, ‘So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?’  ‘I have made no trouble for Israel,’ Elijah replied. ‘You and your family are the troublemakers…'” 1 Kings 18:17-18 (NLT)

I don’t know about yourself, but I want the governor of Virginia to be a strong, principled, honest individual who shares many of my most important values of promoting liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government.  Does Ed Gillespie share my convictions?  At this point, although I hope I’m proven wrong, I honestly don’t think he does.  As I’ve discussed with one Republican, it is troubling that we’ve heard more about Ed Gillespie’s parents’ supermarket than where he stands on the issues.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, I believe that political competition and liberty are important ingredients to the health of our republic.  Where does Ed Gillespie stand on these issues?  Although his campaign has repeatedly refused to answer my questions, based on his silence and efforts in 2014 to squelch open, fair, and honest debates, the answer seems to be no.  On one issue of personal responsibility important to many, Ed Gillespie is the only candidate for governor who opposes medical marijuana and again, he refused to respond to the Marijuana Policy Project.

Another important issue to me is access to my elected officials.  According to my count, my Facebook friends include nine members of the Virginia House of Delegates, three Virginia senators, and three members of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Most are Republicans but a few are Democrats.  I appreciate the fact that when I reach out to these folks on matters of state and federal government, many of them take the time to speak with me.  After all, isn’t communication necessary to the proper functioning of a representative government?  Earlier this year, when I contacted the office of current Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (who I didn’t vote for), his staff took the time to talk to me.  Why would they do so?  Well, it is because he is the governor of all Virginians, not simply the ones who donated to his campaign.

Speaking of such things, the Gillespie campaign bills itself as “for all Virginians”, but as far as I can tell, Ed Gillespie only speaks to people who he knows already support him and only attends events with friendly crowds. Yes, the Gillespie campaign has given me the runaround this year, but it isn’t all that shocking as they did the very same thing when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2014.  Heck, I’ve had an easier time reaching out and connecting with Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for governor in 2013, than Ed Gillespie.  My last conservation with Mr. Cuccinelli was several years ago, and yet it was still more recent than the last time I could speak one-on-one with Ed Gillespie in early 2014.

Believe it or not, this issue raises a serious concern.  What if I have an issue that only the governor of Virginia and his staff can solve?  Much like his campaign, will they choose to ignore me and others if it doesn’t suit their purpose?  Could we be looking at a four-year term where the governor doesn’t serve all the people, but rather the select few he deems worthy? Think it can’t happen?  Well, I assure you it can.  Back in 2014, I repeatedly asked my state senator’s legislative assistant for a meeting with my state senator.  However, he constantly refused, declaring that sharing my ideas with my elected official would be a waste of his time.  Until my state senator hired a new legislative assistant after his old one left, I could not schedule an appointment, a period encompassing almost an entire year.  And, to make matters worse, many of these Gillespie staffers who refuse to answer my questions now also previously worked for my state senator, Mark Obenshain.

I appreciate the fact that, so far, when I have asked the Libertarian, Cliff Hyra, a question, he has responded in less than 24 hours.  I’ve spoken with him several times as I do like asking questions.  And, when I asked my latest question to the campaign of Democratic candidate Ralph Northam, his campaign politely answered within a few hours.  And then we have Ed Gillespie, too busy to be bothered to answer the questions of ” that troublemaker from the Shenandoah Valley.”

This weekend, Denver Riggleman hosted an event for Ed Gillespie and the Republican Party at his distillery.  When asked about the race for governor, Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), the only member of the General Assembly to block me on Facebook, (which a judge has recently ruled might be a violation of the 1st Amendment) said, “I think we want to win. You know, some folks are going to have to swallow hard if they have to.”   I’m sorry to say it Delegate Bell, but I’m not going to “swallow hard” and support a candidate that doesn’t share my values and refuses to speak with me simply because his campaign has branded him the lesser of two evils.

As I stated at the beginning of this piece, yes, I want to win too.  My victory isn’t achieved simply by electing the nominee of a particular party, but rather by electing a man or woman who shares my values and isn’t afraid to speak with anyone and tackle the tough issues of the day.  And, to answer the Gillespie campaign’s other criticism, I don’t plan to split the vote but rather direct my fellow conservatives and liberty-minded folks to the candidate who most closely shares our principles.  If Mr. Gillespie proves himself to be that candidate, then I’ll be happy to support him.  But, if he isn’t that candidate, then he would actually be the person who is trying to split the vote.  I urge you not to be afraid to ask questions of your elected officials and those seeking office.  At least these are my thoughts on the matter, but everyone knows that I’m that troublemaker from the Shenandoah Valley.

Excluding the First Debate

Several weeks ago, the Virginia Bar Association announced that they would be hosting the first gubernatorial debate for the 2017 election season.  As such, on July 22nd, the first debate will take place at the Homestead Resort in Bath County.  Declaring that the event is free and “open to the public”, they have invited the Democratic candidate, Ralph Northam, and the Republican, Ed Gillespie.  However, they have excluded the third candidate, Libertarian Cliff Hyra.

Virginia has one of the toughest ballot access requirements of any state in the country.  In order to appear on the ballot in November, a candidate must collect the signatures of 10,000 registered voters including at least 400 from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts.  As you might expect, given these barriers no more than three candidates have been listed in races for the last 40 years.  Nevertheless, having a third choice is surprisingly common, as Virginians have had a third party or independent candidate in every gubernatorial election since 1989 with the notable exception of 2009.

On July 7th, I contacted both the Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie campaigns to see if they would be open to including their Libertarian opponent.  I couldn’t find a direct phone number for the Northam campaign and I called the Democratic Party of Virginia with my question.  Within an hour, I received a call from the Northam campaign saying that they would welcome Cliff Hyra on the debate stage.  By comparison, over a week later, I still have not heard back from the Gillespie campaign on this matter.  I posed this hypothetical question to a Gillespie staffer back in February of Mr. Gillespie debating a third party or independent candidate and they were unwilling to answer at that time.  To me, it seems exceedingly hypocritical for Mr. Gillespie to rail against Ralph Northam for not wanting to have ten debates, and yet, as was the case in 2014, Mr. Gillespie refuses to engage in a debate that includes all of his opponents.  In the words of Ed Gillespie, I would say that attitude is “insulting to the voters across the Commonwealth.”

Given this exclusion, the Virginia Bar Association’s debate is a disservice to all Virginians who would like to learn more about all of their choices on the November ballot.  It is especially curious given that Mr. Hyra is also apparently a member of the Virginia Bar Association.  Although they state “The Virginia Bar Association is a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse, support or oppose political candidates. It is the intention of the VBA that its debates in no way promote or advance one candidate over others,” that is obviously a false statement given that they refuse to invite all of the candidates who have qualified for the ballot and thus are supporting two of the candidates over the third.  As it doesn’t include all of my choices, I have no plans to watch this first debate.  Hopefully, this season’s other debate organizers will learn from the VBA’s failure.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLVIII)

In July of 2013, Andy Schmookler and I got together on the air to talk about politics on 550 AM, WSVA.  At that time, who would guess that four years later we would still be discussing the issues of the day?

Well, yesterday marked the four year anniversary.  The show was dominated by the news of Donald Trump Jr. and his tweets regarding setting up a meeting with a Russian agent during the 2016 presidential election.  Andy brought up Watergate and I spoke a little about the 2017 election for Virginia governor.  And then, before you knew it, the hour was over.

In addition, the July 13th show was the last one I’ll be doing in the studio for quite awhile given that I’m moving to Morgantown, WV in a few weeks.  But,  the station says that the show will go on!

If you missed the show live, you can find it here.

Vote For Jerry Mandering?

Image from OneVirginia2021

Every ten years, Virginia goes through a process of redistricting based on the results of the latest U.S. Census.  The goal is to create legislative districts for both the General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives that are relatively equal in population.  Unfortunately, often times district are drawn in such a way to aid or hinder the reelection of incumbent politicians, enhance or dilute the voting strength of minority groups, or draw districts that virtually guarantee the victory of a political party.  This sort of behavior is called gerrymandering, named after former Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry.

During the last redistricting following the 2010 census, as the Republicans controlled the House of Delegates and the Democrats controlled the Virginia Senate, each group drew some rather oddly shaped parcels of land in an attempt to maintain or enhance control of their respective bodies.  However, when the Republicans later gained the majority in the Senate, some called for new districts to be drawn prior to the next census.  Although I’m not a fan of Speaker of the House of Delegates Howell, fortunately, he declared such an attempt to re-gerrymander the state at that time as improper and wouldn’t let it proceed.

After the 2020 census, Virginia lawmakers will once again redraw our districts. and, barring some surprise, the Republicans will have control of both of the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate.  However, the House of Delegates map, the Virginia Senate map, and the House of Representatives map will all have to be approved or vetoed by the governor.

So far, conservatives in Virginia don’t have a whole lot to be excited about with the candidacy of the Republican nominee Ed Gillespie.  However, last month one of my fellow activists announced that he would be supporting Gillespie simply due to the issue of redistricting.  As he explained, “Whoever is elected governor in November will be signing the redistricting bill this next time. As fast as Virginia is going blue, it is imperative that that person be a Republican. That buys us ten more years before the Democrats can gerrymander the districts in the legislature. If you don’t think that matters, you aren’t paying attention.”

Although couched in anti-gerrymandering rhetoric, given the current makeup of the General Assembly, it is highly improbable that the Democrats will end up drawing the maps in 2021.  The Republicans presently enjoy a slim control in the Virginia Senate and a massive 66-34 majority in the House of Delegates.

He goes on to add, “I have plenty of reasons not to trust most Republicans for their principles.  But one thing a Republican Governor assuredly will do is sign a Republican-friendly redistricting bill.”  What the argument here is that we need to elect a Republican governor so that the Republicans can gerrymander the state after the next census to forestall an increasingly Democratic-leaning state from representing the will of the citizens of Virginia by electing more Democrats.  Doesn’t it seem odd that Republicans control the state government even though every Democrat has won the statewide vote since the 2009 elections?  Could gerrymandering be one of the reasons why?

Imagine for a moment if the roles were reversed if the Democratic Party controlled the General Assembly and sought to suppress the Republican vote.  Wouldn’t these very same activists be outraged, declaring that such a move was undemocratic and an affront to the principles of our republican form of government?  Shouldn’t we promote a system where voters get to choose their elected officials rather than elected officials choosing their pool of voters who they know will vote for them year after year regardless of their principles or job performance?

Until 1996, the Democratic Party controlled both houses of the Virginia General Assembly nearly uninterrupted for a hundred years.  During that period, how often did they use gerrymandering to thwart the shifting attitudes of Virginians who longed for a government not under single party rule?  Wouldn’t any advocate of liberty and personal responsibility be horrified if our elections were manipulated in such a fashion?  Or would they be okay with this plan so long as it was “their guys” reaping the political benefit?  I can’t speak for anyone else, but after 2021 redistricting I don’t want a Republican-friendly map, a Democratic-friendly map, or any map that treats Virginia as a pie to be carved up for the benefit of a political group.  Preventing gerrymandering might be an argument in favor of a government divided between two or more political parties.  Don’t we want a governor that will oppose partisan redistricting, not one who is aiding and abetting in it?

It is my sincere hope that all three of the candidates for governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, Libertarian Cliff Hyra, and Republican Ed Gillespie, will pledge to oppose any and all partisan redistricting, instead working to make sure that all districts are as compact as possible, cutting across few county and city lines so that the will of Virginia’s citizens can be more accurately reflected in our state government and elections can be fairer and maybe even competitive.  If a candidate refuses, he shouldn’t be considered an acceptable option for governor.  Don’t vote for a candidate who is good friends with Jerry Mandering!

For more information, check out this video from One Virginia 2021.

Constitution Party of Virginia Endorses Hyra & Adams

Today, July 3rd, John Bloom, the chairman of the Constitution Party of Virginia, sent out a press release regarding the 2017 elections.  In it, he “urges all conservatives to vote for the Libertarian candidate for governor, Cliff Hyra, and the conservative Republican candidate for attorney general, John Adams.”

Delving into his position for governor, the release states, “Mr. Bloom encourages those that are Pro-Life to consider supporting Mr. Hyra, not because he is Pro-Life, but because he and the Libertarian Party do NOT support State Funding of abortion, and in the age of Roe v Wade, that is the best Pro-Life supporters can get which is better than the LIP SERVICE Republicans offer.”  Furthermore, he states, “To those that support the 2nd Amendment, there is a very good reason the VCDL endorsed Corey Stewart in the Republican Primary; Ed Gillespie will NOT defend your 2nd Amendment Right.”  Later in the piece, he adds, “Though it is highly unlikely that Mr. Gillespie will get elected Governor, for Conservatives to support the former Republican Party of Virginia Chairman, would be championing the defeat of their own values.”

Explaining how voting for Mr. Hyra could be of future benefit to the Constitution Party, he states, “Anyone who believes Ed Gillespie has any chance of defeating Ralph Northam is sadly mistaken and would be wasting their vote. Voting for Mr. Hyra, if he receives 10% of the vote will gain political party status for the Libertarian Party and then there will be REAL Competition across the state, and neutralize the UNDEMOCRATIC practice of GERRYMANDERING, which is [the] only effect when there are two political parties. The Libertarian Party would be the Trailblazer that could open the door for the Constitution Party of Virginia to gain political party status in future years.”

When it comes to the race for attorney general, “Mr. Bloom also encourages ALL Conservatives and Libertarians to support and vote for the only CONSERVATIVE running on the Republican Party line, John Adams for Attorney General. Not only does he have a name that ALL PATRIOTS can remember, but was a Law Clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.”

Lastly, in the lieutenant governor contest, the Constitution Party sought to offer Charles Kraut as a candidate this year.  However, as he did not meet the 10,000 signature requirement for ballot access in Virginia, the Constitution Party Chairman “will be seeking to provide a WRITE-IN candidate for LT Governor, as LIBERAL Republican Jill Vogel, is totally UNACCEPTABLE for Conservatives. Mr. Bloom would also consider Ms. Vogel’s Primary Opponent Bryce Reeves to run as a write-in candidate for the Constitutional Party should he have the POLITICAL COURAGE to do so.”

Presently, Constitution Party is the fifth largest political party in the United States, at least in terms of party registration.  What sort of an impact will Mr. Bloom’s press release make?  And will Virginians start to see Constitution Party candidates on the ballot in the coming elections?