As some of my readers may recall, on Thursday, February 9th, I attended a campaign event for Ed Gillespie in Staunton. During the gathering, I thought of a question I wanted to ask Mr. Gillespie but didn’t get the chance to do so. Afterward, I spoke to several of his staffers and they recommended that I send them an email with my query.
After fleshing out my thoughts, I penned the following letter on February 10th:
Good afternoon, Mr. Cooksey.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me last night.
As mentioned, one important issue to me concerns political competition and political freedom. Unlike many states, Virginia is one of the most politically repressive in the region, requiring 10,000 signatures from candidates to make the statewide ballot and giving special privileges to nominees of the Republican and Democratic Parties such as: listing their candidates first on all ballots as required by law, allowing their nominees to forgo collecting signatures simply by virtue of being nominated by these two parties (assuming they aren’t facing a party primary), and setting unreasonably high thresholds in statewide contests for other political parties to be recognized.
As one example, in Virginia, a party’s candidate needs 10% of the vote to be a recognized political party in future elections while in neighboring West Virginia it is only 1%. However, despite this vast disparity, West Virginia is not overwhelmed by political parties; presently they have four while Virginia only has two. The Republican and Democratic Parties should have to work to earn the conservative and liberal vote and constantly strive to improve themselves, their positions, and their outreach, not always capturing a large block of voters without any effort simply due to being complicit in a state-supported monopoly.
In addition, it is unfortunate that some politicians, such as your former boss and my state senator, are proposing registration by political party, thus hindering competition even more and further embroiling the state government in the affairs and subsidization of the activities of private political organizations. It is becoming apparent to me that increasingly here in Virginia the Democratic Party has become the party of political rights and freedom as they work to make ballot access and recognition easier while those in the Republican Party are unfortunately trending in an anti-free market politics direction. It is my hope that Mr. Gillespie will firmly stand against these folks in the GOP who are hostile to political liberty.
Lastly, when Mr. Gillespie ran for US Senate in 2014, he did not stand up for the rights of all who qualified for the ballot to participate in the debates, in fact threatening to boycott an event if all of the candidates were invited. According to an email, I received from James Madison University in July of 2014, ” In my communications with the campaigns of the two major political party candidates, the question of whether or not Mr. Sarvis [the Libertarian candidate] would be invited was a point of discussion. Both campaigns had stated that if Mr. Sarvis were to be invited to participate in the debate their chances of agreeing to accept the invitation was unlikely and actually committing was even less likely.” Hopefully, this campaign has a different attitude.
My questions to Mr. Gillespie are as follows: If, as limited government conservatives, we believe that competition in business, education, and health care produces better results, lowered costs, and spurs innovation, why do we not translate this thinking into the political arena as well? How much has the average citizen and our political health been disadvantaged by a political system which served to primarily benefit, not the average voter, but the two largest political entities at the expense of free market competition? As governor, what will Mr. Gillespie do to push the needle toward greater political freedom or will he work with some of his colleagues in the GOP to squelch it further? And, should another candidate or candidates make the ballot in this election cycle, whether they are Libertarian, Constitution Party, Green, Socialist, independent, or something else, will Mr. Gillespie take a stand to permit all legitimate candidates the equality of opportunity to allow voters the chance to decide which candidate best represents their values?
Attached, please find an article I wrote in 2015 on the subject that was published the Valley Business Front based in Salem, VA.
Thank you for your time.
After ten days, as I hadn’t received a reply, I tried again. Unfortunately, there was nothing but silence, so I tried another staffer. I’m happy to report he offered a rapid response saying: “Thanks, Joshua. I will look into this matter. I do not think this is an item that we would take a position on, but, nonetheless, I will run it up the flag pole. Also, we will conduct further research on our end. Thanks again for coming to our Staunton event.”
Eight days later, I realized I still didn’t have an answer, so I tried this staffer again and was greeted by an automated response.
“Thank you for reaching out to me. I am no longer a member of the campaign staff, as I am pursuing another opportunity in Washington. Please contact Generra Peck (email@example.com) for all campaign policy matters.”
Going off this suggestion, I tried contacting this new staffer, but there was nothing. Based on the recommendation of one of my Facebook friends who supports Mr. Gillespie, I sent the campaign a Facebook message too and although there was an automated response saying that they would get back in touch soon, I have heard nothing.
As regular visitors to this website know, political freedom and open and fair elections are exceedingly important to me. I firmly believe that everyone should face the same legal hurdles to make the ballot and that all of those who jump through these hoops deserve the same chance to be heard, and not silenced or marginalized simply because they aren’t running under the banner or blessing of the two largest political parties. Looking back, I would say it was the most important reason why I didn’t end up supporting Ken Cuccinelli for governor four years ago.
As it has been almost a month since my first email, I decided to share my letter here. Perhaps someone on their campaign staff will feel compelled to answer. It is my sincere hope that the Ed Gillespie campaign will get back in touch with me concerning this matter before the June Republican primary, though I am starting to have my doubts this will happen. Unfortunately, when Ed Gillespie ran in 2014, I wrote an email to his campaign about another campaign issue and although Mr. Gillespie himself promised a reply, I never got an answer to my question. Elected officials and potential elected officials ought to be responsive to their constituents.
If and when I get a response, I’ll post it here.