In a break from our traditional schedule, this morning, October 29th, Andy Schmookler and I appeared on 550 AM, WSVA to discuss local, state, and national politics. Not surprisingly, the major focus of the talk centered around the 2018 elections, which will be taking place next week. We offered some predictions of outcomes as well as big issues and people which could end up swaying the results.
Our next show will be on November 7th at 9:15, the day after Election Day.
This week, I plan to submit my absentee ballot for the November elections in Virginia. As I am away from home due to graduate school, along with the fact that I’ll be working the polls in West Virginia for a class assignment, unfortunately, I’ll be unable to vote in person.
2018 marks my twentieth time voting in the general election (unless you include the 2009 election. In that year I was working in Newport News and apparently my ballot got lost in the mail). Except for two years, in all of those elections, I have voted for at least one Republican candidate. This year will mark the third time I will not be voting for a single Republican.
Why is that? Well, let’s go down through the races. At the top of the ticket, we have Corey Stewart. I first met Mr. Stewart in 2011 when he was planning a run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate against George Allen. Since that time, he has run for a multitude of statewide offices: Lt. Governor in 2013, Governor in 2017, and now U.S. Senate again in 2018. In that time I have found Mr. Stewart to be dishonest and self-serving, willing to say or do just about anything in order to achieve political power. Despite his rhetoric, he is not a conservative, but rather a populist who is more than happy to expand the power of government and mold it to serve his interests. With the exception of Representative Bob Goodlatte, who fortunately is retiring after 26 long years in office, I rarely block any campaign staffers on Facebook…with the notable exception of Corey Stewart. After asking not to be tagged, two of his particularly rude and hostile staffers kept pestering me thus resulting in this action.
That matter leads me to another point. Corey Stewart states that he wants to go to Washington to help enact President Donald Trump’s agenda. Regrettably, the Republican Party has more or less become Donald Trump’s party and activists and politicians alike think it is important to do whatever he desires. But what about principles? What about checks and balances? Since when did we think it a good idea to elect men and woman to Congress who pledge to be rubber stamps for the executive branch even when he violates the values of limited government and faithfulness to the Constitution? This kind of behavior would make sense if we lived in an authoritarian dictatorship, but we supposedly live in a democratic republic, right? Or at least we used to. As I wrote on Delegate Wilt’s (R-26) Facebook page, “I’d like to see real, honest conservatives in Congress, those who will support the Constitution, a limited federal government, cutting spending and the national debt, supporting the President when he shares our values, but standing up to him and opposing him when he does not. Unfortunately, at the moment, that line of thinking is extremely rare.”
Moving down the ballot, we come to the race for the 6th district, to replace Representative Bob Goodlatte. As regular readers of this website know, I have written favorably about Delegate Ben Cline, the Republican nominee, for many years. One big issue for me was the selection of one of his staffers. Having several previous negative interactions with this fellow, I thought it best to alert Delegate Cline about some related potentially unethical activity. After all, as they say, personnel is policy and as I liked Delegate Cline I didn’t want to see him get mixed up with anyone who might have “the ends justify the means” mentality. Given my concerns, Delegate Cline told me that I would have no interaction with this person during the campaign. However, several days after the Republican convention, this staffer in question wrote me several Facebook messages to taunt me for warning Cline. I felt that this response was unconscionable.
Given some of the controversies surrounding the 6th district Republican convention, questions lingered in my mind if the Cline campaign had some hand in these shady, legally questionable dealings, such as the website SwampyScottSayre.com. Try as I could, I could neither confirm or refute the campaign’s involvement.
In addition, we have the issue of Corey Stewart and Donald Trump. While some Republican candidates have done their best to avoid Stewart, Cline has not. That news is particularly disappointing. As the News Leader reports:
“One who has embraced Stewart, appearing with him at campaign events, is Del. Ben Cline, who’s running the 6th Congressional District.
Several Republicans candidates have opted against campaigning with Stewart, telling the Post that they prefer to ‘run our own campaign.'”
If ISideWith.com is correct, my issue agreement with Delegate Cline mirrors that of Representative Goodlatte and we disagree on some fundamental points regarding foreign policy and national security. Although I know he had a Republican audience, when Delegate Cline announced support of building Trump’s wall at the 6th district Republican convention, I felt my spirits sink.
I read emails from the Cline campaign hoping that they speak of principles of limited government and a faithfulness to the Constitution. I abhor the use of fear to stir up the worst in the minds of voters. For example, one from August 14th states, “I’m running for Congress to listen to and represent the people of the 6th District, not people like Nancy Pelosi and her liberal friends. They’re stepping up to help liberal candidates across the country, including my opponent, which is why I need my friends here in Virginia and the 6th district to match these efforts…Let’s keep the 6th District red in November!” Another dated September 27th reads, “Sending me to Washington will mean one less seat towards a Democrat majority – together we can stop Nancy Pelosi from becoming Speaker of the House again.” Personally, I don’t really care which party controls the Speakership if that party’s only purpose is to surrender its authority to the executive branch or obstruct if their party doesn’t control the presidency. Either way, both of them will continue to expand the national debt. In addition, we must reject the rhetoric of the red team vs the blue team. These days both sides are more interested in winning and maintaining power for themselves than the conservative, libertarian, and liberal activists than get them there in the first place!
Lastly, we have Frank McMillan who is running for Harrisonburg City Council. Although technically running as an independent, I’ve heard him speak at Republican gatherings and he declared that he was a Republican. In addition, according to VPAP, his largest donor is the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Republican Women’s Club. If he is a Republican, he ought to run as a Republican and not misuse the independent label as the party did in the previous 2014 election cycle. Rather than try to fix the Republican brand in Harrisonburg, which has become so heavily tainted than it is nearly impossible to win in the city with the label, they instead run their candidates as independents. I don’t think it is an honest tactic and preys upon the ignorance of some voters.
Now just because I’m not voting Republican, that doesn’t mean that I am voting Democratic either. If I were forced to chose between the two, I would prefer Tim Kaine to Corey Stewart. At least Senator Kaine has never personally lied to me. Although I disagree with a lot of what Kaine does, at least he doesn’t bow to Donald Trump, but I am not voting for him as I don’t cast my vote in that way. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Jennifer Lewis to speak about her candidacy either positively or negatively and I always recommend not voting for a person out of ignorance.
No matter how we vote, I predict that Democrat Tim Kaine will defeat Republican Corey Stewart by a healthy margin and Republican Ben Cline will likewise triumph over Jennifer Lewis. I hope both Senator Kaine and soon to be Representative Cline will represent the state and the 6th district with honor.
Whether you vote absentee as I am doing, or vote on November 6th, I encourage you to learn about the candidates and vote for the ones who best represent your principles.
To start, I feel it is important to explain how I was raised, and where my roots are. My father is a die-hard, Trump supporting, racist, social conservative and his parents were social conservatives as well while my mother is a bit of a hippie, but a conservative hippie. I was raised to vote Republican and did so starting with George Bush in 2000 when I was 18. I was never “involved”, never did any research and didn’t pay attention to the issues even though I smoked cannabis, was pro-choice and had close friends who were/are homosexual.
All of that changed, however, in the fall of 2008 when I accidentally ran across a motivational YouTube video for libertarian godfather Ron Paul who was running for the Republican presidential nomination. Without a shred of hesitation, I am proud to say the words of this modern-day prophet made me openly weep. For the first time in my life, my worldview was challenged in a way that was informative and more importantly, not condescending, which was needed to get thru to me.
Did I run right outside with my pitchfork and torch, ready to burn down the capitol? No. I spent a long time combing the internet for input. I researched Austrian economics, free-market solutions, non-interventionist foreign policy, individual sovereignty and ending prohibition. I began talking less and listening more. Eventually, fully confident that my new worldview was solid, I ventured out into the political realm by attending my first Tea Party Tax Day rally in DC in 2010, which featured to my surprise, Ron Paul himself. And yet, I still didn’t know how to get involved.
I left Baltimore and bought a home in Virginia Beach, and knowing no one political in the area, remained the guy who protests on social media… …until my mother sent me a friend suggestion for a local anarcho-capitalist. Finally, I had someone in my town I could share my disdain for waste, fraud, and abuse with! And what’s more, when a mutual friend commented about the Ron Paul 2012 campaign and I jumped right on that asking how I could get involved. I was directed to attend a dinner in Newport News across the river. The night of that dinner, I met a dozen libertarians who have become like family. Never in my life have I ever felt so connected to and loved by a group of individuals, not of my blood. Together, we took on the establishment, hard!
Luckily for us, there were only two candidates on the ballot in 2012; Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, which enabled a Tea Party/libertarian alliance to not only send 49% of Virginia’s delegates to the Republican national convention, but more importantly, the grassroots alliance overwhelmingly took over the Republican Party of Virginia state central committee and a host of district chairman seats and local unit chairman seats. We did it! We won! Or did we? With the primary firmly behind us, the “presumptive nominee” was hailed as the savior to the “Obama” problem with the Tea Party falling in line like good little Republicans. We Ron Paul supporters were soon left out in the cold. We were scorned for not eagerly volunteering for the nominee. We were constantly told by establishment trolls that “libertarians belong in the Libertarian Party” and our posts on Republican social media outlets were deleted. We were called isolationists, dreamers, liberals, and idiots.
When we rallied behind Susan Stimpson for Lt. Governor, who had an impeccable record of cutting taxes and fees while also cutting the budget of Stanford County while remaining temperate on social issues, the Tea Party and other grassroots social conservatives flocked to boisterous hot-heads like Corey Stewart who is in the middle of losing his third statewide race, and EW Jackson who just lost his third statewide race. When the votes were tallied for the first ballot of the seven-way Lt. Governor race, Susan came in second after Jackson, but when the names were put up on the Jumbotron, her name was at the bottom. When she failed to carry the third ballot, I voted for “moderate” (establishment) Pete Snyder because I wasn’t about to let Jackson pull down the ticket with his outrageous statements when Snyder would help libertarian-leaning Ken Cuccinelli win the governorship… which is exactly what happened despite Republicans complaining about the Libertarian nominee, who exit polls show actually took more votes from (D) McAuliffe than Cuccinelli… but I digress. This was in effect, the beginning of the end of the grassroots revolt of 2012. The establishment slowly took back the state central and local units. The Tea Party continued to rally around hot-heads like Corey Stewart year after year. Many of my libertarian friends, disgusted with the political process and the online nastiness from bigoted conservatives and paid establishment trolls, simply threw in the towel. Subsequently, the Ron Paul class of 2012 was all but gone by 2014.
To be fair, having left Virginia to seek my fortune in the oil fields of North Dakota in the summer of 2013 and not returning until December of 2015, I was in no position to blame anyone for leaving, and I didn’t. I did, however, unfurl my libertarian-Republican banner and plant it in the red sand of the Republican Party on last time for Rand Paul in the 2016 presidential primary, but was met with mild enthusiasm. I saw even less enthusiasm for Trump, but his bigoted and insulting rhetoric somehow positively reached the voters even though it turned off most of the politically active. The abysmal primary results coupled with the death rattle of the Tea Party in Virginia was the signal to me that “changing it from the inside” was a completely unattainable goal in Virginia Beach and highly unlikely in Virginia. So I left the party of my father and my grandfather after being undyingly faithful for eight years, somewhat hesitant for another four and actively engaged for the last four. Truth be told; it’s the best breakup of my life!
David Benjamin Dull is a libertarian activist who has volunteered for a dozen campaigns. Although admittedly brash and stubborn, he is working to better himself and is currently engaged in growing the Libertarian Party of Anne Arundel County by reaching out to disenfranchised liberals and conservatives as well as independents who lost faith in voting.
Departing from our usual date of Wednesday, on Thursday, August 9th, Andy Schmookler and I returned to WSVA, 550 AM for our 61st radio hour.
In this episode, we spoke about Dominion Power and their vast influence on Virginia politics, the insider trading charges against Representative Chris Collins (NY-27), a surprise discussion of climate change, and some predictions regarding the 2018 November elections.
As a side note, last night I attended my high school reunion. I was somewhat surprised to hear that some of my former classmates listen to our show.
On August 3rd, at First Friday, a monthly political gathering in Harrisonburg, the featured speaker was Jennifer Brown, the 6th District Republican Chairman. I found her inclusion surprising, as she and the leader of First Friday, Donna Moser, are part of two different, presently hostile, factions within the 6th District Republican Committee.
When Jennifer Brown began her speech, she said she needed to address some elephants in the room (or as she called them, donkeys). One is the pending lawsuit and defense. Almost since Ms. Brown took over as chair, the two sides have been feuding over a recent decision by the committee to hire a law firm to defend itself against alleged FEC violations made against the committee and the previous chairman, Scott Sayre. I’ve read that Brown supporters launched the suit against Sayre and other members of the committee in an effort to discredit and defeat Sayre which they did successfully at their May convention. As a result, the majority of the committee voted to retain a law firm in Indiana for their legal defense at a cost of $30,000. Ms. Brown opposed this decision by the 6th District committee and has appealed to the Virginia Republican State Central Committee.
Jennifer Brown also spoke of the need for unity, for the group to work together to elect Republican candidates and welcome Democrats who recently walked away from their party so that they would become Republicans rather than turning into independents. Curiously though, although she welcomed votes and aid from former Democrats, as far as I could tell she didn’t stress advancing any ideological agenda other than a blanket support for Republicans. She paused to yield some time to Frank McMillan, an independent candidate running for Harrisonburg City Council this year. As a side note, I noticed that there were three independent city council candidates (McMillan, George Hirschmann from 2016, and me from 2014) at the gathering. McMillan stated that he was a Republican (and will likely have the backing of the local Republican Party as Hirschmann did in 2016) but stressed he was running as an independent. I presume that the reason for this maneuver is that the Republican Party label is so toxic in the city of Harrisonburg that using it will almost certainly result in defeat. After all, since 2009 only one Republican candidate has won the city when facing a Democratic opponent.
After Jennifer Brown gave her speech, she opened the floor for questions. One local activist, a fellow named Phil Corbo, asked to share an email he recently received from Roger Jarrell, Jennifer Brown’s fiance and apparently legal liaison for the 6th district committee. Although Donna Moser opposed the reading of the email at first, Mr. Corbo persisted. In that email, Mr. Jarrell claimed that the leader of First Friday, Ms. Moser, had slandered Ms. Brown at a recent meeting of the local tea party and demanded it cease immediately or legal action could be taken. As evidence of this slander, it mentioned Cole Trower and other unnamed parties. Mr. Corbo declared that although he had been involved in New Jersey politics for decades, he had never seen such dirty politics as what has been going on in the 6th district prior to the recent convention and at the present.
At first, Jennifer Brown offered to apologize if the allegations from Mr. Jarrell were proven untrue, but when several of the attendees declared that Ms. Moser did not slander Ms. Brown at the tea party meeting, her tone became rather defensive. Donna Moser steered the conversation toward announcements and the subject dissipated. (Here is a clip of that part of the gathering).
What is most troubling to me is not whether or not individuals are critical of Ms. Brown’s leadership as chairman, (after all it is impossible to be both effective in politics and still please everyone) but rather the fact that she would consider taking legal action against a person who potentially declared her to be inept and/or ineffectual. Unlike Ms. Brown, I am not an attorney but, to the best of my understanding, questioning the effectiveness of a leader does not rise to the legal definition of slander.
After witnessing what happened on Friday it seems to me that either the two sides need to reconcile quickly or, more likely, it will result in a civil war for control; if that takes place, my money is that the majority of the committee will end up deposing Ms. Brown before the end of her term. If I were a Republican candidate running this year anywhere in the 6th district of Virginia, I would be seriously concerned about this state of affairs. Despite these developments, I don’t expect November’s blue wave to overwhelm the deeply Republican Shenandoah Valley and claim victory for the 6th Congressional seat, but a divided and squabbling committee might spell certain doom for a number of local candidates in the area this year and possibly lead to inroads from Democrats in the 2019 General Assembly elections.
On Wednesday, July 18th, Andy Schmookler and I appeared on 550 AM, WSVA for our 60th show, marking the 5 year anniversary of our radio hour. Unfortunately, our time on the air this month was shorter than usual given that the station conducted a surprise interview with the superintendent of the Harrisonburg Public School who recently resigned his position to take a new job elsewhere.
The central focus of the conversation revolved around President Trump’s recent meeting with Russian President Putin in Finland as well as Trump’s attacks against some of American’s traditional allies. I hoped to speak more on the topic of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, but unfortunately, we didn’t have sufficient time to cover it in much depth. Hopefully, next month will be better.
On July 21st, the Virginia Bar Association will be holding the first debate for the race for the 2018 U.S. Senate election in Virginia. However, like the debates they have held in previous years, they will be excluding one of the candidates who will be on the November ballot, Libertarian Matt Waters. Although the organization claims to be nonpartisan and “the VBA debates are not intended to in any way promote or advance one candidate over another”, it is obvious that through their exclusionary practices they intend to advance the candidacies of two of the options at the expense of their third.
Virginia has one of the most difficult hurdles for statewide candidates to achieve ballot access. An independent or third party candidate (or a Republican or Democrat competing in a primary but not a convention) needs to submit the signatures of 10,000 registered voters to the Election Board with at least 400 from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts. After a majority of Republican presidential candidates failed to make the cut in 2012, the Virginia General Assembly lowered the threshold for that office (and that office only) to 5,000 signatures.
If you are tired of being forced to select between the lesser of two evils, you don’t think that the Virginia Bar Association ought to be picking winners and losers in elections, and/or you feel that every candidate who succeeds in making the ballot ought to be given the same equality of opportunity of having his or her voice heard, I encourage you to visit the Facebook page of the Virginia Bar Association and let them know you don’t support their sham of a debate. I’ve spoken to them already and perhaps if enough of us make our opinions known, then politics in Virginia can become more free and fair.
On Wednesday, June 20th, Andy Schmookler and I appeared on Early Mornings on 550 AM, WSVA for our monthly political radio show. We spent a majority of our time speaking about President Trump and the recent issue of children separated from their parents who are seeking to live in the United States.
Although I would have preferred to speak more on the subject, we also touched on the 2018 primaries, the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and the Democratic primary for the 6th district seat to replace Bob Goodlatte.
Leading up to the primary on June 12th, I asked activists who they thought would win the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Virginia. As is the case in many elections, most people stated that their preferred candidate would win. Stewart people assumed Corey Stewart would be victorious while Freitas people thought likewise about Nick Freitas. Although I supported and ended up casting my vote for Delegate Freitas, I stated that I thought Stewart would win.
Why? Well, as stated above, it wasn’t because I wanted Mr. Stewart to be the Republican nominee. At this point, Corey Stewart has almost reached the status of a perennial candidate. He briefly ran for U.S. Senate in 2011-12, finished third for the Lt. Gov nomination in 2013, and came close to winning the Republican nomination for Virginia Governor in 2017. However, if you look back the last time that Corey Stewart ran for statewide office, in 2017, he narrowly lost the Republican nomination to Ed Gillespie. Gillespie won 43.74% and Stewart got 42.5%. If he had gotten blown out last year, it is unlikely that anyone would have taken him seriously in 2018. As an example, consider E.W. Jackson, who was the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor in 2013. He ended up losing the general election by over 10 points thus making it far less likely that the Republican Party would ever give him another statewide nomination. Stewart, conversely, was close in his last attempt.
Next is the matter of name ID. Although none of the three candidates were terribly well-known across the state, presumably Stewart was bolstered by his previous runs. Chances are that activists who had supported Stewart in 2017 would likely do so again. Therefore, he already had an established base to build from. Although he traveled the state during the election cycle, Freitas was a less well-known name without a cadre of longtime supporters scattered across the various corners of Virginia.
Another aspect concerned endorsements and the ideology each candidate represented. While Corey Stewart represents Trump populism, Freitas is part of the liberty/small government movement, and Jackson has the religious right. Although President Trump isn’t particularly popular with Virginians as a whole, he does seem to command a loyal and active following among a sizable segment of Virginia Republican voters. Oddly, unlike just about every other year, there wasn’t a candidate from the establishment wing of the Republican Party. Several months ago, I was told that Representative Barbara Comstock would be entering the race but that never happened. As such, many in the Republican establishment endorsed Nick Freitas. At face value, you might think that the establishment combined with the liberty-wing would be enough for a winning coalition in the primary. After all, the establishment more or less propelled Ed Gillespie to the Republican nomination in 2017 single-handedly. Liberty-minded folks may have cast a vote for Gillespie, but I doubt many were excited about it.
However, upon further reflection, it is likely that many in the establishment weren’t all that enthusiastic about Freitas, but it was rather a lesser of three evils type of scenario for them. In 2013, Jackson demonstrated that it would be nearly impossible for him to win statewide and some of his comments derided as bigoted or closed-minded could hurt the GOP in other races. As for Stewart, his ties to the alt-right with to the Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville, his previous false or misleading statements about Ed Gillespie in 2017, the fact that he represented the same Trump faction that lost Virginia in 2017, and that he was likely seen as an uncontrollable force resulted in some of them viewing his nomination as an unmitigated disaster for the Republican Party of Virginia. Given some of Freitas’ outstanding bills in the General Assembly which would curb the power of the party bosses, my assumption was that the establishment ended up supporting Freitas out of perceived necessity, not desire, and thus I assumed that their level of support would be far lower than it would be for someone like Gillespie.
The night before the primary, I stopped by my local polling place in Harrisonburg to see which campaigns had placed signs at the precinct. Although signs don’t win elections, they are one way to gauge levels of campaign activism. When I arrived, I found Brent Finnegan, the 2017 Democratic candidate for the 26th House district placing signs for Jennifer Lewis. There were also signs for Peter Volosin, but none for any of the Republican Senatorial candidates. However, when I went to cast my vote for Nick Freitas around noon the next day, several of his signs had appeared in the interim.
Once polls closed at 7, I sat in front of my computer, watching the results on both the VPAP and NY Times websites. To my surprise, Freitas took an early lead…but could it last? Were my predictions wrong? At one point, E.W. Jackson jumped out in front with a commanding lead due to results from Virginia Beach. However, upon closer inspection, I discovered that one precinct had erroneously given Jackson several tens of thousands of extra votes, likely the result of a few misplaced additional zeros in his totals. When it was corrected, Jackson did not come close to leading for the rest of the night. As results continued to come in, the difference between Freitas and Stewart began to tighten. At around 85% of the vote reporting, Freitas was still leading. But I thought it prudent to check where the bulk of the outstanding votes were left to report. Most were either in Prince William County (where Stewart is the chairman of the board of supervisors) or Fairfax County directly to the north. Although Freitas was still leading, I realized at that point that Stewart had almost certainly won the election once all the votes were in.
During the evening, I wondered if either the Stewart or Freitas camps would deride E.W. Jackson as a spoiler, declaring that his candidacy cost them victory. If he weren’t in the race, I assumed that a majority of his votes would have gone to Stewart, but without seeing the exit polls, it is difficult to say with any measure of certainty. Jackson won about 12% of the vote. If asked, I would have recommended that Jackson not run as I believe it would only hurt his future prospects of holding elected office (if any). Nevertheless, I believe he had every right to run (just like anyone else) no matter how slim his chances happened to be and that it is unfair to call him a spoiler.
In November, Virginia will likely have three candidates on the ballot, Republican Corey Stewart, Democrat Tim Kaine, and Libertarian Matt Waters. At this point, I would assume that Kaine will best Stewart by at least 10 points. However, regardless of my predictions, I recommend to you, dear reader, to research all three of your choices and vote for the one who best embodies your values. I know I will.