Metal Bell

About a week ago, I received a pretty troubling email from another political activist.  It concerned a pre-filed bill for the upcoming legislative session, HB 1528 sponsored by Dickie Bell of Staunton.  According to the email, this bill “requires every dealer to prepare a daily report” of precious metal transactions.  Furthermore, these reports would be available to both government and law enforcement agents.  As you would imagine, I found this news to be particularly troubling.  I would assume that more and more Virginians would look toward investing in precious metals given the continued weakness of the U.S. Dollar.  Isn’t it just a little bit disconcerting that the government would take such a keen interest in these transactions?  What do they plan to do with this data now or in the future?

Resisting the temptation to hastily write a letter to Delegate Bell regarding my concerns, I thought it prudent to do a bit of research first.  The most interesting point that I discovered is that the Virginia Code  (54.1-4101) already requires precious metal or gem dealers to keep a written record of both their transactions and customers that are available on request.  Delegate Bell’s bill would primarily change two points:

  1. “Every dealer shall prepare a daily report containing the information required by 54.1-4101 sold to him each day and shall file such report by noon of the following day with the chief of police or other law-enforcement officer of the county, city or town where his business is conducted designated by the local attorney for the Commonwealth to receive it.”  The dealer can submit his or her report electronically as opposed to mailing or delivering them in person, which is the current norm.
  2. Dealers can charge their customers a small service fee to cover the added costs associated with these filings.

As you can see, some of the most onerous parts of the law are already in place.  Delegate Bell’s bill just enhances them and provides a much closer and daily link to law enforcement.  As you can imagine, with this new information I was still against HB 1528 and looked for an opportunity to speak with the Delegate about it.  That opportunity came on Friday when Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republicans gathered for lunch at our typical First Friday meeting.  All of the Delegates and Senators who represent any portion of the city and/or the county were invited.  Once I got to the gathering, I discovered that neither Senator Hanger could not attend nor could most of the Delegates.  Fortunately, both Delegate Bell and Senator Obenshain were there.

After the meal and a short speech by the Senator and Delegate, I patiently waited my turn to ask about HB1528.  Senator Obenshain moderated the questions from the audience and several times he passed over my outstretched hand.  Amazingly, after just about everyone else’s questions had been answered, the Senator ended the meeting, thus denying me my opportunity and primary reason for showing up to the meeting in the first place.  Although it would be easy to assume such a move as an intentional slight, I really hope it was merely an oversight.

As the crowd began to trickle away, fortunately Delegate Bell stuck around to speak with some of the guests and so I kept my eye on him.  Once the line dwindled, I finally got my chance.

The first thing Delegate Bell said to me was that he noticed that I had been waiting patiently for quite some time. I agreed and pulled out my printed copy of HB 1528 and asked him why he was proposing that bill.  He responded that local law-enforcement officials suggested the bill as an effort to further crack down on illegal trafficking of stolen goods.  However, after speaking with a number of interested parties, Delegate Bell stated that he no longer supports this bill and would be removing it from consideration very soon.  In addition, given the potential privacy violations already present in the law, he mentioned that he would be speaking to the Attorney General about deleting (or at least modifying) 54.1-4101 from the Virginia Code.

It is difficult to find the balance between security and liberty.  Although I’m sure that HB 1528 would aid Virginia police in catching criminals, is the added bureaucracy, hassle, and loss of privacy worth is?  I would say no.  In our post 9-11 world, far too many conservatives and liberals alike are willing to sacrifice just about every right in order to gain even the slightest feeling of security, even if doing so provides no tangible benefits.  For another example one needs look no further than the ridiculous nature of airport security.  First, why do we allow the federal government to look after airport safety?  Shouldn’t that role be the responsibility of the independent airport authorities or at least the states or the localities in which they are located?  Second, aren’t these body scanners and aggressive pat-downs a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment rights?  Must we give up our Constitutional protections in order to fly the not so friendly skies?  I could go on, but the simple fact is that once we surrender liberty in one facet, like travel, it will be that much easier to surrender it in another, like commerce, all in the false and misguided hope of greater security.

Now some activists might be upset by Delegate Bell’s HB 1528 proposal, but I think we should look at this event in a different light.  After all, Delegate Bell freely admits that HB 1528 is a blunder that he intends to correct immediately.  I believe that gesture shows volumes about his character.  He could have ignored the concerned letters and phone calls.  He could have not taken responsibility for this lapse in judgment.  After all everyone makes mistakes and the easiest and most widespread response is to simply deny their existence.  A true mark of strength is when we recognize missteps and correct them before the damage becomes irreversible.

Even though we share many conservative values, I’m sure that Delegate Bell and I will disagree on a few points in the future.  I’m just glad to know that the 20th district has a Delegate who listens to the people and will change course when he discovers he is in error.

Our New Delegate

Well the dust has settled here in the 26th district.  With all precincts reporting in, the winner is…Tony Wilt.  Although the official count is not available yet, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections, Wilt captured 65.82% of the vote while Democratic Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner won 29.89% and Independent Carolyn Frank had 4.14%.  Voter turnout was rather high in this special election as over 24% of registered voters showed up to cast their ballots.  As has been the trend in recent elections, the Democratic candidate won Harrisonburg, although narrowly, by fifty votes.  In Rockingham County, Republican voters came out in force giving the Republican candidate an enormous 81.66%!

When you consider current history, all in all, Degner fared a little better than other challengers, such as 2009 House of Delegates Democratic candidate, Gene Hart, and in 2007 when Independent Carolyn Frank launched her first attempt.  Then again, the last time this area faced an open seat back in 2005, Matt Lohr won with 53.48% compared to Lowell Fulk’s 46.11%.

So, my earlier adage held true.  Whoever wins the Republican primary will win the general election.  Even though the Democrats can win the city, the conservative County voters easily overwhelm whatever advantage the Harrisonburg electorate gives.  Therefore, barring some major surprise, I expect that Tony Wilt will represent the voters of the 26th in the House of Delegates for as long as he chooses to hold that position.  I hope that he will be the strong-willed constitutional conservative leader that the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley deserve.  As for the other candidates, I assume that Kai Degner will continue to serve as our Mayor, at least until the city council elections, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he makes another try for higher office in the near future.  And as for Carolyn Frank…well I really don’t know what she was thinking.  According to the local paper, she didn’t raise any campaign money in the most recent cycle and I don’t know if she had any sort of coordinated campaign.  A humiliating defeat such as the one she just suffered will certainly dampen any of her political prospects.

Congratulations to Mr. Wilt.  Please make us proud.

A Tribute to Matt Lohr

A little over a week ago, my Delegate, Matt Lohr (26-R) resigned his seat in order to become the Commissioner for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  Although he has been my Delegate for the last five years, I didn’t know a whole lot about him.  Maybe you felt the same.  Like myself, he was rather modest, never boasting, “Look at all my accomplishments!  See what I have done!”  Even though that path seems to have worked out fine for him with his recent appointment, I have personally questioned using such a tactic, for unfortunately, political memory is often very short and those who vigorously promote their own glory are likely to receive far more.

With the notable exception of the abusive driver fees, I never worried that Delegate Lohr would vote differently than I would have.  Given that he never actively sought the limelight, the great lingering question of the day is, what were his top legislative priorities while in office?  Although I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, with a couple of exceptions, I didn’t really know.  So, in order to answer this question, I decided to contact his office to acquire a list of his most important accomplishments.  His responses are as follows:

TDR-Transfer of Development Rights, a bill which made it more attractive for localities to setup a farmland preservation program.  The TDR concept is a unique approach to saving farmland, directing growth to the proper areas, and keeping agriculture viable without using taxpayer dollars.  It is a very complex issue, but one that will have a tremendous benefit to localities around the Commonwealth.

Standards of Quality Education Standards: Two years in a row I submitted this bill and it greatly helped school divisions during these tough economic times.  Every year, schools are expected to meet their standards of accreditation.  These standards are always increasing and the benchmark gets higher and higher.  This bill places a one year freeze on the rising standards of accreditation.  As schools are being forced to cut back during these tough budgets, it seems unrealistic to expect them to achieve more.  This bill gave schools some breathing room and removed this added burden during what is already tough times.

Teen Driving Safety Bill: This bill increased the maximum driver hours for teenagers taking drivers education to be 45 hours instead of 40 hours.  It also includes that 15 of these hours must be after sunset.  It had been increasingly obvious that students were not having much if any experience driving at night in addition to needing extra time behind the wheel.  The bill also aims to increase parental involvement by requiring a driving log be complete and reminding parents it is a violation of the law to sign off on the log knowing the hours were not completed.

Protective Orders: This bill I did a few years back, adds to ensure the protection of victims of domestic abuse and I was very proud to sponsor this legislation.  It says that if a person who violates a protective order violates that order again for a second time within five years, they will receive a minimum confinement of 60 days.  If they commit a third offense within 20 years they are to receive at least six months in confinement.  prior to the law passing, there were no minimum jail requirements for these violators.

Annexation Extension: For about 30 years, the Commonwealth has put a freeze on aggressive annexation between cities and counties.  This latest extension was set to expire in 2010 and there were several failed attempts to extend that freeze until 2020.  The Kaine administration wanted to force a permanent agreement between the Counties and Cities but it never materialized.  Eventually, Gov. Kaine agreed to allow an extension on the moratorium until 2018.  This will allow positive relationships to continue between counties and cities without the threat of possible annexation.

School Textbook Budget Amendment-The past couple years, I put in a budget amendment that would allow schools to use their funding for new textbooks for other purposes.  My last two years in the House were very tough budget years and I was proud to come up with many creative measures, including this one, that would help give the local school divisions the freedom to decide how these monies could be spent.

Abortion Clinic Safety-I wasn’t able to get this bill through the Senate during my five sessions.  It did pass each year in the House by a bipartisan majority.  I was happy to fight this battle and keep this common sense idea in the public view.  I am confident that this will pass if the Republicans are able to take control of the Senate.  The bill says that abortion clinics should be regulated like ambulatory surgery centers.  They would need a yearly inspection, life saving equipment on hand and they must report complications.

While I do admit that my own personal legislative priorities would be quite a bit different from Delegate Lohr, I still believe his efforts were of great benefit to the people of the 26th district and the Commonwealth as a whole.  But he should be remembered for more than just his work as a part-time legislator.  Outside his work in the General Assembly, he was deeply involved in local activism ranging from charity work, like the recent Relay for Life, to spending his time at schools in the district.  If we all shared just a fraction of his community spirit, I earnestly believe that our valley would be an even better place.

In closing, I certainly wish former Delegate Lohr well in his future endeavors and thank him for his time in the House of Delegates.

Wilt Wins!

Note:  News courtesy of Senator Mark Obenshain and

A little while ago, Tony Wilt was declared the winner of the Republican nomination for the 26th district House of Delegates.  Although the official vote totals will not be released to the public for the sake of party unity, in total, 1597 votes were cast.  Being a numbers kind of guy, I would be greatly interested in seeing the percentages, especially how they differed in the city and the county, but I can appreciate the desire to end any potential divisiveness.

With this win, Mr. Wilt will face the Democratic nominee, Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner, in the June 15 special election.  With less than two months to go, I’m sure both candidates will be campaigning hard in order to claim the open seat.

So congratulations Mr. Wilt.  I expect many great and conservative things of you.  I also want to say congrats to both Mr. Elledge and Mr. Byrd.  Although I’ve never been a candidate myself, I know full well that campaigning is not an easy task.  It requires a will and a resolve that only a select few can muster.

I’ll post more news as it becomes available.

And on to June we go!

The 26th Decision

Can you believe that the day has arrived so quickly?  Tomorrow, we will be selecting the nominee for the Republican Party here in the 26th district.  When I got home from work tonight, my inbox was stuffed with emails from the three candidates (The count stands at ten from 12:30 to 10:40 PM).  Believe it or not, I’m still undecided.  I haven’t had sufficient time to study the candidates and I still think the process was rushed.  Nevertheless, I’ll continue to read about them this evening and tomorrow morning so hopefully when 4:00 PM comes, I’ll be able to make an informed decision.

I plan to support whichever candidate I believe is the most conservative in the three key areas:  socially, fiscally, and constitutionally.  Of course I want a delegate who shares our valley values, but, in addition, I want a leader who will boldly patron conservative legislation.  So then, who is the best candidate?  To help with our decision, I’d like to share with you the responses the three candidates gave to the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.

SPECIAL EDITION–CANDIDATES FOR 26th House of Delegates District Answer Tea Party Questions

1. John Elledge

2. Tony Wilt

3. Ted Byrd

Please scroll down to read all answers.    Information Only.  The SVTPP Does Not Make Endorsements.

John Elledge Answers SVTPP Nine Questions

1. Please provide a short essay that introduces you and your background?
I am John Elledge and I am running to represent the 26th House District in the Virginia General Assembly.  Delegate Matt Lohr, re-elected this past November, will be vacating his position, leaving the seat open less than halfway through the term.  I am determined to fill his position because the citizens of the 26th District need a Delegate who can hit the ground running.  I know that I am the right man for the job.

I know the institution of the Virginia General Assembly because I worked ten years as a Legislative Assistant to former Delegate Glenn Weatherholtz.  I am the only candidate who knows the procedures and processes of the legislature.  I have drafted bills, monitored them, and developed a strategy to pass important legislation over those ten years.  I am aware of the ins and outs of the committee structure, and the tricks and setbacks that legislators face.  I know the players in Richmond and in the District, and I know the mysteries of the budgeting process.

My political values were developed under the guidance of Delegate Weatherholtz, who had a distaste for politics as usual.  He served 24 years as Rockingham County Sheriff.  During those years and during his service in the General Assembly, he made it a point of genuine pride to never spend his entire budget.  He was also a tough man who knew his own mind and did not give in easily to the pressures of the insiders in the political class.  It is my goal to emulate Glenn Weatherholtz in all these ways.

2. Please describe the three most important achievements that you would like to accomplish for the citizens of the 26th District?
I will consider it an achievement every time I successfully work for the failure of government-expanding legislation proposed by a Democrat or a Republican.

I will consider it an achievement if I can make a dent in the status of the 26th District as a net exporter of resources.  I want to bring our fair share back home to be spent in our communities, not in the district of those who cater to expansive local governments in their districts.  I will work to fund core services of Education, Public Safety and Transportation, to relieve upward pressure on our local tax system.

I will proudly limit the amount of legislation I introduce each session.  Not every idea needs to become law.  What legislation I do introduce will have a priority of reducing the size of government.

3.  If elected, will you hold frequent town hall meetings and tele-town hall meetings for the 26th District citizens?
Yes, I will employ the latest technology to stay in touch with my constituents, to be as responsive and accessible as possible.

4. What are your three top concerns for the Commonwealth of Virginia?
That we eliminate services that are not the core role of government.

That we resist the intrusion of the federal government into the province of the government of the Commonwealth, and that we demand that the federal government lives up to its obligations to all the citizens, like protecting our borders, and spend on core infrastructure like Interstate highways, rather than expansive social programs.

That we fund core services in a focused and efficient manner: Education, Public Safety, and Transportation.

5. Is the size of Virginia government and the Virginia 2010-2012 Budget: adequate, too large, or too small?
It is too large.  Much of what makes it too large is the result of the imposition of unfunded mandates, like Medicaid and spending.  The current budget takes the Commonwealth back to the 2006 spending level, which were prosperous economic times.  We must prevent the budget from swelling back to its size before the recession.  We also need to see that a significant portion of revenue growth from the recovery goes to a Rainy Day Fund, and to repaying the frequently-raided Transportation fund.

6. Will you sign a “no-new taxes” pledge?

7. What are your three top concerns at the Federal level?
Runaway spending
The imposition of mandates on states, especially unfunded mandates.
The Federal government’s failure/refusal to seal our borders.

8. Do you vigorously support Virginia 10th Amendment legislation such as, H.B. 10 (Virginia Health Care Freedom Act) and H.B. 69 (Virginia Firearms Freedom Act)?
I absolutely support both these legislative efforts, and further support sound legal challenges to the Federal government’s imposition of its healthcare rules and firearms regulations on Virginians, recognizing that success in these challenges will probably require the Supreme Court’s reversal of bad precedent in terms of its Commerce Clause jurisprudence (Wickard vs, Filbrum) and the extension of its good decision in U.S. vs. Lopez, which found the Gun-Free School Zones Act unconstitutional as an application of the Commerce Clause.

9. If you believe that Virginia must cut spending in state government, what spending category would you cut first?
This goes hand-in-hand with my views on question # 8.  The primary and fastest growing segment of the budget causing the explosion in spending has to do with unfunded mandates, especially Medicaid spending.  A forceful resistance to these impositions with the efforts of strong organizers and activists like the Tea Party groups working to change the makeup of Congress could do wonders to reduce this forced area of state spending.

Apart from that, I am generally supportive of Governor McDonnell’s approach to the planned cuts he offered before the General Assembly.

Tony Wilt Answers SVTPP Nine Questions

1. Please provide a short essay that introduces you and your platform?

My name is Tony Wilt and I’m vying for the Republican nomination to run for the 26th District House of Delegates seat.  I’ve never run for public office.  However, I’m excited about the prospect of representing the people of the 26th District.  Vickie and I have been married for 25 years and have a grown daughter and son.

I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.  I am pro-life.  I believe the 2nd Amendment gives each qualifying citizen the right to keep and bear arms.  I was born, raised, and lived in the 26th District all my life, except for two brief times in California and North Carolina, while my dad served in the U.S. M.C.  I urge you to seek out those who know me.  My actions will speak out louder and truer than my words.  I trust that you will find that my actions and words are one in the same.

I’ve worked at Superior Concrete, Inc. for 30 years and am the President/General Manager.  I stand firm against any new taxes, regulations, mandates, and entitlements, and will fight to lessen or repeal current ones.  I believe in limited government intrusion in every aspect of our lives.  But along with that, I demand personal responsibility.

2. Please describe the three most important achievements that you would like to accomplish for the citizens of the 26th District?

Greater freedom of government intrusion in our lives.

Re-evaluate the state budget for what is supported, and for how much.

Secure alternative sources of revenue, instead of raising taxes on hard-working Virginians.

3. If elected, will you hold frequent town hall meetings and tele-town hall meetings for the 26th District citizens?


4. What are your three top concerns for the Commonwealth of Virginia?

Out of control Federal government.

Efficiency of state and local governments.

Stagnant economy.

5. Is the size of Virginia government and the Virginia 2010-2012 Budget: adequate, too large, or too small?

Too large.

6. Will you sign a “no-new taxes” pledge?

Yes.    (This candidate submitted a signed and witnessed Taxpayer Protection Pledge with Americans for Tax Reform, that pledges he will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.)

7. What are your three top concerns at the Federal level?

Disregard for the Constitution.

Ignoring national security and sovereignty.

Mandates passed on states and locales.

8. Do you vigorously support Virginia 10th Amendment Legislation such as H.B. 10 (Virginia Health Care Freedom Act) and H.B. 69 (Virginia Firearms Freedom Act)?


9. If you believe that Virginia must cut spending in state government, what spending category would you cut first?

This is a tough one, I believe two-fold.  Every agency must strive for efficiency, but I don’t know if that will do the trick.  We must prioritize just what the government should be involved in, and cut the rest.  That definitely means operations within each agency, but maybe the agency itself.
Ted Byrd Answers SVTPP Nine Questions
1. Please provide a short essay that introduces you and your platform?
I am running for the Republican nomination for the 26th District of the House of Delegates, because I believe my experiences in Agriculture, Economic Development, Business, Transportation, and Local Government enable me to have a balanced perspective and will represent our community’s interest in Richmond.  I am committed to listen carefully to constituents and make decisions that will best address our local and state concerns.

2. Please describe the three most important achievements that you would like to accomplish for the citizens of the 26th District?
I would be a Champion of our local Family Farmers.
I would work hard to ensure we have a business climate that encourages the creation of jobs.
I would continue to strive for fair funding for our local schools to enable children to compete for future jobs.

3. If elected, will you hold frequent town hall meetings and tele-town hall meetings for the 26th District citizens?

4. What are your three top concerns for the Commonwealth of Virginia?
We need to return to prioritizing state funding for our core services which are: public safety, education, and maintaining our road infrastructure.

5. Is the size of Virginia government and the Virginia 2010-2012 Budget: adequate, too large, or too small?
It is still too large.

6. Will you sign a “no-new taxes” pledge?

7. What are your three top concerns at the Federal level?
National Debt.
National Security.
The massive size of the Federal government and its reach into each of our lives.

8. Do you vigorously support Virginia 10th Amendment Legislation such as H.B. 10 (Virginia Health Care Freedom Act) and H.B. 69 (Virginia Firearms Freedom Act)?
I do support the state of Virginia Federal lawsuit to uphold Virginia’s Health Care Freedom Act and await the ruling from the federal court.  I was unable to get information on H.B. 69.*

* Newsletter Editor’s note:  While H.B. 10 passed in the recent legislative session, H.B. 69 was sent to an unfavorable committee where the legislation died for this session.

9. If you believe that Virginia must cut spending in state government, what spending category would you cut first?
Non-core services.  Through the years there has been pork or special interest funding inserted into the state budget and that would be the first place I would look to make cuts.

For some more information, I’d recommend that you read a recent article provided by

Remember that polls will only be open from 4 to 8 PM tomorrow.  If you are in the city, you vote at Keister Elementary, 100 Maryland Avenue.  If you are in the county, you vote at Lacey Spring Elementary School, 8621 North Valley Pike.

Be an informed voter!

Update: Assuming you lived in the 26th District (which of course many of you do not), based upon the above information which of the candidates would you support and why?  Please feel free to comment.

Triggerman Bill Shot Down By Senate Democrats

A little while ago, I received the follow email from Senator Mark Obenshain:

Earlier today, Democrats on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted along party lines to defeat SB 7, my legislation to close the triggerman loophole. The bill would have reinstated accomplice liability for principals in the second degree and accomplices before the fact. Closing this loophole has been a priority of the law enforcement community for years, and passed both chambers with bipartisan support three consecutive years before meeting with then-Governor Tim Kaine’s veto pen.

Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), the Democratic nominee for governor in 2009, voted against the bill after consistently and vocally supporting it in previous years. I think it’s fair to ask whether Senator Deeds was sincere in his prior votes for closing the triggerman loophole or in today’s vote against it. Back when he was running for Governor, Deeds touted his support for this bill as one of his credentials, but with the election behind him, he’s singing a different tune.

Deeds, who voted for the legislation and in favor of overriding then-Gov. Kaine’s vetoes each previous time the bill was introduced, was joined by Senators Marsh, Saslaw, Howell, Lucas, Edwards, Puller, Deeds, McEachin, and Petersen in rejecting the bill.

Democrats stacked the Courts committee this year, and it shows. In a narrowly divided 22-18 Senate, Democrats enjoy a 9-6 majority on the powerful Senate Courts of Justice Committee, and today they used their margin to kill a good bill – one that enjoyed bipartisan support from seven Senate Democrats and nineteen House Democrats last year.

My bill enjoyed broad support among legislators, prosecutors, and law enforcement, all of whom see this legislation as necessary for the effective prosecution of those who willfully, deliberately, and intentionally participate in the commission of a capital murder, but happen not to be the individual pulling the trigger. It has been endorsed by the Virginia Crime Commission, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, and other law enforcement organizations, and enjoyed the support of all four major-party candidates for governor – including all three Democratic contenders – last year.

Closing the triggerman loophole will increase public safety by restoring an important tool to prosecutors. The existing triggerman loophole allows criminal defendants who willfully and deliberately participated in a premeditated murder that is otherwise covered as a capital offense to escape prosecution for capital murder if they did not actually pull the trigger. It is a distinction unheard of in common law and unknown to Virginia law until 1979. The loophole was created at a time when the courts had called the constitutionality of the death penalty into question, and we are long overdue to close it.

Need an example? Under current Virginia law, even someone like Charles Manson could not be prosecuted for capital murder, despite the fact that he orchestrated the Tate-LaBianca murders in the 1960s.

The majority of states with the death penalty make co-conspirators in capital murder cases eligible for the death penalty. Supporters of this change cite a number of especially aggravated murders where the existing triggerman rule has thwart prosecutors. In a particularly heinous crime in 1999, it was only possible to obtain a death sentence against one of three men who abducted, raped, and brutally murdered a woman.

A similar bill (HB 502) patroned by my friend Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) passed the House with broad bipartisan support, 74-24. It remains to be seen how the Senate Courts of Justice Committee will receive Todd’s bill, but I hope that Senator Deeds and his colleagues will revisit their newfound objections.

Because it’s not just Deeds, though he’s the most recent to flip. Although they have voted against the bill more recently, Senators John Edwards (D-Roanoke) and Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield) both supported an identical bill in 2007, when the Senate passed my bill 28-11. (Kaine vetoed it.)

When it comes to law enforcement, Virginians are looking for consistent leadership, not votes of convenience, and it’s regrettable that this formerly bipartisan measure died at the hands of an increasingly partisan Democratic Senate majority.

Mark Obenshain
Virginia State Senator

It’s a shame that the Senator’s bill didn’t survive the committee and is yet another telling example of how some politicians will vote for a bill when he or she knows it will be vetoed, but will vote against it when it is likely to pass.  Unfortunately, for far too many legislators, politics trumps principles.  If conservative Republicans reclaim the Senate in the 2011 elections, perhaps we will finally be able to offer so many murderers the justice they deserve.

Thank you Senator Obenshain.

Memoirs from the 93rd: Part V

The Numbers Game

How does a Republican candidate win in a Democratic district?  John McCain won approximately 38% of the vote in the 93rd district back in 2008.  Jim Gilmore only managed 28% in the same year.  George Allen captured approximately 45% of the vote in 2006.  Given that all of the percentages are below the statewide average, one could hardly call the 93rd a Republican friendly district.  Of the 13 precincts in the 93rd, what, if any, of the precincts are favorable to Republicans?  Looking back at past elections, George Allen narrowly won Palmer, narrowly lost Kiln Creek, and convincingly won both Watkins and Roberts B.  John McCain faired worse, only managing to win Watkins and Roberts B and not really in any danger of winning any others.  The district encompasses the two easternmost precincts of James City County and the northeast section of Newport News with the exception of the Saunders precinct, which is in the 96th.  For the record, the precincts in the district are:  Roberts A & B in James City County, and Epes, McIntosh, Reservoir, Richneck, a portion of Lee Hall, Windsor, Greenwood, Palmer, Kiln Creek, Deer Park, and Watkins in Newport News.  Of these, Delegate Hamilton won Roberts B, and Watkins, narrowly winning Deer Park, and a close loss in Roberts A. Given that the district trends Democratic, one might wonder how Delegate Hamilton was able to gain and hold onto power for so long.

The answer to this question has several parts.  First, one should recognize that incumbents have an inherent advantage over their opponents.  They have higher name recognition and presumably more accomplishments.  I would also argue that from what I saw, Delegate Phil Hamilton maintained a favorable rapport with the people of the 93rd, taking time to listen to his constituents and alerting them to his progress in Richmond.  The second is that the location of the 93rd has shifted over the years.  Although I cannot find data for how the 93rd looked back in 1988 when he was first elected, comparing it to the district in the 1990s, one can clearly see a shift.  Delegate Hamilton often referred to the 93rd as a “donor district”, meaning that the more Republican or conservative areas of this district had been given to other districts, presumably in the hopes of electing more Republican/conservative legislators.  Before the 2000 redistricting, the 93rd was further east.  It contained none of James City County and the following precincts in Newport News:  McIntosh, Reservoir, Richneck, Deer Park, Nelson, Palmer, Saunders, a small bit of Warwick, Beaconsdale, and South Morrison.  I should mention that the precinct known as Beaconsdale no longer exists.  According to the Newport News Board of Elections, the polling place was not handicap accessible, so it was absorbed into the Deer Park precinct.  What does all this mean, you ask?  Looking back at both the Allen and McCain elections, let’s assume the 93rd is in this old shape (including all of Warwick, no absentee ballots, and no write ins).  Do these candidates fair any better?  John McCain reaches 40%, Jim Gilmore improves to 29% and George Allen reaches 47%.  Although none win this old district, they do capture a higher percentage.

Let’s next consider the Governor’s race in the 93rd.  While the delegate’s race was 54% in favor of Robin Abbott, McDonnell won about 52-53% in that same district depending on the source.  He handily wins the precincts of Palmer, Kiln Creek, Deer Park, Watkins, Roberts A and B, narrowly wins Richneck, and barely loses Windsor.  Now why did he do better than Phil Hamilton?  Was he better known?  Did he run a better campaign?  Was his opponent easier to beat? (Answer:  yes!) Or was it that he wasn’t tarred by a scandal?  For comparison’s sake let’s run McDonnell in this old 93rd.  Does he similarly get a one to two point bump in the polls as the other candidates did?  Indeed the trend holds true with McDonnell gathering about 54% in this relic district.  However, applying these numbers to Phil Hamilton does not result in victory.  While it raises his percentage from 45.6 to around 47.6%, and dropping his opponent likewise, Robin Abbott would still win with a slim 51.94%.

So what should we take home from the numbers game?  Although the 93rd has undeniably gotten worse for Republicans since redistricting, it is possible, although difficult, for Republicans to win here.  In a great Republican year like 2009, Bolling ran about even and Cuccinelli won 51%.  The statistics clearly prove that if Delegate Hamilton was able to run alongside Bob McDonnell (or Cuccinelli, and maybe even Bolling) and capture all of the same voters, he would be returning to the House of Delegates next year.  Unfortunately ODU and the resulting aftermath dashed any hopes for this scenario.

Booze Money

Unlike many other states in the Union, Virginia tightly regulates the sale of certain alcoholic beverages through state-run ABC stores.  Compare this attitude to California, where one can purchase vodka, whiskey, and similar products in the local grocery stores.  Of course, that is one of the results of federalism…each state can decide their own alcohol policy irrespective of the laws of other states.  Naturally each state should have full control over these policies.  Now if we could only get back full control of important areas such as education, welfare, and health care…but I digress.

The 26th’s own Senator Mark Obenshain looks to change our sales of alcohol by returning control of sales to private business.  According to his new facebook group, Virginians for ABC Store Privatization,  “If ever there was a time to challenge traditional notions about business as usual in Virginia, this is it!

There are certain core competencies of state government, but selling distilled spirits is not one of them. That’s why Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) has called for the divestiture of Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control-operated state stores, a proposal that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue at a time when the Commonwealth is struggling to balance its budget while offering consumers the increased selection and quality of service associated with private enterprise.

This effort can succeed only with grassroots support. Let’s take a stand for free enterprise. For truly limited and responsible government. We need your help. Join us in our effort to get the Commonwealth out of the distilled spirits business.”

I think that breaking the monopoly of state-run alcohol is a good idea for free enterprise and limited government and if it saves the state money, so much the better.  However, I do wonder what will spring up in place of them.   From my limited experiences, societies that respect and understand alcohol rather than fear and demonize them have fewer cases of alcohol abuse and alcohol related crime.  It is the same with firearms.  It is my hope that a law, such as one proposed by Senator Obenshain, will enable greater freedom and responsibility, but only time will tell.  We should get the full text of the bill soon.