The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLIV)

On the morning of March 15th, Andy Schmookler and I, Joshua Huffman, appeared on 550 AM WSVA for our monthly radio hour.  The topics for discussion included:  Obamacare and Paul Ryan’s attempts to craft his own health care law, the 2017 Virginia elections including the increasing number of contested elections for the House of Delegates in the central Shenandoah Valley, and President Trump’s connections with Russia and whether this issue creates a massive conflict of interest with his duties to the Constitution and the American people.

If you missed the program live, you can find a recording of it here.

First Impressions: Jason Carrier

Photo from Brian Hiner, 6th district LPVA Chairman

For the last several weeks, I have been wondering if anyone would seek the Libertarian Party nomination for governor.  Robert Sarvis ran in 2013, but that was only the second time in Virginia history that the LPVA fielded a candidate for this position.  Although Mr. Sarvis did run for the Virginia Senate in 2011, he was not well-known statewide before the 2013 Virginia Libertarian Convention in Waynesboro.  When I asked if anyone would run this year, I was told that there were several prospective candidates but nothing was public yet.

As my search continued, I was given a name, Jason Carrier.  Being the curious fellow I am, I sought him out and sent him a Facebook message hoping to learn more.  Most importantly, I asked him why he was running.  His response was, “The party needs a candidate to keep momentum up.  I’ve been preaching Libertarian values to anyone who would listen for years, so I figured I would quit bitching and try and do something about it.  It is about forcing the other two parties to compete in the arena of ideas, pulling them to a pro-liberty agenda.”  As you might imagine, given my beliefs and support for political competition, I thought his answer was a good beginning.

On Saturday, March 11th, the 6th district Libertarian Party held a convention in Staunton, Virginia.  I ended up sitting next to a fellow in a red button-up shirt and tie who turned out to be Jason Carrier.  After the main business of the meeting, such as the election of officers and Will Hammer gaining the Libertarian nomination for the 20th district in the House of Delegates, Mr. Carrier took the floor.

Mr. Carrier spoke of about himself and his experiences but, unlike many other office-seekers, especially first-time candidates, his life wasn’t the central focus of his talk.  Instead, he discussed a number of issues of importance to his campaign such as reducing taxes, regulatory reform, and even privatizing the roads in the Commonwealth.  Perhaps surprisingly he had favorable things to say about one of his opponents, Republican candidate Denver Riggleman, who he said shared many principles with Libertarians.  As a self-identified jarhead, occasionally Mr. Carrier would pepper his speech with some mild language that you wouldn’t expect from your average politician.  After his remarks, he fielded a multitude of questions from the audience on a variety of topics.  As one example, although most Libertarians are pro-choice, it was a pleasant surprise to hear a statewide candidate advocating for life.

Although brief, I have to say that I am impressed with Jason Carrier thus far.  He seems authentic and not a typical politician willing to say whatever he thinks will earn your support.  He spoke with conviction and didn’t waffle or appear dazed like some people do when they are caught in the high-beams of public attention.  He didn’t avoid tough questions by shifting the discussion to other topics and was quite open and approachable.  One interesting idea he proposed, and although I’ll admit I am ignorant of the subject, I’m not sure of the present viability of solar power producing roadways.  Lastly, unlike some third-party candidates, he did not promise certain victory if given the party’s nomination, which is a pretty tough task given numerous legal hurdles, press barriers, and mindset of voters who are constantly told that supporting a third party or independent candidate is akin to “wasting their votes”.  If he does not win, he seeks to capture at least 10% of the vote.  Doing so would make it much easier for Virginia voters to routinely have a third choice in future elections.  In addition, he hopes that his run will inspire more candidates to run under the Libertarian Party banner.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Jason Carrier as the campaign continues, but, as I’ve said, my first impressions were quite positive.  If you’d like to meet him in person and you live in the Harrisonburg area, I’m told he’ll likely be stopping by the next meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians on the evening of March 21st.

Round Two: Hammer Vs. Bell

Images from Dickie Bell’s and Will Hammer’s websites

Two years and two days ago, Will Hammer announced his candidacy for the House of Delegates in the 20th district.  He ran as the Libertarian candidate against Dickie Bell, the Republican incumbent.

Delegate Bell emerged victorious in the 2015 contest, but today Hammer has announced his plans for a second go at the office.

In his press release, Mr. Hammer states, “I believe that my strong showing in 2015 and growing distrust and distaste for the two major parties, specifically incumbents, represents a great opportunity to go to Richmond as a third party candidate.”

Will Hammer highlights some of his campaign issues adding, “When elected, I will fight against the Dominion pipeline because property rights are sacred, to end gerrymandering and corruption, bring transparency to Richmond and publish a reasoning for every vote that I place. I will hold online and in person public forums for my constituents. I will protect your gun rights as I was given an A grade from Gun Owners of America and “very pro-gun” rating from Virginia Citizens Defense League. I will fight for judicial reform and marijuana legalization, which will reduce government expenditure and create a booming new industry which means thousands of jobs. I will walk the walk, not talk the talk. If you are tired of business as usual and the duopoly of the Republicans and Democrats, join me and let’s seriously drain the swamp known as Richmond.”

Presumably, Mr. Hammer will be able to collect the signatures of 125 valid and registered voters in the 20th district to make the ballot.  Assuming he is the Republican nominee once more, Delegate Bell will not be required to collect signatures.  The 20th district includes the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro as well as all of Highland County and parts of Augusta and Nelson Counties.  Right now, there are no other candidates in this race and Will Hammer is the only Libertarian candidate running in the Shenandoah Valley.

If you’d like to learn more about either of the two candidates, you can find information about both Bell and Hammer on their respective websites.

An Open Letter to the Gillespie Campaign

Ed Gillespie at a campaign event in Staunton on November, 2014

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.
Sincerely,
Joshua Huffman

 

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 (generra@edforvirginia.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.

Freedom Gulch #20

Last night, Andy Bakker, Will Hammer, and Joshua Huffman gathered online for the twentieth Freedom Gulch podcast.  Topics for the nearly hourlong discussion included: President’s Trump’s plan to “rebuild” the United States military, an unusual candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, additional discussion of the 2017 Virginia campaigns, and more.

If you missed the podcast live, you can find it below.

Sell Out!

Image from the film, The Sellout (1952)
Image from the film, The Sellout (1952)

VC Note:  I wrote this piece on November 15, 2015, though I decided against publishing it until recently.

 

In the world of politics, a person is often faced with the decision to sell out one’s principles in order to further his or her own ambitions.  I dare say that every activist has faced this choice sooner or later and if you haven’t yet, that likely means that you are still quite new to the arena.

In 2014, while running for local office, I had the opportunity to sit-in on several of the meetings of the JMU College Republicans.  If you are new to this website, you might not know that student activism has been an interest of mine ever since I began my political journey as a high school student and so I try to encourage students any chance I get.  Unfortunately, I was told that my presence at the JMU CRs upset some of the local establishment Republicans, given that I wasn’t wed to their partisan banner anymore, and they were pressuring the CRs to get rid of me.  As a result, one evening a student came up to me and flatly said that I was no longer welcome at their gatherings.  However, if I were to tell you that the JMU CRs hosted an event honoring Bill Bolling during that semester, that likely tells you all you need to know about the values of that organization at that time.

Anyway, before my exclusion, I appreciated the chance to listen to several of their speakers.  One week it was Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge County with whom I had a very positive interaction after the meeting.  However, it was a speech from my own state senator, Mark Obenshain, that sticks most strongly in my mind…even over a year later.  During his talk, he extolled several former JMU Republicans who went on to successful careers in politics, such as a few of Representative Bob Goodlatte’s past and current employees.  Unfortunately, each and every person he mentioned that night shared a common trait; they either sold out their principles or never really had any principles to begin with, and all were more than willing to step on anyone who gets between them and power.  I had more than my share of nasty run-ins with many of these folks.  Although these names were likely foreign to many of the students around me, I knew them all well and to hear this rogue’s gallery listed as a group young political activists ought to aspire to emulate was dismaying indeed.  It made me think.  Is selling out is the ticket to success?

Over my twenty years in politics, I have had a chance to meet a lot of liberty-minded activists.  Some have remained faithful to their ideals while others have not, choosing to support and work for candidates and politicians of dubious moral character who willingly jettison their principles when the leadership tells them to do so…or the price is right.  Some activists have been willing to use any tactic, without respect to morality, if they think it will achieve their goals, knowing that elected officials and party leadership will defend their actions.

As you might imagine, hearing cases of this corruption or watching it unfold firsthand has been profoundly disheartening.  Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  Yes, having power is important.  Being able to support yourself in the political world is certainly important too.  But, at the end of the day, if the eager and wide-eyed novice you once were has been replaced by a callous, manipulative, and immoral professional, don’t you have to ask what was the point of getting involved in politics in the first place?  Isn’t it written, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”  (Mark 8:36 NLT).  It pains me to say that I’ve crossed paths with many individuals who have apparently sold their souls and, despite any superficial claims to be godly and attempts to cosy up to the religious right, face the very real danger of damnation.

So, my friends, whatever your political leanings, I urge you to remain grounded and faithful to your principles.  Never lie, cheat, or steal in order to gain glory, money, fame, or power nor should you ever knowingly follow anyone who acts in this fashion.  Shouldn’t we work to instill values such as honor, courage, honesty, and steadfastness in the next generation of activists?

But, then again, what do I know?  After all, there are many activists and politicians who have advanced much further than I have by stabbing others in the back, bowing down to the lobbyists, and deceiving the folks back home.  And, if you asked them behind closed doors, here’s the advice they would likely give:

The Rise of the Rocktown Libertarians

Photo of the August 2013 meeting by Lisa McCumsey

In the past, the Rocktown Libertarians have hosted a number of candidates seeking office.  In 2012 we had Karen Kwiatkowski, a Republican candidate for House of Representatives.  In 2013, there was Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor.  In 2014, there were many hopefuls: Robert Sarvis again, this time the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, Will Hammer, a Libertarian candidate for House of Representatives, Helen Shibut, a Libertarian candidate for Harrisonburg City Council and me, Joshua Huffman, an independent for Harrisonburg City Council.  In 2015, we had April Moore, a Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate as well as Will Hammer once more, this time as a Libertarian seeking a House of Delegates seat.  Then, in 2016, Chris Jones, the Mayor of Harrisonburg (a Democrat) stopped by as did Harry Griego, a Republican candidate for House of Representatives.

2017 is shaping up to be an even more exciting year.  At the Rocktown Libertarians’ March meeting we will be hosting Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) to speak about this year’s General Assembly session which should be ending in just a few short days.  Then, in April, the Rocktown Libertarians will be joined by Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) to discuss ways to make ballot access more fair for all, including Libertarian Party candidates.  We’ll likely have other special guests as well, but they are still in the works.

Sounds like an interesting group, doesn’t it?

Well, if you’d like to learn more about the Libertarian Party of Virginia, work to promote liberty, and meet fellow activists of a variety of political affiliations, I hope you’ll consider attending an upcoming meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians.  We get together on the third Tuesday of every month starting about 6:30 PM at the O’Charley’s at 101 Burgess Road in Harrisonburg.  Come stop by, say hello, and enjoy some good food and good conversation!

Gillespie Excels in Staunton

On Thursday evening, the Ed Gillespie campaign held another gathering in the Shenandoah Valley, this time at the Holiday Inn right off of Interstate 81 in Staunton.  The advertised guest of the evening was Matt Bevin, the governor of Kentucky.  Curiously, the room was set up with a stage against the middle wall with three padded chairs and a couple of tables.  Unlike other events, I didn’t recognize a majority of the folks in the crowd.

The Commonwealth Attorney for Augusta County, Tim Martin, gave a welcome, Travis Witt, the former leader of the tea party federation, offered the prayer, and Augusta County Supervisor Marshall Pattie led the group in the pledge of allegiance.

Next, Pete Snyder, who many folks know from his 2013 run for lieutenant governor, took the stage.  After a few moments, Ed Gillespie and Matt Bevin joined him.

 

Ed Gillespie and Matt Bevin with Greene County GOP Chairman Ed Yensho

The three of them spoke amongst themselves about Gillespie’s campaign for governor as well as Bevin’s experiences as governor of Kentucky.  Afterward, they took a series of pre-submitted questions from the audience.  While this was going on, I thought of a question I wanted to ask regarding political freedom and spoke with the staffer handling such things, but, unfortunately, weren’t able to take it.

In conclusion, Governor Bevin invited all of the attendees to put a Gillespie bumper sticker on their cars as well as get their photo taken with Mr. Gillespie to which Ed Gillespie suggested that the governor ought to join in as well.

Overall, the event was well attended for a Thursday evening as pretty much every seat was filled.  Governor Matt Bevin expressed strong support for Ed Gillespie which helps bolster Gillespie’s credibility.  Snyder, Gillespie, and Bevin all added some humorous moments to the gathering.  And, perhaps most importantly, unlike their last event in Harrisonburg, several people in the crowd had an opportunity to participate in the discussion.

Compared to his 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate, Ed Gillespie’s campaign for governor seems significantly improved, spending more time discussing substantive issues, and bringing impressive political figures, like Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin onboard.

Freedom Gulch #19

On the evening of February 7th, Will Hammer, Andy Bakker, and I gathered online for Freedom Gulch’s 19th podcast. Topics during the hour included: Betsy DeVos and her confirmation as Secretary of Education, recent protests against Milo Yiannopoulos, Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from a downtown park, an eye toward the 2017 elections here in Virginia, and more.

If you missed it live, you can find it here!

RPV Adds to God’s Law

I’d wager, whether religious or not, the average American knows at least something about the 10 Commandments, such as they were carved in stone and given to Moses or that they include instructions such as honor thy father and mother or thou shall not commit adultery.  As they are an important foundational basis for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, one can find monuments and references to them throughout the United States on both public and private property.  In 2007, I even found a plaque listing the commandments on a Taco Bell in eastern Tennessee.

But, apparently, the Republican Party of Virginia has decided to add to these 10 Commandments ordained by God.  On February 4th, RPV Chairman John Whitbeck penned an email where he created the 12th Commandment.  For those who don’t know, many years ago a Republican Party chairman in California wrote the 11th, “thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican”.

As Chairman Whitbeck says:

My friends, I am not going to copy the California Chairman and demand the 11th Commandment be followed by our candidates in 2017.  That’s been done before.  Instead, I am going to ask every Republican leader, District chair, unit chair, elected official and grassroots activist to demand our candidates follow the 11th Commandment.  Let them know that personal attacks, false innuendo and below the belt politics have no place in our Party.  If we do that, our nominees will emerge strong and with a united party behind them.  Too often, we fight the primary well into the general election.  We saw multiple examples of this in the last few years.  In some cases we won and in some we lost.  But in 2017 we are more likely to lose if we don’t follow the 11th Commandment.  So I ask each of you to hold our candidates accountable in this regard.

He goes on to add:

What I will do as your Party Chairman is call for an adherence to a 12th Commandment.  It is a solemn duty I believe is incumbent upon all Republicans.  Quite simply, the 12th Commandment should be “thou shalt support the Republican nominee.”

Whitbeck explains his rationale:

The last few years we have seen good Republicans, even members of our local Units, openly support Independent and third party candidates far too often.  While we all appreciate people standing on principal [sic], how is it principled to support someone who has no chance of winning and handing elections over to the Democrats?

Listen to what Mr. Whitbeck is saying here.  At the end of the day, principles don’t matter.  What matters is electing Republicans and defeating Democrats.  Imagine what he might have said if he lived during biblical times.  Sure, you might think that King Ahab and Queen Jezebel are terrible and immoral people who constantly violate God’s law, but if they are Republicans, we must never speak ill of them and we must always support them no matter what they say or do.  Or, yes, as pro-lifers we don’t approve King Herod’s plan to kill all male infants in Bethlehem, but if he came to power under the Republican banner, all Republican activists must not call him out on this.  Would modern day conservative Christians have the courage to denounce these ill-fit leaders or would they stand with Chairman Whitbeck and support Republicans who might stand against every principle they claim to care about simply because “we don’t want the Democrats to win, do we?”

What baffles me is what sort of arrogance and irreverence would compel Chairman Whitbeck to “demand” his 12th Commandment?  Does anyone else see the sacrilege of placing loyalty to the Republican Party of Virginia and her candidates on the same plane as God’s commandments?  Are commandments such as “thou shall not murder” and “thou shall have no other gods before me” equal in importance as “thou shall support the Republicans no matter what” and “thou shall never vote thy conscience”?

Although it may be true that as Chairman Whitbeck says, “If you add the Libertarian candidate’s vote totals to that of our nominees in 2013 and 2014, we would be living out the last year of Governor Cuccinelli’s term and the third year of Senator Gillespie’s,” I know many, good, liberty-minded folks (myself included) who would not have voted for Ed Gillespie in 2014 even if the Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis weren’t on the ballot.  Why wouldn’t some Republicans support Ed Gillespie in spite of his being the party nominee?  The answer is simple; he didn’t share their most important values.

I guess this latest affront from the Republican Party of Virginia shouldn’t be surprising given that although they retracted it in the spring of 2016, the RPV posted on Facebook that “Not voting to stop Hillary borders on treason.”  The current party leadership has helped transform the Republican Party of Virginia into an organization that is unconcerned with their creed, liberty, and conservative principles.  Instead, the only two important pillars of the “Republican faith” are winning at all costs and unquestioned loyalty.  As demonstrated in the quoted email, the chairman even dares to elevate himself to a modern day prophet of God by issuing new commandments.  They believe that anyone who holds an opinion that deviates from the GOP (God’s Own Party) and does not prostrate him or herself before their leaders and nominees, must be declared a heretic or a traitor and cast into utter darkness.

I’d like to see some socially conservative group call out John Whitbeck and the RPV for this blasphemous attempt to add to God’s law, but I expect that there will be no outrage and no call to action.  After all, the most important thing at the end of the day is to be a “Republican first”; decency is burdensome and all other principles are secondary to prevent a future Governor Northam or Governor Perriello, right?