Last night, Will Hammer, Andy Bakker, and I got together online for the twenty-second Freedom Gulch podcast. The conversation mainly focused on Donald Trump and his failures to uphold the Constitution as well as the 2017 elections here in Virginia, including the Libertarian Party of Virginia convention, which is coming up this Saturday.
If you missed it live, you can catch the podcast below.
This year, Ed Gillespie is running to be the governor of Virginia. Rather than simply dismissing his campaign out of hand based upon his previous attempt, I thought in fairness I ought to try again to learn about him and his ideas for Virginia. In February, I attended a well-run event in Staunton and, although I didn’t get to ask my question in person, afterward I spoke with several of his staffers about my desire for greater political freedom and more open and fair elections in Virginia. Based upon their suggestions I emailed my questions to them. A week passed with no response…and then another. I reached out to them again and was greeted with silence. In this way a month passed. Only after I wrote about their failure to communicate did the Gillespie campaign finally reply to me.
For about an hour or so I spoke with one of his staffers on the phone. He apologized for the delay and declared it to be unconscionable. However, during this conversation, I didn’t get any sort of tangible answers to any of my questions. Instead, he encouraged me to send them specific pieces of legislation that I feel would advance political freedom in our Commonwealth. Although frustrated, I did as the staffer asked and sent them text and links for several possible laws asking if Mr. Gillespie would support or oppose these pieces of legislation. They included: making ballot access requirements equal for all candidates regardless of party affiliation, lowering signature requirements, making it easier for other political parties to be recognized, and doing away with legislation that some candidates be listed first on the ballot simply due to their party ties. The idea is to adopt free market principles in Virginia’s political system. And, as was the case previously, the campaign did not respond. Now, almost two more months have passed without any sort of communication. As they say…fool me once…I assure you that I shall not try a third time. I cannot help but feel as if they have wasted my time.
I do have to wonder, is this how the Ed Gillespie campaign operates? Do they have no intention of answering open and honest questions about their campaign? Do they enjoy giving voters the runaround, confident that they have already secured the Republican nomination and the general election victory and thus have no need to be truthful or upfront about what their candidate stands for?
As a former campaign staffer myself for several election cycles, the way a campaign acts can either elevate or degrade a candidate. So far, the Gillespie campaign has behaved shamefully. If they would like a bit of free advice, I would recommend hiring a new political director, one that actually believes in honoring his word.
Back in 2013, I had the opportunity to speak, one-on-one, with several statewide candidates such as Jeannemarie Davis, Pete Snyder, and Ken Cuccinelli. In fact, I would argue that all ten Republican campaigns that year were more open and responsive than the Gillespie campaign has been in 2017. Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts, I cannot get a straight answer from the Gillespie campaign which leads me to believe that they are being led by deceivers and cowards, running a campaign that doesn’t deserve to win.
So far, Mr. Gillespie and his campaign have been quite vague on their platform and what he hopes to accomplish if he is elected. However, I can tell you, not even considering policy positions and based on nothing more than my experiences these last several months, that if the Republican primary were held today, I would not cast a vote for Ed Gillespie. Nor would I cast a vote for him in the general election this year or in any future year.
It is my sincere hope that in the months that remain the Gillespie campaign will do a much better job of responsive and timely answers when it comes to reasonable inquiries. Otherwise, I expect that many conservatives and libertarians that I know who often vote for the Republican candidate will reject him as they did in 2014. And, in that case, I assure you I won’t shed a tear when Mr. Gillespie loses this election.
On Friday, April 28th, the Democratic Parties of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County held a firehouse primary to determine the Democratic nominee for the 26th district House of Delegates seat. The two choices were Cathy Copeland and Brent Finnegan. Although I met first Ms. Copeland at her announcement, I’ve known Brent many years. Facebook tells me we’ve been friends since 2010.
Unlike a traditional primary, a firehouse primary has fewer polling locations (there were two, one in Harrisonburg and one in Rockingham County). In addition, the process is run by the party and not the state. However, unlike a convention or some caucuses, the primary is held in public facilities and is open to the general public, not simply party members.
When I first learned about this contest, I was interested in learning more about both of the candidates and their positions. After all, I would want the candidate I agreed with most to win this primary, in the same way, I would want the candidate who most was in line with my positions to win the general election. However, when I discovered that the Democratic Party would require each voter in the primary to sign a loyalty oath, I lost interest in the process. I was told that each participant in the 26th district Democratic primary would be required to sign an oath to agree to support whoever won the primary regardless of who he or she was or what he or she may stand for.
It reminded me a bit of the 2014 Republican Party of Virginia Convention. As someone who attended the previous three conventions, I looked forward to the one taking place that year. Although I had been expelled from the party months before I was told I could still participate. However, I was dismayed to discover that each attendee was required to sign a loyalty oath to support all of the Republican candidates in the following general election. As I was running for local office, I could not honorably sign a document pledging support to my Republican opponents.
Although I didn’t vote, I stood outside of the polling place for several hours on Friday in order to collect signatures for Cliff Hyra, a fellow seeking the Libertarian nomination for governor. I overheard Kai Degner, a former Democratic city council member, wondering if I would sign the pledge. While there, I ran into my first college professor. She taught Intro to International Relations at JMU which I took while a student in high school. However, she came back out of the building after waiting in line for some time stating that she didn’t cast a ballot as she refused to sign a document automatically pledging her support to whomever won the primary. I spoke to one candidate, Mr. Finnegan, about the matter, and he said he wished that instead voters were asked to state their support the principles of the Democratic Party rather than their wholesale support of their candidate.
For a party who prides itself for sticking up for the rights of the poor, marginalized, and those discriminated against, the idea of a loyalty oath ought to be repugnant to both rank and file Democrats and independents. In addition, the thing is completely and legally unenforceable so what purpose does it serve other than trying to guilt trip voters into supporting candidates they might not otherwise vote for simply because they wish to express their opinions? Should such a thing even be legal given that the primary was held in a public place, inside Harrisonburg’s City Hall? I wonder how many people who planned to vote in Friday’s contest, like my former professor, were turned away for refusing to sign a loyalty oath to the Democratic Party and her candidates? My advice to the local Democrats is, don’t hold your party nomination contest in a public place and invite the public to attend if you are planning to make voters sign a pledge to support you in the process. Not only is it bad public relations, it is also an insult to the principles of political freedom.
Lastly, congrats to Brent Finnegan for winning the primary. Unless another candidate enters the race, the choices for the voters of the 26th district in November are Brent Finnegan (D) and Tony Wilt (R). It should be interesting to see how they compare.
Last night, Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) spoke at the April gathering of the Rocktown Libertarians in Harrisonburg. He has represented the 11th district in the House of Delegates since winning a special election in January of 2014. Mr. Rasoul is the second member of the House of Delegates to visit with the group this year as Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) attended the previous month.
Although the attendance last night was higher than meeting in the early party of 2017, it was a little lower than the previous month. Several folks who had RSVPed didn’t end up making it. In terms of partisanship, the group was fairly diverse. Not only were there Libertarians at the table but there was also a contingent of Republicans and a Democrat or two.
After speaking about a number of issues of importance to him, Delegate Rasoul fielded a bunch of questions from the audience. During this time he mentioned that sometimes he works with Republican legislators, such as Delegate Ben Cline, on issues related to protecting liberty in the Commonwealth. The audience asked him about a variety of topics including criminal justice reform, political freedom and ballot access, drug policy, hemp, and, given that he is the only Muslim legislator in the General Assembly, about his faith and Sharia Law. One particularly interesting tidbit was unlike most legislators, Delegate Rasoul was sworn in with his hand on a copy of both the Virginia and the United States Constitution. As he explained, those were the documents he pledged to uphold.
Although I’ve written some critical pieces about Delegate Sam Rasoul before he was elected, since that time I have appreciated a number of the bills he has sponsored and votes he has taken in the last several sessions of the General Assembly. Do we agree on everything? Of course not. And were there areas of disagreement with him in the audience last night? Absolutely…but there were also differences of opinions between the regular attendees too.
Some people may be more liberal while others are more conservative, but it is my hope that through dialogue, including with those in other political parties, we can begin to counteract some of this nasty partisan fighting that was especially prevalent during the 2016 elections and find areas where we can work together to promote the cause of liberty. As Delegate Rasoul indicated, he shared this desire.
Let me close by saying many thanks to Delegate Sam Rasoul for coming to Harrisonburg to speak to the Rocktown Libertarians last night. Next month, Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) will be in attendance.
Last year, I wrote an article regarding a meeting of the Frederick County Republican Committee. Although I’ve been involved in politics for the last 22 years, I’ve never witnessed a gathering as blatantly corrupt as what I saw from the FCRC on the evening of August 30th. The temporary chair, improperly elected, ignored the complaints arising from the expulsion of several of their members, rammed through the introduction of new members without either discussion or a proper vote, and then immediately declared the meeting adjourned.
Given this unchecked abuse of power by the Frederick County GOP, what should honest, limited government folks in Frederick County do? Should they remain with the local Republican Party? I’m sure some have. But others have gone elsewhere. For example, when I visited the Frederick County Libertarians several months ago, I found one former member of the Frederick Republicans in attendance.
Now, as an additional option, another group has emerged which calls itself the Conservative Caucus. Created by Dutch Jennings, the former treasurer of the Frederick County Republican Party, the group held their first organizational meeting on March 22nd. But who are they and what do they stand for? To answer that question, the group sent out a press release about a week ago.
D.P. “Dutch” Jennings, Chairman of the Conservative Caucus, has announced the forming of a new group in Frederick County. The Conservative Caucus met for its organizational meeting last Saturday the 22nd, and a large room of guests were inducted as new members.
A “caucus” is most frequently a segment, or a subset, of an organized political party. However, the Conservative Caucus is not currently associated with a political party; but may consider a future filing with the Commonwealth of Virginia as a more formally organized group. At this time it is an independent community association focused only on local issues with primarily economic impacts.
According to the Conservative Caucus Mission Statement, they are an organization for Frederick County, VA conservatives who wish to promote fiscal responsibility, smaller government, lower taxes, adherence to the Constitution and individual liberty.
They are forming to give a voice to Frederick County voters and taxpayers who wish to know more about and participate in decisions concerning subjects impacting the political and financial well-being of the county. This provides the opportunity for more citizen participation, needed transparency and positive results.
A focus will be working to identify areas deserving public attention such as local elections, the financial position of Frederick County and the cost of new projects. Some goals are to further inform the community on local public projects in terms of reasonable need, not just want; process and methods of accomplishment; cost effectiveness and impact on county residents. This will be accomplished by a number of initiatives that will be announced later in the year.
According to Jennings, “We look forward to like-minded county residents joining our efforts. Citizens desiring to work in a friendly, cooperative environment to make Frederick County a more honest and open place to live and work are invited to contact the Conservative Caucus via our website cc-fcva.com.”
To join, a citizen must be proposed by a member and be voted in by the Steering Committee. The Caucus’s policy is to keep member information confidential.
So, there you have it. Although the Frederick County GOP has driven away a portion of their membership with their shady behavior, some of these folks have come together in this nonpartisan group to further their political objectives, especially at the local level.
As many of you all know, in 2015 Nick Freitas ran for the House of Delegates against a Republican who had been in office for more than a decade. His opponent wasn’t particularly fiscally responsible, voting for what was billed at that time as the largest tax increase in Virginia’s history, nor was he all that interested in expanding liberty or shrinking the size and scope of the state government. But Nick Freitas presented himself as something different. Over the months, I had the chance to speak with Nick and learn about his philosophy and his goals. And, as such, I enthusiastically supported his campaign.
Another important point is that unlike some politicians who are only willing associate with members of their own party, Nick Freitas isn’t afraid to reach out to other like-minded folks who belong to other political parties. In March, he spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at a meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians.
Now, Nick Freitas is running for re-election to serve another two years in the House of Delegates and he already faces one opponent. Unless you live in the 30th district (which includes all of Madison and Orange Counties as well as a portion of Culpeper County), you won’t be able to cast a vote for him. However, you can still assist his campaign by making a donation.
Before you ask, no, I do not work for the Freitas campaign, nor is this article paid for or authorized by any campaign or political group. I would like my fellow Virginians to elect honest, like-minded delegates and do what we can to support and re-elect those folks already in office.
On Friday, April 7th, Corey Stewart spoke to the First Friday gathering at the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg. There were about 30 people in attendance, including a writer and photographer from the local paper, The Daily News Record. The previous weekend, Mr. Stewart held a campaign rally in the friendly city but had difficulty finding a venue due to protests, first trying at Dave’s, then the Wood Grill Buffet, and finally settling at Court Square downtown. Corey Stewart is one of three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor that will be decided in a June primary.
Arriving about 20 or so minutes after his scheduled time, Mr. Stewart offered introductory remarks for about 15 minutes and then took questions from the audience for about another 30 minutes. Unfortunately, size restrictions cut off the first minute or two of Mr. Stewart’s speech, but here’s a video of what he said.
On the morning of Wednesday, April 4th, Andy Schmookler and Joshua Huffman appeared on 550 AM, WSVA for our monthly radio hour.
The main topic of the day was Neil Gorsuch and his appointment to the Supreme Court. As the confirmation vote draws near, more Democratic Senators, including Virginia’s own Tim Kaine, have announced they will not support Mr. Gorsuch. Will he be confirmed? Is this payback for what happened to Merrick Garland last year? Will Senate Republican use the nuclear option?
The next subject we briefly tackled concerned a speech that Andy Schmookler gave outside of Representative Bob Goodlatte’s Harrisonburg office the previous day. At that time, he challenged Goodlatte to a debate or for him to investigate the possible unethical and illegal actions taken by President Trump both before and after he was elected.
Back in 2007, while finishing up my work in Tennessee with Students for Life of America, I began to think about what I ought to do next. One idea that was particularly appealing, especially considering I very much enjoyed working with college students, was to go to grad school in the hopes of one day teaching my knowledge and passion in political science. However, before I did so, I wanted to reach what I saw as the zenith of campaign work by getting a position on a presidential campaign. During this time, I discovered Ron Paul and, after several months of concentrated effort, secured the position of grassroots director for the state of South Carolina on his 2008 presidential run.
After the campaign concluded, I began to study for the GREs and contacted several of my former professors at the College of William & Mary for letters of recommendation. In 2009, I applied to a half a dozen schools in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. I was surprised when I didn’t get accepted at any of these institutions. I reasoned that perhaps there were too many people seeking too few positions. Undeterred, after I finished my work for Delegate Phil Hamilton in Newport News, I applied to these same schools again the following year. And, once again, none accepted me. As you might imagine, I was quite confused. According to their posted data, both my GRE scores and my GPA from my undergraduate studies were more than acceptable for all of the schools I applied (with the lone exception of UNC-Chapel Hill).
Curious, I contacted all of the grad schools in the hopes of getting an answer of what happened. After a multitude of phone calls, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville finally offered a clue. They told me that one of my professors wrote a negative letter of recommendation. I could scarcely believe it. Why would a professor agree to write a letter of recommendation and then use it to sabotage one’s efforts? I traveled to William and Mary to see if I could figure out what had happened. After I explained what UT-K told me, the first professor I spoke with was quite cordial and offered to write another letter should I desire it. The second professor acted in the same manner. However, I was shocked when the third treated me brusquely and told me that he wasn’t particularly interested in writing me another letter. As you might imagine, the whole affair was quite disheartening. I left campus feeling dejected, not knowing if I would ever be able to accomplish my goal of getting a graduate degree in political science. At the time, I felt that this incident was the greatest betrayal I had suffered in politics, but, as the years went by, I realized that it was merely a prelude for the greater treacheries that were to come.
Although I continued my work in politics, I worried that I would be forever stuck in the rut of campaign work and partisan politics. Although folks told me that I was quite good at what I did, the work became increasingly less fulfilling and fellow campaign workers and politicos became increasingly nasty.
And so the years passed. My dream had been crushed but not completely destroyed.
In late 2015, I thought about applying to grad school again after having the opportunity to serve as a political science tutor for a JMU student. However, given some personal and financial difficulties arising partially from being blacklisted from a number of employment opportunities, I thought it best to wait another year.
Then, in 2016, I resolved to give it another try. While visiting my aunt who lives in Tennessee, I took the GREs in Knoxville. I then visited several campuses, found a new recommender while retaining the other two, and sent my applications to four schools.
This time, I was accepted everywhere I applied: the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, West Virginia University, George Mason University, and Virginia Tech. While West Virginia and VA Tech were new to me, it was my third attempt at UT-K and GMU.
One of the schools has made an offer for a graduate assistantship which comes with a tuition waiver. As you might imagine, it is presently my top choice. However, as another school has hinted at the possibility of funding too, it is also still in the running. One of my professor friends told me that grad schools like to play games with their financial aid, so I suppose it is possible that one of the other schools could come back with an offer of their own. Either way, the deadline for a decision for three of the four schools is April 15th, so my decision will be announced in the coming weeks.
It took eight years and two previous attempts, but, as the saying goes, it seems that the third time’s the charm. The dream is deferred no longer! Grad school here I come!