In July of 2013, Andy Schmookler and I got together on the air to talk about politics on 550 AM, WSVA. At that time, who would guess that four years later we would still be discussing the issues of the day?
Well, yesterday marked the four year anniversary. The show was dominated by the news of Donald Trump Jr. and his tweets regarding setting up a meeting with a Russian agent during the 2016 presidential election. Andy brought up Watergate and I spoke a little about the 2017 election for Virginia governor. And then, before you knew it, the hour was over.
In addition, the July 13th show was the last one I’ll be doing in the studio for quite awhile given that I’m moving to Morgantown, WV in a few weeks. But, the station says that the show will go on!
Every ten years, Virginia goes through a process of redistricting based on the results of the latest U.S. Census. The goal is to create legislative districts for both the General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives that are relatively equal in population. Unfortunately, often times district are drawn in such a way to aid or hinder the reelection of incumbent politicians, enhance or dilute the voting strength of minority groups, or draw districts that virtually guarantee the victory of a political party. This sort of behavior is called gerrymandering, named after former Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry.
During the last redistricting following the 2010 census, as the Republicans controlled the House of Delegates and the Democrats controlled the Virginia Senate, each group drew some rather oddly shaped parcels of land in an attempt to maintain or enhance control of their respective bodies. However, when the Republicans later gained the majority in the Senate, some called for new districts to be drawn prior to the next census. Although I’m not a fan of Speaker of the House of Delegates Howell, fortunately, he declared such an attempt to re-gerrymander the state at that time as improper and wouldn’t let it proceed.
After the 2020 census, Virginia lawmakers will once again redraw our districts. and, barring some surprise, the Republicans will have control of both of the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate. However, the House of Delegates map, the Virginia Senate map, and the House of Representatives map will all have to be approved or vetoed by the governor.
So far, conservatives in Virginia don’t have a whole lot to be excited about with the candidacy of the Republican nominee Ed Gillespie. However, last month one of my fellow activists announced that he would be supporting Gillespie simply due to the issue of redistricting. As he explained, “Whoever is elected governor in November will be signing the redistricting bill this next time. As fast as Virginia is going blue, it is imperative that that person be a Republican. That buys us ten more years before the Democrats can gerrymander the districts in the legislature. If you don’t think that matters, you aren’t paying attention.”
Although couched in anti-gerrymandering rhetoric, given the current makeup of the General Assembly, it is highly improbable that the Democrats will end up drawing the maps in 2021. The Republicans presently enjoy a slim control in the Virginia Senate and a massive 66-34 majority in the House of Delegates.
He goes on to add, “I have plenty of reasons not to trust most Republicans for their principles. But one thing a Republican Governor assuredly will do is sign a Republican-friendly redistricting bill.” What the argument here is that we need to elect a Republican governor so that the Republicans can gerrymander the state after the next census to forestall an increasingly Democratic-leaning state from representing the will of the citizens of Virginia by electing more Democrats. Doesn’t it seem odd that Republicans control the state government even though every Democrat has won the statewide vote since the 2009 elections? Could gerrymandering be one of the reasons why?
Imagine for a moment if the roles were reversed if the Democratic Party controlled the General Assembly and sought to suppress the Republican vote. Wouldn’t these very same activists be outraged, declaring that such a move was undemocratic and an affront to the principles of our republican form of government? Shouldn’t we promote a system where voters get to choose their elected officials rather than elected officials choosing their pool of voters who they know will vote for them year after year regardless of their principles or job performance?
Until 1996, the Democratic Party controlled both houses of the Virginia General Assembly nearly uninterrupted for a hundred years. During that period, how often did they use gerrymandering to thwart the shifting attitudes of Virginians who longed for a government not under single party rule? Wouldn’t any advocate of liberty and personal responsibility be horrified if our elections were manipulated in such a fashion? Or would they be okay with this plan so long as it was “their guys” reaping the political benefit? I can’t speak for anyone else, but after 2021 redistricting I don’t want a Republican-friendly map, a Democratic-friendly map, or any map that treats Virginia as a pie to be carved up for the benefit of a political group. Preventing gerrymandering might be an argument in favor of a government divided between two or more political parties. Don’t we want a governor that will oppose partisan redistricting, not one who is aiding and abetting in it?
It is my sincere hope that all three of the candidates for governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, Libertarian Cliff Hyra, and Republican Ed Gillespie, will pledge to oppose any and all partisan redistricting, instead working to make sure that all districts are as compact as possible, cutting across few county and city lines so that the will of Virginia’s citizens can be more accurately reflected in our state government and elections can be fairer and maybe even competitive. If a candidate refuses, he shouldn’t be considered an acceptable option for governor. Don’t vote for a candidate who is good friends with Jerry Mandering!
For more information, check out this video from One Virginia 2021.
Today, July 3rd, John Bloom, the chairman of the Constitution Party of Virginia, sent out a press release regarding the 2017 elections. In it, he “urges all conservatives to vote for the Libertarian candidate for governor, Cliff Hyra, and the conservative Republican candidate for attorney general, John Adams.”
Delving into his position for governor, the release states, “Mr. Bloom encourages those that are Pro-Life to consider supporting Mr. Hyra, not because he is Pro-Life, but because he and the Libertarian Party do NOT support State Funding of abortion, and in the age of Roe v Wade, that is the best Pro-Life supporters can get which is better than the LIP SERVICE Republicans offer.” Furthermore, he states, “To those that support the 2nd Amendment, there is a very good reason the VCDL endorsed Corey Stewart in the Republican Primary; Ed Gillespie will NOT defend your 2nd Amendment Right.” Later in the piece, he adds, “Though it is highly unlikely that Mr. Gillespie will get elected Governor, for Conservatives to support the former Republican Party of Virginia Chairman, would be championing the defeat of their own values.”
Explaining how voting for Mr. Hyra could be of future benefit to the Constitution Party, he states, “Anyone who believes Ed Gillespie has any chance of defeating Ralph Northam is sadly mistaken and would be wasting their vote. Voting for Mr. Hyra, if he receives 10% of the vote will gain political party status for the Libertarian Party and then there will be REAL Competition across the state, and neutralize the UNDEMOCRATIC practice of GERRYMANDERING, which is [the] only effect when there are two political parties. The Libertarian Party would be the Trailblazer that could open the door for the Constitution Party of Virginia to gain political party status in future years.”
When it comes to the race for attorney general, “Mr. Bloom also encourages ALL Conservatives and Libertarians to support and vote for the only CONSERVATIVE running on the Republican Party line, John Adams for Attorney General. Not only does he have a name that ALL PATRIOTS can remember, but was a Law Clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.”
Lastly, in the lieutenant governor contest, the Constitution Party sought to offer Charles Kraut as a candidate this year. However, as he did not meet the 10,000 signature requirement for ballot access in Virginia, the Constitution Party Chairman “will be seeking to provide a WRITE-IN candidate for LT Governor, as LIBERAL Republican Jill Vogel, is totally UNACCEPTABLE for Conservatives. Mr. Bloom would also consider Ms. Vogel’s Primary Opponent Bryce Reeves to run as a write-in candidate for the Constitutional Party should he have the POLITICAL COURAGE to do so.”
Presently, Constitution Party is the fifth largest political party in the United States, at least in terms of party registration. What sort of an impact will Mr. Bloom’s press release make? And will Virginians start to see Constitution Party candidates on the ballot in the coming elections?
According to an email sent out today from the Cliff Hyra campaign, Mr. Hyra has qualified to be on the November 2017 for Virginia governor. At this point, Virginians will have three choices for a new chief executive in the fall. As they will be listed on the ballot, there will be Democrat Ralph Northam, Republican Ed Gillespie, and Libertarian Cliff Hyra. While both Mr. Northam and Mr. Gillespie won their respective party’s primaries on June 13th, Mr. Hyra received the Libertarian Party nomination at a convention on May 6th. However, before he could make the ballot, he needed to submit at least 10,000 valid signatures from registered voters across the Commonwealth.
If you’d like to learn more about your three choices and determine which most agrees with you, I encourage you to check out the links to their official websites as listed above. In addition, I’ve spoken with the folks who run ISideWith.com and they said that they will be creating a new quiz soon so that Virginia voters can see a side by side comparison of all of their options.
A little over three years ago, six individuals announced their intent to run for two seats on the Harrisonburg City Council. Among them were D.D. Dawson, running as a Republican, and myself, Joshua Huffman, who ran as an independent. Now, if you lived in the area and were paying attention you might have noticed that Ms. Dawson and I have fairly different ideologies. In fact, I would argue after listening to the debates and reading our campaign materials, with the exception of one of the two Democrats, she and I differed the most on our vision for the future of Harrisonburg. However, despite these philosophical disagreements, D.D. Dawson always presented herself with class and style, which are unfortunately becoming particularly rare in politics.
Running for public office can be a particularly nasty adventure. Yes, we may have been vying for the same position, but D.D. Dawson and her husband were always friendly throughout our journey on the campaign trail. Unlike some of our opponents, she never attempted to bully or threaten me into dropping out of the race or not entering in the first place nor did she tell lies about the other candidates.
I have two memories from the campaign regarding Ms. Dawson that I’d like to share. The first took place during a candidate forum on 550 AM, WSVA. The station broke us into two groups and mine included D.D. Dawson. Perhaps surprisingly, she had never been on the radio before and was quite nervous about the experience. Nevertheless, I thought that she handled herself quite well and afterward wore an “I survived being on the radio” sticker.
Another incident that stands out in my mind was an event that took place the night before the election. My church was hosting a fundraiser at JMU called Stop Hunger Now and, in an attempt to bring the six candidates together after a contentious campaign, I invited my fellow office seekers to volunteer at this event. One of our opponents was quite excited about the gathering. Two of them neither showed up nor even bothered to respond to the invitation. Another candidate did appear, but primarily used the opportunity to promote his campaign, thus missing the whole purpose of the event. Afterward, I thanked Ms. Dawson for attending and for not campaigning while it was going on. As she told me, she understood why we were there that night and, given that the election was the next day, the results were now in the hands of God. Given her great demeanor and positive attitude throughout the race, I pledged that if Ms. Dawson were elected, I would stop by the Republican Party headquarters to congratulate her in person for her victory, despite how upset it might make the Republican establishment for me to do so.
D.D. Dawson and I disagreed on many issues during the course of the 2014 campaign. However, if citizens were asked to vote on which candidate exhibited the greatest friendliness, poise, and respect as the six of us sought these two job openings, I think the choice would be quite easy. In a little over a month from now I will be leaving the Shenandoah Valley to pursue my doctorate in political science at West Virginia University, but before I go I’d like to say thanks publicly to D.D. Dawson for being both a good person and worthy opponent when we ran for city council.
Although I cannot recall when it began, First Friday has been a regular political event in Harrisonburg for quite a while. Over the years, it has hosted a variety of candidates, politicians, and leaders of various groups. It has served not only as a monthly gathering for local activists but also as a way to reach a wider audience of folks from Shenandoah, Rockingham, Augusta, Rockbridge, and sometimes Greene Counties.
First Friday is not a local Republican unit, but it typically hosts Republican speakers. They’ve had Corey Stewart recently, and had a bit of a dust-up when Cynthia Dunbar ran for Republican National Committeewoman last year. Suzanne Obenshain, who also sought the committeewoman position and was the longtime leader of First Friday, also spoke to the group last year. Although he attended when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2014, Ed Gillespie has been a no-show this election cycle. When I ran for local office in 2014 as an independent candidate, I was allowed to attend but not to address the crowd. Nevertheless, the event was valuable; after my Republican opponents addressed the group, one attendee declared they were both socialists and wrote a check to my campaign. Donna Moser, the former head of the Rockingham County Republican Party leads the gathering.
However, things have been a bit rocky for First Friday these last several months. Several months ago Ms. Moser broke a bone while visiting relatives out of state and thus was unable to attend the May meeting. Nevertheless, First Friday still took place with Senator Bryce Reeves, who is running in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, as the speaker. Ms. Moser had the leader of the local tea party hold First Friday in her absence. But, the meeting was very sparsely attended. In fact, I cannot recall a First Friday with such a low turnout. Usually, two factions attend; the conservative grassroots folks and the so-called establishment Republicans. But, almost none of the establishment people were in the audience. I asked the senator about this absence and he pointed out that although he is arguably the most conservative candidate running for the position, many of the establishment had endorsed his opponents and thus did not attend.
Shortly before the June meeting of First Friday, I’m told that Ms. Moser received a phone call from the chairman of the Harrisonburg Republican Party letting her know that the party had selected a replacement to host First Friday in her stead. However, as she had returned to the area, she stated she was able to resume her duties in this capacity. Delegate Ben Cline was the speaker, but, as with the previous month, the establishment Republicans boycotted the event.
After most folks left, Greg Coffman, the Harrisonburg GOP Chairman, sat at a table with Donna Moser. Afterward, I asked her about the conversation and she said that the three local chairmen (Harrisonburg, Rockingham, and Republican Women), had decided among themselves that Ms. Moser would no longer be leading First Friday. As none of these chairmen had elected her to her position, nor did any of these chairmen attend First Friday on a regular basis, my opinion was that none either individually or as a group would have the power to make such a decree. However, the story does not end there.
Late last night, the Harrisonburg Republican Party sent out an email declaring that future First Friday lunches have been cancelled. As the message states:
Consequently, the Committees’ leadership has decided to terminate the First Friday Luncheons program. The goal is to examine other venues that can provide more relevant opportunities for our members, community leaders, and political leaders to interact. This was the original intention in starting the First Friday Luncheon program, but we’ve seen a continuous decline in participation and support to the extent that the program is no longer fulfilling its purpose.
Due to the upcoming election season and the demands on everyone’s time, no decision on alternatives to First Friday will be made until after the election. Therefore, the County and City Committees are no longer endorsing, sponsoring, or supporting activities similar to or calling themselves “First Friday” until further notice.
To the best of my knowledge, there was no vote or discussion among the attendees of First Friday or even the local Republican committees of such a course of action (according to those who attend these meetings), but rather a dictatorial decree from the local party chairman. Perhaps this authoritarian push shouldn’t be all that surprising given that the Harrisonburg Chairman will not allow individuals to make any announcements at the city GOP meetings unless they have been submitted in writing at least five days prior to the meeting.
After speaking with Donna Moser, she has stated that First Friday will continue, whether the GOP chairmen support the idea or not. Given my experiences in local politics, the Republican Party strives for strict control of political events and guards who have access to their candidates and elected officials. Given this attitude and several other factors, it shouldn’t be surprising that every candidate except for one who has run under the Republican banner in the last seven years has lost to a Democrat in Harrisonburg.
I would expect that local activists will continue to gather at the Woodgrill Buffet in Harrisonburg for First Friday with or without the blessing of the local GOP chairmen. True, it will be a smaller affair as most of the establishment Republican crowd likely won’t attend, but perhaps First Friday will become a gathering for conservative activists and candidates of all stripes, not only those who bind themselves with the increasingly rigid rules of the Republican Party. If so, the local chairmen’s declaration of disavowing First Friday is a blessing in disguise for the citizens of the central Shenandoah Valley.
In two weeks, on June 13th, the Republican Party of Virginia will be holding a statewide open primary to determine their nominee for governor. On the ballot will be three choices: former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart, and State Senator Frank Wagner.
Typically, at least one authentic conservative runs for the Republican nomination in statewide contests. For example, in 2014, Shak Hill sought the GOP nod. However, all of the choices for governor are poor this year. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a moment to go through each option.
Besides being the former RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie has also been the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, a lobbyist for companies such as Enron, a counselor to the Bush White House, and the 2014 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. Seen by some as the consummate Republican insider, he is in many ways a milquetoast candidate, reciting typical Republican talking points while not providing many details of how he wishes to accomplish anything and avoiding saying anything controversial or of much substance. According to reports, he has avoided attending a variety of candidate forums and events. It seems he is coasting through the nomination process by trying to say as little as possible. Even worse, when he served as RNC Chairman, he repudiated limited government conservativism. According to National Review, “Gillespie basically said that the Republicans’ long-time war against big government has now ended. Government won.” and “the party’s new chairman, energetic and full of vigor, said in no uncertain terms that the days of Reaganesque Republican railings against the expansion of federal government are over.” And, despite my repeated requests, the Gillespie campaign refuses to state where Mr. Gillespie stands on political freedom and third party rights, leading me to believe that he opposes them.
Next, we have Corey Stewart, certainly the most controversial of the three candidates. Last year, he served as the Virginia chairman for the Donald Trump campaign until he was fired for insubordination. No stranger to controversy, he has relentlessly attacked Ed Gillespie for not being sufficiently pro-Trump and for Mr. Gillespie’s refusal to take a stand on a number of issues. As I’ve told some people, I think Mr. Stewart is the most dishonest person I have met in Virginia politics. This opinion took form in 2011 when Mr. Stewart toured the state denouncing former Senator George Allen for being a poor conservative and a poor senator. However, once Corey Stewart decided he was no longer interested in running for Senate, he endorsed his former rival. That stunt earned him a flip flop from PolitiFact. In addition, there was the 2013 campaign for lieutenant governor when Corey Stewart hired Senator Obenshain’s former campaign manager who was supposedly fired due to theft from a rival campaign who then tried to extort $85,000 from Pete Snyder in what has been colorfully called “The Richmond Screwjob“. These incidents show that Mr. Stewart will do or say just about anything to gain political power and thus one cannot be sure if he is elected what his true intentions are.
Last, there is Frank Wagner, who has been in elected office since 1992, first serving several terms in the House of Delegates before joining the Virginia Senate in 2001. Curiously, unlike his Republican opponents, Mr. Wagner is currently advocating raising taxes on Virginians. In addition, he supported the largest tax increase in Virginia, when he voted for the 2013 transportation tax hike. In 2015, he authored a bill to keep the earnings of Dominion Power, the state-supported energy monopoly, secret. Amusingly, in early 2014 a Republican activist added me to a Facebook group called “Primary Frank Wagner” after Mr. Wagner supposedly employed a tactic known as slating to disenfranchise those who oppose him. Frank Wagner supports higher taxes, government monopolies and more secrecy, and silencing opposition. Are these conservative values?
In Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, Starfleet officers are presented with the Kobayashi Maru, an intentionally unwinnable scenario which serves to test the character of those who participate in it. Unfortunately, this year, conservatives who participate in the Republican primary for governor face a similar dilemma. Which do you think will uphold the creed of the Republican Party of Virginia? Dodgy, establishment Ed Gillespie? Talking-out-of-both-sides-of-his-mouth, populist Corey Stewart? Or liberal, big government-loving Frank Wagner? It’s a tough pick, isn’t it? None of the three choices, Gillespie, Stewart, or Wagner, are desirable, and each has exhibited principles or character flaws which ought to disqualify all of them from the Republican nomination. As one elected official who is supporting Ed Gillespie told me, it is unfortunate that there isn’t a better candidate to head the Republican ticket this year. Are you looking for a consistently conservative candidate who is trustworthy and will work to reduce the size and scope of the state government? If so, you better hope a third party or independent candidate makes the ballot because none of the three Republican candidates come anywhere close to that standard.
How will you react to this conservative Kobayashi Maru? If I end up voting in the Republican primary, I’ll be leaving the ballot for governor blank as I think none of them are acceptable nor do I plan to vote for whoever wins the Republican nomination in the November general election.
On Friday afternoon, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out an email entitled “Longer Than They’ve Been Alive.” Here’s what it said:
Hey there –
Some things you can just count on. Fireworks on the 4th of July. Turkey at Thanksgiving Dinner. And if there’s an election being held, Tim Kaine is probably running for some political office.
Tim Kaine is giving two commencement addresses this weekend: Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Sunday at Northern Virginia Community College. And to celebrate, the NRSC is debuting a new Snapchat filter, reminding 2017 graduates that Kaine’s political career has been going on longer than most of them have been alive! Over the past 23 years, Tim Kaine has run for every political office imaginable. City Council, Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, Senate, and Vice President. As these new college grads head out into the world, there’s always one thing they can count on – Tim Kaine will always be out there looking to collect a taxpayer funded salary!
So happy snapping! And be sure to send your pics to the NRSC on Snapchat (theNRSC) and Twitter (@NRSC)!
As the email mentions, it also includes the graphic that you see to your left, comparing the amount of time Tim Kaine has either held or run for office and the average age of a college graduate.
The message of the email is obvious. Tim Kaine has been in politics a long time. He is a career politician and, by phrasing it as “longer than they’ve been alive”, the NRSC is saying that being a career politician must be a bad thing.
Given that the NRSC is saying that Tim Kaine is a career politician and that that is a bad thing, I thought I should ask them if they have created a similar graphic about my representative, Bob Goodlatte, who has been in the House of Representatives even longer than Tim Kaine has held or run for any office.
Hello. Do you have one of these for my congressman, Representative Bob Goodlatte, who has been in office since 1993 or 24 years?
No, in case you are wondering, I don’t actually expect the NRSC to reply to me. However, if we rewind the clock, in early April the NRSC sent out another email attacking Tim Kaine. This one centered on the confirmation hearing of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. It read:
Hey there –
Failed Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine joined Chuck Schumer’s ill-fated filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch today, attempting to block an up or down vote for the Supreme Court nominee.
Kaine is guilty of the most egregious flip-flop on filibustering Supreme Court nominees (no small feat considering the blatant hypocrisy coming from Senate Democrats this week). During the 2016 campaign, Kaine said that Democrats would change the rules if Republicans attempted to filibuster Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees, but now says if the minority party won’t agree, the President must change the nominee. We’re sure his change of heart has nothing to do with the fact that he lost the election.
“Tim Kaine is among the most transparent hypocrites in his conference,” said NRSC Spokesman Bob Salera. “By ignoring voters and attempting to deny a qualified Supreme Court nominee an up or down vote, Kaine is proving his only concern is staying on the good side of liberal activists ahead of the 2020 presidential primary.”
Given that the Senate Democrats attempted to block Mr. Gorsuch in a similar fashion to how the Senate Republicans blocked then President Obama’s appointment of Mr. Garland, I felt like I had to send them an email.
Good afternoon, Mr. Salera.
I agree that Mr. Gorsuch should get an up-or-down vote by the Senate. I’m wondering though, did you similarly call out Senate Republicans when they refused to have an up-or-down vote on Mr. Garland last year?
Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Salera actually replied to me.
Is your question whether the National Republican Senatorial Committee called out Republican Senators?
To which I answered:
I suppose you could say that, yes. If not, would you consider such behavior to be hypocritical? If not, why not?
It shouldn’t be too shocking that Mr. Salera didn’t respond to that message. In fact, I didn’t get any more messages from the NRSC for several weeks which led me to assume that I had been removed from their email list. However, later that month, the emails resumed.
Is holding one or more political offices for decades a bad thing? If so, the NRSC should call out all politicians who have been there too long, regardless of party. Are Senator Kaine and the Senate Democrats hypocritical for condemning the Republican blocking of Garland and then working to block Gorsuch? And are the Senate Republicans and the NRSC hypocritical for preventing an up-or-down vote on Garland and then complaining when the Democrats tried to do likewise?
Personally, I find that this behavior of the NRSC and others of promoting partisanship regardless of principles to be grossly hypocritical. However, in today’s hyperpartisan political environment, I’m sure that the NRSC reaches a lot of folks who don’t even realize that they are engaging in this kind of political doublespeak. And, although I don’t subscribe to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, I wouldn’t be surprised if they engaged in partisan hypocrisy too.
On the morning of May 3rd, Andy Schmookler and I appeared for our 46th time on 550 AM, WSVA. For the first time, neither of us were live in the studio today as Andy lives a good distance away and although I presently live in Harrisonburg, unfortunately, my car repairs are taking longer than anticipated.
Today, we spoke about Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) and his lack of accessibility to the average person in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as President Donald Trump, his various proposals, and whether what he is doing is constitutional. We also briefly touched on the recent Democratic primary for the 26th district House of Delegates race.
Our next show will be at 9 AM on June 14th, the day after the Republican and Democratic primaries.
In case you missed the show live, you can find it here.