Writing-In Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.
Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.

In general, the November 3rd elections in the city of Harrisonburg were a rather dull affair.  Although citizens had the opportunity to vote for six different contests, only one office, state senator, was contested.  As you might expect, this lack of choices inspired a handful of folks to write-in candidates.  Fellow blogger Rick Sincere often pens an article about the write-in votes in Charlottesville, but what names do people write-in in Harrisonburg?  Well, I decided to visit the local registrar’s office to find out.

In case you are wondering, once the election results have been certified they are made available to the public.  Unfortunately, they aren’t listed on a nice, neat, printed sheet, but rather each write-in vote is printed on a long piece of narrow paper, which resembles a register receipt.  Having previously worked as an election official in Rockingham County, I know that some voters write-in made up or fictitious characters, like Mickey Mouse or “anyone else”, but how many real people could be identified?  For the record, I only went through the data once, so it is possible the numbers I list below aren’t quite right.  Nevertheless, if you live in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, I think you’ll find them of interest.

In the race for the 26th Virginia Senate seat, there were only 14 write-in votes in Harrisonburg, likely low because voters had at least two choices.  April Moore, the Democratic candidate, won Harrisonburg and Republican Mark Obenshain got second.  However, there was a three-way tie for third place between Christopher Runion, Lowell Fulk, and yours truly as we each had two write-ins.

Moving on to the 26th House of Delegates seat where Republican Tony Wilt ran unopposed, there were almost 11% write-ins, the highest for any of the seats in play.  Harrisonburg City Council member Kai Degner took second with 19 votes, followed by Rockingham County School member Lowell Fulk with 14 votes.  Both Degner and Fulk had each previously been the Democratic nominee for this office in earlier elections.  Other write-ins of note included:  Harvey Yoder with three votes, my partner on the radio Andy Schmookler with two votes, local political activist Dale Fulk with two votes, and Harrisonburg Democratic Party Chair Deb Fitzgerald also with two. Many people received one write-in vote including: former Harrisonburg City Council members Dorn Peterson and George Pace, Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, Harrisonburg Mayor Chris Jones, the Virginia Libertarian Party Vice-chairman Dr. James Lark III, State Senator Creigh Deeds from Bath County, former Harrisonburg Republican Party Chairman John Elledge, the 2015 Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate April Moore, 2014 city council candidates Alleyn Harned and Joshua Huffman, and several of my Facebook friends such as: Jeremy Aldrich, Shammara Blanchard, and Matthew Phillippi.

Finishing in second in the race for sheriff with seven write-in votes was Harvey Yoder.  Third was former sheriff candidate Kurt Boshart with five and fourth was Chris Monahan with three.  Other names with one or more votes include: Kai Degner, Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, local TV anchor Bob Corso, former sheriff Glenn Weatherholtz, 6th District Democratic Party Chair Joe Fitzgerald, former sheriff candidate CM Hess, City Council member Richard Baugh, Greg Nesselrodt (one of my good friends in high school), and again one vote for me.  I’m not quite sure why someone would think me as being qualified for sheriff, but that is another issue.

For Harrisonburg/Rockingham Clerk of Court, Renee Evans Haywood captured nine write-ins.  Other names of note included: Kai Denger, Dale Fulk, former treasurer candidate Penny Imeson, former council member Charlie Chenault, school board member Andy Kohen, local TV producer Channing Frampton, Joe Fitzgerald, Chris Jones, Lowell Fulk, a previous clerk candidate Diane Fulk, local political activist Dave Briggman, former HHS classmate W.O. Brown III, and a vote for me.  I assure you that someone wrote me in, but I didn’t do it.

Moving on to Harrisonburg/Rockingham Commonwealth Attorney, many people tied for second with two votes: Dale Fulk, Tricia Nesselrodt, John Elledge, and former House of Delegates candidate Gene Hart.  Other names with a vote include: Lowell Fulk, Andy Kohen, radio personality Karl Magenhoffer, attorney Bob Keefer, attorney Roland Santos, high school friend Edward Panchari, and me, Joshua Huffman.

In the special election for Harrisonburg School Board to replace Dany Fleming, Mr. Fleming captured the most write-in votes with ten.  Other candidates of interest with one or more votes include: Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, Steve Nesselrodt, Tricia Nesselrodt, Mark Finks, former school board member Tom Mendez, Erin Phillippi, Matt Phillippi, Charlie Chenault, Violet Allain (who hosted a city council meet-and-greet for the candidates at her house last year), Channing Frampton, and another vote for me.

Lastly, there weren’t too many write-in votes for Soil & Water Conservation Director.  Dale Fulk had two, radio personality Jim Britt had one, several of my friends had one such as Tristan Flage, Joe Rudmin, and Matt Phillippi, and, again, one person decided to write my name in for this office.

Although some write-in votes are nonsensical or vulgar, for others write-ins are a way to show dissatisfaction with the possible choices, or in the case of the 2015 elections in Harrisonburg, the lack of choices.  And, to the handful of people who decided to write me in, I certainly appreciate your vote, but I’m not running for anything right now.  I hope I can earn your support when and if the time comes again.

Yes, writing-in might be annoying for those election officials counting the ballots, but it can be a fascinating insight into the minds of the disaffected voter.  Hopefully the citizens of Harrisonburg will have at least two choices for every elected office in 2016, in which case we should see a dip in write-in votes in the next election.

A Cry for Party Unity?

Delegate Mark Berg
Delegate Mark Berg

This morning, I read a piece on Bearing Drift where Brian, the author, calls for party unity in the Republican Party.  Specifically, he points to the 29th House of Delegates district in Virginia where some supporters of Delegate Mark Berg have openly declared that they will be writing in Berg’s name as opposed to voting for the Republican who defeated him in the June primary.  The writer is upset that Delegate Berg has not publicly denounced this grassroots plan.  Chris Collins, the Republican candidate in the 29th is running unopposed in the general election.

Unfortunately, this sort of thinking is all too common in the Republican Party these days.  Support the party no matter what!  It doesn’t matter what the candidate stands for, at the end of the day all Republicans must support him!

I think back to my expulsion from the local GOP over a year and a half ago.  And it’s true, although I was member of the Republican Party (and a former employee of the state party), I began to openly oppose Republicans who I felt didn’t represent my values.  When I was removed, I got into a discussion with one of the local leaders about the situation.  I said that we needed to support strong conservatives and libertarians who stood up for the Creed of the Virginia Republican Party.  She disagreed declaring that “a good Republican” was one “that supports all of the Republican candidates”.  What an unfortunate state of affairs.  Think about what is being said.  Where a candidate stands, what his or her principles and ethics are doesn’t really matter.  All Republicans are expected to support the Republican nominee…no matter what.

Yes, I supported Delegate Berg in the 2015 primary even though I didn’t live in the district and I took off part of the day to campaign for him at the polls.  In response, my state senator’s former legislative assistant, an entrenched establishment Republican, began attacking me on Facebook saying that it wasn’t right for me to help a candidate I believe in because I wasn’t a member of the party any longer.  That’s funny.  I thought we lived in a nation where we still enjoyed freedom of speech and freedom of association.  Do you think he would have complained if I had aided Berg’s establishment backed opponent?

What I’ve noticed is that the establishment calls for party unity when they want to get their hack of a candidate elected, but have no problem leaving principled people high and dry.  The driving motivation of some people is to elect members of their party and, unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter what these people stand for.  In fact, it is better if they are ruled by their ambitions rather than ideology for these people will be more likely to avoid controversy because they will do whatever the party leadership in Richmond or Washington tells them to do.  They feel that they must keep the conservatives and libertarians quiet and under a tight leash or the leaders could be exposed as the frauds they are.  Party unity in the GOP is a joke.  A sad, pathetic joke.

12105703_10153363121401051_4033843500359479141_nAlthough I certainly have policy disagreements with Dr. Ben Carson, I think he hits the nail on the head with his quote, “the problem with Washington is that we’ve all become Democrats and Republicans instead of Americans.  Everything is aimed at enhancing a political position instead of strengthening America.”

Make whatever jokes about the Libertarian Party you like, but recently the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida resigned instead of supporting a potentially fascist Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate.  Are there many Republican Party leaders who would do likewise if placed in a similar situation?

At this point frankly, I don’t care if the Republicans or the Democrats control Congress.  Speaker John Boehner made it abundantly clear that he would sell-out the grassroots and punish principled legislators who tried to hold him to account.  Will his replacement be any better?  In addition, I don’t care which of the two parties wins control of the Virginia Senate in the 2015 elections.  What I do care about is electing men and women who will boldly and unreservedly stand up for my principles and who are more worried about advancing liberty and limiting the size and scope of government at all levels instead of pleasing the party bosses and maintaining their power base for as long as possible.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  If I lived in the 29th House of Delegates district, I would write in Delegate Mark Berg on November 3rd.  Then again, maybe I have the freedom to say such things because I’m a liberated former Republican.

One reason why this country is so screwed up is that politicos have forgotten that principles should guide political parties and not the other way around.  Want to know why outsiders are currently leading in the Republican presidential primaries?  It’s because honest, hard-working Americans are sick of this “party first” crap.  Given their current disdain for him, will the establishment remember this call for unity next year and rally behind Donald Trump if he becomes the party’s nominee?  I’m glad I have liberty to make that decision for myself.

Virginia21 Does The Right Thing

12079666_10206444770349449_6974739801766480757_nAt the end of September, the group Virginia21 announced that they would be holding a debate between the candidates for the 10th district in the Virginia Senate.  This event would be taking place at Virginia Commonwealth University on October 20th.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  After all, it would give voters a chance to learn about their choices.  However, the problem is that they had only invited the Democratic and Republican candidates and had excluded two other candidates who would also be appearing on the November ballot.

As such, I contacted Virginia21 to inform them of this oversight.  I was told that at that time they only planned to include the major party candidates, much like the corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates does or how one candidate was left out of all of the debates in both the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race and the 2014 Virginia US Senate election.  After hearing this decision, I contacted a variety of folks, including one of the slighted candidates, as well as posting on a variety of Facebook groups in an attempt to right what I felt was an injustice.

About two weeks later, Virginia21 changed their Facebook event to announce that their debate would now be including all four of the candidates.  As such, their event will be featuring: Marleen Durfee (Independent), Dan Gecker (Democrat), Carl Loser (Libertarian), and Glen Sturtevant (Republican).  Therefore, I’m pleased to say if you live in the Richmond area, I strongly encourage you to attend this event.  It starts at 6 PM on October 20th and is in the VCU Student Commons Theater (907 Floyd Avenue, Richmond VA).  Although I’d like to see how it turns out, I have another political event going on in Harrisonburg that same evening and thus cannot attend.12118827_10156044836490167_4739567470314532131_n

Thanks to Virginia21 for doing the right thing by including everyone!

Vote Berg on June 9th!

Delegate Mark Berg
Delegate Mark Berg

Two years ago today, I sat down to coffee with Dr. Mark Berg, who was at that time a Republican hopeful for the House of Delegates in the 29th district.  Although Harrisonburg (where I live and vote) is outside of the district, I certainly appreciated the fact that he made the hour drive to speak with me.  In that 2013 primary, he was challenging a twenty-year incumbent, a delegate who voted for the Republican-led massive transportation tax hike.

Learning more about Dr. Berg, I came to the conclusion that he wasn’t your typical run-of-the-mill Republican who would advocate a message of limited government conservatism and liberty to the voters before being elected and then switch to support the expansion of state power once in office.  Although he was running against the establishment machine, which is always an uphill fight, Mark Berg won both the 2013 primary and the general election that followed.

I’m pleased to say that Delegate Berg has not disappointed me during his two sessions in office.  As one great example, despite an overwhelming Republican majority in the House of Delegates, Delegate Berg was only one of only two members in that entire body to call for a repeal of the onerous transportation tax hike passed by his predecessor.

Now, the Republican establishment is fighting back against Delegate Berg and he faces a primary opponent.  As you likely know, unfortunately there are many leaders, politicians, and activists within the Republican Party who embrace crony capitalism and the expansion of government power so long as their guys are in power.

Friends, Delegate Mark Berg needs our help.  If you live in the 29th district, I sincerely hope that you will cast your vote for Delegate Berg on June 9th.  However, even if you don’t live in the district, you can still promote the cause of liberty by making a donation to his campaign or volunteering to help him get re-elected.  Regardless of your party affiliation, we need to make sure that people that boldly represent our values continue to have a voice in Richmond.

We need leaders like Delegate Mark Berg in the General Assembly and I can think of no one more deserving of re-election; I was happy to offer him my endorsement in 2013 and gladly do so again this year.

Moore with the Libertarians

Last night, April Moore, a Democratic candidate for the 26th district in the Virginia Senate, spoke at the monthly meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians.  Although a slightly smaller than usual turnout, Ms. Moore introduced herself to the attendees with a brief speech.  Afterward, those gathered engaged in a lengthy question and answer session in order to learn more about the candidate as well as to share thoughts with her on ways to achieve greater liberty through reducing the power of government.

Although the background noise at O’Charlies was quite loud and obscured the recording a bit, hopefully this video will provide a little more insight into April Moore and her candidacy.

Arthur Announces for the 24th

Ellen Arthur
Ellen Arthur

Today, on the steps of the Augusta County Court House in Staunton, Ellen Arthur officially announced her campaign for the 24th district House of Delegates seat.  Seeking the Democratic nomination, she is challenging Republican Delegate Ben Cline who has represented the district since 2002.  The 24th district includes Bath County, Buena Vista, Lexington, Rockbridge County, as well as portions of Augusta and Amherst Counties.

About two dozen people came out for the event which lasted a little less than half an hour.  Introduced by Augusta Democratic Chairman and former State Senator Frank Nolen (D-24), Ms. Arthur explained a little about her family life and her reasons for running, including her three campaign issues: improving medical care, expanding educational opportunities, and curbing the influence of money in politics.  Along these same lines, she spoke out against the Dominion pipeline, saying that it transported a “obsolete source of energy” and mentioned that Delegate Cline has received over $12,000 in campaign contributions from Dominion.

Angela Lynn and Ellen Arthur
Angela Lynn and Ellen Arthur

During the brief question and answer period that followed, Angela Lynn, a fellow candidate who is running for House of Delegates in the nearby 25th district, spoke in favor of Ms. Arthur, as did Staunton City Council member Erik Curren, and Staunton School Board member and local Young Democrat leader Laura Kleiner.  Lastly, she was joined on the steps by Angela Lynn for a joint photo.

Meeting Donald Sheets

Donald Sheets, the most recent entrant into the race for the Republican nomination for the 24th Virginia Senate district, is a mystery to many in Shenandoah Valley politics.  Who is he?  Why is he running?  And why did he file his last minute campaign?  Although there have been a number of speculations into the answers to these questions, they remained unsolved, little more than rumors.  The News Leader recently wrote a story about Mr. Sheets, but it didn’t really address any of these issues.

Last night, before the monthly meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party, I had the opportunity to speak to Donald Sheets for the first time in the hopes of shedding some light on his campaign.

He told me that he had lived in the Shenandoah Valley pretty much his entire life.  In fact, his family has been a part of this community since the Revolutionary War.  He has known both Senator Emmett Hanger and Marshall Pattie for years and that they had been a part of the community for quite some time.  However, his third opponent, Dan Moxley, was a relatively new addition to Augusta County.  Mr. Sheets explained that he thought that Mr. Moxley had only moved to the 24th district in order to run for office and added that many of Moxley’s business ventures were far away from the area.

Mr. Sheets also expressed concern that outside groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, were attempting to wrest control of this seat from the people of the 24th district.  It is no secret that AFP has lobbied heavily against some of Senator Hanger’s proposals, such as Medicaid expansion.

He also opposed the lawsuit against the Incumbent Protection Act filed by the 24th district GOP.  Although Mr. Sheets didn’t seem to think the act was fair, he added that the idea of using the judicial branch to overturn Virginia law wasn’t right and was another way to circumvent proper political processes.

As such, Donald Sheets stated that he filed to run for the convention as a way to expose some of the disturbing injustices that are going on in the 24th district.  Doing so, he declared, was well worth the fees required.

I asked if he planned to run in the primary as well, to which he responded that he hadn’t made up his mind.  However, given that the window to submit the necessary paperwork to be a candidate in that contest closed at 5 PM yesterday, he will not be a candidate in that contest assuming the courts decide in favor of that nomination method.

So, if the convention is the path forward, delegates in the 24th will have the choice of Dan Moxley or Donald Sheets.  Although I don’t know what ideological differences separate the two, it is certainly useful to know more about Mr. Sheets and his motivations.

Pattie in Madison

State Senate candidate Marshall Pattie on left
Marshall Pattie at his announcement

Continuing coverage of the race for the GOP nomination in the 24th Senate district, on Tuesday of last week, Dr. Marshall Pattie spoke to the Republican Women of Madison County.  At this meeting, Pattie spoke about his campaign, his efforts on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, his ideas for the state, and also fielded questions about his time in the Democratic Party.

Although unable to personally attend, I was sent this recording of the speech after the event.  Hopefully, it will provide further insight into this race.

What’s Going on In the 24th?

By all accounts, the race for the Republican nomination in Virginia’s 24th District Senate seat is a curious affair.  Two candidates are vying for a convention that may or may not happen.  Three candidates are competing for a primary which also is uncertain.  The final nomination process hinges upon a court case, with a preliminary decision expected either next week or the week after.  What an odd state of an election!

However, what is even more peculiar is how the campaigns are interacting with each other and the public (or perhaps the lack thereof).  For example, on Wednesday, March 18th, Senator Emmett Hanger was the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the Rockingham County GOP.  Both of his primary challengers, Dan Moxley and Marshall Pattie, were conspicuously absent and, although I arrived at the end of the meeting, there didn’t seem to be a trace of campaign materials for any of the candidates at that meeting, including Hanger himself.  By comparison, I did see Delegate Steve Landes (R-25), who is also running for re-election this year, with a sizable stack of bumper stickers in hand.   From my observations and well as reports I’ve heard from others, this seems to be a common trend for the 24th district race.  None of the candidates seem to be making a big push for support among the party faithful…at least publicly.

Now, perhaps the traditional campaigning is all going on quietly behind closed doors.  And, if so, that sort of maneuvering is exceedingly unusual.  After all, wouldn’t you expect to see the typical bumper stickers, yard signs, and various campaign brochures?  Wouldn’t the campaigns have their staffers clearly visible in the audience, shaking hands, handing out materials, and thanking individuals for their support?  I cannot recall the last time I’ve seen a stealth campaign succeed, but is the strategy each have chosen to employ?

As one example, I’ve never met Donald Sheets (one of the two candidates running in the convention), nor have most people that I’ve spoken to.  Although it is highly likely that his campaign isn’t serious, given the actions of the Hanger, Moxley, and Pattie campaigns, one does start to wonder if he has some sort of hidden network lurking under the surface given the peculiar actions of his opponents.

That’s not to say that the campaigns are inactive, for example, the Pattie campaign is holding a meet & greet in Elkton this evening.  But, in general, things are exceedingly quiet right now.

I don’t mean to be too hard on any of the four, but to me this race is one of the strangest affairs I’ve ever seen.  What the heck are you all doing!?  Yes, it is uncertain if the nomination will come down to a convention or a primary, but if I were an advisor to any of the four campaigns (which I am not), I’d recommend buckling down and making sure that either the candidate or a staffer was present at every single GOP meeting in the 24th district between now and whenever the court decision is announced, with supporters clearly labeled, with a healthy supply of campaign materials in hand.  Or is it that no one has bothered to tell me that the traditional methods of campaigning no longer work?

Freitas For Delegate

From the Nick Freitas Campaign Facebook page
From the Nick Freitas Campaign Facebook page

Many of my fellow activists support a limited, constitutional government as well as legislators who will respect our liberty; unfortunately, we are often disappointed.  For those of us on the right side of the political spectrum, we are told time and time again to support the Republican candidate, regardless of  who he or she is and what he or she stands for, arguing that this candidate must be better than the Democratic alternative.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when we elect candidates based upon labels rather than a shared political philosophy, we promote self-serving politicians rather than the principled statesmen we so desperately need in Richmond and Washington D.C.

However, every once in a while a candidate comes along that “gets it”, one who understands that our rights naturally come from our creator and are not merely granted by some benevolent government power.   We need men and women who will work to shrink government to its proper role, not merely making big government more efficient.  We crave legislators who possess the needed courage to say no to the establishment in both parties when they tread upon the rights of the citizenry.  I firmly believe that Nick Freitas is one such person and he is the Republican nominee for the House of Delegates in the 30th district.

I had my first opportunity to speak to Mr. Freitas in August of 2014 and, since that time, I have constantly been impressed with his knowledge, drive, and determination to promote values that he, I, and countless other Virginians share should he have the opportunity to serve the people of our Commonwealth in the General Assembly.  Although a trait shared by only a handful these days,  I find the thought of his election quite exciting.

Although I may not live in his district, nor am I a member of the Republican Party, I believe that Nick Freitas would be an excellent addition in the Virginia House of Delegates.  Therefore, I wholeheartedly endorse his candidacy and strongly encourage the people of the 30th district to cast their vote for Mr. Freitas in the November election.