Will Conservatives and Libertarians Get Fooled Again?

This year, Virginians will be electing 140 members of the General Assembly to represent them in Richmond; 100 to the House of Delegates and 40 to the Virginia Senate.

Photo from SenatorNorment.com
Photo from SenatorNorment.com

The last time that we elected senators statewide was in the November 2011 elections.  As you may remember, before that election the Democratic Party was in charge in the Virginia Senate with 22 seats. The Republican Party was pressing hard to gain control of that chamber.  Although a member of the GOP at that time, I must admit that I was wary of the Republicans gaining the majority.  After all, the Senator Minority Leader for the Republicans was Senator Tommy Norment (R-James City County), one of the least conservative Republicans in the Virginia Senate.  Why did I not want him?  Well, he supported many tax increases, including the massive hike under then Governor Mark Warner, and was a man who was arguably less concerned with reducing the size of government and keeping taxes low than some of the Democrats.

Prior to that election, I spoke about these concerns with a fellow activist who would later go on to lead the Young Republican Federation of Virginia.  I asked why should we promote the Republican slate as a whole and win the Virginia Senate if our legislators would simply turn around and give enormous power to a man whose principles stood in stark contrast to the grassroots Republican base.  However, I was assured that if the Republicans did win the Senate that November, they would not choose Norment, instead rewarding a strong, conservative leader.  As such, like many other conservatives and libertarians, I promoted the Republicans.

What do you think happened next?  Well, the Republicans did win in November and proceeded to elect Senator Norment as the majority leader.  And, under his leadership, the Republican-led Senate then passed a massive transportation tax hike dubbed “Plan ’13 From Outer Space”.  Should we be surprised?  After all, as fellow blogger D.J. McGuire pointed out on the Virginia Virtucon, “every Republican-controlled State Senate in the 21st Century has enacted a tax increase.”  Unfortunately, once again, conservatives had been betrayed.  So much for the “New” GOP Senate.

So, here we are, a little over four months from deciding whether the Republicans will maintain power in the Virginia Senate.  I’m sure that you have been told, as I have, once again we need to make sure that the Republicans continue to be in charge so that they can promote our conservative principles in Richmond.  However, assuming that they win, I see no reason to believe that they won’t continue with Senator Norment (or someone equally bad) as majority leader.  Therefore, I encourage you to ask your Republican incumbent or challenger that, if elected, will he or she pledge to vote for a new, principled majority leader.  If the answer is no, or you aren’t given a response, just remember that there is a Libertarian, Carl Loser, available in one district.  Or…you might just be better off casting your vote for the Democratic candidate.  Otherwise, meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

Therefore, to my fellow conservatives and libertarians who think that electing Republicans to the Virginia Senate regardless of their individual positions will somehow make certain that our values are advanced, let me offer a quote from former President George W. Bush:

So, will the Republican or Democratic Party control the Virginia Senate as a result of the 2015 elections?  For those who clamor for a Republican victory, just remember that with Norment back in charge I hope you like higher taxes.  You will have no one else to blame when you are fooled again.

Defeating SB 840

IMG_2729In the myriad of bills offered in the 2015 General Assembly session, Senator John Watkins (R-Midlothian) proposed a piece of legislation regarding redistricting.  As the legislative summary states, SB 840 “provides criteria for the General Assembly to observe in drawing districts, including respect for political boundaries, equal population, racial and ethnic fairness, contiguity, compactness, and communities of interest. Use of political data or election results is prohibited unless necessary to determine if racial or ethnic minorities can elect candidates of their choice.”

As it stands now, legislators in the General Assembly have the right to choose who they represent.  Sounds a bit crazy, does it?  In school we’re taught that voters choose their representatives, but, in Virginia, legislators can draw their own districts to include or exclude voters based upon past voting history, race, socioeconomic status, and a whole host of other factors.

As one such example, this year Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) crafted SB 1237 which removed the rather heavily Democratic Georgetown precinct in Albemarle County from his district and exchanged it for the Republican friendly Stone Robinson precinct.  Thinking back to Reeves’ small margin of victory in the 2011 election, one article in yesterday’s Washington Post argued that he made this move in order to bolster his re-election chances.  Given the political ramifications of SB 1237 and the fact that Republicans currently enjoy a mere one seat majority in the Virginia Senate, all Republican senators voted for the measure while all Democrats (except one who did not vote) opposed it.  If the tides were reversed, and the Democrats were in power would the Democrats have favored the bill and the Republicans have stood against it?  Is the idea of right or wrong absolute?  Or does it hinge upon who gains power by a given action?  Is gerrymandering a integral part of the “Virginia Way“?

Watkins’ SB 840 would presumably help curtail gerrymandering, which includes the practice of carving up some counties into as many pieces as possible in order to achieve political advantage, as was done to Rockingham County in the 2011 redistricting.  Perhaps surprisingly, the bill passed the Virginia Senate 38-0.  However, yesterday the legislation was killed in the House subcommittee of elections in privileges and elections, squelched by Republican Delegates Mark Cole, Buddy Fowler, Steve Landes, and Margaret Ransone.  What we need to know is why these four delegates killed this bill, which was passed unanimously by the Virginia Senate.  Are there ramifications that could weaken the ability of Virginians to be fairly represented in the General Assembly?  Or was it simply done to preserve legislators’ control of who can and cannot vote to either re-elect or replace these elected officials?