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.
Today, on the steps of the Augusta County Courthouse in Staunton, Virginia, Michele Edwards announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the 20th district seat in the House of Delegates. Below is a video of her announcement. Sorry that it is a bit shakey. In retrospect, I should have worn gloves as it was cold outside.
Republican Dickie Bell has represented the 20th district since 2010. He has not had a Democratic opponent since 2011 when Laura Kleiner challenged him. This year, he is facing Libertarian Will Hammer and now Democrat Michele Edwards.
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.
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.
As most people know, Hillary Clinton won a plurality of the vote in the state of Virginia and thus her electors were awarded all 13 of Virginia’s electoral votes. Well, as you might imagine, some Republicans weren’t particularly happy with this result. To correct this “error”, Senator Amanda Chase (R-11) has crafted a bill (SB 837) as has Delegate Mark Cole (R-88) (HB 1425) for the 2017 General Assembly Session. Both bills would award 11 of Virginia’s electoral votes based on the popular vote winner of each congressional district while the remaining 2 would go to highest overall vote-getter as it is presently done.
If this system were in place in 2016, it would have radically altered the outcome in Virginia. Instead of Hillary Clinton winning all of Virginia’s votes, instead she would be awarded 5 for winning 5 congressional districts (3, 4, 8, 10, 11) and 2 more for getting the highest statewide vote total while Donald Trump would win 6 for congressional districts (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9).
Friends, it is my sincere hope that both of these bills will be defeated. Although some Republicans will cheer this idea because it would have helped them in the most recent election, in the long run, it only serves to aid whichever political party who controls the General Assembly and marginalize a tremendous number of Virginia voters.
First, consider the 6th district, the district where I live. In this election, Donald Trump won 59.32% of the vote in the 6th district. 120,596 people here cast their votes for Hillary Clinton, 10,801 voted for Gary Johnson, 2,379 chose Jill Stein, 5,421 picked Evan McMullin, and 2,296 wrote in a candidate. Under this new system, every vote for a candidate other than Donald Trump would be rendered effectively worthless. After all, the 6th district leans heavily Republican and it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that any Republican candidate will win the 6th district regardless of who he or she might be and his or her principles. Why, in this case, would a 6th district Democratic voter be enthusiastic to vote if he or she knows his or her vote won’t change the outcome. Also, in 2008 Barack Obama visited the 6th district while in 2012 Paul Ryan came and in 2016 it was Mike Pence. Under this Chase/Cole system, no candidate would waste his or her time to visit the 6th because one could assume it would safely be in Republican hands and therefore working to recruit additional Republican or Democratic votes in the region would be an exercise in folly as at most it would result in a gain of only 2 electoral votes, a total fewer than even the smallest state (which gets 3 electoral votes). Voters in the 6th district and elsewhere would be completely ignored as campaigns instead focused upon the battleground congressional districts. However, I should point out that there are very few battleground districts in Virginia because most congressional districts have been gerrymandered to ensure that each is safe for the incumbent representatives. As the Republicans presently control the General Assembly, they have drawn congressional lines to ensure that Democratic voters are packed into as few safe districts and that a majority of our members of the House of Representatives will be Republicans. Should the Democrats regain the General Assembly during a redistricting year, it is likely they will act in a similar fashion.
Speaking of gerrymandering, under this new system, if it appears that the balance of power is shifting in congressional districts, cities or counties can be moved into other congressional districts to ensure the outcome remains relatively constant. Under these present lines, I would argue that a Democratic presidential candidate can be certain of at least 4 electoral votes from the 3rd, 4th, 8th, and 11th districts, while Republicans will pick up at least 5, the 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th.
Although I would like to see Virginia move away from a winner-take-all electoral system, this proposed change is likely even worse at marginalizing the average voter than the one we currently have in place. What if instead Virginia would give her electoral votes proportionally. Given that Virginia has 13 votes, what if a candidate received one electoral vote for each 7.69% of the statewide vote he or she won? Therefore, no one’s vote could be gerrymandered into congressional districts and thus into irrelevance (as suggested under this proposed change), and even in a stellar year for one candidate the opposition party (or parties) could still rally their troops and have at least something to show for it. Under this proposal, very few Virginians would feel like their vote is wasted or their voice went unheard.
In closing, I urge you to contact your delegate and state senator and tell them to oppose SB 837 and HB 1425. Regardless of whether you support the same presidential candidate who won your congressional district, your opinion matters and it shouldn’t be marginalized by legislators in Richmond or by anyone else!