The central focus, as you might expect, was a discussion of the election results. We also spoke about the recent congressional testimonies of James Comey and Jess Sessions.
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.
Before I get into the meat of this article, let me preface this piece saying that I neither voted for nor supported Ed Gillespie when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014. Early in his last campaign, I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Gillespie and asked him, if elected, what specific agencies or departments in the federal government would he work to eliminate if he were elected to the Senate. He couldn’t give me an answer when I asked him in person, so I emailed his campaign seeking a response. Despite my repeated inquiries, I never received any reply. Given this experience, along with what else I discovered about him, I did not believe that Mr. Gillespie shared my philosophy on the proper role of government.
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 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.
For the last several weeks, I have been wondering if anyone would seek the Libertarian Party nomination for governor. Robert Sarvis ran in 2013, but that was only the second time in Virginia history that the LPVA fielded a candidate for this position. Although Mr. Sarvis did run for the Virginia Senate in 2011, he was not well-known statewide before the 2013 Virginia Libertarian Convention in Waynesboro. When I asked if anyone would run this year, I was told that there were several prospective candidates but nothing was public yet.
As my search continued, I was given a name, Jason Carrier. Being the curious fellow I am, I sought him out and sent him a Facebook message hoping to learn more. Most importantly, I asked him why he was running. His response was, “The party needs a candidate to keep momentum up. I’ve been preaching Libertarian values to anyone who would listen for years, so I figured I would quit bitching and try and do something about it. It is about forcing the other two parties to compete in the arena of ideas, pulling them to a pro-liberty agenda.” As you might imagine, given my beliefs and support for political competition, I thought his answer was a good beginning.
On Saturday, March 11th, the 6th district Libertarian Party held a convention in Staunton, Virginia. I ended up sitting next to a fellow in a red button-up shirt and tie who turned out to be Jason Carrier. After the main business of the meeting, such as the election of officers and Will Hammer gaining the Libertarian nomination for the 20th district in the House of Delegates, Mr. Carrier took the floor.
Mr. Carrier spoke of about himself and his experiences but, unlike many other office-seekers, especially first-time candidates, his life wasn’t the central focus of his talk. Instead, he discussed a number of issues of importance to his campaign such as reducing taxes, regulatory reform, and even privatizing the roads in the Commonwealth. Perhaps surprisingly he had favorable things to say about one of his opponents, Republican candidate Denver Riggleman, who he said shared many principles with Libertarians. As a self-identified jarhead, occasionally Mr. Carrier would pepper his speech with some mild language that you wouldn’t expect from your average politician. After his remarks, he fielded a multitude of questions from the audience on a variety of topics. As one example, although most Libertarians are pro-choice, it was a pleasant surprise to hear a statewide candidate advocating for life.
Although brief, I have to say that I am impressed with Jason Carrier thus far. He seems authentic and not a typical politician willing to say whatever he thinks will earn your support. He spoke with conviction and didn’t waffle or appear dazed like some people do when they are caught in the high-beams of public attention. He didn’t avoid tough questions by shifting the discussion to other topics and was quite open and approachable. One interesting idea he proposed, and although I’ll admit I am ignorant of the subject, I’m not sure of the present viability of solar power producing roadways. Lastly, unlike some third-party candidates, he did not promise certain victory if given the party’s nomination, which is a pretty tough task given numerous legal hurdles, press barriers, and mindset of voters who are constantly told that supporting a third party or independent candidate is akin to “wasting their votes”. If he does not win, he seeks to capture at least 10% of the vote. Doing so would make it much easier for Virginia voters to routinely have a third choice in future elections. In addition, he hopes that his run will inspire more candidates to run under the Libertarian Party banner.
I’m looking forward to learning more about Jason Carrier as the campaign continues, but, as I’ve said, my first impressions were quite positive. If you’d like to meet him in person and you live in the Harrisonburg area, I’m told he’ll likely be stopping by the next meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians on the evening of March 21st.
As some of my readers may recall, on Thursday, February 9th, I attended a campaign event for Ed Gillespie in Staunton. During the gathering, I thought of a question I wanted to ask Mr. Gillespie but didn’t get the chance to do so. Afterward, I spoke to several of his staffers and they recommended that I send them an email with my query.
After fleshing out my thoughts, I penned the following letter on February 10th:
Good afternoon, Mr. Cooksey.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me last night.
As mentioned, one important issue to me concerns political competition and political freedom. Unlike many states, Virginia is one of the most politically repressive in the region, requiring 10,000 signatures from candidates to make the statewide ballot and giving special privileges to nominees of the Republican and Democratic Parties such as: listing their candidates first on all ballots as required by law, allowing their nominees to forgo collecting signatures simply by virtue of being nominated by these two parties (assuming they aren’t facing a party primary), and setting unreasonably high thresholds in statewide contests for other political parties to be recognized.
As one example, in Virginia, a party’s candidate needs 10% of the vote to be a recognized political party in future elections while in neighboring West Virginia it is only 1%. However, despite this vast disparity, West Virginia is not overwhelmed by political parties; presently they have four while Virginia only has two. The Republican and Democratic Parties should have to work to earn the conservative and liberal vote and constantly strive to improve themselves, their positions, and their outreach, not always capturing a large block of voters without any effort simply due to being complicit in a state-supported monopoly.
In addition, it is unfortunate that some politicians, such as your former boss and my state senator, are proposing registration by political party, thus hindering competition even more and further embroiling the state government in the affairs and subsidization of the activities of private political organizations. It is becoming apparent to me that increasingly here in Virginia the Democratic Party has become the party of political rights and freedom as they work to make ballot access and recognition easier while those in the Republican Party are unfortunately trending in an anti-free market politics direction. It is my hope that Mr. Gillespie will firmly stand against these folks in the GOP who are hostile to political liberty.
Lastly, when Mr. Gillespie ran for US Senate in 2014, he did not stand up for the rights of all who qualified for the ballot to participate in the debates, in fact threatening to boycott an event if all of the candidates were invited. According to an email, I received from James Madison University in July of 2014, ” In my communications with the campaigns of the two major political party candidates, the question of whether or not Mr. Sarvis [the Libertarian candidate] would be invited was a point of discussion. Both campaigns had stated that if Mr. Sarvis were to be invited to participate in the debate their chances of agreeing to accept the invitation was unlikely and actually committing was even less likely.” Hopefully, this campaign has a different attitude.
My questions to Mr. Gillespie are as follows: If, as limited government conservatives, we believe that competition in business, education, and health care produces better results, lowered costs, and spurs innovation, why do we not translate this thinking into the political arena as well? How much has the average citizen and our political health been disadvantaged by a political system which served to primarily benefit, not the average voter, but the two largest political entities at the expense of free market competition? As governor, what will Mr. Gillespie do to push the needle toward greater political freedom or will he work with some of his colleagues in the GOP to squelch it further? And, should another candidate or candidates make the ballot in this election cycle, whether they are Libertarian, Constitution Party, Green, Socialist, independent, or something else, will Mr. Gillespie take a stand to permit all legitimate candidates the equality of opportunity to allow voters the chance to decide which candidate best represents their values?
Attached, please find an article I wrote in 2015 on the subject that was published the Valley Business Front based in Salem, VA.
Thank you for your time.
After ten days, as I hadn’t received a reply, I tried again. Unfortunately, there was nothing but silence, so I tried another staffer. I’m happy to report he offered a rapid response saying: “Thanks, Joshua. I will look into this matter. I do not think this is an item that we would take a position on, but, nonetheless, I will run it up the flag pole. Also, we will conduct further research on our end. Thanks again for coming to our Staunton event.”
Eight days later, I realized I still didn’t have an answer, so I tried this staffer again and was greeted by an automated response.
“Thank you for reaching out to me. I am no longer a member of the campaign staff, as I am pursuing another opportunity in Washington. Please contact Generra Peck (firstname.lastname@example.org) for all campaign policy matters.”
Going off this suggestion, I tried contacting this new staffer, but there was nothing. Based on the recommendation of one of my Facebook friends who supports Mr. Gillespie, I sent the campaign a Facebook message too and although there was an automated response saying that they would get back in touch soon, I have heard nothing.
As regular visitors to this website know, political freedom and open and fair elections are exceedingly important to me. I firmly believe that everyone should face the same legal hurdles to make the ballot and that all of those who jump through these hoops deserve the same chance to be heard, and not silenced or marginalized simply because they aren’t running under the banner or blessing of the two largest political parties. Looking back, I would say it was the most important reason why I didn’t end up supporting Ken Cuccinelli for governor four years ago.
As it has been almost a month since my first email, I decided to share my letter here. Perhaps someone on their campaign staff will feel compelled to answer. It is my sincere hope that the Ed Gillespie campaign will get back in touch with me concerning this matter before the June Republican primary, though I am starting to have my doubts this will happen. Unfortunately, when Ed Gillespie ran in 2014, I wrote an email to his campaign about another campaign issue and although Mr. Gillespie himself promised a reply, I never got an answer to my question. Elected officials and potential elected officials ought to be responsive to their constituents.
If and when I get a response, I’ll post it here.
On Thursday evening, the Ed Gillespie campaign held another gathering in the Shenandoah Valley, this time at the Holiday Inn right off of Interstate 81 in Staunton. The advertised guest of the evening was Matt Bevin, the governor of Kentucky. Curiously, the room was set up with a stage against the middle wall with three padded chairs and a couple of tables. Unlike other events, I didn’t recognize a majority of the folks in the crowd.
The Commonwealth Attorney for Augusta County, Tim Martin, gave a welcome, Travis Witt, the former leader of the tea party federation, offered the prayer, and Augusta County Supervisor Marshall Pattie led the group in the pledge of allegiance.
The three of them spoke amongst themselves about Gillespie’s campaign for governor as well as Bevin’s experiences as governor of Kentucky. Afterward, they took a series of pre-submitted questions from the audience. While this was going on, I thought of a question I wanted to ask regarding political freedom and spoke with the staffer handling such things, but, unfortunately, weren’t able to take it.
In conclusion, Governor Bevin invited all of the attendees to put a Gillespie bumper sticker on their cars as well as get their photo taken with Mr. Gillespie to which Ed Gillespie suggested that the governor ought to join in as well.
Overall, the event was well attended for a Thursday evening as pretty much every seat was filled. Governor Matt Bevin expressed strong support for Ed Gillespie which helps bolster Gillespie’s credibility. Snyder, Gillespie, and Bevin all added some humorous moments to the gathering. And, perhaps most importantly, unlike their last event in Harrisonburg, several people in the crowd had an opportunity to participate in the discussion.
Compared to his 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate, Ed Gillespie’s campaign for governor seems significantly improved, spending more time discussing substantive issues, and bringing impressive political figures, like Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin onboard.
On the evening of February 7th, Will Hammer, Andy Bakker, and I gathered online for Freedom Gulch’s 19th podcast. Topics during the hour included: Betsy DeVos and her confirmation as Secretary of Education, recent protests against Milo Yiannopoulos, Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from a downtown park, an eye toward the 2017 elections here in Virginia, and more.
If you missed it live, you can find it here!
On Friday of last week, I received word that former Representative Tom Perriello would be in Harrisonburg on Saturday morning, February 4th. Mr. Perriello is one of two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to be Virginia’s next governor. Although I knew the time and location of the event, the Lucy Simms Center, I had no other details.
When I arrived, I discovered that it was a forum hosted by Virginia Organizing. However, one surprising element was that it was a gathering designed specifically for deaf individuals. As such, much on the discussion took place through sign language. Mr. Perriello brought an interpreter with him. Although she seemed to have no difficulty translating his words into sign language, she had a bit of trouble explaining what some of the attendees were saying. Then again, given that much of the conversation focused on technical terms relating to the deaf community, it was understandable. In fact, even after translation, some of the terms were still foreign to me. Fortunately, there was another interpreter in the audience so they worked together; one translated Mr. Perriello’s comments into American sign language while the other converted the sign language into English. However, it was difficult to follow chunks of the conversation.
The event highlighted quite a few areas where deaf people face obstacles, many of which the average Virginian is likely unaware of. But, whether intentional or not, one of the major points I drew from the gathering was that Tom Perriello seemed to advocate greater government power as a solution to many of the issues and concerns of the deaf community, although that seemed to be the message Virginia Organizing was promoting as well.
Before leaving, demonstrating his knowledge of sign language, Perriello made signs for the various letters of the alphabet.
I appreciate that Mr. Perriello visited Harrisonburg. The next time he comes, I’d like to learn more about where he stands on a number of important issues such as fiscal restraint, restricting the growth of government, eliminating needless laws and bureaucracy, and expanding personal and political freedom here in the Commonwealth.
On the evening of Monday, January 16th, the Greene County Republican Party held their monthly dinner gathering at the Blue Ridge Cafe in Ruckersville, Virginia. Denver Riggleman, the newest entrant for the Republican nomination to be Virginia’s next governor, was the speaker for the event. According to my count, there were 22 folks in attendance.
At the beginning of the dinner, I appreciated being announced by the chairman of the group for my work on this website. I’ve known quite a few of the Greene County Republicans since working with them in 2012 and unlike some of the groups in the Shenandoah Valley, which have fallen to the establishment, for the most part, the folks in Greene are friendlier and more committed to principle.
Anyway, Denver Riggleman introduced himself and spoke of his experiences in the armed forces, the intelligence industry, and in the distillery business. He mentioned that before deciding to run for governor his family was considering moving their business to another state, possibly Pennsylvania, due to the unreasonably high excise taxes leveled against liquor producers in the state of Virginia. If I recall correctly, he stated that his current tax rate was over 40%.
During the question and answer period that followed, Mr. Riggleman fielded quite a few inquiries from the audience. However, at one point his campaign manager took over and began to answer the questions himself. Although it was fine for some of the technical aspects of the campaign, it began to take away from the attendees’ opportunity to learn about the candidate. As a result, one woman requested that she wanted to hear more of Mr. Riggleman’s answers and he obliged.
From there, many of those gathered including Mr. Riggleman joined others at the Greene County Republican business meeting in Stanardsville. However, given the heavy fog on route 33 through the mountain, I thought it best to return to Harrisonburg in case it got even worse.
In the parking lot after the meeting, I briefly asked a UVA student who sat next to me what drew him to the Riggleman campaign. Although I agree with most of what he has said, I can understand the present dissatisfaction with the other Republican choices, and I know many good people who are onboard with the Denver campaign, I still haven’t heard enough to compel me to join the team. I supposed I’d like for him to speak more about specific policy ideas. The student suggested that Denver Riggleman shares much of my ideology, but I haven’t been in the right venue to catch the spark yet. I guess we will see what the next stop brings.