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.

No Issues In Rockingham

Last night, the Rockingham County Republican Party held their mass meeting at Spotswood High School in Penn Laird to elect delegates to the 24th district convention.  Russ Moulton of Fredericksburg was the temporary chair for this meeting.  The turnout was relatively small, with a few observers from Staunton, Waynesboro, Harrisonburg, and other portions of the county.  Dan Moxley was the only candidate for the 24th district GOP nomination who attended.

Although no pre-files were allowed, twelve voters sought to be delegates and the same twelve were elected without any controversy.  Each delegate will split the county’s ninety-nine votes, thus giving each eight and a quarter votes…assuming all of the delegates show up at the convention.

All in all, the meeting took about ten minutes, amazingly quick and without controversy; it was very surprising given the rancor which had developed in previous meetings.

Perhaps the only unfortunate aspect of the mass meeting was the cost.  Should the courts decide the convention will not proceed, the money spent by the county party to rent the high school last night would have gone to waste.

Nevertheless, rumor is that the courts could announce the fate of the Incumbent Protection Act as early as today!

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?

A Huge Surprise in the 24th

This evening, Republican representatives from across the 24th Virginia Senate district gathered in Elkton to discuss the pending lawsuit against the State Board of Elections and the Incumbent Protection Act. At the beginning of the meeting, it was also restated that only one candidate, Dan Moxley, had properly filed to be a candidate at the upcoming convention.

Then, one of the attorneys handling the lawsuit got up and briefly discussed the details of the case.  He was of the opinion that the chances of getting the Incumbent Protection Act declared unconstitutional should be pretty good.  Following that, the committee moved to a closed session and all of the oberservers were asked to leave.

For quite some time, we milled about in the hallway, engaging in random conversations about politics. I appreciated the opportunity to speak with several activists from Greene County with whom I worked in 2012.

When we finally returned, the conversation took a strange turn as they began discussing preparations for the upcoming convention. This talk seemed very strange, especially given the earlier declaration.  After all, they said at the beginning that there was only one properly filed candidate and, according to the rules of the call, if there was only only candidate then the convention would be cancelled. It was at this point we learned that a fellow named Mr. Sheets had also filed to be a candidate. It was exceedingly peculiar news. Was the earlier information wrong? Did the attorneys encourage the 24th district to bend or break the rules of the convention? It was all rather confusing and disconcerting.

I have to confess that on the drive back to Harrisonburg that I felt that Mr. Moxley had been cheated a little tonight. Sure, I doubt Mr. Sheets will be able to mount a credible challenge, but why should the Moxley campaign have to put in the time and money to prepare for a convention if indeed he was the only candidate to properly pre-file according to the rules in the call? It didn’t seem fair.

Although I’m glad that they seem optimistic that the lawsuit will be successful at striking down an unfair law and I appreciated the chance to speak with many good folks that I’ve met in my political journey, I sorely wish that the 24th district GOP would have either announced there were two candidates at the beginning of the meeting or not allowed this potentially questionable newcomer to skirt the established rules.

So that’s the political intrigue from this part of the state tonight.

Is the 24th GOP Nomination Decided?

From the 4th of July Parade in Staunton
From the 4th of July Parade in Staunton

In case you haven’t been paying attention to politics in the central Shenandoah Valley, three candidates have been vying for the GOP nomination for the 24th district Virginia Senate seat.  Senator Emmett Hanger of Mount Solon is opposed by both Marshall Pattie and Dan Moxley.

Pattie was the first to publicly announce his intentions for office,  running since the end of June.  Moxley didn’t officially throw his hat into the ring until December 2nd, and, although not unexpected, Hanger made his entry quite recently.

Even though the 24th district Republican Party made the decision that they would be holding a convention to determine their nominee, when Senator Hanger entered the race, he declared that they would instead run a primary, citing the Incumbent Protection Act.  As such, the 24th district Republican Party filed suit in court.

Yesterday, on March 2nd, the deadline to file as a candidate for the convention came and went.  Surprisingly, only one candidate filed, Dan Moxley.  According to the call, given that there is only one candidate, the convention will be cancelled and Moxley will be declared the official nominee.

Now, one can make an argument as to why Emmett Hanger didn’t file his paperwork for this convention.  After all, doing so would add some legitimacy to a convention that he will be fighting in court.  From a political perspective, Hanger would face a considerably uphill battle in a convention as it would likely be populated by Republican activists eager to oust Hanger due to his support of Medicaid expansion and previous tax hikes.

However, it makes little sense to me why the Marshall Pattie campaign didn’t take the necessary steps to be a candidate at this convention.  Yes, it is possible that the convention will be overturned, that the district will end up with a primary, and thus convention preparation will be unnecessary.  But, if the convention is upheld, then the Pattie campaign has just discarded any chance for him to be the Republican nominee.  At the end of the day, is the time necessary to file or the $500 fee too much of a hurdle?  Seems like a heck of a lot of earlier effort and money to gamble upon the outcome of this court case.  It makes even less sense given that the Pattie campaign has certainly been the most visible thus far.  As one example, his was the only campaign to send a representative to last Thursday’s meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party.

When Nick Freitas, chairman of the Culpeper Republican Party, (and Republican candidate for House of Delegates in the 30th District) declared on Facebook last night, “Congratulations to Dan Moxley in the 24th District.  As the only candidate who pre-filed for the convention, he will be our Republican nominee in November,” that news certainly caught me by surprise, as I’m sure it did many.  So far, there has been no public word from either the Hanger, Moxley, or Pattie campaigns or from the 24th District GOP as a whole about this development.

IMG_2708Will the Incumbent Protection Act be upheld and a primary be conducted?  Or will the original convention stand, Moxley be declared the winner, and thus the 24th District GOP nomination has been decided?

More news and commentary will be posted as it becomes available.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XX)

This morning, Andy Schmookler and I appeared on WSVA, 550 AM, for our twentieth time.  Today was a slightly different format; while I was in the studio in Harrisonburg, Andy called in from Shenandoah County.

The three major topics of the show were: the upcoming visit from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the current controversy concerning vaccinations, and the 24th district Senate race in Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta County, Rockingham County, and elsewhere.  I feel as if we only began to scratch the surface of the senate race, but on-air time constraints cut the matter short.  Hopefully, we can revisit the topic in a future show.

Anyway, in case you missed it, you can find today’s show here.

A Convention for the 24th

Earlier this week, a number of local Republican leaders got together to discuss the party’s nomination process for Virginia 24th senate district.  And, perhaps surprisingly, they have decided upon a convention.

In previous contests, the incumbent was allowed to choose the nomination method, presumably picking which ever one favored him or her.  As such, it was a primary in 2007.  Nevertheless, challenger Scott Sayre from Rockbridge County gave Senator Hanger a good run for his money.  But times are changing.

As previously mentioned, presently there are three candidates are seeking the Republican nod in the 24th.  Longtime Senator Emmett Hanger is squaring off against Marshall Pattie and Dan Moxley.

Given his higher levels of name identification, fundraising capacity, the fact that Emmett Hanger is viewed favorably by a number of Democrats, and that the two other candidates would likely split the anti-Hanger vote, smart money would dictate that a primary would result in a victory for the Senator.  However, as most of these advantages are mitigated by a convention, this decision means that both Moxley and Pattie now have a greater chance of victory.

In my opinion, this could very well be the most exciting state senate race in 2015.

Moxley Announces

IMG_2708A few hours ago, in one of the most long-awaited political announcements in recent Shenandoah Valley history, Dan Moxley of Augusta County officially declared his intent to seek the Republican nomination for Virginia Senate in the 2015 elections.  He spoke in front of a crowd of about forty at a local business in Fishersville.  After an introduction from Tina Freitas of Culpeper County, Mr. Moxley talked of his principles, what motivated him to get involved, and a brief history of his political activity.  Promoting the ideals of limited government and liberty were scattered throughout his speech.

After greeting members of the audience, the Moxley campaign packed up their materials and headed off to Madison County where they plan to repeat this announcement on the other side of the district later today.

At this point, three people are wrestling for the GOP nod in the 24th, incumbent Senator Emmett Hanger, Augusta County Supervisor Marshall Pattie, and former Republican Party Chairman Dan Moxley.