Cathy Copeland in for the 26th

Earlier today, Cathy Copeland kicked off her campaign for the 26th district House of Delegates seat.  She is seeking the Democratic nomination.  To the best of my knowledge, for the first time in over 30 years, there will be a fire house primary to determine the Democratic nominee for this seat as Brent Finnegan is vying for the position as well.  Mr. Finnegan kicked off his campaign on Saturday in Broadway.

Ms. Copeland made this speech regarding her candidacy at the Pale Fire Brewery in downtown Harrisonburg.

Unlike most years, where a majority of the elections in the central Shenandoah Valley are uncontested, we now have: 2 Democrats and 1 Republican running in the 26th, a Democrat and a Republican in the 58th, a Democrat and a Republican in the 25th, and a Democrat, a Libertarian, and a Republican in the 20th.

Where do these candidates stand on the important issues of the day?  Will the Democrats and Libertarians field additional candidates?  Will there be any Republican nomination fights?  And will any of these challengers unseat an incumbent?  So far, this election year is shaping up to be far more interesting than usual!

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.

Moore Official in the 26th

IMG_2850This morning, in Harrisonburg, April Moore officially kicked off her campaign for the 26th district Virginia Senate seat.  Living in Shenandoah County, she is running as a Democrat against three-term incumbent Mark Obenshain, a Republican from Rockingham County.

A little over thirty people came out to hear her announcement, including several local media sources.  According to her speech today, the three major themes of Ms. Moore’s campaign are: combating climate change, reforming ethics and holding elected officials more accountable, and fighting back against Dominion Power and their control of our legislators.  Along these lines, she stated that she will fight for the citizens of the district unlike Senator Obenshain, who she claimed is heavily under the influence of corporate interests.

With April Moore’s entry into the race, she is only the second Democrat in the last four election cycles to seek the 26th district Virginia Senate seat.  The district includes: the counties of Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Warren, a portion of Rockingham, and Harrisonburg City.  At this point, this election is the only contested race in Harrisonburg.

Our New Delegate

Well the dust has settled here in the 26th district.  With all precincts reporting in, the winner is…Tony Wilt.  Although the official count is not available yet, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections, Wilt captured 65.82% of the vote while Democratic Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner won 29.89% and Independent Carolyn Frank had 4.14%.  Voter turnout was rather high in this special election as over 24% of registered voters showed up to cast their ballots.  As has been the trend in recent elections, the Democratic candidate won Harrisonburg, although narrowly, by fifty votes.  In Rockingham County, Republican voters came out in force giving the Republican candidate an enormous 81.66%!

When you consider current history, all in all, Degner fared a little better than other challengers, such as 2009 House of Delegates Democratic candidate, Gene Hart, and in 2007 when Independent Carolyn Frank launched her first attempt.  Then again, the last time this area faced an open seat back in 2005, Matt Lohr won with 53.48% compared to Lowell Fulk’s 46.11%.

So, my earlier adage held true.  Whoever wins the Republican primary will win the general election.  Even though the Democrats can win the city, the conservative County voters easily overwhelm whatever advantage the Harrisonburg electorate gives.  Therefore, barring some major surprise, I expect that Tony Wilt will represent the voters of the 26th in the House of Delegates for as long as he chooses to hold that position.  I hope that he will be the strong-willed constitutional conservative leader that the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley deserve.  As for the other candidates, I assume that Kai Degner will continue to serve as our Mayor, at least until the city council elections, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he makes another try for higher office in the near future.  And as for Carolyn Frank…well I really don’t know what she was thinking.  According to the local paper, she didn’t raise any campaign money in the most recent cycle and I don’t know if she had any sort of coordinated campaign.  A humiliating defeat such as the one she just suffered will certainly dampen any of her political prospects.

Congratulations to Mr. Wilt.  Please make us proud.

A Tribute to Matt Lohr

A little over a week ago, my Delegate, Matt Lohr (26-R) resigned his seat in order to become the Commissioner for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  Although he has been my Delegate for the last five years, I didn’t know a whole lot about him.  Maybe you felt the same.  Like myself, he was rather modest, never boasting, “Look at all my accomplishments!  See what I have done!”  Even though that path seems to have worked out fine for him with his recent appointment, I have personally questioned using such a tactic, for unfortunately, political memory is often very short and those who vigorously promote their own glory are likely to receive far more.

With the notable exception of the abusive driver fees, I never worried that Delegate Lohr would vote differently than I would have.  Given that he never actively sought the limelight, the great lingering question of the day is, what were his top legislative priorities while in office?  Although I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, with a couple of exceptions, I didn’t really know.  So, in order to answer this question, I decided to contact his office to acquire a list of his most important accomplishments.  His responses are as follows:

TDR-Transfer of Development Rights, a bill which made it more attractive for localities to setup a farmland preservation program.  The TDR concept is a unique approach to saving farmland, directing growth to the proper areas, and keeping agriculture viable without using taxpayer dollars.  It is a very complex issue, but one that will have a tremendous benefit to localities around the Commonwealth.

Standards of Quality Education Standards: Two years in a row I submitted this bill and it greatly helped school divisions during these tough economic times.  Every year, schools are expected to meet their standards of accreditation.  These standards are always increasing and the benchmark gets higher and higher.  This bill places a one year freeze on the rising standards of accreditation.  As schools are being forced to cut back during these tough budgets, it seems unrealistic to expect them to achieve more.  This bill gave schools some breathing room and removed this added burden during what is already tough times.

Teen Driving Safety Bill: This bill increased the maximum driver hours for teenagers taking drivers education to be 45 hours instead of 40 hours.  It also includes that 15 of these hours must be after sunset.  It had been increasingly obvious that students were not having much if any experience driving at night in addition to needing extra time behind the wheel.  The bill also aims to increase parental involvement by requiring a driving log be complete and reminding parents it is a violation of the law to sign off on the log knowing the hours were not completed.

Protective Orders: This bill I did a few years back, adds to ensure the protection of victims of domestic abuse and I was very proud to sponsor this legislation.  It says that if a person who violates a protective order violates that order again for a second time within five years, they will receive a minimum confinement of 60 days.  If they commit a third offense within 20 years they are to receive at least six months in confinement.  prior to the law passing, there were no minimum jail requirements for these violators.

Annexation Extension: For about 30 years, the Commonwealth has put a freeze on aggressive annexation between cities and counties.  This latest extension was set to expire in 2010 and there were several failed attempts to extend that freeze until 2020.  The Kaine administration wanted to force a permanent agreement between the Counties and Cities but it never materialized.  Eventually, Gov. Kaine agreed to allow an extension on the moratorium until 2018.  This will allow positive relationships to continue between counties and cities without the threat of possible annexation.

School Textbook Budget Amendment-The past couple years, I put in a budget amendment that would allow schools to use their funding for new textbooks for other purposes.  My last two years in the House were very tough budget years and I was proud to come up with many creative measures, including this one, that would help give the local school divisions the freedom to decide how these monies could be spent.

Abortion Clinic Safety-I wasn’t able to get this bill through the Senate during my five sessions.  It did pass each year in the House by a bipartisan majority.  I was happy to fight this battle and keep this common sense idea in the public view.  I am confident that this will pass if the Republicans are able to take control of the Senate.  The bill says that abortion clinics should be regulated like ambulatory surgery centers.  They would need a yearly inspection, life saving equipment on hand and they must report complications.

While I do admit that my own personal legislative priorities would be quite a bit different from Delegate Lohr, I still believe his efforts were of great benefit to the people of the 26th district and the Commonwealth as a whole.  But he should be remembered for more than just his work as a part-time legislator.  Outside his work in the General Assembly, he was deeply involved in local activism ranging from charity work, like the recent Relay for Life, to spending his time at schools in the district.  If we all shared just a fraction of his community spirit, I earnestly believe that our valley would be an even better place.

In closing, I certainly wish former Delegate Lohr well in his future endeavors and thank him for his time in the House of Delegates.

Wilt Wins!

Note:  News courtesy of Senator Mark Obenshain and hburgnews.com.

A little while ago, Tony Wilt was declared the winner of the Republican nomination for the 26th district House of Delegates.  Although the official vote totals will not be released to the public for the sake of party unity, in total, 1597 votes were cast.  Being a numbers kind of guy, I would be greatly interested in seeing the percentages, especially how they differed in the city and the county, but I can appreciate the desire to end any potential divisiveness.

With this win, Mr. Wilt will face the Democratic nominee, Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner, in the June 15 special election.  With less than two months to go, I’m sure both candidates will be campaigning hard in order to claim the open seat.

So congratulations Mr. Wilt.  I expect many great and conservative things of you.  I also want to say congrats to both Mr. Elledge and Mr. Byrd.  Although I’ve never been a candidate myself, I know full well that campaigning is not an easy task.  It requires a will and a resolve that only a select few can muster.

I’ll post more news as it becomes available.

And on to June we go!

The 26th Decision

Can you believe that the day has arrived so quickly?  Tomorrow, we will be selecting the nominee for the Republican Party here in the 26th district.  When I got home from work tonight, my inbox was stuffed with emails from the three candidates (The count stands at ten from 12:30 to 10:40 PM).  Believe it or not, I’m still undecided.  I haven’t had sufficient time to study the candidates and I still think the process was rushed.  Nevertheless, I’ll continue to read about them this evening and tomorrow morning so hopefully when 4:00 PM comes, I’ll be able to make an informed decision.

I plan to support whichever candidate I believe is the most conservative in the three key areas:  socially, fiscally, and constitutionally.  Of course I want a delegate who shares our valley values, but, in addition, I want a leader who will boldly patron conservative legislation.  So then, who is the best candidate?  To help with our decision, I’d like to share with you the responses the three candidates gave to the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.

SPECIAL EDITION–CANDIDATES FOR 26th House of Delegates District Answer Tea Party Questions

1. John Elledge

2. Tony Wilt

3. Ted Byrd

Please scroll down to read all answers.    Information Only.  The SVTPP Does Not Make Endorsements.

John Elledge Answers SVTPP Nine Questions


1. Please provide a short essay that introduces you and your background?
I am John Elledge and I am running to represent the 26th House District in the Virginia General Assembly.  Delegate Matt Lohr, re-elected this past November, will be vacating his position, leaving the seat open less than halfway through the term.  I am determined to fill his position because the citizens of the 26th District need a Delegate who can hit the ground running.  I know that I am the right man for the job.

I know the institution of the Virginia General Assembly because I worked ten years as a Legislative Assistant to former Delegate Glenn Weatherholtz.  I am the only candidate who knows the procedures and processes of the legislature.  I have drafted bills, monitored them, and developed a strategy to pass important legislation over those ten years.  I am aware of the ins and outs of the committee structure, and the tricks and setbacks that legislators face.  I know the players in Richmond and in the District, and I know the mysteries of the budgeting process.

My political values were developed under the guidance of Delegate Weatherholtz, who had a distaste for politics as usual.  He served 24 years as Rockingham County Sheriff.  During those years and during his service in the General Assembly, he made it a point of genuine pride to never spend his entire budget.  He was also a tough man who knew his own mind and did not give in easily to the pressures of the insiders in the political class.  It is my goal to emulate Glenn Weatherholtz in all these ways.

2. Please describe the three most important achievements that you would like to accomplish for the citizens of the 26th District?
I will consider it an achievement every time I successfully work for the failure of government-expanding legislation proposed by a Democrat or a Republican.

I will consider it an achievement if I can make a dent in the status of the 26th District as a net exporter of resources.  I want to bring our fair share back home to be spent in our communities, not in the district of those who cater to expansive local governments in their districts.  I will work to fund core services of Education, Public Safety and Transportation, to relieve upward pressure on our local tax system.

I will proudly limit the amount of legislation I introduce each session.  Not every idea needs to become law.  What legislation I do introduce will have a priority of reducing the size of government.

3.  If elected, will you hold frequent town hall meetings and tele-town hall meetings for the 26th District citizens?
Yes, I will employ the latest technology to stay in touch with my constituents, to be as responsive and accessible as possible.

4. What are your three top concerns for the Commonwealth of Virginia?
That we eliminate services that are not the core role of government.

That we resist the intrusion of the federal government into the province of the government of the Commonwealth, and that we demand that the federal government lives up to its obligations to all the citizens, like protecting our borders, and spend on core infrastructure like Interstate highways, rather than expansive social programs.

That we fund core services in a focused and efficient manner: Education, Public Safety, and Transportation.

5. Is the size of Virginia government and the Virginia 2010-2012 Budget: adequate, too large, or too small?
It is too large.  Much of what makes it too large is the result of the imposition of unfunded mandates, like Medicaid and spending.  The current budget takes the Commonwealth back to the 2006 spending level, which were prosperous economic times.  We must prevent the budget from swelling back to its size before the recession.  We also need to see that a significant portion of revenue growth from the recovery goes to a Rainy Day Fund, and to repaying the frequently-raided Transportation fund.

6. Will you sign a “no-new taxes” pledge?
Yes.

7. What are your three top concerns at the Federal level?
Runaway spending
The imposition of mandates on states, especially unfunded mandates.
The Federal government’s failure/refusal to seal our borders.

8. Do you vigorously support Virginia 10th Amendment legislation such as, H.B. 10 (Virginia Health Care Freedom Act) and H.B. 69 (Virginia Firearms Freedom Act)?
I absolutely support both these legislative efforts, and further support sound legal challenges to the Federal government’s imposition of its healthcare rules and firearms regulations on Virginians, recognizing that success in these challenges will probably require the Supreme Court’s reversal of bad precedent in terms of its Commerce Clause jurisprudence (Wickard vs, Filbrum) and the extension of its good decision in U.S. vs. Lopez, which found the Gun-Free School Zones Act unconstitutional as an application of the Commerce Clause.

9. If you believe that Virginia must cut spending in state government, what spending category would you cut first?
This goes hand-in-hand with my views on question # 8.  The primary and fastest growing segment of the budget causing the explosion in spending has to do with unfunded mandates, especially Medicaid spending.  A forceful resistance to these impositions with the efforts of strong organizers and activists like the Tea Party groups working to change the makeup of Congress could do wonders to reduce this forced area of state spending.

Apart from that, I am generally supportive of Governor McDonnell’s approach to the planned cuts he offered before the General Assembly.

Tony Wilt Answers SVTPP Nine Questions

1. Please provide a short essay that introduces you and your platform?

My name is Tony Wilt and I’m vying for the Republican nomination to run for the 26th District House of Delegates seat.  I’ve never run for public office.  However, I’m excited about the prospect of representing the people of the 26th District.  Vickie and I have been married for 25 years and have a grown daughter and son.

I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.  I am pro-life.  I believe the 2nd Amendment gives each qualifying citizen the right to keep and bear arms.  I was born, raised, and lived in the 26th District all my life, except for two brief times in California and North Carolina, while my dad served in the U.S. M.C.  I urge you to seek out those who know me.  My actions will speak out louder and truer than my words.  I trust that you will find that my actions and words are one in the same.

I’ve worked at Superior Concrete, Inc. for 30 years and am the President/General Manager.  I stand firm against any new taxes, regulations, mandates, and entitlements, and will fight to lessen or repeal current ones.  I believe in limited government intrusion in every aspect of our lives.  But along with that, I demand personal responsibility.

2. Please describe the three most important achievements that you would like to accomplish for the citizens of the 26th District?

Greater freedom of government intrusion in our lives.

Re-evaluate the state budget for what is supported, and for how much.

Secure alternative sources of revenue, instead of raising taxes on hard-working Virginians.

3. If elected, will you hold frequent town hall meetings and tele-town hall meetings for the 26th District citizens?

Yes.

4. What are your three top concerns for the Commonwealth of Virginia?

Out of control Federal government.

Efficiency of state and local governments.

Stagnant economy.

5. Is the size of Virginia government and the Virginia 2010-2012 Budget: adequate, too large, or too small?

Too large.

6. Will you sign a “no-new taxes” pledge?

Yes.    (This candidate submitted a signed and witnessed Taxpayer Protection Pledge with Americans for Tax Reform, that pledges he will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.)

7. What are your three top concerns at the Federal level?

Disregard for the Constitution.

Ignoring national security and sovereignty.

Mandates passed on states and locales.

8. Do you vigorously support Virginia 10th Amendment Legislation such as H.B. 10 (Virginia Health Care Freedom Act) and H.B. 69 (Virginia Firearms Freedom Act)?

Yes.

9. If you believe that Virginia must cut spending in state government, what spending category would you cut first?

This is a tough one, I believe two-fold.  Every agency must strive for efficiency, but I don’t know if that will do the trick.  We must prioritize just what the government should be involved in, and cut the rest.  That definitely means operations within each agency, but maybe the agency itself.
Ted Byrd Answers SVTPP Nine Questions
1. Please provide a short essay that introduces you and your platform?
I am running for the Republican nomination for the 26th District of the House of Delegates, because I believe my experiences in Agriculture, Economic Development, Business, Transportation, and Local Government enable me to have a balanced perspective and will represent our community’s interest in Richmond.  I am committed to listen carefully to constituents and make decisions that will best address our local and state concerns.

2. Please describe the three most important achievements that you would like to accomplish for the citizens of the 26th District?
I would be a Champion of our local Family Farmers.
I would work hard to ensure we have a business climate that encourages the creation of jobs.
I would continue to strive for fair funding for our local schools to enable children to compete for future jobs.

3. If elected, will you hold frequent town hall meetings and tele-town hall meetings for the 26th District citizens?
Yes.

4. What are your three top concerns for the Commonwealth of Virginia?
We need to return to prioritizing state funding for our core services which are: public safety, education, and maintaining our road infrastructure.

5. Is the size of Virginia government and the Virginia 2010-2012 Budget: adequate, too large, or too small?
It is still too large.

6. Will you sign a “no-new taxes” pledge?
Yes.

7. What are your three top concerns at the Federal level?
National Debt.
National Security.
The massive size of the Federal government and its reach into each of our lives.

8. Do you vigorously support Virginia 10th Amendment Legislation such as H.B. 10 (Virginia Health Care Freedom Act) and H.B. 69 (Virginia Firearms Freedom Act)?
I do support the state of Virginia Federal lawsuit to uphold Virginia’s Health Care Freedom Act and await the ruling from the federal court.  I was unable to get information on H.B. 69.*

* Newsletter Editor’s note:  While H.B. 10 passed in the recent legislative session, H.B. 69 was sent to an unfavorable committee where the legislation died for this session.

9. If you believe that Virginia must cut spending in state government, what spending category would you cut first?
Non-core services.  Through the years there has been pork or special interest funding inserted into the state budget and that would be the first place I would look to make cuts.

For some more information, I’d recommend that you read a recent article provided by hburgnews.com.

Remember that polls will only be open from 4 to 8 PM tomorrow.  If you are in the city, you vote at Keister Elementary, 100 Maryland Avenue.  If you are in the county, you vote at Lacey Spring Elementary School, 8621 North Valley Pike.

Be an informed voter!

Update: Assuming you lived in the 26th District (which of course many of you do not), based upon the above information which of the candidates would you support and why?  Please feel free to comment.

26th District: The GOP Nomination

Well, it has been decided.  On Wednesday evening, representatives from both Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County got together to determine the method for selecting the Republican nominee to replace the newly promoted Matt Lohr.  Their decision is to hold a firehouse primary.  But what is a firehouse primary you may ask.  Unlike traditional primaries where polling places are open during regular polling times, a firehouse primary is more restrictive…in this case, a lot more restrictive.  There will be one and only one voting location for the entire 26th district.

Here, let me quickly go through all the details.  After the meeting on March 31, party leaders decided to close the filing deadline on April 10.  Ten days later, April 20, the primary will take place at Lacey Spring Elementary School for 4 PM to 8 PM.

Personally, I have a lot of reservations about the process and timetable selected.  First of all, I believe the timeframe is way too short.  Currently there are two declared candidates in the race, Tony Wilt and John Elledge.  Unfortunately, I still don’t really know too much about the political positions of either.  Besides an email from one and a Facebook group from the other, I haven’t gotten any additional information.  The voters need time to learn about the candidates and 20 days (now we are down to 18) is far too short a window.  Second, although the 26th district is not a large district geographically, I think we should have more than one polling place.  At least give us one in the city and one in the county.  Third, given that the polling place is only open for four hours on a weekday, it is likely that I will have to take time off from work in order to cast my vote.  Fourth, no candidate will be able to create an effective campaign team or campaign message in so short a time, so he or she will have no idea whether or not these strategies will be successful in the general election.  As mentioned earlier, this district trends very heavily toward the GOP, so I still suspect that whoever wins the nomination will win the election; nevertheless, will we have enough time to discover the best candidate and campaign?

Now there are arguments in favor of the process they have selected.  Namely, greatly restricting the time and place of voting along with a very narrow campaigning window will ensure that only the truly dedicated will come out and vote.  The possibility of Democrats and Independents coming out to vote will be very low and only the very committed Republican activists will show up.

Given the rushed nature of the process, I therefore predict that voter turnout will be at an all-time low.  This race will be determined by just a handful of voters.  The question becomes, who can get more of their people to the poll on April 20?  I guess we will have to wait and see.

26th House of Delegates Seat Up For Grabs!

In a fairly breaking development, my Delegate, Matt Lohr has accepted a position as Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  With this arrangement, Delegate Lohr will be resigning his seat in the General Assembly likely within a month or two.  This departure will trigger a special election in which the citizens of the 26th district (Harrisonburg and the northern half of Rockingham County) will choose a new delegate.  I would assume that it would take place this coming November, coinciding with the House of Representatives race.

Although control of this seat will not tip the balance of power in the House of Delegates, given that Democrats have little chance of unseating Bob Goodlatte from his position in the House of Representatives, it is likely that local Democrats will pour their efforts into this race.  Right now there are a multitude of unanswered questions.  Who will win the Republican and Democratic nomination?  Will there be any third party candidates?  With voter turnout likely to be low, which side will rally their faithful more successfully?  Will Harrisonburg, which the Democrats have occasionally won in recent elections, go for the Democratic candidate?  And if they win Harrisonburg, will it be by large enough margins to counteract the heavily conservative county?

I don’t want to take anything for granted, but given past trends, I would expect whoever wins the Republican nomination should win the election.  As a word of warning though, if you can’t run a campaign worth spit (and that involves hiring knowledgeable people), then don’t run for the office!  I just hope that at the end of the day, we have a strong, committed, constitutionally minded conservative.  The 26th is my home after all.  And as a side note to whomever wins, you should strongly consider hiring Matt Lohr’s current legislative assistant.  You shouldn’t dive head first into a new surrounding without having someone experienced on your side.

I’ll post more on this story as it becomes available.

Update:  Thanks to hburgnews.com, (a great source for local news) for bringing this story to my attention.  Their post can be found here.