Writing-In Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.
Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.

In general, the November 3rd elections in the city of Harrisonburg were a rather dull affair.  Although citizens had the opportunity to vote for six different contests, only one office, state senator, was contested.  As you might expect, this lack of choices inspired a handful of folks to write-in candidates.  Fellow blogger Rick Sincere often pens an article about the write-in votes in Charlottesville, but what names do people write-in in Harrisonburg?  Well, I decided to visit the local registrar’s office to find out.

In case you are wondering, once the election results have been certified they are made available to the public.  Unfortunately, they aren’t listed on a nice, neat, printed sheet, but rather each write-in vote is printed on a long piece of narrow paper, which resembles a register receipt.  Having previously worked as an election official in Rockingham County, I know that some voters write-in made up or fictitious characters, like Mickey Mouse or “anyone else”, but how many real people could be identified?  For the record, I only went through the data once, so it is possible the numbers I list below aren’t quite right.  Nevertheless, if you live in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, I think you’ll find them of interest.

In the race for the 26th Virginia Senate seat, there were only 14 write-in votes in Harrisonburg, likely low because voters had at least two choices.  April Moore, the Democratic candidate, won Harrisonburg and Republican Mark Obenshain got second.  However, there was a three-way tie for third place between Christopher Runion, Lowell Fulk, and yours truly as we each had two write-ins.

Moving on to the 26th House of Delegates seat where Republican Tony Wilt ran unopposed, there were almost 11% write-ins, the highest for any of the seats in play.  Harrisonburg City Council member Kai Degner took second with 19 votes, followed by Rockingham County School member Lowell Fulk with 14 votes.  Both Degner and Fulk had each previously been the Democratic nominee for this office in earlier elections.  Other write-ins of note included:  Harvey Yoder with three votes, my partner on the radio Andy Schmookler with two votes, local political activist Dale Fulk with two votes, and Harrisonburg Democratic Party Chair Deb Fitzgerald also with two. Many people received one write-in vote including: former Harrisonburg City Council members Dorn Peterson and George Pace, Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, Harrisonburg Mayor Chris Jones, the Virginia Libertarian Party Vice-chairman Dr. James Lark III, State Senator Creigh Deeds from Bath County, former Harrisonburg Republican Party Chairman John Elledge, the 2015 Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate April Moore, 2014 city council candidates Alleyn Harned and Joshua Huffman, and several of my Facebook friends such as: Jeremy Aldrich, Shammara Blanchard, and Matthew Phillippi.

Finishing in second in the race for sheriff with seven write-in votes was Harvey Yoder.  Third was former sheriff candidate Kurt Boshart with five and fourth was Chris Monahan with three.  Other names with one or more votes include: Kai Degner, Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, local TV anchor Bob Corso, former sheriff Glenn Weatherholtz, 6th District Democratic Party Chair Joe Fitzgerald, former sheriff candidate CM Hess, City Council member Richard Baugh, Greg Nesselrodt (one of my good friends in high school), and again one vote for me.  I’m not quite sure why someone would think me as being qualified for sheriff, but that is another issue.

For Harrisonburg/Rockingham Clerk of Court, Renee Evans Haywood captured nine write-ins.  Other names of note included: Kai Denger, Dale Fulk, former treasurer candidate Penny Imeson, former council member Charlie Chenault, school board member Andy Kohen, local TV producer Channing Frampton, Joe Fitzgerald, Chris Jones, Lowell Fulk, a previous clerk candidate Diane Fulk, local political activist Dave Briggman, former HHS classmate W.O. Brown III, and a vote for me.  I assure you that someone wrote me in, but I didn’t do it.

Moving on to Harrisonburg/Rockingham Commonwealth Attorney, many people tied for second with two votes: Dale Fulk, Tricia Nesselrodt, John Elledge, and former House of Delegates candidate Gene Hart.  Other names with a vote include: Lowell Fulk, Andy Kohen, radio personality Karl Magenhoffer, attorney Bob Keefer, attorney Roland Santos, high school friend Edward Panchari, and me, Joshua Huffman.

In the special election for Harrisonburg School Board to replace Dany Fleming, Mr. Fleming captured the most write-in votes with ten.  Other candidates of interest with one or more votes include: Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, Steve Nesselrodt, Tricia Nesselrodt, Mark Finks, former school board member Tom Mendez, Erin Phillippi, Matt Phillippi, Charlie Chenault, Violet Allain (who hosted a city council meet-and-greet for the candidates at her house last year), Channing Frampton, and another vote for me.

Lastly, there weren’t too many write-in votes for Soil & Water Conservation Director.  Dale Fulk had two, radio personality Jim Britt had one, several of my friends had one such as Tristan Flage, Joe Rudmin, and Matt Phillippi, and, again, one person decided to write my name in for this office.

Although some write-in votes are nonsensical or vulgar, for others write-ins are a way to show dissatisfaction with the possible choices, or in the case of the 2015 elections in Harrisonburg, the lack of choices.  And, to the handful of people who decided to write me in, I certainly appreciate your vote, but I’m not running for anything right now.  I hope I can earn your support when and if the time comes again.

Yes, writing-in might be annoying for those election officials counting the ballots, but it can be a fascinating insight into the minds of the disaffected voter.  Hopefully the citizens of Harrisonburg will have at least two choices for every elected office in 2016, in which case we should see a dip in write-in votes in the next election.

Endorsements Matter

Over the last several years, I have debated the importance of political endorsements with various activists.  Some people argue that endorsements don’t really matter, that they are a mere formality that are doled out without much thought or value.  I disagree.

Endorsements, in my mind, are a strong signal of support, giving a stamp of a approval to a candidate or politician, more or less telling voters and like-minded activists that if you support me you should also support this person that I am endorsing.  Do endorsements make or break campaigns?  Typically not.  But they do say as much about the candidate as they do about the person or group offering the endorsement.

Let me offer some examples.  After Senator John McCain bested Representative Ron Paul in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, did Paul endorse McCain in the general election?  No.  The simple reason for it was that Paul and McCain espoused radically different principles.  While Paul supported the ideas of reducing the size and scope of the federal government and a non-interventionist foreign policy, McCain did not.  The fact that they were both members of the Republican Party was irrelevant.  In fact, Ron Paul went on to endorse Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party candidate in that election.  This scenario repeated in 2012 when Dr. Paul declined to endorse Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for the same reason.  Now, would those of us in the liberty movement have thought considerably less of Dr. Paul if he had endorsed McCain and Romney?  I would think so, because he would be sending a signal that at the end of the day party unity trumps political principles.

Although I obviously wasn’t going to support him given that I was running for the same office, I thought it was impressive that Democratic candidate Alleyn Harned received the endorsement of both Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine.  If I supported the positions of either of these senators, this news certainly would have made an impact on my decisions.

Conversely, endorsements can be negative too.  As one example, when Barbara Comstock ran for the Republican nod in the 10th congressional district, some of her listed endorsers, such as John Bolton, Mitt Romney, and Eric Cantor caused considerable concern.  After all, if she was promoted by the nonconservative establishment, chances are she wouldn’t be a particularly conservative legislator when she arrived in Washington D.C.  Unfortunately, her time in Congress thus far have proven these fears to be correct.

And then there is the curious issue of Senator Mark Obenshain.  Although I endorsed and strongly supported his run for attorney general in 2013 and he bills himself as a pro-liberty conservative, I was shocked and profoundly disappointed when he urged his supporters to rally behind “local conservatives” by endorsing the establishment Republican candidates for Harrisonburg City Council in the 2014 elections as opposed to actual conservatives who didn’t bear the Republican label.  Unfortunately, in a reverse situation of Paul, principles took a back seat to party loyalty.

Anyway, the reason I wrote this piece in the first place concerns the presidential candidacy of Rand Paul in 2016.  Unlike his father, the younger Dr. Paul did endorse Mitt Romney in 2012.  Two years later, he endorsed Mitch McConnell over his conservative challenger.  Now, that’s not to say that Rand Paul hasn’t endorsed good, principled candidates as well, but, along with other matters, such as his support of Senator Cotton’s letter to Iran, it certainly should give liberty-minded activists cause for considerable concern.

Endorsements are not like Halloween candy to be given out freely to every person who shows up at your doorstep, but rather a carefully crafted decision to be rationed out only to those who you believe closely mirror your own values.  That is why I have publicly endorsed only one candidate, Nick Freitas, in the 2015 election cycle so far.

Although endorsements certainly aren’t the end all be all, and, given enough time everyone is prone to make an error from time to time, they are important as a helpful guide for both the endorser and endorsee to show who might be worth a closer look, who will be a constant advocate for liberty, or who might be selling out his or her principles for political gain.

The bottom line is that endorsements matter.

2014: In Political Review

UntitledAs today is the last day of 2014, I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon my political adventures over the previous 365 days.

I suppose the most monumental event for me, at least politically, was running for city council.  Although involved in more elections than I can count, that race marked my first time as a candidate.  It was a unique experience and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of folks that I may not have otherwise encountered.  It also gave me an insight into my fellow candidates, viewing them from an angle that most voters would never know.  Yes, the voters preferred other choices, but I’ve said that one win or loss isn’t as important as advancing the liberty movement.  Taken as a whole, running was both rewarding and discouraging.

2014 marked the end of my 19 year involvement with the Republican Party as I was expelled from my local unit in February.  It was disheartening to see the party place blind loyalty over their principles, but for far too many people in politics, values are a mere smokescreen to advance their own power.  A few months later, about a decade after attending my first meeting, I joined the Libertarian Party.  Although I am keenly aware of the potential pitfalls of political parties, it is difficult to promote and advance your ideas by yourself and have discovered a number of good people who call themselves Libertarian.  I especially appreciated the opportunity to meet Will Hammer, the Libertarian candidate for House in the 6th, and Paul Jones, the Libertarian candidate in the 5th.  Thanks also to Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian senatorial candidate, as well as John Buckley, the West Virginian Libertarian senatorial candidate and former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who helped my campaign.  Also, I don’t want to forget Josh who created a fine website for me and Jonathan who crafted a bunch of campaign literature; thank you too to my friends that are still within the GOP.  Before moving on, let me offer another big thanks and shout-out to Marc Montoni, the LPVA Secretary, whose assistance, advice, and friendship were valuable to me in so many ways.

I feel I should mention that earlier this year I faced a pretty significant political threat.  Although I’ve been bullied by a variety of sources previously, this particular threat had a rather nasty sting to it especially considering it was done by someone who once declared me a good friend.  I shouldn’t be surprised that some people in politics will say or do almost anything to try and achieve their goals, but that doesn’t make the encounter any less disappointing.

On a lighter note, I had the opportunity to learn a little bit firsthand about Guatemalan politics during my mission trip with my church to that country.  Comparative politics is usually interesting.

I was glad that the radio show with Andy Schmookler on 550 AM WSVA continued and am grateful to Karen Kwiatkowski for filling in for me on two shows I could not participate due to my run for council.

I’m pleased to say that this website, The Virginia Conservative, still is going strong; it’s a little amusing that it continues to accumulate more fans that my run for council did.  Not seeking to garner praise from any particular group or person, I pledge to continue to offer my candid thoughts and news into my seventh year.

Moving on to politics at JMU, I wonder if I am the first person to be refused entry to a meeting of the JMU CRs.  I’ve been active in trying to promote college activism for years, but several months ago, like George Wallace enforcing segregation, a leader of that group blocked the door to their meeting and requested that I not come in.

Although I’m disappointed that Nick, the former leader of Madison Liberty, has graduated and left the area, I’m looking forward to seeing how Emery advances the group next year and plan to aid him however I can.  I also hope that Students for Sensible Drug Policy continues to be a force on campus.  Although my time with the JMU CRs was brief, I must I was glad for the opportunity to meet Christian, a like-minded activist, and hope he presses that group in a more principled direction.

Lastly, I’d like to take a moment and recognize two of my fellow former candidates for city council.  Although we certainly disagreed on a number of issues, both Republican D.D. Dawson and Democrat Alleyn Harned showed themselves to be particularly worthy opponents and I appreciated their warmness and decency in a field that sorely needs it.

Have I missed something or someone?  I have no doubt that I have.  But please forgive me; after all, it’s hard to condense an entire year into a single post.

Best wishes to you all in 2015.  Let’s see where the next year takes us!

The Council Candidates on WSVA

Chris Jones, D.D. Dawson, and Joshua Huffman in studio
Chris Jones, D.D. Dawson, and Joshua Huffman in studio

This week, the six candidates for Harrisonburg City Council took to the airwaves of 550 AM WSVA to share their thoughts regarding policies for the city as well as their political principles.

On Wednesday, Ted Byrd (R), Alleyn Harned (D), and Helen Shibut (L) spoke.  This morning, D.D. Dawson (R), Joshua Huffman (I), and Chris Jones (D) had their turn.  In case you missed either show, you can listen to them on the links provided above.

IMG_0119IMG_0120On a personal note, I have to say that I appreciated the opportunity to speak about the race from WSVA and enjoyed today’s conversations with Ms. Dawson and Mr. Jones both on and off the air.  Although we certainly have our similarities and differences, it has been great journey, exploring and discussing a variety of topics.

Less than two weeks until Election Day!