Replacing Goodlatte: Republican Candidates for the 6th Congressional

A Guest post by Kevin Stiles

Bob Goodlatte will not be the 6th Congressional district representative for the first time since 1992. Hardly news, but since I was two years old when he took office, this is a brave new world for me and many others. The 6th is considered one of the safest Republican seats in the country, and as such, it is very likely that the Republican convention decides who gets the seat. As of the time of writing, there are currently eight Republican candidates. However, given the candidate is selected by convention, I highly doubt the five least connected candidates: Ed Justo, Mike Desjadon, Elliot Pope, Doug Wright, and Kathryn Lewis really have a chance for a Congressional seat. Let us then consider the three main candidates:

Cynthia Dunbar

Photo from the Dunbar for Congress Facebook page

Cynthia Dunbar is probably the most well known outside of Virginia. Dunbar rose to prominence during her controversial tenure on the Texas Board of Education winning a seat in 2006 and serving from 2007 to 2010. While serving on the Board, Dunbar came under criticism for comments she made regarding religion and its place in education; government’s role in education; and pushing for textbooks on Mexican-American studies that were labeled Anti-Mexican. Dunbar continues to monitor the education situation in Texas and has worked closely with her mentor, David Barton. Dunbar recently ran against Suzanne Obenshain for National Committeewoman to the RNC from Virginia and won an upset in a narrow vote. Dunbar served as a professor of law at Liberty. Dunbar has claimed that Constitutional law can be superseded by religious affiliation and various interpretations of the Christian Bible. The form of the primary seems to favor her (see below). While Scott Sayre, 6th district chair for the RNC, hasn’t made it clear if he supports her, Deputy chair Matt Tederick has been publicly supportive of Dunbar. However, Dunbar’s political baggage could prove costly. Her radical stances on many issues may strike a chord with many Democratic voters, as the Dems continue to see larger than expected turnouts for off-year elections and special elections. Dunbar may prove the most vulnerable to what some are calling the “blue wave”  that may follow Trump’s victory in 2016.

Chaz Haywood

Photo from the Haywood for Congress Facebook page

Mr. Haywood is the current Rockingham-Harrisonburg Clerk of Court. Mr. Haywood seems to be the establishment choice, having gotten the Obenshain endorsement, as well as the endorsement of Georgia Long (former 6th District RPV State Central Representative). Unfortunately, not much is known about Mr. Haywood. He hasn’t had a whole lot of public activity to really flesh out his positions beyond campaign platitudes. He served as a representative for both Mr. Goodlatte and former Governor George Allen. His website is full of well-worn phrases about “putting people first” and “standing with veterans.” Predictably, he plans to “stand with President Trump in his efforts to improve business and job growth, protecting our manufacturing jobs here and working to bring back jobs lost overseas.” However, substantive policy issues are noticeably lacking.

Ben Cline

Photo from the Cline for Congress Facebook page

Mr. Cline has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2002. This extensive political background gives Cline the most well-defined policy positions. He is co-chair of the Virginia Joint Legislative Caucus and House Chairman of the Conservative Caucus.  Cline has sponsored several more libertarian-leaning pieces of legislation such as the recent medical marijuana bill and his proposed limit on Law Enforcement drone usage. He also pushed for recorded votes in committees in the General Assembly. Cline has called for defending Confederate statues and has an A+ rating from the NRA, Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League. He’s received low marks from the Sierra Club for his stance on the environment and mixed results from the Virginia Education Association. He has also received multiple endorsements from several Trump staffers such as the national field director Stuart Jolly and Mike Rubino, Trump’s Virginia State director. Cline earned the endorsements of Delegate Nick Freitas and Denver Riggleman as well.

The convention will be held May 19th at the JMU convocation center in Harrisonburg. At the moment the convention will be single ballot plurality, rather than a multi-ballot majority. This is subject to change, but this seems to favor Dunbar. Dunbar, seen as an outsider, could mirror Trump’s own rhetoric of “draining the swamp.” The plurality would mean she would not need to go through the strenuous process of deal-making that normally goes into finding a majority approved candidate. The convention process also lends itself to more conservative candidates. The 6th district is, by-and-large, Trump country. Predominantly Caucasian, with lower rates of higher education, large numbers of unemployed and underemployed blue-collar workers, and a sizeable evangelical population all seem to point towards an advantage for Dunbar. However, as we’ve seen in Alabama and other elections, the independents and conservatives that have traditionally voted for the GOP candidates are not turning out for radicals such as Dunbar. Additionally, they inspire Democrats to vote in near-record numbers. We do not know for certain if this trend will continue, and even if it does, the 6th is notoriously safe and the Democrats are fielding two new-comers to challenge for the seat. But the GOP should be wary before unleashing a firebrand like Dunbar.

Kevin Stiles is a resident of the Shenandoah Valley in Luray, VA. He attended Bridgewater College where he got a degree in History and Political Science.

Our Friend Freitas

Image from Delegate Nick Freitas’ Twitter page

The 2018 General Assembly session is upon us, kicking off today, Wednesday, January 10th.  In recent years, I’ve written about several important pieces of legislation that either expand or degrade freedom in the Commonwealth of Virginia which have come from both Republican and Democratic legislators, such as Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), and Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax).  I’ve noticed that these legislators usually craft one or two exemplary bills that all Virginians who value freedom, regardless of party affiliation, ought to support.

However, this year, Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) is sponsoring some truly fantastic legislation.  Not content with one, two, or even three bills, his list of patronage on Virginia’s Legislative Information System is, quite frankly, amazing.

Highlighting some of my favorites, we have HB 534, a repeal of the so-called incumbent protection act (which stifles political competition by allowing incumbents to select the nomination method of their political party).

Next, there is HB 539, which requires political parties to pay for their own nomination contests rather than forcing the Virginia taxpayer to pick up the tab for their primaries.

Then, there is HB 540, which lowers the threshold for the state to recognize new political parties from the rather onerous 10% in a statewide contest to a far more reasonable 3%.  Doing so would likely result in more contested elections and more candidates for voters to choose from.  Thus, it should more accurately reflect the political preferences of Virginians rather than the present system of either being presented only one choice or often choosing between the lesser of two evils.

Following that, we have HB 553, ranked choice voting, which will permit voters to rank their choices on the ballot (assuming they have more than two).  Doing so would eliminate the so-called spoiler effect and mean that voters could actually vote for their preferred candidate without worrying about the idea of “throwing their vote away”.

Lastly, there is HB 900, civil asset forfeiture reform, which means that if you are found innocent of a crime, law enforcement doesn’t get to keep your property that they seized during the investigation.  It seems like common sense, but some politicians and law enforcement agencies support this theft (and it truly is state-sponsored theft) as a way to pad their operating budgets.

That’s a lot of great stuff coming from Delegate Nick Freitas, isn’t it?  The only other issues that I can think that I’d like to see resolved this session are a lowering of the signature requirements for ballot access in both statewide and congressional races and an end to the observance of Daylight Saving Time.

Although I normally don’t feel it necessary to mention this detail, given recent events please note that the opinions expressed in this article are my own and this piece has not been paid for nor authorized by either Delegate Nick Freitas or his 2018 campaign for U.S. Senate.

If you value liberty, please thank Delegate Nick Freitas and his staff for these bills!

The End of First Friday?

E.W. Jackson speaking to the First Friday group in 2013

Although I cannot recall when it began, First Friday has been a regular political event in Harrisonburg for quite a while.  Over the years, it has hosted a variety of candidates, politicians, and leaders of various groups.  It has served not only as a monthly gathering for local activists but also as a way to reach a wider audience of folks from Shenandoah, Rockingham, Augusta, Rockbridge, and sometimes Greene Counties.

First Friday is not a local Republican unit, but it typically hosts Republican speakers.  They’ve had Corey Stewart recently, and had a bit of a dust-up when Cynthia Dunbar ran for Republican National Committeewoman last year.  Suzanne Obenshain, who also sought the committeewoman position and was the longtime leader of First Friday, also spoke to the group last year.   Although he attended when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2014, Ed Gillespie has been a no-show this election cycle.  When I ran for local office in 2014 as an independent candidate, I was allowed to attend but not to address the crowd.  Nevertheless, the event was valuable; after my Republican opponents addressed the group, one attendee declared they were both socialists and wrote a check to my campaign.  Donna Moser, the former head of the Rockingham County Republican Party leads the gathering.

However, things have been a bit rocky for First Friday these last several months.  Several months ago Ms. Moser broke a bone while visiting relatives out of state and thus was unable to attend the May meeting.  Nevertheless, First Friday still took place with Senator Bryce Reeves, who is running in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, as the speaker.  Ms. Moser had the leader of the local tea party hold First Friday in her absence.  But, the meeting was very sparsely attended.  In fact, I cannot recall a First Friday with such a low turnout.  Usually, two factions attend; the conservative grassroots folks and the so-called establishment Republicans.  But, almost none of the establishment people were in the audience.  I asked the senator about this absence and he pointed out that although he is arguably the most conservative candidate running for the position, many of the establishment had endorsed his opponents and thus did not attend.

Shortly before the June meeting of First Friday, I’m told that Ms. Moser received a phone call from the chairman of the Harrisonburg Republican Party letting her know that the party had selected a replacement to host First Friday in her stead.  However, as she had returned to the area, she stated she was able to resume her duties in this capacity.  Delegate Ben Cline was the speaker, but, as with the previous month, the establishment Republicans boycotted the event.

After most folks left, Greg Coffman, the Harrisonburg GOP Chairman, sat at a table with Donna Moser.  Afterward, I asked her about the conversation and she said that the three local chairmen (Harrisonburg, Rockingham, and Republican Women), had decided among themselves that Ms. Moser would no longer be leading First Friday.  As none of these chairmen had elected her to her position, nor did any of these chairmen attend First Friday on a regular basis, my opinion was that none either individually or as a group would have the power to make such a decree.  However, the story does not end there.

Late last night, the Harrisonburg Republican Party sent out an email declaring that future First Friday lunches have been cancelled.  As the message states:

Consequently, the Committees’  leadership has decided to terminate the First Friday Luncheons program. The goal is to examine other venues that can provide more relevant opportunities for our members, community leaders, and political leaders to interact.  This was the original intention in starting the First Friday Luncheon program, but we’ve seen a continuous decline in participation and support to the extent that the program is no longer fulfilling its purpose.

Due to the upcoming election season and the demands on everyone’s time, no decision on alternatives to First Friday will be made until after the election.  Therefore, the County and City Committees are no longer endorsing, sponsoring, or supporting activities similar to or calling themselves “First Friday”  until further notice.

To the best of my knowledge, there was no vote or discussion among the attendees of First Friday or even the local Republican committees of such a course of action (according to those who attend these meetings), but rather a dictatorial decree from the local party chairman.  Perhaps this authoritarian push shouldn’t be all that surprising given that the Harrisonburg Chairman will not allow individuals to make any announcements at the city GOP meetings unless they have been submitted in writing at least five days prior to the meeting.

After speaking with Donna Moser, she has stated that First Friday will continue, whether the GOP chairmen support the idea or not.  Given my experiences in local politics, the Republican Party strives for strict control of political events and guards who have access to their candidates and elected officials.  Given this attitude and several other factors, it shouldn’t be surprising that every candidate except for one who has run under the Republican banner in the last seven years has lost to a Democrat in Harrisonburg.

I would expect that local activists will continue to gather at the Woodgrill Buffet in Harrisonburg for First Friday with or without the blessing of the local GOP chairmen.  True, it will be a smaller affair as most of the establishment Republican crowd likely won’t attend, but perhaps First Friday will become a gathering for conservative activists and candidates of all stripes, not only those who bind themselves with the increasingly rigid rules of the Republican Party.  If so, the local chairmen’s declaration of disavowing First Friday is a blessing in disguise for the citizens of the central Shenandoah Valley.

Sell Out!

Image from the film, The Sellout (1952)
Image from the film, The Sellout (1952)

VC Note:  I wrote this piece on November 15, 2015, though I decided against publishing it until recently.

 

In the world of politics, a person is often faced with the decision to sell out one’s principles in order to further his or her own ambitions.  I dare say that every activist has faced this choice sooner or later and if you haven’t yet, that likely means that you are still quite new to the arena.

In 2014, while running for local office, I had the opportunity to sit-in on several of the meetings of the JMU College Republicans.  If you are new to this website, you might not know that student activism has been an interest of mine ever since I began my political journey as a high school student and so I try to encourage students any chance I get.  Unfortunately, I was told that my presence at the JMU CRs upset some of the local establishment Republicans, given that I wasn’t wed to their partisan banner anymore, and they were pressuring the CRs to get rid of me.  As a result, one evening a student came up to me and flatly said that I was no longer welcome at their gatherings.  However, if I were to tell you that the JMU CRs hosted an event honoring Bill Bolling during that semester, that likely tells you all you need to know about the values of that organization at that time.

Anyway, before my exclusion, I appreciated the chance to listen to several of their speakers.  One week it was Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge County with whom I had a very positive interaction after the meeting.  However, it was a speech from my own state senator, Mark Obenshain, that sticks most strongly in my mind…even over a year later.  During his talk, he extolled several former JMU Republicans who went on to successful careers in politics, such as a few of Representative Bob Goodlatte’s past and current employees.  Unfortunately, each and every person he mentioned that night shared a common trait; they either sold out their principles or never really had any principles to begin with, and all were more than willing to step on anyone who gets between them and power.  I had more than my share of nasty run-ins with many of these folks.  Although these names were likely foreign to many of the students around me, I knew them all well and to hear this rogue’s gallery listed as a group young political activists ought to aspire to emulate was dismaying indeed.  It made me think.  Is selling out is the ticket to success?

Over my twenty years in politics, I have had a chance to meet a lot of liberty-minded activists.  Some have remained faithful to their ideals while others have not, choosing to support and work for candidates and politicians of dubious moral character who willingly jettison their principles when the leadership tells them to do so…or the price is right.  Some activists have been willing to use any tactic, without respect to morality, if they think it will achieve their goals, knowing that elected officials and party leadership will defend their actions.

As you might imagine, hearing cases of this corruption or watching it unfold firsthand has been profoundly disheartening.  Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  Yes, having power is important.  Being able to support yourself in the political world is certainly important too.  But, at the end of the day, if the eager and wide-eyed novice you once were has been replaced by a callous, manipulative, and immoral professional, don’t you have to ask what was the point of getting involved in politics in the first place?  Isn’t it written, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”  (Mark 8:36 NLT).  It pains me to say that I’ve crossed paths with many individuals who have apparently sold their souls and, despite any superficial claims to be godly and attempts to cosy up to the religious right, face the very real danger of damnation.

So, my friends, whatever your political leanings, I urge you to remain grounded and faithful to your principles.  Never lie, cheat, or steal in order to gain glory, money, fame, or power nor should you ever knowingly follow anyone who acts in this fashion.  Shouldn’t we work to instill values such as honor, courage, honesty, and steadfastness in the next generation of activists?

But, then again, what do I know?  After all, there are many activists and politicians who have advanced much further than I have by stabbing others in the back, bowing down to the lobbyists, and deceiving the folks back home.  And, if you asked them behind closed doors, here’s the advice they would likely give:

Good Bills, Bad Bills in 2017

January 11th marks the start of the 2017 Virginia General Assembly session.  As is typical, there is a whole host of legislation being proposed.  Some that are good for liberty, some are bad, and many that aren’t all that interesting, such as honoring an individual or business, or technical changes to the law that don’t make much of an impact.  Now, as there are thousands of bills, I won’t share them all, (nor, to be fair, have I read them all).  However, I’d like to share some of the ones I find interesting. Please note that the summaries of the bills are provided by the Virginia Legislative Information System.

Bills I’d like to see passed

HB 1578 Rob Bell (R-58) – Students who receive home instruction; participation in interscholastic programs. Prohibits public schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who (i) receives home instruction; (ii) has demonstrated evidence of progress for two consecutive academic years; (iii) is in compliance with immunization requirements; (iv) is entitled to free tuition in a public school;(v) has not reached the age of 19 by August 1 of the current academic year;(vi) is an amateur who receives no compensation but participates solely for the educational, physical, mental, and social benefits of the activity;(vii) complies with all disciplinary rules and is subject to all codes of conduct applicable to all public high school athletes; and (viii) complies with all other rules governing awards, all-star games, maximum consecutive semesters of high school enrollment, parental consents, physical examinations, and transfers applicable to all high school athletes. The bill provides that no local school board is required to establish a policy to permit students who receive home instruction to participate in interscholastic programs. The bill permits reasonable fees to be charged to students who receive home instruction to cover the costs of participation in such interscholastic programs, including the costs of additional insurance, uniforms, and equipment. The bill has an expiration date of July 1, 2022.

Students of parents who choose to homeschool ought to be afforded the same rights and privileges of parents who send their children to public schools.  After all, if someone is required to pay for public schools whether they use them or not for academic instruction, they should be able to enjoy the same benefits.

HB 1637 Glenn Davis (R-84) – Possession or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; Crohn’s disease. Provides an affirmative defense in a prosecution for the possession of marijuana if the marijuana is in the form of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil possessed pursuant to a valid written certification issued by a practitioner of medicine or osteopathy licensed by the Board of Medicine for purposes of treating Crohn’s disease or alleviating such patient’s symptoms. The bill provides that a practitioner shall not be prosecuted for distribution of marijuana for the treatment of or for alleviating the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Individuals who use marijuana as a medicine should be able to do so without fear of prosecution.

HB 1677 Ben Cline (R-24) – General Assembly; introduction of legislation; recorded vote. Requires all legislation introduced by a member of the House of Delegates or the Senate to be considered by the committee of purview or a subcommittee thereof and receive a recorded vote. All legislation reported from the house of introduction shall be considered by the committee of purview or a subcommittee thereof in the other chamber and receive a recorded vote.

Citizens ought to know how their elected officials vote, including in committees.  The fact that currently a legislator can kill or promote a bill secretly in a committee without any transparency or accountability is a huge problem.

HB 2028 Nick Freitas (R-30) – Industrial hemp production; authorization. Removes all restrictions on the production of industrial hemp, including licensing and regulations.

There is no reason that I can see why there ought to be any governmental restrictions on hemp.

HB 2265 Ben Cline (R-24) – Concealed handgun permits. Allows any person who is otherwise eligible to obtain a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed handgun without a permit anywhere he may lawfully carry a handgun openly within the Commonwealth.

Although our right to bear arms is in the US Constitution, lawmakers often try to erode this right.  The right to self-defense among law-abiding citizens isn’t something that should require a permit.

HJ 622 Sam Rasoul (D-11) – Constitutional amendment (first resolution); General Assembly; term limits. Limits members of the Senate to three full terms (12 years) and members of the House of Delegates to six full terms (12 years). The limitations apply to service for both consecutive and nonconsecutive terms. Service for a partial term does not preclude serving the allowed number of full terms. In addition to any partial term, a person may serve 12 years in each house, or a total of 24 years in the General Assembly. The limits apply to terms of service beginning on and after the start of the 2020 Regular Session of the General Assembly.

The current political system presently heavily favors incumbents and seniority.  Creating term limits would help curtail these abuses and restore the idea of citizen legislators, not create a future class of career politicians.

HJ 629 Rob Bell (R-58) – Constitutional amendment (first resolution); charter schools. Grants the Board of Education authority, subject to criteria and conditions prescribed by the General Assembly, to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth.

Competition is good for the economic marketplace and I believe it good for schools as well as it will encourage more innovation and offer more choices and control to parents.

SJ 240 – Mark Obenshain (R-26) – Constitutional amendment (first resolution); charter schools. Grants the Board of Education authority, subject to criteria and conditions prescribed by the General Assembly, to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth.

Same bill as Bell’s HJ 629, same reason to support it.

 

Bills I’d like to see defeated

HB 1398 Delegate Richard (Dickie) Bell (R-20) – Hate crimes; acts against law-enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel. Expands the definition of hate crime for the purpose of reporting hate crimes within the Department of State Police to include acts against persons employed as law-enforcement officers, firefighters, or emergency medical services personnel.

Hate crime legislation often means that the lives and/or wellbeing of some individuals are more valued under the law simply based on race, class, gender identity, or, in this case, their profession.  Crime is crime and justice should be blind.  Punishments shouldn’t be more or less severe based upon the status of the victim involved.

HB 1429 Mark Cole (R-88) – Electors for President and Vice President; allocation of electoral votes by congressional district. Revises the process by which the Commonwealth’s electoral votes are allocated among the slates of presidential electors. The bill provides that a voter will vote for two electors for the Commonwealth at large and one elector for the congressional district in which he is qualified to vote. The candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the two electoral votes for the Commonwealth at large, and the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast in each congressional district are allocated the one electoral vote for that congressional district. Currently, the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the total number of the Commonwealth’s electoral votes.

I discuss my opposition to this bill in this article.

HB 1444 Sam Rasoul (D-11) – Minimum wage. Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $10.00 per hour effective July 1, 2017, to $12.50 per hour effective July 1, 2019, and to $15.00 per hour effective July 1, 2021, unless a higher minimum wage is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

In a free marketplace, the government would not set any minimum wage.  In addition, raising it to the levels suggested in this bill will likely hurt small businesses in rural Virginia (who, given the differences in cost of living in their location, cannot afford them).  Lower skilled jobs may also end up disappearing hurting workers as well.

HB 1601 Matthew Fariss (R-59) Electors for President and Vice President; allocation of electoral votes by congressional district. Revises the process by which the Commonwealth’s electoral votes are allocated among the slates of presidential electors. The bill provides that a voter will vote for two electors for the Commonwealth at large and one elector for the congressional district in which he is qualified to vote. The candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the two electoral votes for the Commonwealth at large, and the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast in each congressional district are allocated the one electoral vote for that congressional district. Currently, the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the total number of the Commonwealth’s electoral votes.

Same as my opposition to HB 1429.

HB 1771 Ken Plum (D-36) – Minimum wage. Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour effective January 1, 2018, unless a higher minimum wage is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum wage shall be adjusted biennially to reflect annual increases in the consumer price index over the two most recent calendar years. The measure also provides that the Virginia minimum wage applies to persons whose employment is covered by the FLSA.

See HB 1444 above.

HB 1776 Ken Plum (D-36) Hate crimes; gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability; penalty. Adds gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery, or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense. The bill also adds these categories of victims to the categories of hate crimes that are to be reported to the central repository of information regarding hate crimes maintained by the Virginia State Police.

As with HB 1398, I oppose expanding hate crime legislation and believe that there shouldn’t be special penalties or exceptions for a crime based on the gender, race, creed, or employment status of the victim.

HJ 547 Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) – U.S. Constitution; application for a convention of the states. Makes application to Congress to call a convention of the states to propose amendments to the United States Constitution to restrain the abuse of power by the federal government.

Although I would like to see the federal government obey the law, drafting new amendments or even a new constitution seems like a poor idea given that the federal government is not really held accountable to the present Constitution.  Nullification by state governments would likely be a more proper remedy to this problem, rather than a fairly open-ended convention which could lead to a lot of unintended consequences.

HJ 634 Mark Cole (R-88) – Constitutional amendment (first resolution); authority of elected school boards to impose taxes. Provides that the General Assembly may authorize any elected school board to impose real property taxes.

This bill would allow another government entity to have taxing authority.  How about no!

SB 837 Amanda Chase (R-11) – Electors for President and Vice President; allocation of electoral votes by congressional district. Revises the process by which the Commonwealth’s electoral votes are allocated among the slates of presidential electors. The bill provides that a voter will vote for two electors for the Commonwealth at large and one elector for the congressional district in which he is qualified to vote. The candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the two electoral votes for the Commonwealth at large, and the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast in each congressional district are allocated the one electoral vote for that congressional district. Currently, the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the total number of the Commonwealth’s electoral votes.

Like with Delegate Cole’s electoral vote bill, I explain my opposition here.

SB 902 Mark Obenshain (R-26) – Primary elections; voter registration by political party. Adds party affiliation to the information that an applicant is asked to provide when registering to vote. The applicant may indicate that he is an independent. The bill requires the State Board of Elections (State Board), in September 2017, to notify all registered voters of the new party registration law and send them a return card to indicate their party affiliation or independent status. Any voter who does not state a party affiliation shall be designated as independent in the registration records. Voters may change their party affiliation or independent status by written notice at any time before the registration records are closed in advance of an election. The bill (i) requires the state party chairman to notify the State Board by January 31 of each year whether the party will close or open its primaries, (ii) requires that primary candidate petitions be signed and witnessed by voters registered as affiliated with the party conducting the primary, (iii) sets the required number of petition signatures at one percent of the number of voters registered as affiliated with the party in the election district where the primary is being held, and (iv) allows an official political party to retain that status as long as at least 15 percent of the Commonwealth’s registered voters are registered as affiliated with that party. The provisions of the bill are applicable to primaries conducted after January 1, 2018.

The state government should not create or maintain a list of members of a private political party.  In addition, this list could be used to exclude some voters from primaries even though as taxpayers they still have to pay for these functions.  As an added thought, one could hardly call these additional costs to the state of these databases as fiscally conservative.

SB 925 Chap Petersen (D-34) – Plastic bag tax in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Imposes a five-cent per bag tax on plastic bags provided to customers by certain retailers in localities located wholly within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and directs revenues to be used to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan. The bill also allows every retailer that collects the tax to retain one cent of the five-cent tax.

Although I don’t approve of littering and I believe that there ought to be penalties for those caught doing so, this bill would unnecessarily increase the cost of business for everyone, including those who do not litter.

SB 978 Rosalyn Dance (D-16) – Minimum wage. Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $10.00 per hour effective July 1, 2017, to $13 per hour effective July 1, 2018, and to $15 per hour effective July 1, 2019, unless a higher minimum wage is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The measure also provides that the Virginia minimum wage applies to persons whose employment is covered by the FLSA.

As mentioned with Delegate Rasoul’s bill, the government shouldn’t set a minimum wage, nor would the wages this bill suggests be proper for some rural parts of the state where the cost of living is lower and thus wages would also be lower.

Well, these are the interesting and important bills to me.  Eight that should be passed and twelve that need to be defeated.  However, given that there are over a thousand bills out there, I’m sure that I haven’t found them all.  Are there any others that you all think ought to be supported or opposed?

Positive Outreach

Scan 2These days, most people rely upon email to send all of their messages.  As such, our inboxes are often stuffed both with legitimate correspondence…as well as far too much spam.  Given this reality, except when we are expecting a package, we don’t eagerly wait for the mailman like we did when I was little, as he typically delivers only bills and generic information of sales.  However, sometimes there are surprises.  Today, for example, I found a hand-addressed envelope in the mailbox.  Inside, was a hand-written note from Delegate Bell (as pictured).

To offer some background, on the evening of July 14th Americans for Prosperity-Virginia held an event in Harrisonburg featuring Delegate Rob Bell (R-58), Delegate Ben Cline (R-24), Delegate Nick Freitas (R-30), and a member of the Goochland County Board of Supervisors.  Although I’ve found AFP events to be hit or miss, this gathering was excellent, featuring many great, informative, and inspiring speeches.  In fact, it was arguably the best AFP event I have attended in my years of activism.  Afterward, I spoke with some of the AFP staff and their guests, including Delegate Bell, who informed me that he read The Virginia Conservative (it is amazing how many elected officials tell me that they visit this website).  Nevertheless, I didn’t think much more about the event and didn’t end up taking any photos of it, as it was one of those “you had to be there” kind of occasions to listen to it for yourself.  However, with today’s mail, I am reminded of it once again.

As some of you may know, Rob Bell is seeking to be the Republican nominee for Virginia’s Attorney General in 2017.  Although he already has several declared opponents, sending out personalized, hand-written notes as he did after this recent AFP event is a good way to set yourself apart in a world of slick, colorful, but impersonal campaign flyers.  In addition, I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t some kind of plug for a donation.

I don’t have a preferred candidate for attorney general at this point, but I have to say kudos to Delegate Bell for his efforts at memorable outreach.

Tearing Out A Man’s Tongue…

Political dialogue is important, which is why I am Facebook friends with a variety of politicians and “like” a lot of political parties and organizations.  I try to maintain ties with a variety of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, and independents.  You shouldn’t simply surround yourself with people who agree with you all the time, as doing so places you in a very small circle and doesn’t allow much room for thought and the possibility of change.  However, I do insist that my contacts treat each other civilly.  For example, several years ago a fellow Ron Paul supporter I knew got into a heated argument with one of my Republican friends and ended up declaring that it would be better if his mother had aborted him.  Regardless of your political affiliations, such a remark is totally over the line.  One can have disagreements about policy without delving into personal attacks.

Photo from January 19th, 2015
Photo from January 19th, 2015

I appreciate my Facebook network of friends who are elected officials, but have discovered that several have gone missing.  After doing a bit of digging I determined that they have blocked me.  I believe Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) blocked me first.  Delegate Bell and I got into a scuffle on my blog back in late 2013 after he crafted a bill that would have drastically changed the opt-in program for organ donation.  I had argued that making this change would, in effect, mean that your body would be assumed to belong to the state unless a citizen declared otherwise.  As you might imagine, this article generated considerable negative press and he ended up pulling the bill, which I praised him for doing.  Since that time Delegate Bell and I have not really communicated (even though we posed for a photo earlier this year) and at some point in 2015 he took the step of blocking me.  I believe it was around the same time I wrote a piece chastising the Augusta County GOP for releasing an ad telling voters to vote Republican in order to “preserve our Christian heritage“.

IMG_2980Next was Marshall Pattie, a Republican Supervisor from Augusta County.  I first met Pattie as we were both running for office.  I was seeking a seat on the Harrisonburg City Council while he sought the Republican nod for the Virginia Senate in the 24th district.  Over about the next year and a half we had several conversations.  Although I did my best to remain objective about the race on this site, I discovered that sometimes he would tell me one thing and then later do or say something totally contradictory.  Here are two examples:  On June 30th, 2014, I attended Marshall Pattie’s official campaign kickoff in Waynesboro.  After the event, he came up to me and told me that he wanted to help my campaign for council but was worried that the Republican leadership would be upset if he did, especially as he was a recent convert to the party.  I explained that I appreciated his support but understood his situation and didn’t ask him for any public help.  However, the next time I saw one of his posts on Facebook, it was a photo of him wearing stickers of my opponents and going door-to-door on their behalf.  Shortly after the November 2014 election, I was told that he spoke at the local Young Republican meeting and declared that Harrisonburg would have elected two Republicans to council if only I had not been in the race.  I asked him if he actually said these words and he confessed that he did, but promised that he would not say it again because he did not believe it to be true.  I didn’t really communicate with him further as I felt these two events had amply proven him to be untrustworthy.  I am not alone in this sentiment, as I know other activists (Republicans and Democrats) who have had similar experiences with him and have drawn the same conclusions.  If you closely examine the figure in the middle of the photo from the 2015 July 4th parade in Staunton, you will see it is Marshall Pattie.  If looks could kill, eh?

The third, believe it or not, is the Republican Party of Virginia.  About once a month or so I would comment on something they posted either offering a factual correction (if they posted something in error) or urging them to actually adhere to the principles found in their creed.  I was also very troubled when the Virginia Republican Party recently took what I thought was an extraordinary step, kicking Delegate Mark Berg (now I-Winchester) out of the party.  I still believe that action was unjust.  However, on the evening of December 12, 2015 I discovered that the party had blocked me from commenting on anything else.

Delegate Mark Berg, local activist Laura Logie, and Delegate Ben Cline
Delegate Mark Berg, local activist Laura Logie, and Delegate Ben Cline

I’ve gotten into disagreements with just about every elected official from time to time.  Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and I have had differing opinions on what constitutes an isolationist.  I supplied a local paper with a photo from the announcement of Delegate Ben Cline’s (R-Rockbridge) Democratic opponent.  I believe Delegate Cline is one of the best delegates and I was not trying to hurt his reelection chances.  Instead, I did it because I felt the paper had fallen down on its responsibility to provide important news to their readers concerning their political choices.  I successfully lobbied the General Assembly to defeat Delegate Steve Landes’ (R-Augusta) party registration bill.  However, in none of those cases did either the elected official or I rush to block the other over these issues as they were, in my opinion, all political fair game.

In full disclosure, I have blocked four people on Facebook.  Three were Republicans staffers and one was a Libertarian (or perhaps better labeled as a former Libertarian).  In each case these people attempted to threaten me into silence.  Whether you agree or disagree with a position or an individual, the use of coercion, be it either through physical or emotional threats, is completely unacceptable.  There is a certain line I will not allow anyone to cross and therefore terminated all further interactions with these individuals.

Censorship+most+often+also+means+you+fear+the+truth+_3d2d1a4bbf6fcae55cdde627c46ab85bAfter I discovered the RPV block I was reminded of a moment at the end of the first season of Game of Thrones.  In the episode a bard had performed a song that King Joffery found offensive.  Acting as Joffery often did, the king presented the bard with a choice, for his insolence he would either lose his fingers or his tongue.  In response, Tyrion Lannister offered this thought on censorship:  “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar; you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

Yes, we all have differing opinions and sometimes these differences can strain or even destroy relationships.  I have not kept track of how many Facebook friends I have both gained and lost due to political conversations.  And, although unfortunate, that is fine.  However, the act of blocking a person, not because they are intentionally nasty, but due to disagreements does make one wonder if a person or group is simply afraid what would happen if other people knew this information and adopted these viewpoints.

Anyway, I want to thank the vast majority of elected officials and political parties who have not blocked me or anyone else simply as a result of posting something they didn’t like.  In the long journey ahead there will be times when we agree and times when we disagree.  However, I hope we can always remain civil and never sever the lines of communication without reasonable cause.

The Staunton 4th in Photos

IMG_2984Yesterday, the residents of Staunton, Virginia held their annual 4th of July parade in Gypsy Hill Park.

As is typically the case, politicians, candidates, and political parties representing Staunton and Augusta County marched to show their support.  And, like last year, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) was separate from the rest of the Republicans.  In addition, Angela Lynn, the Democratic challenger in the 25th House of Delegates, was similarly apart from her party.  The other Republican elected officials pounding the pavement included: Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), Delegate Steve Landes (R-Augusta), and Supervisor Marshall Pattie (R-Augusta).  Ellen Arthur, who seeks to replace Delegate Cline, walked with the Democrats.  The Libertarians were there for Will Hammer who is running against Delegate Bell.  In addition, the one Republican and three Independent candidates for Augusta County Sheriff also each had a float in the parade.  And, lest we forget, the Augusta County Alliance had an entry opposing the proposed Dominion Power pipeline.

 

AFP Powers Up Harrisonburg

puvaOn Saturday, June 13th, Americans for Prosperity will be coming to Harrisonburg, VA as part of their statewide tour to fight back against the unconstitutional expansion of the EPA.  As they say, “Americans for Prosperity is standing strong against big government overreach. We’re ready to push back against the EPA’s negative impact to Virginia’s economy, energy resources, and property rights.”

This event will take place in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn right off interstate exit 247 on I-81, 1400 East Market Street from 4 PM to 6 PM.

Featured speakers include:  Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge County, Senator Obenshain of Rockingham County, and farming rights advocate Martha Boneta of Fauquier County.

The event is free and you can sign up at the following link.

If you have any questions or for additional info, please contact AFP regional director Flint Engleman at (540) 226-4591 or at flint@AFPVirginia.com

Lobby Day 2015

IMG_2729Today, in an annual tradition, citizens from across Virginia converged at the state capitol in Richmond for Lobby Day.  The morning and afternoon consisted of rallies, protests, sitting in on sessions of the state government, and meeting with elected officials.

The day started relatively early as I traveled from the Shenandoah Valley with two local Republicans, Kaylene and Laura.  My first stop was to the General Assembly Building.  As I walked through the grounds, the Virginia Citizens Defense League was preparing for an event at the bell tower, passing out their traditional orange stickers proclaiming that “guns save lives.”  Many in the gathering crowd also wore stickers in support of Susan Stimpson, as she is seeking to unseat Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell.

After making my way through security, I came across several local faces, such as Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) as well as Dan Moxley and his daughter, Hannah.  Mr. Moxley is challenging Senator Emmett Hanger for the Republican nomination in the 24th district.

One of my first stops was to see Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).  He has proposed a bill that lowers the threshold for a political party to achieve official status in Virginia from 10% of a statewide vote to 4%.  As I believe doing so would allow for greater choices in elections, I wanted to learn more.  While there, I discovered that he has sponsored another bill that would change redistricting so that legislators would no longer be able to choose their voters.  It is a bill which requires further study.

Although many of the delegates and senators were not in their offices, I did set up an appointment to speak with Delegate Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson).  I very much enjoyed my conversation with his aide, Ashley.  In addition, I ran across Virginia Libertarian Party Chairman Bill Redpath and later Virginia Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Robert Kenyon.

IMG_2730When I approached the capitol entrance, a group marched outside protesting student loans.

Inside, both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates were in brief sessions.  I found it curious that one had to go through security a second time in order to watch the Senate; it seemed completely unnecessary.

After briefly speaking with a number of legislators including: Senator Obenshain (R-Rockingham), Senator Vogel (R-Fauquier), and Senator Hanger (R-Augusta), I made my way back to the General Assembly Building.  Outside stood a group advocating greater food and farming freedom.  There I ran across additional legislators including: Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), and a second brief encounter with Delegate Berg.

Although I was tempted to visit the office of recently re-elected and convicted Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico), I decided against it.  I would have also liked to speak to Delegate Pogge (R-York).  Even though I saw her outside, I could not find her in the building, instead meeting with her legislative assistant.  I also said hello to Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) and his aide, Savanna.

Next, I spoke with Delegate Helsel.  I sought him out as I was interested to learn his opinions of the proposed changes in the party plan of the Republican Party of Virginia.  Now serving as a Republican delegate, in 2009 Helsel ran as an independent against the Republican nominee.  If the proposed changed had been in place at that time, Delegate Helsel would have been ineligible to run as a Republican in 2011 or participate in any of their party politics until the year 2017.  We also discussed the surprisingly differing responses from Republicans regarding former Delegate Phil Hamilton and freshly sentenced former Governor Bob McDonnell.

Afterward, I visited my state senator’s office to try and understand why he would push for party registration as well as to voice my objections and concerns about doing so.   I firmly believe that registration would lead to disenfranchisement and would further erode political freedom in Virginia.  I’m told that I should have a response from his office within a day.

Lastly, I met up with Robert Sarvis and a handful of fellow Libertarians who also came to Richmond for Lobby Day.  Apparently they spoke in a Senate committee in favor of a bill that would decrease signature requirements for ballot access, but I’m told the bill was killed 2-4 along party lines as all of the Republicans in the committee voted against it.

I must say that as I walked through the halls of the capitol today, I felt a return of excitement and enthusiasm that I first experienced during my early days of political involvement.

All in all, Lobby Day 2015 was another fun event here in Virginia and I was glad to be a part of it.