Lessons Learned at the LPVA Convention

IMG_3166
Joshua Huffman & Gary Johnson at the LPVA Convention

On March 5th, 2016, the Libertarian Party of Virginia held their state convention in Sandston.  During the gathering, they presented a panel called “Lessons Learned” consisting of former candidates who spoke about their experiences running for office.  Seated from left to right, the panel consisted of: Andy Bakker (who ran for House of Delegates in the 46th district), Joshua Huffman (who ran for Harrisonburg City Council), Brian Suojanen (who ran for House of Delegates in the 87th district), and Mark Anderson (who ran for House of Delegates in the 33rd district).  LPVA Vice Chairman, Dr. Jim Lark, introduced the panel and LPVA Chairman Bill Redpath served as the moderator.

Although it has taken some time, I have acquired the video of that panel, which you can find below.  Hopefully, it will provide useful insight to those who are considering running for office or those who are interested in learning more about our political process.

I’d like to thank the Libertarian Party of Virginia once again for giving me the opportunity to join their panelists earlier this year.

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.

The 2014 Libertarian Convention

On Saturday, February 8th, the Libertarian Party of Virginia held their annual convention just east of Richmond, Virginia at the Marriott Hotel in Sandston.  The main purposes of this gathering were to nominate a candidate for the November U.S. Senate race, elect new individuals to lead the state party, and conduct business of the state central committee.  In the back of the convention hall, the Virginia Citizens Defense League maintained a booth.

The night before, a multitude of Libertarians gathered at the hotel to socialize and greet old friends and new.

IMG_2466Attendance to this convention was a little more than eighty, about double the size of last year’s meeting.  Surprisingly, despite this up tick in attendance, there were merely three attendees from the Harrisonburg area, my corner of the state.

IMG_2470
Libertarian U.S. Senate Candidate Robert Sarvis

The only candidate to seek the Libertarian nomination for Senate was Robert Sarvis, the party’s 2013 candidate for governor.  Unlike some political groups, such as the Republican Party of Virginia, delegates could choose to vote “none of the above” thus forgoing a candidate for the election.  Speakers spoke in favor of and against Mr. Sarvis and the vote that followed was done via voice so the precise  count is unknown.  Nevertheless, Robert Sarvis easily captured a sizable majority of the crowd to become the Libertarian nominee.

Libertarian Party Chairman Chuck Moulton did not seek reelection to his position and so Bill Redpath, the 2001 Libertarian candidate for governor, was elected in his stead.  All other party leaders were reelected without opposition.  Dr. Jim Lark is the Vice Chairman of the LPVA, Marc Montoni is the Secretary, and James Curtis is the Treasurer.

Although not voted upon at the convention, several candidates announced their intent to run as Libertarians for the House of Representatives.  Ideally, the party is seeking to offer contenders in all eleven congressional districts, though presently it sits at a little less than half.

All in all, attendees to the 2014 convention seemed to enjoy themselves and the party seems to have swelled in membership, some joining shortly before the convention itself.

Was Sarvis’ record-setting 6.5% of the vote in 2013 a fluke or a sign of an emergence of an actual third party in Virginia?  How will Mr. Sarvis and the Libertarian slate fair in November?  It should be interesting to watch.