The Power of a Name

Chris Jones, D.D. Dawson, and Joshua Huffman in studio
A Democratic, Republican, and independent candidate walk into a radio studio…

While reading online last night, I was reminded of an encounter from mid 2012.  To set the scene, it was a Republican gathering in Harrisonburg shortly after a primary where Representative Bob Goodlatte fended off a challenge for the Republican nomination for the 6th district seat from Karen Kwiatkowski.  As many of you may know, I was a volunteer for her campaign.  Although I had been an ardent supporter of Representative Goodlatte from 1995 to 2010, I no longer believed that he represented my values in Washington while Kwiatkowski articulated a much better message.  Anyway, at this meeting Bob Goodlatte saw me, came over, and stated that he hoped that I would now support him as much as I supported his opponent.  It may sound strange at first reading, but I found his statement quite offensive.

You see, leading up to the primary, Bob Goodlatte seemed to do his best to try and ignore Karen’s challenge.  He steadfastly refused to debate her and, to the best of my knowledge, he never mentioned her by name.  On the scant times he referenced her, she was always identified as “my opponent.”  Then, even after the election was over, she still wasn’t worthy of being called by her name.

Using the term “my opponent” isn’t something novel for Goodlatte or his campaign.  For example, in 2006 I was an employee of the Republican Party of Virginia.  I’m sure many of you will remember the “macaca moment” when then Republican Senator George Allen called one of Jim Webb’s staffers “macaca”, apparently a racial slur which likely cost Allen the election.  However, I’d like you to listen to the recording of this incident once more.

Notice what Senator Allen says.  Not once does he mention Jim Webb by name, instead calling him “my opponent” or rather curiously “your opponent” in reference to the Webb staffer, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Also, Allen doesn’t call S.R. Sidarth (the Webb staffer) by his name and instead makes up a name for him.  Even if the word macaca wasn’t a Portuguese word for a monkey, in this video Allen seems to suggest that Sidarth’s name isn’t important.  Apparently some Allen staffers called Sidarth “mohawk” based upon his hairstyle at the time.  But really, is using that term all that much better?  Rather than taking the time to learn who this fellow is who has been following him around to various campaign stops, by inventing a name for him Allen and his crew seem to suggest that Sidarth is simply a nameless replaceable staffer for the Webb campaign who doesn’t have much value.

With either of these two examples I’m not claiming that it is only Republicans who refuse to reference their opponents by name.  I’m sure politicians of all stripes do likewise.  However, as a former Republican staffer and political activist, these are two examples I personally remember.

This subject reminds me of a scene from the movie Fight Club.  If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend doing so.  Anyway, at one point the characters create a plan called Project Mayhem.  When a person is part of Project Mayhem, he is stripped of his name and becomes an undistinguished and replaceable cog in the plan.  But, when Robert Paulsen is killed and it is suggested that they secretly bury his body in the garden, Edward Norton’s character objects to calling his fallen friend a nameless and disposable object.  Here’s the scene.  (Please pardon the language and violence from the movie).

As you might imagine, I find this tactic of refusing to call one’s political adversaries by name very demeaning.  After all, a person is more than a mere political opponent, an obstacle to be overcome, or an annoyance to be brushed aside.  Be it for better or worse he or she is much more than a candidate for an election or even a series of elections.  He or she has a unique personality, has a collection of experiences, an abundance of hopes, dreams, and fears.  He or she is someone’s mother…or brother…or niece…or son.  He or she is someone’s friend, possible lover, potential mentor, or perhaps an eager pupil.

I am of the thought that everyone has at least enough human dignity to be worthy of being called by his or her name, not degraded as an “opponent” or slurred based upon their appearance.  I’d like to think that our elected officials should be at the forefront of embracing this philosophy, instead of deriding those who dare challenge their misguided perception of a divine right to rule.  In an open and fair political system especially, everyone should at least have the power of his or her name, his or her right to run for office, and the ability to express his or her opinions.

Kai Degner in Staunton

Scan 6Earlier today, the Kai Degner campaign held a gathering in downtown Staunton, Virginia.  Mr. Degner, a member of the Harrisonburg City Council, began his campaign about two weeks ago after the unexpected departure of Tom Howarth, the previous Democratic Party nominee.  The event, held in a local coffee shop, attracted about fifteen or so individuals, most of whom came from either Staunton, Waynesboro, or Augusta County.  The meeting also included one full-time staffer for the Degner campaign and a regional employee of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

During the meeting, Degner outlined his three major policy goals: criminal justice reform, sustainable energy policy and climate change, and various election improvements including campaign finance reform and tackling gerrymandering.  In an unusual twist, he asked of the attendees to introduce themselves as well and explain what motivated each to take an interest in this race.

IMG_3170One goal of the Degner campaign is not simply to activate the traditional Democratic base, but also reach out to conservatives and libertarians who have either voted for his opponent in the past, or have not been involved.  As he pointed out, the 6th is a very Republican district.  For example, in recent elections, when Democrat Sam Rasoul ran in 2008, he captured 37% of the vote and Andy Schmookler won 35% in 2012.  With this thought in mind, Degner hopes to draw additional interest in what has been to this point a fairly noncompetitive, safe Republican seat.  He will face Republican Bob Goodlatte, the 23-year incumbent in the fall election.

The campaign had another another event later in the day in Harrisonburg.

You can learn more about Kai Degner and his campaign at KaiForCongress.com.

Considering The Lives of Others

Image from The Lives of Others from theguardian.com

On Sunday evening, I joined several friends in watching the German film, The Lives of Others or, as it is called in German, Das Leben der Anderen.  The movie portrays life in East Germany, with a heavy focus on the activities of the Stasi, the secret police of East Germany. It is a bleak existence where anyone and everyone can be placed under surveillance without warrant or probable cause and unquestioned loyalty to the state and her leaders is demanded of all.

The Lives of Others serves as an important reminder of what happens when a people surrender their civil liberties in the name of security.  It isn’t hard to see the United States drifting in this direction with the creation of the TSA, warrantless wiretaps, unlimited detentions of terrorist suspects without trial, and related activities.  However, what I found particularly impactful was a personal connection.

In the film we meet a character named Albert Jerska.  Although a theatrical director, he fell out of favor with the party leaders for expressing anti-government opinions and thus was blacklisted, unable to continue to work in his field.  Looking back, for me my blacklisting likely began with my support of Karen Kwiatkowski in the 2012 Republican primary over Representative Bob Goodlatte.  Although Goodlatte hasn’t been a particularly principled legislator during his several decades in office, there is no doubt that he has amassed considerable power and influence, especially in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Unfortunately, over the years I’ve had several nasty run-ins with some of Goodlatte’s staffers.  One memorable example was in March of 2012.  Another took place in the fall of 2014 when I was harassed by one of his local goons who he later promoted to his Washington D.C. office.

I was surprised when I was expelled from the Harrisonburg GOP in early 2014.  However, what was even more surprising was that when I asked the local chairman why I was kicked out, he told me it was done at the request of Bob Goodlatte’s staff.  This revelation spawns several questions.  Why would Bob Goodlatte take such an interest in the affairs of a local unit and an activist such as myself?  Why would a local chairman kick out a member based upon the request or demand of a legislator?  Based upon this event, has Bob Goodlatte and his staff been working behind the scenes to blacklist me from future political employment as one local GOP leader seemed to hint?  And, does it concern anyone else that a member of Congress seems to wield enormous power over the lives of others in a fashion disturbingly reminiscent of a Stasi official?

In The Lives of Others, when Stasi Captain Wiesler discovers that a writer in East Germany is questioning the actions of the government, he is faced with a difficult choice.  Does he turn the writer in for subversive activities?  Or does he keep it secret because he realizes that both the Stasi and the government are corrupt and trample upon the liberty of the people, even though he knows revealing this truth puts his career, liberty, and even his very life at risk?

Bob Goodlatte speak at the Rockingham County Republican mass meeting
Bob Goodlatte speaking at the Rockingham County Republican mass meeting

Earlier this year Bob Goodlatte’s people attempted to install city and county party chairmen up and down the 6th district whose primary loyalty would be, not necessarily to Republican ideology, but to Goodlatte.  Surprisingly, they were largely unsuccessful.  Am I wrong in thinking that in a free society one should be judged according to his or her merits and not simply rewarded or punished based upon loyalty to party bosses?  Step by step I worry we are becoming more like the now defunct East German government, complete with their network of informants and secret police.

I wish that more people would stand up for principle rather than unquestioningly siding with a party or a political official, especially when they know that that person or group is engaging in morally questionable or hypocritical behavior.  Unfortunately, doing so is the riskier path that many avoid which is one big reason why the power of the government expands and political leaders grow more and more unresponsive and dictatorial.  The Lives of Others is a stark portrayal of what happens when the government and its officials stop viewing themselves as servants of the people and instead treat the public as their vassals.  If we wish to remain a free people, we must resist this kind of thinking at every turn and not be afraid to speak out boldly whenever we hear of it.

Time to Retire Bob Goodlatte

kwiatkowskismall
Karen Kwiatkwoski

By Karen Kwiatkowski

What if you lived in a part of Virginia dominated by poultry, hay and cow-calf agriculture, and yet your Congressman of nearly a quarter of a century was a city lawyer from Massachusetts, who thought ethanol subsidies were a good idea, spending your tax dollars to raise your feed costs year after year?

What if your Congressional district was home to well over a dozen institutes of higher learning, in a technological age, and your Congressman responded not to their needs, but to West Coast lobbyists to preserve decades old digital copyrights law, filling his campaign chest by stifling innovation ?

What if you, like many of your neighbors, supported first amendment rights for the various groups known as “Tea Parties” and yet your 12-term Congressman who had headed the House Judiciary Committee for nearly four years agreed to consider impeachment hearings for IRS appointees for targeting tea party groups ONLY after the House Freedom Caucus forced him to last week?

What if your Congressman was never a member of the House Freedom Caucus?

What if your long-serving Congressman is close friends and political allies with removed House Speaker John Boehner and successfully primaried whip Eric Cantor?

What if your Congressman was currently offering a “free” bus for Republican delegates from the 6th District to their district Republican convention on May 21st to choose national delegates and key Republican committee seats – but only if they vote for who you tell them to vote for?

What if your Congressman didn’t understand how modern technology works in the cable business, as stated by Techdirt magazine in early May 2016, yet persisted in pushing the wrong kind of regulations for it?

What if your “republican” Congressman voted to fund Obamacare again and again, while simultaneously telling constituents that he opposed it, again and again?

What if your Congressman had advocated for federal government domestic surveillance, beyond Constitutional statutes, and blindly supported the USA Patriot Act and its extension called the USA “Freedom” Act despite constitutional questions on the legality and ethics of this surveillance and data gathering on US citizens?

This list could go on and on, and it will continue to grow, as long as we continue to send Bob Goodlatte back every two years to vote for more government spending, and more government interference in our lives, year after year.

We have a choice on June 14th to send a different kind of Republican to represent us in the House.  Harry Griego, a military veteran, professional pilot, dedicated to the Constitution and limited government, is a change that is long past due for the 6th District.

Let’s retire Bob gracefully, and leave him to his world of expensive suits and “it’s the best we can hope for” explanations to his constituents.

Let’s send a conservative warrior, who believes in limited government, and who will be a part of limiting that government through strict Constitutional votes, and partnering with likeminded Congressmen and women, who truly care about reducing federal debt and overreach.

Vote with me for Harry Griego on June 14th!

 

Karen Kwiatkowski is a farmer, professor, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, member of the executive committee of the Republican Party of Shenandoah County, and immediate past president of the Republican Women of Shenandoah County.  In 2012, she challenged Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for the 6th district of Virginia.

The Dangerous Republican Game

For many of us who support the idea of a constitutionally limited government, the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a great loss.  Now, that’s not to say he was perfect by any stretch, after all, none of us are and I disagreed with a few of his rulings, but generally his opinions were quite good.  Now that he is no longer with us, the president has the duty to appoint a replacement.

1923690_886161108167069_6937576282551871910_nHowever, some congressional Republicans have announced that they will not consider any appointment by President Barack Obama.  For example, here is a quote shared by one staffer for my representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6).  “The voice of the American people should be heard over the opinion of a progressive, lame-duck President.  I continue to oppose the confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice under President Obama.”

Now, I’ll be one of the first to admit that I’ve disagreed with a lot of the opinions of President Obama’s previous two picks, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.  In all cases the Supreme Court ought to determine the constitutionality of a law based upon what the Constitution actually says rather than what the Supreme Court would prefer the Constitution to say.  The Supreme Court is not and should not be in the business of making new laws for the nation.  That was never the intent of the body and no justice should be allowed to do so, regardless of ideology.

Yes, chances are good that President Obama will nominate another candidate who will legislate from the bench and thus ought not be confirmed by the Senate.  Nevertheless, when Republican leaders, like Bob Goodlatte, make blanket statements opposing any and all nominees that this president will offer, irrespective of who they are and what they stand for, it conveys a dangerous message of blind partisanship.  Yes, President Obama is a “lame-duck president”, but so too were George W. Bush from 2004-2009, Bill Clinton from 1996-2001, and Ronald Reagan from 1984-1989.  Does being a lame-duck mean that a president no longer has constitutional duties?  Weren’t each elected to hold the powers and office of the president by “the voice of the American people”?  Didn’t each win a majority of the votes in the Electoral College as prescribed by our Constitution?  Are these powers surrendered once a president can no longer seek re-election?  If so, please point to the article and section in the Constitution where it says as much.

If Mitt Romney had won the presidency in 2012 or if John McCain had been re-elected that year would the congressional Republicans adamantly refuse to consider a Supreme Court nominee of either of these two men?  Or would they happily consider these nominees simply because they happen to be of the same political party?

Now that’s not to say that some Democrats wouldn’t do the exact same thing if they found themselves in this position.  In all honesty, if the roles were reversed and the Democrats controlled Congress and a Republican were in the White House, they would likely use the exact same language and tactics to thwart this hypothetical nominee too.  Although we all know it won’t happen, what would Representative Goodlatte say if President Obama nominated Goodlatte as a Supreme Court justice?  If he chose any path other than demanding an outright rejection from the Senate, he would prove himself to be nothing more than a hypocrite.

Unfortunately, this increasingly blind partisanship is destroying our nation.  Unlike some people, I don’t want to see President Obama or the Congress succeed or fail simply as a ploy to aid or hinder one political party’s election chances.  Looking at it objectively, it doesn’t matter which party controls a specific branch of the government.  What does matter is will they follow the rule of law and the Constitution or not?  Will they work to expand our debt or shrink it?  Do they advocate liberty or statism?  Will they return the power of the bloated federal government to the states, localities, and people or will they continue to concentrate influence inside the beltway?

Let President Obama make his Supreme Court pick and then the Senate should do its job in judging that candidate based upon his or her ideas, merits, and fidelity to the Constitution.  Any politician who has even the slightest desire of following the Constitution should reject the idea of a blanket refusal or acceptance swayed solely by one’s feelings about our president and his political party.  To do otherwise is a dangerous game and an abandonment of the duties of his or her office.

Griego & The Libertarians

Photo from Harry Griego's Facebook page
Photo from Harry Griego’s Facebook page

On Tuesday, March 15th, the Rocktown Libertarians will be holding their monthly meeting at O’Charley’s in Harrisonburg.  The social gathering begins at 6 PM, but often attendees don’t arrive until about 6:30 or 7.  This month, Harry Griego will be a guest at the gathering.  Mr. Griego is challenging Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s 6th district.

Looking back on my time growing up in the Shenandoah Valley, I realize that it is a very toxic place politically.  Activists, politicians, and party leaders often reinforce the idea that those in a differing political party are the enemy and should always be treated as such.  Much like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, each side has developed a hatred of the other and loyalty to their family or party which often supersedes reason, logic, principles, and even understanding.

As I wrote last year, I was encouraged when in 2011 the local Democratic party offered, and Republican sheriff candidate Bryan Hutcheson accepted, a speaking slot at their meeting.  Unfortunately, the local Republican party bosses leaned on Hutcheson and he ended up declining the invitation.

When I ran for city council in 2014, I greatly appreciated the chance to speak to the JMU College Republicans alongside the Republican nominees.  Unlike the other candidates, I didn’t focus too much on myself, but rather talked about the principles for which the Republican party supposedly stood.  However, I was told that the local Republican Party leaders castigated the JMU CRs for allowing me the speaking slot and was later informed that I was no longer welcome even to attend their weekly public gatherings.

Photo from the September 2015 meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians
Photo from the September 2015 meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians

In 2013, when Senator Mark Obenshain ran for Attorney General of Virginia, I strongly and repeatedly encouraged his campaign to reach out to the Libertarians as there was no Libertarian candidate running for that office.  However, they refused declaring that it would look bad for party unity for him to do so.  I still wonder that if he did, would Obenshain have picked up 166 additional votes and thus would have been elected attorney general?  In addition, if he were to make such a gesture, that would mean Senator Obenshain would be recognizing the right for the Libertarian Party to exist and to run candidates.  In early 2015, I asked him about the matter and was both shocked and dismayed when my state senator informed me that he opposed the idea of any candidate, except for Republicans and Democrats, being listed on the ballot.  Shortly thereafter, in mid 2015, April Moore, Senator Obenshain’s Democratic opponent, reached out to the Rocktown Libertarians and ended up speaking to them.

In late 2015, Nick Freitas, now the Republican Delegate for Virginia’s 30th district, was the featured speaker at JMU’s Madison Liberty group.

11206029_10152900151181915_7531848474274651375_nAs you might imagine, I am very encouraged that Harry Griego will be speaking to the Rocktown Libertarians tomorrow night.  Not only does it give Mr. Griego the chance to speak to some likely receptive voters, it sends a message to the Shenandoah Valley that the Libertarians have the same rights and privileges as both the Republican and Democratic Parties.  In addition, I’ve been informed that some regional liberty-minded Republican leaders will be attending the event too.  Despite what some may think, this isn’t an attempt to convert Libertarians to the Republican Party or Republicans to join the Libertarians (although given the decline of the GOP that might end up happening), but rather to spread dialogue, understanding, and discover issues of mutual importance.  I suppose it is likely that some establishment Republicans will declare Mr. Griego’s visit as disloyalty to the Republican Party, but you should bear in mind that any elected official or candidate should be beholden to and reach out to all of his or her constituents, not simply the party bosses and big donors who keep him or her in power.  We cannot reclaim our country so long as legislators are allowed to ignore large groups of voters and run on mere party labels and nothing of any substance.  Is there any wonder why a supposed outsider like Donald Trump leads the Republican field for president?

Here’s the link to the Facebook event if you’d like to learn more about what is going on tomorrow night.  Hope to see you there!

A First Friday Fracas

Photo from Cynthia Dunbar's Facebook page
Photo from Cynthia Dunbar’s Facebook page

On Friday, the local Republicans held their monthly First Friday gathering at the Woodgrill Buffet in Harrisonburg.  The featured speakers were Ralph Smith, who is running for 6th district Republican Chairman, and Cynthia Dunbar, who is seeking to be the next Virginia Republican committeewoman.

Although not quite every seat was filled, the room was almost full.  After both Smith and Dunbar spoke, they took questions from the audience.  As a few examples, Laura Logie asked Mr. Smith about party primaries and the fact that although Senator Emmett Hanger isn’t popular with valley Republicans and often votes against the wishes of his constituents, he continues to get re-elected due to fact that the senator, and not the party, gets to select the party nomination process.  Mr. Smith seemed to indicate that he preferred the current system of open primaries as opposed to conventions.

I pointed out that although the Republican Party demands loyalty from its members, it doesn’t hold its candidates and politicians to the Republican Creed and asked Ms. Dunbar what she would do about this issue.  She agreed that the party leaders needed to create some system to keep rogue or unprincipled politicians in check.

Then, Cole Trower, an employee of Representative Bob Goodlatte, got up.  He started off by declaring that Cynthia Dunbar was wholly unqualified to serve as national committeewoman and furthermore that she had no understanding of the position for which she was running.  It wasn’t so much a question, but rather a hostile accusation.  Another fellow at Mr. Trower’s table added that Dunbar was “a smooth talker”.  Dunbar offered a rebuttal to this accusation, but Cole continued which led the organizer, Donna Moser, to ask Cole to stop.  He refused.  Then, Scott Sayre, another candidate for 6th district chair, said that Cole was a plant of the Obenshain campaign, Dunbar’s opponent.  Nevertheless Cole was not deterred.  At this point, Ms. Moser asked Bryan Hutcheson, the Sheriff of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County who was in attendance to remove Cole Trower.  The sheriff thought such an action wasn’t called for, and fortunately Cole finally sat down, ending the matter.  However, a local JMU student spoke next saying that Ms. Dunbar was new to Virginia and questioned how much she had helped out the Virginia Republican Party, one of the main talking points of the Obenshain campaign.

After that, things got less heated as several of the candidates who are running for spots as delegates to the national convention spoke along with individuals seeking positions on the Republican State Central Committee.

Then, at the very end of the meeting, a fellow asked if he could say something, which was granted.  He declared that although he had supported Bob Goodlatte for many years, he could no longer do so because he considered Bob Goodlatte to be a liar.  He pointed out that although Goodlatte pledged to only serve three terms in the House of Representatives when he first ran, he is now in his eleventh term and is presently seeking his twelveth.

As I left the meeting I realized I hadn’t seen anyone treat a guest speaker with such disrespect as Cole Trower had to Cynthia Dunbar since several years before when Cole interrupted and berated Bob Goodlatte, the man he curiously now works for.  Even though I had no hand in it, I felt it necessary to apologize to Ms. Dunbar for Cole’s behavior.  Unfortunately, Mr. Trower has been acting more and more thuggish as of late, bullying people as he did me at the Rockingham County GOP mass meeting on February 17th.

Booking Photo of Cole Trower from the Republitarian.com website
Booking Photo of Cole Trower from the Republitarian.com website

When I got home, I pulled up VPAP and found that in late 2015 Cole Trower had been paid over ten thousand dollars by the Obenshains, hardly making him either an objective or an impartial observer in the Suzanne Obenshain vs. Cynthia Dunbar contest.  Later that day, Dave Briggman, who sat across the table from me at First Friday, wrote a piece on his website, The Republitarian, about Cole Trower.  It detailed Cole’s arrest in 2014 for destruction of private property, assault and battery of a young woman, and other charges.

This matter brings up a lot of important questions.  Did Mark Obenshain and Bob Goodlatte know of Cole’s conviction before hiring him?  Once they found out about it, why would they keep him on their staff?  Why didn’t the media report it either when the event transpired in 2014 or when he was found guilty in 2015?  Did Cole’s powerful political connections help keep his arrest out of the public spotlight before it was revealed on Friday by Mr. Briggman?  With this knowledge, why would any politician who considers himself to be a defender of the family and the individual bring Cole Trower on his staff?  Now that these events are in the public spotlight, will he continue to serve as Bob Goodlatte’s northern field director on his re-election campaign?

It is unfortunate that Cole Trower treated both Cynthia Dunbar and Donna Moser, the leader of the group, with such contempt at the Republican First Friday gathering.  Disagreement is natural in politics, but not such incivility.  Let us hope that that kind of disrespect will not happen again.

Reflections From the Rockingham GOP Mass Meeting

Donna Moser
Donna Moser

Last night, the Rockingham County Republican Party held their mass meeting to elect a chairman for their committee as well as to elect delegates to the party’s 2016 6th district and state conventions.  It was a packed gathering with well over a hundred attendees.  Besides the county residents, attendees also included:  Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), Harry Griego (his Republican challenger), Scott Sayre (6th district chair candidate), Ralph Smith (6th district chair candidate), Wendall Walker (current 6th district chair), a variety of individuals seeking to be delegates and alternate delegates to the national convention, the chair of the Staunton Republican Party, the chair of the Waynesboro Republican Party, the chair of the Greene County Republican Party, and likely more individuals I did not recognize.

SOAs mentioned, the main focus of the evening was the race for chair.  Donna Moser, the incumbent, was seeking re-election while Dan Cullers, the secretary, was also running.  I’ve known both of the candidates for many years as I met Donna through the local tea party and Dan through the 2012 Karen Kwiatkowski campaign.  Both had their list of supporters though Donna had the endorsement of both Senator Mark Obenshain and Suzanne Obenshain.  Curiously though, neither of the Obenshains attended the Rockingham mass meeting.  Given that they live in the Rockingham County and that Suzanne Obenshain is running for National Republican Committeewoman, it seemed quite peculiar that they were not there.  Although I assume that it was possible that the senator was tied up with business in the Virginia Senate, around that time Suzanne tweeted a photo of her speaking to a Republican gathering in Arlington.

Bob Goodlatte
Bob Goodlatte

Gazing around the room, a lot of the people wore stickers in support of Dan Cullers.  However, many of them had on lapel white stickers for Suzanne Obenshain and blue ones for Bob Goodlatte too.  As people entered the building Cole, one of the Goodlatte staffers and former staffer for the Obenshains, glad-handed people and declared that Dan Cullers was “their guy”.

In retrospect, there were far too many guest speakers for the event as they ended up extending the meeting time significantly.

When Donna Moser got up to give her speech for chair, either she or someone in the audience mentioned that the original plan was that Suzanne Obenshain would introduce her and give a few words of support on her behalf.  That news was terribly depressing.  If the Obenshains actually supported Donna, wouldn’t at least one of them have been there when they were most needed instead of in Arlington or Richmond?  Furthermore, wouldn’t the majority of the multitude of people wearing Obenshain stickers support Donna Moser, their supposed candidate, too?

When people finally started voting they were not allowed to vote in secret, which seemed just plain wrong.  However, after an angry complaint, declaring it “soviet style voting”, subsequent voters were allowed at least some small measure of privacy in casting their ballot.  During this time, I appreciated the opportunity to speak with Harry Griego.  From our first conversation, he seemed like a pretty solid guy.

While we waited for the votes to be counted, I got a drink of water.  On the way back to my seat, I walked past the room where they were counting the ballots.  I didn’t enter the room nor did I attempt to interrupt the proceedings in any way.  I just stood and watched for a few moments.  However, Cole, Goodlatte’s staffer saw me and insisted I leave.  Afterward, I spoke to one of the Republican leaders who said that Cole had no right to do what he did, but I have found that bullying and intimidation is a prized trait among Goodlatte staffers.

Newly elected chair, Dan Cullers flanked by members of the county party
Newly elected chair, Dan Cullers flanked by a few members of the county party

Although the vote totals were not revealed publicly, Dan Cullers was declared the winner.

I spoke to both Donna and Dan and wished them both well.  Once the attendees dispersed, Dan worked to put away tables and chairs.  I have to tell you that there is something refreshing about seeing the leader of a group staying behind to clean up and not simply leaving this undesirable work to subordinates.  Dan did this sort of thing before he was elected chair and so far his new power had not changed him.  I gladly volunteered to help and the two of us straightened up.

After the event was over, I spoke to another political activist about what I saw and thought about the evening.  This activist told me that if the Obenshains had actually been supporting Donna, she would have won.  I was still depressed, not by the outcome, but by the process.

Although there certainly were good folks in the crowd, that night I saw too many people who only cared about advancing themselves and their allies and don’t care at all about trivial things like principles and honor.  I left with the sense that others have been trying to use both Donna and Dan as pieces on some grand political chess board; I was reminded of the work, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society.

Goodlatte Faces Opposition

Representative Bob Goodlatte
Representative Bob Goodlatte

Since Karen Kwiatkowski was the first person to challenge Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s sixth district back in the 2012 elections, conservatives and libertarians in the Shenandoah Valley have wondered when or if Mr. Goodlatte would face another interparty contest.  In 2014, Paul Bevington attempted to seek the nod but fell short of the signature requirement to make the ballot.

IMG_7603Well, today Harry Griego of Roanoke issued a press release announcing his candidacy.  Mr. Griego recently ran for office in 2015, opposing Delegate Chris Head for the Republican nomination in the 17th district and garnered over 47% of the vote.

According to the press release, Harry Griego states, “over and over again voters told me they were unhappy with the lack of leadership and the failure of Republican officials to vote and fight for the Republican principles they campaign on.” As a hint of his possible campaign issues, he mentions, “an end to the expansion of the budget and the crippling national debt.  They want the border secured.”

Will 2016 mark the end of the Goodlatte era of Shenandoah Valley politics that began after the 1992 elections?  Or will Bob Goodlatte fend off this challenge?  Hopefully, this primary will make for some interesting times in the 6th district.