Constitution Party of Virginia Endorses Hyra & Adams

Today, July 3rd, John Bloom, the chairman of the Constitution Party of Virginia, sent out a press release regarding the 2017 elections.  In it, he “urges all conservatives to vote for the Libertarian candidate for governor, Cliff Hyra, and the conservative Republican candidate for attorney general, John Adams.”

Delving into his position for governor, the release states, “Mr. Bloom encourages those that are Pro-Life to consider supporting Mr. Hyra, not because he is Pro-Life, but because he and the Libertarian Party do NOT support State Funding of abortion, and in the age of Roe v Wade, that is the best Pro-Life supporters can get which is better than the LIP SERVICE Republicans offer.”  Furthermore, he states, “To those that support the 2nd Amendment, there is a very good reason the VCDL endorsed Corey Stewart in the Republican Primary; Ed Gillespie will NOT defend your 2nd Amendment Right.”  Later in the piece, he adds, “Though it is highly unlikely that Mr. Gillespie will get elected Governor, for Conservatives to support the former Republican Party of Virginia Chairman, would be championing the defeat of their own values.”

Explaining how voting for Mr. Hyra could be of future benefit to the Constitution Party, he states, “Anyone who believes Ed Gillespie has any chance of defeating Ralph Northam is sadly mistaken and would be wasting their vote. Voting for Mr. Hyra, if he receives 10% of the vote will gain political party status for the Libertarian Party and then there will be REAL Competition across the state, and neutralize the UNDEMOCRATIC practice of GERRYMANDERING, which is [the] only effect when there are two political parties. The Libertarian Party would be the Trailblazer that could open the door for the Constitution Party of Virginia to gain political party status in future years.”

When it comes to the race for attorney general, “Mr. Bloom also encourages ALL Conservatives and Libertarians to support and vote for the only CONSERVATIVE running on the Republican Party line, John Adams for Attorney General. Not only does he have a name that ALL PATRIOTS can remember, but was a Law Clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.”

Lastly, in the lieutenant governor contest, the Constitution Party sought to offer Charles Kraut as a candidate this year.  However, as he did not meet the 10,000 signature requirement for ballot access in Virginia, the Constitution Party Chairman “will be seeking to provide a WRITE-IN candidate for LT Governor, as LIBERAL Republican Jill Vogel, is totally UNACCEPTABLE for Conservatives. Mr. Bloom would also consider Ms. Vogel’s Primary Opponent Bryce Reeves to run as a write-in candidate for the Constitutional Party should he have the POLITICAL COURAGE to do so.”

Presently, Constitution Party is the fifth largest political party in the United States, at least in terms of party registration.  What sort of an impact will Mr. Bloom’s press release make?  And will Virginians start to see Constitution Party candidates on the ballot in the coming elections?

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.

Defeating SB 840

IMG_2729In the myriad of bills offered in the 2015 General Assembly session, Senator John Watkins (R-Midlothian) proposed a piece of legislation regarding redistricting.  As the legislative summary states, SB 840 “provides criteria for the General Assembly to observe in drawing districts, including respect for political boundaries, equal population, racial and ethnic fairness, contiguity, compactness, and communities of interest. Use of political data or election results is prohibited unless necessary to determine if racial or ethnic minorities can elect candidates of their choice.”

As it stands now, legislators in the General Assembly have the right to choose who they represent.  Sounds a bit crazy, does it?  In school we’re taught that voters choose their representatives, but, in Virginia, legislators can draw their own districts to include or exclude voters based upon past voting history, race, socioeconomic status, and a whole host of other factors.

As one such example, this year Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) crafted SB 1237 which removed the rather heavily Democratic Georgetown precinct in Albemarle County from his district and exchanged it for the Republican friendly Stone Robinson precinct.  Thinking back to Reeves’ small margin of victory in the 2011 election, one article in yesterday’s Washington Post argued that he made this move in order to bolster his re-election chances.  Given the political ramifications of SB 1237 and the fact that Republicans currently enjoy a mere one seat majority in the Virginia Senate, all Republican senators voted for the measure while all Democrats (except one who did not vote) opposed it.  If the tides were reversed, and the Democrats were in power would the Democrats have favored the bill and the Republicans have stood against it?  Is the idea of right or wrong absolute?  Or does it hinge upon who gains power by a given action?  Is gerrymandering a integral part of the “Virginia Way“?

Watkins’ SB 840 would presumably help curtail gerrymandering, which includes the practice of carving up some counties into as many pieces as possible in order to achieve political advantage, as was done to Rockingham County in the 2011 redistricting.  Perhaps surprisingly, the bill passed the Virginia Senate 38-0.  However, yesterday the legislation was killed in the House subcommittee of elections in privileges and elections, squelched by Republican Delegates Mark Cole, Buddy Fowler, Steve Landes, and Margaret Ransone.  What we need to know is why these four delegates killed this bill, which was passed unanimously by the Virginia Senate.  Are there ramifications that could weaken the ability of Virginians to be fairly represented in the General Assembly?  Or was it simply done to preserve legislators’ control of who can and cannot vote to either re-elect or replace these elected officials?

The Following Day

This morning, citizens across Virginia awake to a day much like any other.  The sun has risen, the temperature is fairly warm, and life proceeds steadily onward.  The politicos among us, still weary from the toils of yesterday, look to the results of Election Day and are instilled with either hope or dread depending on one’s perspective.  So what are the results?

The biggest topic is the Virginia Senate.  So far, the Republican Party has netted one seat with Bill Stanley’s narrow win over Roscoe Reynolds in the 20th district.  The 17th district is still too close to call with Republican Bryce Reeves currently enjoying a 136-vote lead over incumbent Edd Houck.  It seems very likely that a recount in that district is coming soon.

Although the GOP has made gains, it certainly isn’t the slam-dunk that many conservative and Republican activists had hoped.  Assuming Houck emerges victorious, the Democrats will retain control of the Senate.  If Reeves wins, then the chamber will be evenly split with Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling likely casting the deciding tie-breaking vote in many circumstances.

One question that has troubled me throughout the campaign is, assuming the Republicans gain control of the Senate (or have a 20-20 tie), who will lead the party in that chamber?  Will it be a fiscal, social, and constitutional conservative?  Or will it be someone in the mold of former Senator John Chichester?  Even though I’ve been told by several sources that we will not return to such days, unless the GOP chooses a leader based on conservative principles, and not merely on seniority, I remain concerned.

Before moving on to the other races, I believe it is important to recognize that conservatives could have made their gains greater, but they spread their resources too thinly.

Looking at the unofficial results, the GOP ran pretty close campaigns in the 1st, the 33rd, the 36th, the 37th, the 38th, and the 39th.  However, the party devoted efforts to wide range of other races and thus ended up short in so many places.  As Bearing Drift stated in the most recent issue of their magazine, the 36th and the 38th districts leaned Republican and yet both were lost.  If money and volunteers were used in a wiser fashion, would the GOP now have a 21 or 22-seat majority instead?  To use a sports analogy, why gamble so much and swing for a homerun when a simple base will win (or at least tie) the game?

Here at home, Republican Bryan Hutcheson will be the new Sheriff of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  Even though the city was close, Hutcheson captured an amazing 66% of the vote in the county.  Congratulations to Mr. Hutcheson and his campaign team for their decisive win.

Moving north, Craig Orndorff emerged the top vote getter in the four-way race for Soil and Water Conservation Director in Shenandoah County.  Best wishes to him in his new position.

With the House of Delegates firmly in Republican hands, not too much attention has been given to that chamber.  However, given my ties with a particular House of Delegates seat, the last area of interest is the 93rd district.  As I mentioned previously, this district became a little more Republican after redistricting.  Mike Watson of Williamsburg capitalized on shift by defeating freshman Delegate Robin Abbott of Newport News.

Over all, things haven’t changed too much here in Virginia.  I’m sure pundits from both sides of the aisle will spin the results to declare victory for their cause boldly stating that either President Obama has been repudiated or vindicated.  Personally, I don’t think this election demonstrated a huge shift, but rather serves as another testament to Virginia’s conservative-leaning principles.

As the ink begins to dry on Election Day 2011, we prepare for 2012.  Given the limited space on my car, today is the annual ritual of bumper sticker removal.  So long Delegate Wilt and Senator Obenshain.  I expect to see both your names on my vehicle for the 2013 cycle.

The ceaseless political battle continues again soon.  But, for the moment, let’s come together as Virginians united and savor a respite.  The time for reflection and introspection is at hand.