No Republican November

This week, I plan to submit my absentee ballot for the November elections in Virginia.  As I am away from home due to graduate school, along with the fact that I’ll be working the polls in West Virginia for a class assignment, unfortunately, I’ll be unable to vote in person.

2018 marks my twentieth time voting in the general election (unless you include the 2009 election.  In that year I was working in Newport News and apparently my ballot got lost in the mail).  Except for two years, in all of those elections, I have voted for at least one Republican candidate.  This year will mark the third time I will not be voting for a single Republican.

Why is that?  Well, let’s go down through the races.  At the top of the ticket, we have Corey Stewart.  I first met Mr. Stewart in 2011 when he was planning a run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate against George Allen.  Since that time, he has run for a multitude of statewide offices: Lt. Governor in 2013, Governor in 2017, and now U.S. Senate again in 2018.  In that time I have found Mr. Stewart to be dishonest and self-serving, willing to say or do just about anything in order to achieve political power.  Despite his rhetoric,  he is not a conservative, but rather a populist who is more than happy to expand the power of government and mold it to serve his interests.  With the exception of Representative Bob Goodlatte, who fortunately is retiring after 26  long years in office, I rarely block any campaign staffers on Facebook…with the notable exception of Corey Stewart.  After asking not to be tagged, two of his particularly rude and hostile staffers kept pestering me thus resulting in this action.

That matter leads me to another point.  Corey Stewart states that he wants to go to Washington to help enact President Donald Trump’s agenda.  Regrettably, the Republican Party has more or less become Donald Trump’s party and activists and politicians alike think it is important to do whatever he desires.  But what about principles? What about checks and balances?  Since when did we think it a good idea to elect men and woman to Congress who pledge to be rubber stamps for the executive branch even when he violates the values of limited government and faithfulness to the Constitution? This kind of behavior would make sense if we lived in an authoritarian dictatorship, but we supposedly live in a democratic republic, right?  Or at least we used to.  As I wrote on Delegate Wilt’s (R-26) Facebook page, “I’d like to see real, honest conservatives in Congress, those who will support the Constitution, a limited federal government, cutting spending and the national debt, supporting the President when he shares our values, but standing up to him and opposing him when he does not.  Unfortunately, at the moment, that line of thinking is extremely rare.”

Moving down the ballot, we come to the race for the 6th district, to replace Representative Bob Goodlatte.  As regular readers of this website know, I have written favorably about Delegate Ben Cline, the Republican nominee, for many years.  One big issue for me was the selection of one of his staffers.  Having several previous negative interactions with this fellow, I thought it best to alert Delegate Cline about some related potentially unethical activity.  After all, as they say, personnel is policy and as I liked Delegate Cline I didn’t want to see him get mixed up with anyone who might have “the ends justify the means” mentality.  Given my concerns, Delegate Cline told me that I would have no interaction with this person during the campaign.  However, several days after the Republican convention, this staffer in question wrote me several Facebook messages to taunt me for warning Cline.  I felt that this response was unconscionable.

Given some of the controversies surrounding the 6th district Republican convention, questions lingered in my mind if the Cline campaign had some hand in these shady, legally questionable dealings, such as the website SwampyScottSayre.com.  Try as I could, I could neither confirm or refute the campaign’s involvement.

In addition, we have the issue of Corey Stewart and Donald Trump.  While some Republican candidates have done their best to avoid Stewart, Cline has not.  That news is particularly disappointing.  As the News Leader reports:

“One who has embraced Stewart, appearing with him at campaign events, is Del. Ben Cline, who’s running the 6th Congressional District.

Several Republicans candidates have opted against campaigning with Stewart, telling the Post that they prefer to ‘run our own campaign.'”

If ISideWith.com is correct, my issue agreement with Delegate Cline mirrors that of Representative Goodlatte and we disagree on some fundamental points regarding foreign policy and national security.  Although I know he had a Republican audience, when Delegate Cline announced support of building Trump’s wall at the 6th district Republican convention, I felt my spirits sink.

I read emails from the Cline campaign hoping that they speak of principles of limited government and a faithfulness to the Constitution.  I abhor the use of fear to stir up the worst in the minds of voters.  For example, one from August 14th states, “I’m running for Congress to listen to and represent the people of the 6th District, not people like Nancy Pelosi and her liberal friends.  They’re stepping up to help liberal candidates across the country, including my opponent, which is why I need my friends here in Virginia and the 6th district to match these efforts…Let’s keep the 6th District red in November!”  Another dated September 27th reads, “Sending me to Washington will mean one less seat towards a Democrat majority – together we can stop Nancy Pelosi from becoming Speaker of the House again.”  Personally, I don’t really care which party controls the Speakership if that party’s only purpose is to surrender its authority to the executive branch or obstruct if their party doesn’t control the presidency.  Either way, both of them will continue to expand the national debt.  In addition, we must reject the rhetoric of the red team vs the blue team.  These days both sides are more interested in winning and maintaining power for themselves than the conservative, libertarian, and liberal activists than get them there in the first place!

Lastly, we have Frank McMillan who is running for Harrisonburg City Council.  Although technically running as an independent, I’ve heard him speak at Republican gatherings and he declared that he was a Republican.  In addition, according to VPAP, his largest donor is the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Republican Women’s Club.  If he is a Republican, he ought to run as a Republican and not misuse the independent label as the party did in the previous 2014 election cycle.   Rather than try to fix the Republican brand in Harrisonburg, which has become so heavily tainted than it is nearly impossible to win in the city with the label, they instead run their candidates as independents.  I don’t think it is an honest tactic and preys upon the ignorance of some voters.

My ISideWith.com results. As I disagree with them both at nearly the same rate, to quote Hillary Clinton, “what difference does it make?”

Now just because I’m not voting Republican, that doesn’t mean that I am voting Democratic either.  If I were forced to chose between the two, I would prefer Tim Kaine to Corey Stewart.  At least Senator Kaine has never personally lied to me.  Although I disagree with a lot of what Kaine does, at least he doesn’t bow to Donald Trump, but I am not voting for him as I don’t cast my vote in that way.  Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Jennifer Lewis to speak about her candidacy either positively or negatively and I always recommend not voting for a person out of ignorance.

No matter how we vote, I predict that Democrat Tim Kaine will defeat Republican Corey Stewart by a healthy margin and Republican Ben Cline will likewise triumph over Jennifer Lewis.  I hope both Senator Kaine and soon to be Representative Cline will represent the state and the 6th district with honor.

Whether you vote absentee as I am doing, or vote on November 6th, I encourage you to learn about the candidates and vote for the ones who best represent your principles.

Why a Life-Long Republican Left the Party

Image from sodahead.com

A Guest Post by David Benjamin Dull

To start, I feel it is important to explain how I was raised, and where my roots are. My father is a die-hard, Trump supporting, racist, social conservative and his parents were social conservatives as well while my mother is a bit of a hippie, but a conservative hippie.  I was raised to vote Republican and did so starting with George Bush in 2000 when I was 18.  I was never “involved”, never did any research and didn’t pay attention to the issues even though I smoked cannabis, was pro-choice and had close friends who were/are homosexual.

All of that changed, however, in the fall of 2008 when I accidentally ran across a motivational YouTube video for libertarian godfather Ron Paul who was running for the Republican presidential nomination.  Without a shred of hesitation, I am proud to say the words of this modern-day prophet made me openly weep.  For the first time in my life, my worldview was challenged in a way that was informative and more importantly, not condescending, which was needed to get thru to me.

Did I run right outside with my pitchfork and torch, ready to burn down the capitol?  No.  I spent a long time combing the internet for input.  I researched Austrian economics, free-market solutions, non-interventionist foreign policy, individual sovereignty and ending prohibition. I began talking less and listening more.  Eventually, fully confident that my new worldview was solid, I ventured out into the political realm by attending my first Tea Party Tax Day rally in DC in 2010, which featured to my surprise, Ron Paul himself.  And yet, I still didn’t know how to get involved.

I left Baltimore and bought a home in Virginia Beach, and knowing no one political in the area, remained the guy who protests on social media… …until my mother sent me a friend suggestion for a local anarcho-capitalist.  Finally, I had someone in my town I could share my disdain for waste, fraud, and abuse with!  And what’s more, when a mutual friend commented about the Ron Paul 2012 campaign and I jumped right on that asking how I could get involved.  I was directed to attend a dinner in Newport News across the river.  The night of that dinner, I met a dozen libertarians who have become like family.  Never in my life have I ever felt so connected to and loved by a group of individuals, not of my blood.  Together, we took on the establishment, hard!

Luckily for us, there were only two candidates on the ballot in 2012; Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, which enabled a Tea Party/libertarian alliance to not only send 49% of Virginia’s delegates to the Republican national convention, but more importantly, the grassroots alliance overwhelmingly took over the Republican Party of Virginia state central committee and a host of district chairman seats and local unit chairman seats.  We did it!  We won!  Or did we?  With the primary firmly behind us, the “presumptive nominee” was hailed as the savior to the “Obama” problem with the Tea Party falling in line like good little Republicans.  We Ron Paul supporters were soon left out in the cold.  We were scorned for not eagerly volunteering for the nominee.  We were constantly told by establishment trolls that “libertarians belong in the Libertarian Party” and our posts on Republican social media outlets were deleted.  We were called isolationists, dreamers, liberals, and idiots.

When we rallied behind Susan Stimpson for Lt. Governor, who had an impeccable record of cutting taxes and fees while also cutting the budget of Stanford County while remaining temperate on social issues, the Tea Party and other grassroots social conservatives flocked to boisterous hot-heads like Corey Stewart who is in the middle of losing his third statewide race, and EW Jackson who just lost his third statewide race. When the votes were tallied for the first ballot of the seven-way Lt. Governor race, Susan came in second after Jackson, but when the names were put up on the Jumbotron, her name was at the bottom. When she failed to carry the third ballot, I voted for “moderate” (establishment) Pete Snyder because I wasn’t about to let Jackson pull down the ticket with his outrageous statements when Snyder would help libertarian-leaning Ken Cuccinelli win the governorship… which is exactly what happened despite Republicans complaining about the Libertarian nominee, who exit polls show actually took more votes from (D) McAuliffe than Cuccinelli… but I digress.  This was in effect, the beginning of the end of the grassroots revolt of 2012.  The establishment slowly took back the state central and local units.  The Tea Party continued to rally around hot-heads like Corey Stewart year after year.  Many of my libertarian friends, disgusted with the political process and the online nastiness from bigoted conservatives and paid establishment trolls, simply threw in the towel.  Subsequently, the Ron Paul class of 2012 was all but gone by 2014.

To be fair, having left Virginia to seek my fortune in the oil fields of North Dakota in the summer of 2013 and not returning until December of 2015, I was in no position to blame anyone for leaving, and I didn’t.  I did, however, unfurl my libertarian-Republican banner and plant it in the red sand of the Republican Party on last time for Rand Paul in the 2016 presidential primary, but was met with mild enthusiasm.  I saw even less enthusiasm for Trump, but his bigoted and insulting rhetoric somehow positively reached the voters even though it turned off most of the politically active.  The abysmal primary results coupled with the death rattle of the Tea Party in Virginia was the signal to me that “changing it from the inside” was a completely unattainable goal in Virginia Beach and highly unlikely in Virginia.  So I left the party of my father and my grandfather after being undyingly faithful for eight years, somewhat hesitant for another four and actively engaged for the last four.  Truth be told; it’s the best breakup of my life!

David Benjamin Dull is a libertarian activist who has volunteered for a dozen campaigns.  Although admittedly brash and stubborn, he is working to better himself and is currently engaged in growing the Libertarian Party of Anne Arundel County by reaching out to disenfranchised liberals and conservatives as well as independents who lost faith in voting.

The First Sham Debate

On July 21st, the Virginia Bar Association will be holding the first debate for the race for the 2018 U.S. Senate election in Virginia.  However, like the debates they have held in previous years, they will be excluding one of the candidates who will be on the November ballot, Libertarian Matt Waters.  Although the organization claims to be nonpartisan and “the VBA debates are not intended to in any way promote or advance one candidate over another”, it is obvious that through their exclusionary practices they intend to advance the candidacies of two of the options at the expense of their third.

Virginia has one of the most difficult hurdles for statewide candidates to achieve ballot access.  An independent or third party candidate (or a Republican or Democrat competing in a primary but not a convention) needs to submit the signatures of 10,000 registered voters to the Election Board with at least 400 from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts.  After a majority of Republican presidential candidates failed to make the cut in 2012, the Virginia General Assembly lowered the threshold for that office (and that office only) to 5,000 signatures.

If you are tired of being forced to select between the lesser of two evils, you don’t think that the Virginia Bar Association ought to be picking winners and losers in elections, and/or you feel that every candidate who succeeds in making the ballot ought to be given the same equality of opportunity of having his or her voice heard, I encourage you to visit the Facebook page of the Virginia Bar Association and let them know you don’t support their sham of a debate.  I’ve spoken to them already and perhaps if enough of us make our opinions known, then politics in Virginia can become more free and fair.

Thoughts on Tuesday’s Primary

Photo from Corey Stewart for Congress’ Facebook page

Leading up to the primary on June 12th, I asked activists who they thought would win the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Virginia.  As is the case in many elections, most people stated that their preferred candidate would win.  Stewart people assumed Corey Stewart would be victorious while Freitas people thought likewise about Nick Freitas.  Although I supported and ended up casting my vote for Delegate Freitas, I stated that I thought Stewart would win.

Image from the Virginia State Board of Elections

Why? Well, as stated above, it wasn’t because I wanted Mr. Stewart to be the Republican nominee.  At this point, Corey Stewart has almost reached the status of a perennial candidate.  He briefly ran for U.S. Senate in 2011-12, finished third for the Lt. Gov nomination in 2013, and came close to winning the Republican nomination for Virginia Governor in 2017.   However, if you look back the last time that Corey Stewart ran for statewide office, in 2017, he narrowly lost the Republican nomination to Ed Gillespie.  Gillespie won 43.74% and Stewart got 42.5%.  If he had gotten blown out last year, it is unlikely that anyone would have taken him seriously in 2018.  As an example, consider E.W. Jackson, who was the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor in 2013.  He ended up losing the general election by over 10 points thus making it far less likely that the Republican Party would ever give him another statewide nomination.  Stewart, conversely, was close in his last attempt.

Then there is the issue of fundraising.  As of May 23rd, the Freitas campaign had raised $502,784.  By comparison, the Stewart campaign had raised $841,112.  Money isn’t everything, but it certainly helps.

Next is the matter of name ID.  Although none of the three candidates were terribly well-known across the state, presumably Stewart was bolstered by his previous runs.  Chances are that activists who had supported Stewart in 2017 would likely do so again.  Therefore, he already had an established base to build from.  Although he traveled the state during the election cycle, Freitas was a less well-known name without a cadre of longtime supporters scattered across the various corners of Virginia.

Another aspect concerned endorsements and the ideology each candidate represented.  While Corey Stewart represents Trump populism, Freitas is part of the liberty/small government movement, and Jackson has the religious right.  Although President Trump isn’t particularly popular with Virginians as a whole, he does seem to command a loyal and active following among a sizable segment of Virginia Republican voters.  Oddly, unlike just about every other year, there wasn’t a candidate from the establishment wing of the Republican Party.  Several months ago, I was told that Representative Barbara Comstock would be entering the race but that never happened.  As such, many in the Republican establishment endorsed Nick Freitas.  At face value, you might think that the establishment combined with the liberty-wing would be enough for a winning coalition in the primary.  After all, the establishment more or less propelled Ed Gillespie to the Republican nomination in 2017 single-handedly.  Liberty-minded folks may have cast a vote for Gillespie, but I doubt many were excited about it.

However, upon further reflection, it is likely that many in the establishment weren’t all that enthusiastic about Freitas, but it was rather a lesser of three evils type of scenario for them.  In 2013, Jackson demonstrated that it would be nearly impossible for him to win statewide and some of his comments derided as bigoted or closed-minded could hurt the GOP in other races.  As for Stewart, his ties to the alt-right with to the Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville, his previous false or misleading statements about Ed Gillespie in 2017, the fact that he represented the same Trump faction that lost Virginia in 2017, and that he was likely seen as an uncontrollable force resulted in some of them viewing his nomination as an unmitigated disaster for the Republican Party of Virginia.  Given some of Freitas’ outstanding bills in the General Assembly which would curb the power of the party bosses, my assumption was that the establishment ended up supporting Freitas out of perceived necessity, not desire, and thus I assumed that their level of support would be far lower than it would be for someone like Gillespie.

The night before the primary, I stopped by my local polling place in Harrisonburg to see which campaigns had placed signs at the precinct.  Although signs don’t win elections, they are one way to gauge levels of campaign activism.  When I arrived, I found Brent Finnegan, the 2017 Democratic candidate for the 26th House district placing signs for Jennifer Lewis.  There were also signs for Peter Volosin, but none for any of the Republican Senatorial candidates.  However, when I went to cast my vote for Nick Freitas around noon the next day, several of his signs had appeared in the interim.

Image from the Virginia State Board of Elections

Once polls closed at 7, I sat in front of my computer, watching the results on both the VPAP and NY Times websites.  To my surprise, Freitas took an early lead…but could it last?  Were my predictions wrong?  At one point, E.W. Jackson jumped out in front with a commanding lead due to results from Virginia Beach.  However, upon closer inspection, I discovered that one precinct had erroneously given Jackson several tens of thousands of extra votes, likely the result of a few misplaced additional zeros in his totals.  When it was corrected, Jackson did not come close to leading for the rest of the night.  As results continued to come in, the difference between Freitas and Stewart began to tighten.  At around 85% of the vote reporting, Freitas was still leading.  But I thought it prudent to check where the bulk of the outstanding votes were left to report.  Most were either in Prince William County (where Stewart is the chairman of the board of supervisors) or Fairfax County directly to the north.  Although Freitas was still leading, I realized at that point that Stewart had almost certainly won the election once all the votes were in.

During the evening, I wondered if either the Stewart or Freitas camps would deride E.W. Jackson as a spoiler, declaring that his candidacy cost them victory.  If he weren’t in the race, I assumed that a majority of his votes would have gone to Stewart, but without seeing the exit polls, it is difficult to say with any measure of certainty.  Jackson won about 12% of the vote.  If asked, I would have recommended that Jackson not run as I believe it would only hurt his future prospects of holding elected office (if any).  Nevertheless, I believe he had every right to run (just like anyone else) no matter how slim his chances happened to be and that it is unfair to call him a spoiler.

In November, Virginia will likely have three candidates on the ballot, Republican Corey Stewart, Democrat Tim Kaine, and Libertarian Matt Waters.  At this point, I would assume that Kaine will best Stewart by at least 10 points.  However, regardless of my predictions, I recommend to you, dear reader, to research all three of your choices and vote for the one who best embodies your values.  I know I will.

A Libertarian for Senate

In 2018, Virginia will hold elections for U.S. Senate.  On the Democratic side, barring any major surprises, current Senator Tim Kaine will be the nominee.  For the Republicans, so far we have Corey Stewart, Nick Freitas, E.W. Jackson, and Ivan Raiklin vying for the nomination.  And, as of 15 hours ago according to Facebook, we also have a Libertarian seeking the position too.

Image from the campaign Facebook page

A fellow by the name of Matt Waters has now begun to collect the 10,000 signatures necessary to appear on the Virginia ballot.  Although I first heard news of his possible candidacy shortly before the new year, it seems that he has decided to go forward with the plan.  At this point, I cannot say I know anything about him, other than I’m told he is pro-life (which is exciting!).

Even when there is only one candidate running for the party’s nomination, getting the Libertarian stamp of approval isn’t a guarantee, as delegates to their state convention can vote for none of the above if the person seeking the position doesn’t share enough of their principles.  I believe that this is a position that both the Republicans and Democrats ought to adopt given the positions of some of their nominees over the years).

Who is Matt Waters?  I’m told by some of the Libertarian leaders in Virginia that he will be a strong, credible, and value-focused candidate, but I’m looking forward to finding out for myself.

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.

The Conservative Kobayashi Maru

Photo by Steve Helber of the Associated Press

In two weeks, on June 13th, the Republican Party of Virginia will be holding a statewide open primary to determine their nominee for governor.  On the ballot will be three choices: former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart, and State Senator Frank Wagner.

Typically, at least one authentic conservative runs for the Republican nomination in statewide contests.  For example, in 2014, Shak Hill sought the GOP nod.  However, all of the choices for governor are poor this year.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a moment to go through each option.

Besides being the former RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie has also been the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, a lobbyist for companies such as Enron,  a counselor to the Bush White House, and the 2014 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.  Seen by some as the consummate Republican insider, he is in many ways a milquetoast candidate, reciting typical Republican talking points while not providing many details of how he wishes to accomplish anything and avoiding saying anything controversial or of much substance.  According to reports, he has avoided attending a variety of candidate forums and events.  It seems he is coasting through the nomination process by trying to say as little as possible.  Even worse, when he served as RNC Chairman, he repudiated limited government conservativism.  According to National Review, “Gillespie basically said that the Republicans’ long-time war against big government has now ended.  Government won.”  and “the party’s new chairman, energetic and full of vigor, said in no uncertain terms that the days of Reaganesque Republican railings against the expansion of federal government are over.”  And, despite my repeated requests, the Gillespie campaign refuses to state where Mr. Gillespie stands on political freedom and third party rights, leading me to believe that he opposes them.

Next, we have Corey Stewart, certainly the most controversial of the three candidates.  Last year, he served as the Virginia chairman for the Donald Trump campaign until he was fired for insubordination.  No stranger to controversy, he has relentlessly attacked Ed Gillespie for not being sufficiently pro-Trump and for Mr. Gillespie’s refusal to take a stand on a number of issues.  As I’ve told some people, I think Mr. Stewart is the most dishonest person I have met in Virginia politics.  This opinion took form in 2011 when Mr. Stewart toured the state denouncing former Senator George Allen for being a poor conservative and a poor senator.  However, once Corey Stewart decided he was no longer interested in running for Senate, he endorsed his former rival.  That stunt earned him a flip flop from PolitiFact.   In addition, there was the 2013 campaign for lieutenant governor when Corey Stewart hired Senator Obenshain’s former campaign manager who was supposedly fired due to theft from a rival campaign who then tried to extort $85,000 from Pete Snyder in what has been colorfully called “The Richmond Screwjob“.  These incidents show that Mr. Stewart will do or say just about anything to gain political power and thus one cannot be sure if he is elected what his true intentions are.

Last, there is Frank Wagner, who has been in elected office since 1992, first serving several terms in the House of Delegates before joining the Virginia Senate in 2001.  Curiously, unlike his Republican opponents, Mr. Wagner is currently advocating raising taxes on Virginians.  In addition, he supported the largest tax increase in Virginia, when he voted for the 2013 transportation tax hike.  In 2015, he authored a bill to keep the earnings of Dominion Power, the state-supported energy monopoly, secret.  Amusingly, in early 2014 a Republican activist added me to a Facebook group called “Primary Frank Wagner” after Mr. Wagner supposedly employed a tactic known as slating to disenfranchise those who oppose him.   Frank Wagner supports higher taxes, government monopolies and more secrecy, and silencing opposition.  Are these conservative values?

Image from http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Kobayashi_Maru

In Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, Starfleet officers are presented with the Kobayashi Maru, an intentionally unwinnable scenario which serves to test the character of those who participate in it.  Unfortunately, this year, conservatives who participate in the Republican primary for governor face a similar dilemma. Which do you think will uphold the creed of the Republican Party of Virginia?  Dodgy, establishment Ed Gillespie? Talking-out-of-both-sides-of-his-mouth, populist Corey Stewart?  Or liberal, big government-loving Frank Wagner?  It’s a tough pick, isn’t it?  None of the three choices, Gillespie, Stewart, or Wagner, are desirable, and each has exhibited principles or character flaws which ought to disqualify all of them from the Republican nomination.  As one elected official who is supporting Ed Gillespie told me, it is unfortunate that there isn’t a better candidate to head the Republican ticket this year.  Are you looking for a consistently conservative candidate who is trustworthy and will work to reduce the size and scope of the state government?  If so, you better hope a third party or independent candidate makes the ballot because none of the three Republican candidates come anywhere close to that standard.

How will you react to this conservative Kobayashi Maru?  If I end up voting in the Republican primary, I’ll be leaving the ballot for governor blank as I think none of them are acceptable nor do I plan to vote for whoever wins the Republican nomination in the November general election.

Stewart at First Friday

On Friday, April 7th, Corey Stewart spoke to the First Friday gathering at the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg.  There were about 30 people in attendance, including a writer and photographer from the local paper, The Daily News Record.  The previous weekend, Mr. Stewart held a campaign rally in the friendly city but had difficulty finding a venue due to protests, first trying at Dave’s, then the Wood Grill Buffet, and finally settling at Court Square downtown.  Corey Stewart is one of three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor that will be decided in a June primary.

Arriving about 20 or so minutes after his scheduled time, Mr. Stewart offered introductory remarks for about 15 minutes and then took questions from the audience for about another 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, size restrictions cut off the first minute or two of Mr. Stewart’s speech, but here’s a video of what he said.

The 2013 Convention!

Shortly before 7 AM, a multitude of local Republicans gathered outside of the Harrisonburg GOP headquarters to depart for the 2013 state convention in Richmond.  The Obenshain campaign organized this gathering.  I led one of the two buses of 49 other activists.  We left around 7:15 with the second bus stopping in Staunton to pick up additional supporters.

IMG_1886About two hours later we arrived outside the Coliseum.  The scene that greeted us was daunting.  On both the left and right sides of the entrance, long lines stretched seemingly forever.  Outside, most of the campaigns had a table underneath a tent handing out materials.  The one exception was the Davis campaign which merely had a yard sign where one would expect to find her people.  This development did not bode well for the Davis campaign, which I had previously assumed would survive at least to the second ballot.  In addition, there were a fair number of protesters in pink shirts from Planned Parenthood deriding the candidacy of Ken Cuccinelli.

Inside of the building each of the campaigns had an additional informational table, as did a multitude of other organizations such as The Leadership Institute, Middle Resolution PAC, and others.

IMG_1900In the auditorium itself, each delegate was grouped according to the city or county from which he or she came.  This year, the placement of each locality depended upon the percentage of their delegates who paid the voluntary $35 fee.  This change resulted in Harrisonburg city holding the choicest spot on the convention floor, front and center.  Delegates from Rockingham and Augusta Counties, regions whose delegates also strongly supported Senator Mark Obenshain, flanked Harrisonburg.

After many lengthy speeches from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ken Cuccinelli, and the various candidates running for the Republican nomination, voting could begin.  Although announced ahead of time, it was interesting that neither Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell nor Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling attended Saturday’s convention.  As an additional note, former Representative Allen West spoke on behalf of Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Ollie North encouraged delegates to support Pete Snyder.

Voting on the first ballot began about 1 PM or so, but the results were not announced until almost four hours later due to either technical difficulties or a recount requested by the Snyder campaign if the rumors circulating were true.  Although the official tallies were not released due to Delegate Rob Bell’s request to withdraw his candidacy, Senator Mark Obenshain became the official nominee for attorney general.  On the race for lieutenant governor, E.W. Jackson captured an early lead, winning 3,732 votes, about twice as many votes as his closest rival, Susan Stimpson.  Corey Stewart finished third, followed by Pete Snyder, Scott Lingamfelter, Jeannemarie Davis, and finally Steve Martin.  As no candidate received a majority of the votes, Martin and Davis were eliminated and delegates voted again.  Unfortunately, the official numbers for the first ballot were not announced until after many delegates had already cast their second ballot, which likely skewed the next results as we were erroneously led to believe that Stewart placed second instead of Stimpson.  Behind the scenes, the Davis campaign encouraged her supporters to rally behind Jackson.

About two hours later, voting from the second ballot was announced.  Jackson increased his totals to 4,558.38, while Snyder jumped to second with 2066.89.  Stewart finished third while Stimpson and Lingamfelter, with the two lowest totals, were eliminated.  Lingamfelter cast his favor to Snyder while the Stimpson campaign did not recommend any particular candidate.

SOThe results for the third ballot came one hour and forty-five minutes later.  Jackson’s vote total again expanded to 5,934.69 with Snyder second with 3,652.97.  At this point, E.W. Jackson had over 49% of the vote and thus his election on the next ballot was a virtual lock.  The Snyder campaign passed out fliers declaring that Corey Stewart had endorsed Snyder as had Mark Obenshain.  The latter revelation came as a complete shock given that Obenshain had remained silent in this race up until now, coupled with the fact that such an endorsement would be particularly foolhardy given that Jackson’s victory was all but a certainty.  I spoke with both Chris Leavitt, Obenshain’s campaign manager, as well as Suzanne Obenshain, his wife, who denied any endorsement.  In addition, Corey Stewart appeared and walked around the floor with Jackson with raised hands.  It was terribly unfortunate that in a desperate bid to win the Snyder campaign would resort to such dirty and dishonest tactics, ploys that were all too common in the closing days of the campaign.

Update:  Bearing Drift reports the following regarding the actions of the Stewart campaign.

A little after 10 PM, Pete Snyder withdrew his candidacy and thus E.W. Jackson was declared the victor.  With voting finally concluded, we returned to the bus and headed back west to our home across the mountain.

On a personal note, unlike many of the delegates, as I did not have a favorite candidate, I ended voting for three different LG candidates over the course of the day.  I intended to cast my final vote for Pete, but, after his campaign spread their misinformation, I couldn’t reward deception and thus proudly cast my vote for E.W. Jackson.

All in all, it was an exciting and tiring day that went much longer than needed.  However, it was filled with a bunch of surprises and uncertainty, regrettably marred by technical difficulties, a bit of misinformation, and a splash of deceit.

Given that the state central committee has selected a convention in 2014 to choose the Republican candidate for Senate, we’ll do it all again next year.  Hope to see you then!

If He Loses Then We Lose

VC Note:  Most likely along with a multitude of other tea party members, I received the following message from Middle Resolution PAC.  As the title states, I find the line “if he loses then we lose” particularly intriguing.  Given the numerous complaints against Corey Stewart currently circulating on the internet, I’d hate to peg my fortunes on his performance tomorrow.  So will the tea party rally behind Mr. Stewart?  Will this support scatter?  Or will it concentrate on another of the seven LG candidates?  I guess we’ll see.

TMR logo

The last 2 weeks have been difficult on us all as we have been in the throes of a political mudslinging match aimed at our candidate, Corey Stewart, the perceived front runner in this race.  I want to make a plea to everyone not to get distracted by the smoke and mirrors of a political primary but to focus on the candidate whom we’ve selected to represent grassroots conservatives in VA.  If he loses then we lose and we must do everything we can to help him win the nomination on Saturday.

The attacks on Corey’s campaign ethics are based on hearsay and innuendo with no proof that he is in any way involved with unethical behavior.  While Corey is the focus of these attacks the whole delegate list has been receiving e-mails from John Gray, a former democratic opponent of Corey’s, attacking Corey’s record.  How did John Gray get the delegate list?  Recently 2 pieces of direct mail were sent from  “Checks and Balances for Economic Growth” attacking Corey Stewart calling him “King Corey!” So clearly they also have the delegate mailing list and clearly there are a number of dirty hands in all of this yet the bloggers and Breitbart are focusing on Corey.  Why is Breitbart so concerned about a 7 way LG primary race?  The Breitbart articles by Michael Patrick Leahy, seem to be very concerned about possible ethics violations by Stewart, but ignore many of the same actions by other candidates. Is he interested in the shadow group doing direct mail pieces against Stewart? Nope, just Stewart!

A couple of days ago Grover Norquist railed against Corey’s tax record on the John Fredericks show.  Here is the tax pledge that Corey signed:

Notice that Grover Norquist endorsed the pledge that Corey signed.  Why is he criticizing Corey for signing and adhering to the pledge that his group constructed?

Throughout this process Corey has been forthcoming with us and has met or talked to every tea party with concerns about the attacks on his record (in one instance to his detriment).

The whole purpose of the vetting process was to unite conservatives behind a candidate and help that candidate win against a well funded, data rich, progressive democrat candidate. Corey prevailed in a thorough vetting process that looked at campaign strength, ability to fund raise, and knowledge of free market principles.  We were not the only ones who vetted these LG candidates, John Tate head of Campaign for Liberty and Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute did their own vetting and came to the same conclusion that we did; Corey Stewart is the candidate best suited to defeat the democrat in November.

Corey’s record cutting regulations, cutting spending, and fighting illegal immigration is consistent with tea party principles. He is no stranger to the tea party, he attended one of the first CoLA meetings to help create a state immigration policy that would mirror what he has done in PWC.  He also sought tea party support for a bill to eliminate the corporate income tax and he continues to keep an open line of communication with tea party activists.

Corey’s accomplishments in Prince William County are a model for our state government.  While spending in VA has grown by 66% Corey has cut $143 million in spending from the county budget and per capita spending is below what it was in 1992.   While little has been done to address the challenges of illegal immigration at the state level Corey has implemented policies to enforce immigration law and has reduced crime.  While we just received the biggest tax increase in VA history to supposedly fund transportation, Prince William County funded a $300 million dollar transportation project without raising taxes.  If we want to solve the transportation issue we should call on other counties to maintain their own roads and decentralize road building and maintenance from VDOT to the localities.  Lastly, while Medicaid spending has increased by 1500% in the last 30 years, Corey’s most recent budget proposed 9.6 million in cuts to social services.  This is the type of leadership that we need in VA and I hope you will all rally behind Corey on Saturday and push him across the finish line.
Best Regards,
Angie