Writing-In Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.
Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.

In general, the November 3rd elections in the city of Harrisonburg were a rather dull affair.  Although citizens had the opportunity to vote for six different contests, only one office, state senator, was contested.  As you might expect, this lack of choices inspired a handful of folks to write-in candidates.  Fellow blogger Rick Sincere often pens an article about the write-in votes in Charlottesville, but what names do people write-in in Harrisonburg?  Well, I decided to visit the local registrar’s office to find out.

In case you are wondering, once the election results have been certified they are made available to the public.  Unfortunately, they aren’t listed on a nice, neat, printed sheet, but rather each write-in vote is printed on a long piece of narrow paper, which resembles a register receipt.  Having previously worked as an election official in Rockingham County, I know that some voters write-in made up or fictitious characters, like Mickey Mouse or “anyone else”, but how many real people could be identified?  For the record, I only went through the data once, so it is possible the numbers I list below aren’t quite right.  Nevertheless, if you live in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, I think you’ll find them of interest.

In the race for the 26th Virginia Senate seat, there were only 14 write-in votes in Harrisonburg, likely low because voters had at least two choices.  April Moore, the Democratic candidate, won Harrisonburg and Republican Mark Obenshain got second.  However, there was a three-way tie for third place between Christopher Runion, Lowell Fulk, and yours truly as we each had two write-ins.

Moving on to the 26th House of Delegates seat where Republican Tony Wilt ran unopposed, there were almost 11% write-ins, the highest for any of the seats in play.  Harrisonburg City Council member Kai Degner took second with 19 votes, followed by Rockingham County School member Lowell Fulk with 14 votes.  Both Degner and Fulk had each previously been the Democratic nominee for this office in earlier elections.  Other write-ins of note included:  Harvey Yoder with three votes, my partner on the radio Andy Schmookler with two votes, local political activist Dale Fulk with two votes, and Harrisonburg Democratic Party Chair Deb Fitzgerald also with two. Many people received one write-in vote including: former Harrisonburg City Council members Dorn Peterson and George Pace, Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, Harrisonburg Mayor Chris Jones, the Virginia Libertarian Party Vice-chairman Dr. James Lark III, State Senator Creigh Deeds from Bath County, former Harrisonburg Republican Party Chairman John Elledge, the 2015 Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate April Moore, 2014 city council candidates Alleyn Harned and Joshua Huffman, and several of my Facebook friends such as: Jeremy Aldrich, Shammara Blanchard, and Matthew Phillippi.

Finishing in second in the race for sheriff with seven write-in votes was Harvey Yoder.  Third was former sheriff candidate Kurt Boshart with five and fourth was Chris Monahan with three.  Other names with one or more votes include: Kai Degner, Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, local TV anchor Bob Corso, former sheriff Glenn Weatherholtz, 6th District Democratic Party Chair Joe Fitzgerald, former sheriff candidate CM Hess, City Council member Richard Baugh, Greg Nesselrodt (one of my good friends in high school), and again one vote for me.  I’m not quite sure why someone would think me as being qualified for sheriff, but that is another issue.

For Harrisonburg/Rockingham Clerk of Court, Renee Evans Haywood captured nine write-ins.  Other names of note included: Kai Denger, Dale Fulk, former treasurer candidate Penny Imeson, former council member Charlie Chenault, school board member Andy Kohen, local TV producer Channing Frampton, Joe Fitzgerald, Chris Jones, Lowell Fulk, a previous clerk candidate Diane Fulk, local political activist Dave Briggman, former HHS classmate W.O. Brown III, and a vote for me.  I assure you that someone wrote me in, but I didn’t do it.

Moving on to Harrisonburg/Rockingham Commonwealth Attorney, many people tied for second with two votes: Dale Fulk, Tricia Nesselrodt, John Elledge, and former House of Delegates candidate Gene Hart.  Other names with a vote include: Lowell Fulk, Andy Kohen, radio personality Karl Magenhoffer, attorney Bob Keefer, attorney Roland Santos, high school friend Edward Panchari, and me, Joshua Huffman.

In the special election for Harrisonburg School Board to replace Dany Fleming, Mr. Fleming captured the most write-in votes with ten.  Other candidates of interest with one or more votes include: Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, Steve Nesselrodt, Tricia Nesselrodt, Mark Finks, former school board member Tom Mendez, Erin Phillippi, Matt Phillippi, Charlie Chenault, Violet Allain (who hosted a city council meet-and-greet for the candidates at her house last year), Channing Frampton, and another vote for me.

Lastly, there weren’t too many write-in votes for Soil & Water Conservation Director.  Dale Fulk had two, radio personality Jim Britt had one, several of my friends had one such as Tristan Flage, Joe Rudmin, and Matt Phillippi, and, again, one person decided to write my name in for this office.

Although some write-in votes are nonsensical or vulgar, for others write-ins are a way to show dissatisfaction with the possible choices, or in the case of the 2015 elections in Harrisonburg, the lack of choices.  And, to the handful of people who decided to write me in, I certainly appreciate your vote, but I’m not running for anything right now.  I hope I can earn your support when and if the time comes again.

Yes, writing-in might be annoying for those election officials counting the ballots, but it can be a fascinating insight into the minds of the disaffected voter.  Hopefully the citizens of Harrisonburg will have at least two choices for every elected office in 2016, in which case we should see a dip in write-in votes in the next election.

Tea Party Releases Score Card

TPSCThe Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation released their first ever legislative score cards, ranking the members in the General Assembly based upon their votes in the 2013 legislative session.  As has been the case with special interest groups like the Family Foundation and the NRA, score cards are a useful tool to let voters know how their government officials vote on particular issues of importance.  This new  score card graded based upon 15 different pieces of legislation.

In the House of Delegates, Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15) and Delegate Peter Farrell (R-56) were the only two members in that 100 person body to post a perfect score.  Here in the Shenandoah Valley, most of the other legislators also received high marks with Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) at 95%, Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20) 95%, Delegate Ben Cline (R-24) 95%, and Delegate Steve Landes (R-25) 90%.  My delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26) scored the lowest of any of those in the region with 60%, though he did vote rather curiously in 2013, supporting the implementation of Obamacare in Virginia and the creation of a state-run EPA.  Speaker of the House of Delegates Bill Howell (R-28) was awarded a rather dismal 35%.  You can download and view the entire House of Delegates score card with the link provided. Tea-Party-Patriots-house_scorecard_2013_v2

Moving over to the Virginia Senate, my state senator, Mark Obenshain (R-26), and Bill Stanley (R-20) were ranked the highest among the 40 with 70%.  Elsewhere in the Valley, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) got 45% and Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) was awarded 5%.  By comparison, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3) finished with 30%.  The Senate score card is here. Tea-Party-Patriots-senate_scorecard_2013_v2

As the political landscape in Virginia continually evolves, the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation has been adapting to fit this changing environment.  This tea party score card is one of several new developments that the federation has in the works.  I encourage you to check these cards to see what you think.

Triggerman Bill Shot Down By Senate Democrats

A little while ago, I received the follow email from Senator Mark Obenshain:

Earlier today, Democrats on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted along party lines to defeat SB 7, my legislation to close the triggerman loophole. The bill would have reinstated accomplice liability for principals in the second degree and accomplices before the fact. Closing this loophole has been a priority of the law enforcement community for years, and passed both chambers with bipartisan support three consecutive years before meeting with then-Governor Tim Kaine’s veto pen.

Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), the Democratic nominee for governor in 2009, voted against the bill after consistently and vocally supporting it in previous years. I think it’s fair to ask whether Senator Deeds was sincere in his prior votes for closing the triggerman loophole or in today’s vote against it. Back when he was running for Governor, Deeds touted his support for this bill as one of his credentials, but with the election behind him, he’s singing a different tune.

Deeds, who voted for the legislation and in favor of overriding then-Gov. Kaine’s vetoes each previous time the bill was introduced, was joined by Senators Marsh, Saslaw, Howell, Lucas, Edwards, Puller, Deeds, McEachin, and Petersen in rejecting the bill.

Democrats stacked the Courts committee this year, and it shows. In a narrowly divided 22-18 Senate, Democrats enjoy a 9-6 majority on the powerful Senate Courts of Justice Committee, and today they used their margin to kill a good bill – one that enjoyed bipartisan support from seven Senate Democrats and nineteen House Democrats last year.

My bill enjoyed broad support among legislators, prosecutors, and law enforcement, all of whom see this legislation as necessary for the effective prosecution of those who willfully, deliberately, and intentionally participate in the commission of a capital murder, but happen not to be the individual pulling the trigger. It has been endorsed by the Virginia Crime Commission, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, and other law enforcement organizations, and enjoyed the support of all four major-party candidates for governor – including all three Democratic contenders – last year.

Closing the triggerman loophole will increase public safety by restoring an important tool to prosecutors. The existing triggerman loophole allows criminal defendants who willfully and deliberately participated in a premeditated murder that is otherwise covered as a capital offense to escape prosecution for capital murder if they did not actually pull the trigger. It is a distinction unheard of in common law and unknown to Virginia law until 1979. The loophole was created at a time when the courts had called the constitutionality of the death penalty into question, and we are long overdue to close it.

Need an example? Under current Virginia law, even someone like Charles Manson could not be prosecuted for capital murder, despite the fact that he orchestrated the Tate-LaBianca murders in the 1960s.

The majority of states with the death penalty make co-conspirators in capital murder cases eligible for the death penalty. Supporters of this change cite a number of especially aggravated murders where the existing triggerman rule has thwart prosecutors. In a particularly heinous crime in 1999, it was only possible to obtain a death sentence against one of three men who abducted, raped, and brutally murdered a woman.

A similar bill (HB 502) patroned by my friend Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) passed the House with broad bipartisan support, 74-24. It remains to be seen how the Senate Courts of Justice Committee will receive Todd’s bill, but I hope that Senator Deeds and his colleagues will revisit their newfound objections.

Because it’s not just Deeds, though he’s the most recent to flip. Although they have voted against the bill more recently, Senators John Edwards (D-Roanoke) and Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield) both supported an identical bill in 2007, when the Senate passed my bill 28-11. (Kaine vetoed it.)

When it comes to law enforcement, Virginians are looking for consistent leadership, not votes of convenience, and it’s regrettable that this formerly bipartisan measure died at the hands of an increasingly partisan Democratic Senate majority.


Mark Obenshain
Virginia State Senator

It’s a shame that the Senator’s bill didn’t survive the committee and is yet another telling example of how some politicians will vote for a bill when he or she knows it will be vetoed, but will vote against it when it is likely to pass.  Unfortunately, for far too many legislators, politics trumps principles.  If conservative Republicans reclaim the Senate in the 2011 elections, perhaps we will finally be able to offer so many murderers the justice they deserve.

Thank you Senator Obenshain.

Election Recap

Now that the dust has pretty well settled (and I’ve gotten a bit of sleep), here are my thoughts concerning Election Day.  Overall, it was a sweeping victory for Republicans as the Grand Old Party claimed all three statewide races, a feat last achieved in 1997.  Bob McDonnell will be our new Governor.  Bill Bolling will remain our Lt. Governor for another four years, and Ken Cuccinelli soon will be our Attorney General.  In addition, Republicans made further inroads in the House of Delegates picking up seats in districts 3, 21 (depending on the recount), 23, 32, 34, 51, 67, and 83.  Although I would have liked to see a few more pickups, especially in 64 and 100, Republicans as a whole did quite well.  Even the party-shunned Catherine Crabill picked up 47.98% of the vote.  Now the day was not a complete blowout in favor of the GOP.  With all the successes, Republicans did suffer two net losses: in 52 failing to retain retiring Delegate and former RPV chair Jeff Frederick’ seat and in 93 with the loss of the twenty-one year incumbent Phil Hamilton.  According to my math, that means a gain of six seats in the hundred-member chamber.

The reason for the Democrats failure was that none of the statewide Democratic candidates succeeded in motivating their base or attracting independents.  Creigh Deeds lost by 17 ponts!  Moving down the ticket, a 13-point win for Bolling and 15-percentage point win for Cuccinelli further illustrates this point.  Although I don’t believe these results are as far reaching as to be used to determine the next presidential race three years from now, they do show a growing dissatisfaction with our current President and Congress, as well as the Democrats failure to market their brand.

Elsewhere, somewhat surprisingly, Chris Christie knocked off veteran Jon Corzine for New Jersey Governor.  Then we have Bill Owens victory in New York 23, which was one ray of sunshine for the Democrats in an otherwise poor showing in both Virginia and New Jersey.  Personally, I’m very disappointed with that result, but New York politics is a fairly alien concept to us here in Virginia.

Congratulations to Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, and Ken Cuccinelli.  May the three of you, along with the General Assembly, and our other officials govern the affairs of our state wisely.

The Clash of The Bloggers

Who will be our next Governor, McDonnell or Deeds? You’ve visited their websites, you’ve read their campaign literature, you’ve seen the attack ads, and you’ve likely browsed the “unbiased” Washington Post. But one unanswered question is, with the rise of the new media, what do the bloggers say? It’s time to find out!

Therefore, I’m pleased to announce the 2009 Netroots Supporter Debate hosted by Common Sense for Virginia. Representing Creigh Deeds is Waldo Jaquith while Tom White carries the standard for Bob McDonnell. Need more info? Here…watch this video.

But wait, there’s more! As Common Sense for Virginia reminds us,

And, in this debate of bloggers, for bloggers, by bloggers, we are giving a chance for questions to be wholly submitted by bloggers. Email questions to either CSFVA at venukatta@hotmail.com or The Virginia Conservative at conservativeva@gmail.com. Please put “Debate Question” in the header. We will attempt to get through all submitted questions and credit whoever submitted the question. Thank you and join us at 7:30 PM September 12, 2009 for the 2009 NetRoots Supporters’ Debate

So think of some good, thought-provoking questions, send them to Venu or me, and enjoy the lively discussion.

A Look At The Numbers

Well, the results of the Democratic Primary are in.  Sure, there are still a few unreported precincts, but, with 99.80% accounted for, the numbers are clear.  Creigh Deeds will be the nominee for Governor and Jody Wagner will be the nominee for Lt. Governor.  However, please note that all numbers used in this post come from the Virginia State Board of Elections and are currently unofficial.

First, I have one important observation with the Lt. Gov. race.  Sure, Wagner won with a commanding 74.21%, and won just about every city and county save for nine.  However, look at the numbers for Harrisonburg.  Mike Signer won with 57.5% of the vote (which was his best showing after Halifax County and Martinsville)!  In a down ticket race like this one, name recognition is everything.  I expect that his band of volunteers around Harrisonburg made this small victory possible.  A friendly face, a few good words, and a sign right before you vote can work wonders!  Take note.

As expected for an off year election, turnout was low…6.315% of registered voters in Virginia for Governor and even less for Lt. Governor.  However, there are some interesting variations.  For example, you have a very high turnout in Deeds country like Bath and Highland County (24.52% and 21.92% respectively) while the southwest corner of the state, Lee, Scott, and Wise Counties had turnouts of only 1.536%, 1.614%, and 1.978%!  Deeds captured 80 localities with an outright majority, and 43 by plurality.  Not surprisingly, Senator Deeds performed very well in his Virginia Senate district getting over 90% (yes 90%) of the vote in Alleghany County, Bath County, and Covington City.  Although just a preliminary glance at the map, it does not appear as if any particular geographic region was very bad for Deeds.

Considering Deeds was, for the most part, painted as the most moderate of the three Democratic choices, I think that this primary illustrates that Virginia voters, even the ones who vote in Democratic primaries, are more conservative than the media would lead us to believe.  Therefore, I believe that if Bob McDonnell can successfully articulate and promote a conservative message, run a solid campaign, and highlight Deeds’ more liberal qualities, he should be able to capture the mansion in November.  Here’s hoping.

Democratic Primary Theory

With the Democratic primary coming up tomorrow, I have one question for you.  Are you planning to vote, and if so, for whom?  Personally I enjoy voting in the Democratic primaries and always do so when there is no Republican primary.  It gives me yet another chance to voice my opinion.  For our out-of-state friends, Virginia has open primaries which means that any registered voter can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary as long as they do not vote in both.  We selected our candidate via convention this year, which means that I can vote for a Democratic candidate too.  You see…there is no party registration in Virginia.  We don’t have registered Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, or anything else.  The state cannot restrict a primary to members of a certain party when there is no registration.  When it comes to selecting Republican candidates, I greatly prefer a convention to a primary, but that is a discussion for another day.

Anyway, tomorrow is voting day.  So for whom are you going to vote?  I’ve heard two competing theories when it comes to voting in the opposing party’s primary.  Either you vote for the candidate you think is least electable in the hopes of giving your candidate the greatest chance of victory or you vote for the candidate who is the most acceptable or more closely matches your own views in case that candidate wins.  Although both theories have their potential benefits and negatives, I prefer the latter.  For example, in 2006, I voted for Jim Webb over Harris Miller.  Did I want Jim Webb to beat George Allen?  Certainly not!  However, if a Democrat did win the seat, I would definitely want the more conservative of the two to represent me.  The same holds true for the Democratic nomination for Governor.  Obviously, I want to see Bob McDonnell as Governor.  But I emphatically do not want a hardcore liberal in the mansion.  Therefore, of the three Democratic choices, I intend to vote for Creigh Deeds.  He is more supportive of our Second Amendment rights and the state death penalty.  I certainly don’t want a Clinton insider and DNC operative like McAuliffe running Virginia, and Moran seems like a typical liberal supporting abortion, so-called immigration reform, and government meddling in health care.  Now don’t think for even a moment that I endorse Creigh Deeds, but among the three candidates, I find him least objectionable.

If, on the other hand, you want to follow the opposite theory, I would recommend voting for Brian Moran.  McAuliffe is too well funded and connected and Deeds can offer more appeal to moderates and independents.  Either way, the good news is, regardless of which Democratic candidate gets the nomination, polls presently indicate that Bob McDonnell should beat all of them.

So don’t forget to vote in to in the Democratic primary tomorrow.  I know that I won’t.