No Issues In Rockingham

Last night, the Rockingham County Republican Party held their mass meeting at Spotswood High School in Penn Laird to elect delegates to the 24th district convention.  Russ Moulton of Fredericksburg was the temporary chair for this meeting.  The turnout was relatively small, with a few observers from Staunton, Waynesboro, Harrisonburg, and other portions of the county.  Dan Moxley was the only candidate for the 24th district GOP nomination who attended.

Although no pre-files were allowed, twelve voters sought to be delegates and the same twelve were elected without any controversy.  Each delegate will split the county’s ninety-nine votes, thus giving each eight and a quarter votes…assuming all of the delegates show up at the convention.

All in all, the meeting took about ten minutes, amazingly quick and without controversy; it was very surprising given the rancor which had developed in previous meetings.

Perhaps the only unfortunate aspect of the mass meeting was the cost.  Should the courts decide the convention will not proceed, the money spent by the county party to rent the high school last night would have gone to waste.

Nevertheless, rumor is that the courts could announce the fate of the Incumbent Protection Act as early as today!

Meeting Donald Sheets

Donald Sheets, the most recent entrant into the race for the Republican nomination for the 24th Virginia Senate district, is a mystery to many in Shenandoah Valley politics.  Who is he?  Why is he running?  And why did he file his last minute campaign?  Although there have been a number of speculations into the answers to these questions, they remained unsolved, little more than rumors.  The News Leader recently wrote a story about Mr. Sheets, but it didn’t really address any of these issues.

Last night, before the monthly meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party, I had the opportunity to speak to Donald Sheets for the first time in the hopes of shedding some light on his campaign.

He told me that he had lived in the Shenandoah Valley pretty much his entire life.  In fact, his family has been a part of this community since the Revolutionary War.  He has known both Senator Emmett Hanger and Marshall Pattie for years and that they had been a part of the community for quite some time.  However, his third opponent, Dan Moxley, was a relatively new addition to Augusta County.  Mr. Sheets explained that he thought that Mr. Moxley had only moved to the 24th district in order to run for office and added that many of Moxley’s business ventures were far away from the area.

Mr. Sheets also expressed concern that outside groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, were attempting to wrest control of this seat from the people of the 24th district.  It is no secret that AFP has lobbied heavily against some of Senator Hanger’s proposals, such as Medicaid expansion.

He also opposed the lawsuit against the Incumbent Protection Act filed by the 24th district GOP.  Although Mr. Sheets didn’t seem to think the act was fair, he added that the idea of using the judicial branch to overturn Virginia law wasn’t right and was another way to circumvent proper political processes.

As such, Donald Sheets stated that he filed to run for the convention as a way to expose some of the disturbing injustices that are going on in the 24th district.  Doing so, he declared, was well worth the fees required.

I asked if he planned to run in the primary as well, to which he responded that he hadn’t made up his mind.  However, given that the window to submit the necessary paperwork to be a candidate in that contest closed at 5 PM yesterday, he will not be a candidate in that contest assuming the courts decide in favor of that nomination method.

So, if the convention is the path forward, delegates in the 24th will have the choice of Dan Moxley or Donald Sheets.  Although I don’t know what ideological differences separate the two, it is certainly useful to know more about Mr. Sheets and his motivations.

What’s Going on In the 24th?

By all accounts, the race for the Republican nomination in Virginia’s 24th District Senate seat is a curious affair.  Two candidates are vying for a convention that may or may not happen.  Three candidates are competing for a primary which also is uncertain.  The final nomination process hinges upon a court case, with a preliminary decision expected either next week or the week after.  What an odd state of an election!

However, what is even more peculiar is how the campaigns are interacting with each other and the public (or perhaps the lack thereof).  For example, on Wednesday, March 18th, Senator Emmett Hanger was the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the Rockingham County GOP.  Both of his primary challengers, Dan Moxley and Marshall Pattie, were conspicuously absent and, although I arrived at the end of the meeting, there didn’t seem to be a trace of campaign materials for any of the candidates at that meeting, including Hanger himself.  By comparison, I did see Delegate Steve Landes (R-25), who is also running for re-election this year, with a sizable stack of bumper stickers in hand.   From my observations and well as reports I’ve heard from others, this seems to be a common trend for the 24th district race.  None of the candidates seem to be making a big push for support among the party faithful…at least publicly.

Now, perhaps the traditional campaigning is all going on quietly behind closed doors.  And, if so, that sort of maneuvering is exceedingly unusual.  After all, wouldn’t you expect to see the typical bumper stickers, yard signs, and various campaign brochures?  Wouldn’t the campaigns have their staffers clearly visible in the audience, shaking hands, handing out materials, and thanking individuals for their support?  I cannot recall the last time I’ve seen a stealth campaign succeed, but is the strategy each have chosen to employ?

As one example, I’ve never met Donald Sheets (one of the two candidates running in the convention), nor have most people that I’ve spoken to.  Although it is highly likely that his campaign isn’t serious, given the actions of the Hanger, Moxley, and Pattie campaigns, one does start to wonder if he has some sort of hidden network lurking under the surface given the peculiar actions of his opponents.

That’s not to say that the campaigns are inactive, for example, the Pattie campaign is holding a meet & greet in Elkton this evening.  But, in general, things are exceedingly quiet right now.

I don’t mean to be too hard on any of the four, but to me this race is one of the strangest affairs I’ve ever seen.  What the heck are you all doing!?  Yes, it is uncertain if the nomination will come down to a convention or a primary, but if I were an advisor to any of the four campaigns (which I am not), I’d recommend buckling down and making sure that either the candidate or a staffer was present at every single GOP meeting in the 24th district between now and whenever the court decision is announced, with supporters clearly labeled, with a healthy supply of campaign materials in hand.  Or is it that no one has bothered to tell me that the traditional methods of campaigning no longer work?

A Huge Surprise in the 24th

This evening, Republican representatives from across the 24th Virginia Senate district gathered in Elkton to discuss the pending lawsuit against the State Board of Elections and the Incumbent Protection Act. At the beginning of the meeting, it was also restated that only one candidate, Dan Moxley, had properly filed to be a candidate at the upcoming convention.

Then, one of the attorneys handling the lawsuit got up and briefly discussed the details of the case.  He was of the opinion that the chances of getting the Incumbent Protection Act declared unconstitutional should be pretty good.  Following that, the committee moved to a closed session and all of the oberservers were asked to leave.

For quite some time, we milled about in the hallway, engaging in random conversations about politics. I appreciated the opportunity to speak with several activists from Greene County with whom I worked in 2012.

When we finally returned, the conversation took a strange turn as they began discussing preparations for the upcoming convention. This talk seemed very strange, especially given the earlier declaration.  After all, they said at the beginning that there was only one properly filed candidate and, according to the rules of the call, if there was only only candidate then the convention would be cancelled. It was at this point we learned that a fellow named Mr. Sheets had also filed to be a candidate. It was exceedingly peculiar news. Was the earlier information wrong? Did the attorneys encourage the 24th district to bend or break the rules of the convention? It was all rather confusing and disconcerting.

I have to confess that on the drive back to Harrisonburg that I felt that Mr. Moxley had been cheated a little tonight. Sure, I doubt Mr. Sheets will be able to mount a credible challenge, but why should the Moxley campaign have to put in the time and money to prepare for a convention if indeed he was the only candidate to properly pre-file according to the rules in the call? It didn’t seem fair.

Although I’m glad that they seem optimistic that the lawsuit will be successful at striking down an unfair law and I appreciated the chance to speak with many good folks that I’ve met in my political journey, I sorely wish that the 24th district GOP would have either announced there were two candidates at the beginning of the meeting or not allowed this potentially questionable newcomer to skirt the established rules.

So that’s the political intrigue from this part of the state tonight.

Is the 24th GOP Nomination Decided?

From the 4th of July Parade in Staunton
From the 4th of July Parade in Staunton

In case you haven’t been paying attention to politics in the central Shenandoah Valley, three candidates have been vying for the GOP nomination for the 24th district Virginia Senate seat.  Senator Emmett Hanger of Mount Solon is opposed by both Marshall Pattie and Dan Moxley.

Pattie was the first to publicly announce his intentions for office,  running since the end of June.  Moxley didn’t officially throw his hat into the ring until December 2nd, and, although not unexpected, Hanger made his entry quite recently.

Even though the 24th district Republican Party made the decision that they would be holding a convention to determine their nominee, when Senator Hanger entered the race, he declared that they would instead run a primary, citing the Incumbent Protection Act.  As such, the 24th district Republican Party filed suit in court.

Yesterday, on March 2nd, the deadline to file as a candidate for the convention came and went.  Surprisingly, only one candidate filed, Dan Moxley.  According to the call, given that there is only one candidate, the convention will be cancelled and Moxley will be declared the official nominee.

Now, one can make an argument as to why Emmett Hanger didn’t file his paperwork for this convention.  After all, doing so would add some legitimacy to a convention that he will be fighting in court.  From a political perspective, Hanger would face a considerably uphill battle in a convention as it would likely be populated by Republican activists eager to oust Hanger due to his support of Medicaid expansion and previous tax hikes.

However, it makes little sense to me why the Marshall Pattie campaign didn’t take the necessary steps to be a candidate at this convention.  Yes, it is possible that the convention will be overturned, that the district will end up with a primary, and thus convention preparation will be unnecessary.  But, if the convention is upheld, then the Pattie campaign has just discarded any chance for him to be the Republican nominee.  At the end of the day, is the time necessary to file or the $500 fee too much of a hurdle?  Seems like a heck of a lot of earlier effort and money to gamble upon the outcome of this court case.  It makes even less sense given that the Pattie campaign has certainly been the most visible thus far.  As one example, his was the only campaign to send a representative to last Thursday’s meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party.

When Nick Freitas, chairman of the Culpeper Republican Party, (and Republican candidate for House of Delegates in the 30th District) declared on Facebook last night, “Congratulations to Dan Moxley in the 24th District.  As the only candidate who pre-filed for the convention, he will be our Republican nominee in November,” that news certainly caught me by surprise, as I’m sure it did many.  So far, there has been no public word from either the Hanger, Moxley, or Pattie campaigns or from the 24th District GOP as a whole about this development.

IMG_2708Will the Incumbent Protection Act be upheld and a primary be conducted?  Or will the original convention stand, Moxley be declared the winner, and thus the 24th District GOP nomination has been decided?

More news and commentary will be posted as it becomes available.

Lobby Day 2015

IMG_2729Today, in an annual tradition, citizens from across Virginia converged at the state capitol in Richmond for Lobby Day.  The morning and afternoon consisted of rallies, protests, sitting in on sessions of the state government, and meeting with elected officials.

The day started relatively early as I traveled from the Shenandoah Valley with two local Republicans, Kaylene and Laura.  My first stop was to the General Assembly Building.  As I walked through the grounds, the Virginia Citizens Defense League was preparing for an event at the bell tower, passing out their traditional orange stickers proclaiming that “guns save lives.”  Many in the gathering crowd also wore stickers in support of Susan Stimpson, as she is seeking to unseat Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell.

After making my way through security, I came across several local faces, such as Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) as well as Dan Moxley and his daughter, Hannah.  Mr. Moxley is challenging Senator Emmett Hanger for the Republican nomination in the 24th district.

One of my first stops was to see Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).  He has proposed a bill that lowers the threshold for a political party to achieve official status in Virginia from 10% of a statewide vote to 4%.  As I believe doing so would allow for greater choices in elections, I wanted to learn more.  While there, I discovered that he has sponsored another bill that would change redistricting so that legislators would no longer be able to choose their voters.  It is a bill which requires further study.

Although many of the delegates and senators were not in their offices, I did set up an appointment to speak with Delegate Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson).  I very much enjoyed my conversation with his aide, Ashley.  In addition, I ran across Virginia Libertarian Party Chairman Bill Redpath and later Virginia Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Robert Kenyon.

IMG_2730When I approached the capitol entrance, a group marched outside protesting student loans.

Inside, both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates were in brief sessions.  I found it curious that one had to go through security a second time in order to watch the Senate; it seemed completely unnecessary.

After briefly speaking with a number of legislators including: Senator Obenshain (R-Rockingham), Senator Vogel (R-Fauquier), and Senator Hanger (R-Augusta), I made my way back to the General Assembly Building.  Outside stood a group advocating greater food and farming freedom.  There I ran across additional legislators including: Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), and a second brief encounter with Delegate Berg.

Although I was tempted to visit the office of recently re-elected and convicted Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico), I decided against it.  I would have also liked to speak to Delegate Pogge (R-York).  Even though I saw her outside, I could not find her in the building, instead meeting with her legislative assistant.  I also said hello to Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) and his aide, Savanna.

Next, I spoke with Delegate Helsel.  I sought him out as I was interested to learn his opinions of the proposed changes in the party plan of the Republican Party of Virginia.  Now serving as a Republican delegate, in 2009 Helsel ran as an independent against the Republican nominee.  If the proposed changed had been in place at that time, Delegate Helsel would have been ineligible to run as a Republican in 2011 or participate in any of their party politics until the year 2017.  We also discussed the surprisingly differing responses from Republicans regarding former Delegate Phil Hamilton and freshly sentenced former Governor Bob McDonnell.

Afterward, I visited my state senator’s office to try and understand why he would push for party registration as well as to voice my objections and concerns about doing so.   I firmly believe that registration would lead to disenfranchisement and would further erode political freedom in Virginia.  I’m told that I should have a response from his office within a day.

Lastly, I met up with Robert Sarvis and a handful of fellow Libertarians who also came to Richmond for Lobby Day.  Apparently they spoke in a Senate committee in favor of a bill that would decrease signature requirements for ballot access, but I’m told the bill was killed 2-4 along party lines as all of the Republicans in the committee voted against it.

I must say that as I walked through the halls of the capitol today, I felt a return of excitement and enthusiasm that I first experienced during my early days of political involvement.

All in all, Lobby Day 2015 was another fun event here in Virginia and I was glad to be a part of it.

The Unveiling

Last night, as snow began to fall in Harrisonburg, the Valley Family Forum held their annual Unveiling ceremony.  Although designed to showcase upcoming legislative measures by local members of the General Assembly, curiously a vast majority did not attend.

Matt Homer, staffer for Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), began by leading with an invocation and the pledge of allegiance.  From there, Dean Welty, Director of the Valley Family Forum, offered welcoming remarks and introduced the first two speakers, Travis Witt, the Chairman of the Tea Party Federation of Virginia and Chris Freund, the Vice President of the Family Foundation of Virginia.  Mr. Freund spoke on the social issues facing the Commonwealth while Mr. Witt mentioned the tea party’s role in Virginia politics.

Delegate Mark Berg
Delegate Mark Berg

Next, Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) talked about issues like Medicaid expansion that seek to enhance the power of government in the lives of ordinary citizens.  Then, Rita Dunaway, the Deputy Director of the Valley Family Forum, brought up the issue of an Article V Convention as a means of curtailing the expansion of the federal government.  Conservatives have been split on this issue.  Although some favor a convention, others believe it will merely end up expanding the power of Washington.

Dan Moxley with his family and local activist Laura Logie after the event
Dan Moxley with his family and local activist Laura Logie after the event

Dan Moxley and Marshall Pattie were slated to address the crowd next, but due to illness, Mr. Pattie was unable to attend.  Mr. Moxley spoke of his faith and his political principles which seemed to resonate well with the audience.

Finally, Dr. John Sloop, Chaplain of the Valley Family Forum, offered the commissioning to close the event.  He planned to offer additional thoughts, but decided against it due to the continued precipitation.

Although I’ve never attended an Unveiling before due to prior commitments, it did draw a sizable number of activists; almost every seat in the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors room was filled.  As far as I could tell, many, if not most of the audience seemed to be members of the Republican Party; both Harrisonburg Chairman Mac Nichols and Rockingham Chairman Donna Moser were there.  All in all, I’d say it was a worthwhile evening, though I would have liked the opportunity to hear and speak with more elected officials and candidates as has been in the case in previous Unveilings.

A Convention for the 24th

Earlier this week, a number of local Republican leaders got together to discuss the party’s nomination process for Virginia 24th senate district.  And, perhaps surprisingly, they have decided upon a convention.

In previous contests, the incumbent was allowed to choose the nomination method, presumably picking which ever one favored him or her.  As such, it was a primary in 2007.  Nevertheless, challenger Scott Sayre from Rockbridge County gave Senator Hanger a good run for his money.  But times are changing.

As previously mentioned, presently there are three candidates are seeking the Republican nod in the 24th.  Longtime Senator Emmett Hanger is squaring off against Marshall Pattie and Dan Moxley.

Given his higher levels of name identification, fundraising capacity, the fact that Emmett Hanger is viewed favorably by a number of Democrats, and that the two other candidates would likely split the anti-Hanger vote, smart money would dictate that a primary would result in a victory for the Senator.  However, as most of these advantages are mitigated by a convention, this decision means that both Moxley and Pattie now have a greater chance of victory.

In my opinion, this could very well be the most exciting state senate race in 2015.

Moxley Announces

IMG_2708A few hours ago, in one of the most long-awaited political announcements in recent Shenandoah Valley history, Dan Moxley of Augusta County officially declared his intent to seek the Republican nomination for Virginia Senate in the 2015 elections.  He spoke in front of a crowd of about forty at a local business in Fishersville.  After an introduction from Tina Freitas of Culpeper County, Mr. Moxley talked of his principles, what motivated him to get involved, and a brief history of his political activity.  Promoting the ideals of limited government and liberty were scattered throughout his speech.

After greeting members of the audience, the Moxley campaign packed up their materials and headed off to Madison County where they plan to repeat this announcement on the other side of the district later today.

At this point, three people are wrestling for the GOP nod in the 24th, incumbent Senator Emmett Hanger, Augusta County Supervisor Marshall Pattie, and former Republican Party Chairman Dan Moxley.

Shakeup in the Augusta County GOP

Last night, while attending a meeting of the JMU College Republicans, I received word from the Marshall Pattie campaign that Dan Moxley had resigned his chairmanship of the Augusta County Republican Party.  For the record, both Pattie and Moxley are challenging State Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) for the Republican nomination in the 24th district in 2015.

The Augusta County GOP has been in a renewed turmoil as of late.  Not only is has there been tension between the Moxley and Pattie camps, but a recent disagreement over the Republican nomination for a county supervisor position made the situation far more tenuous.  Rumors were rampant that some Pattie supporters were attempting to launch a coup in order to remove Moxley from his position as chairman.

Nevertheless, this news of resignation did come as a surprise to me and thus I sought additional verification.  Yesterday, the following message was posted on the Augusta County Republican Facebook page:

From the ACRC Chairman, Dan Moxley:

Dear Committee Members,

I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as Chairman of the Augusta County Republican committee, effective immediately. I appreciate the opportunity I was given to serve in this capacity. The responsibilities of family, business, the critical 2014 US senate race, and my own Commonwealth senate race of 2015, necessitate that I leave the extensive administrative duties of the county committee to another individual. I look forward to working together with you to elect Congressman Bob Goodlatte and nominee Ed Gillespie this November.

Respectfully,

Daniel J. Moxley

Although Augusta is one of the most Republican counties in the state of Virginia, the county has been plagued by years of political infighting.  Although the actors may be different, the Pattie/Moxley feud is not a new phenomenon, but rather a continuation of a long-standing rivalry for the direction of the Augusta County GOP.  Regardless of whomever will be the new chairman of the party, one thing is relatively certain; the war for Augusta is not over yet.