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.

Looking Back On the Tea Party

img_1330This morning, fellow Shenandoah Valley blogger Lynn Mitchell asked the question, “Why did the tea party (and libertarians) decide to take over the Republican Party instead of the Democratic Party whose policies they were supposedly against?” Well, as a person who has been involved in tea party politics for a number of years, I wanted to offer my take on the situation.

First off, let me begin by saying that no group is a monolithic unit.  Yes, it is easy to lump people together, to assume that their history, motivations, and goals are unified, but that simply would not be the case.  Anyway, like a number of folks, I joined the tea party while also a member of the Republican Party.  At that time, I had been growing increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of the GOP.  I recall saying at the time that the tea party would never have come into being if the GOP held firm to its supposed principles.

Although Republican politicians seemed to employ inspiring rhetoric when it came to limiting the power of the government, their actual track record was pretty poor.  It is tempting to say that the tea party had its start with the election of Barack Obama, but the truth is that for many of us its roots are earlier, the presidency of George W. Bush.

Let’s look back at George W. Bush, shall we?  What do we find?  An exploding national debt, increased federal government control in areas where it had no defined constitutional authority such as education and healthcare, and a troubling and expensive foreign policy based upon misinformation and a neoconservative philosophy.  Only in recent years have Republican officials finally begun to admit what many people in the tea party have known for years, that a lot of things went wrong in the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency.

So why did the tea party try to push the Republican Party harder instead of the Democratic?  Well, the GOP was seen as having closer ideological ties, especially given that many of us were disaffected Republicans.  Economically, there was supposedly a closer link between the tea party and what the Republican claimed to stand for.  Has that always been the case?  No.  Perhaps the last, best example of what might be considered a “tea party Democrat” (at least in my mind) is the Bourbon Democrats.  As Wikipedia states:

Bourbon Democrats were promoters of a form of laissez-fairecapitalism which included opposition to the protectionism that the Republicans were then advocating as well as fiscal discipline. They represented business interests, generally supporting the goals of banking and railroads but opposed to subsidies for them and were unwilling to protect them from competition. They opposed imperialism and U.S. overseas expansion, fought for the gold standard, and opposed bimetallism and promoted hard and sound money. Strong supporters of reform movements such as the Civil Service Reform and opponents of the corrupt city bosses, Bourbons led the fight against the Tweed Ring. The anti-corruption theme earned the votes of many Republican Mugwumps in 1884.”

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has not held to these principles in about a century.  Given how much time has passed and the great partisan divide which presently exists, a lot of folks see the Democratic Party as irredeemable.

In order to make a greater impact in politics, some candidates tried running under the unofficial tea party label.  Here in Virginia, one could argue that Jamie Radtke was the first statewide tea party candidate.  In 2012, she challenged former Republican governor and senator George Allen for the Republican nod for U.S. Senate.  In the June primary, she won 23.05% of the vote to Allen’s 65.45%.  However, given Allen’s massive advantage in name ID and fundraising, it wasn’t a particularly shocking a result.

However, after that election, the tea party had changed.  Rather than standing strictly on principle, it had somehow begun to morph into a wing of the GOP.  Originally, the local group disdained both President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain.  In the November election that followed, however, we were told that we must rally behind the Republican candidates to defeat Obama and his allies.

In the 2013 contest, the Republican Party of Virginia switched their nomination process from a primary to a convention, presumably to aid gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.  However, that change had a very profound down-ticket result.  E.W. Jackson, who finished last in the 2012 GOP senate primary, began to gain momentum.  In this part of the state, he saw in upsurge in popularity with the tea party, although I would argue he was far more concerned with social issues than the traditional fiscal matters that drove the tea party.  As a result, the regional tea party priorities began to shift again, adopting many of the same principles of groups such as the Valley Family Forum.  Again, prior to this Virginia Republican convention, local tea party goers were informed by the head of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party that the group would support whichever candidates won the GOP nod.

So, to return to Lynn Mitchell’s question, I would say that the reason that the tea party is trying to take over the Republican Party is that it has now become one of a multitude of factions within the GOP.  It no longer stands outside of party politics as originally envisioned.  As such, that fight for control exploded over the weekend in Virginia’s 7th congressional district where Eric Cantor’s ally, Linwood Cobb, was booted for the tea party choice.  A major goal of the tea party these days seems to be to purge the Republican Party of what are seen as big government leaders and politicians.

There is very much an ongoing civil war for the heart of the Virginia Republican Party between those who are primarily motivated to win and those who are motivated by principle (although what that principle happens to be can be a variety of things).  Saturday’s battle is only a continuation of this conflict.

2013 Post Election Thoughts

Vote HereWell, ladies and gentlemen, it has been nearly a week since the election of November 5th.  Perhaps it is time for a little analysis.  Before I begin, I should add that the week before the election, Bearing Drift asked their readers to offer their predictions on how things would turn out.  Therefore, in each race, I’ll start by mentioning my predictions.

Governor

Prediction: McAuliffe 51%, Cuccinelli 43%, Sarvis 6%

Actual: McAuliffe 47.74%, Cuccinelli 45.23%, Sarvis 6.52%

The four November polls in the lead up to Election Day predicted Cuccinelli down by significant percentages, 12%, 7%, 6%, and 7%.  Only one, Emerson College placed him within two points and the margin of error.  As Cuccinelli had not been leading in a poll since mid July, the general thought was that it wasn’t going to be a particularly close race.  However, the Cuccinelli campaign tried two tactics right before judgment day.

The first involved Obamacare.  Given that citizens across the country were having tremendous difficulty signing up on the official website, this frustration and anger proved to be fertile ground for the Cuccinelli camp given that Cuccinelli had been attacking the program within hours of its passage.  If the Cuccinelli campaign had latched onto this message sooner rather than relentlessly attacking McAuliffe, then perhaps they would have stood a good chance of actually winning.

Second, as negativity was their style, the Cuccinelli campaign and their allies attempted last minute smearing of Robert Sarvis, declaring that he was not a real libertarian and that he was secretly funded by Democrats.  Although neither of these claims were grounded in much fact, as they were distributed by both leaders in the liberty movement and a handful of well-known media sources, some voters accepted them as true and passed them on to their friends and neighbors unquestioned.  Although these tactics likely enraged a number of Sarvis supporters and turned them further from Cuccinelli, it did drive others to switch their votes from Sarvis to Cuccinelli.  Although I predicted that Sarvis would pull equally from both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, exit polls show that either his presence didn’t affect the overall outcome or he drew more from the Democratic side than the Republican.  However, this last ditch effort to win Sarvis support likely caused an even deeper fracture within the liberty movement in Virginia.

10% was the hurdle that Sarvis needed to reach and, as I predicted, he fell short.  However, assuming these false attacks were not launched, it would have been interesting to see how close he would have come.

Lieutenant Governor

Prediction: Northam 55%, Jackson 45%

Actual: Northam 55.11%, Jackson 44.54%

If you account for rounding, I hit this one exactly on the mark.  Unfortunately, as I stated upon the conclusion of the 2013 Virginia Republican Convention, by nominating Jackson the Republicans had surrendered the LG race.  If you will recall, in Jackson’s previous attempt at a statewide race the year before, he picked up a scant 4.72%.  Although Jackson strongly resonated with the hard-line social conservatives within the GOP, many of his previous statements regarding alternate religions and lifestyles hurt him tremendously among average Virginians.  Although Ralph Northam did not run a particularly impressive or vigorous campaign, all he needed to do was to air some of Jackson’s more controversial statements and victory was all but a certainty.

Attorney General

Prediction: Obenshain 52% Herring 48%

Actual: Obenshain 49.88%, Herring 49.88% (as of 11/10/13)

The Obenshain/Herring contest turned out to be a real nail-biter, with the results still unknown and likely headed to a recount.  Originally, I expected Obenshain to win based upon the fact that the Democrats had not won the attorney general’s spot since 1989 and that Obenshain had been working hard to capture this office for the last several years.  Although, in my opinion, the Obenshain team ran the best of the three Republican campaigns, they were no doubt hampered by troubles at the top of the ticket.  Once news of a possible recount emerged, I was still under the impression that Obenshain would win, but with the addition of “missing” ballots from Fairfax, the results seem a lot more unclear.  We likely won’t know anything definitive for at least a month.

House of Delegates

Prediction: 1 net seat gain for the Democrats

Actual: 1 net seat gain for the Democrats

With all of the excitement surrounding the three statewide races, the hundred seats in the House of Delegates weren’t much more than an afterthought for many Virginia voters.  Although I didn’t know where, I assumed that the Democrats would pick off a Republican somewhere.  It looks as if the GOP lost in the 2nd district, picked up the previously Republican leaning independent seat in the 19th, picked up the vacant seat in the 78th, picked up the vacant seat in 84th, and lost the 93rd.  Elsewhere, there were a considerable number of close contests.  Prior to the elections and vacancies, the Democrats had 32 seats.  Now they have 33.  Although I’ve written extensively on the 93rd in previous posts, it seems that even with a bit of gerrymandering the seat was too difficult for the GOP to hold for long.

So I guess the question now is, will Obenshain win?  And, especially if he does not, given their string of successive statewide losses since the 2009 election, what will become of the Republican Party of Virginia?

Jackson Returns to Harrisonburg

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E. W. Jackson in downtown Harrisonburg. April 15th, 2012

I have just received word from the Harrisonburg Republican Party that lieutenant governor candidate E. W. Jackson will make a stop in downtown Harrisonburg on Wednesday.  The details are as follows:

“E.W. Jackson will be at the Rockingham County Courthouse on Court Square in Harrisonburg Wednesday October 30th at 4:30 P.M.  E.W. Jackson will be laying out his agenda for his role as Lt. Governor if elected as a part of his Statewide tour to promote Conservative Governing principles.

“The media and various local officials will be in attendance. Right now E.W. is tied with his liberal opponent in the polls.”

Update:  Today’s emails indicate that this event has been cancelled.

Saturday Morning With Cuccinelli

IMG_2204Yesterday morning at 10 AM, Ken Cuccinelli greeted supporters at the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Republican Party headquarters.  There were almost forty in the crowd including several members of the media.

After an introduction by Delegate Tony Wilt (R-26), Cuccinelli spoke on a number of topics, drawing clear contrasts between himself and Terry McAuliffe.  As in previous speeches, Cuccinelli did a pretty good job balancing the troubling positions of his Democratic opponent while offering his own positive solutions to these issues, unlike the bulk of his campaign, which is still mired in negativity.

One issue that ought to be distressing to Republicans regarding the event is the attendance of Saturday’s gathering, especially this close to the election.  By comparison, the Sarvis event in Harrisonburg earlier that week drew about three times the crowd and the lieutenant governor debate watching party also had slightly better numbers.  One would expect that a multitude of conservatives from in and around the Shenandoah Valley would come out to wish Cuccinelli well; unfortunately, the fact that they did not perhaps further underscores the fact that both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe are viewed with disdain by huge segments of Virginia voters.

With less than a month to go until the election, it should be interesting to see how the polls fluctuate and what Virginia voters ultimately decide on November 5th.

44 For Jackson

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Photo from Cole Trower

This evening, forty-four activists came to the Republican Headquarters in Harrisonburg to watch the live-streamed lieutenant governor debate between Republican E.W. Jackson and Democrat State Senator Ralph Northam.  Although most were from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, several came from nearby areas as well, at least two from as far away as Luray.

In general, the crowd seemed quite energized, clapping frequently when Jackson articulated their principles and questioning some of the claims made by Northam.  The local media also stopped by to interview several of the attendees.

Given the number of yard signs spread across the area (more than any other candidate) combined with the considerable numbers of volunteers who have lined up to help the Jackson campaign, tonight’s gathering of forty-four is yet another demonstration of the vast enthusiasm many conservative activists in the Shenandoah Valley share for the Republican LG nominee.

The 2001…I mean 2013 Election

This November, Virginia voters face three interesting statewide races.  On the Democratic side for governor, we find a well-connected, well-funded Democrat who has never held office (though did previously run) squaring off against the Republican attorney general, who previously served in the Virginia State Senate, and a Libertarian from northern Virginia who sought a seat in the state senate several years ago.  The fight for the GOP nod featured the lieutenant governor, favored by the establishment and more moderate wings of the party, against the conservatives, especially religious conservatives, who preferred the attorney general.  Although the attorney general emerged victorious, it seems that wound inflicted to the GOP as a result of this feud has not yet fully healed; some of the supporters of the lieutenant governor have not yet announced their public support for the attorney general and a few are openly backing his Democratic opponent.  For lieutenant governor, the Republican Party nominated an Ivy League graduate who holds some views that pundits and his running mates consider extreme.  And for attorney general, the Republican candidate is a lawyer who hails from the western portion of the state.

Although the above paragraph is an accurate description of the 2013 elections, did you know that each statement could also fit Virginia’s election from 2001?  As another twist, were you aware that only twice in Virginia history did all three statewide Republican office seekers win, in the elections immediately preceding these two, in 2009 and in 1997?  Quite a fair number of coincidences, don’t you think?  They say that elections run in cycles and, as I’m sure you know, they also say that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

IMG_2162Currently, as was the case in 2001, the Virginia Republican Party is divided.  Although a college student in Williamsburg back in the early 2000’s, and thus somewhat less informed in the statewide scheme of things, I would argue that the party is more fractured today than it was then.  First, in the early stages, some Republicans worried that some of E.W. Jackson’s statements would drag down the ticket, and some offered him only conditional support.  Now, others are convinced that Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign is weakening the cause.  Many Bolling supporters are still upset.  As proof of this party rift, unlike previous years, I have seen no full ticket literature, yard signs, or bumper stickers.  Each campaign seems to be charting its own course independent of the others.  Now to be fair, from my observation it appears as if the Democrats are focusing solely on the race for governor, presumably hoping that McAuliffe’s coattails will carry both Northam and Herring to victory.  One only need to look to Monday’s parade in Buena Vista to see that the Democratic Party has placed most of their eggs in the McAuliffe basket.  And then there is the Libertarian Sarvis; admittedly under funded, but also the great-unknown factor, currently holding sway with an astounding 10% of voters, assuming the latest poll numbers are accurate.

If we look back to the 2001 election, we find a Democratic victory for governor and lieutenant governor while the Republicans win the attorney general’s race with a huge margin.  For the record, for governor the Democrat got 52%, the Republican 47%, and the Libertarian with .77%.  The LG race was pretty close, but still a Democratic victory 50% to 48% (with 1.5% for the Libertarian), and for AG, the Democrat got 40% to the Republican 60%.

Although at the start of this campaign season I originally predicted that both Cuccinelli and Obenshain would win (Obenshain with a larger margin than Cuccinelli), with two months out, if the election were held today I now believe that November’s result will likely closely follow 2001 (with Sarvis likely outstripping Bill Redpath’s percentage due to considerable recent upswings in his media coverage).  Nothing is set in stone quite yet nor do any of us possess perfect knowledge; for example, in the lieutenant governor contest, if Jackson’s supporters are as out in force throughout the state as they are in the Shenandoah Valley and the Democrats only focus on McAuliffe, a surprise upset is not out of the question.

So, the question of the day is, do you also believe that 2013 will mirror 2001?

Labor Day, Buena Vista, 2013

Yesterday, the city of Buena Vista held their 43rd annual Labor Day parade.  As in previous years, this event serves as the start of the countdown to Election Day.  However, unlike previous years, Monday’s parade was smaller than average in terms of both attendance and sign coverage.  Normally, one can find a thick blanket of yard signs from all of the candidates along Route 60 into the city.  By comparison, signs this year were restricted to the parade route itself.

All seven of the statewide candidates participated in the parade and the speeches that followed.  Besides Ken Cuccinelli, Terry McAuliffe, Robert Sarvis, E. W. Jackson, Ralph Northam, Mark Herring, and Mark Obenshain, other elected officials who attended include: Lacey Putney, the longest serving member of the Virginia General Assembly and grand marshall of the event, Representative Bob Goodlatte, Delegate Ben Cline, and Delegate Dickie Bell.

Much like the overall tone of the governor’s race, there seemed to be more anti-Cuccinelli signs than either pro-Cuccinelli or McAuliffe signs.  In addition, at the start of the parade, a plane flew overhead flying a message critical of the attorney general.  As for the winner of this year’s sign wars, both the Obenshain and Jackson campaigns shined.  Sarvis also did well, outpacing both his Republican and Democratic opponents.  Cuccinelli finished fourth and McAuliffe in fifth.  Neither Northam nor Herring had signs of any appreciable quantity.

Cuccinelli “So-So” on Gun Rights?

VCDLEarlier today, I read on Facebook that Ken Cuccinelli was given a “so-so” ranking by the Virginia Citizens Defense League.  Curious, I called the folks at the VCDL to ask about Cuccinelli’s score.  I was told that in previous campaigns Ken gave very pro-gun answers and although he still completed a somewhat pro-gun rights survey, he attached a multitude of qualifying statements to his answers that troubled the folks at the VCDL and thus earned him a “so-so”.

It doesn’t come as any surprise that the three Democratic candidates did not answer the survey and that the other two Republican candidates, E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain, have been labeled “very pro-gun” by the VCDL.  But, the Cuccinelli score is shocking.  However, as you will note according to the VCDL, there is a very pro-gun candidate on the ballot for governor, the Libertarian Robert Sarvis.

Although the specific responses of each of the candidates will not be available until several days before the election, is this news another misstep for the Cuccinelli campaign that will have ramifications come November?  It seems likely.

Sarvis In The Valley

Virginia Libertarian gubernatorial candidaete Rob Sarvis
Virginia Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis

This week, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis will be making a multitude of campaign stops in the central Shenandoah Valley.  These events mark his first trip to the area since securing the party’s nomination back at the Waynesboro convention in April.

First, on Wednesday, August 14th, Sarvis will give a speech on the steps of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County courthouse beginning at 5:30 PM.

From there, he will travel to a meet-and-greet at the home of a local supporter who lives just west of the city.

Then, on the following day, he will converse with voters at Wright’s Dairy Rite in Staunton from 4 PM to 5 PM.  Wrights’, for those who don’t know, is a 1950s style burger and milkshakes diner that has been in operation since 1952 and is located at 346 Greenville Avenue.

Afterward, starting at 6:30 PM, Robert will address the Staunton Tea Party.  These days, the Staunton Tea Party holds their monthly gatherings at the VFW on 212 Frontier Drive.

Lastly, on Friday, Robert Sarvis will tour the Rockingham County Fair for a good portion of the day.  This year, the Libertarian Party has a booth alongside the Republican and Democratic Parties.

As the 2013 election season begins to kick into high gear, it should be interesting to see how many times the various statewide candidates visit the Valley.  Only a few weeks ago, E. W. Jackson held a particularly successful fundraiser on the campus of James Madison University.  With both Rockingham and Augusta Counties being typically among the most Republican (if not the most Republican) localities in the state coupled with cities like Harrisonburg and Staunton, which have been trending Democratic in recent years, the area provides a variety of political opinions and perspectives.  And, given that none of the statewide candidates have opened up a considerable lead in the polls thus far coupled with the relatively untested variable of the Libertarian Party and Robert Sarvis, politics in this part of the state might be a bit more entertaining than it has been in previous cycles.