Reflections on the Straw Poll

As my most recent article on examiner.com states, last week I conducted a straw poll at the meeting of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.  Here are the results:

2012 Republican Presidential Primary

Newt Gingrich – 30%

Michelle Bachmann – 27%

Rick Santorum – 20%

Ron Paul – 7%

Rick Perry – 7%

Jon Huntsman – 7%

Mitt Romney – 0%

Would not vote in the GOP Primary – 3%

2012 Republican Senate Primary

E.W. Jackson – 40%

George Allen – 37%

Jamie Radtke – 13%

Bob Marshall (written in, not listed on the ballot) – 7%

Tim Donner – 0%

David McCormick – 0%

Would not vote in the GOP Primary – 3%

2012 Democratic Senate Primary

No respondents cast a vote in this primary

2012 Republican 6th District House of Representatives Primary

Karen Kwiatkowski – 47%

Bob Goodlatte – 43%

Other (no name filled in) – 3%

Office left blank – 3%

Would not vote in the GOP Primary – 3%

I’m not going to rehash the finer bits about the poll.  If you’d like that information, I encourage you to read my previous article.  Instead of reporting, which is what they primarily request at examiner.com, you’ll find my commentary on each of the three races.

1. President

To be quite honest, I was very surprised by this result.  Why would Tea Partiers embrace Gingrich, a man who is arguably the least conservative in the Republican field?  I’d guess that it has more to do with his surging popularity and his favorable news coverage on places like Fox News rather than areas of policy agreement.  At least I hope that idea is correct.  Neither Bachmann nor Santorum’s strong showing really came as a shock.  After all, whether you agree or disagree with the label, they are billed as “tea party candidates”.  But Paul with only 7%?  If you are wondering, that meant he only got two votes, myself and one other person.  Although Paul may not win a majority of the tea party vote (even though I think he should), he should certainly capture a higher percentage.

So has the Ron Paul campaign reached out to the tea party movement across the country?  I would assume it would be fertile ground.  After all, the tea party supposedly grew out of the dissatisfaction regarding the big government policies of both Democrat Barack Obama and his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, in a similar manner of the groundswell for Dr. Paul.  In order to spread awareness of Ron Paul and sway my local tea party toward his campaign, I have called his national headquarters many times and, once that failed, even sent them a letter asking for campaign materials.  Each time I contact them I am told that I would be getting something in the mail.  More than a month later, I still have nothing, which is more than a little distressing.  If you will recall, the tea parties in Kentucky helped get Rand Paul elected Senator.  Don’t you think they could be helpful in electing his father to be our next president?

2. U.S. Senate

The result for the Senate race also held a lot of surprises.  As you see, E.W. Jackson finished first.  Although he is likely the strongest, most articulate, and passionate speaker of any of the other Republican or Democratic candidates, I have seen nothing to lead me to believe that he has a particularly strong and organized campaign.

Second, George Allen captured second.  Again, this result might leave your jaw open wondering if the tea party has a heavy minority of establishment Republicans.  Not surprisingly, this poll shows a very strong correlation between support for Newt Gingrich and support for George Allen.  Of Gingrich’s ten votes, seven of them also supported George Allen.

Third, Jamie Radtke, Tim Donner, and David McCormick ought to be concerned by these results.  Although the Senate race is still many months away, I would assume that each would require tea party support to be successful.  With Radtke finishing a distant third and Donner and McCormick with no votes whatsoever, I would recommend that each needs to visit more tea party organizations in order to sway, not only the tea party leaders, but also the regular tea party members.

Fourth, Bob Marshall got two votes.  This fact may seem trivial given that is it such a low number, but given that his name wasn’t even on the ballot; you do wonder how he would fare.  After all, while leafing through the results, one tea partier mentioned to me that she would have voted for Marshall if his name were listed as a choice.  Will Marshall enter?  The answer to that question is still unknown.

3. House of Representatives

Next, we had the race for the Republican nominee for House of Representatives.  Karen Kwiatkowski, the challenger to ten-term incumbent Bob Goodlatte, won by a single vote.  Believe or not, this result was not surprising.  Although neither Goodlatte nor Kwiatkowski have been a featured speaker at the tea party, Kwiatkowski has taken the effort to show up to a handful of meetings.  On other hand, the tea party rallied outside of his office over his support for raising the debt ceiling, and seems to be suffering additional blowback for his sponsorship of the Stop Online Piracy Act. Assuming these trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kwiatkowski captures at least 2/3rds of the tea party vote up and down the Shenandoah Valley by the time the primaries roll around.

Again, there appears to be a pretty strong correlation between Goodlatte supporters and two other so-called “establishment” candidates, Newt Gingrich and George Allen.  Of Goodlatte’s thirteen votes, 77% also supported Gingrich, Allen, or both.  By comparison, of Kwiatowski’s fourteen votes, 79% supported neither Gingrich nor Allen.

Lastly, as a novel aside, one respondent gave what I dub as the “2012, Year of the Woman” response by voting for Bachmann, Radtke, and Kwiatkowski.  Regardless of whether you support or oppose these candidates, I don’t believe that the sex of a candidate should play a role in whether or not he or she should receive your vote.  After all, look at Margaret Thatcher in the U.K.  I would gladly replace a vast majority of our politicians with either a man or woman who shared Thatcher’s principles and convictions.

Getting back to my article on examiner.com, I find it rather amusing that the folks who have dismissed the survey and article are fellow Ron Paul supporters.  Here’s what I’ve got to say on the matter.  Look, these are the results.  I would have liked to see Ron Paul win the poll, just like you would have.  However, just because I didn’t end up with my desired result doesn’t mean I should suppress the story.  After all, I don’t work for the mainstream media.  And yes, thirty people may not be a very large number, but I still believe it fairly accurately depicts the attitudes of the local tea party.  If you aren’t happy with these numbers then that point should encourage you to get out there and press even harder for our candidate.  After all, I would expect that both members of the local Republicans as well as tea partiers would show up in large numbers to the March 6th primary.  With that thought in mind, who do you think is more likely to vote for Ron Paul?  Rank and file Republicans or tea party members?  That’s what I thought.  Now go and spread the word!

Marshall 2012?

Currently, five candidates are vying for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat currently held by Jim Webb.  But could a sixth soon join the fray?

As far back as two years ago, I began wondering if Delegate Bob Marshall would seek Virginia’s Senate seat again.  After all, in 2008 he came within a handful of votes of upsetting the establishment favorite, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, at the Republican convention.  Along with Corey Stewart, rumors swirled that Marshall would run after he won re-election.

Throughout the past forty-seven or so months, the topic keeps popping up.  On multiple occasions, including The Leadership Institute’s 4th of July Soirée and the Agenda 21 presentation in Verona, I’ve spoken with several folks with very close connections to Delegate Marshall who indicated that he would enter the contest.

Now that his House of Delegates election is over, he can now focus on this race…assuming he chooses to do so.

But what are his chances of success?  Has the race solidified sufficiently to severely hinder any new entrant?  Have the coalition of activists and politicos that rallied behind him back in 2008 already selected a candidate in this race?  Well, it is true that Marshall’s former campaign manager has joined the Allen campaign, many social conservatives are supporting E.W. Jackson, and Jamie Radtke is working her tea party contacts.  Earlier, I argued that waiting until after Election Day 2011 would be too late for any candidate.  But perhaps I was mistaken.  After all, the field still seems pretty divided.

In addition, Delegate Marshall enjoys the highest name recognition of the non-Allen candidates.  For example, the marriage amendment to the Virginia Constitution bears his name as the Marshall/Newman Amendment.  If can gather together his loyal band of activists from the 2008 convention, maybe he can position himself as the best conservative alternative to Allen as he did with Gilmore three years ago.  Then again, perhaps Radtke, Donner, Jackson, or McCormick is already on his or her way to capturing that title.

So will Bob Marshall announce?  I cannot say for certain, but I expect we will have our answer very soon.

U.S. Senate Debate Online

Maybe due to geography or conflicting obligations you ended up missing the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party’s U.S. Senate debate on October 20th.  Well, for those who did, I’m pleased to report that you can now watch the entire event from the comfort of your home computer.  Special thanks for this effort should go to the Tea Party, Sandy Garst, Dave Mason, and the Shenandoah Area Working Group.

To whet your appetite, here is the first segment:

You’ve already read my thoughts on the debate.  You’ve also heard from Helen Shibut, Karen Kwiatkowski, Luke Wachob, and Sarah Prescott.   But why not listen to the whole presentation and decide for yourself?  You can view the rest of the videos here.

There is a lot going on the Shenandoah Valley these days.  Besides reading local blogs such as mine, I highly recommend signing up for the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party’s newsletter.  You can do so by simply sending an email request to shenvalleyteaparty@hotmail.com.

Watch these videos, visit the candidates’ websites, and attend their gatherings when they come into town.  As voters, we have an obligation to select the candidate who will best represent our principles in Washington.  Do you know who that person is for you?

The U.S. Senate, Up For Debate

On Thursday, four Senate candidates gathered in Verona to participate in the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party’s debate.  These participants include three Republicans, Tim Donner, E. W. Jackson, and David McCormick and one Independent candidate, Kevin Chisholm.  There were also three vacant chairs on the stage set aside for George Allen and Tim Kaine who both declined the invitation as well as one of Jamie Radtke who withdrew less than a week prior to the event.

The debate itself included a wide variety of issues: the size of the federal government, national debt, the 10th amendment and federalism, property rights, among others. It was gratifying, not only to be selected by the Tea Party to craft some of the debate questions, but also to hear the candidates discuss ideas that I think are important.  However, I would have liked to have the four gentlemen share their thoughts on foreign policy.  Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time to cover everything.  Hopefully, the next debate will delve into this topic and more.

Here are a few impressions of the candidates.  In the early portion of the debate, Kevin Chisholm spoke favorably of Woodrow Wilson, the League of Nations, and the United Nations.  Presumably these viewpoints would not find much traction among the tea party faithful.  In addition, he was either unfamiliar with or offered no strong opinions regarding the Patriot Act, Agenda 21, and Kelo vs. City of New London.  Although no candidate can claim to know everything, this lack of knowledge could weaken his chances.

From earlier reports, I expected a great debate from both E. W. Jackson and Tim Donner.  They both have a reputation as forceful speakers and I think that this debate reinforced this idea.  Bishop Jackson seemed to win over the crowd as he garnered the most applause of any of the candidates.  Given his statements, I have mixed feelings about him.  He advocates removing U.S. involvement in the U.N. and supports state nullification of unconstitutional federal laws, which shows his commitment to federalism.  Conversely his almost unconditional support for Israel may needlessly embroil the nation into another unnecessary war.  Also, if I understood him correctly, although he opposes the invasive TSA searches, planning to vote to extend the Patriot Act creates worrisome questions regarding his support of civil liberties.

Switching to Tim Donner, his most memorable line came when he compared the government in Washington D.C. to our pre-Revolutionary oppression with Great Britain.  Although he held his ground well, he didn’t offer much in the way of any other bold comments and thus lost a bit of ground to the other candidates.

Flanked by both Jackson and Donner, David McCormick remained in the background for most of the debate.  His soft-spoken style seemed more akin to a storyteller than a debater.  Nevertheless, as the debate continued, I began to pay more attention to Mr. McCormick once he stated that he would not vote to renew the Patriot Act as well as the idea that the federal government ought to have no role in our health care.  He came alive toward the end of the event, but time expired before he could make serious inroads with the crowd.

There was also a straw poll at the debate.  Yesterday, I thought I heard unofficially that E. W. Jackson emerged the victor with around 45% of the vote.  A few moments ago, I received the official results and they are as follows:

George Allen 1%

Jamie Radtke 1%

Kevin Chisholm 1%

Undecided 3%

David McCormick 8%

Tim Donner 20%

E. W. Jackson 65%

Congratulations to Mr. Jackson for his convincing victory in the debate.  I once again encourage you to learn more about Mr. Jackson and the rest of the field, but in recognition of this feat, I’ll include a link to his website here.

I appreciate that these four candidates faced the voters to answer some very difficult questions.  Although the frontrunners were absent, one cannot win the hearts and minds of voters with mere mailings and T.V. ads.  Clearly advocating shared principles through personal contact is a key to representative government.

Overall, although attendance was less than I had hoped, I rate the event as a success.  Thanks to the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party for this event.  Hopefully all of the candidates will take the time to participate in the next debate.

Radtke Withdraws!

Over the weekend, I received some very disappointing news.  Republican Senate candidate Jamie Radtke has decided to withdraw from the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party’s October 20th Senate debate.  Citing that former Governor George Allen will not be participating, the Radtke campaign announced that they too would be absent despite an earlier commitment to attend.

In my opinion, this decision could prove to be a key misstep for the Radtke campaign for at least three key reasons:

Everyone who will be attending the debate knew well in advance that George Allen would not be there.  Therefore, it is likely that many of the attendees who will be showing up are doing so in the hopes of finding an alternative to Mr. Allen.  With Jamie Radtke absent, she will lose a chance to convince these voters both of her merit and to prove herself as the worthy conservative front-runner for this title.

Every occasion a candidate has to speak is another prospect of raising funds.  According to the Radtke Facebook page, after speaking at an event in Virginia Beach the other day, one gentleman volunteered to donate $1000 to her campaign.  How many audience members in this debate will be similarly inspired by a no-show?  I’ll give you a hint; it rhymes with zero.

Most importantly, this move will likely alienate a portion of Jamie Radtke’s base, namely the tea party.  One of Jamie Radtke’s greatest claims to political fame centers on her involvement with the Richmond Tea Party and the statewide rally.   If her campaign simply dismisses opportunities offered by tea party groups, how many passes can she take before those opportunities are no longer offered?

Furthermore, as an active participant of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots, I’ve witnessed firsthand the efforts put forth by a multitude of members to bring this debate to life.  To be surprised with this brush-off, especially less than one week before the debate, will certainly generate some kind of blowback.

Readers of this blog will note that I’ve been particularly critical of George Allen for his refusal to attend the October 20th debate.  After all, a debate serves as excellent tool for voters to learn about their choices for candidates.   Unfortunately, it seems that the Radtke campaign disagrees.  How can the Radtke campaign call for a debate featuring all of the Republican candidates while at the same time refusing an opportunity to debate with all but one of the Republican candidates?  As I’m sure you can tell, I’m profoundly disheartened by their decision.

But the show must go on.  Don’t pass up an opportunity to hear from Kevin Chisholm, Tim Donner, E. W. Jackson, and David McCormick at the debate this coming Thursday!  Make sure to show up by 6:30 PM at the Augusta County Government in Verona.

Who knows?  Maybe you’ll find your ideal choice for our next Senator at the event.  Either way, I look forward to seeing you there.

Anointed Politicians?

VC Note:  This article is the latest opinion piece from Karen Kwiatkowski, a Republican candidate for Virginia’s sixth district House of Representatives seat.  As I look forward to the event on October 20th, like Kwiatkowski, I am profoundly disappointed by this trend of incumbents and frontrunners in Virginia to avoid debating.

The Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots are sponsoring a U.S. Senate Candidate’s Debate on Thursday, October 20th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona.  This debate will be attended by four of the eight U.S. Senate candidates seeking to represent Virginia in 2013.  Three Republicans and an Independent candidate have enthusiastically agreed to participate.

The format includes a set of questions prepared in advance for all candidates, and will be moderated by WMRA’s Tom Graham, host of the news program “Virginia Insight.”

This debate is a public opportunity for the people of the 6th District to get to see the candidates in action.  It’s an opportunity to become better informed as to what these candidates offer, how committed they are to truly representing the interests of the voters, and how courageous they are.  Can they stand up for what they believe?  Are they proud of their record as politicians, as businesspeople, and as Virginians?   Do they know what they are talking about?

The debate will include Independent candidate Kevin Chisholm, and Republicans Tim Donner, E.W. Jackson, and Jamie Radtke.

It appears the anointed ones in both of the major parties – George Allen and Tim Kaine — will be missing in action.   It is unfortunate but understandable that the Democrats will not be present on October 20th.   But the George Allen’s refusal to face his conservative opponents is less so.

Perhaps Allen takes conservative support for granted.  Perhaps he is afraid of his articulate and impassioned Republican competitors.  Perhaps he is arrogant.   Perhaps he believes that he doesn’t need the voters in the Central Shenandoah Valley to win the nomination.  Perhaps his advisors have told him to ignore the conservatives and maybe they will fall in line.

I know how difficult it can be to get an honest answer or a commitment out of an incumbent candidate.  There seems to be a very real, and very ugly, sense of entitlement among those who hold or have held public office.  As the constitutional conservative challenger to the 6th District’s ten-term incumbent Bob Goodlatte, I’ve formally invited the incumbent to a series of debates, including one sponsored by the JMU Debate Society on March 13, 2012.  Even though I have repeatedly contacted his office and spoken to his staff, I have received not even a form letter or email in response.

It is no coincidence that nine months before the Virginia GOP Primary, the self-proclaimed, self-anointed, big-government Republican George Allen promotes his candidacy using a shared bumper sticker with similar self-proclaimed, self-anointed, big-government Representative Bob Goodlatte.  The presumption of these statist Republicans in this day and age of real constitutional crisis in this country is simply astounding.

While Allen hasn’t had a chance to spend and borrow as a Senator recently, Goodlatte has apparently never met a budget he couldn’t support, as long as he could earn an atta-boy from the Republican House leadership, or a tradeoff for one of his pet projects.  For his current crusade for a Balanced Budget Amendment, all he had to do was not propose savings, or make hard decisions, but simply vote with Boehner and Cantor for over $2 trillion in additional federal borrowing in July 2011.   When you consider this record, and Goodlatte’s repeated votes to fund Obamacare and Obama’s unconstitutional war in Libya, maybe it’s clear why he wouldn’t want to debate a constitutional conservative on the hard facts.

The larger problem here isn’t that Bob Goodlatte presumes his right to avoid any debate with, or even acknowledgement of, a farmer and military veteran from Shenandoah County who has never before run for public office.  It isn’t that George Allen can’t spend an hour or two in Verona on October 20th to talk about issues with his conservative competition for the Senate.

Here’s the problem.  These big-government Republicans exhibit an attitude of entitlement to public office.  Allen and Goodlatte behave as if they have been somehow anointed to represent us, in an era where only 6% of Americans, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, believe candidates keep their promises once elected, and in an era when the U.S. Congress is held in wide contempt by the rest of the country.   I believe we’re smarter than that.  I know we deserve better than that.

Radtke Triumphant!

Starting on Sunday and running through Wednesday evening, Bearing Drift held a straw poll regarding the Republican nomination for Virginia’s Senate seat in 2012.  Impressively, over one thousand people voted over this several day timeframe.

Here is a visual representation of the results, thanks to the folks at Bearing Drift:

The positions of the top three candidates are of particular interest.  As you can see, Jamie Radtke handily won this poll with 45% of the vote.  George Allen, the current frontrunner according to most polls, finished tied with Tim Donner for second place with 24%.   Therefore, while this poll should serve as a boost to both the Radtke and Donner campaigns, it should be seen as a warning for the Allen folks.  As for the Jackson and McCormick campaigns, these results might be troubling as well especially given that “Other/Democratic” more than tripled McCormick’s total.

Now, some people will quickly dismiss the results of this poll.  After all, it was only available online, anyone could vote, and likely only those with a high degree of interest participated.  Furthermore, the author of the poll, Shaun Kenney, writes that it is “wholly unscientific and non-reliable”.  However, it should also be pointed out that the poll was on Bearing Drift, the most (or second most depending on who is doing the tabulating) well-known and well-read blog in the conservative blogosphere in Virginia.

Here’s another interesting fact to consider; George Allen is easily winning the endorsement race.  Why, just about every elected Republican officeholder in the Shenandoah Valley has thrown his or her support behind our former Senator and Governor.  However, does this poll reflect a general weakness of confidence among the grassroots base?  I know that Bearing Drift has contributors and readers who are vocal in their support of Allen.  But, if he is unable to translate this support into less than one of every four votes in this online poll, could that news spell trouble for Allen’s chances in either the primary or general election?  Are most of Allen’s supporters the silent majority?  Do they not read blogs like Bearing Drift?  Or did they simply choose not to participate?   Under any circumstance, you do have to wonder if a sizable chunk of the online political movers and shakers are either lukewarm to his candidacy or have found a better champion.

The next test in the race for U.S. Senate comes in exactly two weeks when the candidates gather to debate in the town of Verona in the Shenandoah Valley.  Will Jamie Radtke win this contest as well?  Will Tim Donner continue to gain ground among activists?  Will George Allen remind us of his successes as Senator and Governor and regain the momentum?  Or will one of the other candidates capture the hearts and minds of the average citizen?  I encourage all of you to find out in person as the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party plays host to the candidates. The debate begins at 6:30 PM on October 20th at the Augusta Government Center.  See you there!

Allen Declines to Debate

Starting at 6:30 PM, on October 20th in Verona, the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party will be holding the first debate between the various candidates for Virginia’s Senate seat.  Although Republican hopefuls Jamie Radtke and Tim Donner have already confirmed their participation, I’m disappointed to say that one candidate has declined to participate.  That person is our former Senator and Governor, George Allen.

Once I heard that news, I contacted the Allen campaign personally in hopes of getting some sort of explanation.  According to the person who spoke with me, the Allen campaign is presently declining to attend any debate prior to November.  Even with the most basic understanding of politics, one can come up with multiple reasons why the Allen campaign would choose to maintain such a stance.  I’m just hoping that with enough outcries from the folks in the Tea Party and the rest of the citizens of Virginia, we can help change their minds.

I’m of the opinion that debating ought to be vigorously encouraged.  After all, political discourse and education is vital to health of both a republic and a representative democracy.  With proper information, citizens can decide for themselves who not only best articulates our values, but also assess the desirability of their plans once in office.  Without such knowledge, voters must rely solely on glossy mailers, media buys, slogans, and thirty-second sound bites.  Which type of electorate do you prefer?

Now, maybe you’ve heard about the upcoming Senate debate in December sponsored by the Virginia Associated Press and the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association?  However, for this debate, the hosts have set such a high threshold in both fundraising and poll numbers that currently only Tim Kaine and George Allen qualify.  Looking for Radtke, Donner, Jackson, or McCormick?  At this point, none of the other candidates will be given the right to speak.  That unfortunate set of circumstances makes the Tea Party debate all the more important.

Now, this isn’t merely an argument of whether you prefer George Allen or someone else, but an issue of principle.  Virginia citizens have a right to hear about each qualified person running for office so that, when primary season arrives, they have sufficient wisdom to make an informed decision.  Therefore, I encourage you to call George Allen’s campaign office (804-726-2012) and let them know that you want to listen to him alongside Donner, Radtke, and everyone else who chooses to participate in the October 20th debate.

GOP Hopefuls Weigh-In On Cuts

I’m sure that just about every American would agree that our government is in a financial crisis.  Regardless of whether Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling or not, we cannot continue on our present course; we spend more than we take in, we borrow from foreign nations, and our government expands all the while.  It is a degenerative cycle that will bankrupt future generations.

Back in 2008, I offered the following suggestion to my fellow conservative voters,  “When considering the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, I encourage you to put the torch under each candidate asking, ‘if elected, what federal programs, agencies, or departments will you work to eliminate?'” These words were important then, but they are far more pressing today.

As of May 2011, there are five candidates seeking the Virginia Republican nomination for the 2012 U.S. Senate race.  But do any of them actually plan to cut the size and scope of the federal government?  And, if so, what specific areas do they look to cut?  Although I had read snippets from the various campaign websites, I didn’t have a clear and concise answer to this question.  Therefore, I decided to contact each candidate seeking an answer.  Here is the question I put forth on April 27th:

As more and more citizens across the commonwealth of Virginia take interest in our upcoming 2012 Senate Race, many of us are increasing alarmed about the size of our staggering federal deficit.  Too many members of both parties spend our money on frivolous programs and thus the government continues to expand.  One obvious solution is to dismantle portions of the government that are questionably unconstitutional or wasteful and return these powers to the state governments or the people.  Therefore, as a Republican candidate seeking to represent us in the United States Senate, the burning question on my mind is, if elected, what federal programs, agencies, or departments will you work to eliminate?

Thank you for your time.  I look forward to sharing your answers, as well as those of the other candidates, with the readers of my blog, The Virginia Conservative.

Sincerely,

Joshua Huffman
conservativeva@gmail.com

Now, I should mention in fairness, I asked George Allen for a little more information.  Given that he previously held one of our Senate seats, I also inquired what programs he worked to cut during his time in office from 2000-2006.

Having served on many campaigns over the years, I know how busy and hectic they can be.  Nevertheless, I am appreciative that all five of the campaigns found the time to answer my request.  I’m pleased to present to you, the readers of The Virginia Conservative, their unedited answers in the same order that they were received.   I hope my fellow Republican primary voters find their remarks enlightening.


Jamie Radtke

One of Jimmy Carter’s boondoggles, the Department of Energy, was created in response to the OPEC oil crisis of the 1970s with the goal of promoting alternative energy sources and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Look at where we are today. If there was ever an example of federal agency that’s spent billions and failed in its mission — DOE fits the bill. Since DoE was created, the amount of oil the U.S. imports has risen from roughly 45% to nearly 70%. The DoE also actively supported research and production of energy sources that are not — and likely never will be — viable without ongoing taxpayer subsidies.

The Department of Education is another spectacular failure from Jimmy Carter. For decades, U.S. student performance has declined relative to the rest of the world. In response to the problem, the federal government has thrown tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money and regulations at the problem. Yet the DoED is failing with flying colors and the U.S. continues to lose ground against the world. Until Jimmy Carter, education had always been a local issue, and it should become so again, without DC taking a cut of the education budget and then sending the money back to the states. It is time for parents and local governments to control education and not teacher unions and a federal bureaucracy.

A third quasi-federal activity (among many) that I would move out of the government is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for many reasons. Earlier this month, Fannie Mae announced it lost $6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2011, and also asked for $6.2 billion more in taxpayer subsidies. So far, between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, American taxpayers are on the hook for at least $138 billion.

It’s time to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and get the government out of the mortgage business. It just makes common sense. They’re a prime example of what can go wrong when Washington politics and lobbying combine with Wall Street finance. Working hand-in-glove with executives at Fannie and Freddie, Congress guaranteed billions of dollars in bad loans which contributed to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown in 2007-2008, leading to the Great Recession.

Before the housing meltdown, a handful of Senate Republicans tried to rein in Fannie and Freddie. Senator Chuck Hagel circulated a letter to Republican senators in a desperate effort to get Majority Leader Bill Frist to bring a reform bill to a vote in the Senate. But they ran into a lobbying buzz saw. According to an Associated Press story, Freddie Mac hired lobbying firm DCI of Washington to help keep Republican senators from supporting the bill. For instance, Freddie Mac paid lobbying firm DCI $10,000 every month just to focus on persuading Senator George Allen not to support Senator Hagel’s legislation. In the end, nine of the 17 GOP senators targeted by DCI chose not to sign the letter – including Senator George Allen. The lack of Republican support for the bill doomed it. A year later the sub-prime mortgage crisis began.

There are proposals now before the House and Senate that would take a quick approach to transitioning Fannie and Freddie to the private sector and reducing the risk to American taxpayers. One such bill is H.R. 1182, introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and co-sponsored by 47 other members, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Randy Forbes, and Rep. Paul Ryan. Unfortunately, there is considerable resistance on Capitol Hill to privatizing Fannie and Freddie. Unfortunately, the Washington lobbyists who got us into this mess are saying it would be just terrible to privatize Fannie and Freddie – and Congress seems to be listening to the lobbyists.

Congress is like a family that’s been living beyond its means and borrowing each month – for years – to pay its bills. Now it’s credit is running out and it’s fallen behind on the mortgage and if it doesn’t cut its spending it’s going to lose its home. A family can sit down at the dinner table, face the hard choices and make the tough decisions. It’s not pleasant or easy, but families do it all the time. It works because each family controls its own spending. But we — the taxpayers — don’t control Washington’s spending. The hard truth is, right now, we can’t make Congress stop spending.

What to cut is vitally important. But let’s be careful not to get the cart in front of the horse. Right now, we still have to figure out how to get the Washington politicians to sit down at the dinner table and agree to make some real cuts – instead of continuing to borrow. The best way to do this is to freeze the debt ceiling and stop the spending insanity. We must start to live within our means. Because when you find yourself in a hole, the best thing to do is… stop digging!

*A release from the Jamie Radtke campaign. Sent May 5th, 2011.  Revised May 17th.

David McCormick

Reduce the size, scope, and power of the Federal Government

  • Downsize the bureaucracy of the Federal Government one department at a time.  First eliminate the Department of Education, followed by the Department of Energy, followed by the Department of HUD and lastly the EPA.  Once the Fair Tax is implemented; eliminate the IRS.
  • Balance the Budget and pay off all debt.  It is the moral obligation of our generation to pay off all our debts.
  • Stop all earmarks, bailouts, subsidies, stimulus, and corporate welfare.
  • Privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Audit all transactions for the past 20 years.
  • Audit and nationalize the Federal Reserve.

Stop the Corruption and Political Pandering in Washington

  • Ban all Senators from working as a lobbyist for a period of 10 years from retirement.
  • Limits on Power- Term limits for all Federal Judges (8 years), Congressmen (8 years) and Senators (6 years).
  • Stop all stock and commodities trading by all Senators and their staff.
  • Send Them Home- I support the conversion from a full-time to a part-time Congress and Senate.  Reduce all budgets by 33%.
  • Transparent Legislation- All bills under 100 pages shall be made public for 7 days before a vote.  All bills over 100 pages shall be made public for 21 days.  All bills must identify the parties that have drafted the bill, must have an economic cost analysis, a source of funding and the citation of the Constitutional authority.
  • All amendments to any bill must relate back to its main provision.

* A release from the David McCormick campaign. May 12, 2011

E. W. Jackson

Note from The Virginia Conservative: Unlike the rest of the candidates, Mr. Jackson’s campaign did not send a formal written statement, but rather a brief email in combination with a phone conversation.  Therefore, although the thoughts are his, the specific words are mine.

Mr. Jackson is a strong supporter of the Fair Tax.  He believes that our debt is our greatest priority.

As for specific departments within the federal government, he intends to work to abolish: The Department of Education, The Department of Energy, and The Department of Housing & Urban Development.  Mr. Jackson is a strict constructionist who will not support laws not authorized by the Constitution.

* From the Jackson campaign on May 18th, 2011 and May 23rd.

George Allen

Our country’s annual deficit is set to hit a record $1.5 trillion this year – and that’s after two straight years of trillion dollar annual deficits.  Washington’s out-of-control spending – the $800 billion jobless stimulus, the unconstitutional government mandated healthcare, and bailouts – has to end.  The small businesses and the families of Virginia can’t afford to continue footing the bill for unsustainable government growth.

America needs to get back to our constitutional roots, respecting the limitations our Founders placed on the power of the national government and insisting on the wise and frugal government that Mr. Jefferson described in his first inaugural address.  I don’t know anyone outside of Washington who thinks today’s over-reaching, over-spending federal government is being a wise steward of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars or operating at 100% efficiency.  A few months ago the GAO came out with a report that confirms what we already knew – the federal government’s budget is bloated with duplication and hundreds of billions of dollars of waste.  We can start to rein in the spending by consolidating or eliminating some of these wasteful, duplicative programs saving billions of taxpayer dollars.

I would begin to rein in government by rolling back the excesses of the Obama Administration — from repealing Obamacare and its unconstitutional mandates to getting rid of all the unelected, unaccountable “Czars” who do not have the scrutiny of Senate confirmation yet exercise far-reaching powers that affect not just spending in Washington, but our very freedoms as Americans.  Right behind them are all of the new regulators who have been added in agencies such as the EPA and the IRS, helping fuel the regulatory excesses that are burdening our families and our economy.  We must stop spending taxpayer money on programs that clearly aren’t working like the $800 billion jobless stimulus.

Several federal Departments and agencies are ripe for streamlining — Energy, Commerce, the Surgeon General’s office as well as the Department of Education — with the majority of their activities and authority turned back over to the people in the States, where such decisions rightfully belong.   There is no better example of how this can work than welfare reform.  During my service as Governor, Virginia took over the federal government’s bloated, initiative-sapping welfare program, transformed it to reflect Virginia values of work and individual responsibility, saved taxpayers money and put people on the path of leading independent, self-reliant lives.

We should also take a page from Blue Ribbon Strike Force that I appointed as my first act as Governor and pursue government management reforms such as selling unneeded and unused federal property; cutting back the federal government’s growing fleet of vehicles and civilian aircraft and tightly controlling to make certain those that remain in the fleet are used only for legitimate business purposes and when most cost-effective; and eliminating wasteful printing and publications.

It is clear that Washington is in desperate need of checks and balances to stop the Washington Democrat agenda that has vastly expanded the size and scope of government and put our country on the verge of bankruptcy.

Throughout my service to the people of Virginia, I have worked to rein in and reform government to make sure it does its job efficiently and effectively and does not waste our hard-earned tax dollars.

During my service as Governor, we reduced the size of the state government payroll by 10,000 while providing the conditions for businesses to create over 310,000 net new private sector jobs in Virginia through lower taxes on job creators, business recruitment and prompt permitting.  I also appointed a Blue Ribbon Strike Force to identify ways to eliminate waste in Virginia’s government and ordered a comprehensive review of state government regulations that resulted in over 70 percent of all regulations being eliminated or modified to be less burdensome. These reforms made government more efficient and less intrusive for families and businesses.

I took that same philosophy to the Senate where I earned a lifetime rating of 93% from the American Conservative Union and a 100% rating from Americans for Tax Reform for keeping America competitive for jobs and investment while cutting wasteful spending so taxpayers could keep more of what they earn. I was one of 15 Senators to vote against the wasteful Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska; I voted for earmark reform to bring accountability and transparency to the process; and led the successful fight for the Internet tax moratorium to ensure federal, state and local governments could not tax internet access and threatening its future as a source of economic growth.

Recognizing that unelected bureaucracies needed to be held in check, I cosponsored the Congressional Responsibility Act which would prevent regulatory overreach by requiring approval by elected representatives.  I also advanced ideas to return more decision-making to the states and to the people – for example, I supported creation of an education demonstration program similar to the welfare reform model whereby up to 7 States and 80 localities could receive funds as a block grant to use according to state and local priorities (receiving a waiver from rigid federal program  formulas).

I was a sponsor of the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies Act which would have established a commission to review federal agencies and programs and recommend the elimination of duplication, wasteful or outdated programs and agencies.

Believing the government should not stand in the way of freedom of expression and association I voted against the McCain-Feingold restriction of freedom, fought against outdated, restrictive FCC regulation of cross-ownership of newspapers, TV and radio stations; and stood up against big union bosses costly, non-competitive Project Labor Agreement for building the Wilson Bridge.

I also fought to change the way Washington does business.  I introduced a comprehensive budget reform plan that included a Balanced Budget Amendment with taxpayer protection as well as Presidential line-item veto authority and a “paycheck penalty” that would withhold Members’ salaries when they don’t pass budgets on time. The presidential line item veto authority would give the President the ability to eliminate programs without having to veto an entire appropriations bill.  As Governor, I found using the line-item veto a very useful tool allowing me to cut waste and undesirable policy from spending bills.

These past few years have proven that in the U.S. Senate every single vote counts.  I will be a leader who will fight for real reforms to get our country back on the path to prosperity.  If given the honor and responsibility of serving the people of Virginia in the United States Senate, I pledge to work hard rein in the federal government; work to create an economic environment to make America competitive for jobs; and fight to unleash American energy resources thereby creating more jobs and more affordable electricity, fuels and food.

* A release from the George Allen campaign.  Sent May 23rd, 2011.

Tim Donner

The single most important element of reducing the size and scope of the federal government is to think big.  Repeated fights over individual line items in the federal budget have produced the same results: threats of government shutdowns accompanied by minimal reductions.

Exhibit A was the recent fight between the two parties that supposedly resulted in $38 billion in cuts.  But when the CBO crunched the numbers, the actual amount of cuts was $355 milliion, a proverbial drop in the bucket, or more precisely, the ocean.  The same accounting tricks that have become the trademark of Capitol Hill were employed to inflate the cuts dramatically.  For example, almost $2 billion was “cut” in 2011 for the now-completed 2010 census…funds that obviously could not be spent anyway.

It is true that the Departments of Energy and Education have been demonstrably counter-productive to their stated goals – educational outcomes have decreased in inverse proportion to federal spending, and we have failed to develop anything approaching a coherent energy policy as we become increasingly dependent on foreign energy sources.

But while these departments and others should be squarely on the chopping block, the reality is that we will get nowhere in reducing the size and scope of government as long as we are willing to deal with only the 12% of the federal budget that has been on the table – non-defense domestic discretionary spending.

It is well beyond time that we deal with 100% of the federal budget.

This entails going beyond just spending cuts to structural reform, foremost of which should be a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget and limit federal spending to 18% of GDP (as proposed by Utah Sen. Mike Lee).  Only by limiting budgets by law can we ultimately forge a permanent cure for Washington’s spending addiction.

This also entails, yes, “entitlement” reform, and Medicare is undeniably the biggest storm cloud on the near horizon.  And while I applaud Paul Ryan and his courageous foray into the hornet’s nest of Medicare reform, his premium support plan is, in my view, insufficient for the long-term sustainability of a popular program crippled by the reality of up to $70 trillion in unfunded liabilities.  Instead, we must evolve long-term to a system in which participants are given the choice to re-direct their Medicare contributions – and those of their employers – to retirement health savings accounts.

These structural reforms will take time, but will result in what should be the ultimate goal of reducing the size and scope of government – to give Americans the opportunity to keep more of their own money, make more of their own decisions and take greater control of their own lives.

* A release from the Donner campaign. Sent May 28th, 2011.

Although this article originally included responses from only the first four candidates listed, within hours of posting I received word from both the Donner campaign and Mr. Donner himself.  Not quite sure what caused the communication glitch, but I’m glad to have Mr. Donner join this conversation.

So what do you think of the responses of all five of the candidates for U.S. Senate?

Next year, conservatives, libertarians, moderates, and, yes, even some liberals across Virginia will be heading to the polls to select our Republican nominee for Senator.  It is imperative that we educate ourselves; we must become informed voters who choose a candidate who best addresses the specific needs of our state and nation.

As stated at the beginning, I, for one, strongly believe that we must reduce the size and scope of our bloated federal government to chip away at our staggering debt and restore our limited Constitutional framework.  That is why I have sought and now offer you the thoughts of four conservative men and one conservative woman who seek this high office.

So whose plan is the best?  Whose ideas are most feasible?  There will be plenty of time for commentary in the days to come.  I hope that the answers provided by the five candidates will aid you in your decision.