Senator Hanger for…President?

Senator Hanger with one of his constituents at Lobby Day 2015
Senator Hanger with one of his constituents at Lobby Day 2015

Right now there are a lot of candidates running for president, especially on the Republican side of things where there are 17 major and semi-major challengers.  However, some people think we ought to have even more choices…I guess.

Earlier today, I received a rather peculiar email from a fellow named John Turner which read, “Please note your involvement with our Vote for ‘Virginia Sen. Emmett Hanger for U.S. President’ PAC FEC ID No. C00579839 statement for the Buena Vista, Virginia, Labor (& Political) Day Parade 2015.”  For the record, I have had no involvement with such a PAC nor do I plan to have any involvement with this PAC.  Curious, I sent a reply asking for clarification about two hours ago, but have not gotten a response yet.

Believe it or not, there is an actual PAC filed with the FEC called “Democrats For Republican Virginia State Sen Emmett W Hanger Jr For US President“. It apparently is run by a Mr. Turner based in Churchville, VA.  However, I have heard nothing on a possible run from Senator Hanger.  Based on the peculiar name, it is entirely unclear whether the PAC is hoping Virginia Senator Hanger (R-Mt Solon) will seek the Republican or Democratic Party’s nomination or instead try for third party or independent status.

Now, it is true that many years ago Senator Hanger did seek higher office.  But this idea failed after he ended up not qualifying for the ballot due to missing the deadline to have his petitions filed.  So, making a move for other position does have some historical merit.  Nevertheless, whether you support or oppose Senator Hanger, it seems virtually impossible for any state legislator anywhere to make a credible play for the presidency.  Both the name ID required and the needed fundraising capability are well beyond the scope of a vast majority of politicians.

So, that begs a question.  What is this PAC all about and what are its goals, if any, beyond electing Senator Emmett Hanger as the next president?  Quite strange if you ask me!

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?

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.

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.

The 4th of July

Politics is everywhere, and the 4th of July is no exception.  In the morning, I attended the parade in Staunton, VA.  The largest political group in attendance was the Republican Party.  They were promoting Ed Gillespie, Bob Goodlatte (who walked the parade), and, to a lesser extent, Marshall Pattie.  The Augusta County GOP marched with a banner as well.  Interestingly, although Emmett Hanger is the Republican incumbent, his parade float was detached from the rest of the Republicans.

Libertarian House candidate Will Hammer also walked the parade as did a number of Libertarians holding banners and passing out information for Robert Sarvis and Hammer.

The Staunton Tea Party, situated right in front of the Libertarians, also had a pretty sizable group.  I could not find a Democratic float or anyone walking for them, though it is possible that I missed them.

10501644_10152254477791915_5009266293520778121_nThen, in the evening, Harrisonburg held their parade.  Ed Gillespie attended this event as did Bob Goodlatte, Will Hammer, and four of the six candidates for Harrisonburg City Council.  I must say that I was delighted that even though many people were out of town, I still had seven other folks walk beside me as we promoted Joshua Huffman for Harrisonburg City Council.

All in all, I thought the events went well, the weather was a reasonable temperature and we avoided rain unlike previous years.  I hope your 4th went well.

Pattie Announces

State Senate candidate Marshall Pattie on left
State Senate candidate Marshall Pattie on left

In Waynesboro yesterday, Marshall Pattie announced that he is running for the 24th District seat in the Virginia Senate.  A little over thirty people attended this brief conference.  Presently, Mr. Pattie serves on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.

Since 1996, the 24th district has been represented by Emmett Hanger.  However, his support of a handful of tax increases over the years and his recent push for Medicaid expansion has drawn the ire of some conservative groups and voters.  He last faced a Republican challenger in 2007, when he bested businessman Scott Sayre by less than a thousand votes.

The timing of Dr. Pattie’s announcement might seem curious given that the Republican primary is almost a year in the future, but considering the rumors of two other candidates potentially challenging Senator Hanger, presumably Dr. Pattie wished to get a jump on his possible opponents and possibly clear the field for a one-on-one showdown between himself and the incumbent.

The 2014 elections may be far from over, but the 2015 election season has begun in the 24th.