Writing-In Harrisonburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning 15 (or 30)

Well, today marks another milestone.  Today is my birthday, the big three zero.  Oh, how time flies.  Normally I don’t make much of a deal about birthdays.  After all, how much of an accomplishment is a birthday?  What great feat have I mastered?  Not dying, I suppose.  Nevertheless, I will admit that it is nice to have a day when people pay attention to you.  But in this post I’d like to talk to you what I believe is a more relevant anniversary, my fifteenth.

You see, about fifteen years ago I first took the great plunge into politics.  Sure, I developed an interest earlier.  Let me draw you back into those halcyon days.  I remember voting in our school’s mock Presidential election in ‘88 and ‘92; I stopped in to the local GOP headquarters in November 1994 to pick up an “Ollie!” button.  I watched the election returns at home and remember being excited about the result, though I wasn’t really involved.  Like most Americans, I was a passive spectator.  Soon after that cycle, everything changed.  I eagerly purchased “To Renew America”.  I committed myself to my first important issue, abortion, and so I ordered a bunch of Pro-life literature from Heritage House 76.  I even created a crude bumper sticker, which I proudly displayed on a folder around the halls of my high school.  It was a very simplistic time, a time when everything was clearly black and white.  All Republicans, like my heroes Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Majority Leader Bob Dole, were good guys, and Democrats, like President Bill Clinton and Minority Leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, were the bad guys.  1995 was a year of tremendous optimism.  After all, Republicans dominated the 1994 election unified on the back of the Contract With America.  And after my first attempt at volunteering in that year, Glenn Weatherholtz picked up the 26th House of Delegates seat and Kevin Miller won the 26th State Senator seat, things were looking extremely positive.  But life didn’t stay that way for long.

The next years were a back and forth series of ups and downs, positive at the state level and disheartening at the federal.  In my first Presidential election in 1996, Bill Clinton easily defeated Senator Bob Dole.  In 1997, then Republican Attorney General Jim Gilmore won the Governor’s race in Virginia promising to eliminate the car tax.  Next, in 1998, we had the GOP congressional loss and Newt Gingrich’s fall from power, coupled with the later discovery of his hypocritical affair.  Then in 1999, Republicans captured a majority of the seats in the House of Delegates for the first time since Reconstruction.  During this time, however, I slowly began to come to the critical understanding that politics was more than blind partisanship and the single issue of abortion.  Sure the Republican Party and pro-life work are important, but they are facets of a larger struggle of ideology and principles…conservatism versus liberalism.

Considering I mention it so often in this blog, I feel like I need to talk a bit about foreign policy.  Interestingly enough, foreign policy was never an important issue to me until after the attacks of 9-11.  Who cares about other nations?  I thought.  Our own domestic policy was all that really mattered.  Sure, I didn’t support Clinton’s adventure in Bosnia, but my objection primarily stemmed from economic concerns.  As I studied more about the issue in college (at first rather reluctantly), I came to realize that how we conducted our affairs abroad had a tremendous impact on policies at home both in terms of security and our budget.  If we are supposedly a Judeo-Christian nation, shouldn’t we treat other nations and peoples as we ourselves would like to be treated?  Now don’t misunderstand, the primary objectives of our government are to secure the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens and so if another nation (or group) seeks to destroy our freedoms or our people, we must prevent them from doing so.  But, as John Quincy Adams reminds us, “Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”  Unfortunately, this seemingly simple time honored principle has gotten me in more trouble in Republican circles than any other.

These last eight years or so have been extremely depressing.  Why?  At the national level, how many government programs, department, and agencies have been eliminated?   Compare that number to how many new bureaucracies have been added.  It’s sad isn’t it, watching the government grow, our liberties shrink, and our constitution reduced to mere toilet paper?  So many politicians cry for change, but how many of them protect our rights, our borders, or the unborn?  So many are pathetic shills.  Until the Ron Paul campaign came along in 2007, I didn’t think politics would ever get better.  Suddenly Paul was a single drop of limited government conservativism in an indifferent ocean of status quo politicians.  He firmly stood for principle over party politics.  Most Republicans I knew shunned Paul and it wasn’t until after the campaign had concluded that they finally viewed the doctor in a positive light.  These days, with the rise of the tea party movement, I’m very hopeful that this new wave of activists will push both the Republican Party and the federal government toward the conservative principles that I have been advocating for a long time now.

Based upon these last years, what will the future hold?  Will taxes, regulations, and mandates from Washington further shackle the American public?  Will the states refuse to obey any more unconstitutional legislation?  Will a great leader emerge to restore the republic or conversely will he or she create a socialist paradise?  We should not look to others for the answers to these questions, but to ourselves.   Right now we have a lot of positive rhetoric and hope, but we need greater numbers and, more importantly, action.  Therefore, I ask you to join me.  Politically speaking, you may be an infant, a teenager like myself, or someone far more experienced, but really age doesn’t mater.  Only by working together can we enact meaningful change. We must not be silent.  We must not be complacent.  Recruit your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers.  Run for office, draft legislation, write your Congressman, volunteer in your local GOP, or join a Tea Party.  Getting back to the original point about my birthday, if you’re looking to get me the perfect gift, how about a little liberty?