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.

Arthur Announces for the 24th

Ellen Arthur
Ellen Arthur

Today, on the steps of the Augusta County Court House in Staunton, Ellen Arthur officially announced her campaign for the 24th district House of Delegates seat.  Seeking the Democratic nomination, she is challenging Republican Delegate Ben Cline who has represented the district since 2002.  The 24th district includes Bath County, Buena Vista, Lexington, Rockbridge County, as well as portions of Augusta and Amherst Counties.

About two dozen people came out for the event which lasted a little less than half an hour.  Introduced by Augusta Democratic Chairman and former State Senator Frank Nolen (D-24), Ms. Arthur explained a little about her family life and her reasons for running, including her three campaign issues: improving medical care, expanding educational opportunities, and curbing the influence of money in politics.  Along these same lines, she spoke out against the Dominion pipeline, saying that it transported a “obsolete source of energy” and mentioned that Delegate Cline has received over $12,000 in campaign contributions from Dominion.

Angela Lynn and Ellen Arthur
Angela Lynn and Ellen Arthur

During the brief question and answer period that followed, Angela Lynn, a fellow candidate who is running for House of Delegates in the nearby 25th district, spoke in favor of Ms. Arthur, as did Staunton City Council member Erik Curren, and Staunton School Board member and local Young Democrat leader Laura Kleiner.  Lastly, she was joined on the steps by Angela Lynn for a joint photo.

Freitas For Delegate

From the Nick Freitas Campaign Facebook page
From the Nick Freitas Campaign Facebook page

Many of my fellow activists support a limited, constitutional government as well as legislators who will respect our liberty; unfortunately, we are often disappointed.  For those of us on the right side of the political spectrum, we are told time and time again to support the Republican candidate, regardless of  who he or she is and what he or she stands for, arguing that this candidate must be better than the Democratic alternative.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when we elect candidates based upon labels rather than a shared political philosophy, we promote self-serving politicians rather than the principled statesmen we so desperately need in Richmond and Washington D.C.

However, every once in a while a candidate comes along that “gets it”, one who understands that our rights naturally come from our creator and are not merely granted by some benevolent government power.   We need men and women who will work to shrink government to its proper role, not merely making big government more efficient.  We crave legislators who possess the needed courage to say no to the establishment in both parties when they tread upon the rights of the citizenry.  I firmly believe that Nick Freitas is one such person and he is the Republican nominee for the House of Delegates in the 30th district.

I had my first opportunity to speak to Mr. Freitas in August of 2014 and, since that time, I have constantly been impressed with his knowledge, drive, and determination to promote values that he, I, and countless other Virginians share should he have the opportunity to serve the people of our Commonwealth in the General Assembly.  Although a trait shared by only a handful these days,  I find the thought of his election quite exciting.

Although I may not live in his district, nor am I a member of the Republican Party, I believe that Nick Freitas would be an excellent addition in the Virginia House of Delegates.  Therefore, I wholeheartedly endorse his candidacy and strongly encourage the people of the 30th district to cast their vote for Mr. Freitas in the November election.

The Freitas Campaign Begins

10887989_789599264467654_2139203000_nIn case you haven’t heard, Nick Freitas of Culpeper County is running for Virginia House of Delegates in the 30th District.  He is seeking the Republican Party nod over incumbent Ed Scott.

Delegate Scott has served in the House since 2004 and has not fielded a Republican challenger since 2005.  However, he has drawn the ire of some conservative and libertarian Republicans due to his support of the 2013 transportation tax increase, a tax increase which in the 2013 elections led to the defeat of both Delegate Bev Sherwood (29th-Frederick County) and Delegate Joe May (33rd-Loudoun County).

On Thursday, January 8th, the Freitas campaign will officially begin at 6 PM at the Silk Mill Grille in Orange, VA.  Their featured guest is Susan Stimpson.  Mrs. Stimpson, who ran for the GOP nod for Lieutenant Governor in 2013, is also running for office this year, challenging Speaker of the House of Delegates Bill Howell (28th-Stafford County).

If you’d like to learn more about the Freitas gathering on the 8th or to RSVP, you can click on this link to the Facebook event.

Coulter for Delegate

With news of the surprise retirement of Delegate Onzlee Ware, the citizens of 11th district in the city of Roanoke will have an opportunity to elect a new legislator to serve them in Richmond.

Photo from Caleb Coulter

I’m pleased to say that fellow liberty activist Caleb Coulter will be seeking the Republican nomination for this office.  I have known Caleb for several years and believe that he possesses both the principle and integrity that are sorely needed in all levels of government.  That’s why I was glad that he was elected to represent me as a delegate to the Republican National Convention at Tampa in 2012 and also why I believe he would make an excellent candidate to serve the citizens in our state government.

The Republican primary for the 11 district will be held in just two weeks, on December 10th.  Therefore, I strongly encourage you to visit his campaign website and his Facebook page now to learn more about him and ways you can help him become a delegate.

 

Politics in Sherwill

This afternoon and evening, Uncle Glover’s County Store hosted a summer festival in Sherwill, VA, a small community located just outside of Concord in Campbell County.  As is typical with these sorts of gatherings, the event attracted political activists, office seekers, and the children of office seekers.  The Libertarian Party was the most active at this event; not only did they have a booth with literature and yard signs, they also had two candidates, Robert Sarvis for governor and Jonathan Parrish for the 23rd House of Delegates district.  The Democrats featured Katie Webb Cyphert, who is running for delegate in the adjoining 22nd district.  The Republican Party was not visibly in attendance nor did any of their incumbent delegates or other hopefuls participate in this event.

Below are a few photos from today:

IMG_2049
Jonathan Parrish & Robert Sarvis
IMG_2050
Katie Webb Cyphert & Daughters
IMG_2051
Robert Sarvis & His Children

New Challengers Emerge?

Delegate Todd Gilbert
Delegate Todd Gilbert

As hinted in my previous piece, Delegate Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County could also be facing a Republican primary challenger this election cycle.  The 15th district, which Mr. Gilbert has represented since 2006, includes Shenandoah and Page Counties as well as a portion of Warren and Rockingham Counties.  As reported in today’s issue of the Daily News Record, Mark Prince, a retired airline pilot from northern Shenandoah County may seek the nomination as well.  Should Mr. Prince choose to run, his central issues are, as of yet, unknown.

 

Last night at the meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party, I had the opportunity to meet with Mark Berg, a 10th district representative on the Virginia Republican State Central Committee.  He announced that he is challenging Beverly Sherwood for the GOP nod in the 29th district.  The 29th district, which Ms. Sherwood has represented since 1994, includes the city of Winchester, Frederick County, and a portion of Warren County.  As Mr. Berg mentioned, Delegate Sherwood is among a number of Republicans who voted for the recent transportation tax hike, called the largest tax increase in Virginia history.

The Shenandoah Valley is quickly entering uncharted political territory, incumbent legislators facing intraparty challengers.  For the nearly two decades that I’ve been involved and active, most elected officials in this region have captured the Republican nomination without question, year after year for as long as they choose to remain in that office.  So is 2013 the dawn of a new era of political competition?  Will even more candidates emerge to challenge the status quo?  Or will this election serve as a mere hiccup in the normal routine?  Only time will tell.

The 25th District Delegate GOP Primary

Republican primaries are rare here in the Shenandoah Valley.  Yes, there are notable exceptions, most recently Karen Kwiatkowski’s run against Representative Bob Goodlatte in 2012, but, in general, they do not happen…except in the case of an open seat caused by a retiring incumbent.

Well, today’s news bucks that trend.

Delegate Steve Landes(From SteveLandes.com)
Delegate Steve Landes
(From SteveLandes.com)

 

 

According to an email from Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta County, he will be facing a challenger for the GOP nomination for the 25th district House of Delegates seat, a position Delegate Landes has held since 1995.  Today’s Landes campaign email begins “We have JUST gotten the news that Delegate Landes will be opposed for his seat in the Republican nomination…”  Unfortunately, the email makes no mention of the name of Landes’ opponent, but one would assume that this information will be made public soon.

With deadlines to run for the GOP nod fast approaching, one does have to wonder if more candidates will emerge to contest the valley delegation.  For example, given some of his more surprising votes in the 2013 General Assembly session, a handful of organizations and individuals have asked me over the last several weeks if I would be interested in challenging my delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26).  Although I have been disappointed by quite a few his actions lately, I declined this idea.

At this point it is difficult to say whether Landes will be the only delegate with a Republican challenger or is one of several.  Either way, the 2013 elections have just gotten a bit more interesting here in the Shenandoah Valley.

Election 2011: What it Means

VC Note:  This brief article regarding the 2011 election comes from the Republican Party of Virginia.

Election 2011: What it Means

 — GOP Supermajority in House, Majority in Senate, Solid Start for 2012 — 

The votes are counted. The canvass is done, and the dust has settled. What does it all mean?

First, let’s look at the lay of the land.

House of Delegates

* Republicans picked up 7 seats in the House of Delegates.

* Republicans now have a 68 seat caucus in the House, the most in history.

* Republicans won 13 of 14 open seats in the House.

* Republicans defeated 2 Democrat incumbents in the House.

* All 52 incumbent Republicans seeking re-election won.

 

Senate of Virginia

* Republicans have won a working majority in the Senate.

* Republicans gained two seats to make it 20-20 with Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling holding the decisive tie-breaking vote.

* Republicans won 3 of 5 open seats in the Senate.

* Republicans defeated 2 Democrat incumbents in the Senate.

* All 15 incumbent Republicans seeking re-election won.
 

So what does it all mean?

First and foremost, Virginians overwhelmingly voted for a Republican controlled General Assembly.

 

Just look at the numbers:

 

House GOP Votes: 757,000, about 61% of all votes cast

House Dem Votes:  419,000, about 33% of all votes cast


Senate GOP Votes
: 771,000, about 57% of all votes cast
Senate DEM Votes: 554,000, about 41% of all votes cast

 

2011 caps a remarkable three-year run for Virginia Republicans:

 

* In 2009, Virginia Republicans won all three statewide offices by massive margins and picked up 6 seats in the House of Delegates.
* In 2010, Virginia Republicans defeated 3 incumbent Congressional Democrats and came within a few hundred votes of defeating a fourth, moving the Congressional delegation to 8-3 and clearing the way for our own Rep. Eric Cantor to become U.S. House Majority Leader.
* In 2011, Virginia Republicans picked up 7 more seats in the House of Delegates and picked up 2 seats in the state Senate.

For three years running, the message from Virginia voters has been clear. We expect them to send the same resounding message again in 2012.

The Following Day

This morning, citizens across Virginia awake to a day much like any other.  The sun has risen, the temperature is fairly warm, and life proceeds steadily onward.  The politicos among us, still weary from the toils of yesterday, look to the results of Election Day and are instilled with either hope or dread depending on one’s perspective.  So what are the results?

The biggest topic is the Virginia Senate.  So far, the Republican Party has netted one seat with Bill Stanley’s narrow win over Roscoe Reynolds in the 20th district.  The 17th district is still too close to call with Republican Bryce Reeves currently enjoying a 136-vote lead over incumbent Edd Houck.  It seems very likely that a recount in that district is coming soon.

Although the GOP has made gains, it certainly isn’t the slam-dunk that many conservative and Republican activists had hoped.  Assuming Houck emerges victorious, the Democrats will retain control of the Senate.  If Reeves wins, then the chamber will be evenly split with Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling likely casting the deciding tie-breaking vote in many circumstances.

One question that has troubled me throughout the campaign is, assuming the Republicans gain control of the Senate (or have a 20-20 tie), who will lead the party in that chamber?  Will it be a fiscal, social, and constitutional conservative?  Or will it be someone in the mold of former Senator John Chichester?  Even though I’ve been told by several sources that we will not return to such days, unless the GOP chooses a leader based on conservative principles, and not merely on seniority, I remain concerned.

Before moving on to the other races, I believe it is important to recognize that conservatives could have made their gains greater, but they spread their resources too thinly.

Looking at the unofficial results, the GOP ran pretty close campaigns in the 1st, the 33rd, the 36th, the 37th, the 38th, and the 39th.  However, the party devoted efforts to wide range of other races and thus ended up short in so many places.  As Bearing Drift stated in the most recent issue of their magazine, the 36th and the 38th districts leaned Republican and yet both were lost.  If money and volunteers were used in a wiser fashion, would the GOP now have a 21 or 22-seat majority instead?  To use a sports analogy, why gamble so much and swing for a homerun when a simple base will win (or at least tie) the game?

Here at home, Republican Bryan Hutcheson will be the new Sheriff of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  Even though the city was close, Hutcheson captured an amazing 66% of the vote in the county.  Congratulations to Mr. Hutcheson and his campaign team for their decisive win.

Moving north, Craig Orndorff emerged the top vote getter in the four-way race for Soil and Water Conservation Director in Shenandoah County.  Best wishes to him in his new position.

With the House of Delegates firmly in Republican hands, not too much attention has been given to that chamber.  However, given my ties with a particular House of Delegates seat, the last area of interest is the 93rd district.  As I mentioned previously, this district became a little more Republican after redistricting.  Mike Watson of Williamsburg capitalized on shift by defeating freshman Delegate Robin Abbott of Newport News.

Over all, things haven’t changed too much here in Virginia.  I’m sure pundits from both sides of the aisle will spin the results to declare victory for their cause boldly stating that either President Obama has been repudiated or vindicated.  Personally, I don’t think this election demonstrated a huge shift, but rather serves as another testament to Virginia’s conservative-leaning principles.

As the ink begins to dry on Election Day 2011, we prepare for 2012.  Given the limited space on my car, today is the annual ritual of bumper sticker removal.  So long Delegate Wilt and Senator Obenshain.  I expect to see both your names on my vehicle for the 2013 cycle.

The ceaseless political battle continues again soon.  But, for the moment, let’s come together as Virginians united and savor a respite.  The time for reflection and introspection is at hand.