Tea Across the State

Although I’ve likely been to more tea party meetings that most people who read this article, all of these meetings have taken place within the Shenandoah Valley.  Last week, however, I had the opportunity to meet with two groups outside the region.

The Montross Tea Party

The first gathering took place in the town of Montross, Virginia on May 15th.  For those unfamiliar with Virginia geography, Montross is in the Northern Neck, the northern most peninsula of the state.  As you might imagine, it is a pretty rural area.  This tea party mainly draws from the citizens of Westmoreland County, a county comprised of 17,454 people as of the 2010 census.  Despite this relatively small population base, the tea party still boasted a turnout of 25 people.

The Mechanicsville Tea Party

The second meeting was the Mechanicsville Tea Party on May 17th.  49 people attended this assembly.  Mechanicsville, for those who don’t know, is an unincorporated community of 34,648 folks in Hanover County, a few miles north of the city of Richmond.  Apparently, there are a whole host of tea party organizations in and around the city of Richmond including several in Hanover County itself.

Parke West of We rVirginia

The featured speaker at these two events was Parke West of We rVirginia.  We rVirginia is a relatively new group; their purpose is to educate, activate, and inspire conservatives throughout the Commonwealth in order to elect likeminded legislators in the 2012 election cycle.  Part of their technology includes the rVotes system, a database and program similar to the Republican Party’s Voter Vault.

One common thread I noticed between the two tea parties was the high level of support for Jamie Radtke for Senate.  Although Jamie Radtke won the most recent straw poll in the Harrisonburg and Staunton Tea Parties, apparently, she has an even stronger following in other regions of the state.  For example, approximately one out of every three of members of both the Montross and Mechanicsville Tea Party meetings self-identified as an active volunteer with the Radtke campaign. How will the efforts of this multitude of volunteers impact the June 12th Republican Senate primary?

Another interesting tidbit to note was the complete lack of Cantor materials at the Mechanicsville Tea Party.  Although I would argue that Karen Kwiatkowski is the tea party favorite in the June 12th Republican primary for the 6th district, Representative Bob Goodlatte still makes an attempt to reach out to the Shenandoah Valley Tea Parties.  However, at the Mechanicsville meeting, there were neither Cantor campaign signs nor his literature.  By contrast, I could easily find brochures for his opponent, Floyd Bayne.  I have to wonder, is this situation an anomaly?  Do many of the grassroots organization in the 7th congressional district oppose majority leader Eric Cantor?  Or has his campaign simply chosen to ignore tea party groups like Mechanicsville?

Although it is easy to assume that all tea party groups are the same given that each presumably adhere to the Constitution and the ideals of limited government, it is also true each are comprised of a variety members who each hold a multitude of beliefs, have differing levels of political experience, and view the world through their own personal lenses.  I look forward to learning about other tea party organizations as we strive to promote our shared principles in 2012 and beyond.

Tax Day Rally 2012

Well ladies and gentlemen, the time for the 2012 Tax Day Rally has come and gone.

On April 14th, the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party held their annual event in downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia.  The event boasted an impressive list of speakers including Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  Even if you missed the gathering, you can still either read about it on examiner.com or watch a slideshow video on youtube.

Enjoy and make certain to attend in 2013!

The Conservative Dilemma

On Friday, the Republican Party of Virginia announced that four of the five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Virginia’s Senate seat had successfully submitted a sufficient number of signatures to appear on the June 12th primary ballot.  These candidates are: George Allen, E.W. Jackson, Bob Marshall, and Jamie Radtke.  Only David McCormick failed to submit any signatures and thus was denied a spot in this contest.

Although many voters likely welcome the opportunity to select between four candidates, this particular situation heavily favors one candidate, George Allen.  Unlike the others, George Allen has held a multitude of political offices including serving as both the Governor of Virginia and a Senator from 2001-2007.  Therefore, due to his decades of political experience and campaigning, he has a much higher name identification rate and a massive campaign war chest when compared to any of the other candidates.

It should be noted that some of George Allen’s positions as well as his votes while serving as a senator do worry some conservative activists.  Although one can find a more extensive article on this subject here, George Allen voted to raise the debt ceiling many times, he voted to strip away our civil liberties via the Patriot Act, and he supported No Child Left Behind.  In addition, his refusal to take a public stance on either NDAA or SOPA may lead some people to believe that he will continue to support big government policies if he is elected senator again.

However, even though there are three alternatives to George Allen, it is highly unlikely that any of these challengers can mount a successful bit to deny the current frontrunner in this present situation.  Collectively, Radtke, Marshall, and Jackson may very well end up with more votes that Mr. Allen in the primary, but as a winning candidate only needs a plurality of the votes and not a majority, it will be difficult for any of the three to do so.  Jamie Radtke has a considerable following among the tea parties, Bob Marshall still has remnants of his loyal followers who nearly propelled him to victory in the 2008 Senate contest, and E.W. Jackson has done quite well among the social conservatives.  Other conservatives will support George Allen due to the belief that he has the best chance of the four to win the seat.  Thus, we find the conservative dilemma.

Recognizing this situation, the ideal solution would be for two of the candidates to withdraw so that voters can decide if they would prefer George Allen or someone who bills him or herself to be a more conservative alternative.  However, at this point, such a move seems unlikely.  Jamie Radtke has been campaigning for well over a year, likely has the best defined campaign, and has spent more time, energy, and money than either Jackson or Marshall.  Jackson continues to electrify audiences with his passionate speeches as has recently expanded his campaign staff.  Marshall, even though he is the newest entrant into the race, still probably commands a higher ID than either of the other two combined.  Thus, believing each is the strongest candidate to face Allen, none of them will withdraw and, chances are, the anti-Allen vote will be split in such a way as to be more or less irrelevant in the June 12th contest.

Will conservatives band together, rejecting two of the others, and rally behind one of the non-Allen candidates?  Conversely, do conservatives believe that George Allen shares enough of their principles to hold this office once again?  And, once the primary is over, can any of the four candidates capture the hearts and minds of conservatives to cobble together a successful coalition of his or her rivals’ supporters and independent voters in order to beat the Democratic nominee former Governor Tim Kaine in November?  What a dilemma!

Collect Those Radtke Petitions

This evening, I received a video from Jamie Radtke.  In it, she extols the importance of signature collection to her campaign.

Look, time is running short and if you would like to see Jamie Radtke on the June ballot, your opportunity is now.  True, 10,000 valid signatures are a lot.  But with your efforts combined with the efforts of grassroots activists from all across Virginia, it is a task that can be accomplished.

Don’t forget the three important steps:

1. Collect as many signatures as you can.

2. Get them notarized.  (Your local bank will usually notarize them for free!)

3. Mail them to the campaign as soon as you are finished.

Get to it!

Lobby Day in Pictures

Did you miss out on Lobby Day 2012?  Have you ever been to the Virginia Capitol in Richmond, Virginia?  Well, here is a slide show of some people and things you should have seen (plus a hungry squirrel enjoying a cracker at the capitol entrance).  Enjoy!

Please note, the music is not mine but rather a built-in soundtrack from the fine folks at Apple Computer.  Making video slide shows like this one is particularly easy…if you own a Mac.

Lobby Day

On Monday, political activists from across the commonwealth of Virginia gathered in Richmond to participate in the annual Lobby Day.  Shortly before 7 AM that morning, I boarded a bus headed to the state capital to participate in these activities.  My fellow passengers included other members of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party as well as the Valley Family Forum, and even a person or two from the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

After Harrisonburg, we made stops in Staunton and Waynesboro, picking up additional folks along the way.  With our busload of around thirty-five, we crossed over Afton Mountain and made our way to our destination.

Shortly before arriving, we discovered that the pro-life presentation offered by the Family Foundation had reached its capacity, so Lois Paul (one of the tea party leaders), Lisa McCumsey, (the campaign manager for Karen Kwiatkowski), and myself decided to explore the capital on our own.

Our first stop was the general assembly office building.  Although most delegates and senators were unavailable, I did appreciate the opportunity to speak with Delegate Landes (R-25) and my own Delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26) about their upcoming legislative proposals.

Jamie Radtke at Lobby Day

From there, we gathered with supporters of the Virginia Citizens Defense League around the bell tower on the capitol grounds.  At this rally, I found two of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.  While Jamie Radtke spoke to the crowd, David McCormick milled around the crowd gathering signatures to be on the ballot.

David McCormick at Lobby Day

After that, we enjoyed lunch at the Tobacco Company restaurant.   In the lounge of that establishment, the newly formed Central Virginia Tea Party welcomed visitors.  Surprisingly, I ran into the Virginia chairman for the Gary Johnson campaign while returning from the restroom.  We chatted briefly about the presidential race and each offered a bit of speculation as to the future of the Ron Paul movement.

From there, we toured the capitol building itself.  Unfortunately, by this point, neither the House nor the Senate was in session and so we could not enter those chambers.

Delegate Bob Marshall with his new bill

Shortly before our return to the bus, Delegate Bob Marshall crossed our path.  He was on the way to the capitol to present a new bill.  He stated that his proposal would exempt Virginians from unconstitutional detentions allowed in the recently signed National Defense Authorization Act.  I’m always glad to discover new ways that our legislators are working to protect us from the excesses of the federal government.

On the ride back, several of us collected signatures for the various Senate and House candidates while a good chunk of the attendees took the opportunity to nap.  About half of my fellow riders accepted a DVD explaining why they should support Dr. Ron Paul in the upcoming March 6th primary.

All in all, it was a great trip.  If you couldn’t make it to Lobby Day 2012, I recommend marking your calendars in advance so that you won’t miss out next time.

Denouncing the NDAA?

Last week, I contacted the campaigns of all of the Republican candidates for Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat as well as Democratic frontrunner Tim Kaine.  My purpose in doing so was to discover each of their positions regarding the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act.  As you might imagine, I am quite dismayed about the prospect of giving the president the authority to indefinitely detain any person, be they an American citizen or not, without a trial.  I had hoped that each of the candidates would take a strong stance against this potential injustice.

Well, seven days have passed since my inquiry.  What to do you expect each of their responses was?  First, I didn’t get a reply from Tim Donner.  Given that he ended his campaign shortly after receiving my question, this outcome comes as no surprise.  Nor did I get any sort of answer from either E.W. Jackson or David McCormick.   The reasoning for this lapse likely stems from the fact that neither seem to have very organized or responsive campaigns and likely do not have a person devoted to answering such questions.

Then again, neither George Allen nor Tim Kaine offered any sort of opinion either.  My guess here, given their records, is that like John McCain and Mark Warner both support increasing the power of the federal government at the expense of minor things like the Constitution.  Of course, I could be wrong.  I hope that I’m wrong.

At this point, to the best of my knowledge, only one of the Senate candidates has come out in opposition to NDAA.  That candidate is Jamie Radtke.  As she wrote in a recent article, “Today, men and women of zeal are pushing through legislation that will seriously undermine our Constitution and set back the cause of liberty that men and women have fought and died for since 1775.”  She goes on to add, “The NDAA writes into law the unconstitutional authority claimed by the president to indefinitely detain American citizens suspected of supporting terrorism and denies them the right to due process or trial. Worse, it allows the U.S. government to detain Americans as long as we are at war with terrorists, and this is a war with no end in sight.”  You can read all of her thoughts on her website.

As Virginians look to elect or re-elect a president, a senator, and eleven members of the House of Representatives in 2012, I believe that it is imperative that we choose candidates who respect our Constitution and the rule of law.  Giving the president new and unconstitutional authority to imprison us is not the kind of leadership that I’m hoping to find.  Therefore, I call on each of the candidates to join Jamie Radtke in denouncing NDAA.

Here’s my take home message for my fellow Virginians: If a candidate does not issue a firm commitment to protecting the people from overreaches of the government, then he or she should not be considered as a reasonable choice for any elected office.

What Does Bob Goodlatte Have Against the Internet?

VC note:  Several days ago, I shared a piece from Jamie Radtke regarding her opposition to Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA for short.  This evening, I’m pleased to offer another article on the topic from Karen Kwiatowkski. 

While we don’t believe ten-term congressman Goodlatte speaks Mandarin, he has a lot in common with the Communists in Beijing, at least when it comes to regulating and controlling the Internet.

Goodlatte is the author of the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, a costly regulatory attack on the Internet.  It is supposed to reduce copyright infringement – a problem already on the wane due to new software business models, encryption and other technological breakthroughs that America used to be known for.

In reality, SOPA will cause rapid and unnecessary government shutdowns of websites, and drive rights-holders and Internet service providers to do the same, all without due process.  If 6th District voters want a law that violates the 1st and 4th Amendments, crushes free speech and small businesses, we should support Bob’s SOPA.

SOPA is expensive and burdensome.  If 6th District voters want a $50 million tax-funded spending hike in the coming years, we should support Bob’s SOPA.

SOPA would interfere with the architecture of the Internet.  One of the creators of the Internet, Vinton Cerf is extremely upset.  He notes, “collateral damage of SOPA would be particularly regrettable because site blocking or redirection mechanisms are unlikely to make a significant dent in the availability of infringing material and counterfeits online, given that DNS manipulation can be defeated by simply choosing an offshore DNS resolution provider, maintaining one’s own local DNS cache or using direct IP address references.”

In simple terms, Vinton Cerf knows that if 6th District voters want to destroy the current workability the Internet domain name system AND drive American businesses and jobs overseas and underground – we couldn’t do better than to support Bob’s SOPA.

SOPA won’t prevent online copyright violations.  It is expensive, wrong-headed, harms both business and Internet architecture, and messes with the technological progress that has been made in the past 15 years.

What can 6th District voters do?  First, we should require that Bob Goodlatte cease and desist, and do no harm.  While Goodlatte’s SOPA might be appealing in Communist China, North Korea, and Hollywood – it makes no sense, and runs counter to the letter and the ideals of the Constitution.

Bob doesn’t learn from his legislative mistakes, and he’s in too deep with Hollywood and West Coast lobbyists.   These mistakes include SOPA, his steadfast support of the Patriot Act, and his destruction of online gaming businesses in Virginia and across the country – in all of this, Bob just doesn’t get it.

SOPA has been described as handing out “chainsaws in an operating room.”  I have a strong suspicion that, in addition to not being able to understand how the Internet actually works, Bob Goodlatte has never used a chainsaw.

There is good news, though.   I’ve got several chainsaws Bob can borrow, and I’d be glad to give him lessons.  Bob with a chainsaw, while certainly a frightening prospect, would be a lot safer for the nation than SOPA, and way more productive.

Karen Kwiatkowski, conservative Mt Jackson cattle farmer and veteran, is challenging Bob Goodlatte in the GOP Primary on June 12, 2012.

SOPA: More Government Intrusion, Less Freedom, and an End to the Internet?

VC Note:  This article comes from Jamie Radtke, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.  Although the idea to “stop online piracy” sounds reasonable, the bill has a lot of other consequences that, whether intended or not, should trouble liberty-loving Americans.  Unfortunately, my Representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) is a strong supporter and co-sponsor of this legislation.

It’s dumb to use a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito, but it’s criminal if the mosquito is sitting on someone’s head at the time.

The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is criminal in the same way. Through SOPA, the U.S. government and private companies will be able to censor free speech by killing web sites they claim are engaging in, enabling or facilitating infringement of copyrights. The Attorney General (Eric Holder!) would have the power to kill any web site he desires by denying it access to search engines, advertisers and payment processors like Visa. By the time the web site appeals the government’s attack, it may already be out of business.

Furthermore, it is a short step from there to using the power of censorship to stop “hate speech,” “incitement,” or any other form of dissent through speech. Don’t forget, our own Department of Homeland Security issued a report not long ago called “Right Wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” in which it branded as potential terrorists:

“…those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

Sound like anyone you know?

This is why I support the effort by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky to stop SOPA and similar bills that restrict freedom and give government more control of the Internet.  I encourage you to visit Senator Paul’s “Don’t Censor the Net” website and lend your support to his efforts as well.

Online piracy and copyright infringement are serious issues that must be addressed.  But empowering the U.S. government and private companies to unilaterally censor and shut-down alleged abusers is a dangerous over-reaction to the problem, and will almost certainly lead to greater censorship of free speech that the government doesn’t like.

SOPA must be stopped! The question is: Where does George Allen stand on protecting our 1st Amendment rights? Does he stand with the Special Interests and power-hungry bureaucrats in Washington who support this bill, or does he stand with the individual and his right to free speech?

Update:  I just got a request to link to two additional articles regarding SOPA and Representative Bob Goodlatte.  The first is written by Karen Kwiatowski and is entitled Bob Goodlatte-Protecting Us Online? Not so Much!  The second is by Kaleb Matson and is called Bob Goodlatte-Enemy of the Internet.

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!