The Reputation of Bloggers

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Pete Snyder

When you read a piece written on one of the multitude of blogs out there, do you ever stop to think about the author?  For example, do you ask what motivated him or her to craft the article and what agenda he or she is trying to advance?  Yes, when it comes to politics there are conservative blogs, liberal blogs, blogs that promote a grassroots or anti-establishment point of view, and those who seek to prop up certain elected politicians.

Last weekend I took a good bit of time to ponder this thought.  Several months ago a candidate contacted me as he was considering hiring me for his campaign.  After several abortive attempts I finally I spoke with his campaign manager just recently.  Although I was told that they didn’t have the funds to make an offer at this time, I was informed that I could help them out by writing pieces on this website critical of their opponent.  It was hinted that doing so might improve my chances of future employment.  However, the more I thought about the matter, the more it disturbed me.

One of my primary motivations in writing The Virginia Conservative is to report on political events around the state (especially in the Shenandoah Valley), offer my thoughts about politicians, their staffers, and legislation, and do my small part to promote political dialogue as well as the ideals of liberty and limited government.  The pieces I’ve written here I do so because I think they are important, because there is some matter that ought to be brought to public attention.  Have my opinions shifted and changed with time and new information?  Of course!  If you scroll back, you can find writings from 2008.  Who can honestly say that he or she has remained completely the same in an eight-year period?  However, no one has ever paid me to write anything that you find on this website and all thoughts presented (unless otherwise indicated) are my own at the time that they were written.

In response to this recent suggestion from the campaign, I included this statement in the message I wrote the candidate:

…I was asked to write pieces on my website attacking one of your opponents. If I were to do so, I was told it could improve my chances of getting hired when money became available.  Similarly the Stimpson campaign tried to funnel anonymous attack pieces through me in 2013, but I refused to do so.  Although I have made quite a few enemies these last few years, I always try to write what is true and right, not simply what benefits my point of view.  Given my limited experiences with [your opponent] in 2011, I believe it would be a terrible mistake for the voters of [your] district to choose him and I may write a piece to that effect on The Virginia Conservative.  Nevertheless, I steadfastly refuse to become a political hack, degrading either my honor or my work to do the behind-the-scenes hatchet attacks of others…

I was later informed that this situation arose out of a misunderstanding.  But it did get me thinking.  Is this idea foreign to many political blogs?  Are they merely fronts for various organizations, candidates, and politicians, willing to write whatever makes their clients look good (or calls their enemies into question)?

Let me expand on what I wrote concerning the Stimpson campaign.  Back in 2013 the Susan Stimpson campaign for lieutenant governor contacted me prior to the Virginia Republican Convention.  One of her staffers wanted me to write a piece critical of both Jeannemarie Davis and Pete Snyder, two of Stimpson’s opponents that year.  As such, they provided me with information and quotes from a gathering elsewhere in the state.  I did not personally attend this event, so the only material I had to work from was the information provided from the Stimpson campaign.  First of all, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic to attack either Davis or Snyder.  Both Jeannemarie Davis and Pete Snyder had taken time out of their campaign schedule to meet with me personally.  Although the Stimpson campaign repeatedly suggested a similar face-to-face meeting, they never made good on this promise.  However, in the interest of promoting dialogue, I agreed to write up a piece using the material that they sent me provided that I could mention that I had received this information from the Stimpson campaign.  However, they didn’t want their opponents to know that their campaign was behind it and so declined.  As a result, I decided not to run the story.

So are bloggers seen as mere mercenaries for hire these days?  Given some of the seemingly baseless attacks from one of the larger Virginia blogs against a certain legislator, I sometimes have to wonder.  Much like super PACs, do politicians and groups funnel money to bloggers to anonymously attack their foes?  Has that become our reputation?  If so, I would be ashamed to call myself a blogger. I would not want to associate with any writer or campaign that thinks that this kind of behavior is okay.  Yes, I do have an agenda to promote dialogue and liberty, but I feel if others discovered that I were writing thinly veiled behind the scenes attacks (paid or even unpaid), it would completely obliterate my credibility and any chance of even an attempt at objectivity.

Perhaps I am wrong.  After all, donations are few and far between and the costs of running The Virginia Conservative are higher than the monetary gains.  Nevertheless, I hope my readers can rest assured that when they read an article on this site, it isn’t written because I am getting paid to promote a certain cause or candidate. I do it because I’m one of those people who believe in what they say and think that honor is worth more that the lure of a possible job.  Revisiting 2013 once more, I’d like to believe that Ms. Davis and Mr. Snyder approached me because they considered me to be fair and objective, focusing on the issues we have in common, and not simply as someone who can be bought off to support a certain point of view.

So, what do you see as the reputation of bloggers?

The 2013 Convention!

Shortly before 7 AM, a multitude of local Republicans gathered outside of the Harrisonburg GOP headquarters to depart for the 2013 state convention in Richmond.  The Obenshain campaign organized this gathering.  I led one of the two buses of 49 other activists.  We left around 7:15 with the second bus stopping in Staunton to pick up additional supporters.

IMG_1886About two hours later we arrived outside the Coliseum.  The scene that greeted us was daunting.  On both the left and right sides of the entrance, long lines stretched seemingly forever.  Outside, most of the campaigns had a table underneath a tent handing out materials.  The one exception was the Davis campaign which merely had a yard sign where one would expect to find her people.  This development did not bode well for the Davis campaign, which I had previously assumed would survive at least to the second ballot.  In addition, there were a fair number of protesters in pink shirts from Planned Parenthood deriding the candidacy of Ken Cuccinelli.

Inside of the building each of the campaigns had an additional informational table, as did a multitude of other organizations such as The Leadership Institute, Middle Resolution PAC, and others.

IMG_1900In the auditorium itself, each delegate was grouped according to the city or county from which he or she came.  This year, the placement of each locality depended upon the percentage of their delegates who paid the voluntary $35 fee.  This change resulted in Harrisonburg city holding the choicest spot on the convention floor, front and center.  Delegates from Rockingham and Augusta Counties, regions whose delegates also strongly supported Senator Mark Obenshain, flanked Harrisonburg.

After many lengthy speeches from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ken Cuccinelli, and the various candidates running for the Republican nomination, voting could begin.  Although announced ahead of time, it was interesting that neither Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell nor Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling attended Saturday’s convention.  As an additional note, former Representative Allen West spoke on behalf of Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Ollie North encouraged delegates to support Pete Snyder.

Voting on the first ballot began about 1 PM or so, but the results were not announced until almost four hours later due to either technical difficulties or a recount requested by the Snyder campaign if the rumors circulating were true.  Although the official tallies were not released due to Delegate Rob Bell’s request to withdraw his candidacy, Senator Mark Obenshain became the official nominee for attorney general.  On the race for lieutenant governor, E.W. Jackson captured an early lead, winning 3,732 votes, about twice as many votes as his closest rival, Susan Stimpson.  Corey Stewart finished third, followed by Pete Snyder, Scott Lingamfelter, Jeannemarie Davis, and finally Steve Martin.  As no candidate received a majority of the votes, Martin and Davis were eliminated and delegates voted again.  Unfortunately, the official numbers for the first ballot were not announced until after many delegates had already cast their second ballot, which likely skewed the next results as we were erroneously led to believe that Stewart placed second instead of Stimpson.  Behind the scenes, the Davis campaign encouraged her supporters to rally behind Jackson.

About two hours later, voting from the second ballot was announced.  Jackson increased his totals to 4,558.38, while Snyder jumped to second with 2066.89.  Stewart finished third while Stimpson and Lingamfelter, with the two lowest totals, were eliminated.  Lingamfelter cast his favor to Snyder while the Stimpson campaign did not recommend any particular candidate.

SOThe results for the third ballot came one hour and forty-five minutes later.  Jackson’s vote total again expanded to 5,934.69 with Snyder second with 3,652.97.  At this point, E.W. Jackson had over 49% of the vote and thus his election on the next ballot was a virtual lock.  The Snyder campaign passed out fliers declaring that Corey Stewart had endorsed Snyder as had Mark Obenshain.  The latter revelation came as a complete shock given that Obenshain had remained silent in this race up until now, coupled with the fact that such an endorsement would be particularly foolhardy given that Jackson’s victory was all but a certainty.  I spoke with both Chris Leavitt, Obenshain’s campaign manager, as well as Suzanne Obenshain, his wife, who denied any endorsement.  In addition, Corey Stewart appeared and walked around the floor with Jackson with raised hands.  It was terribly unfortunate that in a desperate bid to win the Snyder campaign would resort to such dirty and dishonest tactics, ploys that were all too common in the closing days of the campaign.

Update:  Bearing Drift reports the following regarding the actions of the Stewart campaign.

A little after 10 PM, Pete Snyder withdrew his candidacy and thus E.W. Jackson was declared the victor.  With voting finally concluded, we returned to the bus and headed back west to our home across the mountain.

On a personal note, unlike many of the delegates, as I did not have a favorite candidate, I ended voting for three different LG candidates over the course of the day.  I intended to cast my final vote for Pete, but, after his campaign spread their misinformation, I couldn’t reward deception and thus proudly cast my vote for E.W. Jackson.

All in all, it was an exciting and tiring day that went much longer than needed.  However, it was filled with a bunch of surprises and uncertainty, regrettably marred by technical difficulties, a bit of misinformation, and a splash of deceit.

Given that the state central committee has selected a convention in 2014 to choose the Republican candidate for Senate, we’ll do it all again next year.  Hope to see you then!

A Peculiar Mailing

As we count down to the 2013 Virginia Republican Convention, campaigns, PACs, and special interest groups flood the mail with countless colorful pieces urging delegates to support their favored candidates or oppose others.

VLG2Today, I received what I think is a particularly peculiar mailer from Virginians for Limited Government (VLG).  The front of the mailing bemoans the rise of state spending by 66% over the last ten years.  Although there is little doubt that increased spending in the Commonwealth is a cause for concern, when pondering this statistic one should consider the rise in tax revenue and state spending as a result of population growth.  For example, in the last two years alone, according to the Census Bureau, Virginia has seen a growth rate of 2.3%, considerably higher than the national average of 1.7%.  Yes, I believe that the increase in state spending is a problem, but simply looking at that number without parameters isn’t particularly helpful.

However, what really got my attention was the back of the mailer.  First, it lauds Corey Stewart for his role in decreasing spending in Prince William County, which is an issue that ought to be considered.  However, it goes on to condemn Steve Martin, Jeanmarie Davis [sic], and Scott Lingamfelter. VLG

Now, you might ask, why does the mailer do so?  Did these three sponsor massive spending bills?  It doesn’t make this claim.  Well, do these three have a pattern of voting to increase state spending?  The piece doesn’t argue this idea either.  So then, what is the great fiscal sin of these three candidates?  Well, as you can read for yourself, “all three were members of the General Assembly when state budget increased by 66% in the last decade”.

With all due respect to Virginians for Limited Government (a great name and concept in my opinion), this mailer is nothing more that a load of crap.  According to their logic, should we condemn all members of the General Assembly who have served for the last ten years?  Is presumptive Republican gubernatorial and former State Senator Ken Cuccinelli likewise worthy of blame?  How about attorney general candidates State Senator Mark Obenshain or Delegate Rob Bell?  Give me a break!

Like Virginians for Limited Government, I too support the idea of curtailing the state budget.  However, the mailing they sent today is pure garbage.  If you want a candidate with state government experience, then you should support State Senator Steve Martin, former State Senator Jeannemarie Davis, or Delegate Scott Lingamfelter.  If you want a candidate from local government, then either Chairman Corey Stewart or Chairman Susan Stimpson is your choice.  If you prefer a candidate who has not held office, a supposed  “conservative outsider” as Virginians for Limited Government’s piece suggests, then Pete Snyder or E.W. Jackson is your man.

This mailer also begs the question of what is Virginians for Limited Government?  Their website offers few clues as there is no contact phone number or email listed.  Their Facebook page has not been touched since January 20th of this year and their Twitter account is likewise inactive, currently followed by no one.  I called Americans for Limited Government to see if they were somehow connected, but was told that Americans for Limited Government has no knowledge of this group.  Considering the lack of information, one does have to wonder if this organization is merely another shell designed to aid or hinder specific candidates in the 2013 convention.

Given all of the misinformation floating around, I’ll be glad when the Republican convention is over.  My advice to you remains the same; stay wary my friends, do you own research, and discover for yourself which candidate best represents your values.

Where is Susan Stimpson?

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Susan Stimpson M.I.A.

Last night, the Republican Women of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County hosted the seven campaigns for lieutenant governor.  Jeannemarie Davis, Senator Steve Martin, and a rather hoarse sounding Corey Stewart each attended the event while Suzanne Curran spoke on behalf of E. W. Jackson and Scott Lingamfelter and Pete Snyder sent a member of their staff.  Although I didn’t see anyone that I knew from the Susan Stimpson campaign, I assumed that one of her staffers or surrogates was in the audience.

For a few additional details about the evening, Corey Stewart explained that he nearly lost his voice after personally calling each of the Rockingham County delegates.  And, after the event, I appreciated the opportunity to speak briefly to Jeannemarie Davis about her campaign.  She asked about my work and so I spoke of a potentially exciting new development to expand my reach to local radio (hopefully I’ll have more details available soon!)

Getting back to Susan Stimpson, at the Lingamfelter meet and greet in Harrisonburg earlier that day, I had heard that she had to cancel her evening appearance at the last minute.  However, I figured that someone would speak for her that night.  Unfortunately, I arrived to the Republican Women meeting a few minutes late, during the speech of Jeannemarie Davis.  Once all of the candidates gave their presentation and I didn’t hear anyone from the Stimpson campaign, I simply guessed that her representative must have spoken first, before I arrived.  Only just this afternoon did I discover that her campaign was a no show.

Although I would recommend attending every event possible, especially the Republican Women, it is understandable that things do come up.  Regardless, it is natural that some of the local women would feel slighted by an abrupt cancellation.

Now, taken as an isolated incident, this oversight by the Stimpson campaign would be rather trivial.  However, it seems to be indicative of trend for the Stimpson campaign; last night marks their third absence in several months at previously scheduled campaign events in the central Shenandoah Valley.

Let me tell you that I’m not the only one around here who is starting to wonder.  Where is Susan Stimpson?

Jeannemarie Davis Handily Wins Poll

Jeannemarie Davis
Jeannemarie Davis

Since Thursday of last week, visitors to the Virginia Conservative have had the opportunity to voice their support for Republican candidates for lieutenant governor.  With the poll now closed and with 634 votes cast in total, Jeannemarie Davis emerged as the clear winner.

To give you some history, in the early hours of the poll, Susan Stimpson maintained a fairly sizable lead.  However, as the first day continued, Davis overtook Stimpson and continued to hold dominance throughout the remaining time window.  There were a few bursts of activity from Stewart supporters and a smaller influx from the Lingamfelter crowd, but nothing compared to the Davis surge.

The final results are as follows:

Jeannemarie Davis   262 votes or 41.32%

Susan Stimpson       121 votes or 19.09%

Corey Stewart          115 votes or 18.14%

Scott Lingamfelter   64 votes or 10.09%

Pete Snyder              42 votes or 6.62%

E. W. Jackson           26 votes or 4.1%

Steve Martin             4 votes or .063%

So what do these results mean?  Does a victory or a loss on a Virginia Conservative poll necessarily translate into success or failure in May?  Obviously, the answer is no.  As anyone could vote in this poll, (regardless of whether he or she happens to be a delegate), the votes are not weighted or sorted by city or county, and a vast majority of delegates did not participate, the outcome is not useful for this purpose.  You should know this fact already, but the poll is far removed from being anything remotely scientific.

In an amusing side note, on Saturday I spoke with Steven Thomas, the regional campaign representative for the Davis campaign, and asked if he knew of my poll.  He mentioned that he had voted in it, but added that online polls didn’t carry too much weight.  I told him that I agreed with his opinion, but also asked if he knew that his boss, Jeannemarie Davis, was winning at that time.

So, getting back to our previous question, what do these results mean then?  Well, they are fairly useful tools for assessing the online capabilities of a campaign.  Typically, when one of these polls pop up, the campaigns send out messages urging their supporters to go vote for their candidate.  Assuming that they did so, these results would indicate that the Davis campaign was most proficient at this task.  By comparison, I have seen little activity either here on the ground or online from Senator Martin’s campaign in over a month.  Given his total of a mere four votes, this result mirrors this observation.

So what were my expectations?  I’ll admit that when I created this poll, I expected one of two different outcomes.  First, given the relative strength and tenacity of her supporters in the Shenandoah Valley, Susan Stimpson would win this poll.  Although she performed well early and captured second place, Davis had more than twice the vote totals of any other candidate.  Second, given the impressive online capabilities of the Pete Snyder campaign, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him win either.  However, given his fifth place finish, either the Snyder campaign took little to no notice of this poll, or his support isn’t quite as robust as I had predicted.  Now some people have accused Davis supporters of trolling, but I really hope that they have better things to do than resetting their cookies in order to vote multiple times.

Let me conclude by tipping my hat to the Davis campaign.  Yes, they won this relatively minor poll, but, far more importantly, they continue to show that they are one of the most active lieutenant governor campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley.  At just about every political gathering in this region either Davis or one of her staffers have been faithfully promoting her campaign.  And, whether you agree or disagree with Jeannemarie’s positions, a strong and active campaign is a critical element in political success.

So, once again, I offer kudos to the Davis campaign.

As a final note, if you are looking for a more in-depth questionnaire on the 2013 RPV convention, I strongly encourage you to check out Willie Deutsch’s new poll.  It should be exciting to see his results!

Cuccinelli Opens Valley Headquarters

Around 3 PM on Saturday, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli arrived at the Republican Party headquarters in Harrisonburg to officially kick off the opening of that office.  About seventy-five people attended including several elected officials such as Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge County and Harrisonburg/Rockingham Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson.  Also on hand were representatives from a handful of other campaigns: Jeannemarie Davis’, Corey Stewart’s, and, of course, State Senator Mark Obenshain’s.

After a prayer and a few introductory remarks, Delegate Tony Wilt spoke to prep the crowd for Ken Cuccinelli.  The following video captures the entirety of the attorney general’s speech.

Cuccinelli & BootsOnce Ken Cuccinelli finished, Georgia Long, a 6th Congressional District State Central Party Representative, offered him a gift of flowers in a boot-shaped pot.

After Mr. Cuccinelli left, with the start of the campaign season officially underway for the Republican Party in Harrisonburg, volunteers manning the phones to begin anew the process of identifying and targeting voters.

In the Shenandoah Valley, the long and likely heated contest to select the next governor of Virginia has begun!

GOP Lt. Governor Poll

IMG_1670Everyone loves a political poll, right?  Especially when you get the opportunity to support your favorite candidate in a crowded field of seven.

So here is your chance, readers of the Virginia Conservative!  Who is your choice among the Republican candidates running for lieutenant governor?  And, if you feel like saying why you support him or her, leave a comment below.  That way everyone else can know why he or she is your top choice!

Davis & Lingamfelter in Harrisonburg

As mentioned in a previous post, both Jeannemarie Davis and Delegate Scott Lingamfelter spoke at last Friday’s Republican gathering at the Woodgrill Buffet in Harrisonburg.  Although not as large a turnout as the previous month, the attendees from the various portions of the central Shenandoah Valley still filled a good sized room.  While Mrs. Davis and her staff attended the entire meeting, Del. Lingamfelter and his staff arrived a bit late as they were held up by a previous speaking engagement in Goochland County.

For those who have not heard one or either of these two candidates, I’m pleased to present the entirety of their speeches.  If you are wondering why there is not a video of both, the battery in my camera was nearly dead and thus I had to switch to an audio recording for the second presentation.  Hopefully, this information will be useful to you as you decide amongst your choices for lieutenant governor.

Two Chances for Lt. Gov. Candidates

Pete Snyder, Scott Lingamfelter, Jeannemarie Davis
Pete Snyder, Scott Lingamfelter, & Jeannemarie Davis

Over the next two days, residents and visitors to the Harrisonburg area will have two opportunities to listen to and meet with three of the seven Republican candidates for lieutenant governor.

First, I have received word that Pete Snyder will be speaking at Thursday’s meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party (February 28th).  That gathering is taking place from 6:30 PM to 8:15 at the Freedom Baptist Church, located at 141 Pleasant Hill Road.  In addition, the main focal point of the evening will be Professor Robert Subrick of JMU.  He will be addressing the important and far too often overlooked topic of Austrian Economics.

Second, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Jeannemarie Davis are the two-featured guests at the monthly First Friday gathering of the Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Republican Parties (March 1st).  The event starts at noon and will be held at the Woodgrill Buffet on 1711 Reservoir Street.  If you would like to attend this event, please email Suzanne Obenshain at suzanne@markobenshain.com so that sufficient space is reserved.

Remember, if you are planning to sign up to be a delegate to the Virginia Republican convention in May, it is imperative that you learn about all of your choices.  Therefore, I highly recommend that you make both of these gatherings and keep an eye out for additional chances to meet with all candidates in your area, regardless of whether you live in the Shenandoah Valley or some other portion of the state.

Republican Lt Governor Candidate Forum a Success!

A press release from the Republican Women of Shenandoah County and their president, Karen Kwiatkowski

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Photo by Joshua Huffman

The forum held on February 9th at the LFCC campus provided nearly 200 attendees from the upper Shenandoah Valley with an up-­‐close and personal view of the seven Republicans vying for the party nod for Lt Governor.

All seven candidates attended, including Stafford County Supervisor Susan Stimpson and Prince William County Supervisor Cory Stewart, US Senate Candidate Bishop E.W. Jackson, State Senator Steve Martin, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, entrepreneur Pete Snyder, and former State Senator and delegate Jeanne Marie Davis.

Event sponsors were the Republican Women of Shenandoah County, the Apple Valley Club of Winchester, and the Shenandoah Valley Constitutional Conservatives.  The candidates were placed under the conservative microscope operated by moderator Suzanne Curran, Western Region Vice Chair of the Republican Party of Virginia.

While all candidates represented the values of limited government and individual opportunity, there were fireworks evident between those who have held office at the local level and often suffer from expensive federal and state mandates, and those who work or have worked in Richmond, at times dishing out those expensive mandates.  The theme of liberty and freedom was consistently articulated by EW Jackson, and echoed loudly by the other candidates, especially businessman Pete Snyder who is running a well-­‐funded and innovative campaign of “Big Conservative Ideas.”  Susan Stimpson and Cory Stewart both touted their success in reducing taxation and invigorating local economies.  Scott Lingamfelter shared status of his so-­‐called Boneta Bill (Freedom to Farm without Fear) and many in the audience were very supportive of this effort to get government off of the backs of average people and local farmers.

The candidates all addressed a local issue of interest to Shenandoah County voters.  Each expressed their thoughts on the direct and indirect cost to taxpayers of moral obligation bonds, and various Virginia Bond-­‐Issuing Authority roles within, and relationship to, the Virginia Constitution.  Virginia’s dependence on federal spending within in the Commonwealth was also discussed.

All of the candidates delivered the conservative message with passion, and the audience was large, intently listening, and well informed.  The Republican Women of Shenandoah County wish to thank everyone who worked to arrange this event, the Apple Valley Club and Dody Stottlemyer specifically for personal donation of food and drinks, Shaffer’s Catering for a donation of coffee, the great people at LFCC, the attendees and the candidates, and many more.

For more information on these candidates, their websites are below:

Corey Stewart                                    http://www.coreystewart.com

EW Jackson                                       http://www.jacksonforlg.com/

Jeanne Marie Davis                         http://jeannemarie4lg.com

Pete Snyder                                       http://www.petesnyder.com/

Scott Lingamfelter                           http://vote4scott.com/

Steve Martin                                     http://senatorstevemartin.com/

Susan Stimpson                               http://susanstimpson.com/

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