44 For Jackson

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Photo from Cole Trower

This evening, forty-four activists came to the Republican Headquarters in Harrisonburg to watch the live-streamed lieutenant governor debate between Republican E.W. Jackson and Democrat State Senator Ralph Northam.  Although most were from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, several came from nearby areas as well, at least two from as far away as Luray.

In general, the crowd seemed quite energized, clapping frequently when Jackson articulated their principles and questioning some of the claims made by Northam.  The local media also stopped by to interview several of the attendees.

Given the number of yard signs spread across the area (more than any other candidate) combined with the considerable numbers of volunteers who have lined up to help the Jackson campaign, tonight’s gathering of forty-four is yet another demonstration of the vast enthusiasm many conservative activists in the Shenandoah Valley share for the Republican LG nominee.

The Improbable Jackson

IMG_1656If a fellow political activist were to tell me on the morning of the Virginia Republican convention that E. W. Jackson would be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, I would have been highly skeptical.  Not only did he finish with a rather dismal 4.72% in his last election, the 2012 Senate Republican primary, but also his campaign had fallen significantly behind in fundraising totals when compared to most of his six rivals.  And, as a result, his staff suffered an important loss.  Originally, I had predicted that Mr. Jackson would not pass the first ballot at the convention.  However, after seeing a considerable swell in grassroots support in the days leading up to the convention, I didn’t think it too unreasonable for him to survive into the second round.  He was successful in capturing the hearts and minds of a significant number of my fellow delegates, especially those from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  However, Jackson not only led on the first ballot, but also led in each successive ballot until he won the nomination.  He performed exceedingly well among religious conservatives, who turned out to Richmond in surprisingly large numbers.

Many Republicans, myself included, quickly dismissed the idea of a Jackson victory in November.  After the results for the third ballot were announced at the convention, where Jackson’s nomination was all but a certainty, I leaned over to a fellow delegate and remarked that the GOP had conceded the lieutenant governor race.  Now why would anyone make this claim?  Well, beside last year’s electoral drumming and continued fundraising difficulties, Bishop Jackson has a history of untempered speech.  Over the years, E.W. Jackson has made a considerable number of controversial statements, ones that I certainly wouldn’t make if running for public office, and many that I think are needlessly inflammatory and/or happen to disagree.  It is profoundly difficult for such a galvanizing lightning rod, like Jackson, to win the independent vote.

E.W. Jackson

So is the Jackson campaign quixotic?  It’s easy to think so, as many in the establishment seem to have written him off as politically dead.  However, I have noticed an unusual spark as of late.  Many of these same delegates who attended the convention are donating significant time and money to assist the Jackson campaign.  Given that both his funding and name identification are lower than they ought to be, across the state his volunteers, in conjunction with the campaign, are organizing gatherings and fundraisers at homes, businesses, and at universities (as is the case in Harrisonburg).  Although supporting the entire ticket, they walk their neighborhoods to primarily promote this unique candidate called E.W. Jackson.  They seem to comprehend an important concept, that electoral victory is not achieved simply by being correct in one’s principles, but through continued hard work and dedication.  Truly, any campaign would be blessed to have such a dedicated core of support.

Whether you are an E.W. Jackson fan or not, it is undeniable that he faces a tremendous uphill battle in the upcoming months.  Yes, the smart money says that the Democratic nominee, Ralph Northam, will win in a landslide.  Nevertheless, the Jackson supporters are motivated, organized, and, most importantly, active.  Can they pull off a November upset?  At this point, it is unlikely…but not impossible.

If He Loses Then We Lose

VC Note:  Most likely along with a multitude of other tea party members, I received the following message from Middle Resolution PAC.  As the title states, I find the line “if he loses then we lose” particularly intriguing.  Given the numerous complaints against Corey Stewart currently circulating on the internet, I’d hate to peg my fortunes on his performance tomorrow.  So will the tea party rally behind Mr. Stewart?  Will this support scatter?  Or will it concentrate on another of the seven LG candidates?  I guess we’ll see.

TMR logo

The last 2 weeks have been difficult on us all as we have been in the throes of a political mudslinging match aimed at our candidate, Corey Stewart, the perceived front runner in this race.  I want to make a plea to everyone not to get distracted by the smoke and mirrors of a political primary but to focus on the candidate whom we’ve selected to represent grassroots conservatives in VA.  If he loses then we lose and we must do everything we can to help him win the nomination on Saturday.

The attacks on Corey’s campaign ethics are based on hearsay and innuendo with no proof that he is in any way involved with unethical behavior.  While Corey is the focus of these attacks the whole delegate list has been receiving e-mails from John Gray, a former democratic opponent of Corey’s, attacking Corey’s record.  How did John Gray get the delegate list?  Recently 2 pieces of direct mail were sent from  “Checks and Balances for Economic Growth” attacking Corey Stewart calling him “King Corey!” So clearly they also have the delegate mailing list and clearly there are a number of dirty hands in all of this yet the bloggers and Breitbart are focusing on Corey.  Why is Breitbart so concerned about a 7 way LG primary race?  The Breitbart articles by Michael Patrick Leahy, seem to be very concerned about possible ethics violations by Stewart, but ignore many of the same actions by other candidates. Is he interested in the shadow group doing direct mail pieces against Stewart? Nope, just Stewart!

A couple of days ago Grover Norquist railed against Corey’s tax record on the John Fredericks show.  Here is the tax pledge that Corey signed:

Notice that Grover Norquist endorsed the pledge that Corey signed.  Why is he criticizing Corey for signing and adhering to the pledge that his group constructed?

Throughout this process Corey has been forthcoming with us and has met or talked to every tea party with concerns about the attacks on his record (in one instance to his detriment).

The whole purpose of the vetting process was to unite conservatives behind a candidate and help that candidate win against a well funded, data rich, progressive democrat candidate. Corey prevailed in a thorough vetting process that looked at campaign strength, ability to fund raise, and knowledge of free market principles.  We were not the only ones who vetted these LG candidates, John Tate head of Campaign for Liberty and Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute did their own vetting and came to the same conclusion that we did; Corey Stewart is the candidate best suited to defeat the democrat in November.

Corey’s record cutting regulations, cutting spending, and fighting illegal immigration is consistent with tea party principles. He is no stranger to the tea party, he attended one of the first CoLA meetings to help create a state immigration policy that would mirror what he has done in PWC.  He also sought tea party support for a bill to eliminate the corporate income tax and he continues to keep an open line of communication with tea party activists.

Corey’s accomplishments in Prince William County are a model for our state government.  While spending in VA has grown by 66% Corey has cut $143 million in spending from the county budget and per capita spending is below what it was in 1992.   While little has been done to address the challenges of illegal immigration at the state level Corey has implemented policies to enforce immigration law and has reduced crime.  While we just received the biggest tax increase in VA history to supposedly fund transportation, Prince William County funded a $300 million dollar transportation project without raising taxes.  If we want to solve the transportation issue we should call on other counties to maintain their own roads and decentralize road building and maintenance from VDOT to the localities.  Lastly, while Medicaid spending has increased by 1500% in the last 30 years, Corey’s most recent budget proposed 9.6 million in cuts to social services.  This is the type of leadership that we need in VA and I hope you will all rally behind Corey on Saturday and push him across the finish line.
Best Regards,
Angie

Corey Stewart & The Truth

VC Note:  I wrote the following piece back on March 22nd of this year.  For the last several months, I have debated whether or not I should post it; after all, I don’t enjoy writing negative articles against candidates.  However, given recent high profile endorsements, including the virtual tea party endorsement, along with a slew of anonymous hit pieces tied directly or indirectly with the Stewart campaign, I realized that this issue must be highlighted and not done in secret on behalf of someone else, but through my own hand.

There are two facets to Corey Stewart and his campaign that, in my mind, set him and his campaign apart from the other six in this race to be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor.

The first is that his campaign is the only one of the seven to speak with me about working for him.  In all fairness, I’m a bit surprised by this development.  Although I’ve discussed this issue with the Cuccinelli campaign and both the Bell and Obenshain camps, I’ve taken a rather neutral approach to the LG race.  Nevertheless, while attending a dinner with Mr. Stewart, his staff, and fellow members of the tea party in Harrisonburg late last year, I was told that the Stewart campaign was looking to hire someone with Ron Paul connections to work within the liberty community.  Given that I served as the director of grassroots organizing in South Carolina for Dr. Paul in 2007/08, appointed myself the unofficial Harrisonburg coordinator for the 2012 campaign, and have been quite active with my fellow brothers and sisters in liberty over the years, I suppose that I would fit the bill pretty well.  In addition, at that time I was (and unfortunately still am) searching for political employment.  And yet, despite the chance to make a steady paycheck and work amongst my Ron Paul brethren once more, I did not jump at this opportunity.  But why?  This question leads me to the second issue.

Rewind the clock to late 2010 and early 2011.  Before Corey Stewart began his listening tour, gauging the idea of running for U.S. Senate, I didn’t know too much about him.  Sure, he was and is the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Prince William County; cracking down on illegal immigration was his signature issue that brought him a lot of praise and condemnation from various folks, but those details covered the extent of my knowledge.  However, on February 24th of 2011, Corey Stewart came to speak to the Harrisonburg Tea Party.

Looking back further, as I wrote back in October of 2010, a new Facebook group popped up called “Republicans Against a George Allen Comeback”.  At that time, I didn’t pay the group much mind.  After all, like many Virginia Republicans, I still wore the rose-colored Allen glasses.  In my mind, George Allen was a great governor and a pretty good senator who ended up saying some stupid things which cost him his position back in 2006.  In addition, I should add that I almost always develop a very strong sense of loyalty to my former employers; even though I didn’t work for him directly, in 2006 I was an employee of the Republican Party of Virginia whose top priority was Allen’s re-election.

I found that the more I learned of Corey Stewart on the night of 2/24/11, the more I liked him.  Therefore, when he repeated some of the same claims offered by the previously mentioned Facebook group, I decided to look into the matter.  Was George Allen, as Mr. Stewart suggested, a “mediocre” senator? (video from VA Social Conservative).  Did he support many of the same big government programs that tarnished the Republican brand in Washington, programs for which I previously condemned Republican president George W. Bush?

Upon Mr. Stewart’s urging, I set aside my previous thoughts about George Allen and looked at his record objectively.  And what did I find?  The sobering truth.  As many readers already know, unfortunately George Allen was one of those Republicans who vastly expanded the role of the federal government in areas such as education, health care, and the erosion of our civil liberties.  For me, the facade that I had wishfully erected around George Allen since my first days in politics had been shattered.  I was convinced that Virginia conservatives could and should nominate someone far better than Mr. Allen to send to the U.S. Senate.

By November 1st of 2011, Corey Stewart decided against running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.  So then, he must have rallied behind one of the candidates, like Jamie Radtke, right?  No, in a stunning complete reversal, he endorsed George Allen.  According to Politifact, “Stewart was asked about his characterization of Allen as a ‘mediocre’ senator. ‘All in all, I’ve got to say that I retract that statement and I have to say he had a very good senate record,’ he said.”  But wait just a second.  As he was no longer in office, George Allen’s Senate record did not change.  The only thing that did change was Corey Stewart’s political motivations.

I was (and still am two and a half years later) shocked by this development.  How could Mr. Stewart tour Virginia for the purpose of deriding George Allen to endorse him only nine months later?  Obviously, the answer, as Corey Stewart states in the Politifact article, stems, not from desire to spread the truth, but from his political ambitions.  Is this quality of flexible morality something you desire of someone who seeks to lead us in Richmond?

Given these factors, I’m sure you can understand why I didn’t pounce upon the opportunity to work on the Stewart campaign last year.  Yes, I’m sure that they would have compensated me fairly well, but what price would I have to pay?  If I promoted his message to my fellow liberty-minded activists would I completely destroy my credibility in the movement?  If I knowingly worked for someone who I didn’t trust from the very beginning could I bear the sight of looking at myself in the mirror?  Now, I know that some would merely shrug their shoulders at this idea.  After all, a job is just a job.  But I firmly believe what you do (and what you do not do) is an important reflection of who you are.

Many people value my writing on this blog for its objectivity, which I appreciate.  However, I must state my strong opinion that although Mr. Stewart might be a fine candidate and person in many regards, I can only support candidates I can trust.  Therefore, I could not work for Corey Stewart nor will I be able to cast my vote for him at the Republican convention on May 18th.  The last thing either the Republican Party or Virginia needs to promote is another self-serving politician willing to say or do anything to advance his or her own political career.

Stewart in HarrisonburgAlthough you can only see some of the words written behind Mr. Stewart as he spoke against George Allen at a local Baptist church in 2011, you can see, perhaps ironically that they are from the Bible, John 8:32. “Then you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Should the Stewart campaign wish to offer a rebuttal to this piece, I’ll be happy to offer their commentary to you.

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?

Lingamfelter in Harrisonburg

IMG_1848At 11:30 AM today, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) came to Harrisonburg to speak about his campaign for lieutenant governor.  Later in the evening, the Republican Women of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County held an event featuring each of the seven Republican candidates.  However, as Delegate Lingamfelter was unable to attend this gathering in person, he decided to meet with the local delegates beforehand.

Prior to Delegate Lingamfelter’s speech, two Valley legislators offered their thoughts and praise for him, Delegate Tony Wilt (R-26) and Delegate Steve Landes (R-25).  Both men have previously endorsed his candidacy.

Expecting a similar message to his last trip to Harrisonburg, I did not record Delegate Lingamfelter’s words.  However, he offered a bit of a different message, focusing upon the proper role of government and ways in which he can make an impact as lieutenant governor to promote his philosophy.  He stressed that one should never abandon his or her principles for the sake of political power.

During the question and answer period that followed, I asked Scott Lingamfelter about one of my greatest reservations, his harsh condemnation of Ron Paul and his supporters after Paul’s unfortunate and ill-timed comments made after the death of a U.S. soldier.  Presumably quite a few Paul supporters would appreciate a good bit of the Delegate’s record and rhetoric if not for his anti-Paul rebuke.  Lingamfelter admitted that some of his words were written out of the anger stemming from the moment, given his personal experience dealing with the death of fellow soldiers and praised Paul for raising awareness for important issues such as auditing the Federal Reserve.  As he pointed out from his campaign card, Delegate Lingamfelter has been advocating an audit of the state government.  He also added that his greatest regret arising from that situation included his statement made against Senator Rand Paul, given Paul’s impressive effort to curtail the power of the federal government over the domestic drone issue.

Lastly, I briefly spoke with Delegate Lingamfelter’s campaign staff regarding American’s for Growth and Prosperity [sic], the group responsible for anti-Lingamfelter attack pieces.  Although I have no objection to criticizing the record of any candidate, I do not approve of a person or campaign that attacks a person anonymously.  Such a move is not only questionable from a legal standpoint, but also reeks of cowardice.  A word of advice to the other six candidates: if your campaign is behind this action, I urge you to admit it and come forward now.  Yes, point out your objections to Delegate Lingamfelter, but do so openly.  I doubt many undecided delegates, myself included, would look upon your campaign favorably should ties be unearthed between your candidacy and this anti-Lingamfelter front group.

Getting back to my main point, Delegate Lingamfelter seems have build up a considerable statewide following, though his previous statements immensely weakened his chance of capturing any segment of the pro-liberty/Paul delegates.  Will today’s comments in Harrisonburg help erase these misgivings?  Is more required?  Or is the damage simply irreversible?  We’ll find out in about a month, once the 2013 RPV Convention delegates select their nominee.

Jackson on the Patriot Act

E.W. Jackson
E.W. Jackson

Lately, E. W. Jackson has been promoting a very pro-liberty message as he campaigns for lieutenant governor of Virginia.  Currently, on his website, he offers a rather inspiring video encouraging Virginians to “defy, not comply” with the unconstitutional overreaches of the federal government including agencies like the EPA and laws and regulations that rob us of our rights like the Patriot Act and NDAA.  These are all ideas which should make liberty-minded Virginians quite happy.

Although I certainly agree with many of the statements made in this recent video, I do have a few concerns.  As I wrote previously, back in late 2011 a variety of U.S. Senate candidates gathered in Verona to discuss a multitude of pressing issues.  I recall coming away from this forum a bit distressed regarding E. W. Jackson’s position on the Patriot Act as it seemed rather statist.  Later, I spoke with one of his campaign staffers, but that person assured me that I had misunderstood his opinion on this important matter.

Recently, however, I obtained a link to a video of that 2011 forum including Bishop Jackson’s own words on the Patriot Act.

In this clip, E. W. Jackson seems to suggest that we should be willing to jettison both our liberty and property in order to do all we can to preserve American lives.  However, to echo the words of former Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, we must ask, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”  Henry has the answer, “Forbid it, Almighty God!”

So this situation begs an important question.  Has E. W. Jackson had a political awakening, casting off his previous positions and embracing the ideals of liberty by completely rejecting measures like the Patriot Act?  Or, as he seems to say in 2011, does he believe that it is a quality program simply in need of a bit more oversight?  Although I’m greatly hoping that the first answer is the truth, I’ve seen too many politicians play the political shell game to rule out that latter possibility.  As constitutional conservatives and libertarians increase their clout within the Virginia Republican Party, it is becoming increasingly more important, but also more difficult, to differentiate the true believers and converts from the opportunists.

It is an important question that I hope will be resolved prior to the Virginia Republican Convention in May.

Let me close by offering thanks to Sandy Garst for the clip from the 2011 forum.

Update:  In response to this article, I have been sent the following statement from the Jackson campaign:  “Having served in the US Marine Corps, I will not apologize for being open to ways of protecting the American people from those who want to kill us. But we must do that without robbing Americans of our freedoms. NDAA and the Patriot Act both fail that test.”

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!

Pizza With Susan Stimpson

Stimpson at FrancosOn Friday evening, political activists gathered at Franco’s in Harrisonburg to meet with Susan Stimpson, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.  All in all, about twenty-five folks were in attendance, including several from as far away as Luray, VA.  The campaign offered each person pizza and a selection of soft drinks.

Rather than opening with a speech, Mrs. Stimpson greeted each attendee personally and then sat and spoke about whatever thoughts and issues happened to come up.  Laura Logie, a well-known personality in Republican circles, asked Stimpson about her close connections with Speaker Howell, a concern that is shared by many conservatives.  Susan Stimpson replied that she has had a number of political disagreements with Bill Howell since early 2012 and stated that she stands behind her political principles, not personal relationships.

Another interesting facet of the Stimpson gathering was the impressive number of younger voters.  Unlike many political events which have seen a dwindling or nonexistent number of high school students in recent years, nearly one third of the audience were twenty years old or younger.  Emily Morris, the young woman who organized “A Question of Liberty” last year, played a large part in this turnout.

As I had to leave at 5:30, I cannot report about the rest of the meeting.  Nevertheless, it is always good to see Susan Stimpson and the other Virginia statewide candidates in the Shenandoah Valley.

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!