Today, in an annual tradition, citizens from across Virginia converged at the state capitol in Richmond for Lobby Day. The morning and afternoon consisted of rallies, protests, sitting in on sessions of the state government, and meeting with elected officials.
The day started relatively early as I traveled from the Shenandoah Valley with two local Republicans, Kaylene and Laura. My first stop was to the General Assembly Building. As I walked through the grounds, the Virginia Citizens Defense League was preparing for an event at the bell tower, passing out their traditional orange stickers proclaiming that “guns save lives.” Many in the gathering crowd also wore stickers in support of Susan Stimpson, as she is seeking to unseat Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell.
After making my way through security, I came across several local faces, such as Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) as well as Dan Moxley and his daughter, Hannah. Mr. Moxley is challenging Senator Emmett Hanger for the Republican nomination in the 24th district.
One of my first stops was to see Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke). He has proposed a bill that lowers the threshold for a political party to achieve official status in Virginia from 10% of a statewide vote to 4%. As I believe doing so would allow for greater choices in elections, I wanted to learn more. While there, I discovered that he has sponsored another bill that would change redistricting so that legislators would no longer be able to choose their voters. It is a bill which requires further study.
Although many of the delegates and senators were not in their offices, I did set up an appointment to speak with Delegate Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson). I very much enjoyed my conversation with his aide, Ashley. In addition, I ran across Virginia Libertarian Party Chairman Bill Redpath and later Virginia Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Robert Kenyon.
Inside, both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates were in brief sessions. I found it curious that one had to go through security a second time in order to watch the Senate; it seemed completely unnecessary.
After briefly speaking with a number of legislators including: Senator Obenshain (R-Rockingham), Senator Vogel (R-Fauquier), and Senator Hanger (R-Augusta), I made my way back to the General Assembly Building. Outside stood a group advocating greater food and farming freedom. There I ran across additional legislators including: Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), and a second brief encounter with Delegate Berg.
Although I was tempted to visit the office of recently re-elected and convicted Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico), I decided against it. I would have also liked to speak to Delegate Pogge (R-York). Even though I saw her outside, I could not find her in the building, instead meeting with her legislative assistant. I also said hello to Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) and his aide, Savanna.
Next, I spoke with Delegate Helsel. I sought him out as I was interested to learn his opinions of the proposed changes in the party plan of the Republican Party of Virginia. Now serving as a Republican delegate, in 2009 Helsel ran as an independent against the Republican nominee. If the proposed changed had been in place at that time, Delegate Helsel would have been ineligible to run as a Republican in 2011 or participate in any of their party politics until the year 2017. We also discussed the surprisingly differing responses from Republicans regarding former Delegate Phil Hamilton and freshly sentenced former Governor Bob McDonnell.
Afterward, I visited my state senator’s office to try and understand why he would push for party registration as well as to voice my objections and concerns about doing so. I firmly believe that registration would lead to disenfranchisement and would further erode political freedom in Virginia. I’m told that I should have a response from his office within a day.
Lastly, I met up with Robert Sarvis and a handful of fellow Libertarians who also came to Richmond for Lobby Day. Apparently they spoke in a Senate committee in favor of a bill that would decrease signature requirements for ballot access, but I’m told the bill was killed 2-4 along party lines as all of the Republicans in the committee voted against it.
I must say that as I walked through the halls of the capitol today, I felt a return of excitement and enthusiasm that I first experienced during my early days of political involvement.
All in all, Lobby Day 2015 was another fun event here in Virginia and I was glad to be a part of it.