Denver Makes it Official

Yesterday, at the Silverback Distillery in Afton, Virginia, Denver Riggleman and his campaign formally launched his bid for governor of Virginia.  Spilling over into another room, about two hundred people or so gathered to learn about this fellow and his plans for the Commonwealth.  In his speech, Mr. Riggleman stressed that unlike his opponents, he is not a politician, but rather a businessman, former intelligence officer, and previously served in the U.S. Air Force.

Rather than highlight everything he said, for those who missed the event, The Richmond Tea Party captured Mr. Riggleman’s speech and shared it on YouTube.

Before and after his announcement, the campaign collected signatures to get Denver Riggleman on the primary ballot.  Each statewide candidate requires 10,000 signatures scattered throughout the various eleven congressional districts.

Inside, several other bloggers were in attendance including Stacie Gordon of Millennial Ascent and Steven Brodie Tucker of The Bull Elephant. Several leaders of JMU’s Madison Liberty group were there too.

Although many liberty-minded folks have coalesced behind the Denver campaign, I need to learn more about this candidate and his campaign before considering such a recommendation.  However, speaking of liberty-minded folks, it was great to see many activists I knew at the event in Nelson County, including several I haven’t seen for years.  In addition, the event served as an opportunity to finally meet some of my Facebook friends in person.

Some of you may be asking if the Denver Riggleman campaign will shake up the race for governor.  Well, given the turnout on Saturday, it seems that it already has.  The real question to ask is what kind of impact will they make between now and the primary?

Griego & The Libertarians

Photo from Harry Griego's Facebook page
Photo from Harry Griego’s Facebook page

On Tuesday, March 15th, the Rocktown Libertarians will be holding their monthly meeting at O’Charley’s in Harrisonburg.  The social gathering begins at 6 PM, but often attendees don’t arrive until about 6:30 or 7.  This month, Harry Griego will be a guest at the gathering.  Mr. Griego is challenging Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s 6th district.

Looking back on my time growing up in the Shenandoah Valley, I realize that it is a very toxic place politically.  Activists, politicians, and party leaders often reinforce the idea that those in a differing political party are the enemy and should always be treated as such.  Much like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, each side has developed a hatred of the other and loyalty to their family or party which often supersedes reason, logic, principles, and even understanding.

As I wrote last year, I was encouraged when in 2011 the local Democratic party offered, and Republican sheriff candidate Bryan Hutcheson accepted, a speaking slot at their meeting.  Unfortunately, the local Republican party bosses leaned on Hutcheson and he ended up declining the invitation.

When I ran for city council in 2014, I greatly appreciated the chance to speak to the JMU College Republicans alongside the Republican nominees.  Unlike the other candidates, I didn’t focus too much on myself, but rather talked about the principles for which the Republican party supposedly stood.  However, I was told that the local Republican Party leaders castigated the JMU CRs for allowing me the speaking slot and was later informed that I was no longer welcome even to attend their weekly public gatherings.

Photo from the September 2015 meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians
Photo from the September 2015 meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians

In 2013, when Senator Mark Obenshain ran for Attorney General of Virginia, I strongly and repeatedly encouraged his campaign to reach out to the Libertarians as there was no Libertarian candidate running for that office.  However, they refused declaring that it would look bad for party unity for him to do so.  I still wonder that if he did, would Obenshain have picked up 166 additional votes and thus would have been elected attorney general?  In addition, if he were to make such a gesture, that would mean Senator Obenshain would be recognizing the right for the Libertarian Party to exist and to run candidates.  In early 2015, I asked him about the matter and was both shocked and dismayed when my state senator informed me that he opposed the idea of any candidate, except for Republicans and Democrats, being listed on the ballot.  Shortly thereafter, in mid 2015, April Moore, Senator Obenshain’s Democratic opponent, reached out to the Rocktown Libertarians and ended up speaking to them.

In late 2015, Nick Freitas, now the Republican Delegate for Virginia’s 30th district, was the featured speaker at JMU’s Madison Liberty group.

11206029_10152900151181915_7531848474274651375_nAs you might imagine, I am very encouraged that Harry Griego will be speaking to the Rocktown Libertarians tomorrow night.  Not only does it give Mr. Griego the chance to speak to some likely receptive voters, it sends a message to the Shenandoah Valley that the Libertarians have the same rights and privileges as both the Republican and Democratic Parties.  In addition, I’ve been informed that some regional liberty-minded Republican leaders will be attending the event too.  Despite what some may think, this isn’t an attempt to convert Libertarians to the Republican Party or Republicans to join the Libertarians (although given the decline of the GOP that might end up happening), but rather to spread dialogue, understanding, and discover issues of mutual importance.  I suppose it is likely that some establishment Republicans will declare Mr. Griego’s visit as disloyalty to the Republican Party, but you should bear in mind that any elected official or candidate should be beholden to and reach out to all of his or her constituents, not simply the party bosses and big donors who keep him or her in power.  We cannot reclaim our country so long as legislators are allowed to ignore large groups of voters and run on mere party labels and nothing of any substance.  Is there any wonder why a supposed outsider like Donald Trump leads the Republican field for president?

Here’s the link to the Facebook event if you’d like to learn more about what is going on tomorrow night.  Hope to see you there!

Photos from Dukes Debate

IMG_3038Twice a year, the James Madison University SGA plays host to a tri-partisan political debate between the James Madison College Democrats, the College Republicans, and Madison Liberty.  One of these discussions takes place in the spring and the other in the fall.  Tonight was the 2015 autumn debate.

Here are a few photos from the event:

If you are interested in reading the audience commentary of the debate from the live Twitter feed, it can be found here.

2014: In Political Review

UntitledAs today is the last day of 2014, I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon my political adventures over the previous 365 days.

I suppose the most monumental event for me, at least politically, was running for city council.  Although involved in more elections than I can count, that race marked my first time as a candidate.  It was a unique experience and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of folks that I may not have otherwise encountered.  It also gave me an insight into my fellow candidates, viewing them from an angle that most voters would never know.  Yes, the voters preferred other choices, but I’ve said that one win or loss isn’t as important as advancing the liberty movement.  Taken as a whole, running was both rewarding and discouraging.

2014 marked the end of my 19 year involvement with the Republican Party as I was expelled from my local unit in February.  It was disheartening to see the party place blind loyalty over their principles, but for far too many people in politics, values are a mere smokescreen to advance their own power.  A few months later, about a decade after attending my first meeting, I joined the Libertarian Party.  Although I am keenly aware of the potential pitfalls of political parties, it is difficult to promote and advance your ideas by yourself and have discovered a number of good people who call themselves Libertarian.  I especially appreciated the opportunity to meet Will Hammer, the Libertarian candidate for House in the 6th, and Paul Jones, the Libertarian candidate in the 5th.  Thanks also to Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian senatorial candidate, as well as John Buckley, the West Virginian Libertarian senatorial candidate and former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who helped my campaign.  Also, I don’t want to forget Josh who created a fine website for me and Jonathan who crafted a bunch of campaign literature; thank you too to my friends that are still within the GOP.  Before moving on, let me offer another big thanks and shout-out to Marc Montoni, the LPVA Secretary, whose assistance, advice, and friendship were valuable to me in so many ways.

I feel I should mention that earlier this year I faced a pretty significant political threat.  Although I’ve been bullied by a variety of sources previously, this particular threat had a rather nasty sting to it especially considering it was done by someone who once declared me a good friend.  I shouldn’t be surprised that some people in politics will say or do almost anything to try and achieve their goals, but that doesn’t make the encounter any less disappointing.

On a lighter note, I had the opportunity to learn a little bit firsthand about Guatemalan politics during my mission trip with my church to that country.  Comparative politics is usually interesting.

I was glad that the radio show with Andy Schmookler on 550 AM WSVA continued and am grateful to Karen Kwiatkowski for filling in for me on two shows I could not participate due to my run for council.

I’m pleased to say that this website, The Virginia Conservative, still is going strong; it’s a little amusing that it continues to accumulate more fans that my run for council did.  Not seeking to garner praise from any particular group or person, I pledge to continue to offer my candid thoughts and news into my seventh year.

Moving on to politics at JMU, I wonder if I am the first person to be refused entry to a meeting of the JMU CRs.  I’ve been active in trying to promote college activism for years, but several months ago, like George Wallace enforcing segregation, a leader of that group blocked the door to their meeting and requested that I not come in.

Although I’m disappointed that Nick, the former leader of Madison Liberty, has graduated and left the area, I’m looking forward to seeing how Emery advances the group next year and plan to aid him however I can.  I also hope that Students for Sensible Drug Policy continues to be a force on campus.  Although my time with the JMU CRs was brief, I must I was glad for the opportunity to meet Christian, a like-minded activist, and hope he presses that group in a more principled direction.

Lastly, I’d like to take a moment and recognize two of my fellow former candidates for city council.  Although we certainly disagreed on a number of issues, both Republican D.D. Dawson and Democrat Alleyn Harned showed themselves to be particularly worthy opponents and I appreciated their warmness and decency in a field that sorely needs it.

Have I missed something or someone?  I have no doubt that I have.  But please forgive me; after all, it’s hard to condense an entire year into a single post.

Best wishes to you all in 2015.  Let’s see where the next year takes us!

JMU Debates The 2014 Election

The debaters on stage
The debaters on stage

Last night, the James Madison College Democrats, College Republicans, and Madison Liberty took to the stage to discuss the 2014 Senate race and current political topics.  Representing the Democrats was President Megan DiMaiolo and a fellow named Kevin, for the Republicans it was First Vice-Chair Jake Lee and Political Director Cole Trower, and for Madison Liberty it was President Emery Siegrist and Vice President Nicholas Farrar.

10557097_10152448318451915_2111471234507948077_o
A view of the crowd

About seventy five people came to watch the debate.  Most were students, though there were a handful of local residents.  I was a little disappointed to discover that I was the only candidate for local office this year that attended.

Although the debate was designed to center around the three candidates for U.S. Senate: Mark Warner (D), Ed Gillespie (R), and Robert Sarvis (L), these names weren’t mentioned all that often.  However, this switch also meant that the forum had a heavier focus on the issues of the day rather than simply rehashing repetitive partisan attacks.  In addition, there was a live Twitter feed from the audience which allowed folks the opportunity to express their thoughts of what was transpiring on the stage.  Each group has their share of supporters and detractors, with some tweeters going back and forth depending on the issue.  I found it interesting that all three groups opposed the Harrisonburg Police Department’s ownership of an MRAP.

As student political activism is extremely important to me, I have been attending these twice yearly events for the last three years.  In previous semesters, I recorded a portion or all of the debate as was done in 4/3/13 and 4/19/2012.  Unfortunately with the extreme age of my video camera, I am unable to do so anymore.

I’d like to take a moment to offer my gratitude to each of the students who took to the stage last night.  I know firsthand that it isn’t always easy to express your opinions publicly, but it is an important way to help advance political dialogue, which is sorely needed.  I’d also like to commend those who took time on a Monday evening to listen to this discussion.  Lastly, thanks to JMU and the Student Government Association for hosting the event.  Every semester has been great and I appreciate the fact that you don’t discriminate against any of the three groups.

For those who weren’t able to attend Monday’s gathering, I hope you’ll consider coming in April 2015 when the JMU Dems, JMU GOP, and Madison Liberty take to the stage once more.  I’ll see you there!

Robert Sarvis at JMU

IMG_2184On Wednesday evening, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis spoke in front of over a hundred students and members of the local community at James Madison University.  Sponsored by the Student Government Association, after Sarvis spoke he fielded numerous questions from the enthusiastic and supportive audience.

This trip marks Sarvis’ first visit to the Shenandoah Valley in about a month as he continually crisscrosses the state spreading awareness of his campaign.

Although a host official campaign materials were available on site, including palm cards, door hangers, bumper stickers, buttons, and yard signs, several supporters brought their own home-made signs, including this particularly amusing one featuring grumpy cat.

IMG_2195For JMU students who are interested in learning more about Robert Sarvis and the ideals of liberty, I encourage you to attend a meeting of Madison Liberty, a group which meets on Wednesday evenings starting at 7:00 PM in Taylor Hall, Room 305.

A Recap of the JMU Debate

Wednesday night proved to be another spirited and informative political debate at JMU.  About fifty people sat in the audience in the lecture hall that evening.  A few were from the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County community while most were enrolled at James Madison University.  Six students, two from each of the College Democrats, Madison Liberty, and the College Republicans spoke about their political beliefs and the positions of their party.  Katie Pillis and Mitch Weissman voiced the Democratic platform, Luke Wachob and Helen Shibut represented Madison Liberty, and Nicole Clarke and Cole Trower stood for the Republicans.

In the first round, each group had the opportunity to pose a question, while the remainder of the debate centered around queries fielded from the audience.  Topics discussed included: drone strikes and U.S. foreign policy, the drug war, Obamacare, and government subsidies.  The entire event lasted about an hour and a half.

For those who were unable to attend the debate, below is a video from the first hour.  Please note that there are two minor gaps in the video, first due to a small mechanical mishap and second as a result of a request from one of the debaters to delete a comment.  Nevertheless, the video should prove useful to assess the philosophy and prowess of each group and the student representatives who participated in this discussion.

A special thanks to Rick Showalter for the images for this piece.

JMU Debates Politics

Picture by the JMU College Republicans
Picture by the JMU College Republicans of the April 22nd, 2012 debate

Tomorrow, April 3rd, three student groups on the campus of James Madison University will be participating in a spirited political debate.  Katie Pillis and Mitch Weissman will be representing the College Democrats, Cole Trower and Nicole Clark will speak for the College Republicans, and Helen Shibut and Luke Wachob will offer their perspective from Madison Liberty.

For the past several semesters, these organizations have come together to enhance dialogue at JMU.  For those who have not attended previously, here is a short write-up and video from their April 22nd, 2012 debate.

The debate will be taking place starting at 7:00 PM on April 3rd, at Miller Hall in Room 1101.  As with previous gatherings, it should prove to be both an enjoyable and informative time and so I hope to see you there tomorrow!

2013 ISFLC Recap

On February 15th, 16th, and 17th, Students for Liberty hosted the 6th Annual International Students for Liberty Conference, also known as the ISFLC.  I attended this event along with three students from Madison Liberty: fellow blogger Helen Shibut, Nick Farrar, and Reid Walker.

Rather than list every single event, person, and organization associated with this conference, which could take about as long as the conference itself, this article will highlight some of the more interesting and unusual aspects.

Party Milk
Dorian Electra

Friday kicked off with a rather bizarre performance called Party Milk by Dorian Electra.  Apparently, Students for Liberty awarded Ms. Electra a fellowship several years ago, but it was difficult to discern what connection, if any, the song has with the promotion of liberty.

John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, was the featured speaker that evening.  He spoke about the morality and history of the free market, and his new book on the topic, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business.

Saturday was easily the most jammed packed of the three days.  It featured six informational sessions where attendees could choose to learn about a wide variety of topics from a considerable range of speakers and organizations.

I first selected “The Teachings of Chairman Jim: The ‘Nuts and Bolts’ of Building a Libertarian Campus Organization” which was presented by Dr. Jim Lark, a professor at the University of Virginia and Chairman of the Libertarian Party from 2000 to 2002.  In this talk, Dr. Lark discussed, as indicated from the title, many of the challenges associated with both the creation and maintenance of a liberty group on college campuses.  Given that this topic would be vitally helpful to just about every student at ISFLC, it was a bit disappointing to find that more of them did not take advantage of this discussion.

IMG_1718
Jack Hunter

Second on the docket was “Why Conservatism is Worthless Without Libertarianism” by Jack Hunter.  Readers of this blog may recall that I first met Mr. Hunter while I worked for the 2007/08 Ron Paul campaign in South Carolina.  For those who don’t know, his work, first written under the moniker The Southern Avenger, was exceedingly inspirational to me and was one of the key factors that ultimately led to the creation of this blog in mid 2008.  He spoke at some length regarding the ideals and importance of constitutional conservatism as well as the damage done to both the Republican Party and the conservative movement by faux conservatives like Rick Santorum and Senator Lindsey Graham.

From there, I attended a taping of the Stossel Show.  Below is a short, introductory clip of this soon-to-be aired episode.

After lunch, I took considerable time to wander among the tables of the various libertarian organizations, speaking to a whole host of folks including: The American Conservative, Americans for Self Government, the Free State Project, and the Libertarian Party.  During this exploration, a man at one of the tables offered me a chance to drink raw milk.  Given that I had never had such an opportunity before, I accepted.  Worry not skeptics, so far I have not suffered any ill effects from this adventure.

Representative Justin Amash
Representative Justin Amash

Later, Representative Justin Amash (MI-3) chatted about “The Future of Liberty”.  The room where he spoke was filled well beyond capacity and some attendees had to listen from the hallway.  Although the representative did not spend too much time contemplating on the future, he did offer a number of unique insights of his service in Congress, such as his adherence to a political ideology when most of his colleagues simply bowed to the will of the party leadership.

After dinner, the Stossel Show filmed another episode, this one tailored for a much larger studio audience.  Over a period of a little more than an hour and a half, Stossel featured guests such as Gary Johnson, Dennis Kucinich, and Ann Coulter.

Ann Coulter & John Stossel
Ann Coulter & John Stossel

When he brought up his last interviewee, former U.S. United Nations ambassador John Bolton, a good portion of the crowd left in protest.  Mr. Bolton then spoke of his support of drone strikes, a position adamantly opposed by a vast majority of libertarians.

Jackie Bodner & Julie Borowski
Jackie Bodner & Julie Borowski

Sunday began at 10 AM with “How Libertarians Can Combat the Mainstream Media” with Jackie Bodner and Julie Borowski, also known as the Token Libertarian Girl.  They offered advice on ways to make an impact with local and college news sources, tips on the creation of a successful blog, and ways to connect with other like-minded thinkers.

Although I could write additional pages about ISFLC, I believe that I’ve offered you some of the more interesting tidbits.  It was surprising that Campaign for Liberty was absent and a bit disappointing that no Republican group was present, especially the Republican Liberty Caucus.  Nevertheless, given that Students for Liberty brought together over a thousand students and activists from across the globe to network, hear from dozens of knowledgeable speakers, and learn about a multitude of important topics, I would rate the event as highly worthwhile. 

Schedule permitting, I look forward to seeing you at ISFLC 2014!

The $55,000 Question

Several months ago, I began to think of ways in which I could improve the political climate here in the Shenandoah Valley.  When I came up with the answer, it seemed so obvious.  Why not bring Representative Ron Paul to the area?  After all, there are a growing number of folks in the area, especially younger voters, like the students of James Madison University, that hold Dr. Paul in high regard.  In addition, to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t been here in recent times; he didn’t have a campaign stop here during his presidential run in either 2007/08 or 2011/12.

PaulSo, with these thoughts in mind, I contacted Representative Paul’s office in order to arrange for him to speak in Harrisonburg.  Working in tandem with Madison Liberty, a JMU student group devoted to the principles of individual freedom and limited government, the idea of bringing Ron Paul to the Valley was transforming from a dream into a reality.  It was an exciting prospect!

And then came additional bits of favorable news.  The students of Madison Liberty secured a good location at JMU for Dr. Paul.  Plus, I was told that Ron Paul himself was interested in coming here.  I could get the necessary paperwork within days.  Only one hurdle remained.  Securing the funding for the event.

Now, I had expected that it would cost a good bit of money for Ron Paul to come to Harrisonburg.  One had to consider issues of transportation, lodging, and whatever he sought in the way of a speaker’s fee.  Nevertheless, I was stunned by the amount quoted to me.

As indicated by the title of this piece, I would need $55,000 for this event.  Yes, you read that figure correctly.  If he can make this kind of fee, then I suppose I can’t speak ill of it.  After all, free market principles dictate that he should charge whatever he is able to get.  Unfortunately, in the process, this kind of money will exclude many, myself included.  Part of me wishes that I could simply cut a check myself to cover the costs, but, like a vast majority of Americans, I don’t have $55,000 lying around.

Yes, perhaps my idea of bringing Dr. Paul to Harrisonburg might never amount to anything; a dream deterred.  Nevertheless, hope remains.

In closing, should any wealthy conservative and/or libertarian read this post and care to generously contribute to this project, please let me know.  Dr. Paul is and continues to be a hero to many of us in the liberty movement, myself included.  Is it too much to ask to share him with the fine folks of the Shenandoah Valley?  I suppose that’s the $55,000 question.