Obenshain Out? Gillespie In?

Senator Obenshain
Senator Obenshain

In a move that surprised many political activists, yesterday Senator Obenshain (R-Rockingham), widely considered to be the Republican front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor of Virginia in 2017, announced that he would not be seeking that office.  With Obenshain’s decision, it now seems likely that Ed Gillespie will not only seek the nod, but also be the new presumptive front-runner.  Gillespie, as one may recall, narrowly lost the race for U.S. Senate in 2014.

Although some people in the Republican Party are enthusiastic about Gillespie being their standard-bearer in 2017, others have expressed dismay.  Rewinding the clock to the last election, I spoke to many liberty activists in Virginia who were opposed to Gillespie, viewing him as yet another establishment, big government Republican.  As the 2014 election drew close, a vast majority of liberty-minded Republicans told me that they would be casting their ballots for Libertarian Robert Sarvis as opposed to the official Republican nominee.  A few others stated that they would write-in Shak Hill or simply not vote.  At one point, I could only find one member of the liberty movement statewide who openly supported Gillespie.  Even though that number has grown slightly, a vast majority of the liberty activists in Virginia seemed to be opposed to a Gillespie candidacy in 2014 and have remained that way today.

Does that mean that Gillespie cannot win in 2017?  Certainly not.  After all, even without the support of many traditional Republican voters he came remarkably close to knocking off Senator Mark Warner.  Now, I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that Warner has far better name id and favorability than likely 2017 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam.  Therefore, one would assume Gillespie’s chances couldn’t get any worse.  However, if the Republican Party of Virginia nominates Gillespie again, it will likely widen the rift and civil war currently plaguing the party.

For one example, last night one of my liberty-minded friends posted a piece on Facebook in support of Ed Gillespie’s candidacy.  Although several people were quick to respond, denouncing Gillespie publicly, I was told that even more expressed their disapproval of him privately.  As another activist wrote, “Anyone who wants to challenge Gillespie for the 2017 gubernatorial nomination in VA – please get in touch with me about helping your campaign.”

Even though I would argue that Obenshain is in a weaker position than he found himself in 2013, yesterday’s announcement was still unexpected.  Given the relationship between Obenshain and Gillespie, I wouldn’t be surprised if the state senator throws his support behind the former RPV Chairman.  However, unless Gillespie discovered and articulates the principles of liberty, I assume that one or more conservative challengers will rise up to oppose him.  And, meaning no disrespect to Ed Gillespie, as he seems like a decent person outside of politics, if Gillespie is the nominee again then I hope that the Libertarians nominate a strong candidate so that the liberty vote within the Republican Party, the Libertarian Party, and elsewhere has someplace to make itself heard.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XVII)

After a two month hiatus, I (Joshua Huffman) have returned to 550 AM WSVA.  Together with Andy Schmookler we discuss the political issues of the day.

The big topics up for consideration today were: reflections about running for political office (as I ran for Harrisonburg City Council this year and Andy ran for House of Representatives in 2012) and thoughts about the surprisingly close U.S. Senate race between Mark Warner, Ed Gillespie, and Robert Sarvis.

In case you missed it, you can find the program here.

Sarvis Steals Another One!

Ed Gillespie the day before the election
Ed Gillespie the day before the election in Staunton, VA

I’m sure that many of you were shocked by the closeness of the U.S. Senate race here in Virginia.  After all, who would have predicted that Democrat Mark Warner, who beat Republican Ed Gillespie by at least nine percentage points in every poll but one, would emerge victorious by only about half a percentage point?

Also in the race was Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis.  Sarvis, as many will remember, ran last year for governor capturing 6.5% of the vote in a race where only about 2.5% separated the Republican and the Democrat.  As such, a number of Republican activists blamed Sarvis for that outcome, claiming that he siphoned enough votes from Ken Cuccinelli to allow Terry McAuliffe to claim victory.

Given that Libertarian Robert Sarvis won almost 2.5% of the vote in this election, some Republicans are claiming, once again, that Sarvis stole another election from them.

Robert Sarvis at a recent stop at JMU
Robert Sarvis at a recent stop at JMU

The theory behind this argument is that without Sarvis in the race, most of his supporters would instead choose the Republican candidate.  In 2013, exit polls showed that a greater percentage of Sarvis voters would have selected the Democrat over the Republican if he were not in the race.  After all, he captured more liberals than conservatives, more young than old, and more college graduates than graduates.  These are groups that typically trend toward the Democratic Party.

Although I haven’t seen the exits polls for 2014, I believe the opposite happened this time.  A larger percentage of typical Republican voters cast their ballots for Sarvis than the Democrats.  Almost all self-identified liberty-minded Republicans that I know either cast their ballots for Sarvis or simply left it blank.

“Ah ha!” The Republican establishment shouts.  “So you admit that Sarvis stole the 2014 election!”

My answer is no.

Stealing something implies that you have taken something that doesn’t belong to you.  I would argue that no candidate or party has an automatic right to any person’s vote regardless of their previous voting history or ideology.  Votes are always earned and must be re-earned each and every election; they never should be taken for granted.  We aren’t political slaves!

Let’s rewind the clock to the 2002 U.S. Senate election in Virginia.  That was John Warner’s last election.  You remember John Warner, don’t you?  He was the long-serving Republican Senator from Virginia who recently endorsed Democrat Mark Warner for Senate.  As a result, some people now consider him a traitor.  But this recent revelation conveniently overlooks the fact that he rarely fought for the supposedly Republican principles of restraining the power of the federal government.  In addition, he supported gun control and abortion, two positions in stark contrast to a majority of Virginia Republicans.    And then there is Warner’s proclivity to oppose the “Republican team” as he did when he denounced Ollie North in 1994 and Mike Farris in 1993.

Even though John Warner and I shared the same political party back then, I could not bring myself to vote for him and thus left that portion of the ballot blank.  Did sticking to my principles make me a “bad Republican”?

As stated, this year many conservatives and libertarians who consider themselves Republicans did not feel that Ed Gillespie shared their principles and thus either cast their vote for Sarvis, wrote in Shak Hill, or didn’t vote at all.  Who can blame them?  After all, the last time I spoke to Ed Gillespie, I asked him which unconstitutional federal agencies would he work to eliminate, his response was that he would “check with his advisers and get back in touch with me”.  For someone who believes the federal government has grown too large, that answer was unacceptable and showed, much like Warner over a decade earlier, that he and I disagreed on the most important and fundamental principles of our constitutional republic.  Like 2002, if I didn’t have an acceptable option, I simply would not have voted for any of the candidates for Senate.

So, yes.  If Robert Sarvis had not been in the race, Gillespie might have ended up winning.  But regardless of my opinion of Sarvis, I’m glad that voters had a third choice so they didn’t have to simply vote for the lesser of two evils.  The Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Parties, as well as independents have as much of a right to run candidates as the Republicans and Democrats.  And, if voters believe that their candidates are better than one or both of the major party candidates, then perhaps they ought to solve this problem by running better candidates.  Or, given that Sarvis used to be a Republican, perhaps they ought to work harder to grow the party and stick with their supposed principles as opposed to driving folks away or simply kicking people out of the party as they did in my case.

Just don’t complain that the election was “stolen”.

The Latest Poll

For enthusiasts of Virginia politics, I’m sure many of us have been eagerly waiting for the next poll of our U.S. Senate race.  Given that most politicos have predicted that Democratic Senator Mark Warner will easily win re-election, there has not been a lot of national attention paid to the Commonwealth.

I’m pleased to say that finally we have the latest poll.  This one comes from CBS News/New York Times/YouGov.

For the record, their last poll ending on October 1st showed Warner with 51% to Gillespie’s 39% with Sarvis at 1% and 9% undecided.  However, many Republicans have claimed that Gillespie has been gaining ground and that the gap is narrowing.  So what does this poll say as compared to the last?

Well, now Warner sits at 49% with Gillespie at 39% and Sarvis at 1% with 11% undecided.

Given the previous margin of error of 3% and the current margin of error of 4%, this poll seems to indicate that there has been little to no change in the opinions of the electorate over the last couple of weeks.  Warner surrenders a couple of points to the undecided column while Gillespie and Sarvis remain stable.

On November 4th, I would expect the numbers for both the Gillespie and the Sarvis to rise a little as the undecideds finally make their decision.  Nevertheless, as I predicted a month and a half ago, and this latest poll seems to indicate, I still believe that Warner will win by a comfortable margin.

Will there be any new polls that will show that Virginia in is play?

A Letter About W.I.S.H.

Several days ago, I wrote about increasing dissatisfaction among some conservatives with Virginia Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie.  As mentioned, several folks that I know say that they are planning to write-in Shak Hill as their choice on November 4th.

Well, today I received an email from some of the folks from the W.I.S.H. effort (which stands for write-in Shak Hill).  Although it says as much in the letter itself, as additional disclaimer, the author of this letter wants to remind everyone that this effort is neither part of the Apple Valley Tea Party campaign nor is it from Shak Hill either.

Anyway, here’s what they have to say…

 

Greetings to all,
Some info for the W.I.S.H. effort (Write in Shak Hill for senate)

Mike and Josh (my husband and stepson) started this campaign shortly after Labor Day. We are using social media, facebook (“Write in Shak Hill” page), twitter, and I am including a video in my newsletters (Apple Valley Tea party…along with the all candidates stuff). Some feedback is beginning to come back to us. We figured they would ignore us first, then they would begin to attack us. we’ll see how that pans out.

This write-in effort first of all, is NOT spearheaded by Shak Hill. Also the Apple Valley Tea Party is NOT behind this effort. It is an independent effort of folks who are not enthused at all about the candidates we have for the Virginia Senate Race.

How amazing it is to me, that folks can be so caught up into one phrase “We’ve GOT to get rid of Harry Reid”, that they can’t see the forest for the trees. The messaging for the Republican party this election cycle is right out of the Democratic playbook. Never mind, that all across the nation, good solid Americans, with the kind of values I thought we all believed in, have been trampled by the Republican Party for the ousting of Harry Reid. Never mind, that if, indeed, you did get those folks into the Senate…they would be very difficult to beat as an incumbent. Never mind that they may go to DC…but who knows whether they have the principles to actually vote to keep the Freedom that is ours.

Is the Republican Party really trying to win this race? Doesn’t seem like it. Up until the latter part of September there has been very little mention of the Senate race at all. Many people, who are average folks like us, have no idea there is an election going on out there. No signs..no ads, and If they do hear of the election, they know Mark Warner is running, but they have no idea who is running against him. If the Republicans really wanted to win the Senate, don’t you think they would have been coming out of the gate swinging for the election win, as soon as the convention was over with?  Many people who do know that Ed Gillespie is the candidate, aren’t even wanting to get out and vote. If those of us who are paying attention, and know the serious state this country is in, won’t get out and vote, do you really think anyone else is going to bother to pay attention? Let’s see, on that Tuesday, if there is something else going on in their life, or taking time out to vote, what do you think people are going to do?

People are tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. Many people don’t think their vote counts, and that is because the political parties keep running candidates that reflect the $$ donors, instead of the values people hold dear. I don’t want to vote for somebody because of how electable they are (certainly according to different sources than what I use). People are clamoring to be able to vote FOR somebody. As for my sources, I go by what I hear from the customers in my place of work. the grocery store, Mike does the same thing, with the guys he works with. Together that’s several segments of the population that get covered…under the radar of the involved members of both political parties.

We have seen what voting Party over principle has done to this Country. We are living it now, and the only way to save this nation, is to start putting citizen legislators back into office (the way the founders intended).   Mike and I both believe in the principles that we have seen exhibited by Shak Hill. Principles that I know many folks share. He is an honest man, a decorated combat veteran, and a sucessful businessman. Principles I know he will keep when he gets to DC. Gillespie may have those values, but I remember his name mixed up with Enron. That was the first thing that came to my mind, when I heard his name back in January. And that is what most folks who are not affiliated with either party will remember.  I am sorry to say that regardless of any poll that comes out, and there are several being cited( have to look at the demographics on those), Warner will hand Gillespie’s behind to him in Nov. Those same poll #’s were given out in 2012 too, when Kaine easily beat Allen, and Allen had a whole lot more name recognition. The most informed folks, that have given us a comment, haven’t asked why we will take the victory from Gillespie, only why we want to make the margin of defeat greater. What does that say about the chances of a victory?

On a different thought, what if the Republican party isn’t really trying to win the election? They can raise a ton of money with their mantra. But they managed to pick Ed Gillespie, who has ties to the Bush administration, and rumors of wrongdoing with Enron. Ed did make a comment supporting using the IRS to enforce individual mandates for health care (Obamacare), so he will not hammer that as much as he should (that’s a winning argument). So Ed has absolutely the slimmest chance of winning, that the Republican party could find, while actually fielding a candidate to try to make it look like they wanted to win this race.

Campaign Finance
Candidate                            Raised            Cash on Hand
Ed Gillespie (Republican)    $4,164,818    $3,111,992
Mark Warner* (Democrat)    $9,927,477    $8,914,812
Robert Sarvis (Libertarian)    $47,167    $7,073
Groups spent an additional $2,205,473 in independent expenditures to influence the outcome of this election. Details current as of 06/30/2014

If you look at the pattern, the Republican party is gonna come out of this election cycle spending maybe half to two thirds of what they keep begging folks for. So, they still make money(lots of money), we still get screwed. And they don’t have to deal with a pesky person in DC, who actually believes in the Constitution. The bottom line is that most folks have been debating whether they even want to get out and vote.

Here is a thought , the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. And so…the idea of Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush comes to mind for the future. Let’s start to make some clear distinctions on the candidates we run, because if these “Party Faithful” get the nomination in 2016(assuming we make it that far)….well, need more be said?  Get used to saying President Clinton again.

I am sending this link, which is for the website that Mike and Josh put together  Friendsoftheconstitutiongroup.com. . Quite frankly, people have told us all along, since we became involved, that we have to keep fighting. Our fight is going to be for folks WE CAN believe in and trust to fight for our freedoms. Not the lessor of two evils. I keep hearing we have to do this now…principled candidates can be elected later. When is later? If not now…then when, and if not us… then who?

I hope you check out the more detailed explanation. If you like this info…contact us , we need help!! Have ideas…share. Share with the folks you know. share the videos etc. Everything we put up there is for people to use to share and get the word out that we CAN choose our own candidate.Like the templates for business card to hand out to remind folks of the name and the reminder to write Shak Hill in,and the date of the Senate Election  Those can be found on the “Write In Shak Hill” Facebook page, as well.

Thanks to all, God bless America!

arcbead52@yahoo.com and dodykins1@yahoo.com
Mike, Josh and Dody Stottlemyer

Why the wish?
http://tinyurl.com/lu82bzx

Here are some video’s we have been putting on social media

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cau6iGt1FOQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zWG10FSh_4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBRoZT6zdnk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWIkDEetQ28

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99HDxXo155s&feature=youtu.be

A Republican Revolt?

Ed Gillespie speaks to a reporter

Lately, Virginia Republicans have been touting a Quinnipac poll which shows that only nine percentage points separate Mark Warner from his Republican challenger, Ed Gillespie.  Although certainly positive news for the Gillespie campaign, which has previously been down by over twenty points, it is the only poll thus far that shows the race separated with single digits.  To be fair, the race is getting closer, but not necessarily close yet; the Roanoke College poll several days before Quinnipac had Gillespie down by twenty and the PPP and CBS/New York Times polls since Quinnipac show Gillespie back by thirteen and twelve points respectively.  Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate, pulls somewhere between six and one percent.

As mentioned about a month ago, at that point in the race it seemed that the Ed Gillespie campaign had failed to capture the hearts and minds of the liberty wing of the GOP.  Although attitudes can and do change, a fair number have expressed plans to either cast their ballots Robert Sarvis or stay home.

Now, it seems that Gillespie is facing even more challenges.  Last night, one of my political Facebook friends indicated that she plans to write-in Shak Hill as her choice for U.S. Senate.  Mr. Hill, as you may recall, sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate but was defeated by Gillespie at the convention.  Apparently my friend is not alone as a website and a Facebook group have popped up encouraging voters to do likewise.

Photo from Reuters/Justin Reed

Although the number of fans of this Facebook group is quite small for a statewide effort, it could present an additional problem for a candidate some in the party view as a consummate political insider, close associate of Karl Rove, and not particularly friendly to the idea of limited government conservatism.

This information is fairly consistent with the CBS/New York Times poll, which shows that while 94% of Democrats plan on voting for Mark Warner, only 78% of Republicans will do likewise for Gillespie.  The gap grows larger when considering ideology as 95% of self-identified liberals say they will cast their votes for Warner, 1% for Gillespie, and 0% for Sarvis while 75% of conservatives will go for Gillespie, a rather large 10% for Warner, and 2% for Sarvis.

So, are the polls and my personal observations correct?  Is a significant portion of the Republican base revolting against the party’s nominee for Senate either through supporting Robert Sarvis, Shak Hill, or by doing nothing?  And, if this is the case, what, if anything, does the Republican Party of Virginia and the Ed Gillespie campaign plan to do to counter this rift?

Constitution Day Ads

Today is Constitution Day.  In commemoration, Virginia’s three U.S. Senate candidates have made mention of the day.

Mark Warner expressed these thoughts on Twitter and Facebook:

Warner Constitution

Ed Gillespie changed the cover photo of his Facebook page:

Ed Gillespie Constitution

And Robert Sarvis released the following comparison: 10606521_694315027325578_7570793499653124585_n

Is the Senate Race Over?

IMG_2662The biggest race to be decided in Virginia this year is the election for U.S. Senate.  Whether you agree with his policies or not, Democratic Senator Mark Warner is almost certainly the most popular politician from either party in the state.  However, plagued by his support for Obamacare and rising discontent over President Obama, Warner isn’t as invincible as he proved to be in 2008.  This year he faces two challengers, Republican Ed Gillespie, who previously served as the chairman of both the Republican Party of Virginia and the Republican National Committee, and Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who pulled 6.5% of the vote last year when he ran for governor.

So what do the poll numbers say?  Well, the latest poll, held by the Watson Center for Public Policy at CNU, shows that Warner has a 22 point lead over Gillespie with Sarvis taking 5% and the remaining 11% undecided.  This poll is not some kind of outlier, instead being fairly consistent with previous ones.  For example, the CBS/NY Times poll, which ended on September 2nd, had the race 51% Warner -39% Gillespie and the late July Hampton University poll showed the race with 53% Warner -28% Gillespie -5% Sarvis or 55%-32% if Sarvis is excluded.  The Republican Party of Virginia claim that “in most polls Mark Warner is struggling to break 50 percent” might be wishful thinking, but it simply isn’t true according to a vast majority of the polls I’ve seen in the last three months.

Now, I’ve heard it said that Ken Cuccinelli faced similar poll numbers last year against Terry McAuliffe last year and, given that race was decided by 2.5%, victory for Gillespie is still possible.  However, looking back at the statistics, by early September how many times did McAuliffe reach or crack the 50% mark?  The answer is zero, not even once.  Only in October did he enjoy such high polling.

Unfortunately, the statewide 2013 race devolved into a contest begging voters who was the lesser of two evils; both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli had fair numbers of detractors among their own party faithful.  Compared to last year, as the latest poll indicates, Warner loses only 9% of the Democrats while more than double the number of Republicans (20%) do not favor Gillespie.  These numbers aren’t terribly surprising, for I’ve heard complaints about Gillespie from many traditional Republicans in the state.  The simple truth is that the Virginia GOP is heavily fractured right now and, in general, the liberty wing of the Republican Party doesn’t support Ed Gillespie as he has painted himself as a fairly standard big government Republican.  As a result, at the end of the day some Republican votes will go to Warner, some will go to Sarvis, and some will simply stay home.  Unlike the last election, where exit polls showed that more Democrats voted for Sarvis than Republicans, given Warner’s popularity and Gillespie’s lukewarm support in GOP circles, I predict Sarvis will see far fewer Democratic votes but will find a noticeable upsurge from the traditional Republican base.

So, on November 4th will Gillespie get blown out by 22%?  I don’t believe so.

Is the Senate race over?  Well, that depends on your perspective.  Polls have been wrong before, but, given past trends, I expect the race to tighten a little and, barring any major surprises, at the end of the day Warner will emerge the victor by 6-12%.  If I had to offer a prediction today, Warner will beat Gillespie by about 9%.   With that said, Gillespie’s campaign does have value to the GOP as it has forced the Democrats to spend money in Virginia, as opposed to elsewhere, and thus will improve the chances for a Republican controlled Senate after these elections.  However, anyone who has their heart set on saying “Senator Gillespie” will almost certainly be disappointed.

Therefore, with Virginia’s Senate seat not really being in play, the most important question left to be decided is, how will the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian Parties use this election to bolster their volunteers and support network for the 2015 elections when Virginians go to the polls to determine every single seat in the Virginia General Assembly?

Labor Day in Buena Vista

Senator Mark Warner addressing the media
Senator Mark Warner addressing the media

On Monday, a host of political activists made their way to the streets of Buena Vista, Virginia.  Although certainly a small city, Buena Vista plays host to the largest political parade in the state, a decades old tradition.

Although last year was the smallest gathering I had seen in my several years of going, 2014 was more robust.  Republican activists nearly doubled the Democratic crowd.  As is typical, countless yard signs littered the parade route with Mark Warner emerging as the victor in the sign war.  It was unfortunate that some supporters of Mark Warner used their signs to cover the Republican ones, but, then again, Gillespie supporters did likewise.

Ed Gillespie speaks to a reporter
Ed Gillespie speaks to a reporter

After the mile and a half trek through downtown, which culminated at Glen Maury Park, each of the candidates were invited on stage to speak to the crowd.  This group included: Senator Mark Warner, Ed Gillespie, Robert Sarvis, Representative Bob Goodlatte, Will Hammer, and Delegate Ben Cline.  Both the Republican and Democratic activists cheered loudly for their candidate(s).

Robert Sarvis addresses the crowd
Robert Sarvis offers his opinions to the crowd

Interestingly, Bob Goodlatte didn’t speak about his own race, where he faces Libertarian Will Hammer and Independent Green Elaine Hildebrandt (who did not attend the Buena Vista event) but rather the need to elect Ed Gillespie.  Delegate Cline made some critical remarks about Senator Warner which led some of us to wonder if he would be yanked from the microphone.

After Warner and Gillespie spoke, they left the gathering along with Bob Goodlatte before Robert Sarvis took the microphone.  Although that development was disappointing and disrespectful to their Libertarian opponent, what I thought was far worse was that 90% of the Republican crowd walked out as well.  By comparison, a majority of the Democratic activists showed far more decorum, having enough courtesy to listen to what Sarvis and Hammer had to say.

All in all, it was encouraging to see an upswing in Buena Vista this year.  Hopefully, this Shenandoah Valley tradition will continue to thrive.

News & Advance Does The Right Thing

Lynchburg’s newspaper, The News & Advance, recently posted a poll regarding the U.S. Senate race in Virginia.  In it, they asked respondents if they favored Democratic Senator Mark Warner, Republican Ed Gillespie, or none of the above.  The only problem, as readers of the blog already know, is that they failed to include the third candidate, Libertarian Robert Sarvis.

Now, if Sarvis’ name wasn’t actually listed on the ballot, then excluding him wouldn’t be any big deal.  However, as I’ve mentioned earlier, the fact that Sarvis had to jump through the additional election hoop of collecting signatures from at least 10,000 registered Virginia voters, meant that his campaign was unfairly burdened.  And then, to top it all off, he is erased from debates and polls.

Well, as a result of this oversight, either intentional or unintentional, a number of folks, myself included, contacted The News & Advance.  Here is their reply:

Good morning,
You are absolutely correct that Mr. Sarvis should have been included. It was an honest mistake, not any deliberate act of exclusion. We have reset the poll results and added him to the choices.
Best,
Matt Busse
The News & Advance
Shortly thereafter, the paper changed their website to include all three of the candidates that will be listed on the November ballot.  If you would care to express your opinion on this race, you can do so at this link.
This isn’t so much a matter of political preference, but rather one of fairness.  I hope there would be an outcry if Mark Warner or Ed Gillespie were omitted too.
I was glad to see The News & Advance do the right thing.