Everything’s Fair

Growing up, I always enjoyed the Rockingham County Fair.  What kid wouldn’t enjoy the rides, the attractions, the food, the animals…and the politics?  Ok, so maybe not every teenager cares about our government, but as you already know, I was a bit different.  Anyway, each year the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republican Parties operate a booth at the fair to bring a little bit of the political world to the average citizens of the community.  Every year I volunteered here once I became involved.  More than anything else, I enjoyed standing behind that table handing out information to folks who stopped by, mingling with fellow conservatives.  It was not a high-pressure sales job, but rather a chance to share a bit of our ideals, to shed light on this neglected facet of our society.

Although I didn’t have much time to offer, I still gave about an hour this past week to continue my ritual.  Below are a few photographs of the event.  They are pretty self-explanatory.  The last few are of the cow-kissing contest in which several public figures competed to raise money for the American Cancer Society.  Hosting the event was Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Matt Lohr.  In all, there were five people competing, including newly minted Delegate Tony Wilt (R-26) and Daily News Record Writer and author of the Bowser Bucket List, Heather Bowser.  Thanks to these people who donated their time to such a worthy cause.

Maybe you can join us next year.

A Tribute to Matt Lohr

A little over a week ago, my Delegate, Matt Lohr (26-R) resigned his seat in order to become the Commissioner for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  Although he has been my Delegate for the last five years, I didn’t know a whole lot about him.  Maybe you felt the same.  Like myself, he was rather modest, never boasting, “Look at all my accomplishments!  See what I have done!”  Even though that path seems to have worked out fine for him with his recent appointment, I have personally questioned using such a tactic, for unfortunately, political memory is often very short and those who vigorously promote their own glory are likely to receive far more.

With the notable exception of the abusive driver fees, I never worried that Delegate Lohr would vote differently than I would have.  Given that he never actively sought the limelight, the great lingering question of the day is, what were his top legislative priorities while in office?  Although I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, with a couple of exceptions, I didn’t really know.  So, in order to answer this question, I decided to contact his office to acquire a list of his most important accomplishments.  His responses are as follows:

TDR-Transfer of Development Rights, a bill which made it more attractive for localities to setup a farmland preservation program.  The TDR concept is a unique approach to saving farmland, directing growth to the proper areas, and keeping agriculture viable without using taxpayer dollars.  It is a very complex issue, but one that will have a tremendous benefit to localities around the Commonwealth.

Standards of Quality Education Standards: Two years in a row I submitted this bill and it greatly helped school divisions during these tough economic times.  Every year, schools are expected to meet their standards of accreditation.  These standards are always increasing and the benchmark gets higher and higher.  This bill places a one year freeze on the rising standards of accreditation.  As schools are being forced to cut back during these tough budgets, it seems unrealistic to expect them to achieve more.  This bill gave schools some breathing room and removed this added burden during what is already tough times.

Teen Driving Safety Bill: This bill increased the maximum driver hours for teenagers taking drivers education to be 45 hours instead of 40 hours.  It also includes that 15 of these hours must be after sunset.  It had been increasingly obvious that students were not having much if any experience driving at night in addition to needing extra time behind the wheel.  The bill also aims to increase parental involvement by requiring a driving log be complete and reminding parents it is a violation of the law to sign off on the log knowing the hours were not completed.

Protective Orders: This bill I did a few years back, adds to ensure the protection of victims of domestic abuse and I was very proud to sponsor this legislation.  It says that if a person who violates a protective order violates that order again for a second time within five years, they will receive a minimum confinement of 60 days.  If they commit a third offense within 20 years they are to receive at least six months in confinement.  prior to the law passing, there were no minimum jail requirements for these violators.

Annexation Extension: For about 30 years, the Commonwealth has put a freeze on aggressive annexation between cities and counties.  This latest extension was set to expire in 2010 and there were several failed attempts to extend that freeze until 2020.  The Kaine administration wanted to force a permanent agreement between the Counties and Cities but it never materialized.  Eventually, Gov. Kaine agreed to allow an extension on the moratorium until 2018.  This will allow positive relationships to continue between counties and cities without the threat of possible annexation.

School Textbook Budget Amendment-The past couple years, I put in a budget amendment that would allow schools to use their funding for new textbooks for other purposes.  My last two years in the House were very tough budget years and I was proud to come up with many creative measures, including this one, that would help give the local school divisions the freedom to decide how these monies could be spent.

Abortion Clinic Safety-I wasn’t able to get this bill through the Senate during my five sessions.  It did pass each year in the House by a bipartisan majority.  I was happy to fight this battle and keep this common sense idea in the public view.  I am confident that this will pass if the Republicans are able to take control of the Senate.  The bill says that abortion clinics should be regulated like ambulatory surgery centers.  They would need a yearly inspection, life saving equipment on hand and they must report complications.

While I do admit that my own personal legislative priorities would be quite a bit different from Delegate Lohr, I still believe his efforts were of great benefit to the people of the 26th district and the Commonwealth as a whole.  But he should be remembered for more than just his work as a part-time legislator.  Outside his work in the General Assembly, he was deeply involved in local activism ranging from charity work, like the recent Relay for Life, to spending his time at schools in the district.  If we all shared just a fraction of his community spirit, I earnestly believe that our valley would be an even better place.

In closing, I certainly wish former Delegate Lohr well in his future endeavors and thank him for his time in the House of Delegates.

26th District: The GOP Nomination

Well, it has been decided.  On Wednesday evening, representatives from both Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County got together to determine the method for selecting the Republican nominee to replace the newly promoted Matt Lohr.  Their decision is to hold a firehouse primary.  But what is a firehouse primary you may ask.  Unlike traditional primaries where polling places are open during regular polling times, a firehouse primary is more restrictive…in this case, a lot more restrictive.  There will be one and only one voting location for the entire 26th district.

Here, let me quickly go through all the details.  After the meeting on March 31, party leaders decided to close the filing deadline on April 10.  Ten days later, April 20, the primary will take place at Lacey Spring Elementary School for 4 PM to 8 PM.

Personally, I have a lot of reservations about the process and timetable selected.  First of all, I believe the timeframe is way too short.  Currently there are two declared candidates in the race, Tony Wilt and John Elledge.  Unfortunately, I still don’t really know too much about the political positions of either.  Besides an email from one and a Facebook group from the other, I haven’t gotten any additional information.  The voters need time to learn about the candidates and 20 days (now we are down to 18) is far too short a window.  Second, although the 26th district is not a large district geographically, I think we should have more than one polling place.  At least give us one in the city and one in the county.  Third, given that the polling place is only open for four hours on a weekday, it is likely that I will have to take time off from work in order to cast my vote.  Fourth, no candidate will be able to create an effective campaign team or campaign message in so short a time, so he or she will have no idea whether or not these strategies will be successful in the general election.  As mentioned earlier, this district trends very heavily toward the GOP, so I still suspect that whoever wins the nomination will win the election; nevertheless, will we have enough time to discover the best candidate and campaign?

Now there are arguments in favor of the process they have selected.  Namely, greatly restricting the time and place of voting along with a very narrow campaigning window will ensure that only the truly dedicated will come out and vote.  The possibility of Democrats and Independents coming out to vote will be very low and only the very committed Republican activists will show up.

Given the rushed nature of the process, I therefore predict that voter turnout will be at an all-time low.  This race will be determined by just a handful of voters.  The question becomes, who can get more of their people to the poll on April 20?  I guess we will have to wait and see.

26th House of Delegates Seat Up For Grabs!

In a fairly breaking development, my Delegate, Matt Lohr has accepted a position as Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  With this arrangement, Delegate Lohr will be resigning his seat in the General Assembly likely within a month or two.  This departure will trigger a special election in which the citizens of the 26th district (Harrisonburg and the northern half of Rockingham County) will choose a new delegate.  I would assume that it would take place this coming November, coinciding with the House of Representatives race.

Although control of this seat will not tip the balance of power in the House of Delegates, given that Democrats have little chance of unseating Bob Goodlatte from his position in the House of Representatives, it is likely that local Democrats will pour their efforts into this race.  Right now there are a multitude of unanswered questions.  Who will win the Republican and Democratic nomination?  Will there be any third party candidates?  With voter turnout likely to be low, which side will rally their faithful more successfully?  Will Harrisonburg, which the Democrats have occasionally won in recent elections, go for the Democratic candidate?  And if they win Harrisonburg, will it be by large enough margins to counteract the heavily conservative county?

I don’t want to take anything for granted, but given past trends, I would expect whoever wins the Republican nomination should win the election.  As a word of warning though, if you can’t run a campaign worth spit (and that involves hiring knowledgeable people), then don’t run for the office!  I just hope that at the end of the day, we have a strong, committed, constitutionally minded conservative.  The 26th is my home after all.  And as a side note to whomever wins, you should strongly consider hiring Matt Lohr’s current legislative assistant.  You shouldn’t dive head first into a new surrounding without having someone experienced on your side.

I’ll post more on this story as it becomes available.

Update:  Thanks to hburgnews.com, (a great source for local news) for bringing this story to my attention.  Their post can be found here.

McDonnell on the Trail

As I had the day off on Tuesday, I joined the JMU College Republicans in welcoming Bob McDonnell to Harrisonburg.  While driving to the university, I took a moment to reflect on the choice of location.  Although an event at JMU would bring the students, it may have proven difficult for the locals to participate.  After all, there are very few metered parking spaces and about half the time they are completely full.  Fortunately, I was lucky, finding a space without the typical ritual of circling the parking lot.

In the meeting room hung a prominent sign stating the room had a maximum occupancy of 50 people.  The reason I mention this fact is that there were about 70 or so chairs in the room, and, by the time the former Attorney General arrived, not only were the seats filled, but there were a cluster of folks standing nearby the speaker.  I understand the tactic, getting a smaller room to make the crowd appear larger, it is used in the British House of Commons, but some of the people standing looked a bit uncomfortable at the end of the event.  I should also mention that there were a handful of JMU Democrats in the crowd who wore their group’s shirts and held anti-McDonnell signs.  The local press was also present.

First up, Del. Matt Lohr (R-26) first spoke to the crowd, followed by Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26), and then, of course, the man of the hour, Bob McDonnell.  The Gubernatorial nominee spoke for about 30 minutes.  During this time, he touched on a number of issues ranging from job creation and tourism to energy policy and offshore drilling.  Although fortunately the Democrats in the crowd were non-disruptive, I think Bob McDonnell dealt with them in a cool and collected manner.  I know that I hate having hostiles in the crowd when I speak in front of a crowd.

However, when it came to stirring up conservatives like myself, with respect to the other speakers, Senator Obenshain clearly stole the show.  As soon as he started speaking, I began to wish that I had taped the speech of the Senator.  He focused his brief time discussing limiting the role of government, exercising fiscal responsibility, and promoting our values.  It was real meat and potato stuff.  Words that would make me reach for my wallet (assuming it had any money in it, of course).  Although all of the issues that Bob McDonnell delved into are indeed important, unless we preserve a government that legislates within its constitutional boundaries, protecting the lives, liberties, and property of its citizens, ever other concern pales by comparison.  Although Bob McDonnell discussed these topics, I humbly suggest that he makes these issues the cornerstone of his campaign.  Conservative principles are not dead, and as the Obama administration continues to shred our economy and Constitution, Virginia voters will be looking for leaders who will act decisively to counter the largess pork and federal mandates spewing forth from Washington.

Here are a few pictures from the event.  Unfortunately most of them did not turn out properly.  If you would like some video of Bob McDonnell, I suggest you trek over to Rick Sincere’s site covering his Charlottesville visit.  Hope you enjoy!

Update: Courtesy of Mr. Orndorff, I’m pleased to show you the speech that Senator Obenshain gave at the Bob McDonnell rally.  Thank you very much for your video sir.