Who is Susan Stimpson?

Yesterday, fellow blogger Willie Deutsch posted a 2012 campaign piece in which Susan Stimpson joins Bill Howell in urging voters to support George Allen for the United States Senate in the June 12th Republican primary.  This information, along with a host of other adventures once again begs the question, who is Susan Stimpson?

Susan Stimpson at the Middletown Forum
Susan Stimpson at the Middletown Forum

I first had the opportunity to hear Susan Stimpson at last year’s Ron Paul Legacy Dinner in Staunton, Virginia.  At the time, I thought the list of speakers for the event was rather curious.  After all, I only know of two recent candidates who sought or are seeking either statewide or federal office that have openly supported Ron Paul: these are Karen Kwiatkowski (who sought the 6th district GOP nomination) and Delegate Bob Marshall (who ran for Senate in 2008 and 2012).  Although it is quite easy to support the cause of liberty when it is politically advantageous, it is quite another issue entirely to stand on principle regardless of the potentially negative consequences.  Although Stimpson was unknown to many liberty activists, there is no question that she gained considerable traction through her appearance at this dinner.

There seemed to be an increasing avalanche of support for Stimpson among the liberty community.  However, I have urged and continue to urge my fellow activists to learn about all of the candidates before blindly hopping on any bandwagon.

So who is Susan Stimpson?  I’m still not sure, but one moment that sticks out in my mind took place during the forum at Liberty in Lynchburg.  When asked if she supported random drug testing for welfare recipients, she stated that she did.  As someone who considers himself a constitutional conservative, I found this answer to be particularly troubling for two reasons conveniently voiced by Pete Snyder and Senator Steve Martin.  First, as Mr. Snyder pointed out, these drug screenings would be a considerable invasion of privacy.  Although I do not have any fondness for a permanent welfare program, I’m horrified about the prospect of granting the state more power to control its citizens.  The second concern, mentioned by Senator Martin is one of cost.  How would the state be able to afford to drug test recipients?  Wouldn’t such a move require additional state employees and equipment?  From where would these funds come?  Would the move require additional taxes or cuts in more important programs?

Yesterday’s information from Willie Deutsch brings the question of Susan Stimpson into the forefront again.  Is she the liberty candidate?  Is she the rebellious conservative outsider?  Or is she, as Shaun Kenney over at Bearing Drift suggests, an establishment conservative?  Now don’t get me wrong, if a candidate could successfully wear the mantles of both being an establishment Republican while simultaneously viewed as a liberty-minded libertarian/conservative, he or she would likely enjoy tremendous success.  But is such a designation possible or is it merely a shell game that, if discovered, would result in utter disaster, alienating both wings of the Republican Party?

Scott Lingamfelter recently damaged his chances to win over liberty activists with his negative comments about Ron Paul supporters.  But, to the best of my knowledge, he has never claimed to be the “conservative/liberty candidate”.  By comparison, if Stimpson turns out to be merely an establishment candidate who adopted the clothing of liberty for political advantage, the fallout from such a realization would almost certainly be fatal to her campaign.

As a personal note, I must say that it is an extremely liberating feeling to have not selected a candidate yet, to be able to examine all of the candidates as objectively as I can without worrying if this process offends them or causes my employer or co-workers to view me unfavorably.

So, we return to our first question.  Who is Susan Stimpson?  Is she the liberty champion that many of my fellow Ron Paul supporters are selling her to be?  Or is she something else?  Either way, it is unwise to either rush to praise her or condemn her.

Regardless of your political principles, I once again encourage all of the activists seeking to be delegates to the Richmond convention in May to get informed, stay informed, and to share any and all information that they find.  Don’t simply adopt my opinion or the opinion of someone else.  Sure, it takes time, but do the research for yourself.

Lastly, don’t mistakenly think that the main purpose of this article is to disparage Susan Stimpson, but rather to promote awareness.  After all, who knows?  Once all of the dust settles, and I have sufficient data, I may find myself firmly in her camp, assuming her principles closely match my own and her campaign does a decent job articulating her message.  Remember, it is okay to trust, but you must also verify.

A Valentine’s Message from Pete Snyder

A few moments ago, Pete Snyder’s campaign, one of the seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination to be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor, released the following Valentine’s Day video:

Is it a bit cheesy?  There is no question.  But I have to admit that this ad is a pretty clever way for Mr. Snyder to connect to voters in a non-traditional fashion and, as I briefly mentioned in my write-up regarding the recent Middletown forum, he offers a message which particularly resonates with me given present circumstances.

In his rather brief candidacy thus far, Pete Snyder has adopted the theme of big, bold ideas.  Today, through this rather unorthodox video, his campaign has taken a bit of a gamble, but I believe that this move will pay off, capturing the attention of a good number of Republican delegates.  As his wife Burson wrote today, “…Pete works tirelessly in everything he does.  And he’ll do the same for our party and the Commonwealth.  He certainly worked tirelessly to win me over — and I’m so glad that he did!”

Ultimately, I hope that whoever proves him or herself to be the most conservative and liberty-minded candidate will emerge as the Republican lieutenant governor nominee.  But innovative campaigning is another critical element that should not be dismissed.  Therefore, I have to offer kudos to Pete Snyder and his campaign for this original Valentine’s Day maneuver.

Late Fireworks In Middletown

IMG_1670On Saturday, February 9th, the seven Republican candidates for lieutenant governor gathered for their second forum in Virginia’s sixth district, this time in Middletown, a small town in Frederick County.  The Apple Valley Club, the Republican Women of Shenandoah County, and the Shenandoah Valley Constitutional Conservatives hosted the event.  Suzanne Curran was the moderator and Karen Kwiatkowski kept the time.

The forum began with opening statements from the office seekers, an introduction that lasted for about an hour.  After about a twenty-minute break, Ms. Curran asked a battery of questions on a whole host of topics.  Unlike the previous event in Lynchburg, all of the candidates had an opportunity to answer each of the questions.  It was common for the respondents to exceed their allotted time window; Ms. Kwiatkowski shook a cowbell to silence the candidates once his or her time had expired.  In a particularly amusing moment, Pete Snyder bowed to the bell when it rang for him.

Many of the topics explored at the Middletown forum were the same issues that had been discussed at the last event.  For the most part, it was difficult to differentiate among candidates.  Although their delivery differed, all of them claimed to be conservative; each is supposedly pro-life, each supports the 2nd Amendment, and each decries the erosion of the Constitution and the massive overreach of the federal government.  The only noticeable exception was when Jeannemarie Devolites Davis announced her support of background checks at gun shows.  Presumably, the longer that the seven remain relatively indistinguishable, the bigger bump the E. W. Jackson campaign should receive.  After all, Jackson’s fantastic oratory skills are perhaps the greatest advantage he enjoys over the other six.

However, as the title of this article indicates, there were some moments of particular interest as the forum drew to a close.  Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Corey Stewart took a few jabs at each other as Stewart blamed the General Assembly for many local problems and for lacking courage while Lingamfelter responded claiming that local government ought to shoulder more of the responsibility.  Given their roles in local and state government, both Chairman Susan Stimpson and State Senator Steve Martin were drawn into fight, though Martin seemed to try to stay above the fray.

Pete Snyder’s closing remarks filled me with some small message of hope as he reminded the audience that if you have love in your heart, just about anything is possible.  Also, at the end of the event Delegate Lingamfelter seemed to make it a point to speak with me personally and ask for my support.  Whether he read my last post chastising him for his remarks about Ron Paul is uncertain, but I do appreciate his willingness to try to mend fences.

IMG_1676
Corey Stewart

In general, most of the candidates appeared a bit more polished at the Middletown event and I did not catch any major gaffes.  However, given his willingness to make bold statements such as claiming that the phrase “I introduced a bill” is almost useless in politics, I believe that Corey Stewart emerged as the clear winner at the forum in Middletown.  I won’t say that I agree with every single position that he articulated, but the idea of nominating a candidate who is willing to call out his or her fellow Republicans is exceedingly important.  Even though I’m admittedly still jaded by his anti-Paul piece, for going toe-to-toe with Stewart, Lingamfelter claimed second place.

To all of the candidates, I would recommend making every effort to stand out in the sea of seven, clearly articulating how your positions are different and better than the rest; failure to do so may mean that soon you will be forgotten.

Fellow blogger Craig Orndorff recorded the entire forum and you can find this video here!  Watch and decide for yourself.

The Liberty Debate

On Saturday night, the Liberty University Law School and the Lynchburg Tea Party played host to all seven of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination to be the next lieutenant governor of Virginia.  The potential nominees, as they were seated at the forum, are: E. W. Jackson, Susan Stimpson, Pete Snyder, Steve Martin, Scott Lingamfelter, Corey Stewart, and Jeannemarie Devolites Davis.

Former Speaker of the House of Delegates Vance Wilkins offered both the opening and closing remarks for the event.  He remarked at the end that it was unfortunate that each of the candidates is seeking the same office, as each seemed like a worthy choice for the position.  Throughout the event, each candidate tried to outdo the others, painting himself or herself as a conservative and a liberty-minded leader.

After introductory statements by the candidates, the moderator asked a series of fourteen rotating questions where each could offer his or her reply to six of them.  In the second part, each candidate could reply to one of the previous questions that he or she was not asked in round one.  Third, each candidate could ask one question of one of his or her fellow office seekers.

So what were the topics discussed?  Well, they included: the castle doctrine and the right of self defense, voter ID requirements, considerations on the governor’s plan to eliminate the gas tax and raise the sales tax, public school safety, Virginia’s right to work laws, and the 10th Amendment.

Now with these thoughts in mind, who performed the best?  Well, given her viewpoints, widely painted as liberal, Jeannemarie Davis did surprising well; she worked diligently to counteract many of the accusations leveled against her by a variety of groups including voicing her support for the 2nd Amendment.  I thought Pete Snyder led for most of the event, building rapport through his use of audience participation.  However, he offered an unexpected answer seemingly in favor of sanctuary cities in Virginia.  Concluding his response, he openly rebuked his previous thoughts and later explained that he misunderstood the question.  Although I had not heard him speak before, I believe that Delegate Scott Lingamfelter emerged as the winner of the Liberty forum, offering strong opinions and sharing relevant stories to explain his positions.

Overall, I would rate the event as a success and thank both Liberty and the Lynchburg Tea Party for holding the gathering.  I regret that I cannot provide any picture of the event as my camera malfunctioned.  For those who were unable to make the trip to Lynchburg, the next lt. governor debate/forum will be taking place at the Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown on February 9th starting at 1 PM.  As I’ve stated previously, this year’s race for lieutenant governor is particularly important; assuming you plan to be a delegate to the GOP convention, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about all of the candidates before casting your vote.

The (More Important Than It Should Be) LG Race

Good afternoon, readers.

Glad to be with you once again.  First, let me apologize for the two-week hiatus in posts.  If you are wondering why the lengthy break took place, every time that I would come up with a topic that I wanted to write about, my mind would keep drifting to thoughts of a rather remarkable woman.  But the Virginia Conservative must go on and go on it will!

Now that Virginia Republicans have come to terms with the disappointing results of 2012, they are turning their attention to the 2013 contests.  After all, every year is an election year here in Virginia.  Next November, Virginians will vote for a new governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.  In addition, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates will be up for grabs.

Normally, the race for lieutenant governor is a rather low-key affair.  In most circumstances, the lieutenant governor has about as much relative clout and power as the vice president of the United States.  He or she presides over the Virginia Senate, only casts a vote to break a tie in legislative matters, and assumes the role of governor if the sitting governor resigns or is incapacitated.  Typically, the office is also a placeholder for a person who will seek the role of governor in the next election.

Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling also was given the role of Chief Jobs Creation Officer from Governor McDonnell, a rather curious title.  After all, don’t conservatives believe that it is not the role of government to create jobs, but rather to create the most business friendly environment possible where taxes are kept low and bureaucratic red tape is minimized?  But we can delve into that topic on another post.

However, after the 2011 election, the lieutenant governor gained an additional function.  When the dust settled in November of that year, the 40-member body of the Virginia Senate was split evenly between members of the Republican and Democratic Parties.  In that rare circumstance, many people assumed, given that neither party held a majority in the body, a power sharing agreement would be the outcome.  However, as the lieutenant governor was a Republican, the GOP declared that they controlled the Virginia Senate and thus no power sharing agreement was reached.

Although the move to claim victory in the Virginia Senate may have been politically smart for the Republican Party at the time, I personally opposed the plan.  In some ways, it felt as if it circumvented the will of the people.  After all, the voters elected an equally divided Senate and ought to have a Senate that reflected this result.  However, this action gave the lieutenant governor considerably more power.  As a result, I knew that it would put a greater emphasis on a race that is typically considered second tier.  After all, even though we will not elect a single new senator on November 5th, 2013, control of that body will hinge upon the outcome of the lieutenant governor race.  If the Democrats win,  given what happened in 2011, I’m certain that they will ignore any pleas for a divided Virginia Senate.

Unlike the election for governor and attorney general, the Republican nomination for lt. governor is very much up in the air.  There are a whole host of candidates: former State Senator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, 2012 U.S. Senate candidate E.W. Jackson, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, State Senator Steve Martin, Chairman Corey Stewart of Prince William County, Chairwoman Susan Stimpson of Stafford County, and 2012 Virginia GOP Victory Chairman Pete Snyder.  Although many liberty-minded folks that I know are lining up behind Stimpson, I still need to learn more about the candidates and thus remain uncommitted at this time.  At this point, none can claim front-runner status and, if the field remains so large, the outcome of the 2013 GOP convention could very well yield surprising results.

On the Democratic side, we have Aneesh Chopra, the first person to hold the role of the Chief Technology Officer of the United States and State Senator Ralph Northam.

Will the Libertarian, Constitution, and/or Green Parties field a candidate to run for lieutenant governor as well?  And, if so, what sort of impact will he or she make in the race?

The bottom line is that due to outcome of 2011, the 2013 race for Virginia’s lieutenant governor is far more important than it has been in previous cycles.  Therefore, I encourage all of my fellow conservative activists to consider each of our choices carefully before selecting or dismissing a candidate prematurely.

My Party, My Principles, and the Infinite Sadness

On Friday at noon, the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republican Parties held their monthly First Friday gathering at the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg.  The featured speaker was Pete Snyder who is heading up the Republican victory program in Virginia for 2012.

The meeting itself was a fairly ordinary affair.  About two-dozen or so local Republicans attended, most enjoyed lunch, while I just had several glasses of sweet tea.  However, once just about everyone had dispersed, I paid my bill, sat on the bench near the entrance and wept.

As we live in a society which typically discourages most public forms of emotion, especially from men, it must have been a strange sight indeed for those around watching a thirty-one-year-old person cry for no discernable reason.

So what, may you ask, caused me to act in such a fashion?  The answer is boiling anger, overwhelming frustration, and infinite sadness triggered by the actions of one local Republican.

I wept for the sake of the party.  In the meeting, one person declared that our goal should be to elect “anyone but Obama”.  Really?  Has our party become so vapid and devoid of rational worth that we will gladly rally behind any man or woman regardless of merit simply because he or she is not Barack Obama?  Heck, Hilary Clinton is not Obama; does that mean we should support her if she had an “R” by her name?  And isn’t there is an ocean of difference between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich?  Don’t principles mean anything anymore?  And I started to fear that perhaps I was gravely mistaken to believe that they ever did.  Yet if we cast aside principles, what’s left to separate the parties other than a meaningless animal mascot and a color?

I wept for the state of Virginia and the nation as a whole due to the fact that we have so many leaders of both parties that seem to care nothing or at least very little about the values of the people and the society that placed them in their position of power.  Sure, we can criticize members of the other party who trample upon the Constitution, moral decency, or the rule of law, but calling out members of your own party who violate these ideals has become taboo.  Therefore, I must mourn the loss of political dialogue and freedom that have given way to strict and unthinking party loyalty.

Although it may sound selfish, I wept for my future employment prospects and myself.  As I’ve mentioned to many people over the last several months, there are few things that I desire more than the chance to make a decent living promoting my political principles among my fellow countrymen, the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  However, my rugged insistence of clinging to my values is likely seen as a liability.  Who wants to hire a passionate paleo-conservative when malleable yes men are available? Which kind of person will likely cause less headaches?  Unfortunately, most of the powerful and affluent politicians scoff at liberty-minded constitutional conservatives while those companies and people who do value us either have no money and can only offer volunteer opportunities or give little better than subsistence wages.  Does the easiest, and perhaps only, way to succeed involve selling out?  Again, I fear that blind allegiance to the party and its leaders trump standing up for the creeds that supposedly guide their actions.

Lastly, and more importantly, I wept for the demise of a former political ally, a person who supposedly once held the political principles that I cherish.  To be fair, I had known for some time that this person had jettisoned our shared beliefs, but I now realized that there was no turning back, there is no hope for redemption.  Conservative/libertarian principles have melted away and have been replaced with a zeal for the establishment.  Now the ideological drift is simply too great; today we have about as much in common as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky does with someone like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina or Virginia Senator Steve Newman does with fellow Virginia State Senator Tommy Norment.  We might both call ourselves Republican but we likely have as many areas of disagreement as agreement.

This knowledge is particularly disappointing, but it alone wouldn’t have been enough to spur such a reaction.  However, after the Republican meeting was over, that same person savagely attacked me with an over the top tirade in front of a fellow activist.  At that moment, that person represented to me everything that is wrong with politics today; a person ruled, apparently not by principle, but self-serving ambition that is willing to use anything or anyone as a stepping-stone to greater influence.  Although I know that it only heightened tensions during the exchange, much like a scene from Fellowship of the Ring, I more or less inquired when did this person decide to “abandon reason for madness?”  This particularly ugly combination of events frays any past political ties and makes the hope of any future cooperation unlikely at best.

So, if you happened to have entered the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg on Friday and saw someone crying on the bench, now you know why.  I was overcome with grief and anger mourning the downfall of many things: the bastardization of my party, the way in which so many politicians continually deceive the public without recourse, the loss of a former ideological believer, the likely failure of my future, and the death of the principles which supposedly guided them all.

How would you feel if you discovered that so many of the activities and relationships you crafted over the past seventeen years might be meaningless?  What if your great passion created nothing but corrupted politics and false friends, and the only thing you had to show for your effort was a pile of crumbly ashes?  If so, you might say, as Lesley Gore wrote in her well-known song, “it’s my party…you would cry too if it happened to you”.