Sarvis In The Valley

Virginia Libertarian gubernatorial candidaete Rob Sarvis
Virginia Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis

This week, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis will be making a multitude of campaign stops in the central Shenandoah Valley.  These events mark his first trip to the area since securing the party’s nomination back at the Waynesboro convention in April.

First, on Wednesday, August 14th, Sarvis will give a speech on the steps of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County courthouse beginning at 5:30 PM.

From there, he will travel to a meet-and-greet at the home of a local supporter who lives just west of the city.

Then, on the following day, he will converse with voters at Wright’s Dairy Rite in Staunton from 4 PM to 5 PM.  Wrights’, for those who don’t know, is a 1950s style burger and milkshakes diner that has been in operation since 1952 and is located at 346 Greenville Avenue.

Afterward, starting at 6:30 PM, Robert will address the Staunton Tea Party.  These days, the Staunton Tea Party holds their monthly gatherings at the VFW on 212 Frontier Drive.

Lastly, on Friday, Robert Sarvis will tour the Rockingham County Fair for a good portion of the day.  This year, the Libertarian Party has a booth alongside the Republican and Democratic Parties.

As the 2013 election season begins to kick into high gear, it should be interesting to see how many times the various statewide candidates visit the Valley.  Only a few weeks ago, E. W. Jackson held a particularly successful fundraiser on the campus of James Madison University.  With both Rockingham and Augusta Counties being typically among the most Republican (if not the most Republican) localities in the state coupled with cities like Harrisonburg and Staunton, which have been trending Democratic in recent years, the area provides a variety of political opinions and perspectives.  And, given that none of the statewide candidates have opened up a considerable lead in the polls thus far coupled with the relatively untested variable of the Libertarian Party and Robert Sarvis, politics in this part of the state might be a bit more entertaining than it has been in previous cycles.

A Political 4th, In Pictures

As with communities throughout America, yesterday the citizens of Harrisonburg celebrated the 4th of July.  The city’s downtown area was filled with an assortment of vendors and entertainment, not to mention politicians and political activists.  Unlike the previous year, the local Democratic Parties did not seem participate  in Thursday’s festivities, somewhat surprising given the three statewide races going on this fall.

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Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) and Delegate Tony Wilt of Broadway greet the crowds.
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During the early afternoon, Council Member Abe Shearer manned the dunk tank for charity.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli speaks to the media
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli speaks to the media.
VA RLC member Steven Latimer climbs the rock wall.
VA Republican Liberty Caucus member Steven Latimer climbs the rock wall.
JMU's Duke Dog shows his spirit.
JMU’s Duke Dog shows his spirit.
The Republican Procession featuring Delegate Steve Landes of Verona on the far left and Harrisonburg/Rockingham Clerk of Court Chaz Evans-Haywood on the far right
The Republican Procession featuring Delegate Steve Landes of Verona on the far left and Harrisonburg/Rockingham Clerk of Court Chaz Evans-Haywood on the far right.
The banner of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party
The banner of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.
Tea Party Director Donna Moser, Treasurer Nancy Stone, and Co-Director Tommy Moser.
Tea Party Director Donna Moser, Treasurer Nancy Stone, and Co-Director Tommy Moser.
Tea Party Secretary Lois Paul playing the snooping IRS agent
Tea Party Secretary Lois Paul playing the snooping NSA/IRS agent.

TV, The IRS, And The Tea Party

On Monday morning, I received a call from WHSV TV-3.  As part of the Board of Directors for the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party, they asked if I would speak to them regarding mounting protests opposing the heavy-handed tactics employed by the IRS against the tea party.  Naturally, I agreed and, about an hour later, I found myself chatting with a reporter in front of the Artful Dodger in downtown Harrisonburg.

Click on this link to read the article and to watch the segment for yourself.

Regarding the Tea Party Vetting

On Friday and Saturday, a number of tea party leaders from across the state met alongside officials from the Middle Resolution PAC to examine the nine Republican candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general.  The purpose in doing so was to evaluate each and determine which of the choices best represent the tea party values.

Now, I first heard about this process in early February and, after reading all of the materials provided on the subject, came out in opposition to the idea.  It was not an easy decision to make, especially given that the Virginia Tea Party Federation was in favor of it and that I worked for We rVirginia in 2012, a group funded by Middle Resolution.  Nevertheless, I believed that it was the right thing to do.  I crafted a couple of similarly worded emails stating my objections which I sent to the leadership of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party and Middle Resolution.

For the record, here is the text of one such email that I wrote on February 13th of this year:

Good afternoon, everyone.

I’m been thinking a bit more about this vetting on the candidates to produce a “tea party” candidate for both lt. gov. and attorney general and must say that the more I consider this path, the more that I am opposed to it.  Now I understand fully why this plan is being implemented.  After all, we saw what happened last year.  With everyone divided, arguably the least conservative candidate (George Allen) won the GOP Senate nomination.  But is this proposal of rallying most or all of the tea parties in the state behind a candidate the best?

In an ideal situation, I’d like to see the tea parties clearly state their principles for these races as well as inform their membership of the positions of each candidate.  Based upon this information, we would let each person decide who best adheres to his or her principles.  Instead, it seems that we are charting…a very top down/authoritarian course of action where the leadership and a handful of people in Richmond decide for the members who they think is best.

Now being involved in politics for more than half my life, I know how these sorts of things work.  Unfortunately, most people of all political persuasions act like sheep and will dutifully follow their leaders where ever they are taken.  But, I’d like to think that the tea party is something different, something better than just “the leaders have spoken and the faithful membership will follow us without question”.  I have a lot of respect for…[the people involved in the vetting process]… and the leaders of the various tea parties, but that respect alone does not mean that I can allow them to do all of my thinking for me.

I suppose the question becomes, what do we do if we do not agree with the outcome of the vetting process?  Are we beholden to honor it?  I don’t mean to sound like a stick in the mud, but regardless of the outcome, I still plan to support whichever of the candidates that I deem is the best and will encourage everyone I know to learn about his or her choices and decide which person best fits his or her ideology.

Another factor to consider is the members who have already pledged themselves to a candidate.  Once a decision is reached will they reject their previous volunteer efforts and accept an outcome handed down from on high?  Or is it more likely that they will resent what is done and go their own way, thus ultimately weakening the tea party?

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what plans are moving forth statewide, but, until I am convinced otherwise, I would recommend that the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party have no hand in this vetting process.  There are too many parties, too many interests, and too many candidates involved.  I believe that this plan strips away our political freewill, and without the freedom of choice, are we any better than either the Republicans or Democrats, whose flawed principles and processes led to the formation of the tea party in the first place?

I know that unfortunately this letter goes against the plans of my former employers, but is my reasoning wrong?  Do the ends of ideally nominating a better candidate justify the means of potentially subverting the desires of the individual tea parties and their members?  Am I crazy to think that this plan is dangerous?  Is the idea of molding politically self-aware tea party members that can arrive at their own decisions without mandates from above nothing more than foolish idealism?

What are your thoughts?

Thanks!

Joshua Huffman

Besides the concerns listed above, I worried that this vetting would be seen as an endorsement and that it was quite possible that the process would nominate a candidate who didn’t actually adhere to the core values of the tea party.  Nevertheless, I was assured that this process would not be called an official endorsement.

At the end of the day, based partially upon the recommendation of a former tea party leader, I chose not to participate in this process myself.  After all, if I did so and did not agree with the outcome, then would I still have any room to object?  And, after hearing the results, I must say that I do strongly object.  For the record, Corey Stewart won for lieutenant governor and Mark Obenshain for attorney general.

First, some groups like the Lynchburg Tea Party have declared this outcome to be an outright endorsement, which is what I feared would happen.

Second, from everything that I’ve learned about him, much like Black Velvet Bruce Li, I am not convinced that Corey Stewart is a proper banner carrier for the tea party principles of constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a few other important issues that may come up in a future piece.

Third, if the tea parties do feel compelled to stand behind a candidate, let them do so regionally, not statewide.  Let Mechanicsville decide what is best for Mechanicsville, Montross determine what is best for Montross, and the Shenandoah Valley declare what is best for the Shenandoah Valley.

Fourth, my worries that the vetting actually damaged the public perception of the tea party have increased after reading a number of recent blog posts on other sites.

I am well aware that my comments may not be popular with many tea party groups, possibly even my own in Harrisonburg.  Nevertheless, as a member of the Board of Directors for the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party, based upon everything that I’ve written thus far, I feel compelled to urge my fellow tea partiers to consider the results of this weekend’s tea party vetting process with extreme caution.

If you are planning to cast your vote at the Republican Convention on May 18th, do so intelligently.  I’ll tell you right now that I’m supporting my state senator, Mark Obenshain, for attorney general.  However, you shouldn’t merely take my word as the absolute truth or the results of this tea party vetting either.  If you think Rob Bell is more in line with your thinking, then you ought to cast your vote for him.  You can use any endorsement as a guide, but never make that one item your only determining factor.  Otherwise you surrender your vote to the whims of another.

I know it takes time, but let me stress that you need to research the candidates yourself and decide which best represents your values and your principles.

Here I stand.  I can do no other.

An Intro To Austrian Economics

On Thursday, February 28th, the Harrisonburg branch of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party hosted Dr. Robert Subrick at their monthly meeting.  Dr. Subrick is a Professor of Economics at James Madison University whose work has been featured in numerous publications including the Review of Austrian Economics, the Indian Journal of Economics and Business, and the American Review of Political Economy.

In his lecture, Dr. Subrick offered a brief introduction to Austrian Economics as well as an overview of many of the thoughts of the Nobel Prize winning economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek.  News of Dr. Subrick speech brought a number of new faces to Thursday’s tea party meeting.  It should also be noted that this information is particularly important for those individuals who are unfamiliar with this important topic.

Rather than present a summation of this talk, with Dr. Subrick’s permission, I’m pleased to present a video of his speech in its entirety.  I hope that you find it both interesting and informative.

Two Chances for Lt. Gov. Candidates

Pete Snyder, Scott Lingamfelter, Jeannemarie Davis
Pete Snyder, Scott Lingamfelter, & Jeannemarie Davis

Over the next two days, residents and visitors to the Harrisonburg area will have two opportunities to listen to and meet with three of the seven Republican candidates for lieutenant governor.

First, I have received word that Pete Snyder will be speaking at Thursday’s meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party (February 28th).  That gathering is taking place from 6:30 PM to 8:15 at the Freedom Baptist Church, located at 141 Pleasant Hill Road.  In addition, the main focal point of the evening will be Professor Robert Subrick of JMU.  He will be addressing the important and far too often overlooked topic of Austrian Economics.

Second, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Jeannemarie Davis are the two-featured guests at the monthly First Friday gathering of the Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Republican Parties (March 1st).  The event starts at noon and will be held at the Woodgrill Buffet on 1711 Reservoir Street.  If you would like to attend this event, please email Suzanne Obenshain at suzanne@markobenshain.com so that sufficient space is reserved.

Remember, if you are planning to sign up to be a delegate to the Virginia Republican convention in May, it is imperative that you learn about all of your choices.  Therefore, I highly recommend that you make both of these gatherings and keep an eye out for additional chances to meet with all candidates in your area, regardless of whether you live in the Shenandoah Valley or some other portion of the state.

Tea With The Council Candidates: Part II

Council Candidates Christine Johnson, Roger Baker, Anthony Bailey, and Richard Baugh

Last month, the Harrisonburg chapter of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party played host to four of the eight candidates seeking election to the Harrisonburg City Council.  Last night, the remaining four candidates took the stage to offer their ideas and plans for the city.

These candidates were: Christine Johnson, a local business owner and a Republican, Roger Baker, the former city manager and an independent, Anthony Bailey, the local assistant commonwealth attorney and a Republican, and Richard Baugh, the current Harrisonburg mayor, an attorney, and a Democrat.  Although not on stage, Abe Shearer was present as well.  As was the case with last month’s meeting, the audience attendance was a good bit smaller than expected.

Each candidate was allotted a ten-minute window to speak followed by a question and answer period.  Although hoping to offer his thoughts due to his early departure last month, Abe Shearer was not allowed to comment on the issues raised.

Like last month, I took this opportunity to present the same question regarding the city owned golf course.  Johnson, Baker, and Bailey each seemed to support the idea of the course, although admitted that it could have been run more efficiently.  Mayor Baugh did not have a chance to reply due to time constraints.  After the meeting, Abe Shearer mentioned that, despite the financial failings of the course, the council ought to strongly consider whether it is the proper role of government to operate the course.  Given his comments, I believe that if he were on the council when the decision was made, he would have opposed the idea of a city golf course.

After the question and answer period, I took the microphone to remind everyone to vote on November 6th and encouraged them to learn about all of the candidates running prior to the election so that they will make an informed decision.  After all, that concept was one of the key reasons why I pushed for and helped organized these two forums with the city council candidates.  I wanted tea party members to get to know the candidates so that they could gauge each based upon his or her principles and not merely rely on party labels.

Next, the leader of the tea party took the stage to remind everyone that the tea party does not endorse candidates.  However, in what came as a bit of a shock, she then proceeded to more or less remind everyone to vote for George Allen for Senate.  In addition, she recommended that attendees should not “throw their vote away” by voting for either Virgil Goode or Gary Johnson for president given that neither of these two candidates will be listed on the ballot of every state.

The meeting concluded with a reading of Angie Williams’ Vote Your Conscience, which reminds the listener to “put partisan politics completely aside, and let your conscience be your guide.”

A Political Fourth

For many Americans, the Fourth of July is a day filled with cookouts and family gatherings capped off by a night filled with a colorful fireworks display.  However, given that the date serves as the commemoration for the birth of the nation, it is also steeped in politics.

On Wednesday afternoon, the city of Harrisonburg, Virginia held its annual parade to celebrate the day.  The weather was quite hot and sunny, a marked difference from last year when a virtual monsoon threatened to cancel the affair.

The parade boasted the usual assortment of floats and vehicles: musicians, fire and rescue teams, antique cars, and, of course, political groups.  This year, there were four different sets of folks who entered: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Tea Party, and Abe Shearer for City Council.

Overall, the candidate who could claim the largest number of visible supporters in the parade had to be Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6).  There was a veritable sea of matching blue Goodlatte shirts among the Republicans.  Other Republican candidates were promoted as well including: Mitt Romney, George Allen, Mark Obenshain, and the various City Council hopefuls.

The Democratic Party had an impressive showing as well.  They waved signs in favor of Barack Obama, Tim Kaine, Andy Schmookler, and two City Council candidates. I spoke with Deb Fitzgerald, one of the Democratic candidates running, to ask if the Democratic Party only fielded two folks for the three seats up in November.  I discovered that although Kai Degner is running for re-election, he apparently had no signs printed to be used in the parade.

Running as an independent for City Council, Abe Shearer also made his presence known.  Even though some might be tempted to disregard independents, recent elections have shown that they offer beat the two party candidates for this particular office.  The outcome for this race will hinge heavily upon the battle between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at the top of the ticket and the strength of the campaigns of each of the council candidates.

During the trip down Main Street, I walked alongside the Tea Party float handing out copies of the Constitution.  In general, the crowd was very receptive and so I ran out of materials a good distance from the end of the route.

Given that the Fourth is now five days passed, you might find it odd that it has taken me so long to write about it here.  Well, I’m afraid that I didn’t feel much like writing on the evening of the event.  On the drive back to the parking lot, I decided to catch a ride on the Tea Party float.  As we turned onto a side street, the mast holding the tea party sign struck a low-hanging branch and came loose.  Unfortunately, I happened to be in the path of the heavy wooden board as it fell to the ground.  Although it was only a glancing blow, the plank did graze the side of my head and collided with my shoulder.  At the time, I was worried about the severity of the injury, and, as a result of the pain, did very little for the rest of that evening.  However, I’m pleased to say that several days later, only a yellowish bruise and a bit of residual soreness seem to be the only lingering effects.

I suppose that one could see a bit of irony in the idea of a person who opposes the idea of government-run health insurance and also does not presently have health insurance due to the tremendous cost involved, becoming injured himself and possibly in need of assistance.  Nevertheless, if a person does find him or herself in such a state of need, should one demand that the government redress this problem?  Although freely given charity is laudable, the idea of a person compelling his or her neighbors to care for his or her needs through either force or coercion seems to completely reject the basic political tenets of liberty and freedom under which this country was supposedly founded.

Anyway, to sum up, except for the surprise accident at the end, I would say that the parade was a rousing success for all of the parties who choose to participate.  Speaking specifically of the tea party, I hope that I’ll see a few new faces at our meeting later this month.

Tea Across the State

Although I’ve likely been to more tea party meetings that most people who read this article, all of these meetings have taken place within the Shenandoah Valley.  Last week, however, I had the opportunity to meet with two groups outside the region.

The Montross Tea Party

The first gathering took place in the town of Montross, Virginia on May 15th.  For those unfamiliar with Virginia geography, Montross is in the Northern Neck, the northern most peninsula of the state.  As you might imagine, it is a pretty rural area.  This tea party mainly draws from the citizens of Westmoreland County, a county comprised of 17,454 people as of the 2010 census.  Despite this relatively small population base, the tea party still boasted a turnout of 25 people.

The Mechanicsville Tea Party

The second meeting was the Mechanicsville Tea Party on May 17th.  49 people attended this assembly.  Mechanicsville, for those who don’t know, is an unincorporated community of 34,648 folks in Hanover County, a few miles north of the city of Richmond.  Apparently, there are a whole host of tea party organizations in and around the city of Richmond including several in Hanover County itself.

Parke West of We rVirginia

The featured speaker at these two events was Parke West of We rVirginia.  We rVirginia is a relatively new group; their purpose is to educate, activate, and inspire conservatives throughout the Commonwealth in order to elect likeminded legislators in the 2012 election cycle.  Part of their technology includes the rVotes system, a database and program similar to the Republican Party’s Voter Vault.

One common thread I noticed between the two tea parties was the high level of support for Jamie Radtke for Senate.  Although Jamie Radtke won the most recent straw poll in the Harrisonburg and Staunton Tea Parties, apparently, she has an even stronger following in other regions of the state.  For example, approximately one out of every three of members of both the Montross and Mechanicsville Tea Party meetings self-identified as an active volunteer with the Radtke campaign. How will the efforts of this multitude of volunteers impact the June 12th Republican Senate primary?

Another interesting tidbit to note was the complete lack of Cantor materials at the Mechanicsville Tea Party.  Although I would argue that Karen Kwiatkowski is the tea party favorite in the June 12th Republican primary for the 6th district, Representative Bob Goodlatte still makes an attempt to reach out to the Shenandoah Valley Tea Parties.  However, at the Mechanicsville meeting, there were neither Cantor campaign signs nor his literature.  By contrast, I could easily find brochures for his opponent, Floyd Bayne.  I have to wonder, is this situation an anomaly?  Do many of the grassroots organization in the 7th congressional district oppose majority leader Eric Cantor?  Or has his campaign simply chosen to ignore tea party groups like Mechanicsville?

Although it is easy to assume that all tea party groups are the same given that each presumably adhere to the Constitution and the ideals of limited government, it is also true each are comprised of a variety members who each hold a multitude of beliefs, have differing levels of political experience, and view the world through their own personal lenses.  I look forward to learning about other tea party organizations as we strive to promote our shared principles in 2012 and beyond.

Tax Day Rally 2012

Well ladies and gentlemen, the time for the 2012 Tax Day Rally has come and gone.

On April 14th, the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party held their annual event in downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia.  The event boasted an impressive list of speakers including Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  Even if you missed the gathering, you can still either read about it on examiner.com or watch a slideshow video on youtube.

Enjoy and make certain to attend in 2013!