Edwards Announces for the 20th

Today, on the steps of the Augusta County Courthouse in Staunton, Virginia, Michele Edwards announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the 20th district seat in the House of Delegates. Below is a video of her announcement.  Sorry that it is a bit shakey.  In retrospect, I should have worn gloves as it was cold outside.

Republican Dickie Bell has represented the 20th district since 2010.  He has not had a Democratic opponent since 2011 when Laura Kleiner challenged him.  This year, he is facing Libertarian Will Hammer and now Democrat Michele Edwards.

To learn more about Michele Edwards and her campaign, I suggest you visit her website.

Gillespie Excels in Staunton

On Thursday evening, the Ed Gillespie campaign held another gathering in the Shenandoah Valley, this time at the Holiday Inn right off of Interstate 81 in Staunton.  The advertised guest of the evening was Matt Bevin, the governor of Kentucky.  Curiously, the room was set up with a stage against the middle wall with three padded chairs and a couple of tables.  Unlike other events, I didn’t recognize a majority of the folks in the crowd.

The Commonwealth Attorney for Augusta County, Tim Martin, gave a welcome, Travis Witt, the former leader of the tea party federation, offered the prayer, and Augusta County Supervisor Marshall Pattie led the group in the pledge of allegiance.

Next, Pete Snyder, who many folks know from his 2013 run for lieutenant governor, took the stage.  After a few moments, Ed Gillespie and Matt Bevin joined him.

 

Ed Gillespie and Matt Bevin with Greene County GOP Chairman Ed Yensho

The three of them spoke amongst themselves about Gillespie’s campaign for governor as well as Bevin’s experiences as governor of Kentucky.  Afterward, they took a series of pre-submitted questions from the audience.  While this was going on, I thought of a question I wanted to ask regarding political freedom and spoke with the staffer handling such things, but, unfortunately, weren’t able to take it.

In conclusion, Governor Bevin invited all of the attendees to put a Gillespie bumper sticker on their cars as well as get their photo taken with Mr. Gillespie to which Ed Gillespie suggested that the governor ought to join in as well.

Overall, the event was well attended for a Thursday evening as pretty much every seat was filled.  Governor Matt Bevin expressed strong support for Ed Gillespie which helps bolster Gillespie’s credibility.  Snyder, Gillespie, and Bevin all added some humorous moments to the gathering.  And, perhaps most importantly, unlike their last event in Harrisonburg, several people in the crowd had an opportunity to participate in the discussion.

Compared to his 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate, Ed Gillespie’s campaign for governor seems significantly improved, spending more time discussing substantive issues, and bringing impressive political figures, like Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin onboard.

Feeling the Bern in Staunton

The Bernie Sanders campaign has done something that none of the other 2016 presidential candidates have done yet (to the best of my knowledge).  They have opened a campaign office in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, specifically in the city of Staunton.  Given that the Shenandoah Valley has unfortunately been treated as a second-class region in many election cycles, I decided to check it out for myself.

IMG_3148Although I couldn’t find their address online, a member of the Staunton City Council gave me their location.  And so, on Tuesday, I traveled down to Staunton along with Marc Montoni, the secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia.

Fortunately their office was easy to find with several signs out front and a multitude in their window as well.  Two friendly people greeted us: a man and a woman.  I spent quite a while speaking to her and discovered that she was a member of the local Augusta County Democratic Party.  I didn’t talk as much to the other fellow, but his accent indicated that he was likely originally from somewhere many miles away.  While we were there, Will Hammer, the 2014 Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 6th congressional district and a resident of Staunton, stopped by too.

I found that unlike most campaign offices, this one was created and is operated by volunteers and not paid staffers.  In addition, the Sanders campaign will soon be opening a more traditional office across the mountain in Charlottesville.  However, the Staunton office did have just about everything you’d find in most headquarters: a variety of signs, stickers (both lapel and bumper), position statements, and even a cardboard cutout of Senator Sanders which invited visitors to take selfies.  Alas, they had no buttons.  In the back, they had a schedule for events such as hosting a parade, debate watching, and phone calling.

As I mentioned to the volunteers, although I strongly disagree with many of Senator Sanders’ self-described socialist domestic policies, there are some positive aspects to him as well, such as his opposition to government spying with the liberty killing Patriot Act and not wishing to embroil the nation in additional overseas conflicts.

Would I prefer Sanders over Hillary Clinton?  Probably.  For all his concerning issues, Sanders seems a heck of a lot more trustworthy than Clinton.  Will that translate to me voting in the Democratic primary?  Possibly.  With Senator Paul out of the race, quite a few liberty-minded folks no longer care who wins the GOP nomination.  Fortunately, until party registration passes, Virginians have the liberty to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries (though, in an effort to quell freedom of speech and association, as of 2014 the Virginia GOP will expel any of their members who are discovered to have voted in a Democratic nomination contest).

Regardless of how things shake out, it was good to interact with the volunteers at the Sanders headquarters because they didn’t act like the traditional political establishment and were people who seemed genuinely enthusiastic about their candidate, a feeling that has been hard for me to rekindle since the retirement of Dr. Ron Paul.

Anyway, if you find yourself in the Staunton area and are interested in politics, stop by the Bernie Sanders office on Lewis Street and say hello.  Or you can find their group on Facebook.

 

The Staunton 4th in Photos

IMG_2984Yesterday, the residents of Staunton, Virginia held their annual 4th of July parade in Gypsy Hill Park.

As is typically the case, politicians, candidates, and political parties representing Staunton and Augusta County marched to show their support.  And, like last year, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) was separate from the rest of the Republicans.  In addition, Angela Lynn, the Democratic challenger in the 25th House of Delegates, was similarly apart from her party.  The other Republican elected officials pounding the pavement included: Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), Delegate Steve Landes (R-Augusta), and Supervisor Marshall Pattie (R-Augusta).  Ellen Arthur, who seeks to replace Delegate Cline, walked with the Democrats.  The Libertarians were there for Will Hammer who is running against Delegate Bell.  In addition, the one Republican and three Independent candidates for Augusta County Sheriff also each had a float in the parade.  And, lest we forget, the Augusta County Alliance had an entry opposing the proposed Dominion Power pipeline.

 

Gillespie Stumps In Staunton

IMG_2693A guest post by Drew Massengill

Tweed jackets and seasonal sweaters began to fill up the side dining room of Rowe’s Family Restaurant. The windblown and rose-cheeked cautiously chose their seats, ensuring they were near others with whom they were sufficiently familiar. They came from all over. Some wanted to see, and others wanted to be seen. Some came to voice their opinion, while some had yet to form one.

“He’s running a smidge late. Just mingle amongst yourselves.”

Like all politicians, Ed Gillespie was running the ubiquitous twenty minutes behind schedule. An older man mused why he and his wife even showed up; they had voted early, fearing an imminent death might cost them the chance to cast their ballot for the man they hoped could wrest control of the Senate from the iron grip of Mark Warner.

Gillespie wasn’t the only one to benefit from the impressive turnout of the Republican base in Augusta County and beyond. Blue blazers and bow ties swirled around the room as state representatives and Republican personalities took advantage of the lull to make connections and garner support for their own political ambitions.

Conversations quickly ceased and gave way to applause once the Senate hopeful walked into the room. The crowd had grown tired of its pie and pleasantries. They were ready to hear from the man on whom many have placed their hope for a Red Virginia.

Capitalizing on the momentum of his well-received entrance, Gillespie started rousing the troops. Amidst the typical campaign boilerplate, there was bit of call and response. Like a preacher of old-time religion, his fervor and confidence seamlessly spread amongst the crowd until whoops of assent echoed through the restaurant. Cheering and rounds of applause followed each vague promise of policy change as if it was tribute to the modern State of the Union.

Sensing the end of the speech, the crowd entered into rhythmic clapping and offered a standing ovation. And, as quickly as it began, Mr. Gillespie’s time in Staunton was finished. A customary “God bless the United States of America”, some glad-handing, and he was gone.

Trailing by near double-digits in every major poll, Ed Gillespie’s enthusiasm and energy defy reality. He ostensibly believes that, though out-spent, his supporters have out-worked Warner’s campaign machine. In a little over twenty-four hours, we will find out if all that hard work will have paid off.

The Staunton City Council

IMG_2634Across the state, a multitude of localities held elections for mayor, city council, town council, school board today.  Although Harrisonburg holds their municipal elections in November, citizens in the nearby counties of Page, Shenandoah, and Albemarle, as well as the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro, went to the polls.

Therefore, I traveled to Staunton for two purposes, to collect ballot petition signatures and to observe this election firsthand.  It should be noted that unlike Harrisonburg, all of the candidates ran as independents, none had party labels.

During my several hour adventure, I had the opportunity to speak with a variety of voters, including Bruce Elder, who sought the Democratic nod against Bob Goodlatte before falling ill during the winter.  I also met half of the eight candidates for Staunton City Council.  After a short stint at Ward 1, I spent most of the day at Ward 4, the second most heavily trafficked precinct in the city.

Although I have no idea of the campaigns these individuals ran prior to Election Day, it should be noted that the level of activity at the polls today did not necessarily equate with success.  I spoke with John Hartless (who finished 5th), Sean Harvey (who finished 4th), Terry Holmes (who placed 2nd and thus won a seat on council), and Virginia Kivlighan (who finished 7th).  I did not see any of the other candidates nor any of their supporters.

Some of the volunteers outside the polling place where I stood encouraged voters to select the three Hs (Hartless, Harvey, and Holmes).  Although Holmes posted his best showing at Ward 4 percentage-wise, both Hartless and Harvey found lower numbers at that ward than they did citywide.

While enjoying lunch at Wright’s Dairy Rite with Will Hammer, the newly minted nominee for the 6th district House of Representatives, I ran into one of the Staunton council candidates who introduced me as a future member of Harrisonburg City Council to another fellow.  Although appreciative of these words, I suppose we’ll discover if this prediction comes true.

After the polls closed, I spoke again to Mr. Hammer, who also picked up signatures in Staunton.  Today, he collected over 20% of the signatures needed to make the November ballot (assuming all are valid, of course).

Yes, one election season has drawn to a close for some localities, but the next is getting underway.  Politics is pretty close to being a year-round sport in the Commonwealth.

Whether victorious today or not, I want to offer congratulations to all of the candidates for Staunton City Council.  I have heard each ran positive, issue-driven campaigns; in an age where personal attacks and mudslinging are commonplace, it is refreshing to find a dose of civility now and then.

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.

Goodlatte Endorses Bell

On Tuesday afternoon, Representative Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke and Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton gathered with a reporter, staff, and the general public inside the city council chambers in Staunton.  Although I was unaware beforehand, the primary purpose of this meeting was to announce Goodlatte’s endorsement of Bell.  Delegate Bell faces a Democratic challenger in the November 2011 election.  This fact is a tad unusual for this area as no other General Assembly race in the Shenandoah Valley is contested.

Besides the endorsement, Representative Goodlatte also offers a few thoughts regarding future developments and plans for the federal government.

Unfortunately, the video cuts off abruptly when the camera runs out of power.  When a camera displays half a charge remaining, you would expect it to last longer than five minutes.

Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy.

Tea With Staunton

For the last several days and the next week or two, I’ve temporarily transferred to the city of Staunton, Virginia.  Located twenty-five miles or so south of Harrisonburg, Staunton is a place rich in both history and culture.  Not only can you find places like the Frontier Culture Museum and the American Shakespeare Center, but also Wright’s Dairy-Rite and Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace and Presidential Library.  If you are wondering how Wright’s fits in with the rest, like Jess’ Quick Lunch in downtown Harrisonburg, it is an iconic restaurant that serves as a gathering place for politicians and political campaigns over the decades.

On Thursday, I had the chance to attend a meeting of the Staunton branch of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots.  Although I had hoped to visit with this group earlier, the fact that so many of their gatherings took place at the same time that the Harrisonburg group met, I felt I had to wait until their schedules were separated.  Speaking of such matters, during that same evening Senate hopeful Jamie Radtke was meeting with the Page County branch.  I would‘ve loved to have gone there as well, but I still haven’t found the trick to be two places at once.

Besides electing a Staunton representative to the SVTPP board (more on this issue later), the main highlight of the event was Karen Miner Hurd and her Virginia Tea Party Alliance PAC.  A relatively new organization in Virginia politics, Ms. Hurd’s PAC seeks to transform Virginia politics by not merely electing Republicans, but by electing Republicans who embrace the conservative ideology.  While wearing a pin declaring her disdain for RINOs (Republicans in name only), she ardently advocated challenging the Republican establishment types who have previously and continue to water down the Republican brand.

Given my frustrations with lackluster and non-conservative candidates (like John McCain in 2008), I can certainly appreciate the purpose of the VATPA.  After all, electing Republicans is not of much value if they govern and legislate in more or less the same fashion as the average Democrat.  If some Virginia Republicans steadfastly refuse to adhere to the principles outlined in the RPV Creed, then why should conservatives support their election or reelection?

After Karen Hurd spoke, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26) offered a few thoughts to the audience as well.  He regaled us of his early days in the Senate when he butted heads with then Senator John Chichester, a fellow Republican.  As you may recall, Chichester, a villain to many fiscal conservatives, helped pass one of the largest tax increases in state history.  I always appreciate the chance to hear Senator Obenshain speak and, as you already know, given his voting record and sponsored legislation, I believe him to be one of the best, if not the best, member of that body.  One does hope that should the Republican regain control of the Virginia Senate this year that men of Obenshain’s caliber will lead the body as opposed to business as usual Republicans.

Getting back to the main focus of this article, given their commitment to our shared principles as well as a determination to influence local, state, and national elections here in the Commonwealth, you can be sure that I’ll be eagerly watching the activities of this new PAC.  I’ll provide more details as they become available.

I have no other news from Staunton at this time.  if you happened to be in the Harrisonburg area, I hope you had a chance to meet with the Ron Paul group. I would have loved to have gone myself, but given the high price of gas, I had to sit this one out.

Until next time, just remember; stay informed and stay active!

Harrisonburg/Rockingham Politics: Late June

Virginia is gearing up for another election year.  Then again, every year is an election year in this state.  Like New Jersey, Virginia is a bit of an oddity in that we elect our representatives in state government in the odd numbered years.  Although this method does allow our state government to be partially detached from fluctuating national trends, it also means that we elect some legislator or another every November.

Here in the central Shenandoah Valley, office seekers to the House of Delegates, State Senate, and the various constitutional offices are in the early stages of winning allies and expanding their coffers.  We have five House members up for re-election as well as two State Senators.  Right now the field is pretty stable.  None of the present members (all Republicans) have any primary challengers and only one of them, Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton, currently has a Democratic opponent for the fall.  I’m working on an in-depth analysis of the 20th district contest for an upcoming post.

No doubt the biggest race in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County for 2011 has to be sheriff.  Currently, there are three people seeking the post.  Kurt Boshart and Bryan Hutcheson are vying for the Republican nomination that will be decided on July 12th.  The winner of this contest will face independent candidate C.M. Hess on the November ballot.

But what are my predictions regarding these two races?  Well, for the House of Delegates, Laura Kleiner is pretty green politically (her experience only reaches back to 2009 according to her website) and the newly drawn 20th district is still conservative.  Also, the more I listen to Delegate Bell, the more I like him.  I have to assume that other conservative activists in the Valley are reacting likewise.  Given these factors, I expect Dickie Bell will retain the seat.

As for the sheriff’s race, I’ll wager that once next month’s dust settles that Boshart will be the GOP nominee.  He seems to have a greater support among the Republican faithful and, as far as I can tell, has done a better job courting their support.  However, if the general election were held today, I believe Mr. Hess will prove victorious.  First of all, he is winning the sign war.  Drive around the city and especially the county and you’ll likely see a much greater number of his signs up at local businesses and the yards of supporters than either Hutcheson or Boshart.  Second, partisan leaning seem to have little influence over this race.  Although the area is heavily conservative, voters don’t necessarily favor the Republican nominee over an Independent when it comes to sheriff.  For example, in the last contested race in Harrisonburg in 2003, the Independent beat the Republican by a hefty 18.5%.

When considering either the sheriff or the delegate race, one should always remember that a lot can happen between now and Election Day.  After all, it is only late June now.  As 2006 and 2009 showed, one grievous slip of the tongue or a perceived ethical lapse by a candidate can easily scuttle months or years of effort.  Barring any major setback, the strength or weakness of a campaign effort will have a far greater impact than anything else…except maybe the lines of the district in question.

As with any political campaign, it should be interesting to watch.