The Rise of the LPVA

Robert Sarvis at the 2014 LPVA convention
Robert Sarvis at the 2014 LPVA convention

The Libertarian Party of Virginia stands on the brink of political history as they look to certify a candidate for U.S. Senate and all eleven congressional districts in the state.

In order to understand the significance of this event, I think it useful to reflect back on my experiences with the LPVA.

In 2004, I found myself living in Charlottesville.  As most political activists in Virginia know, Charlottesville is one of the more liberal cities in the Commonwealth.  Being a Republican, I attended many of the meetings of the Charlottesville Republican Party while living there.  However, I found the group so demoralized and so fragmented that after a few gatherings I began to seriously question why I should offer my time and energy to them.

About this time, I heard of another organization, the Jefferson Area Libertarians.  They met at a place called the Mellow Mushroom.  For several months I simply sat and listened to their discussions.  Although I didn’t agree with everything they stood for (and who agrees with anyone 100%?) I thought the group was far more spirited than the local GOP.  As such, at one point I asked them about the candidates they were running for office.  The response was unexpected.  They seemed to think I was crazy for asking such a question.  To me, although philosophical discussion is great, without a plan to turn your vision into reality, it is of little tangible value.  I found that many of Libertarians around the state weren’t particularly interested in getting involved in campaigns and elections and thus I became critical of the LPVA.  To me, if a party doesn’t recruit candidates and work to help them, they aren’t really a political party, but rather little more than a debating society.

Although the LPVA did run candidates, such as for governor and senator, they were a rarity, especially in my corner of the state.  That began to change in 2010 with Stuart Bain who challenged Representative Bob Goodlatte in the 6th district.  Then, in 2013, the party not only ran Robert Sarvis, a candidate for governor, but also over half a dozen candidates in House of Delegates races.  This year, as mentioned at the beginning of the piece, the Libertarian Party has a candidate in every congressional district as well as for Senate.  Now, will all of the Libertarians make the ballot?  We’ll find out soon, but I would be surprised if they did.  Nevertheless, it is certainly amazing to watch what is happening.

Taking the entire picture of Virginia politics, although in control of the state legislature, the Republican Party is fractured between the grassroots and establishment, still reeling from a successive string of statewide losses.  At the same time, the Democratic Party has fared well in statewide contests, but is not challenging every Republican Representative in the November election and recently lost control of the Virginia State Senate in unusual circumstances which has left many of their supporters crying foul.

One shouldn’t expect some sort of radical outcome in the November elections, although yes, as Dave Brat showed us recently, anything is possible.  After all, the smart money in American politics is maintaining the status quo.  The more exciting questions revolve around the future.   With this multitude of Libertarian candidates this year, what will 2015 look like?  Bolstered by their activity, will dozens seek positions in Richmond next November?  Will a Libertarian claim office in the near future?  Could more than one emerge victorious?

Like them or hate them, it is hard to refute the claim that the Libertarian Party of Virginia is making waves.  Will 2014 herald the beginnings of a new era in Virginia politics?  Or will it merely be a high-water mark for the Libertarian Party, a footnote in history?   Right now it is too early to tell.

A Libertarian in the 6th

IMG_2633On Saturday, Virginia’s 6th district Libertarians gathered in Lexington to decide if and who the party would nominate to challenge Bob Goodlatte in the November election.  This year Representative Goodlatte is seeking his twelfth term in the House of Representatives.

Only one candidate sought the Libertarian nomination, Will Hammer of Staunton.   However, he was not a shoo-in as it should be noted that Libertarians have the option to choose “none of the above” rather than have a party nominee.  In what turned out to be a very close vote, the 6th district Libertarians did give Mr. Hammer their party label.  The last time the Libertarian Party nominated a candidate for this office was with Stuart Bain in 2010.

Also at the convention, the Libertarians picked a new 6th district chairman.  Jonathan Parrish from Lynchburg, who ran for a seat in the House of Delegates in 2013, was elected without opposition.

With Mr. Hammer’s nomination, there are at least two candidates that are challenging Representative Goodlatte: Will Hammer as a Libertarian and Paul Bevington as an independent (who previously was running against Goodlatte for the GOP nod).  The Democratic Party has not nominated anyone and will not do so.  There are rumors of another third party candidate, possibly a Green Party candidate, but they are unconfirmed at this time.  The next hurdle will be to collect the thousand plus signatures required to appear on the November ballot.

Who will make the cut?  Who will fall short?  On June 10th, we will have that answer.

The First Libertarian

Scan 46Earlier today, I had the chance to meet with Stuart Bain in Salem.  As some of you may know, back in 2010, Mr. Bain was the Libertarian candidate for the 6th congressional district in Virginia.  Coincidentally, during our lunch, longtime legislator and 2012 Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode also met a group in the restaurant.

I remember first speaking to Stuart Bain one evening after a meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party during his campaign.  Never having met a Libertarian candidate before, I was curious to learn more about him.  I remember viewing Libertarians in a negative light at that time; that they were all little more than a version of amoral Republicans who, if they got their way, would legalize all kinds of harmful drugs and destroy the moral underpinnings of our nation, ultimately leading to the decay of our society.

Trying to strike up a dialogue, I introduced myself as a former employee of Dr. Ron Paul.  In response, Stuart Bain asked me if I supported Bob Goodlatte and I told him that I did.  He found my response exceedingly peculiar.  He asked if I favored a limited, constitutional government; of course I said yes.  He asked if I supported the Patriot Act; I’m sure you know the answer was no.  What about the ballooning national debt?  I told him it was awful.  He then informed me that Bob Goodlatte stood in stark contrast to Ron Paul’s positions on these issues.  At the time, I remember being puzzled.  Representative Bob Goodlatte had been in office since before my time in high school and I guess I simply assumed that he was one of the good guys, that his philosophy and mine were in sync.  Assumptions can be dangerous.

Yes, George W. Bush had been a disaster on many issues, but eager to prove that my representative was worthy of the time and support I had given him over the years, upon the suggestion of Stuart Bain, I did my research.  I’m sure you can guess what happened.  The more I read, the more I realized that Bain was right, that Representative Goodlatte didn’t do a particularly good job following many of what I thought were Republican principles.  Over the course of the election I had the opportunity to listen to Stuart Bain a few more times, including in a debate hosted by James Madison University.  At that event, I looked forward to asking Representative Goodlatte about these issues during the question and answer period, but he neither appeared nor apparently even took the time to respond to the invitation.  I thought that move was extremely discourteous to both JMU and to the voters of the 6th district and expressed my displeasure on this blog.

Stuart Bain didn’t seem to fit my preconceived Libertarian mold.  Could there actually be more than one kind of Libertarian?  He stood for much more than drug legalization; for example, he supported Dr. Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act, an exceedingly important issue for a long-time pro-life activist like myself.  Much like the motto of this blog, he advocated a policy of “personal responsibility and liberty“.  Now did we agree on every issue?  Of course not, but comparing Bain with Goodlatte was like night and day.  Therefore, the 2010 election presented a considerable problem.  It was obvious who the best candidate was, but as a 15-year activist in the Republican Party, I didn’t feel I could say anything in support of Stuart Bain even though I sorely wished to do so.  I picked up one of his bumper stickers but I never felt comfortable placing it on my car.

For the record, the city of Salem (Bain’s home) was removed from the 6th congressional district after the 2010 election, so any hope of a future Bain-Goodlatte rematch was dashed.

Getting back to the present, after the election Stuart Bain joined the GOP and currently serves as the vice-chairman of the Republican Party of Salem.  As a result, some Libertarians view Mr. Bain with disdain, believing that he abandoned them.  Conversely, some Republicans think of me in the same light, given my support of Robert Sarvis in 2013 and removal from that party in early 2014.  Even though I know some activists will denounce this statement, although we should unite as much as possible, I believe we ought to celebrate the accomplishments of our liberty-minded brothers and sisters in whatever party they believe best serves the movement or even if these actions are done completely outside of a political party.

Remember, good reader, that you never know how your actions will influence those around you.  For example, my attitudes shifted as a result of the 2010 election.  My vote for Stuart Bain in that year led to another Libertarian vote in 2012 and, as most of you know, in 2013 I finally felt comfortable to openly support a Libertarian, Robert Sarvis.

Although our paths have taken us in different directions, I’m glad to know that Mr. Bain is still fighting the fight for liberty.  So, today I write in salute of Stuart Bain, my first Libertarian vote.  Here’s to you!

A Bit O’ Tea

Earlier this evening, the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Tea Party had a meeting in preparation for Election Day coming up next week.  Although I don’t have an exact count, it seemed to be pretty well attended.  Most interesting of all was guest speaker State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26).  He spoke to the crowd on a number of subjects: life in Botetourt County many years ago, the excesses of eminent domain, the corruption of V-DOT, and politicians who are fighting against the growing encroachment of the federal government.

Personally, I believe his presence helps establish an important link between the Tea Parties and those in power.  Although some politicians try to ignore the Tea Party movement and hope it will go away, others like Senator Obenshain and former Governor Allen are  trying to work with the group.  I do not believe that the growing dissatisfaction with “politics as usual” is going to disappear anytime soon.  Some leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties have sold out the founding principles of this nation and have unconstitutionally usurped power or abandoned their duties.  Therefore, members of the Tea Party argue that it is high time that these leaders were removed from power.

Like the Ron Paul Revolution before it, there are still a few conspiracy theories afoot.  For example, tonight one person suggested that either the Rothschilds or the Bilderbergers dominate the Federal Reserve.  Regardless of the validity or absurdity of such a claim, there are more important issues to consider.  Overall, I believe that a majority of folks are fairly levelheaded and simply want their country and their government back from the bureaucrats and career politicians who now ride roughshod over the Constitution.  Although it may be easy to dismiss these groups, we do so at our peril.  Despite a few bizarre rumors, I believe that these people, not the GOP proper, will have the greatest impact in the coming years, provided they are properly trained, informed, and organized.  They should not be quickly folded into the Republican Party, but rather act as a gadfly, insisting both the left and the right follow traditional American principles.  What they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm and in numbers.

Like the GOP and the Democrats, the Tea Party too will be handing out information at the polls on Tuesday.  I don’t believe that they intend to distribute materials in favor of any particular candidate, but rather a statement of their principles and details regarding their meetings.  Then again, given the surprise appearance of Stuart Bain near the end of the gathering, maybe we will see some of his literature at the polling places too.

My advice to you is, if you are a conservative then you should get involved with your local Tea Party.  They could use your help and we, in turn, need more allies in the fight ahead.  My great hope is that they can help curb the abuses of the liberals and get the GOP back on the straight and narrow path.

Debate Sans Goodlatte

On Monday, I got a brief email from the local Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.  It told me that the candidates for the 6th district House of Representatives Seat were having a debate.  Being the political animal that I am, I made certain to be free during that time so that I could participate.  Here was my chance to listen to all three candidates for office and ask them about specific issues.  I thought that the notice was written rather strangely.  It read, “At 7:30 PM, Tuesday, the 26th, Stuart Bain, Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 6th district will be debating his opponents in the Memorial Hall Auditorium at James Madison University.”  Although I know that Representative Goodlatte did not return the Tea Party’s candidate survey, it seemed a bit strange to me that they did not mention the sitting Congressman by name in the debate announcement, but rather used the term “Bain’s opponent”.  Therefore, shortly before the debate, I called Representative Goodlatte’s Harrisonburg office to make certain that he would be attending the event.  Unfortunately, I was informed that he was not going to be there.  Despite this considerable disappointment, I still showed up.

Vanke on the left, Bain on the right

Overall, I thought the debate itself went pretty well.  Both Jeff Vanke and Stuart Bain tackled a number of issues ranging from balancing the federal budget, immigration, and various disagreements they have with Congressman Goodlatte’s positions.  As one of many questions from the audience, I appreciated the opportunity to ask the candidates about their positions regarding the war on terrorism. Before I conclude, I want to thank JMU and acknowledge their efforts in hosting the event.  For more coverage on the specifics of the debate, you can visit both hburgnews and whsv.

As I’ve stated many times in the past, in order for our form of government to survive, we must have an informed electorate.  Toward that end, before you vote on Tuesday I encourage you to visit the websites of all three candidates to learn more about them.  As the debate was supposed to highlight, you can choose between the Republican Goodlatte, the Libertarian Bain, or the Independent Vanke.  You should vote, but you should vote smart.