Huckabee in Lynchburg

IMG_2780Today, Mike Huckabee concluded his book tour of Virginia with stops in Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Richmond.

Unlike just about every other political event, the book signing at the bookstore of Liberty University began early, about a half an hour before it was scheduled.  The line snaked through the building as readers purchased one, two, or perhaps a whole stack of books and brought them to the former governor to sign.  Each had his or her picture taken with the former governor as well.  Some folks drove from a great distance to be there; One woman remarked that she lived in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Many of the people who were a part of the tour wore stickers encouraging a 2016 presidential campaign for Mr. Huckabee.  Although there are strong rumors of the formation of a campaign, nothing has been announced officially thus far.

Outside, one could find a tour bus emblazoned with the image of Mike Huckabee’s latest book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.

Although the book signing in Lynchburg seemed to be pretty well attended, one of the organizers mentioned that the gathering in Roanoke had an even higher turnout.  Should be interesting to hear how many people made the trek to Richmond to attend The Family Foundation’s event this evening.

Social Conservatives vs. Limited Government Conservatives

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The front of today’s Family Foundation mailer

When Ronald Reagan was elected president, he did so by building a winning coalition of fiscal and limited government conservatives, social conservatives, and those who supported a strong national defense to deter Soviet aggression and expansion.  Although that coalition seemed to work well during the latter portion of the Cold War, day after day, little by little, it has been breaking into its component pieces.

As one example, today I received a flyer in the mail from The Family Foundation, one of the most active socially conservative organizations in Virginia.  Their featured speaker for Lobby Day this year is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Although Huckabee is admired by many social conservatives, both his rhetoric and his record is troubling to those who support lowering taxes and shrinking the size of government.

For example, as governor he increased gas taxes and the sales tax.  As ontheissues.org reports, “90 tax cuts indeed were enacted under Huckabee; however, so were 21 tax increases, and they far outweighed the cuts. The total net tax increase under Huckabee was an estimated $505.1 million. Not surprisingly, anti-tax groups give Huckabee poor marks, and the anti-tax group Club For Growth has even been running TV ads against Huckabee on this topic.”

As another example, earlier this year Mike Huckabee urged conservatives to “stop the fight” against Common Core, ostensibly granting the federal government a role in education despite the lack of any constitutional authority to do so.

And these are just a few issues; one can find a variety of others that would leave supporters of liberty cringing.

So is the Reagan era coalition of conservatives over?  Perhaps so.  There seems to be an element of the GOP that will support any candidate, no matter how poor on fiscal issues and actually making the government smaller, so long as he or she makes a public statement of Christian faith and decries the evils of abortion.

Don’t get me wrong, social matters are certainly important to many people in Virginia and The Family Foundation has been one of the leading groups in this state.  However, by offering Mike Huckabee, a big government politician, the featured spot on their roster for the annual Lobby Day, have they sent a clear message that these other issues simply don’t matter?

Lobby Day

On Monday, political activists from across the commonwealth of Virginia gathered in Richmond to participate in the annual Lobby Day.  Shortly before 7 AM that morning, I boarded a bus headed to the state capital to participate in these activities.  My fellow passengers included other members of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party as well as the Valley Family Forum, and even a person or two from the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

After Harrisonburg, we made stops in Staunton and Waynesboro, picking up additional folks along the way.  With our busload of around thirty-five, we crossed over Afton Mountain and made our way to our destination.

Shortly before arriving, we discovered that the pro-life presentation offered by the Family Foundation had reached its capacity, so Lois Paul (one of the tea party leaders), Lisa McCumsey, (the campaign manager for Karen Kwiatkowski), and myself decided to explore the capital on our own.

Our first stop was the general assembly office building.  Although most delegates and senators were unavailable, I did appreciate the opportunity to speak with Delegate Landes (R-25) and my own Delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26) about their upcoming legislative proposals.

Jamie Radtke at Lobby Day

From there, we gathered with supporters of the Virginia Citizens Defense League around the bell tower on the capitol grounds.  At this rally, I found two of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.  While Jamie Radtke spoke to the crowd, David McCormick milled around the crowd gathering signatures to be on the ballot.

David McCormick at Lobby Day

After that, we enjoyed lunch at the Tobacco Company restaurant.   In the lounge of that establishment, the newly formed Central Virginia Tea Party welcomed visitors.  Surprisingly, I ran into the Virginia chairman for the Gary Johnson campaign while returning from the restroom.  We chatted briefly about the presidential race and each offered a bit of speculation as to the future of the Ron Paul movement.

From there, we toured the capitol building itself.  Unfortunately, by this point, neither the House nor the Senate was in session and so we could not enter those chambers.

Delegate Bob Marshall with his new bill

Shortly before our return to the bus, Delegate Bob Marshall crossed our path.  He was on the way to the capitol to present a new bill.  He stated that his proposal would exempt Virginians from unconstitutional detentions allowed in the recently signed National Defense Authorization Act.  I’m always glad to discover new ways that our legislators are working to protect us from the excesses of the federal government.

On the ride back, several of us collected signatures for the various Senate and House candidates while a good chunk of the attendees took the opportunity to nap.  About half of my fellow riders accepted a DVD explaining why they should support Dr. Ron Paul in the upcoming March 6th primary.

All in all, it was a great trip.  If you couldn’t make it to Lobby Day 2012, I recommend marking your calendars in advance so that you won’t miss out next time.

The “New” GOP Senate

During the election, you may recall the heated rhetoric on the need to “flip” the Virginia Senate so that conservatives would finally control that body.  Well, earlier today the Republican Party announced the new leadership team now that the GOP has once again claimed control of the Virginia Senate.  Personally, I’ve been looking forward to hearing if Senators would put strong conservative fighters in charge.

Starting off from lowest position to highest, we begin with the caucus whips, Senators Bill Stanley, Jeff McWaters, and Jill Holtzman Vogel.  According to the newly released data from The American Conservative Union, these three Senators have conservative ratings of 100%, 92%, and 85% respectively.  Not too bad, I would say.

Moving on, we have the Majority Leader’s deputies, Senators Ryan McDougle and Steve Newman who have ACU ratings of 92% and 100%.  Again, they are both quite high.

Photo from SenatorNorment.com

But who is the new Majority Leader?  Senator Tommy Norment of James City County.  And what is his conservative ranking with the ACU?  62%.  62%!  You might be disappointed to discover that he is ranked the least conservative of any of the Republican members of the Virginia Senate.

To get a better picture, let’s look at the bills where Senator Norment has not voted conservatively according to the ACU.

“1. Amend Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayer Act. SB 831. This bill would have limited the attorney general’s authority to investigate fraud by state agencies and institutions and their wasting of taxpayer dollars on any number of dubious practices. ACU opposes limiting the accountability of state government to its taxpaying citizens. The Senate voted to pass this bill 24-16 on February 3, 2011.” Norment supported.

“2. Special Rights Based on Sexual Orientation. SB 747. This bill would have created a protected class for homosexuals in state government employment. ACU opposes creating special rights or new classes of people based on their personal behavior. The Senate passed this bill 22-18 on February 2, 2011.” Norment supported.

“4. Expand FAMIS Plan Eligibility. SB 978. This bill would have increased the threshold for eligibility for the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan (state version of CHIP) from at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level to at or below 225 percent. ACU opposes the expansion of government-run insurance programs. The Senate voted to approve this bill 33-7 on February 7, 2011.” Norment supported.

“9. Defunding Public Broadcasting. HB 1500 (Budget Bill) Governor’s Amendment #17, Item 123. Governor Bob McDonnell offered an amendment to the General Assembly’s budget proposing the elimination of funds to Virginia’s Public Broadcasting stations. ACU supports eliminating funding non-core functions of government. The Senate killed the amendment by a vote of 13-27 on April 6, 2011.” Norment opposed.

“13. Reform The Virginia Retirement System. HB 1500 (Budget Bill) Governor’s Amendment #86, Item 5.  This budget amendment from Governor Bob McDonnell would put in place reforms to the Virginia Retirement System, including authorizing an optional defined contribution plan for newer employees—ACU supports efforts to reform unsustainable state retirement systems. The Senate, on April 6, 2011, rejected the amendment by a 14-26 vote.” Norment opposed.

But let’s not rely solely on the opinions of the American Conservative Union.  How about another conservative measurement device?  Before each General Assembly election, The Family Foundation releases their report card detailing how “pro-family” each member of that body happens to be.  Going through the same list of Senator leaders this year, we find the following scores: Stanley 100%, McWaters 100%, Vogal 100%, McDougle 100%, Newman 100%, and finally Norment with 65%.  Scanning through the rest of the list, are there any Republicans in the Senate with a lower score than Norment?  Not only is the answer no, there is even one Democrat who ranks higher, Senator Puckett.

For comparison sake, let’s see where Senator Norment ranks poorly according to the Family Foundation:

“2. Non-Discrimination for Sexual Orientation (same as with the ACU above).” The Family Foundation opposed, Norment supported.

“3.  Redirect Pro-Choice License Plate Funds SB18 amendment-Would have redirected the pro-choice license plate funds from Planned Parenthood to the Virginia Pregnant Women Support Fund.”  The Family Foundation supported, Norment opposed.

“10. FLE Required SB967-Would have required localities to teach family life education and would have added anti-abstinence language to FLE law.”  The Family Foundation opposed, Norment supported.

“11. Expanded Horse Gambling SB1347-Would have expanded gambling in Virginia by redefining simulcast horse racing to included live or pre-recorded horse races.”  The Family Foundation opposed, Norment supported.

“13. State Domestic Partner Benefits SB1122-Would have allowed the state government to offer domestic partner benefits to unmarried relationships.”  The Family Foundation opposed, Norment supported.

“14. Just Compensation HB652-Would have required the government to pay property owners for the total loss of value when property is taken eminent domain.”  The Family Foundation supported, Norment opposed.

What about gun rights?  Is the second amendment important to you?  After a phone call earlier today, I discovered that in 2011, the National Rifle Association graded him a B- and would not endorse him for reelection.  Going back further, the NRA grades Senator Norment as follows: 2007-B, 2003-D, 1999-B, and 1995-B.

As I mentioned back on November 9th, I do not want a Senate Republican leadership in the mold of former Senator John Chichester who gave Virginians what has been billed as the “largest tax increase in Virginia history”.  Well, with a little help (thanks to The Family Foundation), I’ve discovered that only six of the Republican Senators who supported that measure are still in office.  They are: Harry Blevins, Emmett Hanger, Fred Quayle, Frank Ruff, Walter Stosch, and, you guessed it, Tommy Norment.

Although there many different definitions of conservative and thus many stripes of conservative, given Norment’s voting record as shown by the ACU, The Family Foundation, and the NRA, just about every flavor should be concerned by this news.

What I want to know is why in the world is the Republican Senator who is arguably the least conservative of them all given the top spot as Majority Leader in the Virginia Senate?  And, just as importantly, will Senator Norment use his  powerful position to either block conservative legislation or promote laws contrary to conservative ideals?  Is this situation a case of meet the new Senate (2011-2015 under Norment), same as the old Senate (2003-2007 under Norment)?

Photo from newscom.com

So has the GOP learned from the mistakes of 2003-2007 when they last controlled the Virginia Senate?  Or with rewarding the not very conservative Norment as Majority Leader once more, have conservatives been led down the primrose path?

I guess we will find out.