Anointed Politicians?

VC Note:  This article is the latest opinion piece from Karen Kwiatkowski, a Republican candidate for Virginia’s sixth district House of Representatives seat.  As I look forward to the event on October 20th, like Kwiatkowski, I am profoundly disappointed by this trend of incumbents and frontrunners in Virginia to avoid debating.

The Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots are sponsoring a U.S. Senate Candidate’s Debate on Thursday, October 20th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona.  This debate will be attended by four of the eight U.S. Senate candidates seeking to represent Virginia in 2013.  Three Republicans and an Independent candidate have enthusiastically agreed to participate.

The format includes a set of questions prepared in advance for all candidates, and will be moderated by WMRA’s Tom Graham, host of the news program “Virginia Insight.”

This debate is a public opportunity for the people of the 6th District to get to see the candidates in action.  It’s an opportunity to become better informed as to what these candidates offer, how committed they are to truly representing the interests of the voters, and how courageous they are.  Can they stand up for what they believe?  Are they proud of their record as politicians, as businesspeople, and as Virginians?   Do they know what they are talking about?

The debate will include Independent candidate Kevin Chisholm, and Republicans Tim Donner, E.W. Jackson, and Jamie Radtke.

It appears the anointed ones in both of the major parties – George Allen and Tim Kaine — will be missing in action.   It is unfortunate but understandable that the Democrats will not be present on October 20th.   But the George Allen’s refusal to face his conservative opponents is less so.

Perhaps Allen takes conservative support for granted.  Perhaps he is afraid of his articulate and impassioned Republican competitors.  Perhaps he is arrogant.   Perhaps he believes that he doesn’t need the voters in the Central Shenandoah Valley to win the nomination.  Perhaps his advisors have told him to ignore the conservatives and maybe they will fall in line.

I know how difficult it can be to get an honest answer or a commitment out of an incumbent candidate.  There seems to be a very real, and very ugly, sense of entitlement among those who hold or have held public office.  As the constitutional conservative challenger to the 6th District’s ten-term incumbent Bob Goodlatte, I’ve formally invited the incumbent to a series of debates, including one sponsored by the JMU Debate Society on March 13, 2012.  Even though I have repeatedly contacted his office and spoken to his staff, I have received not even a form letter or email in response.

It is no coincidence that nine months before the Virginia GOP Primary, the self-proclaimed, self-anointed, big-government Republican George Allen promotes his candidacy using a shared bumper sticker with similar self-proclaimed, self-anointed, big-government Representative Bob Goodlatte.  The presumption of these statist Republicans in this day and age of real constitutional crisis in this country is simply astounding.

While Allen hasn’t had a chance to spend and borrow as a Senator recently, Goodlatte has apparently never met a budget he couldn’t support, as long as he could earn an atta-boy from the Republican House leadership, or a tradeoff for one of his pet projects.  For his current crusade for a Balanced Budget Amendment, all he had to do was not propose savings, or make hard decisions, but simply vote with Boehner and Cantor for over $2 trillion in additional federal borrowing in July 2011.   When you consider this record, and Goodlatte’s repeated votes to fund Obamacare and Obama’s unconstitutional war in Libya, maybe it’s clear why he wouldn’t want to debate a constitutional conservative on the hard facts.

The larger problem here isn’t that Bob Goodlatte presumes his right to avoid any debate with, or even acknowledgement of, a farmer and military veteran from Shenandoah County who has never before run for public office.  It isn’t that George Allen can’t spend an hour or two in Verona on October 20th to talk about issues with his conservative competition for the Senate.

Here’s the problem.  These big-government Republicans exhibit an attitude of entitlement to public office.  Allen and Goodlatte behave as if they have been somehow anointed to represent us, in an era where only 6% of Americans, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, believe candidates keep their promises once elected, and in an era when the U.S. Congress is held in wide contempt by the rest of the country.   I believe we’re smarter than that.  I know we deserve better than that.

Allen Declines to Debate

Starting at 6:30 PM, on October 20th in Verona, the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party will be holding the first debate between the various candidates for Virginia’s Senate seat.  Although Republican hopefuls Jamie Radtke and Tim Donner have already confirmed their participation, I’m disappointed to say that one candidate has declined to participate.  That person is our former Senator and Governor, George Allen.

Once I heard that news, I contacted the Allen campaign personally in hopes of getting some sort of explanation.  According to the person who spoke with me, the Allen campaign is presently declining to attend any debate prior to November.  Even with the most basic understanding of politics, one can come up with multiple reasons why the Allen campaign would choose to maintain such a stance.  I’m just hoping that with enough outcries from the folks in the Tea Party and the rest of the citizens of Virginia, we can help change their minds.

I’m of the opinion that debating ought to be vigorously encouraged.  After all, political discourse and education is vital to health of both a republic and a representative democracy.  With proper information, citizens can decide for themselves who not only best articulates our values, but also assess the desirability of their plans once in office.  Without such knowledge, voters must rely solely on glossy mailers, media buys, slogans, and thirty-second sound bites.  Which type of electorate do you prefer?

Now, maybe you’ve heard about the upcoming Senate debate in December sponsored by the Virginia Associated Press and the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association?  However, for this debate, the hosts have set such a high threshold in both fundraising and poll numbers that currently only Tim Kaine and George Allen qualify.  Looking for Radtke, Donner, Jackson, or McCormick?  At this point, none of the other candidates will be given the right to speak.  That unfortunate set of circumstances makes the Tea Party debate all the more important.

Now, this isn’t merely an argument of whether you prefer George Allen or someone else, but an issue of principle.  Virginia citizens have a right to hear about each qualified person running for office so that, when primary season arrives, they have sufficient wisdom to make an informed decision.  Therefore, I encourage you to call George Allen’s campaign office (804-726-2012) and let them know that you want to listen to him alongside Donner, Radtke, and everyone else who chooses to participate in the October 20th debate.

The GOP Senate Race is Over?

Although there are still many months until the Republican primary for Virginia’s Senate seat, some people are already calling the result.  Now such personal predictions don’t bother me.  It is true that George Allen is leading in race currently, in much the same way as Rick Perry is leading in the race for President.  One, both, or neither of them could end up winning.  If you will recall, four years ago Rudy Giuliani was the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination for President while John McCain’s campaign seems to be in total disarray. We all know how that situation played out.  However, when the press starts picking winners and losers, I certainly have a problem.

Yesterday, I received word, first from the Radtke campaign and then from the Donner campaign, that the Virginia Associated Press and the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association have more or less determined the outcome of the race.  They just announced a Senate candidate debate in December.  Rather than inviting all of the legitimate Republican candidates, presently they are only allowing George Allen and Tim Kaine to participate.  Now this event would be all well and good if both Allen and Kaine were their respective party nominees.  But, as the primary has not taken place, they are not.

Although I would expect that most of the conservative activists who support Allen would merely shrug and consider it a win for Allen, the press is tampering with something far larger and more important than this one election.  Sure, many debates have limited candidates based upon exceedingly low poll numbers, but a threshold of 15%?  Is that reasonable?  And then you add the additional hurdle of fundraising too?  As the Radtke campaign writes, “By their logic, an AP / VCCA presidential debate in Virginia would include only Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. The AP and VCCA would exclude Ron Paul (9.8%), Michele Bachmann (6.8%), Newt Gingrich (6.2%), Herman Cain (5.4%), Rick Santorum (1.8%) and Jon Huntsman (1.4%).

As the Donner campaign asks, “Do you want the chance to elect your own candidates, or do you think the media and pollsters in league with the usual cronies should decide that for you?”  For anyone who has the slightest desire to uphold our system of representative democracy, the answer is obvious.

I recommend emailing the Virginia Associated Press at dabernathy@ap.org and the VCCA at officers@vapress.org.  Take a stand.  Let them know that the voters, not the press, have the duty to select our nominees.