Cathy Copeland in for the 26th

Earlier today, Cathy Copeland kicked off her campaign for the 26th district House of Delegates seat.  She is seeking the Democratic nomination.  To the best of my knowledge, for the first time in over 30 years, there will be a fire house primary to determine the Democratic nominee for this seat as Brent Finnegan is vying for the position as well.  Mr. Finnegan kicked off his campaign on Saturday in Broadway.

Ms. Copeland made this speech regarding her candidacy at the Pale Fire Brewery in downtown Harrisonburg.

Unlike most years, where a majority of the elections in the central Shenandoah Valley are uncontested, we now have: 2 Democrats and 1 Republican running in the 26th, a Democrat and a Republican in the 58th, a Democrat and a Republican in the 25th, and a Democrat, a Libertarian, and a Republican in the 20th.

Where do these candidates stand on the important issues of the day?  Will the Democrats and Libertarians field additional candidates?  Will there be any Republican nomination fights?  And will any of these challengers unseat an incumbent?  So far, this election year is shaping up to be far more interesting than usual!

Scenes From the Polls 2015

In the grand scheme of things, there were no great upheavals in Virginia’s 2015 elections.  Although both Republicans and Democrats hoped to make gains in the Virginia Senate, at the end of the day the Republicans maintained their 21-19 majority over the Democrats.  Here in Harrisonburg all of yesterday’s races were uncontested, save for a senate race in a heavily Republican district.

This year, instead of campaigning for a candidate or a cause, throughout the day I stopped by a handful of polling places in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to take photos of the candidates and activists working at the polls.  My goal was to capture as many of the candidates as possible.  Although I had the itinerary for several of them, most were either elsewhere or didn’t both to work the polls as they had no opponent.

Here are the photos in chronological order:

Lobby Day 2015

IMG_2729Today, in an annual tradition, citizens from across Virginia converged at the state capitol in Richmond for Lobby Day.  The morning and afternoon consisted of rallies, protests, sitting in on sessions of the state government, and meeting with elected officials.

The day started relatively early as I traveled from the Shenandoah Valley with two local Republicans, Kaylene and Laura.  My first stop was to the General Assembly Building.  As I walked through the grounds, the Virginia Citizens Defense League was preparing for an event at the bell tower, passing out their traditional orange stickers proclaiming that “guns save lives.”  Many in the gathering crowd also wore stickers in support of Susan Stimpson, as she is seeking to unseat Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell.

After making my way through security, I came across several local faces, such as Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) as well as Dan Moxley and his daughter, Hannah.  Mr. Moxley is challenging Senator Emmett Hanger for the Republican nomination in the 24th district.

One of my first stops was to see Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).  He has proposed a bill that lowers the threshold for a political party to achieve official status in Virginia from 10% of a statewide vote to 4%.  As I believe doing so would allow for greater choices in elections, I wanted to learn more.  While there, I discovered that he has sponsored another bill that would change redistricting so that legislators would no longer be able to choose their voters.  It is a bill which requires further study.

Although many of the delegates and senators were not in their offices, I did set up an appointment to speak with Delegate Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson).  I very much enjoyed my conversation with his aide, Ashley.  In addition, I ran across Virginia Libertarian Party Chairman Bill Redpath and later Virginia Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Robert Kenyon.

IMG_2730When I approached the capitol entrance, a group marched outside protesting student loans.

Inside, both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates were in brief sessions.  I found it curious that one had to go through security a second time in order to watch the Senate; it seemed completely unnecessary.

After briefly speaking with a number of legislators including: Senator Obenshain (R-Rockingham), Senator Vogel (R-Fauquier), and Senator Hanger (R-Augusta), I made my way back to the General Assembly Building.  Outside stood a group advocating greater food and farming freedom.  There I ran across additional legislators including: Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), and a second brief encounter with Delegate Berg.

Although I was tempted to visit the office of recently re-elected and convicted Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico), I decided against it.  I would have also liked to speak to Delegate Pogge (R-York).  Even though I saw her outside, I could not find her in the building, instead meeting with her legislative assistant.  I also said hello to Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) and his aide, Savanna.

Next, I spoke with Delegate Helsel.  I sought him out as I was interested to learn his opinions of the proposed changes in the party plan of the Republican Party of Virginia.  Now serving as a Republican delegate, in 2009 Helsel ran as an independent against the Republican nominee.  If the proposed changed had been in place at that time, Delegate Helsel would have been ineligible to run as a Republican in 2011 or participate in any of their party politics until the year 2017.  We also discussed the surprisingly differing responses from Republicans regarding former Delegate Phil Hamilton and freshly sentenced former Governor Bob McDonnell.

Afterward, I visited my state senator’s office to try and understand why he would push for party registration as well as to voice my objections and concerns about doing so.   I firmly believe that registration would lead to disenfranchisement and would further erode political freedom in Virginia.  I’m told that I should have a response from his office within a day.

Lastly, I met up with Robert Sarvis and a handful of fellow Libertarians who also came to Richmond for Lobby Day.  Apparently they spoke in a Senate committee in favor of a bill that would decrease signature requirements for ballot access, but I’m told the bill was killed 2-4 along party lines as all of the Republicans in the committee voted against it.

I must say that as I walked through the halls of the capitol today, I felt a return of excitement and enthusiasm that I first experienced during my early days of political involvement.

All in all, Lobby Day 2015 was another fun event here in Virginia and I was glad to be a part of it.

The JMU CRs Picnic

IMG_2629Earlier today, the James Madison College Republicans hosted a picnic at Purcell Park in Harrisonburg.  More than a dozen students along with a handful of activists gathered together in the warm spring day to socialize and discuss politics.  The featured guest was Virginia State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg.  Two other elected officials also made an appearance: Harrisonburg/Rockingham Clerk of Court Chaz Evans-Haywood and Delegate Tony Wilt of Broadway.

In part, given my considerable involvement in politics during my time at the College of William & Mary, I very much appreciate political interest and involvement among university students.  After all, who knows whom among us will be our future leaders?  Many of the principles students learn during these years along with their civic involvement will go a long way toward crafting great citizens.

Saturday Morning With Cuccinelli

IMG_2204Yesterday morning at 10 AM, Ken Cuccinelli greeted supporters at the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Republican Party headquarters.  There were almost forty in the crowd including several members of the media.

After an introduction by Delegate Tony Wilt (R-26), Cuccinelli spoke on a number of topics, drawing clear contrasts between himself and Terry McAuliffe.  As in previous speeches, Cuccinelli did a pretty good job balancing the troubling positions of his Democratic opponent while offering his own positive solutions to these issues, unlike the bulk of his campaign, which is still mired in negativity.

One issue that ought to be distressing to Republicans regarding the event is the attendance of Saturday’s gathering, especially this close to the election.  By comparison, the Sarvis event in Harrisonburg earlier that week drew about three times the crowd and the lieutenant governor debate watching party also had slightly better numbers.  One would expect that a multitude of conservatives from in and around the Shenandoah Valley would come out to wish Cuccinelli well; unfortunately, the fact that they did not perhaps further underscores the fact that both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe are viewed with disdain by huge segments of Virginia voters.

With less than a month to go until the election, it should be interesting to see how the polls fluctuate and what Virginia voters ultimately decide on November 5th.

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.

IMG_1988
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.

Lingamfelter in Harrisonburg

IMG_1848At 11:30 AM today, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) came to Harrisonburg to speak about his campaign for lieutenant governor.  Later in the evening, the Republican Women of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County held an event featuring each of the seven Republican candidates.  However, as Delegate Lingamfelter was unable to attend this gathering in person, he decided to meet with the local delegates beforehand.

Prior to Delegate Lingamfelter’s speech, two Valley legislators offered their thoughts and praise for him, Delegate Tony Wilt (R-26) and Delegate Steve Landes (R-25).  Both men have previously endorsed his candidacy.

Expecting a similar message to his last trip to Harrisonburg, I did not record Delegate Lingamfelter’s words.  However, he offered a bit of a different message, focusing upon the proper role of government and ways in which he can make an impact as lieutenant governor to promote his philosophy.  He stressed that one should never abandon his or her principles for the sake of political power.

During the question and answer period that followed, I asked Scott Lingamfelter about one of my greatest reservations, his harsh condemnation of Ron Paul and his supporters after Paul’s unfortunate and ill-timed comments made after the death of a U.S. soldier.  Presumably quite a few Paul supporters would appreciate a good bit of the Delegate’s record and rhetoric if not for his anti-Paul rebuke.  Lingamfelter admitted that some of his words were written out of the anger stemming from the moment, given his personal experience dealing with the death of fellow soldiers and praised Paul for raising awareness for important issues such as auditing the Federal Reserve.  As he pointed out from his campaign card, Delegate Lingamfelter has been advocating an audit of the state government.  He also added that his greatest regret arising from that situation included his statement made against Senator Rand Paul, given Paul’s impressive effort to curtail the power of the federal government over the domestic drone issue.

Lastly, I briefly spoke with Delegate Lingamfelter’s campaign staff regarding American’s for Growth and Prosperity [sic], the group responsible for anti-Lingamfelter attack pieces.  Although I have no objection to criticizing the record of any candidate, I do not approve of a person or campaign that attacks a person anonymously.  Such a move is not only questionable from a legal standpoint, but also reeks of cowardice.  A word of advice to the other six candidates: if your campaign is behind this action, I urge you to admit it and come forward now.  Yes, point out your objections to Delegate Lingamfelter, but do so openly.  I doubt many undecided delegates, myself included, would look upon your campaign favorably should ties be unearthed between your candidacy and this anti-Lingamfelter front group.

Getting back to my main point, Delegate Lingamfelter seems have build up a considerable statewide following, though his previous statements immensely weakened his chance of capturing any segment of the pro-liberty/Paul delegates.  Will today’s comments in Harrisonburg help erase these misgivings?  Is more required?  Or is the damage simply irreversible?  We’ll find out in about a month, once the 2013 RPV Convention delegates select their nominee.

The 25th District Delegate GOP Primary

Republican primaries are rare here in the Shenandoah Valley.  Yes, there are notable exceptions, most recently Karen Kwiatkowski’s run against Representative Bob Goodlatte in 2012, but, in general, they do not happen…except in the case of an open seat caused by a retiring incumbent.

Well, today’s news bucks that trend.

Delegate Steve Landes(From SteveLandes.com)
Delegate Steve Landes
(From SteveLandes.com)

 

 

According to an email from Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta County, he will be facing a challenger for the GOP nomination for the 25th district House of Delegates seat, a position Delegate Landes has held since 1995.  Today’s Landes campaign email begins “We have JUST gotten the news that Delegate Landes will be opposed for his seat in the Republican nomination…”  Unfortunately, the email makes no mention of the name of Landes’ opponent, but one would assume that this information will be made public soon.

With deadlines to run for the GOP nod fast approaching, one does have to wonder if more candidates will emerge to contest the valley delegation.  For example, given some of his more surprising votes in the 2013 General Assembly session, a handful of organizations and individuals have asked me over the last several weeks if I would be interested in challenging my delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26).  Although I have been disappointed by quite a few his actions lately, I declined this idea.

At this point it is difficult to say whether Landes will be the only delegate with a Republican challenger or is one of several.  Either way, the 2013 elections have just gotten a bit more interesting here in the Shenandoah Valley.

Tea Party Releases Score Card

TPSCThe Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation released their first ever legislative score cards, ranking the members in the General Assembly based upon their votes in the 2013 legislative session.  As has been the case with special interest groups like the Family Foundation and the NRA, score cards are a useful tool to let voters know how their government officials vote on particular issues of importance.  This new  score card graded based upon 15 different pieces of legislation.

In the House of Delegates, Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15) and Delegate Peter Farrell (R-56) were the only two members in that 100 person body to post a perfect score.  Here in the Shenandoah Valley, most of the other legislators also received high marks with Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) at 95%, Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20) 95%, Delegate Ben Cline (R-24) 95%, and Delegate Steve Landes (R-25) 90%.  My delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26) scored the lowest of any of those in the region with 60%, though he did vote rather curiously in 2013, supporting the implementation of Obamacare in Virginia and the creation of a state-run EPA.  Speaker of the House of Delegates Bill Howell (R-28) was awarded a rather dismal 35%.  You can download and view the entire House of Delegates score card with the link provided. Tea-Party-Patriots-house_scorecard_2013_v2

Moving over to the Virginia Senate, my state senator, Mark Obenshain (R-26), and Bill Stanley (R-20) were ranked the highest among the 40 with 70%.  Elsewhere in the Valley, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) got 45% and Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) was awarded 5%.  By comparison, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3) finished with 30%.  The Senate score card is here. Tea-Party-Patriots-senate_scorecard_2013_v2

As the political landscape in Virginia continually evolves, the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation has been adapting to fit this changing environment.  This tea party score card is one of several new developments that the federation has in the works.  I encourage you to check these cards to see what you think.

Ryan in Rockingham County

Paul Ryan in Rockingham County
Photo by Helen Shibut

Paul Ryan, the Republican Representative for Wisconsin’s First Congressional District and Mitt Romney’s running mate, made a campaign stop at the Rockingham County Fair Grounds on Friday.  His visit marks the first of any presidential or vice presidential candidate to the central Shenandoah Valley.

Besides Representative Ryan, speakers also included: Delegate Tony Wilt of Rockingham County, Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta County, State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, and Representative Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke.

The event itself was quite well attended.  Most estimates I’ve read peg the audience about 3,000.  Like the recent Obama rally in Charlottesville, each person had to pass through “airport style security” overseen by both the Secret Service and the TSA.

Reaction to the gathering was mixed.  Although most of the people that I spoke with enjoyed Ryan’s speech, the event was plagued with a number of shortfalls.

First, no one could bring in liquids, which was expected.  However, the fact that one could not even get a cup of water without paying for it seemed completed absurd.  Would a person have to suffer through their thirst if he or she could not pay $2.00 for a beverage?

A view of a portion of the crowd and the fence that segregated attendees.

Second, the venue did not allow for a majority of the spectators to see Paul Ryan.  The organizers set up a ring of fences around the platform and only a portion could enter this circle.  Although raised, the platform was not nearly high enough for many people to even catch a glimpse of the man who could very well be our next vice president.

However, one positive aspect, as compared to the Obama event, was that the police did not close down traffic in a highly central location for the better part of an hour, which would have wasted the time of countless residents.

Overall, I would rate Ryan’s event a success even though, as mentioned, there were several aspects that could have been and should have been handled in a better manner.

So the next question is will any of the five presidential candidates: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson, Virgil Goode, or Jill Stein, make a stop in the Shenandoah Valley between now and the election?  If you will recall, four years ago Barack Obama won the city of Harrisonburg after making a speech at JMU while John McCain merely sent a relative to the local GOP headquarters.  After all, personal campaigning is an important element to electoral success and Ryan’s visit on Friday should serve to bolster the local Republican effort.  Now how will the other candidates respond?  Our first answer comes tomorrow when Libertarian Party candidate Judge Jim Gray speaks at JMU.

As a final note, I want to shout out a special thanks to Helen Shibut of Madison Liberty for the picture of Paul Ryan.  As mentioned, I happened to be one of the countless spectators who could not get close enough to get a usable shot.