Is Civility That Difficult?

In less than a month, Virginians will head to the polls to cast their ballots for three statewide contests as well as to vote for all 100 members of the House of Delegates.  The most-watched contest is the race for governor, which features three candidates: Democrat Ralph Northam, Libertarian Cliff Hyra, and Republican Ed Gillespie.

As regular readers of this website know, I believe the worst outcome for the long-term future of liberty in Virginia would be the election of Ed Gillespie.  Unlike Mr. Gillespie, I feel it is important to do whatever we can to prevent further gerrymandering and work to expand political choices.  However, I do know good people who support each of the candidates.  Nevertheless, the purpose of this piece isn’t to delve into that topic, as I’ve done so elsewhere.  If you’d like to rationally discuss this idea, please send me a message.

From time to time, I post something on Facebook regarding the governor race.  Along these lines, on Thursday of last week, I shared a poll, the first of October, which shows Ralph Northam with a 13 point lead.  Although it is a considerably wider margin than any other poll (and thus I’m assuming is inflated), like other polls it maintains that Northam has a winning percentage greater than the margin of error.

However, when it comes to discussing the matter on Facebook, it has become a rather nasty affair for some people.  The conversation often goes something like this.  I post something which I think demonstrates Ed Gillespie’s hostility to promoting liberty in Virginia.  In response, one or more of his Republican supporters declares that Gillespie is the only way to stop Northam, that Gillespie is the lesser of two evils, and that half a loaf of bread (Gillespie) is better than none (Northam).  I replied suggesting that this half of a loaf they think they will be getting from Gillespie won’t materialize in the way they expect and offer a few examples of his positions to offer proof of my claims.  You would think that they would present evidence to rebut what I had said, but instead, they often launch into personal attacks against me.  To the best of my memory, not once has anyone offered proof or even made the claim that Ed Gillespie is, in fact, the pro-liberty candidate in this race.

Let me give an example.  As I’ve written previously, I think that Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) is one of the best members of the Virginia House of Delegates.  However, in this election cycle, he is supporting Ed Gillespie for Governor.  Obviously, in this matter, he and I disagree.  However, last week when I got into a discussion with a now-former Facebook friend, that person declared that if I didn’t support Ed Gillespie I would be betraying Freitas and stabbing him in the back.  I decided the best course of action was to block this person rather than deal with these kinds of insults.  Unfortunately, this incident was only the first.

In one of the many political Facebook groups of which I am a part, this week a fellow posted a statement from Cliff Hyra stating that Ed Gillespie favors increasing state spending by $2 billion, hardly a fiscally conservative position.  I asked if he could share the video of Gillespie making that statement, which he did.  However, in the interim, a former staffer for a member of the House of Delegates began making some very rude statements about me.  Rather than attempting to refute some negative attributes about Gillespie’s positions, he instead began attacking me (it seemed odd, especially given that I don’t really know the fellow).  As a result, I told him I didn’t have any interest in engaging him in conversation which led him to declare that he must have the superior argument and reasoning.  I stated that no, my reason for not debating him wasn’t due to his victory, it was because he didn’t actually debate the issues and decided to attack me instead of trying to refute my argument.  One of his friends sprang to his defense, but as I had already defriended this other fellow some months before due to his history of rudeness, I said I had no interest in engaging him either.  On Thursday afternoon, while sitting in my political statistics class, I was reminded of a saying about playing chess with a pigeon, but, instead of sharing it at the time and stooping to the level of insults, I just hoped the situation would end without further confrontation.

Am I wrong here? Do you all find personal insults to be a persuasive and effective strategy to winning an argument?  Do you think to yourself, I should change my position, not based upon logic or reasoning, but because this person was disrespectful toward me?  I would assume it would be more likely that it would only harden your previously held conviction, now convinced that the other side had nothing substantive to counter your claims.  It reminds me of a moment in the early part of this year when I disagreed with something Denver Riggleman’s campaign manager said.  Rather than trying to convince me of his position, he instead chose to belittle me.  When I decided it was best not to speak with him further, he continued to insult me.  Do you think this action by his staff would make it more likely that I would support Mr. Riggleman’s candidacy or less?  I assume the answer is obvious.  I asked a fellow blogger about it and her recommendation was to ignore the Riggleman campaign.

Getting back to the previous matter, both of the two fellows remained silent for the rest of the day, which I assumed was the end of the conversation.  However, on Friday morning, the first guy tagged me in a post declaring that unless I agreed 100% with a candidate or political party I was supporting, I must be a hypocrite.  As you might imagine, this led to his blocking.  Shortly thereafter, his friend chimed in to declare that I was an insane hypocrite which resulted in his blocking as well.  Both of these folks previously were involved on the Moxley for Senate campaign.  One might think that activists would act more cordial to folks with a similar outlook, but unfortunately, the exact opposite can be true.

So far, in the last several months I have blocked three people on Facebook; all of them are Republican activists as mentioned above.  In case you were wondering if I am block-happy, during my approximate decade of time on Facebook, I’ve blocked less than 10 people, but they all have been for similar behavior.  Unfortunately, with the way things are going, I suspect that I’ll end up blocking a few more people (or at least defriending them) before this election cycle has concluded.

Why is it that politics brings out the worst in people?  Why can’t people engage in civil debate, sticking to differences on issues and policies instead of diving into the gutter of ad hominem attacks?  It seems that is it hard for some people to say that although I disagree with your opinion, that doesn’t mean I should treat you like human garbage.  Getting back to an earlier point, although I think Delegate Freitas is mistaken for supporting Ed Gillespie (and I assume he thinks likewise of my position on that matter), should we toss aside the fact that we agree on a vast number of issues and instead brutally insult each other, taking turns declaring that the other is a fool and a traitor to the cause of liberty?  I should certainly hope not.  And yet some political activists have publicly engaged in this kind of behavior!

Although the goal is to create an environment where we can focus on political disagreements and not devolve into personal attacks, in a moment of frustration or anger likely we have all insulted someone who thinks differently than ourselves.  I’m sure I have.  But, we should be mindful of this kind of behavior and do our best to curb it, otherwise, our discourse will morph into an exchange of insults and degradations.

I’ve stated that no matter how the 2017 elections go, I am looking forward to them being over and working together, even with those who preferred a different gubernatorial candidate, to expand liberty in our Commonwealth.  But even that sentiment has been met with hostility from certain individuals.  Remember, no matter which of the candidates you support, if any, that opinion doesn’t necessarily mean that you are smart or dumb, a patriot or a traitor.  Each individual is more than the value of one or two of his or her political preferences.

I’ve found one great aspect about attending grad school is that I am afforded the opportunity to believe whatever I wish so long as I can back it up with evidence and that I can engage in civil dialogue on a host of political topics without concern about being insulted.  By comparison, even when you present evidence on social media, it often will be dismissed as “fake news”, not because it isn’t true, but because it doesn’t conform with the reader’s preconceived beliefs.  Even worse, it is likely that they will attack you viciously for not accepting their groupthink mentality.

You wouldn’t think that civility would be that difficult, would you?

An Open Letter to the Gillespie Campaign

Ed Gillespie at a campaign event in Staunton on November, 2014

As some of my readers may recall, on Thursday, February 9th, I attended a campaign event for Ed Gillespie in Staunton.  During the gathering, I thought of a question I wanted to ask Mr. Gillespie but didn’t get the chance to do so.  Afterward, I spoke to several of his staffers and they recommended that I send them an email with my query.

After fleshing out my thoughts, I penned the following letter on February 10th:

Good afternoon, Mr. Cooksey.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me last night.  
As mentioned, one important issue to me concerns political competition and political freedom.  Unlike many states, Virginia is one of the most politically repressive in the region, requiring 10,000 signatures from candidates to make the statewide ballot and giving special privileges to nominees of the Republican and Democratic Parties such as: listing their candidates first on all ballots as required by law, allowing their nominees to forgo collecting signatures simply by virtue of being nominated by these two parties (assuming they aren’t facing a party primary), and setting unreasonably high thresholds in statewide contests for other political parties to be recognized.  
As one example, in Virginia, a party’s candidate needs 10% of the vote to be a recognized political party in future elections while in neighboring West Virginia it is only 1%.  However, despite this vast disparity, West Virginia is not overwhelmed by political parties; presently they have four while Virginia only has two.  The Republican and Democratic Parties should have to work to earn the conservative and liberal vote and constantly strive to improve themselves, their positions, and their outreach, not always capturing a large block of voters without any effort simply due to being complicit in a state-supported monopoly.  
In addition, it is unfortunate that some politicians, such as your former boss and my state senator, are proposing registration by political party, thus hindering competition even more and further embroiling the state government in the affairs and subsidization of the activities of private political organizations.  It is becoming apparent to me that increasingly here in Virginia the Democratic Party has become the party of political rights and freedom as they work to make ballot access and recognition easier while those in the Republican Party are unfortunately trending in an anti-free market politics direction.  It is my hope that Mr. Gillespie will firmly stand against these folks in the GOP who are hostile to political liberty. 
Lastly, when Mr. Gillespie ran for US Senate in 2014, he did not stand up for the rights of all who qualified for the ballot to participate in the debates, in fact threatening to boycott an event if all of the candidates were invited.  According to an email, I received from James Madison University in July of 2014, ” In my communications with the campaigns of the two major political party candidates, the question of whether or not Mr. Sarvis [the Libertarian candidate] would be invited was a point of discussion. Both campaigns had stated that if Mr. Sarvis were to be invited to participate in the debate their chances of agreeing to accept the invitation was unlikely and actually committing was even less likely.”  Hopefully, this campaign has a different attitude.
My questions to Mr. Gillespie are as follows:  If, as limited government conservatives, we believe that competition in business, education, and health care produces better results, lowered costs, and spurs innovation, why do we not translate this thinking into the political arena as well?  How much has the average citizen and our political health been disadvantaged by a political system which served to primarily benefit, not the average voter, but the two largest political entities at the expense of free market competition?  As governor, what will Mr. Gillespie do to push the needle toward greater political freedom or will he work with some of his colleagues in the GOP to squelch it further?  And, should another candidate or candidates make the ballot in this election cycle, whether they are Libertarian, Constitution Party, Green, Socialist, independent, or something else, will Mr. Gillespie take a stand to permit all legitimate candidates the equality of opportunity to allow voters the chance to decide which candidate best represents their values?
Attached, please find an article I wrote in 2015 on the subject that was published the Valley Business Front based in Salem, VA.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Joshua Huffman

 

After ten days, as I hadn’t received a reply, I tried again.  Unfortunately, there was nothing but silence, so I tried another staffer.  I’m happy to report he offered a rapid response saying: “Thanks, Joshua.  I will look into this matter.  I do not think this is an item that we would take a position on, but, nonetheless, I will run it up the flag pole.  Also, we will conduct further research on our end.  Thanks again for coming to our Staunton event.”

Eight days later, I realized I still didn’t have an answer, so I tried this staffer again and was greeted by an automated response.

“Thank you for reaching out to me.  I am no longer a member of the campaign staff, as I am pursuing another opportunity in Washington.  Please contact Generra Peck (generra@edforvirginia.com) for all campaign policy matters.”

Going off this suggestion, I tried contacting this new staffer, but there was nothing.  Based on the recommendation of one of my Facebook friends who supports Mr. Gillespie, I sent the campaign a Facebook message too and although there was an automated response saying that they would get back in touch soon, I have heard nothing.

As regular visitors to this website know, political freedom and open and fair elections are exceedingly important to me.  I firmly believe that everyone should face the same legal hurdles to make the ballot and that all of those who jump through these hoops deserve the same chance to be heard, and not silenced or marginalized simply because they aren’t running under the banner or blessing of the two largest political parties.  Looking back, I would say it was the most important reason why I didn’t end up supporting Ken Cuccinelli for governor four years ago.

As it has been almost a month since my first email, I decided to share my letter here.  Perhaps someone on their campaign staff will feel compelled to answer.  It is my sincere hope that the Ed Gillespie campaign will get back in touch with me concerning this matter before the June Republican primary, though I am starting to have my doubts this will happen.  Unfortunately, when Ed Gillespie ran in 2014, I wrote an email to his campaign about another campaign issue and although Mr. Gillespie himself promised a reply, I never got an answer to my question.  Elected officials and potential elected officials ought to be responsive to their constituents.

If and when I get a response, I’ll post it here.

A Campaign of Fear and Hatred

As the 2016 presidential election kicks into high gear, the attacks against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to be intensifying.  Everyday we heard things that suggest Donald Trump is a racist and a bigot and is totally unqualified to serve in office.  Others say that Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook and that she’d be in jail if not for her political connections.  Although some people might decry this overly negative campaigning, unfortunately it is the way politics has been trending for quite some time.

For example, when I started out in the mid 90s, I was taught by folks on both sides of the aisle that Republicans shouldn’t associate with Democrats and vice versa.  Adherents to the other political party were stupid, not to be trusted, and often just plain evil.  One should never treat one’s opponent with civility if it can be helped, because they certainly wouldn’t offer you that same level of respect.  Unfortunately, this problem has gotten even worse.

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Robert Sarvis (L) and Ken Cuccinelli (R) in 2013

Toward these same lines, we’ve had a preview of this year’s horribly negative campaigning before, right here in Virginia in the 2013 race for governor.  The Ken Cuccinelli campaign branded Terry McAuliffe as a corrupt businessman who was totally unqualified to serve in any office, let alone governor, while the McAuliffe folks painted Cuccinelli as a right-wing zealot who wished to turn back the clock on the rights of many individuals.  Both sides went heavily negative and although there were positive selling points for both men, these topics were generally forgotten as both campaigns tried to portray the other as an absolutely horrible outcome.  During the campaign, I spoke with some Cuccinelli staffers who actually declared that their primary goal was to expose McAuliffe in the worst possible light so that by Labor Day most Virginians would consider him completely unelectable.  From what I witnessed, I suspect the McAuliffe folks decided to employ a similar strategy of demonization against Cuccinelli.  They both framed the campaign as the choice of the lesser of two evils and voters were urged to vote against either McAuliffe or Cuccinelli rather than feeling positive about either.  As a result, many of my Republican friends then and now still refer to our governor as Terry McAwful.  However, in that ugly morass was a third candidate, Robert Sarvis.  Although the powers that be conspired to keep him off the debate stage, he still managed to capture 6.5% of the vote from Libertarians and those who were sick of the race to the bottom campaigns of both the Republicans and Democrats.

And here we are again in 2016.  We have a Republican and a Democratic candidate who both suffer from exceedingly high negatives.  Unfortunately, many polls indicate that the average American views Trump and Clinton in an unfavorable light.  Odds are, if the Republicans or Democrats nominated a candidate that was at least halfway likable, he or she would be enjoying a huge lead over his or her primary opponent.  The problem is that negative campaigning does work…at least to a point, provided that there are no other candidates in the race.  In November many Republicans and conservatives will hold their noses and vote for a deplorable man like Donald Trump if they are convinced that they have no other choices and that he is the only way they can stop their greater foe, Hillary.  Likewise, many progressives and Greens despise Hillary Clinton for being corrupt and loath the revelation that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the Democratic National Committee rigged the primaries against Bernie Sanders.  However, if the don’t support Clinton how else can they stop a thug like Trump?

Well, fortunately voters do have other options as there are two (or possibly three) other candidates who could garner enough electoral votes to win the election.  They are: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and potentially Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (although working toward it, he has not reached the ballot access threshold yet).

I remain fully convinced that if the United States were like every other democratic nation, which offers voters a variety of choices and not simply only two (or often one) candidates, this era of increasingly negative campaigning would be drastically curtailed.  After all, if two candidates or their campaigns decide to make it their primary mission to prove that the other is wholly unsuitable for office, then voters could choose a third option and reject the campaign of fear and hatred that both of his or her opponents offer.  If a third party candidate could win a major election from time to time, campaigns would soon come to the realization that they would actually have to sell their own candidates and promote their own supposed principles, rather than presenting themselves as the better of two horrible options.  Maybe then we could get candidates that we actually like, ones that can be trusted to uphold some kind of values, and perhaps party platforms would be more than lofty ideals that are often ignored or even repudiated by their own candidates.  Now, wouldn’t that be something!?

Time to Retire Bob Goodlatte

kwiatkowskismall
Karen Kwiatkwoski

By Karen Kwiatkowski

What if you lived in a part of Virginia dominated by poultry, hay and cow-calf agriculture, and yet your Congressman of nearly a quarter of a century was a city lawyer from Massachusetts, who thought ethanol subsidies were a good idea, spending your tax dollars to raise your feed costs year after year?

What if your Congressional district was home to well over a dozen institutes of higher learning, in a technological age, and your Congressman responded not to their needs, but to West Coast lobbyists to preserve decades old digital copyrights law, filling his campaign chest by stifling innovation ?

What if you, like many of your neighbors, supported first amendment rights for the various groups known as “Tea Parties” and yet your 12-term Congressman who had headed the House Judiciary Committee for nearly four years agreed to consider impeachment hearings for IRS appointees for targeting tea party groups ONLY after the House Freedom Caucus forced him to last week?

What if your Congressman was never a member of the House Freedom Caucus?

What if your long-serving Congressman is close friends and political allies with removed House Speaker John Boehner and successfully primaried whip Eric Cantor?

What if your Congressman was currently offering a “free” bus for Republican delegates from the 6th District to their district Republican convention on May 21st to choose national delegates and key Republican committee seats – but only if they vote for who you tell them to vote for?

What if your Congressman didn’t understand how modern technology works in the cable business, as stated by Techdirt magazine in early May 2016, yet persisted in pushing the wrong kind of regulations for it?

What if your “republican” Congressman voted to fund Obamacare again and again, while simultaneously telling constituents that he opposed it, again and again?

What if your Congressman had advocated for federal government domestic surveillance, beyond Constitutional statutes, and blindly supported the USA Patriot Act and its extension called the USA “Freedom” Act despite constitutional questions on the legality and ethics of this surveillance and data gathering on US citizens?

This list could go on and on, and it will continue to grow, as long as we continue to send Bob Goodlatte back every two years to vote for more government spending, and more government interference in our lives, year after year.

We have a choice on June 14th to send a different kind of Republican to represent us in the House.  Harry Griego, a military veteran, professional pilot, dedicated to the Constitution and limited government, is a change that is long past due for the 6th District.

Let’s retire Bob gracefully, and leave him to his world of expensive suits and “it’s the best we can hope for” explanations to his constituents.

Let’s send a conservative warrior, who believes in limited government, and who will be a part of limiting that government through strict Constitutional votes, and partnering with likeminded Congressmen and women, who truly care about reducing federal debt and overreach.

Vote with me for Harry Griego on June 14th!

 

Karen Kwiatkowski is a farmer, professor, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, member of the executive committee of the Republican Party of Shenandoah County, and immediate past president of the Republican Women of Shenandoah County.  In 2012, she challenged Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for the 6th district of Virginia.

A Huge Surprise in the 24th

This evening, Republican representatives from across the 24th Virginia Senate district gathered in Elkton to discuss the pending lawsuit against the State Board of Elections and the Incumbent Protection Act. At the beginning of the meeting, it was also restated that only one candidate, Dan Moxley, had properly filed to be a candidate at the upcoming convention.

Then, one of the attorneys handling the lawsuit got up and briefly discussed the details of the case.  He was of the opinion that the chances of getting the Incumbent Protection Act declared unconstitutional should be pretty good.  Following that, the committee moved to a closed session and all of the oberservers were asked to leave.

For quite some time, we milled about in the hallway, engaging in random conversations about politics. I appreciated the opportunity to speak with several activists from Greene County with whom I worked in 2012.

When we finally returned, the conversation took a strange turn as they began discussing preparations for the upcoming convention. This talk seemed very strange, especially given the earlier declaration.  After all, they said at the beginning that there was only one properly filed candidate and, according to the rules of the call, if there was only only candidate then the convention would be cancelled. It was at this point we learned that a fellow named Mr. Sheets had also filed to be a candidate. It was exceedingly peculiar news. Was the earlier information wrong? Did the attorneys encourage the 24th district to bend or break the rules of the convention? It was all rather confusing and disconcerting.

I have to confess that on the drive back to Harrisonburg that I felt that Mr. Moxley had been cheated a little tonight. Sure, I doubt Mr. Sheets will be able to mount a credible challenge, but why should the Moxley campaign have to put in the time and money to prepare for a convention if indeed he was the only candidate to properly pre-file according to the rules in the call? It didn’t seem fair.

Although I’m glad that they seem optimistic that the lawsuit will be successful at striking down an unfair law and I appreciated the chance to speak with many good folks that I’ve met in my political journey, I sorely wish that the 24th district GOP would have either announced there were two candidates at the beginning of the meeting or not allowed this potentially questionable newcomer to skirt the established rules.

So that’s the political intrigue from this part of the state tonight.

Is the 24th GOP Nomination Decided?

From the 4th of July Parade in Staunton
From the 4th of July Parade in Staunton

In case you haven’t been paying attention to politics in the central Shenandoah Valley, three candidates have been vying for the GOP nomination for the 24th district Virginia Senate seat.  Senator Emmett Hanger of Mount Solon is opposed by both Marshall Pattie and Dan Moxley.

Pattie was the first to publicly announce his intentions for office,  running since the end of June.  Moxley didn’t officially throw his hat into the ring until December 2nd, and, although not unexpected, Hanger made his entry quite recently.

Even though the 24th district Republican Party made the decision that they would be holding a convention to determine their nominee, when Senator Hanger entered the race, he declared that they would instead run a primary, citing the Incumbent Protection Act.  As such, the 24th district Republican Party filed suit in court.

Yesterday, on March 2nd, the deadline to file as a candidate for the convention came and went.  Surprisingly, only one candidate filed, Dan Moxley.  According to the call, given that there is only one candidate, the convention will be cancelled and Moxley will be declared the official nominee.

Now, one can make an argument as to why Emmett Hanger didn’t file his paperwork for this convention.  After all, doing so would add some legitimacy to a convention that he will be fighting in court.  From a political perspective, Hanger would face a considerably uphill battle in a convention as it would likely be populated by Republican activists eager to oust Hanger due to his support of Medicaid expansion and previous tax hikes.

However, it makes little sense to me why the Marshall Pattie campaign didn’t take the necessary steps to be a candidate at this convention.  Yes, it is possible that the convention will be overturned, that the district will end up with a primary, and thus convention preparation will be unnecessary.  But, if the convention is upheld, then the Pattie campaign has just discarded any chance for him to be the Republican nominee.  At the end of the day, is the time necessary to file or the $500 fee too much of a hurdle?  Seems like a heck of a lot of earlier effort and money to gamble upon the outcome of this court case.  It makes even less sense given that the Pattie campaign has certainly been the most visible thus far.  As one example, his was the only campaign to send a representative to last Thursday’s meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party.

When Nick Freitas, chairman of the Culpeper Republican Party, (and Republican candidate for House of Delegates in the 30th District) declared on Facebook last night, “Congratulations to Dan Moxley in the 24th District.  As the only candidate who pre-filed for the convention, he will be our Republican nominee in November,” that news certainly caught me by surprise, as I’m sure it did many.  So far, there has been no public word from either the Hanger, Moxley, or Pattie campaigns or from the 24th District GOP as a whole about this development.

IMG_2708Will the Incumbent Protection Act be upheld and a primary be conducted?  Or will the original convention stand, Moxley be declared the winner, and thus the 24th District GOP nomination has been decided?

More news and commentary will be posted as it becomes available.

A Convention for the 24th

Earlier this week, a number of local Republican leaders got together to discuss the party’s nomination process for Virginia 24th senate district.  And, perhaps surprisingly, they have decided upon a convention.

In previous contests, the incumbent was allowed to choose the nomination method, presumably picking which ever one favored him or her.  As such, it was a primary in 2007.  Nevertheless, challenger Scott Sayre from Rockbridge County gave Senator Hanger a good run for his money.  But times are changing.

As previously mentioned, presently there are three candidates are seeking the Republican nod in the 24th.  Longtime Senator Emmett Hanger is squaring off against Marshall Pattie and Dan Moxley.

Given his higher levels of name identification, fundraising capacity, the fact that Emmett Hanger is viewed favorably by a number of Democrats, and that the two other candidates would likely split the anti-Hanger vote, smart money would dictate that a primary would result in a victory for the Senator.  However, as most of these advantages are mitigated by a convention, this decision means that both Moxley and Pattie now have a greater chance of victory.

In my opinion, this could very well be the most exciting state senate race in 2015.

“Spoiler” Seeks to Unspoil

Robert Sarvis
Robert Sarvis

Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2013 and U.S. Senate in 2014 is back with a message.  No, it isn’t an announcement of his next campaign.  Instead, it is a call for electoral reform here in Virginia.

Specifically, he is suggesting three changes:

First, “reduce the threshold for ballot-qualified party status to 2% of the vote in statewide elections.”

In Virginia, a political party needs to get 10% of the vote in a statewide election in order to achieve major party status.  As a result, there are technically only two political parties in Virginia, the Republicans and Democrats.  One major focus of the 2013 & 2014 Sarvis campaigns was to reach this threshold for the Libertarian Party.  Although achieving a record percentage in 2013, the Sarvis campaign still fell short of this goal.  A vast majority of states have a far lower threshold than Virginia.

Second, “reduce the ballot signature threshold to 5,000 for all statewide offices (Gov., Lt. Gov., Atty. Gen., U.S. Sen.).”

In statewide elections, Virginia requires primary candidates and non-major party candidates to collect 10,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.  As a result of this relatively high requirement,  Virginians only had two choices in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, despite the fact that many more candidates were running.

Third, “enact ranked-choice (instant-runoff) voting in Virginia elections. No more claims of spoilers or wasted votes.”

Given some perceptions of Robert Sarvis, this idea will likely generate the most interest.  While the first two suggestions would expand ballot access and political freedom in Virginia, the third would prevent candidates, like Sarvis, from supposedly “stealing elections” from either the Republicans or Democrats as was suggested in 2013 and 2014.  After all, under this idea if no candidate achieved a majority of the vote on the first ballot, then the candidate or candidates with the lowest vote total would automatically be eliminated from the process and his or her votes would be split among the remaining candidates based upon the preference order of the individual voters.  Thus, this change would elect a candidate that is presumably preferable to the majority.  Unlike some states, like Louisiana which is holding its runoff election in a few days from now, with instant-runoff voting a new election would not needed, thus saving considerable tax dollars.  In addition, it would give voters greater freedom to cast their first vote for the candidate they most prefer without the potential worry of “throwing a vote away” for a candidate that isn’t favored to win.

Although I’d like to see a few additional reforms, like requiring all candidates collect the same number of signatures in order to make the ballot regardless of party, I do think that the suggestions that Robert Sarvis suggests would certainly improve elections in Virginia.  If you agree, please contact your delegate and/or state senator to urge them to support this kind of election legislation.

(Campaign) Fiscal Responsibility

A few moments ago, I received an email from the Ed Gillespie for Senate campaign.  Entitled “a last request”, the campaign makes one more pitch for funds asking, “Will you click here to contribute a suggested donation of $10 to help our campaign pay our final bills?”

Yes, campaigns are certainly expensive endeavors.  Each one seems to demand greater resources than the previous cycle.

Looking at it from my own personal experience, my run for city council always seemed to press me for more cash.  Did I want more money?  Of course!  With additional funding I could have done so much more, such as placing ads in the newspaper or on the radio or perhaps creating a few yard signs that some people seem to think are absolutely necessary.  But, at the end of the day, I allocated my resources the best I knew how and avoiding spending money I didn’t have.  My reasoning was that if a person is unable to exercise fiscal responsibility in his or her campaign, why should we entrust them with such power in local, state, or national government?

The Gillespie campaign came amazing close to victory and campaign deficit spending is certainly not unique to their effort.  Nevertheless, I’d recommend that campaigns exercise a little more discretion in their spending.  After all, who wants to send out an email after the election is over asking for money?  And who is willing to donate at this point, especially to a candidate that didn’t win?