Writing-In Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.
Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson in Dec 2011.

In general, the November 3rd elections in the city of Harrisonburg were a rather dull affair.  Although citizens had the opportunity to vote for six different contests, only one office, state senator, was contested.  As you might expect, this lack of choices inspired a handful of folks to write-in candidates.  Fellow blogger Rick Sincere often pens an article about the write-in votes in Charlottesville, but what names do people write-in in Harrisonburg?  Well, I decided to visit the local registrar’s office to find out.

In case you are wondering, once the election results have been certified they are made available to the public.  Unfortunately, they aren’t listed on a nice, neat, printed sheet, but rather each write-in vote is printed on a long piece of narrow paper, which resembles a register receipt.  Having previously worked as an election official in Rockingham County, I know that some voters write-in made up or fictitious characters, like Mickey Mouse or “anyone else”, but how many real people could be identified?  For the record, I only went through the data once, so it is possible the numbers I list below aren’t quite right.  Nevertheless, if you live in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, I think you’ll find them of interest.

In the race for the 26th Virginia Senate seat, there were only 14 write-in votes in Harrisonburg, likely low because voters had at least two choices.  April Moore, the Democratic candidate, won Harrisonburg and Republican Mark Obenshain got second.  However, there was a three-way tie for third place between Christopher Runion, Lowell Fulk, and yours truly as we each had two write-ins.

Moving on to the 26th House of Delegates seat where Republican Tony Wilt ran unopposed, there were almost 11% write-ins, the highest for any of the seats in play.  Harrisonburg City Council member Kai Degner took second with 19 votes, followed by Rockingham County School member Lowell Fulk with 14 votes.  Both Degner and Fulk had each previously been the Democratic nominee for this office in earlier elections.  Other write-ins of note included:  Harvey Yoder with three votes, my partner on the radio Andy Schmookler with two votes, local political activist Dale Fulk with two votes, and Harrisonburg Democratic Party Chair Deb Fitzgerald also with two. Many people received one write-in vote including: former Harrisonburg City Council members Dorn Peterson and George Pace, Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, Harrisonburg Mayor Chris Jones, the Virginia Libertarian Party Vice-chairman Dr. James Lark III, State Senator Creigh Deeds from Bath County, former Harrisonburg Republican Party Chairman John Elledge, the 2015 Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate April Moore, 2014 city council candidates Alleyn Harned and Joshua Huffman, and several of my Facebook friends such as: Jeremy Aldrich, Shammara Blanchard, and Matthew Phillippi.

Finishing in second in the race for sheriff with seven write-in votes was Harvey Yoder.  Third was former sheriff candidate Kurt Boshart with five and fourth was Chris Monahan with three.  Other names with one or more votes include: Kai Degner, Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, local TV anchor Bob Corso, former sheriff Glenn Weatherholtz, 6th District Democratic Party Chair Joe Fitzgerald, former sheriff candidate CM Hess, City Council member Richard Baugh, Greg Nesselrodt (one of my good friends in high school), and again one vote for me.  I’m not quite sure why someone would think me as being qualified for sheriff, but that is another issue.

For Harrisonburg/Rockingham Clerk of Court, Renee Evans Haywood captured nine write-ins.  Other names of note included: Kai Denger, Dale Fulk, former treasurer candidate Penny Imeson, former council member Charlie Chenault, school board member Andy Kohen, local TV producer Channing Frampton, Joe Fitzgerald, Chris Jones, Lowell Fulk, a previous clerk candidate Diane Fulk, local political activist Dave Briggman, former HHS classmate W.O. Brown III, and a vote for me.  I assure you that someone wrote me in, but I didn’t do it.

Moving on to Harrisonburg/Rockingham Commonwealth Attorney, many people tied for second with two votes: Dale Fulk, Tricia Nesselrodt, John Elledge, and former House of Delegates candidate Gene Hart.  Other names with a vote include: Lowell Fulk, Andy Kohen, radio personality Karl Magenhoffer, attorney Bob Keefer, attorney Roland Santos, high school friend Edward Panchari, and me, Joshua Huffman.

In the special election for Harrisonburg School Board to replace Dany Fleming, Mr. Fleming captured the most write-in votes with ten.  Other candidates of interest with one or more votes include: Dale Fulk, Lowell Fulk, Steve Nesselrodt, Tricia Nesselrodt, Mark Finks, former school board member Tom Mendez, Erin Phillippi, Matt Phillippi, Charlie Chenault, Violet Allain (who hosted a city council meet-and-greet for the candidates at her house last year), Channing Frampton, and another vote for me.

Lastly, there weren’t too many write-in votes for Soil & Water Conservation Director.  Dale Fulk had two, radio personality Jim Britt had one, several of my friends had one such as Tristan Flage, Joe Rudmin, and Matt Phillippi, and, again, one person decided to write my name in for this office.

Although some write-in votes are nonsensical or vulgar, for others write-ins are a way to show dissatisfaction with the possible choices, or in the case of the 2015 elections in Harrisonburg, the lack of choices.  And, to the handful of people who decided to write me in, I certainly appreciate your vote, but I’m not running for anything right now.  I hope I can earn your support when and if the time comes again.

Yes, writing-in might be annoying for those election officials counting the ballots, but it can be a fascinating insight into the minds of the disaffected voter.  Hopefully the citizens of Harrisonburg will have at least two choices for every elected office in 2016, in which case we should see a dip in write-in votes in the next election.

Time for a New Majority Leader!

Heading into the 2015 elections, Republicans held a narrow 21-19 lead in the Virginia Senate.  And now that all of the votes have been counted, that seat count remains unchanged.  A few of the establishment politicians retired and were replaced by people who campaigned on a message that was more liberty-minded, more limited government than their predecessors.  Are they more principled?  Well, I guess we will have to wait and see.

Photo from SenatorNorment.com
Photo from SenatorNorment.com

Unfortunately, the current majority leader and the most powerful person in the Virginia Senate is Tommy Norment (R-James City County).  Four years ago, I wrote an article lamenting the fact that the Republicans selected Norment as the majority leader given that he is arguably the least conservative Republican in that body.  Although I lobbied my state senator to vote for a better candidate at that time, my suggestion went nowhere.  As you might imagine, I was (and am) worried that if the Republicans retained the senate after the 2015 elections then we would be saddled with another four years of Norment’s leadership.

However, this year there may be hope.  Yesterday, Senator Tom Garrett (R-Buckingham County) called for a new senate majority leader.  This development is important because it marks the first time that a Republican legislator has publicly opposed the election or re-election of Norment.

Senator Garrett’s argument is that Senator Norment wields too much power given that he is both the majority leader and the finance chairman.  It certainly is a valid concern.  After all, one senator should never have so much authority that he can make the wishes and votes of the others largely irrelevant.  As Senator Garrett explained to The Washington Post, “No one person needs that much power.  It’s happened before, and it’s never ended well.”

However, there are a variety of other reasons why conservatives and libertarians should oppose Norment.  As perhaps the best example, he was a leading proponent of the massive 2013 transportation tax hike.  While Mark Warner was governor, Senator Norment also voted for what was then the largest tax increase in Virginia’s history.

Besides taxes, Norment has repeatedly voted to expand the power of the state government and has opposed efforts to shrink the size and scope of their authority.  In matters of crony capitalism, does it concern anyone else that Senator Norment has received $92,740 from Dominion Power, the state promoted energy monopoly?

Switching to personal issues, Senator Norment’s name appeared on the leaked Ashley Madison list and Norment admitted that he cheated on his wife when he was thinking about getting a divorce.  One does have to ask the question, if a politician is unfaithful to his or her spouse, how faithful can he or she be to the Virginia Constitution he or she swore to uphold and the voters who placed their trust in him?

Virginia Republicans claim that the senate has gotten more conservative.  But, if that were indeed the case, why would they continue to elect one of their least conservative members as majority leader?  Their actions certainly don’t match their rhetoric.

Photo from Senator Garrett's Facebook page
Photo from Senator Garrett’s Facebook page

It’s great that Senator Garrett has taken this public stance, but he needs our help!  Therefore, I encourage each of you to contact your state senator, assuming he or she is a Republican, and urge him or her to stand with Senator Garrett and push for new leadership.  Here is a handy phone list from the Virginia Senate’s website.  You don’t have to be a Republican to be a part of this effort, just a Virginia citizen who is tired of the politics as usual attitude in Richmond.

In addition, although not associated with the official effort, a new community has just sprung up on Facebook called Dump Norment.  I don’t know who runs the page, but I suggest giving it a like to get updates and connect with fellow individuals who also want a new senate majority leader.

Please contact your state senator and let them know that you stand with Senator Garrett and for new leadership in the Virginia Senate.  Call, email, or, better yet, visit your legislators in person.  If enough of us speak out, we can and will make a difference!

Virginia21 Does The Right Thing

12079666_10206444770349449_6974739801766480757_nAt the end of September, the group Virginia21 announced that they would be holding a debate between the candidates for the 10th district in the Virginia Senate.  This event would be taking place at Virginia Commonwealth University on October 20th.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  After all, it would give voters a chance to learn about their choices.  However, the problem is that they had only invited the Democratic and Republican candidates and had excluded two other candidates who would also be appearing on the November ballot.

As such, I contacted Virginia21 to inform them of this oversight.  I was told that at that time they only planned to include the major party candidates, much like the corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates does or how one candidate was left out of all of the debates in both the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race and the 2014 Virginia US Senate election.  After hearing this decision, I contacted a variety of folks, including one of the slighted candidates, as well as posting on a variety of Facebook groups in an attempt to right what I felt was an injustice.

About two weeks later, Virginia21 changed their Facebook event to announce that their debate would now be including all four of the candidates.  As such, their event will be featuring: Marleen Durfee (Independent), Dan Gecker (Democrat), Carl Loser (Libertarian), and Glen Sturtevant (Republican).  Therefore, I’m pleased to say if you live in the Richmond area, I strongly encourage you to attend this event.  It starts at 6 PM on October 20th and is in the VCU Student Commons Theater (907 Floyd Avenue, Richmond VA).  Although I’d like to see how it turns out, I have another political event going on in Harrisonburg that same evening and thus cannot attend.12118827_10156044836490167_4739567470314532131_n

Thanks to Virginia21 for doing the right thing by including everyone!