On Thursday morning, the political group Virginia Free hosted an event on the campus of James Madison University. It was a panel presentation featuring JMU professor (and former Delegate) Pete Giesen, Delegate Steve Landes, and Levar Stoney from Governor McAuliffe’s administration. For about an hour, the three individuals, along with Virginia Free Executive Director (and former Delegate) Chris Saxman spoke on a variety of issues, including a sizable segment about the Virginia government.
Afterward, they fielded questions from the audience; during this time, both Angela Lynn, the Democratic challenger of Steve Landes, and April Moore, the Democratic candidate in the 26th Senate district, spoke briefly. Delegate Tony Wilt was also present, but as an observer.
At one point, one member of the audience declared that he was offended that the speakers sometimes used the phrase “Democrat Party” as opposed to “Democratic Party” declaring the first term to be pejorative although he did not really explain why he thought so. Later, when one of the panel members said Democrat Party again, the observer interrupted with his same objection. In addition, quite a few people in the audience spoke about Medicaid expansion in the state and were upset with Delegate Landes’ opposition to doing so.
In addition, Virginia Free offered attendees a scorecard ranking the General Assembly members according to their pro-business stance. I found it rather curious that they declared Senator Water Stosch to be the best member of the Virginia Senate alongside Senators Frank Wagner, John Watkins, Frank Ruff, and Tommy Norment while declaring that Senators Reeves, Black, and Garrett were among the worst and that Senator Chap Petersen was the absolute poorest member of that body. On the House of Delegates side, they gave high marks to Speaker Bill Howell and Delegate Ed Scott while also ranking Delegates Mark Berg, Charniele Herring, and Bob Marshall unfavorably. Wanting to learn more, I asked Mr. Saxman about the ratings, especially the 2013 ranking and he explained that everyone who voted in favor of Governor McDonnell’s transportation tax increase was given a score of 100%, while those who opposed it were rated as 0%. Their stance on that one issue and how they chose to rank the various legislators likely tells you everything you need to know about where Virginia Free and where they stand on the issues of taxes, government spending, and the proper role of government.
Although I certainly appreciated the presentation, based upon what I learned, I am concerned that Virginia Free and I might have a fundamentally different opinion on what the term “pro-business” means and who the best and worst members of the General Assembly are.