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Archive for the ‘Virginia Politics’ Category

VC note:  To follow is the latest press release from the Donner campaign regarding the issue of U.S. Senate debates.  I wish they could have offered additional specific details, such as which GOP committee passed the resolution and which other candidates are involved.  Nevertheless, given my previous posts, I’m quite interested to hear how this issue turns out.
Great Falls, VA – September 28, 2011 – At least three US Senate candidates have joined forces to call on the Associated Press to sponsor primary debates for both parties.

Republican Senatorial Candidate Tim Donner initiated the bipartisan call after AP announced that it was sponsoring a general election debate that excludes all but the two establishment candidates for the US Senate almost nine months before the primaries. The two real primary debates would be in addition to the previously announced general election debate on December 7.

Donner told Richmond’s WRVA talk show host, Doc Thompson, on his program earlier this week, “I am calling on the AP to use this opportunity to correct the situation by inviting all of the announced candidates in both the Republican and Democratic parties to participate in actual primary debates.”

“This will allow the AP to constructively advance the cause of informing voters of all the choices available to them and hold true to its own statement that ‘any time a question is raised about any aspect of our work, it should be taken seriously,’” Donner added.

At least one GOP County Committee has already passed a resolution insisting that all candidates be invited to participate in the December 7 debate.

“It is heartening to see the momentum building for this effort. And I am hopeful that Republicans and Democrats can present a united front in what is most certainly a fair and reasonable request on behalf of the voters of Virginia,” Donner said.

A full list of Senate candidates participating in this initiative will be released once all the campaigns have responded to the invitation. Donner has called on voters to contact Dorothy Abernathy, AP Bureau Chief, at (804) 643-6646, and ask her to sponsor primary debates that include all candidates.

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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.

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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.

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I’m sure that just about every American would agree that our government is in a financial crisis.  Regardless of whether Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling or not, we cannot continue on our present course; we spend more than we take in, we borrow from foreign nations, and our government expands all the while.  It is a degenerative cycle that will bankrupt future generations.

Back in 2008, I offered the following suggestion to my fellow conservative voters,  “When considering the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, I encourage you to put the torch under each candidate asking, ‘if elected, what federal programs, agencies, or departments will you work to eliminate?'” These words were important then, but they are far more pressing today.

As of May 2011, there are five candidates seeking the Virginia Republican nomination for the 2012 U.S. Senate race.  But do any of them actually plan to cut the size and scope of the federal government?  And, if so, what specific areas do they look to cut?  Although I had read snippets from the various campaign websites, I didn’t have a clear and concise answer to this question.  Therefore, I decided to contact each candidate seeking an answer.  Here is the question I put forth on April 27th:

As more and more citizens across the commonwealth of Virginia take interest in our upcoming 2012 Senate Race, many of us are increasing alarmed about the size of our staggering federal deficit.  Too many members of both parties spend our money on frivolous programs and thus the government continues to expand.  One obvious solution is to dismantle portions of the government that are questionably unconstitutional or wasteful and return these powers to the state governments or the people.  Therefore, as a Republican candidate seeking to represent us in the United States Senate, the burning question on my mind is, if elected, what federal programs, agencies, or departments will you work to eliminate?

Thank you for your time.  I look forward to sharing your answers, as well as those of the other candidates, with the readers of my blog, The Virginia Conservative.

Sincerely,

Joshua Huffman
conservativeva@gmail.com

Now, I should mention in fairness, I asked George Allen for a little more information.  Given that he previously held one of our Senate seats, I also inquired what programs he worked to cut during his time in office from 2000-2006.

Having served on many campaigns over the years, I know how busy and hectic they can be.  Nevertheless, I am appreciative that all five of the campaigns found the time to answer my request.  I’m pleased to present to you, the readers of The Virginia Conservative, their unedited answers in the same order that they were received.   I hope my fellow Republican primary voters find their remarks enlightening.


Jamie Radtke

One of Jimmy Carter’s boondoggles, the Department of Energy, was created in response to the OPEC oil crisis of the 1970s with the goal of promoting alternative energy sources and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Look at where we are today. If there was ever an example of federal agency that’s spent billions and failed in its mission — DOE fits the bill. Since DoE was created, the amount of oil the U.S. imports has risen from roughly 45% to nearly 70%. The DoE also actively supported research and production of energy sources that are not — and likely never will be — viable without ongoing taxpayer subsidies.

The Department of Education is another spectacular failure from Jimmy Carter. For decades, U.S. student performance has declined relative to the rest of the world. In response to the problem, the federal government has thrown tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money and regulations at the problem. Yet the DoED is failing with flying colors and the U.S. continues to lose ground against the world. Until Jimmy Carter, education had always been a local issue, and it should become so again, without DC taking a cut of the education budget and then sending the money back to the states. It is time for parents and local governments to control education and not teacher unions and a federal bureaucracy.

A third quasi-federal activity (among many) that I would move out of the government is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for many reasons. Earlier this month, Fannie Mae announced it lost $6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2011, and also asked for $6.2 billion more in taxpayer subsidies. So far, between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, American taxpayers are on the hook for at least $138 billion.

It’s time to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and get the government out of the mortgage business. It just makes common sense. They’re a prime example of what can go wrong when Washington politics and lobbying combine with Wall Street finance. Working hand-in-glove with executives at Fannie and Freddie, Congress guaranteed billions of dollars in bad loans which contributed to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown in 2007-2008, leading to the Great Recession.

Before the housing meltdown, a handful of Senate Republicans tried to rein in Fannie and Freddie. Senator Chuck Hagel circulated a letter to Republican senators in a desperate effort to get Majority Leader Bill Frist to bring a reform bill to a vote in the Senate. But they ran into a lobbying buzz saw. According to an Associated Press story, Freddie Mac hired lobbying firm DCI of Washington to help keep Republican senators from supporting the bill. For instance, Freddie Mac paid lobbying firm DCI $10,000 every month just to focus on persuading Senator George Allen not to support Senator Hagel’s legislation. In the end, nine of the 17 GOP senators targeted by DCI chose not to sign the letter – including Senator George Allen. The lack of Republican support for the bill doomed it. A year later the sub-prime mortgage crisis began.

There are proposals now before the House and Senate that would take a quick approach to transitioning Fannie and Freddie to the private sector and reducing the risk to American taxpayers. One such bill is H.R. 1182, introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and co-sponsored by 47 other members, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Randy Forbes, and Rep. Paul Ryan. Unfortunately, there is considerable resistance on Capitol Hill to privatizing Fannie and Freddie. Unfortunately, the Washington lobbyists who got us into this mess are saying it would be just terrible to privatize Fannie and Freddie – and Congress seems to be listening to the lobbyists.

Congress is like a family that’s been living beyond its means and borrowing each month – for years – to pay its bills. Now it’s credit is running out and it’s fallen behind on the mortgage and if it doesn’t cut its spending it’s going to lose its home. A family can sit down at the dinner table, face the hard choices and make the tough decisions. It’s not pleasant or easy, but families do it all the time. It works because each family controls its own spending. But we — the taxpayers — don’t control Washington’s spending. The hard truth is, right now, we can’t make Congress stop spending.

What to cut is vitally important. But let’s be careful not to get the cart in front of the horse. Right now, we still have to figure out how to get the Washington politicians to sit down at the dinner table and agree to make some real cuts – instead of continuing to borrow. The best way to do this is to freeze the debt ceiling and stop the spending insanity. We must start to live within our means. Because when you find yourself in a hole, the best thing to do is… stop digging!

*A release from the Jamie Radtke campaign. Sent May 5th, 2011.  Revised May 17th.

David McCormick

Reduce the size, scope, and power of the Federal Government

  • Downsize the bureaucracy of the Federal Government one department at a time.  First eliminate the Department of Education, followed by the Department of Energy, followed by the Department of HUD and lastly the EPA.  Once the Fair Tax is implemented; eliminate the IRS.
  • Balance the Budget and pay off all debt.  It is the moral obligation of our generation to pay off all our debts.
  • Stop all earmarks, bailouts, subsidies, stimulus, and corporate welfare.
  • Privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Audit all transactions for the past 20 years.
  • Audit and nationalize the Federal Reserve.

Stop the Corruption and Political Pandering in Washington

  • Ban all Senators from working as a lobbyist for a period of 10 years from retirement.
  • Limits on Power- Term limits for all Federal Judges (8 years), Congressmen (8 years) and Senators (6 years).
  • Stop all stock and commodities trading by all Senators and their staff.
  • Send Them Home- I support the conversion from a full-time to a part-time Congress and Senate.  Reduce all budgets by 33%.
  • Transparent Legislation- All bills under 100 pages shall be made public for 7 days before a vote.  All bills over 100 pages shall be made public for 21 days.  All bills must identify the parties that have drafted the bill, must have an economic cost analysis, a source of funding and the citation of the Constitutional authority.
  • All amendments to any bill must relate back to its main provision.

* A release from the David McCormick campaign. May 12, 2011

E. W. Jackson

Note from The Virginia Conservative: Unlike the rest of the candidates, Mr. Jackson’s campaign did not send a formal written statement, but rather a brief email in combination with a phone conversation.  Therefore, although the thoughts are his, the specific words are mine.

Mr. Jackson is a strong supporter of the Fair Tax.  He believes that our debt is our greatest priority.

As for specific departments within the federal government, he intends to work to abolish: The Department of Education, The Department of Energy, and The Department of Housing & Urban Development.  Mr. Jackson is a strict constructionist who will not support laws not authorized by the Constitution.

* From the Jackson campaign on May 18th, 2011 and May 23rd.

George Allen

Our country’s annual deficit is set to hit a record $1.5 trillion this year – and that’s after two straight years of trillion dollar annual deficits.  Washington’s out-of-control spending – the $800 billion jobless stimulus, the unconstitutional government mandated healthcare, and bailouts – has to end.  The small businesses and the families of Virginia can’t afford to continue footing the bill for unsustainable government growth.

America needs to get back to our constitutional roots, respecting the limitations our Founders placed on the power of the national government and insisting on the wise and frugal government that Mr. Jefferson described in his first inaugural address.  I don’t know anyone outside of Washington who thinks today’s over-reaching, over-spending federal government is being a wise steward of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars or operating at 100% efficiency.  A few months ago the GAO came out with a report that confirms what we already knew – the federal government’s budget is bloated with duplication and hundreds of billions of dollars of waste.  We can start to rein in the spending by consolidating or eliminating some of these wasteful, duplicative programs saving billions of taxpayer dollars.

I would begin to rein in government by rolling back the excesses of the Obama Administration — from repealing Obamacare and its unconstitutional mandates to getting rid of all the unelected, unaccountable “Czars” who do not have the scrutiny of Senate confirmation yet exercise far-reaching powers that affect not just spending in Washington, but our very freedoms as Americans.  Right behind them are all of the new regulators who have been added in agencies such as the EPA and the IRS, helping fuel the regulatory excesses that are burdening our families and our economy.  We must stop spending taxpayer money on programs that clearly aren’t working like the $800 billion jobless stimulus.

Several federal Departments and agencies are ripe for streamlining — Energy, Commerce, the Surgeon General’s office as well as the Department of Education — with the majority of their activities and authority turned back over to the people in the States, where such decisions rightfully belong.   There is no better example of how this can work than welfare reform.  During my service as Governor, Virginia took over the federal government’s bloated, initiative-sapping welfare program, transformed it to reflect Virginia values of work and individual responsibility, saved taxpayers money and put people on the path of leading independent, self-reliant lives.

We should also take a page from Blue Ribbon Strike Force that I appointed as my first act as Governor and pursue government management reforms such as selling unneeded and unused federal property; cutting back the federal government’s growing fleet of vehicles and civilian aircraft and tightly controlling to make certain those that remain in the fleet are used only for legitimate business purposes and when most cost-effective; and eliminating wasteful printing and publications.

It is clear that Washington is in desperate need of checks and balances to stop the Washington Democrat agenda that has vastly expanded the size and scope of government and put our country on the verge of bankruptcy.

Throughout my service to the people of Virginia, I have worked to rein in and reform government to make sure it does its job efficiently and effectively and does not waste our hard-earned tax dollars.

During my service as Governor, we reduced the size of the state government payroll by 10,000 while providing the conditions for businesses to create over 310,000 net new private sector jobs in Virginia through lower taxes on job creators, business recruitment and prompt permitting.  I also appointed a Blue Ribbon Strike Force to identify ways to eliminate waste in Virginia’s government and ordered a comprehensive review of state government regulations that resulted in over 70 percent of all regulations being eliminated or modified to be less burdensome. These reforms made government more efficient and less intrusive for families and businesses.

I took that same philosophy to the Senate where I earned a lifetime rating of 93% from the American Conservative Union and a 100% rating from Americans for Tax Reform for keeping America competitive for jobs and investment while cutting wasteful spending so taxpayers could keep more of what they earn. I was one of 15 Senators to vote against the wasteful Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska; I voted for earmark reform to bring accountability and transparency to the process; and led the successful fight for the Internet tax moratorium to ensure federal, state and local governments could not tax internet access and threatening its future as a source of economic growth.

Recognizing that unelected bureaucracies needed to be held in check, I cosponsored the Congressional Responsibility Act which would prevent regulatory overreach by requiring approval by elected representatives.  I also advanced ideas to return more decision-making to the states and to the people – for example, I supported creation of an education demonstration program similar to the welfare reform model whereby up to 7 States and 80 localities could receive funds as a block grant to use according to state and local priorities (receiving a waiver from rigid federal program  formulas).

I was a sponsor of the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies Act which would have established a commission to review federal agencies and programs and recommend the elimination of duplication, wasteful or outdated programs and agencies.

Believing the government should not stand in the way of freedom of expression and association I voted against the McCain-Feingold restriction of freedom, fought against outdated, restrictive FCC regulation of cross-ownership of newspapers, TV and radio stations; and stood up against big union bosses costly, non-competitive Project Labor Agreement for building the Wilson Bridge.

I also fought to change the way Washington does business.  I introduced a comprehensive budget reform plan that included a Balanced Budget Amendment with taxpayer protection as well as Presidential line-item veto authority and a “paycheck penalty” that would withhold Members’ salaries when they don’t pass budgets on time. The presidential line item veto authority would give the President the ability to eliminate programs without having to veto an entire appropriations bill.  As Governor, I found using the line-item veto a very useful tool allowing me to cut waste and undesirable policy from spending bills.

These past few years have proven that in the U.S. Senate every single vote counts.  I will be a leader who will fight for real reforms to get our country back on the path to prosperity.  If given the honor and responsibility of serving the people of Virginia in the United States Senate, I pledge to work hard rein in the federal government; work to create an economic environment to make America competitive for jobs; and fight to unleash American energy resources thereby creating more jobs and more affordable electricity, fuels and food.

* A release from the George Allen campaign.  Sent May 23rd, 2011.

Tim Donner

The single most important element of reducing the size and scope of the federal government is to think big.  Repeated fights over individual line items in the federal budget have produced the same results: threats of government shutdowns accompanied by minimal reductions.

Exhibit A was the recent fight between the two parties that supposedly resulted in $38 billion in cuts.  But when the CBO crunched the numbers, the actual amount of cuts was $355 milliion, a proverbial drop in the bucket, or more precisely, the ocean.  The same accounting tricks that have become the trademark of Capitol Hill were employed to inflate the cuts dramatically.  For example, almost $2 billion was “cut” in 2011 for the now-completed 2010 census…funds that obviously could not be spent anyway.

It is true that the Departments of Energy and Education have been demonstrably counter-productive to their stated goals – educational outcomes have decreased in inverse proportion to federal spending, and we have failed to develop anything approaching a coherent energy policy as we become increasingly dependent on foreign energy sources.

But while these departments and others should be squarely on the chopping block, the reality is that we will get nowhere in reducing the size and scope of government as long as we are willing to deal with only the 12% of the federal budget that has been on the table – non-defense domestic discretionary spending.

It is well beyond time that we deal with 100% of the federal budget.

This entails going beyond just spending cuts to structural reform, foremost of which should be a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget and limit federal spending to 18% of GDP (as proposed by Utah Sen. Mike Lee).  Only by limiting budgets by law can we ultimately forge a permanent cure for Washington’s spending addiction.

This also entails, yes, “entitlement” reform, and Medicare is undeniably the biggest storm cloud on the near horizon.  And while I applaud Paul Ryan and his courageous foray into the hornet’s nest of Medicare reform, his premium support plan is, in my view, insufficient for the long-term sustainability of a popular program crippled by the reality of up to $70 trillion in unfunded liabilities.  Instead, we must evolve long-term to a system in which participants are given the choice to re-direct their Medicare contributions – and those of their employers – to retirement health savings accounts.

These structural reforms will take time, but will result in what should be the ultimate goal of reducing the size and scope of government – to give Americans the opportunity to keep more of their own money, make more of their own decisions and take greater control of their own lives.

* A release from the Donner campaign. Sent May 28th, 2011.

Although this article originally included responses from only the first four candidates listed, within hours of posting I received word from both the Donner campaign and Mr. Donner himself.  Not quite sure what caused the communication glitch, but I’m glad to have Mr. Donner join this conversation.

So what do you think of the responses of all five of the candidates for U.S. Senate?

Next year, conservatives, libertarians, moderates, and, yes, even some liberals across Virginia will be heading to the polls to select our Republican nominee for Senator.  It is imperative that we educate ourselves; we must become informed voters who choose a candidate who best addresses the specific needs of our state and nation.

As stated at the beginning, I, for one, strongly believe that we must reduce the size and scope of our bloated federal government to chip away at our staggering debt and restore our limited Constitutional framework.  That is why I have sought and now offer you the thoughts of four conservative men and one conservative woman who seek this high office.

So whose plan is the best?  Whose ideas are most feasible?  There will be plenty of time for commentary in the days to come.  I hope that the answers provided by the five candidates will aid you in your decision.

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Yesterday’s article on Bearing Drift concerning Steve Waters has drawn considerable attention from folks across the Republican spectrum.  For those unfamiliar with the story, let me give you a bit of background.  In the past, Mr. Waters has associated with candidates and politicians that mainstream Republicans routinely dismiss and marginalize.  For example, in 2008, Steve Waters ran Delegate Bob Marshall’s campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, nearly upsetting establishment favourite and former Governor Jim Gilmore.  Well, Bearing Drift informs us that the George Allen for Senate campaign has hired Waters.

This development is drawing considerable attention for a number of reasons.  Chief among them revolves around the extremely likely possibility that Delegate Marshall will be running against George Allen.  If Marshall does throw his hat into the ring, Waters will not be in his corner.  Now I know why the Allen campaign would hire Waters; having been involved with typically socially conservative activists, they hope to draw upon his knowledge and efforts to woo voters who I call the hard right.  After all, in this primary, Allen’s major weakness is supposedly not being conservative enough.  Steve Waters, they hope, will help counter this perception.

Now when you ask why Waters would join Allen, the answer becomes murky.  Perhaps Waters believes that Allen is a true conservative and is the best candidate.  Maybe he has discovered that contrary to popular opinion Bob Marshall is not going to run or he has had a falling out with the Delegate and is going with his new first choice.  Another likely possibility is that Waters thinks Allen will ultimately win and that he would like to be a part of the victory and the spoils it affords.  After all, a spot on a Senate staff is a highly sought position.

Reaction from this news is, not surprisingly, mixed.  Allen supporters welcome the news and are touting Waters as a worthy ally in the fight ahead.  Marshall people and those who oppose Allen are reacting with disbelief and anger, some comparing Waters to Benedict Arnold for selling out the “true” conservative movement.  An opinion of Waters seems to be closely tied to one’s opinion of Allen.

I’m not sure what to make of the whole situation really.  I won’t say that I know Steve Waters too well.  I did speak to him briefly during the 2008 Marshall campaign but cannot speak either positively or negatively of his efforts.  I have heard some people give him praise for his hard work, after all Marshall nearly upset Gilmore.  However, I’ve run across others who claim that Marshall almost won in spite of Waters supposed hindrance.  Like 1,440 others, I claim Mr. Waters as a Facebook friend.  Speaking of that matter, I do find it very bizarre that he must have gone through my friends list and sent friend requests to just about all of them, including ones that I know that he has never met and have little or nothing to do with Virginia politics.

Getting back to an earlier point, the most interesting question of this whole affair is Waters’ motivation.  Does he believe that George Allen is the best candidate?  Is it a matter of money or power?  Is he somehow seeking revenge against Marshall and his cadre of loyal supporters?  Unfortunately, I expect this question to go unanswered.

At the end of the day, I expect Steve Waters will draw some amount of conservatives toward Allen, but others will be unswayed.  If the primary were held today, with or without Waters, the smart money is on Allen to win.  Will Waters help Allen retain this edge through next year?  Again, not knowing enough about Waters, I can’t answer that question.  I’m just wondering how long it will be until the fuss dies down.

Update:  The Fifth District Watchdog makes an interesting point.  Back in October of 2010, I got an invite to join the Facebook group “Republicans against a George Allen comeback“.  Would you care to wager a guess who sent me the invite?  This story is getting more odd by the minute.  Given that revelation, Steve Waters joining the Allen team makes about as much sense as Ben Marchi joining Jamie Radtke’s crew.  Although it is remotely possible that Waters has had a complete change of heart, these developments seem to smack of hypocrisy.  Regardless of your feelings regarding Allen, it seems likely that Steve Waters has destroyed his political creditability with all parties.

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Late last night, I received word that the race for Virginia’s 2012 Republican Senate primary was getting a little more crowded.  In order of announcement we now have: Jamie Radtke, George Allen, David McCormick, Bishop Jackson, and the newest contender, Tim Donner.  At this point I’m sure you’re wondering, who is Tim Donner and what makes him so great?  Well, here’s the email that his campaign sent me:

CONSERVATIVE VIRGINIA BUSINESSMAN TIM DONNER

ANNOUNCES FOR THE U.S. SENATE

Says Washington is a mess and needs new leadership

Great Falls, VA – Northern Virginia businessman and small government advocate, Tim Donner, announced today that he is entering the Virginia Republican primary as a candidate for the open U.S. Senate being vacated by Senator Jim Webb.  Donner made his announcement on his website www.donnerforsenate.com.

I’ve watched this great country of ours sink deeply into the quicksand of overwhelming debt and dependency.  And like many of you, I have grave concerns about our future,” Donner says.

Donner is an entrepreneur who started his own media production company, Horizons Television, and also founded One Generation Away, a free market education, research, and public policy organization.  He works with two family foundations that help fund conservative and faith-based causes and has served on the boards of small government, free market and values-based organizations such as the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, Radio America and Cal Thomas’ Values Through Media.  His family helped William F. Buckley start National Review.  (further bio information is available on the website www.donnerforsenate.com)

Donner emphasized that he wants to be a citizen legislator, not a career politician.   “As a citizen, I am frustrated enough to leave my business and go to Washington to help the freshmen senators we elected last November build a majority and return us to the principles that made this country the greatest on earth. I am tired of watching our hard-earned money spent on political favors, failed stimulus and bailouts programs, and policies that push people deeper into government dependency, such as Obamacare, a failed and flawed socialist experiment.”

The time for complaining about America’s problems is over.  The time for solving them is now,” he concluded.

Tim Donner will be available for phone interviews Tuesday morning, April 26 starting at 10:00 am and television interviews in Northern Virginia that afternoon.  He will be touring the remainder of the state over the next few weeks and will available for in-person interviews at that time.

Like so many of the other contenders, Mr. Donner will have to overcome the difficult hurdle that he is generally unknown in statewide politics.  You’ll note that his comment against a “career politician” is an obvious dig against the two front frontrunners, George Allen and Tim Kaine.  Digging deeper, his website promotes many conservative ideals, but the real test is, will he be able to distinguish himself in this expanding field?

This latest entry begs the question, who else will make a play for the brass ring of our U.S. Senate Seat?  Will there be any other surprise candidates?  And how about Marshall or Stewart?  Only time will tell.

I wish Mr. Donner well and look forward to learning more about him and the rest of the hopefuls.  Like many Virginians, I have not made up my mind for U.S. Senate.  Whomever we select, I hope he or she will be a principled conservative who is never afraid to stand up for our values.  After all, a good leader is not one who caves in to the slightest peer pressure, but one who remains strong.  I want a Senator who has the courage to say what is sometimes the hardest word in the English language, no.

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As I continue my exploration into the world of gerrymandering, yesterday Virginia’s Division of Legislative Services released three suggested redistricting maps, one for the House of Delegates and two for the Virginia Senate.  In this article, we will be focusing on the Senate.

Here is our current map:

Current Map of Virginia Senate Districts

Is there significant gerrymandering in the system?  Absolutely.  Along the border with North Carolina, one can find bizarre images.  Going from west to east, something is a bit off with the 19th, 15th, and 18th districts.  And look at Creigh Deeds’ 25th.  It includes his home in Bath County next to the West Virginia border and then travels along a narrow corridor until it widens to pick up the liberal city of Charlottesville and the surrounding area about 100 miles away.  Is it only foolish hope to expect anything better?

Help is on the way!  As stated, there are two plans circulating, one Republican under Senator John Watkins from the 10th and one Democratic from Senator Janet Howell of the 32nd.  Let’s first tackle the Watkins plan.

Watkins Proposal

The first thing you might notice is that the number of your Senate district has likely changed.  I’m not sure why he would alter the numbering system.  It seems to me to be an unneeded annoyance.  More importantly, is there gerrymandering in the Watkins plan?  You bet!  First, he maintains a fair number of gerrymandered districts from the current map, such as the 37th.

The 37th (formerly numbered the 19th); with its trunk and reaching branches, it sort of looks like a tree.

Holy smokes!  A mushroom cloud!  Is someone launching nukes?  No, that’s only the proposed 18th district.

The 31st (formerly the 26th) may not seem too gerrymandered, but as a resident of the city of Harrisonburg, I can tell you that I’m not too happy about it.  If the district needed to grow, why wouldn’t it expand south to include most, if not all, of the remaining portion of Rockingham County?  Instead, it leaps over the Blue Ridge Mountains to pick up part of Culpeper County.  Why, oh, why?

Let’s move on to the Howell plan.  Is it better?

Howell Proposal

I’m grateful that Howell doesn’t modify the numbering scheme, but that alone doesn’t make it a worthy suggestion.

First off, you’ll note that Howell’s plan retains the heavily gerrymandered 25th.  In addition, sort of like the proposed 31st under Watkins, the 24th district sneaks across the Blue Ridge to include part of Culpeper County.  But there are other offending districts, too.

What’s going between the 20th and the 15th?  I used to draw similar shapes when I was bored in school.  What is the conversation here?  We need the city of Danville and the eastern part of Pittsylvania County in the 20th.  What about the western portion?  Stick it in the 15th!  While we are at it, let’s give the 15th a nice new hat by including Amherst County too.  And how much, if any, of the 19th district is within it’s current borders?

If you draw an eye around Lazy Oak Corner, one can easily see the 18th district as a monster looking to consume the western half of the 13th.  Just plain ugly.

I’d include more maps, but with each new image WordPress is taking more and more time to upload them.  Instead, I invite you to explore the redistricting website yourself. Chances are, you’ll have to download a new plugin to make the site work.

You should note that I haven’t even begun to consider party gains under these two proposals.  Nevertheless, I’d wager that the Watkins plan will result in more Republican victories while the Howell proposal will do likewise for the Democrats.  Both have their share of flaws and obvious gerrymandering and should be rejected…or at least heavily modified.  At the end of the day, I hope that the General Assembly refuses both of these plans and draws compact districts with not quite so many funny shapes.

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After Bloggers’ Day a few weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy post regarding the experience.  Upon a bit of reflection, I decided not to use the piece, as it was mainly a rant against the high priced parking in Richmond.  $20 for more than two hours?  That’s nothing short of highway robbery!  OK.  I’m done with that topic.

Anyway, during my trip to the capitol, Governor McDonnell invited the bloggers to a reception in the executive mansion.  As it is likely that many of you haven’t gotten a chance to visit the mansion yet (it was my first experience), I wanted to share a handful of pictures with you.  I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word mansion, I envision a massive building, ornately decorated, and brimming with servants.   Although the interior was quite nice, it wasn’t large enough to fit my preconceived notions of a mansion.  Nevertheless, I would assume that it serves our Governor’s needs and therefore a larger structure would be a waste of taxpayer money.

I hope you enjoy the pictures!  They include most of the rooms on the ground floor.  Oh, and before I forget, I sincerely want to thank Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling for hosting Bloggers’ Day 2011 as well as Governor Bob McDonnell for ensuing reception.

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Today former Governor and Senator George Allen announces his bid for Virginia’s Senate seat in 2012.  For most of those following the election, the question was not if he would run, but rather when he would run.  I’m glad to hear both through this video and his visit during the Americans for Prosperity tour last week that he is central message thus far seems to be the same kind of limited government conservatism that so many people in the Commonwealth support.  And so fellow Virginians, our front runner has arrived.  The GOP nomination should be interesting, so stay tuned!

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About a week ago, I received a pretty troubling email from another political activist.  It concerned a pre-filed bill for the upcoming legislative session, HB 1528 sponsored by Dickie Bell of Staunton.  According to the email, this bill “requires every dealer to prepare a daily report” of precious metal transactions.  Furthermore, these reports would be available to both government and law enforcement agents.  As you would imagine, I found this news to be particularly troubling.  I would assume that more and more Virginians would look toward investing in precious metals given the continued weakness of the U.S. Dollar.  Isn’t it just a little bit disconcerting that the government would take such a keen interest in these transactions?  What do they plan to do with this data now or in the future?

Resisting the temptation to hastily write a letter to Delegate Bell regarding my concerns, I thought it prudent to do a bit of research first.  The most interesting point that I discovered is that the Virginia Code  (54.1-4101) already requires precious metal or gem dealers to keep a written record of both their transactions and customers that are available on request.  Delegate Bell’s bill would primarily change two points:

  1. “Every dealer shall prepare a daily report containing the information required by 54.1-4101 sold to him each day and shall file such report by noon of the following day with the chief of police or other law-enforcement officer of the county, city or town where his business is conducted designated by the local attorney for the Commonwealth to receive it.”  The dealer can submit his or her report electronically as opposed to mailing or delivering them in person, which is the current norm.
  2. Dealers can charge their customers a small service fee to cover the added costs associated with these filings.

As you can see, some of the most onerous parts of the law are already in place.  Delegate Bell’s bill just enhances them and provides a much closer and daily link to law enforcement.  As you can imagine, with this new information I was still against HB 1528 and looked for an opportunity to speak with the Delegate about it.  That opportunity came on Friday when Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republicans gathered for lunch at our typical First Friday meeting.  All of the Delegates and Senators who represent any portion of the city and/or the county were invited.  Once I got to the gathering, I discovered that neither Senator Hanger could not attend nor could most of the Delegates.  Fortunately, both Delegate Bell and Senator Obenshain were there.

After the meal and a short speech by the Senator and Delegate, I patiently waited my turn to ask about HB1528.  Senator Obenshain moderated the questions from the audience and several times he passed over my outstretched hand.  Amazingly, after just about everyone else’s questions had been answered, the Senator ended the meeting, thus denying me my opportunity and primary reason for showing up to the meeting in the first place.  Although it would be easy to assume such a move as an intentional slight, I really hope it was merely an oversight.

As the crowd began to trickle away, fortunately Delegate Bell stuck around to speak with some of the guests and so I kept my eye on him.  Once the line dwindled, I finally got my chance.

The first thing Delegate Bell said to me was that he noticed that I had been waiting patiently for quite some time. I agreed and pulled out my printed copy of HB 1528 and asked him why he was proposing that bill.  He responded that local law-enforcement officials suggested the bill as an effort to further crack down on illegal trafficking of stolen goods.  However, after speaking with a number of interested parties, Delegate Bell stated that he no longer supports this bill and would be removing it from consideration very soon.  In addition, given the potential privacy violations already present in the law, he mentioned that he would be speaking to the Attorney General about deleting (or at least modifying) 54.1-4101 from the Virginia Code.

It is difficult to find the balance between security and liberty.  Although I’m sure that HB 1528 would aid Virginia police in catching criminals, is the added bureaucracy, hassle, and loss of privacy worth is?  I would say no.  In our post 9-11 world, far too many conservatives and liberals alike are willing to sacrifice just about every right in order to gain even the slightest feeling of security, even if doing so provides no tangible benefits.  For another example one needs look no further than the ridiculous nature of airport security.  First, why do we allow the federal government to look after airport safety?  Shouldn’t that role be the responsibility of the independent airport authorities or at least the states or the localities in which they are located?  Second, aren’t these body scanners and aggressive pat-downs a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment rights?  Must we give up our Constitutional protections in order to fly the not so friendly skies?  I could go on, but the simple fact is that once we surrender liberty in one facet, like travel, it will be that much easier to surrender it in another, like commerce, all in the false and misguided hope of greater security.

Now some activists might be upset by Delegate Bell’s HB 1528 proposal, but I think we should look at this event in a different light.  After all, Delegate Bell freely admits that HB 1528 is a blunder that he intends to correct immediately.  I believe that gesture shows volumes about his character.  He could have ignored the concerned letters and phone calls.  He could have not taken responsibility for this lapse in judgment.  After all everyone makes mistakes and the easiest and most widespread response is to simply deny their existence.  A true mark of strength is when we recognize missteps and correct them before the damage becomes irreversible.

Even though we share many conservative values, I’m sure that Delegate Bell and I will disagree on a few points in the future.  I’m just glad to know that the 20th district has a Delegate who listens to the people and will change course when he discovers he is in error.

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