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Posts Tagged ‘House of Representatives’

On June 12th, Valley voters will have the opportunity to participate in something unusual, an event we haven’t seen in twenty years.  Next month, there will be a Republican primary where voters will be able to choose between our current representative, Bob Goodlatte, and his challenger, Karen Kwiatkowski.

As we approach this primary, one important question we must ask ourselves, is Bob Goodlatte still the leader we need in Washington?  After all, we live in an age where the power of the federal government grows more or less unchecked, the debt spirals out of control, and the prices of many of the goods we need to survive continue to inflate.   All the while, so many of our legislators seek more power and become less responsive to the desires of our communities and less concerned with the limitations of the Constitution.

Although we hear a lot of good rhetoric about our representative, the simple fact is that Bob Goodlatte has adopted many troubling positions over the years.  He’s marched us toward a police state by supporting the Patriot Act, both at its inception and ever since, which has given the government the power to spy upon the citizens without warrants through roving wiretaps, reading our emails, and placing tracking devices on our vehicles, all done without our consent.  He supports heavy-handed censorship and control of internet, the supposed last bastion of freedom, through SOPA and CISPA.  And what about those horror stories of the elderly and young children molested at our airports by federal TSA agents?  Regrettably, Bob Goodlatte continues to vote for legislation which worsens this mess, legislation which erodes our constitutional protections supposedly guaranteed by the First and Fourth amendments.

Despite protests from his constituents, he has repeatedly voted to raise the federal debt ceiling, thus unfairly burdening not only our generation, but also mortgaging the future of our children and our grandchildren with a debt that they have had no hand in creating.  To survive as a solvent nation, spending must be drastically curtailed and it must be done now.

When running for re-election in 2010, Bob Goodlatte refused to debate his opponents.  Rather than promoting his principles and working to enhance political dialogue, which should be a goal of any good public servant, he instead chose to stifle discussion.  Unfortunately, two years later, he continues to rebuff any attempt to engage in meaningful debate with Karen Kwiatkowski.

Growing up in the Shenandoah Valley, I learned a healthy skepticism of government, especially the federal government.  After all, who knows more about the problems of the local communities and how to correct them than the ordinary men and women from those very areas?  However, when government action is needed, should you put more trust in local and state legislators who live in our neighborhoods or should we rely on a legion of bureaucrats who have never set foot in Elkton, Briery Branch, or Broadway?

Unlike previous elections, this year we will have a primary.  So whom should we send across the Potomac?  Should we vote for Bob Goodlatte again in the hope that he will become the liberty-minded champion we need?  Or should we look elsewhere?  My choice for representative is Karen Kwiatkowski, a former Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force who now works as a cattle farmer in Shenandoah County.  She shares my conservative values and the values of many of my friends and family here in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  She promises to help restore our lost constitutional liberties, make desperately needed cuts in federal spending, and has proved willing and able to discuss the important political debates of the day.

Although Bob Goodlatte certainly has done some good during his decades in Washington, for which I thank him, isn’t it obvious that it’s time for someone new?  I have no doubt that Karen Kwiatkowski will be an excellent leader and will work tirelessly to promote our principles.  All citizens of the Shenandoah Valley should vote for Karen Kwiatkowski in the Republican primary on June 12th!

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VC note: A Guest Post by Karen Kwiatkowski

In the 6th District of Virginia, we don’t much like government rules and regulations, especially when they don’t pass a common sense test.   The Constitution speaks of our God-given rights to be secure in our persons, property and papers – to live free.  This part of Virginia lives and breathes this valued sense of who we are – citizens always, and subjects to a distant capitol, never.

We tend not to trust politicians.  We tend to understand that the longer these politicians are in office collecting benefits, creating legislative networks, and accumulating personal power, the more we, as Virginians, will suffer.

My recent visit to Highland and Bath Counties dished out plenty of evidence about how Virginians – real Virginians – think and live.  They think independently, and they strive to live free.

While in Highland, I ate local trout and maple pecan pie.  In Bath, I spoke to trout fishermen and gave some of the best bait they were using a smell test.  I saw lots of sheep and lumber mills, and observed maple syrup being boiled down in antique boilers, in the old ways.

The world famous Maple Festival in Highland is about an older way that works.  And in many ways, this region is about old ideas that have stood the test of time.

The people I met in Bath and Highland Counties this past weekend are not the same people I met at Hot Springs at the Republican Advance in early December.  Those politicians visiting the high country, with few exceptions, constitute the political elite in Virginia.  Many of these Republicans were more interested in each other and the power to be gleaned from those relationships than they are in promoting the fundamental and limited role of government.

The Republican Party creed is a good one, especially for those of us living in the upper Shenandoah Valley and in the western mountains of the state.  The creed embraces “fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints” at “all levels of government.” It affirms that the “Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations.”

In other words, on paper, the Republican Party values the freedom to work, to produce, to think, and to speak.  The message is that we have the freedom to take care of our own, and we deserve freedom from government idiocy.

This message is exactly what I heard again and again from veterans and from businessmen, from public servants and retired people in this part of the district.    As a visitor, I was inspired by the geography, the natural beauty and natural resources of this lovely part of Virginia.  As a Republican challenger standing up to the career politician who currently represents the 6th District, I was honored to talk about government and politics with people in this far western part of our district.  As a constitutionalist, a veteran, as a farmer and a lover of liberty, I felt right at home in Highland and Bath Counties.

Karen Kwiatkowski, conservative Mount Jackson cattle farmer and veteran, is challenging Bob Goodlatte in the GOP Primary on June 12, 2012.

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Although Karen Kwiatkowski has been promoting her effort to unseat Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6th) for last month or two, tomorrow she is officially announcing the start of campaign.

The details are as follows:
Time: Thursday, August 18th at Noon.
Location: The Augusta County Courthouse located at 1 East Johnson Street in Staunton.

Although I planned to attend this event, I regret to say that I’ll be unavailable.  Nevertheless, if you are interested in the fate of this nation and our representation in the federal government, I encourage you to be there.

Once the nomination comes around next year, you may end up choosing to re-elect Goodlatte or you may select Kwiatkowski. But through the process, I want you to ask yourself, which of these two candidates best represents your principles, your values?  After all, how can we hope to make an educated vote without sufficient information?  My advice is to listen to the words and plans of both Kwiatkowski and Goodlatte.  Tomorrow will give you one such opportunity.

I do hope you get a chance to hear Kwiatkowski on Thursday.  Rest assured that I’ll post more details about other campaign events as they become available.

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VC note: This article comes from Karen Kwiatkowski, Republican candidate for the 6th district House of Representatives seat of Virginia.  It is the second one she has submitted to me.  The first can be found here.  As always, I welcome pieces from elected officials and candidates and hope to showcase more in the future.

After the predictable drama of which political party or faction should be blamed for what spending, the debt limit was again raised for the 11th time this century, by $2.1 trillion, or nearly 15%.   This increase adds to the nearly $15 trillion the US already owes to international banks, foreign countries, and American investors.  This new total debt, potentially $17 trillion, does not count the $62 trillion in obligations for unfunded domestic entitlements, specifically Social Security and Medicare.

The outstanding debt burden of this nation will soon rise to a staggering $77 trillion.   Oh, and the Congress agreed to cut a $100 billion per year over the next ten years, starting after the next election, they promise! Whew!  Maybe Congress does need a vacation now, after all their hard work!

The latest debt ceiling deal will include new taxation, and it is interesting that the true fiscal hawks in Congress are being excluded from the “SuperCongress” being set up to “solve the problem.”  Too bad no one wants to read the Constitution, which clearly limits federal government functions, and presumably its need to tax, borrow and spend.

The Republican Party itself seem happy, and why not? This spending and taxing behavior has marked Republicans for decades, with massive increases in borrowing and spending experienced under Nixon, Reagan, and both of the Bush presidencies.  Ronald Reagan, a favorite source of modern conservative quotes and references, oversaw a rise in the annual spending deficit increase from $79 billion to $212 billion in his first term – and the Reagan years added $1.9 trillion to the federal debt. This trend line is symbolic “tea” for the Tea Party, and conservatives, liberals, libertarians, constitutionalists and independents all share a concern about overspending and what it means to our children and grandchildren.

The Democratic Party is just as guilty – they point to Reagan as an awful tax cutter – but in fact Reagan oversaw a drastic 65% increase in the annual tax load.  In order to push through a three-year tax cut, he cooperated in the largest tax increase in American history up to that time.   It is easy for a politician to just say, “Give me more!” but because our hard-earned and harder-to-keep money is already skimmed by government at or above 35%, most actively avoid paying taxes.  Big corporations hire lawyers, accountants and move their headquarters overseas.  The rest of us make sure we are at the lowest bracket possible, and we avoid hiring full time employees – all in order to avoid even small increases in taxation.  Our own behavior trumps the politicians demand for more, and more.

What about a balanced budget amendment?  Mr Goodlatte’s naiveté on this issue is either astounding or he is a really slick politician.  Congress doesn’t want balance – it’s way too painful, and they will easily override the low bar set in the language of the proposed toothless amendment.  Beyond that, states that strive and compete for ever larger federal handouts would never support a federal balanced budget.  They know it would be an end to the gravy train, and would create additional and even unbearable federal tax burdens on their citizens.

Because the Balanced Budget Amendment says nothing about lifting unfunded federal mandates, states themselves could actually go broke if they ratified such an amendment.  Incidentally, 32 states are already insolvent, and are currently borrowing money from the Federal Government to pay unemployment insurance.  Well, maybe the Congress didn’t know about this little structural problem.  In any case, three-quarters of the state legislatures and governors do know, and they will oppose any honest balanced budget amendment. The solvent states are already angry for being asked to help bail out their insolvent neighbors, and they too will rightfully oppose a federal balanced budget that will view well-managed state coffers, like Virginia’s, as cash cows.

So how do I really feel?  Like most Americans, I’m angry at Congress for its inability to manage our money.  Like most Americans, I hold Congressmen and most politicians in high contempt.

How about this solution:  Stop spending money you do not have.  Renegotiate any current debt you can, don’t borrow any more, and deal today with needed changes in the entitlement system such that our aged social security and Medicare dependents are seamless cared for, and young people are free of these classic Ponzi schemes, where money from millions of younger workers is immediately disbursed to thousands of past investors.  Let interest rates rise to a market-determined level, so Americans and others can actually save and invest in America, and to deter more irresponsible government borrowing.

When a country is on the road to financial collapse, it can get either stay on that road and face ruin, or it can turn onto a new road towards a more positive and accountable future.  Congress whined, fussed and argued, and last week, once again, they chose to accelerate towards the cliff.  Thelma and Louise couldn’t be prouder.

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VC note: This article was written by Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, resident of Shenandoah County, Virginia, and Republican candidate for the 6th district Virginia House of Representatives seat.  It arrived in my inbox a few moments ago with a request to have it posted on this site.  Given that I believe voter education is extremely important, I will almost always feature articles from our elected officials and those seeking office.  Thanks to Mrs. Kwiatkowski for sending it to me.  I hope you all find it enlightening.

“Conservatives” in Congress – Are They For Real?

While we wait to find out if Mr. Obama’s “national credit card” will long endure, many conservatives in the House and elsewhere are hoping that they can come out of the debt ceiling debate looking like constitutionalists.

Unfortunately, the cuts they’ve proposed thus far don’t cut very deep.  We should all be wary of current Cut, Cap and Balance proposals – setting standards based on today’s unbelievable levels of government consumption and waste would be a major mistake for the country, our children and grandchildren.

What about reining in that “national credit card?”   And what about the real cuts conservatives should be proposing, and are not?   Think about:

  • Foreign aid!  Why isn’t foreign and security aid to already wealthy and/or well-armed countries on the table?  While all recipient governments seem to expect it, it’s not fair to talk about cutting social security benefits or next year’s COLA for retirees when we keep the foreign aid spigot wide open.
  • Military streamlining!   Apparently, nothing in the military budget can be cut, even though it seems to leak money from all corners, including millions in indirect payments to the Taliban.  It’s not about almost 11 years of war in Afghanistan, or hundreds of Americans who have died or been mentally and physically maimed in that conflict.  It is about ongoing fraud and waste and a lack of clear DoD strategy that should not be rewarded by unlimited cash flows from Washington.
  • USDA and EPA grants and subsidies! Where are these programs are being cut  – even the 6th District’s long desired elimination of the ethanol subsidy is just “talked about.” Who fights against unneeded and counterproductive subsidies?
  • Congressional salaries!  A lonely proposal last February by Representative Giffords to reduce Congressional pay by 5% for a short time has languished for lack of interest.   Why haven’t federal salary and bonus reductions, and a federal hiring freeze been put on the table?
  • Obamacare!  Healthcare reform funnels more private resources into deep government ruts.  Why isn’t the widely unpopular Obamacare part of the cut list?
  • Big business and big bank bailouts and subsidies!  The Government Accounting Office (GAO) just  reported that the Federal Reserve made available (on the backs of our children and grandchildren) $16 trillion during 2008!  The current administration has placed even more on the “credit card” than did his predecessor.  This insanity should stop!
  • How about defunding the TSA, and cutting the DHS budget!   My goodness, people might actually want to take chance on a commercial flight during a TSA “holiday.”

The list could go on and on, and small savings add up to conservatism.  Freedom, too.  Why don’t we do something really radical, like letting the U.S. Constitution serve as a guide to federal spending?   Instead, we have a 6th District representative who has voted for more out-of-balance and unconstitutional budgets in his nearly 20 years we can count, all while telling stories about how “conservative” he is.

The U.S. visa lottery legislation sponsored by Mr. Goodlatte is typical and instructive.   To most 6th district voters, it sounds like a reduction in immigration – but the proposal he backs doesn’t actually reduce anything.  Instead, it converts Green Card Lottery with the just as costly to manage Employment-Based Green Card, authorizing the same number of 55,000 new visas each year – only this time to those foreign-born graduate students who have an advanced degree and are sought by a U.S. employer.  I support the free market in labor, in goods and services.   But at a time where 1 in 5 American men, including many with advanced degrees, are currently unemployed and under-employed, it seems a bit misleading of the 6th District Representative to advocate ending the Visa lottery as a way to appeal to anti-immigration sentiments and job-seekers at home.

This bait and switch routine reminds me of Mr. Goodlatte’s recent sponsorship of a bill that will maintain a 100-mile Federal zone north of the Mexican border to “enforce” border security (H.R. 1505).  Sounds good, if you don’t care about the private property of ranchers that may be included for federal rough-riding under “USDA” control through rancher participation in CRP, CREP, EQUP and CSP programs.  Sounds good, unless you believe, as I do, that the constitution requires we defend our actual borders.

I wonder, along with many in the 6th District, “Are the conservatives in the House of Representatives for real?”

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Since I first took an interest in politics in 1994, my hometown of Harrisonburg has been represented by 2 different Delegates, 2 State Senators, 5 Governors, 4 U.S. Senators, 3 Presidents, and a vast multitude of city council members.  During this time, there has been only one consistent factor in the Harrisonburg political representation, Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke.  First elected in 1992, he has been our voice in the United States House of Representatives, uninterrupted for these last 19 years.

Given that the 6th district is arguably the most conservative and most Republican district in the state of Virginia, it comes as no surprise that Bob Goodlatte has won so many times.  But were you aware that the Democratic Party has fielded a candidate in only one of his last six elections?  Furthermore, each time that Goodlatte has faced a Democratic opponent, he has turned back these challengers handily, capturing between 60 to 69% of the vote.

So what about the elections when the Democrats don’t try?  Well, in those cases Goodlatte often has no opposition, as was the case in 1994, 2000, and 2004, or an assortment of third party and/or independent candidates.  These opponents outside the two-party system fare even worse that the Democrats.  For example, in the most recent contest back in 2010, he trounced both a Libertarian and Modern Whig, garnering a commanding 76.26%.

After taking the last election off, the Democratic Party seems poised to try to capture the seat once more.  Right now, their probable candidate appears to be Andy Schmookler, a radio personality and author from Shenandoah County.

However, unlike every previous contest, save for his first in 1992, we have an unusual challenge; Bob Goodlatte is facing an opponent from within the Republican Party.  Running as a liberty-minded Republican is Karen Kwiatkowski, a former Air Force Colonel, college instructor, and political author from Shenandoah County.

Now, if either the Republican nomination or the general election were held today, I would expect Bob Goodlatte to win both handily.  After all, he has a massive advantage in name ID, war chest contributions, and is generally liked in political circles, Republican or otherwise.

According to Roanoke’s WSLS, at an event in Verona earlier this month Mr. Schmookler “compared his 6th District campaign to the rebel…mission to destroy the Death Star”.  That assessment may not be too far from the mark.  As fans of the Star Wars trilogy will recall, Han Solo declared Luke’s lucky shot at the end of the first film to be “one in a million”.  With all due respect to Mr. Schmookler and the Democratic Party, given the conservative nature of the voters in the Shenandoah and Roanoke Valleys as well as the surrounding highlands, a Democratic victory in the 6th seems just about as improbable as the undermanned and under equipped rebels’ assault in that movie.

Although we don’t know if it will be decided by a primary, convention, or something else, which can certainly influence the outcome, I would expect the most exciting contest to be in the Republican nomination.  Are voters happy with Mr. Goodlatte and our current representation in Congress?  And what kind of alternative is Mrs. Kwiatkowsi offering?  These questions are the central issue that the two candidates and their campaigns will need to answer.

Mr. Goodlatte has a clear advantage over any challenger at this stage, but I’m looking forward to watching the contest to come.  As a fellow voter in the 6th, I encourage you to read about the candidates and visit their websites to learn more about our Representative, Bob Goodlatte, and his two contenders, Andy Schmookler, and Karen Kwiatkowski.

Is Bob Goodlatte unbeatable?  So far that answer seems to be yes.  But, there are other factors we must consider.  First, when we mix the contest with a high profile Senate and Presidential race, the story gets far more interesting. Second, given that he is opposed from both the left and the right, it seems certain that 2012 will be the most intriguing House race that Virginia’s 6th has seen in decades.

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A lot of people have been speculating as to who will be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives prior to yesterday’s election.  Now that the Republicans have taken control of the House, most eyes have turned to House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.  Although his positions are quite good on a number of issues such as abortion and gun rights, I believe there are better choices out there.

We need a Speaker who will ardently and consistently stand up against big government and support fiscal conservatism.  Toward that end, might I suggest that we start by examining the following candidates:  Rep. Paul Broun (GA), Rep. Randy Forbes (VA), Rep. Ed Royce (CA), Rep. Michael Burgess (TX), Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ), Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (GA), Rep. Phil Gingrey (GA), Rep. Ron Paul (TX), Rep John Duncan Jr. (TN), Rep Louie Gohmert (TX), Rep. Ted Poe (TX), Rep. Jeff Flake (AZ), Rep. Jack Kingston (GA), or Rep. Tom Price (GA).  Now you may be asking, what do all these House of Representatives members have in common?  Each of them steadfastly voted against every bailout proposal in 2008 and 2009.  Although there were seventeen folks in all who were originally on this list, several have retired or moved on to other offices.  Even though the House has the option to elect a Speaker outside their ranks, I don’t consider such a move likely, as it has never happened up to this point.

Now, unfortunately some of these choices I don’t really know.  It is quite possible that they hold very objectionable voting records in regard to other issues.  Nevertheless, I believe that the Republican Party should set some sort of principled standard as to who the next Speaker will be.  Standing firm against the bailouts sounds like an excellent way to begin to weed out potential choices.

The American people have once again given the Republicans a chance to at least share in the leadership of our national government.  Electing a proven and principled Speaker to the House of Representatives will help make sure they don’t screw up this opportunity by 2012.   Otherwise prepare yourself for another term of President Obama.

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Jeff Vanke

During the 6th district debate yesterday evening, candidate Jeff Vanke was looking to convince the crowd that he could beat Bob Goodlatte in the race for U.S. House of Representatives.  After all, it is a simple fact that a good number of people will not vote for a candidate that they know will lose, a trend often referred to as the wasted vote.  To prove his electablity, he presented the audience with poll results that showed Vanke in a virtual even election with Goodlatte.  In this poll, Goodlatte garnered 46% of the vote, Vanke 42%, and Bain 4%.  According to the data, he had about 1,000 random respondents spread across 14 cities and counties in the 6th district.  Sounds promising for Vanke huh?  The problem with the poll however, as Vanke freely admits, is that it is a push poll.

Although I have discussed push polls earlier on this blog, I feel I should refresh your memory.  The primary purpose of push polls are to highlight negative attributes of one candidate either to determine what sort of attacks will be successful against that candidate or to create a strong negative reaction in the minds of voters.  Given their wording, push polls are not a useful tool for determining the outcome of an election as voters are not similarly “pushed” by the generally straightforward nature of the ballot.  For the record, Vanke’s poll reads as follows:

There’s no Democrat in this race, but there is a choice.  Independent Jeff Vanke has drafted a balanced Federal budget, and he’s running for Congress because no one there has done it.  Eighteen-year incumbent Bob Goodlatte has taken more than $1 million in agribusiness political donations, and he has charged each of us over $2000 in extra taxes to pay for agribusiness subsidies.  Independent Jeff Vanke thinks we can do better.

If the election were held today, who would you vote for?  For Independent Jeff Vanke, press 1.  For the incumbent, Republican Bob Goodlatte, press 2.  For Libertarian Stuart Bain, press 3…

Of course if you demean one candidate and elevate another right before you ask for whom a person will vote, obviously the answer will be skewed in favor of the second candidate.  To use a common (and unsubstantiated) example, what if I told you that Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen?  Would you be more likely to vote for Barack Obama or a Republican candidate?  Obviously the results would favor the Republican to far greater extent than they would if the respondent had not been told of Obama’s supposed nationality.

Now, I hope you don’t think I’m being overly hostile toward Mr. Vanke.  After all, I believe it takes considerable courage to run for office and I applaud Mr. Vanke for being a very active participant in our election process.  He’s also right in one important respect.  I strongly believe that we need a balanced budget and we need one now.  It is horribly unfair for the present generation to saddle future generations with past debt.

So, back to the question of the day, will Vanke get 42% of the vote next week as his poll suggests?  Don’t count on it.  The last time two independent candidates challenged Goodlatte, combined they only captured about 24% of the vote.  Here’s where I’d jokingly make a ridiculous wager against Vanke getting anywhere close to 42% but, given Representative Goodlatte’s efforts to curb internet gambling and my ignorance regarding these laws, I’ll refrain.  Regardless if you live in the 6th district of Virginia, or someplace very far away, I encourage you to learn about the candidates running and make and informed choice.  Yes, voting is a civic duty, but it must be done rationally and clearly.  Otherwise you may be fooled by the next push poll that comes along.

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On Monday, I got a brief email from the local Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.  It told me that the candidates for the 6th district House of Representatives Seat were having a debate.  Being the political animal that I am, I made certain to be free during that time so that I could participate.  Here was my chance to listen to all three candidates for office and ask them about specific issues.  I thought that the notice was written rather strangely.  It read, “At 7:30 PM, Tuesday, the 26th, Stuart Bain, Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 6th district will be debating his opponents in the Memorial Hall Auditorium at James Madison University.”  Although I know that Representative Goodlatte did not return the Tea Party’s candidate survey, it seemed a bit strange to me that they did not mention the sitting Congressman by name in the debate announcement, but rather used the term “Bain’s opponent”.  Therefore, shortly before the debate, I called Representative Goodlatte’s Harrisonburg office to make certain that he would be attending the event.  Unfortunately, I was informed that he was not going to be there.  Despite this considerable disappointment, I still showed up.

Vanke on the left, Bain on the right

Overall, I thought the debate itself went pretty well.  Both Jeff Vanke and Stuart Bain tackled a number of issues ranging from balancing the federal budget, immigration, and various disagreements they have with Congressman Goodlatte’s positions.  As one of many questions from the audience, I appreciated the opportunity to ask the candidates about their positions regarding the war on terrorism. Before I conclude, I want to thank JMU and acknowledge their efforts in hosting the event.  For more coverage on the specifics of the debate, you can visit both hburgnews and whsv.

As I’ve stated many times in the past, in order for our form of government to survive, we must have an informed electorate.  Toward that end, before you vote on Tuesday I encourage you to visit the websites of all three candidates to learn more about them.  As the debate was supposed to highlight, you can choose between the Republican Goodlatte, the Libertarian Bain, or the Independent Vanke.  You should vote, but you should vote smart.

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