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Posts Tagged ‘Sheriff’

This morning, citizens across Virginia awake to a day much like any other.  The sun has risen, the temperature is fairly warm, and life proceeds steadily onward.  The politicos among us, still weary from the toils of yesterday, look to the results of Election Day and are instilled with either hope or dread depending on one’s perspective.  So what are the results?

The biggest topic is the Virginia Senate.  So far, the Republican Party has netted one seat with Bill Stanley’s narrow win over Roscoe Reynolds in the 20th district.  The 17th district is still too close to call with Republican Bryce Reeves currently enjoying a 136-vote lead over incumbent Edd Houck.  It seems very likely that a recount in that district is coming soon.

Although the GOP has made gains, it certainly isn’t the slam-dunk that many conservative and Republican activists had hoped.  Assuming Houck emerges victorious, the Democrats will retain control of the Senate.  If Reeves wins, then the chamber will be evenly split with Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling likely casting the deciding tie-breaking vote in many circumstances.

One question that has troubled me throughout the campaign is, assuming the Republicans gain control of the Senate (or have a 20-20 tie), who will lead the party in that chamber?  Will it be a fiscal, social, and constitutional conservative?  Or will it be someone in the mold of former Senator John Chichester?  Even though I’ve been told by several sources that we will not return to such days, unless the GOP chooses a leader based on conservative principles, and not merely on seniority, I remain concerned.

Before moving on to the other races, I believe it is important to recognize that conservatives could have made their gains greater, but they spread their resources too thinly.

Looking at the unofficial results, the GOP ran pretty close campaigns in the 1st, the 33rd, the 36th, the 37th, the 38th, and the 39th.  However, the party devoted efforts to wide range of other races and thus ended up short in so many places.  As Bearing Drift stated in the most recent issue of their magazine, the 36th and the 38th districts leaned Republican and yet both were lost.  If money and volunteers were used in a wiser fashion, would the GOP now have a 21 or 22-seat majority instead?  To use a sports analogy, why gamble so much and swing for a homerun when a simple base will win (or at least tie) the game?

Here at home, Republican Bryan Hutcheson will be the new Sheriff of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  Even though the city was close, Hutcheson captured an amazing 66% of the vote in the county.  Congratulations to Mr. Hutcheson and his campaign team for their decisive win.

Moving north, Craig Orndorff emerged the top vote getter in the four-way race for Soil and Water Conservation Director in Shenandoah County.  Best wishes to him in his new position.

With the House of Delegates firmly in Republican hands, not too much attention has been given to that chamber.  However, given my ties with a particular House of Delegates seat, the last area of interest is the 93rd district.  As I mentioned previously, this district became a little more Republican after redistricting.  Mike Watson of Williamsburg capitalized on shift by defeating freshman Delegate Robin Abbott of Newport News.

Over all, things haven’t changed too much here in Virginia.  I’m sure pundits from both sides of the aisle will spin the results to declare victory for their cause boldly stating that either President Obama has been repudiated or vindicated.  Personally, I don’t think this election demonstrated a huge shift, but rather serves as another testament to Virginia’s conservative-leaning principles.

As the ink begins to dry on Election Day 2011, we prepare for 2012.  Given the limited space on my car, today is the annual ritual of bumper sticker removal.  So long Delegate Wilt and Senator Obenshain.  I expect to see both your names on my vehicle for the 2013 cycle.

The ceaseless political battle continues again soon.  But, for the moment, let’s come together as Virginians united and savor a respite.  The time for reflection and introspection is at hand.

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In about eight and a half hours polls across the Commonwealth of Virginia will open.  On the ballot, we will find each member of the House of Delegates, the Virginia Senate, and a whole host of local and constitutional offices.

The most talked about aspect of this election statewide is control of the State Senate.  Currently, the Democratic Party enjoys a 22-18 majority in that chamber.  Most commentators, myself included, believe that the Republican Party will pick up several seats.  The two questions are: how many seats will the GOP gain and where will they enjoy the greatest success?

Here in the Shenandoah Valley, neither the House nor the Senate races are particularly interesting.  Most incumbents are unopposed and the one Delegate who is challenged, Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton, should win handily.  As I’ve mentioned, the race for Sheriff is the most exciting contest in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  Of course, I’m also interested to hear the outcome of the school board race in the county too.

In years past, you would often find me outside polling places, working for a candidate or the party.  This year, though, I’m trying something new.  I’ll be working for Rockingham County to help oversee one of their many polling places.  From 5 AM to 9 PM, you will find me at this post.  It’s going to be a long day, but whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or an Independent, we can all agree that ensuring proper voting and fair play is a central element of our election process.

Anyway, if you live in Virginia, I want to remind you to vote tomorrow.  Sure, this election may not be as glamorous as the 2012 Presidential race to come, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.  After all, if you want to have a voice in your state and local government, now you have your chance!  Polls are open from 6 AM to 7 PM.

Vote Virginia!

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On Tuesday night, like many Americans, I intently watched a hotly contested political debate.  However, unlike most of the folks, the debate I sat in the audience of didn’t feature presidential hopefuls, but rather the three candidates for Sheriff of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County.  As opposed to the Tea Party forum that was held previously, this event last night was a full-fledged, no holds barred debate.  And let me tell you that the attacks came fast and furious as the night went on.

I’ll start by mentioning the particulars of the debate that I thought went well.

First, the fact that all three candidates showed up was important.  This point might seem like a minor issue, but a debate is a time-honored tradition in American politics that should not be ignored (cough hint to George Allen cough). I congratulate C. M. Hess, Bryan Hutcheson, and Kevin Shifflett for having the courage to stand before the voters (or employers as Mr. Shifflett prefers to call them) and articulate their reasoning for seeking the office of sheriff.

Second, I thought the debate was well run.  Although the periodic announcement of time remaining was a distraction, the time keeping was handled fairly, giving each candidate equal time.  I appreciated that hosts allowed for considerable audience participation (although I’ll delve into a specific negative on this issue shortly.)

Third, in general the audience and candidates were respectful of each other.  There were no wild outbursts or interruptions and although there were differences in levels of applause, clapping greeted each answer.

However, the greatest negative, in my mind, had to revolve around the audience questions.

First, was there any oversight or prescreening on these questions?  Some folks tended to ramble, veer off topic, or jam several questions into one.

Second, it seemed to me that some members of the audience sought to politically assassinate candidates.  Now I understand that most of the people asking questions did so in order to promote the candidate of their choice or to point out the weaknesses of the other candidates, but some of the attacks seemed to me to be over the top, especially the ones directed against Mr. Hess.

As a result of recent news, most citizens are aware of the drinking and driving incident that took place last year involving our current sheriff, Don Farley.  Do I believe that the public needs to be better informed about this issue?  Yes.  If there is proof of misconduct should Sheriff Farley be held accountable?  Of course.  Does the entire Sheriff’s office bear some responsibility for this affair?  Sure.  Well, should we bludgeon Mr. Hess repeatedly over the head with this issue and treat him as if he were drinking and driving himself?  I don’t think so.

I’d compare the event to a three-way boxing match.  Imagine if you will, during the fight several spectators jumping into the ring to pummel one or more of the athletes.  Would you consider such a move fair?  Now, if one of the candidates wished to spend his time tearing into another candidate that is one thing.  I just found the repeated attacks from the audience against all the candidates, but especially against Mr. Hess given their ferocity, quite distasteful.

I think there is something to like in all three of the choices, but each of the candidates seems to have a particular strength.  C.M. Hess gets a leg up with on the issue of experience given his lengthy service with the department.  Although none have run for office prior, Bryan Hutcheson seems to be the most articulate, which can create confidence and clarity among the force and the citizenry.  Given his role in the discipline of the armed forces, one can argue that Kevin Shifflett stands a better chance to reform some of the negative aspects of the office.

If you are wondering who I thought won this debate, given all aspects, I believe that Mr. Hutcheson emerged the winner (or the least unscathed depending on your perspective).  One of his strongest moments emerged when both Mr. Hess and Mr. Shifflett independently stated that he would be supporting Mr. Hutcheson assuming he were not a candidate himself.

Will this trend continue in future debates?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, I encourage you to visit the websites of Hess, Hutcheson, and Shifflett as well as their Facebook pages.  The citizens of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County deserve a great sheriff.  Let’s make sure we pick the best one.

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These last few days have proved to be some of the more interesting in Virginia, both politically and otherwise.  Of course, this thought may lead you to ask why I haven’t written about it before Friday.  Well, when you are working a bunch of ten-hour days straight, I find you have time for little more than sleeping and eating.  But enough about myself; let’s dive in.

I suppose the most talked about news has to be the Virginia earthquake.  Based right outside the town of Mineral, VA, at 1:51 PM on Tuesday, a 5.8 magnitude quake shook the eastern U.S.  At the time, I was about sixty miles away, across the Blue Ridge Mountains in Weyers Cave, VA.  Although I certainly felt the tremor, I didn’t know it what it was at the time.  Fortunately, the damage was limited and there have been no reports of any fatalities.  However, any time there is an earthquake near a nuclear power plant, I suppose there should be cause for concern.

Moving on to political matters…also on Tuesday, there were a number of primaries across the Commonwealth.  Republican and Democratic hopefuls squared off against each other to secure their party nominations.  Although there weren’t really any great surprises, there were a few disappointments.  Running through the most interesting contests for Senate, we find Senator Norment easily fended off a challenger, former Del. Dick Black making a successful return to state politics, former Delegate and former RPV Chairman Jeff Frederick wiping the floor with Tito Munoz, Jason Flanary denying Steve Hunt another chance to reclaim the seat formerly held by Ken Cuccinelli, and Tom Garrett edging out a win in a five-way contest in the 22nd.

Switching to statewide issues, a recent rift has developed between Senate candidate and former Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke and RedState editor Erick Erickson.  If you may recall, Erickson was early supporter of Radtke’s, promoting her over the “establishment retread” of former Governor and former Senator George Allen.  Although many of the details are still being sorted out, Erickson recently published negative comments about Radtke after her recent speech at a convention sponsored by RedState in Florida.  With allegations flying that her discourse was extremely lackluster and that Allen supporters fund RedState, it is proving difficult to sort out the facts from the conjecture.  Although it is certainly true that I respect both Radtke and RedState, I recommend letting the dust settle before delving into wild speculation.

Moving to local issues, a new candidate has entered the race for Sheriff of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  His name is Kevin Shifflett and he is from Harrisonburg.  Although details are limited, he is currently a captain in the Army National Guard.  Running as a second independent candidate, it should be interesting to see how his candidacy affects the field of Hutcheson & Hess.  Is he a strong contender?  I suppose we will discover the answer to this question very soon.

Lastly, I wanted to touch on last night’s Tea Party meeting.  As a result of featuring Delegates Tony Wilt, Steve Landes, and Rob Bell, the gathering was extremely well attended.  Just as impressive, the media covered the event for the first time.  Both WHSV (the local T.V. news) and the Daily News Record were present.  Although tea parties are waning in certain parts of the state and country, does this event herald an era of new success for our local tea party?  I certainly hope so.  I wish that I had brought my camera to capture it all.

Although there are other topics to consider, I believe that the ones listed above are far and away the most important in Shenandoah Valley politics these last several days.

Earthquakes, primaries, and political intrigue…wow!  What a week!

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We are ten days removed from the GOP primary for Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff.  However, I wanted to offer a few more observations regarding the race before it is shelved to memory.

If you will recall from my last post, both the local paper and TV news station reported differing vote totals.  The Daily News Record stated that Hutcheson won by about 500 votes (2,963-2,414), while WHSV had a margin of about 1,500 (3,963-2,414).  Given my expectations regarding the race, I assumed that the DNR’s statement was closer to the mark.  However, according to the July 14th issue of the DNR, the Rockingham County Republican Party released that Hutcheson triumphed by about 1,100 votes (3,224-2,153).   Breaking the total down further, Hutcheson lost Harrisonburg 493 to 670, but won the county 2,731 to 1,483.

What makes this election particularly remarkable is Hutcheson’s victory (not to mention his margin of victory).  If you will recall, back on June 26th I wrote, “I’ll wager that once next month’s dust settles that Boshart will be the GOP nominee”.  But why did I reach such a conclusion?

Let’s consider their perceived efforts.  For many months leading up to the primary, I saw Boshart at just about every Republican function while Hutcheson was more or less absent.  Sure, Hutcheson was the featured speaker at one of the First Friday functions (which unfortunately I missed), but why didn’t he do a better job reaching out to the Republican activists?  After all, active Republicans are far more likely to vote in Republican primaries than the average voter.  To compare politics to an orchard, if you have a limited amount of time, shouldn’t you harvest the low hanging fruit first before using a ladder to reach the upper branches?

What about direct voter contact?  Although I personally received nothing from either campaign, I hear that Boshart was far more prolific when it came to direct mail.

Third were the endorsements.  It seemed that just about every elected Republican official in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County were on the Boshart bandwagon.  State Senator Mark Obenshain, Delegate Tony Wilt, Clerk of Court Chaz Evans-Haywood…the list goes on.

So, why did Hutcheson win?  Well, as far as I can tell, there were three major reasons.

First, he expanded the base.  When I went to vote, I did not recognize a majority of the folks there.  I’d bet that many of the people who voted either never attended an official Republican function or only did so sporadically.  Although Rockingham County is among the most Republican counties in the state, I assure you that there are not 4,000 regularly active Republicans within the borders.  It seems that Hutcheson not only appealed to the more casual Republican voter, but also convinced them to come out to the polls.

How about the Hutcheson endorsements?  As mentioned, the Republican leadership favored Boshart, but Hutcheson seemed to have an edge when it came to law enforcement.  Shortly before the election, Hutcheson put an advertisement in the paper that listed a multitude of retired law enforcement officers who supported him for Sheriff.  I thought the ad was exceedingly effective.  After all, wouldn’t law enforcement personal know the demands and required qualifications for Sheriff far better than the average citizen?

Last, we have to ask; can too many endorsements be a bad thing?  Again, it seemed that every elected Republican supported Boshart.  As a result, on more than on occasion I heard the term “good old boys network” to characterize the situation.  If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, according to Wikipedia, it “describes a system of social networking/cronyism perceived to exist among communities and social strata…Some negative effects of the good ol’ boy network are its exclusion of others, leading to leaders of a community possibly limiting business transactions to other elites, or to friends or acquaintances from within the network, to give friends better deals, and generally to reinforce traditional power structures over any other elements in the society.”  Thus, among some people, the fear was that Boshart was not the most qualified candidate, but rather the one selected in advance by the party machinery.

Here we are, Hess versus Hutcheson.  Although I originally expected Hess to emerge victorious, that was before Hutcheson’s strong showing.  Before I make another incorrect prediction, I’ll have to wait and see what the next few months bring.

So, if you voted in the primary, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.  Did you vote for Hutcheson or Boshart?  More importantly, why did you vote the way you did?  What influenced your decision to vote for (or against) a certain candidate?  Is it one of the reasons that I listed above, or something totally different?  Share with us.

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I’ve just received word that Bryan Hutcheson has won the Republican primary for Sheriff of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  Congratulations to him for his victory.

I suppose that the high turnout that I witnessed played a heavy role in his success.  Although we are waiting for the official vote tally with the State Board of Elections, according to WHSV’s website Hutcheson won 3,963 to Boshart’s 2,414.

Once additional details become available, I’ll add more numbers and thoughts.

Update:  Daily News Record lists vote totals as 2,963 to 2,414.

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The Scene Outside Keister (about 4:10 PM)

Well, I have return from voting in the Republican primary for Sheriff.  I figured that it would be a fairly straightforward affair:  Grab the closest parking spot, get in the line for my precinct, vote, and then go home.  As expected, the process was not complex, however, there were far more people voting than I expected.

Now, I know that there is only one voting place for the city of Harrisonburg even though we typically have five and that the polling place is only open from 4 PM to 8 PM, but, with the exception of presidential years, most times you get in and out in about a half an hour or less.  Instead, I found that the closest parking lot was completely full.  Once inside, I had to wait in a lengthy line to be broken into our normal precincts.  My line (Keister) was far and away the busiest.

Outside the polling place, I noticed that at least two of the cars in the parking lot sported stickers for C.M. Hess (the Independent candidate for Sheriff).  At first, I was surprised to see them, but I guess I shouldn’t be.  After all, I vote in Democratic primaries regularly even though I don’t vote Democratic in the general election.  That got me thinking.  I wonder if most Hess people support one of the Republican candidates over the other.  Hmm…

Anyway, given that the overall turnout will likely exceed my expectations, it should be interesting to discover the results.  Will Boshart, who has the backing of pretty much every elected Republican in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, emerge victorious as I predicted?  Or will Hutcheson, who draws primarily from current and retired law enforcement officers, pull out a win?  I guess we’ll find out after 8 PM tonight.

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Today, voters across Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Virginia will have the opportunity to select a Republican candidate for sheriff.  The choice is between Kurt Boshart and Bryan Hutcheson.  The winner of this contest will go on to face Independent candidate C.M. Hess in the general election.

When speaking with various voters in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, I’ve been stumped by one question.  Let me back up for a second.  From reading this blog, you’ll quickly discover that I try to know just about everything I can about politics.  Therefore, when I don’t have the answer to an inquiry, I research until I find it.  However, I cannot figure out why the voters select the sheriff.

Isn’t the sheriff primarily responsible as the chief law enforcement agent in the city or county?  If that assumption is true, wouldn’t the best sheriff be the person who most efficiently and effectively promotes the laws of a particular locality?  Shouldn’t experience be more important than popularity?  Why, therefore, is the sheriff position subjected to the political process?

Although I know some states have popularly elected judges, I find the idea distasteful.  The creation of the law is a highly partisan process, but shouldn’t the application of the law be uniform?  Isn’t one of the primary purposes of both judges and sheriffs to maintain the law?  If a Republican, Democrat, or Independent chose not to uphold the law of the land, we ought to be outraged.  Need I remind you that legislators alone have the ability to craft laws and not judicial figures?

Now, maybe I just don’t really understand the position of sheriff all that well.  Does he (or she) have some sort of political role to play too?  Is that the reason why parties nominate candidates and voters go to the polls to pick their sheriff?

I could go on here, but I’m hoping a reader can offer comments that will enlighten both my fellow citizens and myself regarding this matter.  Even if you don’t have any firm knowledge, educated guesses are always welcome.

Don’t take me for a fool for asking, but why do we elect a sheriff?

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Virginia is gearing up for another election year.  Then again, every year is an election year in this state.  Like New Jersey, Virginia is a bit of an oddity in that we elect our representatives in state government in the odd numbered years.  Although this method does allow our state government to be partially detached from fluctuating national trends, it also means that we elect some legislator or another every November.

Here in the central Shenandoah Valley, office seekers to the House of Delegates, State Senate, and the various constitutional offices are in the early stages of winning allies and expanding their coffers.  We have five House members up for re-election as well as two State Senators.  Right now the field is pretty stable.  None of the present members (all Republicans) have any primary challengers and only one of them, Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton, currently has a Democratic opponent for the fall.  I’m working on an in-depth analysis of the 20th district contest for an upcoming post.

No doubt the biggest race in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County for 2011 has to be sheriff.  Currently, there are three people seeking the post.  Kurt Boshart and Bryan Hutcheson are vying for the Republican nomination that will be decided on July 12th.  The winner of this contest will face independent candidate C.M. Hess on the November ballot.

But what are my predictions regarding these two races?  Well, for the House of Delegates, Laura Kleiner is pretty green politically (her experience only reaches back to 2009 according to her website) and the newly drawn 20th district is still conservative.  Also, the more I listen to Delegate Bell, the more I like him.  I have to assume that other conservative activists in the Valley are reacting likewise.  Given these factors, I expect Dickie Bell will retain the seat.

As for the sheriff’s race, I’ll wager that once next month’s dust settles that Boshart will be the GOP nominee.  He seems to have a greater support among the Republican faithful and, as far as I can tell, has done a better job courting their support.  However, if the general election were held today, I believe Mr. Hess will prove victorious.  First of all, he is winning the sign war.  Drive around the city and especially the county and you’ll likely see a much greater number of his signs up at local businesses and the yards of supporters than either Hutcheson or Boshart.  Second, partisan leaning seem to have little influence over this race.  Although the area is heavily conservative, voters don’t necessarily favor the Republican nominee over an Independent when it comes to sheriff.  For example, in the last contested race in Harrisonburg in 2003, the Independent beat the Republican by a hefty 18.5%.

When considering either the sheriff or the delegate race, one should always remember that a lot can happen between now and Election Day.  After all, it is only late June now.  As 2006 and 2009 showed, one grievous slip of the tongue or a perceived ethical lapse by a candidate can easily scuttle months or years of effort.  Barring any major setback, the strength or weakness of a campaign effort will have a far greater impact than anything else…except maybe the lines of the district in question.

As with any political campaign, it should be interesting to watch.

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