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Posts Tagged ‘Bearing Drift’

Vote HereWell, ladies and gentlemen, it has been nearly a week since the election of November 5th.  Perhaps it is time for a little analysis.  Before I begin, I should add that the week before the election, Bearing Drift asked their readers to offer their predictions on how things would turn out.  Therefore, in each race, I’ll start by mentioning my predictions.

Governor

Prediction: McAuliffe 51%, Cuccinelli 43%, Sarvis 6%

Actual: McAuliffe 47.74%, Cuccinelli 45.23%, Sarvis 6.52%

The four November polls in the lead up to Election Day predicted Cuccinelli down by significant percentages, 12%, 7%, 6%, and 7%.  Only one, Emerson College placed him within two points and the margin of error.  As Cuccinelli had not been leading in a poll since mid July, the general thought was that it wasn’t going to be a particularly close race.  However, the Cuccinelli campaign tried two tactics right before judgment day.

The first involved Obamacare.  Given that citizens across the country were having tremendous difficulty signing up on the official website, this frustration and anger proved to be fertile ground for the Cuccinelli camp given that Cuccinelli had been attacking the program within hours of its passage.  If the Cuccinelli campaign had latched onto this message sooner rather than relentlessly attacking McAuliffe, then perhaps they would have stood a good chance of actually winning.

Second, as negativity was their style, the Cuccinelli campaign and their allies attempted last minute smearing of Robert Sarvis, declaring that he was not a real libertarian and that he was secretly funded by Democrats.  Although neither of these claims were grounded in much fact, as they were distributed by both leaders in the liberty movement and a handful of well-known media sources, some voters accepted them as true and passed them on to their friends and neighbors unquestioned.  Although these tactics likely enraged a number of Sarvis supporters and turned them further from Cuccinelli, it did drive others to switch their votes from Sarvis to Cuccinelli.  Although I predicted that Sarvis would pull equally from both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, exit polls show that either his presence didn’t affect the overall outcome or he drew more from the Democratic side than the Republican.  However, this last ditch effort to win Sarvis support likely caused an even deeper fracture within the liberty movement in Virginia.

10% was the hurdle that Sarvis needed to reach and, as I predicted, he fell short.  However, assuming these false attacks were not launched, it would have been interesting to see how close he would have come.

Lieutenant Governor

Prediction: Northam 55%, Jackson 45%

Actual: Northam 55.11%, Jackson 44.54%

If you account for rounding, I hit this one exactly on the mark.  Unfortunately, as I stated upon the conclusion of the 2013 Virginia Republican Convention, by nominating Jackson the Republicans had surrendered the LG race.  If you will recall, in Jackson’s previous attempt at a statewide race the year before, he picked up a scant 4.72%.  Although Jackson strongly resonated with the hard-line social conservatives within the GOP, many of his previous statements regarding alternate religions and lifestyles hurt him tremendously among average Virginians.  Although Ralph Northam did not run a particularly impressive or vigorous campaign, all he needed to do was to air some of Jackson’s more controversial statements and victory was all but a certainty.

Attorney General

Prediction: Obenshain 52% Herring 48%

Actual: Obenshain 49.88%, Herring 49.88% (as of 11/10/13)

The Obenshain/Herring contest turned out to be a real nail-biter, with the results still unknown and likely headed to a recount.  Originally, I expected Obenshain to win based upon the fact that the Democrats had not won the attorney general’s spot since 1989 and that Obenshain had been working hard to capture this office for the last several years.  Although, in my opinion, the Obenshain team ran the best of the three Republican campaigns, they were no doubt hampered by troubles at the top of the ticket.  Once news of a possible recount emerged, I was still under the impression that Obenshain would win, but with the addition of “missing” ballots from Fairfax, the results seem a lot more unclear.  We likely won’t know anything definitive for at least a month.

House of Delegates

Prediction: 1 net seat gain for the Democrats

Actual: 1 net seat gain for the Democrats

With all of the excitement surrounding the three statewide races, the hundred seats in the House of Delegates weren’t much more than an afterthought for many Virginia voters.  Although I didn’t know where, I assumed that the Democrats would pick off a Republican somewhere.  It looks as if the GOP lost in the 2nd district, picked up the previously Republican leaning independent seat in the 19th, picked up the vacant seat in the 78th, picked up the vacant seat in 84th, and lost the 93rd.  Elsewhere, there were a considerable number of close contests.  Prior to the elections and vacancies, the Democrats had 32 seats.  Now they have 33.  Although I’ve written extensively on the 93rd in previous posts, it seems that even with a bit of gerrymandering the seat was too difficult for the GOP to hold for long.

So I guess the question now is, will Obenshain win?  And, especially if he does not, given their string of successive statewide losses since the 2009 election, what will become of the Republican Party of Virginia?

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IMG_2184As Virginia approaches its November 5th election, activists are pondering all sorts of questions.  Will Ken Cuccinelli launch a surprise comeback to become the state’s next governor?  Will the Democratic Party sweep the three statewide offices for the first time since 1989?  Will Mark Obenshain win the attorney general’s race, proving to be the one bright spot for the Republican Party on Election Day?  However, one question that will also have a lasting impact on Virginia politics is, will Robert Sarvis meet or exceed the 10% mark?

For some, this last question might sound a bit odd.  Isn’t who wins or loses the election the only important factor?  What difference does it make if Sarvis gets 1%, 5%, 10%, or even 15%?  Well, if Robert Sarvis captures at least 10% of the vote, that means that Virginia would now have three major recognized political parties, the Democrats, Republicans, and the Libertarians.  For the Libertarians, this switch would mean easier ballot access.  For example, although the Libertarians nominated Sarvis by convention in April (similar to how the Republican nominated Cuccinelli in May), the Libertarians were under the additional burden of being required to collect at least 10,000 signatures from registered voters to actually get Sarvis on November’s ballot.  For a smaller party, like the Libertarians, this effort meant considerable manpower and funding.  If Sarvis gets 10% or more, should the Libertarians nominate a candidate via convention for the 2014 Senate race, they would be free from this task, at least for the next several years.

With these thoughts in mind, will Sarvis make 10%?  Recent polls indicate that he could, but many activists are skeptical.  That being said, fellow blogger Shaun Kenney of Bearing Drift stated today on Facebook that Sarvis will reach the 10% threshold.  Anyone else care to offer their predictions?

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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

Lately, Virginia politics has shifted to an ethics probe surrounding Governor Bob McDonnell.  Yesterday, Bearing Drift, the largest conservative blog in the state, reported that the governor would resign, a rumor denied by the governor’s staff.

To recap for those who haven’t been following this story, Bob McDonnell has recently come under fire as a result of an FBI investigation which discovered that one of his donors has given the governor and his family thousands of dollars in unreported gifts including paying a substantial sum for the wedding of the governor’s daughter and giving the executive a multi-thousand dollar Rolex watch.  State Senator Chap Peterson is the first (and so far only) legislator calling upon the governor to resign.

But what does Governor McDonnell think about possible ethics violations?  Well, if we rewind the clock four years, we come across the case of Phil Hamilton, a former member of the House of Delegates who lost his seat in a scandal involving Old Dominion University.  Almost as soon as the allegations were made, before any charges were filed, McDonnell, along with Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins, called for Hamilton to resign.  He stated, “From what I have seen of published news accounts containing emails and admissions, it appears that Delegate Hamilton has violated the public trust. Based on this public information it would be in the best interests of his constituents for him to step down…” McDonnell went on to add “…but if he believes that the due process of a full inquiry by the House Ethics Advisory Panel will clear his name, he should have a full opportunity to present his case.”  McDonnell, like his cohorts, were quick to condemn Hamilton without either a trial or full ethics inquiry, choosing instead a course which he thought would best help the party and his own chances during his 2009 run for governor.  Then State Senator Ken Cuccinelli stood alone in his conviction that Hamilton, like anyone accused of a crime, ought to have his day in court before being thrown under the bus by his party and his running mates.

So, will Bob McDonnell resign based upon these charges?  Well, if he wished to remain morally consistent he would do so.  After all, if the mere charges of bribery and corruption were enough to bring down a delegate in 2009, surely this line of thinking would be constant for a governor in 2013 as well.  Unfortunately, especially in politics, far too many politicians live in a world where they insist on a certain moral code…as long as it applies to everyone but the person advocating the code.

Yes, the charges levied against Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell are deeply troubling and, if proven true, he ought to resign his office. Whether the governor survives this scandal or whether he ends up sharing a cell alongside Delegate Hamilton, it is all but certain that this once rumored 2016 presidential contender’s political career has reached its zenith.  However, the hypocrisy of the whole situation is not lost on this blogger.  Remember, as Bob McDonnell said in 2009, “Elected officials must keep the highest ethical standards in order to maintain the public trust.”

Is Bearing Drift’s prediction of a resignation in the works?  I suppose the answer to this question hinges upon the severity of the charges and the evidence against McDonnell.  Either way, I expect we will find out in the coming days.

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Yesterday, fellow blogger Willie Deutsch posted a 2012 campaign piece in which Susan Stimpson joins Bill Howell in urging voters to support George Allen for the United States Senate in the June 12th Republican primary.  This information, along with a host of other adventures once again begs the question, who is Susan Stimpson?

Susan Stimpson at the Middletown Forum

Susan Stimpson at the Middletown Forum

I first had the opportunity to hear Susan Stimpson at last year’s Ron Paul Legacy Dinner in Staunton, Virginia.  At the time, I thought the list of speakers for the event was rather curious.  After all, I only know of two recent candidates who sought or are seeking either statewide or federal office that have openly supported Ron Paul: these are Karen Kwiatkowski (who sought the 6th district GOP nomination) and Delegate Bob Marshall (who ran for Senate in 2008 and 2012).  Although it is quite easy to support the cause of liberty when it is politically advantageous, it is quite another issue entirely to stand on principle regardless of the potentially negative consequences.  Although Stimpson was unknown to many liberty activists, there is no question that she gained considerable traction through her appearance at this dinner.

There seemed to be an increasing avalanche of support for Stimpson among the liberty community.  However, I have urged and continue to urge my fellow activists to learn about all of the candidates before blindly hopping on any bandwagon.

So who is Susan Stimpson?  I’m still not sure, but one moment that sticks out in my mind took place during the forum at Liberty in Lynchburg.  When asked if she supported random drug testing for welfare recipients, she stated that she did.  As someone who considers himself a constitutional conservative, I found this answer to be particularly troubling for two reasons conveniently voiced by Pete Snyder and Senator Steve Martin.  First, as Mr. Snyder pointed out, these drug screenings would be a considerable invasion of privacy.  Although I do not have any fondness for a permanent welfare program, I’m horrified about the prospect of granting the state more power to control its citizens.  The second concern, mentioned by Senator Martin is one of cost.  How would the state be able to afford to drug test recipients?  Wouldn’t such a move require additional state employees and equipment?  From where would these funds come?  Would the move require additional taxes or cuts in more important programs?

Yesterday’s information from Willie Deutsch brings the question of Susan Stimpson into the forefront again.  Is she the liberty candidate?  Is she the rebellious conservative outsider?  Or is she, as Shaun Kenney over at Bearing Drift suggests, an establishment conservative?  Now don’t get me wrong, if a candidate could successfully wear the mantles of both being an establishment Republican while simultaneously viewed as a liberty-minded libertarian/conservative, he or she would likely enjoy tremendous success.  But is such a designation possible or is it merely a shell game that, if discovered, would result in utter disaster, alienating both wings of the Republican Party?

Scott Lingamfelter recently damaged his chances to win over liberty activists with his negative comments about Ron Paul supporters.  But, to the best of my knowledge, he has never claimed to be the “conservative/liberty candidate”.  By comparison, if Stimpson turns out to be merely an establishment candidate who adopted the clothing of liberty for political advantage, the fallout from such a realization would almost certainly be fatal to her campaign.

As a personal note, I must say that it is an extremely liberating feeling to have not selected a candidate yet, to be able to examine all of the candidates as objectively as I can without worrying if this process offends them or causes my employer or co-workers to view me unfavorably.

So, we return to our first question.  Who is Susan Stimpson?  Is she the liberty champion that many of my fellow Ron Paul supporters are selling her to be?  Or is she something else?  Either way, it is unwise to either rush to praise her or condemn her.

Regardless of your political principles, I once again encourage all of the activists seeking to be delegates to the Richmond convention in May to get informed, stay informed, and to share any and all information that they find.  Don’t simply adopt my opinion or the opinion of someone else.  Sure, it takes time, but do the research for yourself.

Lastly, don’t mistakenly think that the main purpose of this article is to disparage Susan Stimpson, but rather to promote awareness.  After all, who knows?  Once all of the dust settles, and I have sufficient data, I may find myself firmly in her camp, assuming her principles closely match my own and her campaign does a decent job articulating her message.  Remember, it is okay to trust, but you must also verify.

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Photo from the George Allen 2012 Campaign

Recently, the Republican Party of Virginia held their third and final Senate debate between the four candidates.  Although, to the best of my knowledge, none of the previous debates were televised statewide, I was appreciative that I was still able to watch them through the blog Bearing Drift.  However, despite my searching, I haven’t been able to find the entire video of the third debate.

Shortly after this last debate, one of my friends shared a rather curious quote from George Allen, one of the four hopefuls vying for the GOP nomination.  Regarding war and U.S. foreign policy, Allen stated, “The concern I have is not whether we have a (congressional) authorization of force, it’s whether or not our military is going to have the equipment, the armament, the up-to-date technology that is paramount as they’re trying to protect our freedoms.”

Given that any conservative should find such a statement troubling, I searched the web in the hopes of finding video of Allen making this comment.  Although I was unsuccessful, I did find a Washington Post article, which confirmed the above quote as accurate.  In addition, I received a video from the Radtke campaign from the debate on this very issue last night.

In response to this matter, I wrote on Facebook was that “anyone who makes such a statement should be declared unfit for federal office”.  Now the average Republican voter might think that my statement is outlandish…at least at first glance, but allow me the opportunity to explain my rationale.  What is George Allen really saying here?

Let’s first focus on the positive aspect.  The second part of his statement is that he wants our military to have the best equipment possible.  I don’t find anything wrong with this line of thinking.  It is actually laudable.  After all, if we ask our brave men and women to risk their lives on behalf of their countrymen, it is only proper that we supply them with the best tools to protect them from harm.

However, the first segment is what is truly damning.  He doesn’t care whether or not Congress authorizes the use of force?  What’s going on here?  Has he ever read the Constitution?  Does he know that only Congress has the power to declare war?  And if he doesn’t care if Congress gives their approval, who does Allen believe should have control of the military?  Should we have an imperial presidency where the executive branch rules unchecked?  Or should these decisions be left up the generals like some sort of South American military junta?  Mr. Allen, how can the military protect our freedoms abroad while they are sent on missions that run contrary to rules that underpin the foundations of both our government and society?

Although George Allen was widely denounced by the media in 2006 for his so-called macaca moment, isn’t his statement here far more troubling?  It is not merely some case of either racism or perceived racism, but rather shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution, the separation of powers, and the proper role of a United States Senator.  It would be one thing if he were merely an ill-informed private citizen with no ties to the government, but it is quite another when he has actually served six years in the Senate and is seeking to do so again in the June 12th GOP primary.

Last I checked, conservatives believe in things like federalism and a government bound by the restraints of the Constitution.  Through his quote in the recent debate, George Allen has shown once again that his philosophy of government does not align with the conservative mindset of actually limiting government.  I don’t know about you, but I’m terrified of the prospect of electing more leaders from either party who will trample upon the rule of law and disregard the Constitution.  I sincerely pray that Mr. Allen recants the statement he made in the above video.

Photo from the Jamie Radtke Campaign

Don’t forget that in just a few short weeks, Virginia voters will go to the polls to select the GOP nominee for Senate.  I just hope that all Virginians will remember Allen’s words here.  After all, we can ill afford to continue an irresponsible foreign policy ruled by a single person or cabal which is all done without congressional approval and oversight.  Given that issue, do you really want to return a man like George Allen to such an important position of power?  Or should we elect someone like Jamie Radtke who understands the proper role of a United States Senator?  Seems like an obvious choice, doesn’t it?

Update:  It seems like the folks at Citizen Tom have a link to the video of the entire third debate.  Check it out here!

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Starting on Sunday and running through Wednesday evening, Bearing Drift held a straw poll regarding the Republican nomination for Virginia’s Senate seat in 2012.  Impressively, over one thousand people voted over this several day timeframe.

Here is a visual representation of the results, thanks to the folks at Bearing Drift:

The positions of the top three candidates are of particular interest.  As you can see, Jamie Radtke handily won this poll with 45% of the vote.  George Allen, the current frontrunner according to most polls, finished tied with Tim Donner for second place with 24%.   Therefore, while this poll should serve as a boost to both the Radtke and Donner campaigns, it should be seen as a warning for the Allen folks.  As for the Jackson and McCormick campaigns, these results might be troubling as well especially given that “Other/Democratic” more than tripled McCormick’s total.

Now, some people will quickly dismiss the results of this poll.  After all, it was only available online, anyone could vote, and likely only those with a high degree of interest participated.  Furthermore, the author of the poll, Shaun Kenney, writes that it is “wholly unscientific and non-reliable”.  However, it should also be pointed out that the poll was on Bearing Drift, the most (or second most depending on who is doing the tabulating) well-known and well-read blog in the conservative blogosphere in Virginia.

Here’s another interesting fact to consider; George Allen is easily winning the endorsement race.  Why, just about every elected Republican officeholder in the Shenandoah Valley has thrown his or her support behind our former Senator and Governor.  However, does this poll reflect a general weakness of confidence among the grassroots base?  I know that Bearing Drift has contributors and readers who are vocal in their support of Allen.  But, if he is unable to translate this support into less than one of every four votes in this online poll, could that news spell trouble for Allen’s chances in either the primary or general election?  Are most of Allen’s supporters the silent majority?  Do they not read blogs like Bearing Drift?  Or did they simply choose not to participate?   Under any circumstance, you do have to wonder if a sizable chunk of the online political movers and shakers are either lukewarm to his candidacy or have found a better champion.

The next test in the race for U.S. Senate comes in exactly two weeks when the candidates gather to debate in the town of Verona in the Shenandoah Valley.  Will Jamie Radtke win this contest as well?  Will Tim Donner continue to gain ground among activists?  Will George Allen remind us of his successes as Senator and Governor and regain the momentum?  Or will one of the other candidates capture the hearts and minds of the average citizen?  I encourage all of you to find out in person as the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party plays host to the candidates. The debate begins at 6:30 PM on October 20th at the Augusta Government Center.  See you there!

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If you will recall, on September 9th, I conducted a straw poll on Facebook to gauge the support of the Republican candidates for President.  Voters had a selection of the nine most popular choices as well as an option to pick “someone else/none of the above”.  All in all, 146 people voted.

Well, now that three weeks have passed, I figure that I should announce the results.  Given that you’ve already read the headline, it should come as no shock that Representative Ron Paul won.  Here is the specific breakdown by vote total:

Ron Paul – 52 votes

Rick Perry – 34 Votes

Gary Johnson – 21 Votes

Herman Cain – 10 Votes

Michelle Bachmann – 8 Votes

Someone Else/None of the Above – 8 Votes

Mitt Romney – 6 Votes

Jon Huntsman – 3 Votes

Rick Santorum – 3 Votes

Newt Gingrich – 1 Vote

Given Ron Paul’s popularity around the internet, he routinely does well in online polling.  I was not at all surprised by his victory.  However, I should mention that in the early hours and days of the poll, Gary Johnson held the lead.  I guess that as more and more Paul supporters discovered the poll, Paul quickly came to dominate the field.

One other interesting point is Mitt Romney’s low numbers.  Given his supposed media status as currently one of the top two contenders, I would have expected him to do better.

Here are a few other statistics of note:

Of the 146 voters, I am Facebook friends with only 28 of them.  I’m glad to see that the poll included more than my own personal political circle.  Then again, far more than half of my Facebook friends are politically active.  It is a bit disappointing to find that so few of them voted.

Speaking of people that I know, if we only include my Facebook friends in the totals, we end up with a different set of results.  In that scenario, Gary Johnson takes the top billing with 8 votes, followed by Rick Perry with 7, and Ron Paul settles to third with 5.  But what reasoning explains this change?  Well, looking through the specific votes, this shift likely comes from my associations with libertarians who hold the former Governor of New Mexico in very high regard.  Although many libertarians do prefer Paul, rhetoric around Facebook indicates that a majority of “hard core” libertarians place themselves in the Johnson camp.

Although not concerning the race for President, I should mention that Bearing Drift just put up a new poll for Virginia’s U.S. Senate race.  Stop by their website and cast your vote!  I already did.

Well, thanks to everyone who took a few seconds out of his or her day to vote on my poll.  Keep your eyes open, for there will be more of them coming in the future.

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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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There has been a lot of talk about redistricting here in Virginia lately.  Virginia has eleven congressmen so the big question is, how should their districts be divided up?  The first thing we should consider is how the districts looked prior to redistricting.

Virginia Congressional Districts as of 2010

These boundaries were drawn after the 2000 Census.  Before we get started, I feel that I need to explain the word gerrymander.  Dictionary.com defines the term as, “the dividing of a state, county, etc., into election districts so as to give one political party a majority in many districts while concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible.”  In addition, districts should be compact and contiguous.  So, with those thoughts, do you see any gerrymandering in our current map?  I do.

The first area I’d like to focus on is the northern portion of the 9th Congressional district.

Virginia's 9th Congressional District

See anything odd here?  For the most part, the 9th is pretty compact, containing all of southwest Virginia.  But toward the northeast fringe, you notice it takes an odd shape to encompass the lower half of Alleghany County.  This distortion is most pronounced when you also look at the 6th.

Virginia's 6th Congressional District

Now what’s so special about the southern half of Alleghany County?  I can find nothing about the county itself, but within this area is the city of Covington.  Although the city of Covington is not a large place, the citizens typically vote far more Democratic than the surrounding areas.  For example, according to the State Board of Elections in 2008 while 53% of Virginians voted for Barack Obama 55% of voters in Covington voted for him.  Big deal you might say.  It is only two percent.  However, when we compare Covington to the surrounding localities, you do notice a significant difference.  Obama only received 48% of the vote in Alleghany (surrounding the city), 43% of the vote in Bath County (to the north), 43% of the vote in Rockbridge County (to the east), 33% of the vote in Craig County (to the south), and 33% of the vote in Botetourt County (in the southeast).  Of course many cities follow this trend.  So why did they draw the lines to include Covington in the 9th?  Well, until the last election, Rich Boucher, a Democrat, was the representative of the 9th.  So, in order to improve his reelection chances as well as to move some Democratic voters out of the otherwise conservative 6th district, the bizarre looking lines were drawn this way.

Now by themselves, the roughly 2,300 voters of Covington do not decide an election.  However, when combined with other similarly Democratic localities spread over more than two hundred miles, they do make an impact.  Even though Boucher lost in 2010 by about 9,000 votes, can you name at least one of the nine localities he won?  Anyone?  That’s right.  Covington.  The main purpose of gerrymandering is to benefit one or more parties (in this case the incumbents at the expense of other party challengers).  Now that Boucher is gone, I hope the Covington enclave will disappear.

However, I can find no clearer example of gerrymandering in Virginia then the 3rd Congressional district.  Look at this monster.

Virginia's 3rd Congressional District

Most of these localities don’t even share a common border unless you include the James River.  Now maybe you could argue that communities along the James River share a common interest, but then why would you exclude the area in between Charles City County and Newport News in the north (James City County) and the area between Surry County and Portsmouth City (Isle of Wight County and Suffolk City)?  You also miss a big chunk of the city of Newport News!  Unfortunately, there is only one ugly answer;  racism.

Back in 1993, the Justice Department insisted that the state of Virginia create a Congressional district that encompasses a majority of minority citizens (in this case black people) with the presumption that these citizens would elect a representative of this race.  Well, the plan worked and as of the 1993 election, that area has been represented by Rep. Bobby Scott.  It makes no sense to me.  In order to end discrimination we must discriminate?  What if a district was created specifically to ensure a white representative?  Would that not be equally as racist?  What is the underlying message here?  Racism is OK so long as it promotes the interest of some minority group?  What a load of crap.  This section of the Voting Rights Act has long since passed its useful purpose.  Thank goodness President George W. Bush renewed the act in 2006.  Good to see he had a strong grasp of federalism and the limited scope of federal power…oh wait.

Moving on, in the last couple of days I’ve seen two maps circulating regarding potential redistricting plans both by David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report on his twitter feed.  The first can also be found in an article by Shaun Kenney over at Bearing Drift.  Please keep in mind that I am not trying to be critical of Wasserman as he is just offering hypothetical outcomes.

Just a few comments about this plan.  First of all, the 3rd is gerrymandered just as it has been.  Now maybe, due to federal law, we have to have a racially mandated district, but I would certainly challenge that assertion in court.  At the very least, put all of Newport News in the same district!  Second, fortunately the whole Covington gerrymander issue has been resolved.  Lastly, look at the 11th and the 5th Districts!  The 11th is very ugly as it reaches around northern Virginia, picking up pockets of Democratic voters.  Surely that district could be drawn in such a way that it makes gerrymandering look far less obvious.  And then we have the 5th.  Could this district be one of the most geographically elongated in the nation, going from the North Carolina border to one county away from Maryland?  Have most people in Fauquier County ever been to Hailfax County, much less know where it is?  You can’t honestly tell me that they share a whole lot of similar concerns.  From what I hear, this plan mainly serves to enhance the reelection chances of all of the current Representatives.  If each Rep. is secure in his district, what is the point of elections?  In Soviet Russia elections were not contested.  Do we want such a stagnant outcome here?  For the handful of reasons listed above, the Virginia legislature must reject this map.

Let’s look at the next map.

This map assumes that the Department of Justice will require Virginia to create another majority minority district.  In this case, it would be the 4th.  As you can see, this new 4th would  pickup a chunk of the city of Richmond and then stretch along the North Carolina border until reaching the city of Danville.  Of course you could not draw a straight line from Richmond to Danville in this district as it excludes most of Chesterfield and Dinwiddie, both very strongly Republican areas.  Actually, under this plan all you have to do is look at many of the areas in which Representative Forbes (the current legislator) did the best in 2010 (Powhatan 81%, Amelia 71%, half of Isle of Wight 69%, Chesterfield 64%, Nottoway 63%, Dinwiddie 61%, etc) and remove them from the district.  Also, the 11th is just as ugly as it was before and now the 2nd looks horribly gerrymandered too as it wraps around the 3rd.  I have to give this plan a failing grade as well.

At the end of the day, it really shouldn’t be that hard.  Although it may be nothing more than a idealistic dream, I really hope that the General Assembly will create non-gerrymandered compact districts based upon regional similarities and concerns.  When you consider political parties, race, or protecting incumbent candidates, you really undermine the whole idea of free and fair elections in the first place.  Maybe we should revert to how we briefly selected candidates back in 1933 where they were all elected at large.  No threat of gerrymandering there.  Heck, give me a map of Virginia, a pen, and the relevant census data and I’ll create a map for you that looks a whole lot better than any of the current proposals floating about or what we have now.

Illinois 4th Congressional District

Or maybe you’d prefer a few more bizarre districts like this one?  It is like a Rorschach inkblot.  What do I see?  Deception, corruption, and maybe a set of sideways earmuffs.  Ah, the fine art of gerrymandering!

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