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Posts Tagged ‘Deb Fitzgerald’

With less than two weeks to go until Virginia holds its gubernatorial election on November 5th, it seems that the Democratic Party has decided to bring in the big guns to promote their candidate, Terry McAuliffe.  As part of his final tour of the state, former President Bill Clinton will be joining Mr. McAuliffe.  According to news from Deb Fitzgerald, Chairwoman of the Harrisonburg Democratic Party, both Clinton and McAuliffe will be on the campus of James Madison University on Tuesday.

Here are the details:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

HARRISONBURG EVENT

WHAT: “Putting Jobs First” Event with President Bill Clinton and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe
WHO: President Bill Clinton, Terry McAuliffe
WHEN: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 10:30 AM EDT
Public Access time: 9:30 AM EDT
Press Access time: To be announced
WHERE: James Madison University, Festival Conference & Student Center – 1301 Carrier Drive, MSC-4201, Harrisonburg, VA 22807

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, this is the highest profile event for the city of Harrisonburg since Barack Obama came here during his campaign for president.  I know I plan to be there and hope to get my press pass soon.

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Council Candidates Deb Fitzgerald, Abe Shearer, Rodney Eagle, and Kai Degner

On Thursday of last week, four of the eight candidates vying for a seat on the Harrisonburg City Council spoke to a gathering of the Harrisonburg branch of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.  In November, city residents will select three members for the five-member council.

The speakers consisted of Kai Degner, a Democrat and current member of Council, Rodney Eagle, a Republican and former member of Council, Deb Fitzgerald, a Democrat and wife of a former Council member, and Abe Shearer, an Independent with no apparent political ties to Harrisonburg’s governing body.  Christine Johnson, a Republican candidate, watched as a member of the audience.  The meeting was sparsely attended with about 25 people there of whom less than half were self identified city voters.  Both WHSV and the Daily News Record had a reporter in attendance.

Each was allotted a ten-minute speaking slot to provide for an introduction and to outline a few thoughts regarding their future plans for Harrisonburg.  They spoke in alphabetical order by last name with Degner first and Shearer rounding out the pack.

Prior to the question and answer period, Mr. Shearer left the meeting explaining that he was late for a meeting at his church. However, he promised the crowd that he would return for the question and answer period for the October meeting.  The questions from the audience that followed demonstrated a general misunderstanding of the power of the city government.  As Mr. Degner pointed out, Virginia is a Dillon rule state, which means that local governments only have power over matters granted to them by the state government.  Or, to put it another way, the Harrisonburg government has only “those powers that are specifically conferred on them by the Virginia General Assembly…those powers that are necessarily or fairly implied from a specific grant of authority… (or) those powers that are essential to the purposes of government — not simply convenient but indispensable“.

Following upon a line from Mrs. Fitzgerald’s speech regarding the proper role of government, I asked if each of the candidates thought the concept of the city operating a golf course fell within the proper role of city government.  Although a decade old issue, the golf course was and remains a sore spot with many city residents.  The idea was fairly unpopular when first implemented and three of the council members that supported the plan were all voted out of office in the following election.  Three “change” candidates who opposed the course won but continued with the plan anyway and were subsequently voted out four years later.  Since that time, the golf course has hemorrhaged money, running a deficit every year it has been in operation.  Mrs. Fitzgerald offered the “phone book test” for any city project stating that the city should not be in any business that is offered by the private sector and is found in the phone book.  Mr. Eagle, who was part of the Council who approved the golf course a decade ago defended the decision stating that at the time the city did not have a privately run golf course and that the course provides valuable programs to some of the younger residents of the city.  Mr. Degner did not get an opportunity to answer the question on stage, but stated later that as the golf course is a city venture, it should be run as efficiently as possible and that the government has taken steps which have reduced the yearly deficit of the course.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed by both the smaller-than-expected turnout and by some of the less-than-helpful questions and comments.  I both lobbied for and helped organize this forum for the Harrisonburg City Council in the hopes of spreading awareness of all eight of the candidates running for office.  After all, although not as glamourous as the high profile races, voters in the city will have far more impact in the race for Harrisonburg City Council than President, Senate, or House of Representatives given the much smaller number of votes cast in that election.  Therefore, it is the civic duty of each city voter to learn about his or her choices so that each can make an informed decision on Election Day.

I’m hoping next month’s meeting will see both a surge in attendance as well as an improvement in the questions asked when the tea party plays host to the remaining four candidates, but we’ll see what happens.

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Besides the three federal positions that Virginians will elect in November, citizens of Harrisonburg, Virginia will also choose members to serve on city council.  This year, three of the council’s five seats are up for grabs.

There are eight candidates vying for these positions.  The three Democratic candidates are: two current council members Richard Baugh, who also serves as the current Mayor of Harrisonburg, and Kai Degner, a realtor, as well as Deb Fitzgerald, an associate professor of economics at Blue Ridge Community College.  The three Republican candidates are: Christine Johnson, the owner of the University Outpost Bookstore, Anthony Bailey, the Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, and Rodney Eagle, owner of Eagle Carpet and former Harrisonburg Mayor.  The two independents are: Abe Shearer, a math teacher at Skyline Middle School, and Roger Baker, the former City Manager of Harrisonburg.

Now, unlike most federal or state elections in the Shenandoah Valley, city council seats are not a virtual lock for any particular political party or individual.  For example, on November 4th, 2008, the three Democratic candidates swept all of the seats besting three Republicans and two independents including both Rodney Eagle and Roger Baker.  One should note that Barack Obama also won the city that day.   In 2010, the next time seats were available; there were six candidates running, two Republicans, two Democrats, and two independents.  In that election, one Republican and one independent emerged victorious.

However, as was the case in 2008, I would expect the outcome of the city council race to hinge heavily upon the up-ticket races, especially the presidential.  Left untouched, there will be a large number of voters who will be heading to the polls solely to vote for or against Barack Obama.  I assume that they will know little, if anything, of the council candidates and will end up voting for all of the Democratic candidates if they support Obama or for all of the Republican candidates if they oppose him.

As a result, I would argue that the two party candidates enjoy a significant advantage, but also a distinct disadvantage, when it comes to their independent opponents.  If their presidential candidate does well, then that result should bolster their chances of victory.  Conversely, if their candidate does poorly in the city, then it will make their success all the more difficult.

At this point, any of the candidates should have a reasonable chance of being elected.  But a strong campaign is a critical element that ought not be neglected.  Should a candidate surround him or herself with competent advisors, have a strong organization for fundraising, a base of volunteers loyal to the candidate, and a coordinated plan for voter contact and organization, he or she should do well.  On the other hand, as stated earlier, should a council candidate rely heavily upon the outcome of the presidential race and party activists, trouble could be in store.  If the winds of fortune favor his or her party’s presidential nominee, he or she ought to do reasonably well.  But, if national current runs contrary, and the candidate makes little independent effort on his or her own, he or she shall be destroyed.

All voters in Harrisonburg owe it to themselves and their fellow citizens to educate themselves about their eight choices for city council.  Sure, it might not be as glamorous or high profile as the well-known races, but I assure you that the men and women we select to help run the government of our city will make a tremendous impact, either for good or ill, upon all of us.

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For many Americans, the Fourth of July is a day filled with cookouts and family gatherings capped off by a night filled with a colorful fireworks display.  However, given that the date serves as the commemoration for the birth of the nation, it is also steeped in politics.

On Wednesday afternoon, the city of Harrisonburg, Virginia held its annual parade to celebrate the day.  The weather was quite hot and sunny, a marked difference from last year when a virtual monsoon threatened to cancel the affair.

The parade boasted the usual assortment of floats and vehicles: musicians, fire and rescue teams, antique cars, and, of course, political groups.  This year, there were four different sets of folks who entered: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Tea Party, and Abe Shearer for City Council.

Overall, the candidate who could claim the largest number of visible supporters in the parade had to be Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6).  There was a veritable sea of matching blue Goodlatte shirts among the Republicans.  Other Republican candidates were promoted as well including: Mitt Romney, George Allen, Mark Obenshain, and the various City Council hopefuls.

The Democratic Party had an impressive showing as well.  They waved signs in favor of Barack Obama, Tim Kaine, Andy Schmookler, and two City Council candidates. I spoke with Deb Fitzgerald, one of the Democratic candidates running, to ask if the Democratic Party only fielded two folks for the three seats up in November.  I discovered that although Kai Degner is running for re-election, he apparently had no signs printed to be used in the parade.

Running as an independent for City Council, Abe Shearer also made his presence known.  Even though some might be tempted to disregard independents, recent elections have shown that they offer beat the two party candidates for this particular office.  The outcome for this race will hinge heavily upon the battle between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at the top of the ticket and the strength of the campaigns of each of the council candidates.

During the trip down Main Street, I walked alongside the Tea Party float handing out copies of the Constitution.  In general, the crowd was very receptive and so I ran out of materials a good distance from the end of the route.

Given that the Fourth is now five days passed, you might find it odd that it has taken me so long to write about it here.  Well, I’m afraid that I didn’t feel much like writing on the evening of the event.  On the drive back to the parking lot, I decided to catch a ride on the Tea Party float.  As we turned onto a side street, the mast holding the tea party sign struck a low-hanging branch and came loose.  Unfortunately, I happened to be in the path of the heavy wooden board as it fell to the ground.  Although it was only a glancing blow, the plank did graze the side of my head and collided with my shoulder.  At the time, I was worried about the severity of the injury, and, as a result of the pain, did very little for the rest of that evening.  However, I’m pleased to say that several days later, only a yellowish bruise and a bit of residual soreness seem to be the only lingering effects.

I suppose that one could see a bit of irony in the idea of a person who opposes the idea of government-run health insurance and also does not presently have health insurance due to the tremendous cost involved, becoming injured himself and possibly in need of assistance.  Nevertheless, if a person does find him or herself in such a state of need, should one demand that the government redress this problem?  Although freely given charity is laudable, the idea of a person compelling his or her neighbors to care for his or her needs through either force or coercion seems to completely reject the basic political tenets of liberty and freedom under which this country was supposedly founded.

Anyway, to sum up, except for the surprise accident at the end, I would say that the parade was a rousing success for all of the parties who choose to participate.  Speaking specifically of the tea party, I hope that I’ll see a few new faces at our meeting later this month.

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