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Posts Tagged ‘Dickie Bell’

Yesterday, the city of Buena Vista held their 43rd annual Labor Day parade.  As in previous years, this event serves as the start of the countdown to Election Day.  However, unlike previous years, Monday’s parade was smaller than average in terms of both attendance and sign coverage.  Normally, one can find a thick blanket of yard signs from all of the candidates along Route 60 into the city.  By comparison, signs this year were restricted to the parade route itself.

All seven of the statewide candidates participated in the parade and the speeches that followed.  Besides Ken Cuccinelli, Terry McAuliffe, Robert Sarvis, E. W. Jackson, Ralph Northam, Mark Herring, and Mark Obenshain, other elected officials who attended include: Lacey Putney, the longest serving member of the Virginia General Assembly and grand marshall of the event, Representative Bob Goodlatte, Delegate Ben Cline, and Delegate Dickie Bell.

Much like the overall tone of the governor’s race, there seemed to be more anti-Cuccinelli signs than either pro-Cuccinelli or McAuliffe signs.  In addition, at the start of the parade, a plane flew overhead flying a message critical of the attorney general.  As for the winner of this year’s sign wars, both the Obenshain and Jackson campaigns shined.  Sarvis also did well, outpacing both his Republican and Democratic opponents.  Cuccinelli finished fourth and McAuliffe in fifth.  Neither Northam nor Herring had signs of any appreciable quantity.

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TPSCThe Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation released their first ever legislative score cards, ranking the members in the General Assembly based upon their votes in the 2013 legislative session.  As has been the case with special interest groups like the Family Foundation and the NRA, score cards are a useful tool to let voters know how their government officials vote on particular issues of importance.  This new  score card graded based upon 15 different pieces of legislation.

In the House of Delegates, Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15) and Delegate Peter Farrell (R-56) were the only two members in that 100 person body to post a perfect score.  Here in the Shenandoah Valley, most of the other legislators also received high marks with Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) at 95%, Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20) 95%, Delegate Ben Cline (R-24) 95%, and Delegate Steve Landes (R-25) 90%.  My delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26) scored the lowest of any of those in the region with 60%, though he did vote rather curiously in 2013, supporting the implementation of Obamacare in Virginia and the creation of a state-run EPA.  Speaker of the House of Delegates Bill Howell (R-28) was awarded a rather dismal 35%.  You can download and view the entire House of Delegates score card with the link provided. Tea-Party-Patriots-house_scorecard_2013_v2

Moving over to the Virginia Senate, my state senator, Mark Obenshain (R-26), and Bill Stanley (R-20) were ranked the highest among the 40 with 70%.  Elsewhere in the Valley, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) got 45% and Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) was awarded 5%.  By comparison, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3) finished with 30%.  The Senate score card is here. Tea-Party-Patriots-senate_scorecard_2013_v2

As the political landscape in Virginia continually evolves, the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation has been adapting to fit this changing environment.  This tea party score card is one of several new developments that the federation has in the works.  I encourage you to check these cards to see what you think.

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Representative Bob Goodlatte

A few moments ago, Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6th) concluded his 4th annual BBQ at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds, just south of Harrisonburg, VA.  About 400 people were attendance and came from all around the Shenandoah Valley and the 6th district.

Besides Rep. Goodlatte, other Virginia officials of note included Wendell Walker, the 6th district Republican chairman who Goodlatte referred to as his boss, Delegate Tony Wilt of Rockingham County, Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton, Delegate Chris Head of Botetourt, Rockingham/Harrisonburg Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson, Rockingham County Clerk of Court Chaz Evans-Haywood, and the three Republican candidates for Harrisonburg City Council.  Lastly, Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina was also there; he is perhaps best known for shouting, “you lie!” to President Barack Obama during a joint session of Congress back in 2009.

Shaffer’s Catering of Woodstock, VA provided the bulk of the food for the BBQ, including the pork and chicken, while many of the attendees brought a variety of desserts.

This event serves as another reminder that there is little doubt that the 6th district of Virginia will vote heavily for the Republican slate in November, as it has done for decades.  The real question becomes, are residents of the Shenandoah Valley excited and organized enough to offset the liberal trends of places like Charlottesville and Northern Virginia?  Given that Election Day is less than two months away, we’ll find out soon.

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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 afternoon, Representative Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke and Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton gathered with a reporter, staff, and the general public inside the city council chambers in Staunton.  Although I was unaware beforehand, the primary purpose of this meeting was to announce Goodlatte’s endorsement of Bell.  Delegate Bell faces a Democratic challenger in the November 2011 election.  This fact is a tad unusual for this area as no other General Assembly race in the Shenandoah Valley is contested.

Besides the endorsement, Representative Goodlatte also offers a few thoughts regarding future developments and plans for the federal government.

Unfortunately, the video cuts off abruptly when the camera runs out of power.  When a camera displays half a charge remaining, you would expect it to last longer than five minutes.

Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy.

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Last night, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Rockingham County Fair.  The fair, of course, is many things to many people: a social gathering, a plethora of rides, a sampling of good food, a chance to see a multitude of farm animals, a concert, a tractor pull, and a demolition derby.  For me, the fair is another opportunity to promote my political ideology (no great surprise there, huh?).  Therefore, like I’ve done on and off since 1995, I volunteered at the Republican booth.

Speaking of politics, I guess the highlight had to be a visit from Governor Bob McDonnell.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see him myself.  Nevertheless, I did manage to get a handful of pictures of other things.

Throughout the night, the Republican Party booth was a hotbed of activity.  Many folks were drawn to promise of free balloons and a raffle.  One could find materials on about a dozen candidates and there were a multitude of colorful bumper stickers and yard signs.  You could even sign a petition to get Rick Perry on the ballot for the 2012 GOP primary.

Elected officials and hopefuls who I saw at the booth include:  Bryan Hutcheson (candidate for Sheriff), Delegate Todd Gilbert (15-Woodstock), Delegate Dickie Bell (2o-Staunton), Senator Mark Obenshain (26-Harrisonburg), Todd Garber (Treasurer for Rockingham), Ted Byrd (Harrisonburg City Council), Lowell Barb (Commissioner of Revenue for Rockingham), Bill Kyger (Rockingham County Board of Supervisors), and Karen Kwiatkowski (candidate for the House of Representatives in the 6th district).

By comparison, things seemed a bit slow at the Democratic table.  Given that they have no candidates for the Virginia General Assembly, their main focus appeared to be promoting Tim Kaine for Senator in 2012.  Although I won’t claim to have stayed at their table long, I didn’t see any elected officials there.

Outside the exhibition hall one could find a tent for Independent Sheriff candidate C.M Hess.  They seemed to enjoy steady traffic.  I’m very much looking forward to the Sheriff forum being held by the local tea party.  You can find more details on that event here in the near future.

Overall, the fair seemed to be a well-attended event.  There were a multitude of vendors, both food and otherwise,  and there was quite a bit to see and do.  I hear that the Beach Boys are returning for another concert this coming Friday.

The Rockingham County Fair never fails to impress, so, whether you happen to be interested in politics or not, I recommend you head over to check it out before it disappears until next year.

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Well, with the summer winding down, fair season is in the air.  This week, Augusta County is holding their annual festival.  In every year past, I have attended the Rockingham County Fair and skipped the one to the south.  However, as I’m still in the city of Staunton, I figured that I might as well experience theirs while I am so close.

My first stop inside was the Republican Party booth.  As is the case back at home, a fair serves as an excellent opportunity to spread information about candidates and causes that many attendees might not hear otherwise.  Standing in front of the table was Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20, Staunton).  Besides folks running for city and county offices, I could also find information on Delegate Cline and Delegate Landes.  However, short of a few signs, there was nothing for Senator Emmett Hanger.  This fact might seem odd, but given that Delegate Bell is the only member of the General Assembly in the entire Shenandoah Valley who faces a Democratic opponent, I guess Senator Hanger didn’t want to spend any money to campaign.  Perhaps the greatest surprise was the stack of bumper stickers and brochures from former Senator George Allen.  Although the 2012 primary is a good way off, it never hurts to remind people that you are running.

In general, I found the Augusta Fair to be a bit disappointing when compared to Rockingham.  Although all of the display booths are rented already in Rockingham, this fair had numerous empty spots in the exhibition hall.  There wasn’t even a Democratic table.  Also, the layout was pretty poor.  At the entrance, they force attendees down a certain path, like rats in a maze.  As a whole, the grounds aren’t as large and don’t offer as wide a range of activities and vendors.  I’ll freely admit that the bear show was an amusing (and free) aspect, but, overall, the fair lack pizzazz. Then again, prior to today, I’ve only been to two other fairs.  Perhaps the grandeurs of Rockingham County and Münster (Germany) have spoiled me.  After all, according to Wikipedia, The LA Times has rated the Rockingham County Fair as one of the best rural fairs in the country.

Therefore, my recommendation is to visit the Augusta Fair if you get the chance, but, if you can only attend one, make sure not to miss Rockingham.

Now that I’ve hyped it, we’ll have to see what the Rockingham Fair holds in store in the coming days.  For those politophiles out there, I hear that the Governor will be coming to that event in the early part of next week.  I’ll try to snag some pictures.

Until then!

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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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Continuing our series on redistricting, I’d like to focus on the likely new boundaries for the lower house of the  Virginia General Assembly, the House of Delegates.  In today’s segment, we will be looking at my home past and present, the city of Harrisonburg and the surrounding county of Rockingham.

The city of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County in western Virginia

The first question we ought to ask is, how are the House of Delegates districts currently drawn?  Well, as of the last Census, they looked as follows:

As you can see, the 26th district (represented by Del. Tony Wilt of Broadway which is a town in Rockingham) encompasses the city and the northern half of the county.  The rest is split between the 20th (represented by Del. Dickie Bell of Staunton city), the 25th (represented by Del. Steve Landes of Weyers Cave, a town in Augusta County), and the 15th (represented by Del. Todd Gilbert of Mt. Jackson, a town in Shenandoah County).

Here’s a modest redistricting proposal.   Because Harrisonburg has a greater population density than the surrounding county, both Harrisonburg and Rockingham County could be represented by two delegates assuming one collected the pieces from the 20th, 25th, and 15th.  Although I believe that all four delegates have done a good job representing our shared Valley values, wouldn’t it make more sense to shave that number to two (or three depending on how the lines break)?  Doesn’t it seem logical to have Rockingham County voters represented by, oh I don’t know, a citizen from Rockingham County?  Instead we have only one Rockingham resident Delegate, as listed above, the rest are from Staunton, Augusta, and Shenandoah.  Nevertheless, even if they aren’t all from Rockingham or Harrisonburg, at least they are all from the Shenandoah Valley.

So what fate will redistricting have on Rockingham County?  The most likely outcome, offered by Delegate Chris Jones of Suffolk and passed by the Virginia Senate looks like this:

Del. Jones' Plan

Disappointingly, this map still quarters Rockingham County between four seats.  Like before, the 26th comprises the bulk while the remainder is divvied up between the 15th, the 25th, and a surprising newcomer, the 58th.  As you might notice, the 25th takes an ugly jut through southwest Rockingham County as it swallows up territory formerly in the 20th.  Traveling south and east we see that both the 20th and 25th districts are both heavily gerrymandered under this plan.

Regarding the 25th, does anyone else see a problem with a house district that goes from the West Virginia border to the outskirts of the city of Charlottesville around 50 miles away?  Can you honestly tell me that the citizens of Rockingham have much in common with those living in the suburbs of Charlottesville?  Having personally lived in both localities, I can assure you that they are as similar as night and day.

And what of this 58th district?  That seat is currently held by Delegate Rob Bell of Charlottesville.  Again, I have no complaints against this Del. Bell, but if Rockingham residents can’t be represented by their neighbors shouldn’t they at least be represented by folks in the culturally connected Valley?  Guess what citizens of Rockingham!  In order to visit the office of your new delegate, you’ll have to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains, travel through Greene County and then into Albemarle County.  For some of you, that likely means a forty-five minute drive.  Good luck with that.

All of this discussion begs the question, why is Rockingham split as it is?  Well, both Rockingham County and Augusta County to the south are some of the two most reliably Republican voting areas of the state.  Think back to 2008 when Jim Gilmore was absolutely destroyed in the race for U.S. Senate.  What were two of the measly six localities he won?  Rockingham and Augusta.

2008 Virginia Senate Race

So why has Rockingham County swapped one Delegate Bell (Dickie) for another (Rob)?  The answer may be seniority.  After all, any Republican politician would love to have some rich conservative Rockingham soil in his or her district.  Given that Del. Bell of Charlottesville has been in office for eight more years than Del. Bell of Staunton, I’m guessing padding his district is of greater importance to Del. Jones and whoever else had a hand in drawing this map.  All the while, the voters of Rockingham are mere pawns in this political horse swap.

If for no other reason than for the sake of my friends and family who are spread around Rockingham County, I hope this plan fails.  Sure, it helps conservative Republicans, which is desirable for those who share my ideology, but it does so at the unacceptable expense of undermining our political process.  Rockingham County is more than just a wheel of cheese to be sliced up as is politically convenient.

Anyway, the take home point is this:  For gerrymandering pure and simple this plan ought to be rejected by the General Assembly, the Governor, and the courts.

Something is rotten in Rockingham.  I can’t be the only person who notices this truth!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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