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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_1815On the typical day, both the Cuccinelli campaign and the Republican Party of Virginia send out a multitude of press releases.  For example, when I opened my email this morning, I had already received four, one at 8:00 AM, another fifteen minutes later, a third at 9:30, and the most recent at 10:45 while I was writing this piece.  Each topic bore a similar theme to the multitude dispersed weeks and months prior.  Today’s headlines read, “McAuliffe Biggest Obstacle Seems to be Himself”, “Terry McAuliffe’s Payday Lending Double Standard”, “McAuliffe’s Sales Pitch Starts to Sour”, and “Breaking: McAuliffe’s GreenTech courted Obama’s Solyndra aide”.  For comparison, yesterday’s titles include: “Hardly Recognizable McAuliffe”, “Editorials Across Virginia Focus on the SEC Investigation Surrounding McAuliffe’s GreenTech”, “Meet McAuliffe’s Environmental Sugar Daddy Tom Steyer”, and “ICYMI: New TV Ad Scandal”.

Notice a theme? Not a single email is centered on Cuccinelli’s record in public service, either as a state senator or as our sitting attorney general.  Instead, each seeks to degrade, demonize, or question the ethics of Terry McAuliffe, Cuccinelli’s Democratic opponent for governor.

Don’t misunderstand the point of this opinion piece.  I firmly believe that negative campaigning serves an important purpose when used constructively and in moderation.  Some Republicans cried foul when Jamie Radtke attacked George Allen during the 2012 Republican Senate primary.  However, she didn’t just simply criticize Allen, but offered a contrast how a Senator Radkte would differ from a Senator Allen.

These Cuccinelli pieces are different.  They offer nothing positive other than to suggest that voters ought to elect Ken simply because he is not Terry; that McAuliffe is so ethically challenged that anything or anyone is a better alternative.

Although I haven’t watched each race as closely as this one, as someone who has followed politics for 19 years, I’ve never seen anything quite like the tactics that the Cuccinelli campaign and the RPV is employing.  For at least a month previously, the Cuccinelli campaign harassed (and yes, harassed is a good word for it), McAuliffe to release his tax returns.  As far as I know, a person’s tax returns are his or her own private business and aren’t required to be released when he or she runs for public office.  Many people within the Cuccinelli camp argued that if McAuliffe had “nothing to hide then he would have nothing to fear”.  Even though politically useful in this situation, that line of thinking is exceedingly dangerous and works to further erode the privacy rights of our citizens, especially future office seekers.

As a conservative, I believe that Ken Cuccinelli has made many laudable accomplishments during his time as attorney general.  However, I am absolutely disgusted by these daily messages, especially the constant barrage from the RPV, seeking only to deride Terry McAuliffe even further.  It is as if they are blindly throwing darts as fast as they can, hoping that at least one will hit the board.  No.  The ends do not justify the means.

Who’s to blame for all of this excessive negativity?  Is it Ken Cuccinelli?  Cuccinelli’s staff?  RPV Chairman Pat Mullins?  Or is it someone else within the state party?  To be fair, a majority of these emails come from the Republican Party of Virginia.  However, I suppose it doesn’t matter, for as long as these messages continue without being denounced by Ken Cuccinelli, all are complicit.

Given the tone the campaign has taken thus far, I suspect it won’t be too long until we start seeing ads like Elizabeth Dole’s completely outlandish attack against Kay Hagen in 2008.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached a breaking point.  I’m on the verge of non-discriminately trashing everything the Cuccinelli campaign and the Republican Party of Virginia sends out.  This unconstructive, unrelenting negativity has to end!

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On Friday, the Republican Party of Virginia announced that four of the five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Virginia’s Senate seat had successfully submitted a sufficient number of signatures to appear on the June 12th primary ballot.  These candidates are: George Allen, E.W. Jackson, Bob Marshall, and Jamie Radtke.  Only David McCormick failed to submit any signatures and thus was denied a spot in this contest.

Although many voters likely welcome the opportunity to select between four candidates, this particular situation heavily favors one candidate, George Allen.  Unlike the others, George Allen has held a multitude of political offices including serving as both the Governor of Virginia and a Senator from 2001-2007.  Therefore, due to his decades of political experience and campaigning, he has a much higher name identification rate and a massive campaign war chest when compared to any of the other candidates.

It should be noted that some of George Allen’s positions as well as his votes while serving as a senator do worry some conservative activists.  Although one can find a more extensive article on this subject here, George Allen voted to raise the debt ceiling many times, he voted to strip away our civil liberties via the Patriot Act, and he supported No Child Left Behind.  In addition, his refusal to take a public stance on either NDAA or SOPA may lead some people to believe that he will continue to support big government policies if he is elected senator again.

However, even though there are three alternatives to George Allen, it is highly unlikely that any of these challengers can mount a successful bit to deny the current frontrunner in this present situation.  Collectively, Radtke, Marshall, and Jackson may very well end up with more votes that Mr. Allen in the primary, but as a winning candidate only needs a plurality of the votes and not a majority, it will be difficult for any of the three to do so.  Jamie Radtke has a considerable following among the tea parties, Bob Marshall still has remnants of his loyal followers who nearly propelled him to victory in the 2008 Senate contest, and E.W. Jackson has done quite well among the social conservatives.  Other conservatives will support George Allen due to the belief that he has the best chance of the four to win the seat.  Thus, we find the conservative dilemma.

Recognizing this situation, the ideal solution would be for two of the candidates to withdraw so that voters can decide if they would prefer George Allen or someone who bills him or herself to be a more conservative alternative.  However, at this point, such a move seems unlikely.  Jamie Radtke has been campaigning for well over a year, likely has the best defined campaign, and has spent more time, energy, and money than either Jackson or Marshall.  Jackson continues to electrify audiences with his passionate speeches as has recently expanded his campaign staff.  Marshall, even though he is the newest entrant into the race, still probably commands a higher ID than either of the other two combined.  Thus, believing each is the strongest candidate to face Allen, none of them will withdraw and, chances are, the anti-Allen vote will be split in such a way as to be more or less irrelevant in the June 12th contest.

Will conservatives band together, rejecting two of the others, and rally behind one of the non-Allen candidates?  Conversely, do conservatives believe that George Allen shares enough of their principles to hold this office once again?  And, once the primary is over, can any of the four candidates capture the hearts and minds of conservatives to cobble together a successful coalition of his or her rivals’ supporters and independent voters in order to beat the Democratic nominee former Governor Tim Kaine in November?  What a dilemma!

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VC Note:  Earlier this morning, I wrote that Lt. Governor released a statement against the loyalty oath for Virginia’s March 6th 2012 Presidential Primary.  For the record, the oath states that by voting in Virginia’s Republican primary, you are pledging to vote for the party’s nominee in the November general election, regardless of which person emerges victorious and irrespective of what principles he or she happens to hold.  Shortly after posting this piece, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell offered his take on the oath, which I present, to you below along with some additional commentary:

 Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on Proposed  Loyalty Oath for March GOP Presidential Primary in Commonwealth

RICHMOND- Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement this morning regarding the proposed “loyalty oath” that all voters seeking to participate in the March GOP Presidential Primary in Virginia would be required to sign in order to cast a vote.

“Over the past few days I have reviewed the issue of the proposal that voters sign a loyalty oath as a requirement for participation in our upcoming GOP Presidential Primary in March. While I fully understand the reasoning that led to the establishment of this requirement, such an oath is unenforceable and I do not believe it is in the best interests of our Party, or the Commonwealth. The effect of the oath could be one of diminishing participation in the primary, at a time when our Party must be expanding its base and membership as we head into the pivotal 2012 general elections this fall. For these reasons, I urge the State Central Committee to rescind the loyalty oath requirement at its upcoming meeting on the 21st.

It is true that for political parties to remain viable they must have some means by which to control their own nomination processes. I know the loyalty oath was proposed as a possible good faith solution to this issue in this primary election, but there are other ways. I would support legislation to establish voluntary party registration in Virginia. Such a reform to our electoral system would eliminate the need for any oaths or pledges and greatly simplify the nomination process in the Commonwealth.”

VC Note: I always welcome another nail in the coffin of the hated loyalty oath.  Even though odds are pretty good that I will support the Republican nominee against President Obama, I believe the oath attempts to strip away our right to vote our conscious as well as the idea of a secret ballot.  Sure, it is unenforceable, but it creates a situation whereby otherwise honorable people will refuse to sign the oath and therefore be denied the right to vote.  After all, if it is dishonorable to break the oath, then only 100% party loyalists and dishonorable people will show up to vote.  Should either of these two groups have complete control over the primary?  I think doing so is bad for the candidates, bad for the party, bad for the state, and bad for the nation. 

Then again, I believe the process is best handled through conventions rather than primaries.  If states held conventions and caucuses in 2008 as opposed to primaries, I’m pretty sure that the Republican nominee wouldn’t have been John McCain.  Were you happy with that choice?  I know that even though I am a Republican I was not, but then again, neither were a majority of the American voting population.  So how is that hope and change working out for you?

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VC Note:  I just received this press release from Virginia Lt. Governor Bill Bolling.  I’m glad to see that more and more people, politicians and activists alike, are taking a stand against the undemocratic loyalty oath forced upon voters in Virginia’s March 6th Presidential Primary.  Hopefully, with enough backlash, the party will get rid of this oath and never attempt to use it again.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR BOLLING ASKS REPUBLICAN PARTY OF VIRGINIA TO RESCIND PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY LOYALTY OATH

RICHMOND – Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling today asked members of the Republican Party of Virginia’s (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) to rescind the Loyalty Oath in connection with the upcoming presidential primary.

In a letter to SCC members, Lieutenant Governor Bolling wrote:

“In recent days various Republican Party leaders and activists have inquired about my position on the Loyalty Oath, so I wanted to share my views on this issue with you.  While I certainly understand the rationale for a Loyalty Oath and respect the initial decision the SCC made in approving a Loyalty Oath, it is my belief that the Loyalty Oath should be rescinded.

“I am concerned that requiring a Loyalty Oath may send the wrong message about our desire to grow our party and create an opportunity for more people to become involved in the party.  If we want to prepare the Republican Party for the future and build a robust organization that can defeat President Obama and Tim Kaine this fall, we must grow our party, make our party more inclusive and avoid any action that could be perceived as being exclusive.”

Lieutenant Governor Bolling added, “I realize that one of the challenges with Virginia’s current open primary system is the possibility that our primary could be influenced by Democrats or other voters who do not have the best interest of our party or candidates at heart.  That is a legitimate concern and that is why I have always supported and continue to support voluntary party registration in Virginia.  I know that the SCC’s decision to require a Loyalty Oath in the upcoming presidential primary was intended to try and diminish this possibility.”

RPV Chairman Mullins has called a special meeting of the SCC for January 21, 2012 at which time the committee will revisit the requirement for a Loyalty Oath.

To read the full text of the letter, click here.

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VC Note:  I just received this email from Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13).  Given that I too have previously objected and continue to object to idea of requiring voters to sign a loyalty oath before being allowed to vote, I wanted to share his thoughts with you just in case you are not on his emailing list.

Del. Bob Marshall is urging Virginia’s GOP leaders to ask the State Board of Elections to rescind its ruling that voters, before taking part in the March 6 Republican presidential primary, must pledge in writing that they intend to support the party’s White House nominee in the Nov. 6 general election.

“Ironically, requiring a loyalty oath will bar even former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich from voting in the primary because he already has said unequivocally that he will not vote for Ron Paul for president if he’s the Republican nominee,” Marshall (R., 13th District) noted Thursday (Dec. 29).

“Virginia’s Republican leadership wants to mandate a loyalty oath when Virginia’s Republican officials are in court fighting the Obamacare mandate?  This sends the wrong message.”

Gingrich, a McLean resident, is running for the GOP presidential nomination.  His name, however, will not appear on the primary ballot because he lacked enough petition signatures to qualify.  Only two Republican presidential candidates – Rep. Paul (R., Texas) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – have been certified for the primary ballot by GOP State Chairman Pat Mullins.

By a 3-0 vote Wednesday at the request of state GOP leaders, the Board of Elections agreed to invoke a state statute permitting political parties to require loyalty oaths in the nominating process.

The Elections Board approved forms on which voters, before being eligible to cast ballots in the primary, must sign and print their names below a line that reads: “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.”

The board also approved a sign to be posted at all polling places advising that “Section 24.2-545 of the Code of Virginia allows the political party holding a primary to determine requirements for voting in the primary, including the signing of a pledge by the voter of his intention to support the party’s candidate when offering to vote in the primary.”

“I understand Republican leaders not wanting Democrats to make our decision for us,” Marshall said, “but a loyalty oath is not the way to address that circumstance.”

Gingrich’s statement that he will not support Paul was made in a CNN interview Tuesday.  [See http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/27/gingrich-wouldnt-vote-for-ron-paul/]

“Loyalty oaths are detested by many good Republicans who solidly back our party’s principles and who have never voted for a Democrat in their lives,” Marshall said.  “And there are other concerns.

“In November, Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell and Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli, both Republicans, supported an Independent for Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney over the Republican nominee.  Does this make them suspect Republicans?

“How many conservative Democrats voted for Ronald Reagan in ‘Republican’ primaries in 1980?  Would they have voted in a Republican primary that required a loyalty oath when Reagan was probably the only Republican they would vote for?   I doubt it.

“Requiring Virginia election workers to enforce a Republican loyalty oath in a primary paid for by the general taxpayer is a markedly questionable use of tax money.

“Republicans I know want to defeat President Obama and his liberal Democrat supporters in Congress.  I believe the great majority will vote for the Republican nominee over Obama.  I question whether beating Barack Obama, which I am working hard to do, is furthered by requiring a loyalty oath in this presidential primary.”

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VC Note:  This brief article regarding the 2011 election comes from the Republican Party of Virginia.

Election 2011: What it Means

 – GOP Supermajority in House, Majority in Senate, Solid Start for 2012 – 

The votes are counted. The canvass is done, and the dust has settled. What does it all mean?

First, let’s look at the lay of the land.

House of Delegates

* Republicans picked up 7 seats in the House of Delegates.

* Republicans now have a 68 seat caucus in the House, the most in history.

* Republicans won 13 of 14 open seats in the House.

* Republicans defeated 2 Democrat incumbents in the House.

* All 52 incumbent Republicans seeking re-election won.

 

Senate of Virginia

* Republicans have won a working majority in the Senate.

* Republicans gained two seats to make it 20-20 with Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling holding the decisive tie-breaking vote.

* Republicans won 3 of 5 open seats in the Senate.

* Republicans defeated 2 Democrat incumbents in the Senate.

* All 15 incumbent Republicans seeking re-election won.
 

So what does it all mean?

First and foremost, Virginians overwhelmingly voted for a Republican controlled General Assembly.

 

Just look at the numbers:

 

House GOP Votes: 757,000, about 61% of all votes cast

House Dem Votes:  419,000, about 33% of all votes cast


Senate GOP Votes
: 771,000, about 57% of all votes cast
Senate DEM Votes: 554,000, about 41% of all votes cast

 

2011 caps a remarkable three-year run for Virginia Republicans:

 

* In 2009, Virginia Republicans won all three statewide offices by massive margins and picked up 6 seats in the House of Delegates.
* In 2010, Virginia Republicans defeated 3 incumbent Congressional Democrats and came within a few hundred votes of defeating a fourth, moving the Congressional delegation to 8-3 and clearing the way for our own Rep. Eric Cantor to become U.S. House Majority Leader.
* In 2011, Virginia Republicans picked up 7 more seats in the House of Delegates and picked up 2 seats in the state Senate.

For three years running, the message from Virginia voters has been clear. We expect them to send the same resounding message again in 2012.

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Trixie Averill at a meeting of AFP in January 2011

In a bit of breaking news, I’ve just received word that long-time Virginia political activist and Sixth District Republican Chairwoman Trixie Averill has recently accepted the position of Virginia State Director for Americans for Prosperity.  As you may of heard, Ben Marchi, who has held the position for the last several years, will be leaving that post in a matter of days.  I knew that AFP had been sorting through candidates, but, until a few moments ago, had not realized that they had selected one.

This news is of particular interest to me for a number of reasons.  First among them, in an interesting twist of fate, I have had the opportunity to get to know and work with both Mrs. Averill and Mr. Marchi.  Then again, I suppose there aren’t but so many people who work in Virginia politics.  For the record, the Republican Party of Virginia employed all three of us during the 2006 election cycle.  In the early stages of the campaign, I worked with Ben Marchi in Virginia Beach.  In the later part, it was with Trixie Averill in the Valley.

With this news of AFP also comes word that Mrs. Averill will be resigning her post as Chairwoman for the Sixth District.  Who will take her place is still, as of yet, unknown.

I want to extend my congratulations to Trixie Averill as she begins her new position with Virginia’s Americans for Prosperity.  With our Delegates and Senators up for election this year and our Representatives, Senator, and President the next, it should certainly be a busy time.  I’m looking forward to seeing what she has in store.

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With Virginia’s legislative session beginning next week, Delegates and Senators are busy getting all of their affairs in order.  If you check the Legislative Information System, you can find a wealth of pre-filed bills and resolutions from General Assembly members across the state.  A few moments ago, I received an email from my State Senator, Mark Obenshain.  In what promises to be the first part of his previews, he discusses some of his legislative priorities.  It reads as follows:

Perhaps January 12 isn’t circled on your calendar, but it is on mine – it is the first day of the General Assembly Session.  I know that what takes place in Richmond matters to you too, which is why I want to use the coming days to tell you about the bills I plan to introduce and some of the big issues facing the General Assembly this session.

Today, I would like to take the opportunity to outline some of my proposals for a leaner, smarter government. Honestly, we don’t have much of a choice: although the economy is starting to recover, state revenues remain low and need remains great. We have to prioritize, to come up with more efficient ways of doing the work of government, and to ensure that the true agents of recovery – individual Virginians – aren’t hampered by overbearing regulation.

If ever there was a time for government reform, this is it. Here are a few of the bills I will be introducing this year designed to change the way the Commonwealth governs for the better.

Creating a Transportation Lockbox

Here’s an idea: revenues specifically raised for and dedicated to transportation should be spent on … transportation!

Time and again, legislators have raided transportation revenues to pay for other projects. Often, less important functions are funded by revenues designated for far more important ones, on the theory that when the more essential program experiences a budget crunch, there will be no choice but to appropriate new monies to cover the shortfall.

No more: it’s a poor way to govern, and it’s bad faith with the people of Virginia. That’s why I’m proposing the creation of a “transportation lockbox” to ensure that revenues specifically raised for transportation are only spent on transportation projects. The time for dallying on fiscal responsibility is over – indeed, it ended long ago. It’s time to put transportation funds in a lockbox to help ensure the funds we need to make critical infrastructure improvements.

Getting a Better Deal on Government Contracts

When the Commonwealth puts a project or purchase order out to bid, it doesn’t always take the best deal – or anything close. Due to an entrenched system of preferential procurement, 40% of all requests for proposals are submitted to qualifying small businesses and women- and minority-owned (SWaM) businesses alone.

Whatever you think of preferential contracting, this is an incredibly bad way to go about it. Some states “score” bids on various factors – price, specifications, reputability – and include a preference component. Virginia, on the other hand, simply sets aside 40% of contracts exclusively for SWaM vendors, and we have no idea much it costs us since we have no other bids by which the contracts can be compared.

Under my proposal, bidding would be open to all vendors, and agencies will be permitted to enter into as many SWaM-preferred contracts as they wish so long as total project costs are not increased by more than 3% off the low qualifying bids. The question is this: can we really justify unquantifiable cost overruns at a time when we are asking so many to do more with less?

Ending Subsidies to Political Parties

Virginia is in a somewhat unique situation: we don’t allow voter registration by political party, but we still pay for party primaries. And the truth is, we pay through the nose, sometimes as much as $20 per voter.

There are perfectly good alternatives. Parties often choose to nominate via convention or party canvass, or through a “firehouse primary,” in which a limited number of polling places are opened in each locality, usually for fewer hours than in a government-run election. All of these methods are common, all are relatively affordable – and all are paid for by the political parties themselves.

If a political party wants a conventional primary, fine – but they can pay for it. Our localities are burdened enough as it is. If a party cannot or will not put up that much money, they can always go with a cheaper option. Our localities can ill afford it – and under my proposal, they wouldn’t have to.

Studying Options for a Fiscally Sustainable Future

It’s easy for an entity as large as state government to get stuck in the past, and sometimes the way forward is less than obvious. But we can’t just keep spinning our wheels; at very least, we should always be looking for ways to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars. That’s why I’m introducing legislation instructing Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study proposals for making state government smarter and more efficient.

As you probably know, federal health care legislation requires a massive expansion of state Medicaid programs by 2014, with substantial new financial burdens falling upon already cash-strapped states. Here’s what you probably don’t know: state involvement in Medicaid is optional.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and no, of course I would never support repudiating our obligations to low-income families in Virginia. I simply point out that we don’t necessarily have to provide these services through Medicaid, especially with a raft of new regulations and eligibility changes on the way.

Several states are looking at the possibility of running their own programs independent of the federal Medicaid program – and it wouldn’t be the first time. Some states ran their own programs into the 1980s, when changes in federal funding ended the cost-effectiveness of such alternatives. With the nature of Medicaid set to change, it’s time to give that option another look to determine if Virginia could meet the needs of the Medicaid population more cost-effectively outside the federal Medicaid program.

The second study I am requesting deals with state employee pay. Recently, several studies have demonstrated that federal employee compensation routinely exceeds that of comparable private sector positions, raising the question of whether state pay scales are similarly disproportionate – something we should wish to know for future hiring.

Going beyond the value of compensation packages, moreover, we need to give a good long look at how we provide retirement benefits. The Virginia Retirement System’s default choice is a defined benefit plan which looks a lot like the pensions of the 1950s – ’70s, but bears little resemblance to the more cost-effective defined contribution plans and 401(k)s common in today’s workplace. If being behind the times is costing us, things need to change. That’s part of what my bill would instruct JLARC to study.

Of course, these are just a few proposals to make government more efficient and responsive. I will be carrying a number of other bills with similar themes, and look forward to working with my colleagues on further reform proposals, a number of which have emerged from the Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring, of which I am a member.

In coming days, I will be sharing more with you about my legislative priorities, and about major issues facing the General Assembly this coming session, and as always, I welcome you to share your ideas, thoughts, and concerns with me now and throughout session.

With best regards, 

Banner
Mark D. Obenshain
Virginia State Senator
Authorized and paid for by Friends of Mark Obenshain

Now there is quite a bit of meat in this email.  However, one particular issue that stands out to me concerns political primaries.  As I’ve stated before, I believe primaries are a poor method to nominate party candidates.  Not only are they an added expense to the Virginia taxpayer, but they often create weaker nominees and ones less wed to their party’s supposed ideology.  Given that the costs of holding a convention falls squarely on the parties, I understand why political parties might choose a primary, but is it fair to defray these costs to average Virginians?  That doesn’t sound very fiscally responsible.

I was greatly disappointed when state Republicans decided upon a primary to select our 2012 Republican nominee for Senate.  Given that the decision has been thrown open to every Virginia voter, we will likely end up with a nominee that is not the most conservative (and some may argue not the most Republican), but rather the one who best panders to the liberals and the moderates.  After all, they will have as much of a say in choosing the Republican nominee as Republicans will.  What a great idea ladies and gentlemen!  Let’s let the Democrats pick the Republican candidate.  What could possibly go wrong?

Sigh.

Well, I’m glad to hear that Senator Obenshain is working to correct this issue.  If political parties still insist on holding primaries, it is high time that they cover the bill themselves.  Once the RPV and the DPVA have to front the cost of their own nomination process, if only for financial reasons, maybe they will come to realize that conventions (or canvasses) are a better method.  After all, as they say, “It’s the money stupid.”

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A few moments ago, I successfully posted my most recent blog post on Youtube.  Now true, it is only an audio recording and a single grainy image, but I hope that it will lead to many new exciting things.  In addition, for those of you who have never met me, you now have an answer to the question, what does the author of The Virginia Conservative sound like?  Listen and enjoy.

Although it is likely going to go pretty slow at first, I must say that I’m looking forward to exploring new possibilities to expand this blog.

Isn’t technology amazing?

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