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Posts Tagged ‘Todd Gilbert’

Vote HereTomorrow features a number of party primaries across Virginia.  In some districts, incumbent members of the House of Delegates are facing challengers from within their own party.  For example, in the northern Shenandoah Valley, Delegate Bev Sherwood faces Dr. Mark Berg and Delegate Todd Gilbert squares off against Mark Prince.  All in all, about half a dozen Republican delegates have an interparty challenge.  In addition, two Democratic delegates also will also have to defend themselves from within their own ranks.

Delegates in a vast majority of the commonwealth are unchallenged.  However, regardless of the delegates’ races, in every single polling place there will be a primary; the Democratic Party will be selecting their nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general for the 2013 general election.

Given that Virginia does not have party registration, every voter, regardless of party preference, can vote in tomorrow’s primary.  It is not merely a contest for Democrats, but for Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionalists, and independents.  However, with those thoughts in mind, one important exception is that no one can vote in both parties’ primaries.  Therefore, if you vote in a Republican contest on Tuesday, you will be ineligible to participate in the Democratic one as well (or vice versa).

Now, many Republicans I know are abstaining from voting tomorrow, claiming that it would be improper for Republicans to participate in a Democratic Party issue.  I take a different approach.  If the Democratic Party didn’t want outsiders to participate, then they would have held a convention like the Republicans did on May 18th and the Libertarians did on April 21st.  In addition, given that the contest is decided by a primary, that means that the Virginia taxpayers pay for Tuesday’s contest.  If a party takes my money, either directly or indirectly, then I believe that I am entitled to voice my opinion in that process.

With these thoughts in mind, how can we differentiate among the candidates?  After all, the Democratic Party offers two choices for lieutenant governor and two choices for attorney general.  They are (with a link included to their websites):

Lieutenant Governor

Aneesh Chopra

State Senator Ralph Northam

Attorney General

Mark Herring

Justin Fairfax

But for which of the candidates should you vote?  Well, there are several competing theories, that I discussed more in depth in an article four years ago.  You could vote for the candidate who you believe is the strongest (or weakest), in order to give the Democratic Party the best (or worst) chance of victory.  However, my recommendation is to support whichever candidate best represents your political principles.  After all, if a Democrat does win in the general election in November, I’m hoping we would get the most conservative of the candidates (assuming such a candidate exists).

For me, control of the Virginia Senate is a very important issue in the LG race.  Given his openness to creating a power sharing agreement in the Virginia Senate (which is currently evenly split between Democratic and Republican Parties), I will be casting my primary vote for Ralph Northam.  Then again, this very same issue may be the driving point which convinces some of my more liberal friends to choose Aneesh Chopra.

Although I know that many of my readers have no plans to vote in tomorrow’s primary, I still encourage you to learn about the various choices and cast a ballot based upon your research.  Never go to the polls in ignorance; arrive well informed.  Our political system requires a knowledgeable electorate.

Don’t forget tomorrow’s primary!

Thanks to Lowell Fulk for indirectly reminding me to write this piece through his Facebook post.

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Delegate Todd Gilbert

Delegate Todd Gilbert

As hinted in my previous piece, Delegate Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County could also be facing a Republican primary challenger this election cycle.  The 15th district, which Mr. Gilbert has represented since 2006, includes Shenandoah and Page Counties as well as a portion of Warren and Rockingham Counties.  As reported in today’s issue of the Daily News Record, Mark Prince, a retired airline pilot from northern Shenandoah County may seek the nomination as well.  Should Mr. Prince choose to run, his central issues are, as of yet, unknown.

 

Last night at the meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party, I had the opportunity to meet with Mark Berg, a 10th district representative on the Virginia Republican State Central Committee.  He announced that he is challenging Beverly Sherwood for the GOP nod in the 29th district.  The 29th district, which Ms. Sherwood has represented since 1994, includes the city of Winchester, Frederick County, and a portion of Warren County.  As Mr. Berg mentioned, Delegate Sherwood is among a number of Republicans who voted for the recent transportation tax hike, called the largest tax increase in Virginia history.

The Shenandoah Valley is quickly entering uncharted political territory, incumbent legislators facing intraparty challengers.  For the nearly two decades that I’ve been involved and active, most elected officials in this region have captured the Republican nomination without question, year after year for as long as they choose to remain in that office.  So is 2013 the dawn of a new era of political competition?  Will even more candidates emerge to challenge the status quo?  Or will this election serve as a mere hiccup in the normal routine?  Only time will tell.

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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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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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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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