Friday, July 31, 2009

Got his Bell rung?

Just a few days after saying he wants a civil and positive campaign based on issues, Republican nominee Dickie Bell has broken his first promise. Responding to a News Virginian reporter's question, Curren suggested four debates. Before a hand delivered proposal could arrive, the reporter raised the question of debates with Bell. Dickie lashed out and went negative, saying "... here in the Valley, if you want to challenge a man to a debate, you do it to his face, not through the media." Hey Aaron... I mean Dickie... I think that is protocol for a duel, not a debate.
Then Bell proceeded to toss out all the buzz words he learned Monday night, things like "liberal" or charging that Erik Curren was new to the area. Huh? Like I've lived here about 40 years and to some I'm still a newcomer. Bell went on to allege the debates would be "staged" and he doubted their value in influencing voters. Interesting that a man who loves quoting one of the founding fathers of the Democratic Party, understands so little of what Thomas Jefferson means for us today - democracy.
Maybe we should give Mr. Bell a pass for now - after all he's only been a candidate for a few days and clearly hasn't gotten his game face on and the issues clarified. But, we should hold him to his promise of a positive issues-oriented campaign and tell him to drop the buzz words and cheap shots. With an open seat and two new faces vying for votes, Curren's proposal of four 90-minute debates - one each in Staunton, Augusta, Bridgewater, and Highland - makes a lot of sense. If Bell can't agree to at least that, he will have failed the vision of the man he loves to quote.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Deeds Country Tour

Steve Shannon's agenda

Most Democrats in the central Valley haven't yet met Attorney General candidate, Steve Shannon. Yesterday he had some stops in several locations along I-81, including one in Roanoke with the Kiwanis Club. Shannon talked about the reasons he got into politics, about being a nonpartisan, solution-oriented Attorney General, and about the key points in his aggressive agenda:
  • Legal issues that are arising as Virginia becomes a more technology based economy, including child pornography, identity theft, and other internet-based crimes.
  • Traditional economic crimes like fraud and scams.
  • Gang and drug crimes, especially those that cross local law enforcement lines.
  • Maintaining the Warner/Kaine successes in keeping Virginia a business-friendly environment by keeping taxes low and targeting investments in education, transportation, and safe communities.
We'll be hearing from Steve over the coming months. There is more about his stop in Roanoke in The Roanoke Times.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Curren's Statement on Faith

Erik Curren released his Statement on Religion and Politics in Virginia's 20th District House Race on July 22. I started to post it then, but thought the "controversy" would go away. But, for whatever reason, some folks are trying to keep it alive (complete with misinformation) through letters to the editor and blogs. It is one of the most insightful and inspiring statements on faith and politics that I've had the pleasure of reading. Erik, in his own words:
"Almighty God hath created the mind free." So Thomas Jefferson opened his Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. In that founding document of our Commonwealth, Jefferson went on to decry fallible religious or political leaders who would try to influence freedom of conscience through social or political pressure, begetting "habits of hypocrisy and meanness."
"Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,"Jefferson continued.
When Jefferson's statute was passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1786, it became state law that "all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities."
From this noble statute derives the freedom of all Virginians to follow the faith of their choice, or no faith at all, and to enjoy absolute protection under the law. Those who hold or seek public office in Virginia are likewise free from any religious test.
It is my belief that faith is an issue between a person and his or her own heart. We should respect the rights of all citizens to approach this issue of conscience as a private matter, unless they choose to share their convictions with others.
I have always been happy to talk with people who have a genuine interest in faith. In my life, I draw inspiration from many sources. These days, my weekly routine is filled with practices that come mostly from Christianity and Buddhism. I am moved by stories from the New Testament and by the revered music of the church, from rousing hymns to haunting spirituals.
And for the last decade or more, like millions of Americans, I have practiced meditation. Sometimes I walk and sometimes I sit. But always, taking a break from daily activity helps me think about my life and connect with a deeper truth. With increasing scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation to calm the stress of today's busy world, it's no wonder that this simple practice has spread to corporate boardrooms, hospitals, schools, and even churches across the United States.
It is understandable that people are curious about and may even fear things that they do not understand. So it is a service to civil discourse for people of different faiths to share their beliefs and practices in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance. Recognizing that all major religions teach the same basic ideas --to seek truth, promote love, and care for God's creation -- faith can be a way to bring us all together on a higher plane.
But all too often religion is used by misguided leaders to pull our communities apart and to sow the seeds of discord. This is a misuse of religious faith in my opinion, and I feel compelled to speak out against religious prejudice and bigotry.
So, to those who would court intolerance for political gain, I say: in America, you will lose. In Virginia, you will lose. And in the Shenandoah Valley and Highland County, you will lose.
This accords with my own two decades of experience in this area. People here are independent thinkers who don't want government or anyone else telling them what to believe. And I know from history that our mountains and valleys have long put out a warm welcome to people of many faiths, from Mennonites and Brethren to Roman Catholics, Jews, and even deists in the style of Jefferson. Now we continue to welcome neighbors from even more religions, whether Hindus, Muslims, or those who follow traditional African faiths.
Over the last four months of my campaign, I have met thousands of voters across the 20th District. They have asked me many questions about the issues that matter to them: jobs, schools, transportation, and quality of life. Very occasionally someone has asked me about my faith and we have had a candid discussion about it, including my belief that to draw from multiple traditions strengthens my faith life. These voters have seemed to care about the quality of the candidate, regardless of spiritual affiliation.
My faith teaches that a worthwhile life is a life of service. For this reason, I feel akin to all those of faith who strive daily to serve their families and communities in many different ways. Our area is blessed with countless selfless people who give up their free time to sit on volunteer boards, who donate generously to food banks, and who serve the public as teachers, social workers, and healthcare professionals.
My campaign will be inspired by these citizens who open their hearts in compassion to their neighbors regardless of faith, race, or political affiliation. And if elected to represent the 20th District, I promise to follow the example of my many selfless neighbors. At the same time, I will always stand against bigotry and prejudice. And I pray that I will never fail to speak out for freedom, tolerance, and mutual understanding.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Game On, Game Off

It is game on for two House of Delegates districts in the Valley -
Republican chairs in the 20th picked Dickie Bell to replace Del. Chris Saxman who shocked the local political scene when he took himself out of the game. About 100 party faithful attended a forum at Buffalo Gap HS where the seven candidates gave cloned answers to questions on taxes, gays, abortion... same old GOP grist. Then the chairs picked who they (and Del. Saxman?) apparently wanted all along. Is it the same person local Republican voters want? Bell, who is currently on Staunton City Council and has occasionally bolted from the majority (and some would say common sense), faces Democrat Erik Curren. Both have promised a clean and positive campaign.
As posted yesterday, Democrat Carter Turner will run in the 8th district. Turner is an assistant professor at Radford University and resident of the area since childhood. Turner was recently involved in efforts to block the asphalt plant coming to Glenvar. He called for bipartisan "solution oriented politics" and said he'll focus on the economy, education, and transportation. Turner replaces Ginny Weisz and will be formally nominated at a caucus tonight.
Across the mountain it is still game on in the fight to stop Walmart's invasion of the Wilderness Battlefield. The public hearing planned for last night was cancelled late in the day, or at least the word of the cancellation got out late in the day. So, you still have time to contact the Orange Co. Board of Supervisors and express your opposition to Walmart building on the edge of this national treasure. See earlier posts for links.
But it is game off for Virgil Goode who says he won't try to make a comeback in the 5th Congressional District. Goode lost a squeaker to Tom Periello and had overtly hinted he'd run in 2010. But, Goode apparently wasn't able to attract many donors or much enthusiasm for him to get back in the game.

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Bird in the 8th

Carter Turner, a Radford professor of religious studies, will announce at the Roanoke County Courthouse, at 12:15 PM today, that he is a candidate for 8th District House of Delegates. He will replace Ginny Weisz as the Democratic nominee to challenge Morgan Griffith, the House majority leader.

Common Ground

Blogs thrive on drawing lines in the sand and daring the guy on the other side to cross it. Bloggers don't often find a DMZ, much less common ground.
Retiring delegates Chris Saxman (R-Staunton) and Kris Amundson (D-Fairfax) found a bit of common ground as they reflect on their years in the General Assembly. The last paragraph in their joint Washington Post column reads:
"Oh, there is one last thing. We learned that if you really want to get things done in Richmond, you should listen more than you speak, work for others and not for yourself, and be as nice as you can to everyone you meet. Basically, follow the Golden Rule. It works."
There's more good advice for future delegates in What We Learned in Richmond.

Monday, Monday

This promises to be a busy Monday evening. Capturing the Valley headlines is the GOP forum and a decision, perhaps tonight, to nominate a replacement candidate for Chris Saxman who surprised all by quitting the race in the dog days of summer. There is speculation all over the place, including here, of which candidate the local party chairs will pick behind closed doors. One thing is sure, whoever is picked won't please everyone. While the 20th leans R, a split in the GOP will give the Democrat, Erik Curren, an unexpected opening and make this a very interesting contest.
Another meeting in Staunton this evening may start the discussion about the fate of the annual July 4 celebration. Back in the day, it was called Happy Birthday USA and the Statler Brothers performed along with other national names, bringing in tens of thousands of fans and lots of dollars for charities and other local causes. The parade and daylong activities continued even after the Statlers stopped performing. But, the costs of the event are rising and Staunton City Council has cut funds for next year.
Across the mountain, the Orange County Board of Supervisors will take up Walmart's invasion of the Wilderness Battlefield at a forum tonight. It isn't to late to register your views. This may be a local decision but the ramifications go far beyond and will affect Virginia tourism and our heritage.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Karaffa's Red Shirts

There are whispers that David Karaffa is the Republican insiders' choice to replace Del. Chris Saxman. Local GOP chairs are posturing to have someone as a counterweight to Sen. Emmett Hanger, who they don't especially like. Rephrase - despise. Were other candidates told there would be a press release from the district chair announcing all candidates, while they told young David to get the word out a day early? This increasingly has the stench of a done deal, bred in the cesspool of the hard right fanatics who control the local committees.
On his blog (with grammar and spelling errors), Karaffa calls out his "Red Shirts" for Monday's meeting. Maybe someone should clue him in on that poor choice of terms - Red Shirts were paramilitary, racist, anti-Republican groups that formed in southern states after Reconstruction and the term is still used by some racist groups today. But, if the shoe... I mean shirt... fits!

VEA endorses Deeds

The Virginia Education Association, after examining the legislative records, reviewing questionnaires, and interviewing both candidates has endorsed Creigh Deeds for Governor. VEA President Kitty Boitnott, speaking for the VEA fund, said of Deeds:
"Creigh Deeds has an 18-year record in the General Assembly of support for public education. He's been a voice for Virginia's students and educators and has worked tirelessly to maintain and strengthen the commonwealth's public schools. We're excited to back him, and look forward to his continued support and encouragement from him as governor."
This is a major endorsement for all sorts of good reasons. The VEA is politically active and has members (and retirees) in every community and has expertise in issues affecting K-12 education.

And the winner is...

It was Forbes, then U.S. News, now CNBC. Under the leadership of governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine Virginia has been recognized a great state for business. If we are continue the successes, it is essential to elect Creigh Deeds as our next governor. Show your support, get your DeedsGear.

Taliban Bob plays dodgeball

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Building Bridges

Kind of lost in all the hubbub about the 20th District Republicans is the fact that seven respected Republicans who formerly served in the General Assembly endorsed Creigh Deeds for Governor. They include -
  • Sen. John Chichester (R, Stafford) - Member of Senate: 1978-2008. Elected President pro tempore of the Senate, 2000. Former Chair of Finance Committee
  • Sen. Russ Potts (R, Winchester) - Member of Senate: 1992-2008. Independent candidate for Governor in 2005.
  • Sen. Marty Williams (R, Newport News) - Member of Senate: 1996-2008. Former Chair of Transportation Committee.
  • Sen. Warren E. Barry (R, Fairfax) - Member of the House of Delegates: 1970-1983. Member of the Senate: 1992-2002.
  • Sen. Brandon Bell (R, Roanoke Co.) - Member of Senate: 1992-96; 2004-2008
  • Del. Anne G. “Panny” Rhodes (R, Richmond) – Member of the House of Delegates: 1992-2001
  • Del. Katherine Waddell (I, Richmond) – Member of House of Delegates: 2006-2008. Former aide to Republican Lt. Gov. John Hager.
  • Del. Jim Dillard (R, Fairfax) – Member of House of Delegates: 1972-1977, 1980-2005. Former Chair of Education Committee.
A distinguished group of Republicans who know Virginia government and the General Assembly inside and out. A group who cares deeply about the Commonwealth. Republicans who have worked with both Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell and know only one will keep Virginia moving forward. Sen. Russ Potts summed it up nicely:
"I served with him (Deeds) for 16 years - sworn in the same day - and get to see what a person's all about. There's no pretentiousness with Creigh. What you see is what you get. I think he'll be a Governor who'll throw caution to the winds and make tough choices."
Well said, Sen. Potts! And just the opposite could be said about Bob McDonnell. He's pretentious. He's hiding much of his political past, including being nurtured by Pat Robertson. With Bob McDonnell what you see, isn't close to what you'll get.

Something old, something new, something borrowed

And nothing blue. Carl Tate says the gang of eight vying for the GOP nomination in the 20th House District is the "best and brightest our party has to offer." Really? Hum! I can think of a couple local Republicans who should be on any list of the party's best and brightest, yet they aren't on this list. But, it is good to see the bottom of the local barrel isn't on the list either.
Among the crowd, we have a couple trying to make a political comeback after setbacks - Charles Curry and Ray Ergenbright. I can't believe Ray has a chance, but who knows? Curry has the experience and knowledge to make him an attractive candidate, except he ran, as an independent, against a sitting GOP supervisor. They say elephants never forget.
Some like Cliff Fretwell have a background in the party that may help or hurt his chances. He's been invisible for a good while and falls in that "something old" category. Hard to believe they want to go back to the past. Hey, didn't you say these are Republicans?
A number of these guys are pretty new on the public political scene. Will the GOP roll the dice on an unknown? Many conservatives abhor gambling.
Among the newbies, give David Karaffa some credit. While I thought his TV coverage of his announcement was pretty pathetic, he did get his name out there 24 hours and one news cycle before all the others except Dickie Bell. Still, he's a little to fresh on the political scene.
Coming full circle, that brings us back to Dickie Bell, a current member of Staunton City Council. Some say he is also Del. Saxman's choice. He does still seem to be on the inside track. But, after virtually anointing Bell in the wake of Saxman's announcement, GOP leaders backed off. Questions about getting professional leave and some of his actions on council bubbled to the surface. Was the announcement of the forum really a desire to open up the process or a classic case of having second thoughts?
Eight white males. Mostly middled aged. Whatever that means. One older. One younger. A public forum that, given the history of recent Republican meetings, could turn into a stampede of elephants. Homeland security, anyone? Or zookeepers? A deal that may be done before all the shouting begins. Hey, no smoking in the back rooms of schools!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two birds and other droppings

Joining Dickie Bell in the quest to replace Chris Saxman as the GOP nominee in the 20th House District is David Karaffa. The self-styled "Beverley Manor Conservative" says family and neighbors have encouraged him to run (wow - huge following). He's another of the right wingers who attends tea parties and got his cranky motor revved exciting emotions during the Augusta reassessment. His poorly planned announcement showed him at home putting plates on the table. Is this all the GOP has to offer...?
Yesterday the News Leader editorialized and cartooned suggesting the Democrats replace Erik Curren with a more seasoned candidate for the now open seat. It was an absurd position that could only originate in the fantasyland that constitutes the newspaper's brain trust. By every account, local Democrats are very happy with their nominee who has shown he's a quick study on the issues, articulate, and very hard working. The story will quickly fade. I can't predict why that editorial was even written and the cartoon sketched - my best guess is the incredibly shrinking newspaper (24 pages on a big day; 50% ads) was trying to gin up some controversy and readers.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Save the Wilderness Battlefield

Do you believe a Walmart Supercenter belongs within sight of both the Wilderness Battlefield? Do you want to see the historical significance of this irreplaceable battlefield marred forever by more pavement, more traffic and more development that a Walmart Supercenter will bring in its wake?
In spite of being offered an alternate site and in spite of Governor Tim Kaine and Speaker of the House Bill Howell urging the Orange County Board of Supervisors to reconsider, Walmart is still pursuing this location next to the Wilderness Battlefield.
If your answer is Hell No! visit the Civil War Preservation Trust to learn the facts, to send a message to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, and to find out what more you can do. Time is short. The Orange County supervisors will make a decision in just a few weeks.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cleaning out the barnyard

With Del. Chris Saxman's summer surprise, the rumor mill has been running overtime. Speculation centers on why he dropped out? Why now? What's next for him? Some of the rumors about why he quit what looked like a sure thing deserve to be spread on the fields - mostly BS that is unsubstantiated.
Of more interest are the "what next" discussions. Very few buy the school choice campaign that he floated. Yes, he may do that, but only as a stepping stone to something else. Could he have advance word that Bob Goodlatte may not seek reelection in 2010 and he's prepping and posturing for that? Is he betting (far from a sure bet) on an appointment in a McDonnell administration? Or, are there other plans? Yeah, the rumors are all over the board - about the only thing we can be sure of it this - Chris Saxman won't be staying home to redecorate the house. One hint may be what he does (or doesn't do) with campaign funds he's amassed - follow the money, as they say.
The other part of the rumor mill has to do with who (and how) the local GOP nominates as a replacement candidate. Most of the speculation and rumors have swirled around Staunton councilman Dickie Bell. Will the Augusta County School Board give him the leave to run, and if elected, to serve. The running point is really the issue - if elected he'd quickly become the new best friend of the School Board and they'll figure a way to make it work. At least the teaching part; the coaching is probably something he'd have to give up. Other teachers have, and do, serve in the General Assembly.
For about 24 hours it looked like the local GOP committees would rush to anoint Bell, but then a pause. Was it for appearances of fairness? Probably. So now they are going to have a "public" forum and are accepting "nominations." But, make no mistake about it, in spite of this forum, this will not be a public decision. They'll make a display of listening, and the media will report on it, but the deal will be made behind closed doors, maybe before that forum is even held. Unless there's some SNAFU for Bell, or he opts out, if I had to bet it would be on him. But, the delay and the inevitable behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing may give a dark horse an opportunity. Plenty of rumors on that point, including some in CCC's previous post. The scariest and most absurd is about Lynn Mitchell, aka swacgirl. While some Democrats may welcome the right wing gadfly as easy to defeat, any sane person would have to be afraid, very afraid, that she'd somehow back into the seat.
Some pundits are saying the district leans (was gerrymandered) so Republican that Saxman's withdrawal and an open seat won't alter the outcome. But, make no mistake that the dynamic has now significantly changed. Erik Curren, who was out of town on a business trip when the news broke, reacted quickly. Responding to the local media and getting a fresh appeal out to supporters, his campaign took on a new urgency. After wishing Saxman well in future endeavors, Erik said:
"I can win in November. The experts say so. But I can't win without your help."
An open seat, an unknown and unproven opponent, Democrats eager to pick up six seats and capture control of the House of Delegates. You can bet this is a whole new ball game - back in the spring when Curren announced nobody expected the campaign ball to take this bounce. Consider - if Erik hadn't stepped forward and the Democrats hadn't nominated a good candidate, we'd now be leaving the choice of delegate to a backdoor deal made by a handful of Republican activists. That's scary.
You can support positive change and Erik's new fundraising initiative by clicking here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cluck, cluck, cluck

This one has woken up the barnyard. The Daily News-Record is reporting that Chris Saxman will drop out of the House of Delegates race in District 20. He will apparently have a press conference late today. Saxman was first elected in 2001. According to the article, Saxman wants to pursue his passion - school choice. Perhaps he's going to go work with Mike Farris, a homeschool advocate who once ran for Lt. Governor and set up the Home School Legal Defense Association? Or maybe he's turning his attention to something in 2010 or beyond?
This is great news for Erik Curren, the Democratic nominee. Everyone, including Erik himself, knew going toe to toe with an established incumbent was going to be difficult, if not impossible. Hard to know who the Republican chairs in Staunton, Augusta, Rockingham, and Highland will nominate, but at a minimum, this is a game changer that will energize Curren supporters and Democrats. You can expect new excitement, more dollars, and more attention from the DPVA for the Curren campaign.
I have no inside knowledge who might be on track for the GOP. Some speculation-
Charles Curry sought the nomination in 2001 but was beaten by Saxman. Curry is retired from teaching at JMU, farms in the Mount Solon area and involved with the Farm Bureau, and is a former member of both the Augusta County School Board and Board of Supervisors. But, trying to make a comeback, he ran as an independent for the Board of Supervisors in 2007, losing a close one. Could running against the GOP candidate be held against him?
Another possibility is Bill Kyger, a teacher at TA and Republican member of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors. There have been some rumors that he didn't care for Saxman and he might want challenge him at some point. One has to wonder if they'll pick a candidate from that end of the district since the bulk of the population is in Staunton and Augusta Co.
Former Staunton mayor John Avoli could be a long shot. He's now director of the Frontier Culture Museum and has stayed out of partisan politics in that role. This opportunity may be appealing. Rumor is that he considered seeking the GOP nod in 2001, but decided against it.
Stay tuned. This story has as many legs as a centipede.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hey buddy, can I get a loan?

Governor Tim Kaine announced a new way for state employees to get a few bucks to hold them over until the next payday or help them through a shot term financial crisis like a car repair - the Virginia State Employee Loan Program. Employees have to be members of the Virginia Credit Union, take an online financial fitness course and take a financial literacy exam among other requirements in order to qualify.
The loans would be from $100 to $500 and have an APR of 24.99%. Payments will be debited from the borrower's VACU account. There will be no credit check and only one loan at a time will be allowed. There are other qualifications and details here.
So, is the Commonwealth now in the payday lending business? Yeah, I guess one could say that, but there are differences. The interest rate, while still higher than I want to pay, is way under the rates charged by the loan sharks in the gaudy buildings found in most cities. Borrowers have to learn a little personal finance and maintain an account at VACU.
I'm sure some wing nuts will scream about the state competing with private businesses, but that isn't exactly accurate. VACU is not a state agency, but rather a credit union like many others affiliated with businesses and governments. The financial literacy aspects of the program are a big plus and not something the predators are likely to offer since the first lesson would be don't borrow from these crooks.
We'll have to wait and see how successful the Virginia State Employee Loan Program is and how many employees take advantage of it. But, it does provide a trial run and a good model for other organizations who may be interested in providing fair and reasonable small loans. This may be the first step in controlling the blight of payday and car title lenders.

Wagner Tour Expands

Just got word through the grapevine that Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Jody Wagner has expanded her July 16 tour in the central Shenandoah Valley to several other locations.
  • At 8:00 am she'll have breakfast in Shenandoah along with House candidate Jon Lesinski at Shenandoah Grill, 418 N 5th Street, Shenandoah.
  • At 10:00 am Jody will join House candidate Gene Hart at Old Dominion Coffee, 2 North Main Street, Harrisonburg
  • At 11:45 am she will join candidate Dr. Greg Marrow for a meet and greet at Chickpeas, 415 W. Main Street in Waynesboro
  • At 6:30 pm Jody host a meet and greet at Darjeeling Tea House, across from Trinity Church on W. Beverley St. in Staunton.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dog Days of Politics

In these parts it has been a fairly mild early summer with only a few of the hazy, hot, humid days that wilt folks' bodies and souls. We are just now getting into the dog days of summer, that time from July to early September characterized by blazing sun and sultry days made for iced tea or a cold beer. Spent a little time exploring and walking yesterday... for a while I thought the dog days had arrived. The sun was cookin' us and the ball cap soaked with sweat. But, even so, it really only got into the mid 80s and the nights remain in the cool and comfortable lower 60s (if you have AC you don't get the importance of this point).
We seem to be in the dog days of politics too. Gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell have been virtually invisible since mid June. Deeds has been consolidating his campaign, calling donors, and shifting from primary to general election mode. McDonnell ran a couple weeks of misleading "look at me, I'm a moderate" ads in areas of the Commonwealth that are typically strong GOP turf. Just how worried is he about the Deeds' appeal in the Shenandoah Valley, central Virginia, and beyond?
The dog days are hot times for House of Delegates candidates. They marched in every July 4 parade they could find and will be shaking hands at lawn parties over the next few weeks. A big one put on by the Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Company is late this week. By the time August arrives, they'll be taking in the county fairs.
Maybe this wouldn't turn out to be especially productive, and I'm sure it runs counter to advice offered by most consultants, but I'd like to see Deeds make "surprise" appearances at a few community events of the dog days. Shake hands, enjoy BBQ and funnel cakes, pump up the local Democratic activists, and hear what is on people's minds. Local TV and newspapers would love it (free advertising) and it would reinforce Deeds' well-deserved reputation as a regular guy who connects with Virginians.
Well, time to brew some tea for today and for a few outside jobs while the air is still cool.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Jody Wagner to visit the Valley

Candidate for Lt. Governor Jody Wagner hasn't spent much time in the central Shenandoah Valley, causing some Democrats to wonder where she's been and who she is. That will change this week as Jody will join candidate for House of Delegates District 26 Gene Hart at a Meet & Greet on July 16 at 10:00 AM at Old Dominion Coffee Shop on Court Square in Harrisonburg. RSVP's are appreciated to If, like me, you can't make it to the Burg on Thursday, you might want to keep up with Jody on Twitter.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Freedman's Bureau Records Go Digital

Across nearly 150 years and astounding changes in American culture, records of the Freedman's Bureau, a agency that helped recently freed slaves after the Civil War, have now been digitized and are available online. The State of Virginia worked with the Black History Museum, to preserve hundreds of thousands of records. It is fitting that the state where human slavery was first initiated in what became the United States, and the state with the largest number of slaves, is now to the first to digitize the records and make them available online.
During the announcement ceremony, Governor Tim Kaine proclaimed,
"...this will be an invaluable way for people to connect to their past... if you destroy the past and you destroy records, you know, you destroy more than just pieces of paper...."
Watch coverage on NBC29 or read more about it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Donate - save a life

Summer is a tough time for blood banks. Too many folks on vacation or involved in a busy life to think about stopping by a blood drive. But, the need for blood goes on and on. I've even read that the need is greater during the summer because more people are outdoors involved in activities that may result in an accident. I'm donating later this morning.
Find a blood drive and make an appointment with Virginia Blood Services, the blood bank serving much of the Shenandoah Valley and the Charlottesville area. You can visit them online or call Charlottesville (888) 977-8956, Harrisonburg (800) 543-2201, Ext. 4298, or Staunton (540) 332-4526. It only takes a few minutes and it gives the gift of life.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thinking of big tents and litmus tests

The Roanoke Times has an interesting article today about fault lines running through both the Republican and Democratic parties in Roanoke City. From this perch, it seems to mirror some of the fractures that plague each party in other areas of the Commonwealth.
For the Democrats the story is a "good news, bad news" kind of thing. The good news is that Valley Democrats are in a growth mode attracting increasing diversity of folks to a bigger and bigger tent. The bad news is that in a full tent somebody may get elbowed. As Linda Wyatt, chair of the 6th District Democratic Committee noted, there is a "bigger umbrella" with more opinions and more personalities and some clashes are inevitable. In Roanoke City, Mayor David Bowers who was a long time Democrat, now serves as an independent. He supports Creigh Deeds for governor, but is a bit vague about who he'll support in some House races. Underlying Bower's "independence" seems to be a personal spat with Democrats who did not reelect his mother to the city committee.
Also jabbing at the party are a few known Democrats who occasionally get perverse pleasure or stroke their own egos by using the "trumpet" of their blogs to bash Democratic leaders or candidates on personality rather than issues. Last fall, for example, one often howled about the party's congressional candidate. In reality, those trumpets may be more like kazoos, and the commentary baseless, but that kind of thing can be a slow growing cancer. With the party firmly united behind Creigh Deeds, the disease is in remission... at least through November.
Over on the Republican side, the story is more of "bad news getting worse." Inside their pup tent, fingers are being pointed and the guard at the door has a litmus test for anyone wanting to enter. The party's right wing seems to be finding a spiritual home in the tea party movement and is unwilling to allow even garden variety conservatives a meaningful role. A Roanoke area GOP activist, Gilbert Butler observed,
"The social conservatives don't believe in the big tent theory and believe it's more important to have a more cohesive and unified party of conservatives rather than people who just call themselves Republicans."
His comments were directed at Roanoke Republicans but can also be applied to the state and national GOP. Most Americans have moved away from their extreme positions on abortion, guns, and gays. And, as heros of that faction fail their constituents - witness quitter Palin and unzipped Sanford - the social conservatives seem increasingly alienated even from themselves.
Still within the Virginia GOP the social conservative are the most potent force. Jeff Frederick may have been narrowly ousted as chair, but they nominated about as right wing a statewide slate as possible. The top of that ticket is already running away from them knowing electoral victory can't be found there. During Staunton's Independence Day parade, a Republican state senator rides in his own convertible rather than joining his own party's float.
Even more than the Democrats, GOP bloggers can be a nasty and mean-spirited bunch, saving their most potent venom for each other. Good stuff. Fun reading.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day

"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world."