This was my first time seeing and hearing Kwiatkowski in person and, while I disagree with many of her positions, I was impressed with her ability to clearly explain deeply held beliefs while answering questions directly and without evasion as well as the obvious fire in her belly to carry these views to D.C. She connected directly with my experience when relating how she'd written Rep. Bob Goodlatte only to receive a reply that didn't address the issues raised. So, she wrote again only to get a brush-off from the "representative." It was that experience that got her thinking about running for office. During her campaign she's discovered many folks around the district had similar experiences of Goodlatte refusing to listen. To chuckles and applause from the audience, she noted, "Bob is one of my best campaign workers."
I've heard Schmooker several times and was immediately impressed on his maturation as speaker and candidate. More than most, he has thought about and understands the big picture and the tenuous interplay between greed, power, democracy, taxes, compassion, and people's lives. In earlier events I thought Schmooker was too intent on getting all his ideas out and in doing so he was hurried and seen by many listeners as too lecturing. Last night he was relaxed and confident with a warm and genuine sense of humor. He answered questions directly with precision and clarity.
Karen Kwiatkowski and Andy Schmookler were both winners last night. But, the biggest winner was a notion that democracy should engage citizens in an honest and open discussion of compelling issues. That sharp political discussion can be engaging, cordial, and without vitriolic personal attacks.
The biggest loser last night was Bobblehead Bob Goodlatte. In spite of repeated and personally delivered invitations he rudely did not even respond. I assume he felt like giving a smack down to the organizers (Occupy Harrisonburg and the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Liberty Alliance), but that smack down was felt throughout the community. The message he sent and the voters received was - I am entitled to this office and I don't care about your views, your concerns, or your lives.
Voters... Republican, Democratic, and independent... should send a message to Bobblehead Bob that politics as usual isn't good enough. For the first time ever this Democrat will vote in a Republican primary (open to all voters) for a candidate with honesty and integrity who is willing to stand before the people and debate the great issues facing us. We can retire Bob Goodlatte on June 12. Let's do it!