Emmett Hanger:
Campaign 2007

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Blog posts on the dramatic primary campaign challenge to State Senator Emmett Hanger by Scott Sayre, which came very close to succeeding, and Senator Hanger's subsequent successful reelection bid during the Fall of 2007.

February 21, 2007 [LINK / comment]

More rumblings of GOP division

Saturday's Washington Post included another chapter in the never-ending saga of the warring factions of the Republican Party in Virginia. The "moderates" in the Senate and the "conservatives" in the House of Delegates are still having a hard time narrowing their differences over transportation funding and other issues. (I use quotation marks because I'm becoming skeptical that those labels are really accurate of what each side represents.) The Senate voted down the measures related to illegal immigration, one of which I supported [link corrected]. The article focused on two key protagonists, the flamboyant Sen. Russ Potts of Winchester, a moderate's moderate, and House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith. Actually, I tend to agree with Potts about not wearing one's faith on their sleeve, echoing the thoughts of former U.S. Senator John Danforth (see October 12), but when it comes to tough issues such as the budget or immigration, Potts just doesn't get it. Stubborn-headed legislators like him make it very difficult to reach a compromise solution that serves the broad interests of Old Dominion residents.

Sayre challenges Sen. Hanger

These divisions are becoming manifest right here in the Shenandoah Valley, as a challenger to incumbent state Senator Emmett Hanger has emerged: Scott Sayre, a businessman from Buena Vista. He announced his candidacy at several public appearances yesterday, as reported in the News Leader. On Tuesday evening he spoke at length to the Staunton Republican Committee about his family background, his service in the Army, and his career as a private business owner. He emphasized his strong opposition to taxes and illegal immigration, and then faced questioning from the local party members who wanted to know his positions on other issues. See his Web site: www.sayreforsenate.com.

Some have complained that Sen. Hanger is "out of touch" with his constituents, based primarily on his vote to increase the state income tax in June 2004. This was part of a last-minute compromise that prevented the state government from shutting down. Even though that tax hike proved to be much greater than what was truly needed (we now have a surplus), I grudgingly accepted it at the time, figuring that the alternative was the state getting a bad financial reputation. In relative terms, however, Virginian taxpayers are still not doing that badly. From the state government's Web site "Virginia Performs":

According to the Tax Foundation, in 2006 Virginia had the 10th lowest state and local tax burden in the country at 9.5 percent of income.

Translation: If you think Virginia's taxes are too high, you should move to Maryland or Massachusetts. As for the criticism of Hanger as being "out of touch," what many people fail to recognize is that senators are generally expected to exercise greater judgment as to what serves the common good, whereas members of the lower house are supposed to reflect the sentiments of their constituents in a more direct way. The distinction in roles is not always crystal clear, but that is one of the fundamental reasons for having a bifurcated legislative branch -- as a check on sudden popular impulses.

For the record, I should state that I know Sen. Hanger personally, and he is a very friendly, decent, competent man. I may not agree with him all the time, but I do admire his thoughtful, independent-minded approach to grappling with complex policy issues. At a time when the Republican Party is being torn apart by single-minded tax-cut advocates on one hand, versus a few unprincipled "moderates" who pander to the mainstream media on the other hand, Sen. Hanger is a clear voice of reason who can get the two sides to work toward a common goal. He embodies the old-fashioned ideal of a Virginia Gentleman.

March 14, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Blogs and Virginia politics

Today's Richmond Times Dispatch (hat tip to VB Dems) surveyed the growing impact of various Internet on political races in Virginia. From issue monitoring to constituent feedback to fundraising, the possibilities are multiplying continually, and so are the dangers. When word of George Allen's "macaca" gaffe spread like wildfire thanks to YouTube last August, he didn't seem to know what hit him. As Shaun Kenney, former blogger and newly appointed communications director for the Republican Party of Virginia, said: "Ignore the blogs at your own peril." Being old-fashioned and quite pressed for time as it is, I steer clear of trendy networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube, but who knows, maybe I'll cave in some day.

It's nice that Republicans in the Old Dominion are finally getting up to speed with the blogosphere, just as I am setting aside trepidations and getting up to speed with the blogosphere in Virginia. I spent a good two years or more trying to push local Republicans into grasping the potential for blogs (e.g., Rathergate, in 2004) and Internet technology (e.g., swacgop.org, and last year the message finally started to spread. Better late than never. Of course, many older folks (and even some young ones) still think the Internet is an amusing novelty or trivial diversion, but the smart ones know otherwise. The big question for the future is how will the blogosphere "police" itself so that disreputable or slanderous blogs don't get as much exposure as the ones with higher standards.

Plug for Sen. Hanger

A letter from Bea Morris in today's News Leader expressed appreciation to State Sen. Emmett Hanger for his support for retired teachers in Virginia. He sponsored a bill that raised the health insurance credit for retired teachers, bringing them up to par with retired state employees. Most people will never know the sacrifices in life that teachers have to endure so that the next generation will receive a good education. Fortunately, some of our legislators do know.

March 17, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Sayre speaks to rally in Staunton

Scott Sayre Scott Sayre, Republican candidate for state senator in the 24th District, spoke to a rally in support of our troops, which was held in Staunton today. He recalled that while serving with the Army in Lyon, France in 1984, he attended a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of that city's liberation from the Nazis. He expressed hope that forty years from now, there will be similar ceremonies marking the liberation of Iraq from totalitarian rule.

Ironically, Mr. Sayre's appearance at this non-political event called attention to the troubling divisions in our country, locally as well as nationally. Since Sayre announced his candidacy last month, I have been stunned to read all the harsh, unfair criticism of incumbent Sen. Emmett Hanger in the Virginia blogosphere, just because he believes in fiscal responsibility. The way some of them write, you would think he was a liberal Democrat! There are many anti-tax activists out there who think of themselves as conservatives but who have probably never heard of Michael Oakeshott or Russell Kirk. NOTE: That previous post stated erroneously that Mr. Sayre is from Buena Vista. Actually, he lives in Lexington, but his business is in nearby Buena Vista. This is an important distinction because the border between the 24th and 25th Districts runs right between those two cities!

At a time when the Democratic Party leaders in Congress are pushing for legislation to force a premature withdrawal from Iraq, and left-wing demonstrators in Washington are giving aid and comfort to the enemy, it is of utmost importance that patriotic-minded citizens do whatever they can to seek reconciliation and national unity. The key to winning the war against Islamo-fascism is setting aside narrow sectarian agendas and pulling together for the greater good!

UPDATE: For a more complete report on the day's events, see HERE.

March 21, 2007 [LINK / comment]

VB Dems' Va. Blog Carnival

This week's Virginia Blog Carnival was another attempt to set newer and higher standards of creativity. It was hosted by Eileen Levandoski, who runs the VB Dems blog -- as in Virginia Beach Democrats, for those of you in Rio Linda. First, she gave a teaser preview, describing each of the bloggers' various characteristics and tastes, and challenging readers to guess who was who. I happened to be listed second, for my submission on Bush's trip to Latin America, but otherwise I had almost no clue at all. Then she named each one, in brief fashion. Congratulations to Eileen for a good effort that paid off. Two submissions caught my interest:

Unlike me and several others, Adam Gurri actually addressed the question posed to submitters by Eileen. She asked why people got into blogging, and why they keep it up. Gurri wrote about the "long tail" style of blogging, which is what applies to me. It simply means that some bloggers carve out a niche for themselves by blogging on a consistent basis over a long period of time, to keep the interest of people who share a similar interest in topics and a similar taste in blogging styles. In fact, I cited the same article as Gurri did back on Nov. 30, 2005.

The VCAP blog responded to a Washington Post article on whether it is proper to use the General Fund for transportation. I say no, as a general rule, but on different grounds than most people cite. For me it is not so much a statutory question as an economic subsidy question. I hate public policies that encourage waste of polluting hydrocarbons, which is what happens when the government pays for highways with money from general revenues. But VCAP makes it clear that there has never been a solid "firewall" between general fund and other state government funds. It all depends on the business cycle, as the budget goes into surplus and deficit over and over again.

VCAP endorses Sayre

Speaking of VCAP, they endorsed Scott Sayre, the candidate for state Senate in the 24th District. See thenewdominion.com.* Oddly, the local news media doesn't seem aware of what has been going on. On the way to Highland County on Sunday, we saw the red Sayre for Senate yard signs in a number of different locations. It is becoming clear that incumbent Sen. Emmett Hanger faces a formidable, well-organized, well-funded challenge.

* The New Dominion is the new online magazine and blog published by Chris and Crystal Graham, replacing the old Augusta Free Press. The inaugural print edition of The New Dominion includes an article by Chris on I-81 and one about the growing (but largely invisible) Latino immigrant community in the Augusta County area. Rhonda Winfield, the Gold Star mother who spoke at the support-the-troops rally on Saturday, works with the business side of the Grahams' ever-growing cyber-enterprise.

I am elected secretary

I am very grateful to fellow members of the Staunton Republican Committee for electing me to the post of secretary at our monthly meeting last night. Patrick Carne resigned that post last month, and Alex Davis briefly served in a provisional capacity. In conjunction with my duties as Web master, I intend to work to improve relations with other Republican Party units and with the general public. I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendations made by Charles Judd, the new Executive Director of the Republican Party of Virginia, that the party adopt a more welcoming, inclusive attitude. He spoke to the local Republican breakfast meeting in January [February].

Run, Fred, run!

Draft Fred Thompson President '08

April 19, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Senator Hanger comes to Staunton

With less than two months to go in the primary campaign, State Senator Emmett Hanger was finally given an opportunity to address the members of the Staunton Republican Committee on Tuesday night. His opponent in the June 12 primary election, Scott Sayre, had already appeared at our meeting in February, following a controversial public statement of support for him by the committee chair, Anne Taetszch. Several committee members felt very strongly that the incumbent should be given an equal opportunity to present his case at one of our meetings, as a matter of basic fairness. Because of disagreement on this point, however, it became necessary to resort to a provision in the committee bylaws under which the committee members themselves can issue a meeting call. As the newly elected secretary of the committee, I took a lead role in this initiative, in close consultation with other committee members who have more experience and knowledge of party rules and protocol than I have. Because neither the chair nor the vice-chair showed up at this meeting, I led the proceedings in my capacity as secretary.

Sen. Hanger, Ray & Carol Ergenbrights, Andrew Clem
Sen. Hanger answers a question from Ray Ergenbright; Carol Ergenbright and yours truly are on the right.

After "reintroducing" himself to party members, Sen. Hanger spent the better part of an hour explaining the intricacies of various aspects of state tax policy. He displayed a strong grasp of a wide variety of complex fiscal issues. He lamented his inability to accomplish more in the area of tax reform, such as raising personal exemptions and standard deductions in the state income tax for the sake of lower-income people. He did cite progress, nonetheless, in reducing the disparities in tax burden among the various geographical regions of the Commonwealth (helping our area), in ensuring consistent tax treatment of the telecommunications sector (Internet, TV, and telephone), and in repealing the estate tax. He also called for reforming real estate taxes, shifting them to a "cost-plus" basis that does not automatically escalate in parallel with the often-volatile market prices. Sen. Hanger then moved on to other issues, stressing the need for more accountability in the state's public education system, criticizing the "No Child Left Behind" initiative of the Bush administration. Finally, he hailed the accomplishments yielded by the 1999 Land Conservation Act, criticizing Governor Tim Kaine for taking credit for the annual benefits that have accrued from this piece of legislation.

The members of the committee then asked Sen. Hanger a series of questions. Ray Ergenbright asked about the anti-tax pledge signed by Scott Sayre, pointing out that the Virginia Republican Creed stresses "fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints," but says nothing about cutting taxes. Sen. Hanger declined to comment on his opponent's positions, but made it clear that he wants the government to be able to pay for its proper obligations. He made a critical reference in this regard to how the ongoing war in Iraq is being funded: "We are borrowing money from the Chinese to pay for bullets..."

Stacey Morris wanted to know what additional steps can be taken to stop sexual predators, and Sen. Hanger pointed to his past advocacy of castration and even capital punishment for the most heinous offenders. He said it is costing the state at least $100 million a year to keep those convicted of sex crimes incarcerated or monitored after they are paroled. This illustrated the dilemma of trying to tackle pressing social problems without imposing an excessive tax burden on the citizens.

Wally Almquist then asked about the accusation that Sen. Hanger voted for "the largest tax increase in state history" in the 2004 legislative session. Hanger dismissed that as just a "30-second sound bite," noting that students and other users of services provided by the state would have borne a huge additional cost burden otherwise. He emphasized that the real "largest tax increase in state history" takes place every year at the local level when property taxes are leveed.

At the end of the question-and-answer session, Erma Fretwell and others expressed a strong willingness to help with Sen. Hanger's campaign. I think it is safe to say that Sen. Hanger received a much friendlier reception in Staunton than the opposing candidate did in February.

This event was covered by David Royer, a reporter for the Staunton News Leader. Unfortunately, the article in yesterday's paper focused on what had until now been a behind-the-scenes phenomenon: "a faction of the Staunton Republican Committee bypassed its chairwoman to stage a question-and-answer session with Hanger, highlighting the party rift." In my blog posts and personal conversations, I have made a point of treating the tensions within the party in a very discreet fashion, in contrast to some other bloggers who are fond of spreading rumors. I have not pretended that such divisions don't exist, and I have occasionally alluded to these problems in the context of the broader tensions within the Republican Party, which are well known to the public. I am fairly certain that the "rifts" would not have been exposed if the pro-Sayre minority faction had attended the meeting on Tuesday. I also reported on this event (in a less opinionated fashion) at the Staunton GOP Web site.

I should state that I have no problem with those in the Republican ranks who are working to elect the political novice Scott Sayre, just as I have no problem with those who sincerely object to the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. Honest disagreement is perfectly normal in the world of politics, and loyal dissent is a cherished right in any democracy. It strikes me as quite ironic, however, that many of those who favor the challenging candidate Sayre are the first to accuse others -- often in very harsh terms -- of stirring up dissension within the Party of Lincoln. I think this biblical quotation aptly gets to the root of our problem:

Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife;
quarrels and insults are ended. [Proverbs 22: 10]

Taking the pledge?

Earlier this month, the (Waynesboro) News Virginian reported that the opposing candidate, Scott Sayre, had signed the Americans for Tax Reform's Taxpayer Protection Pledge. (That is the organization created by Grover Norquist, for you folks in Rio Linda.) At the February meeting of Staunton Republicans, I asked Mr. Sayre if he would pledge not to accept any campaign contributions from businesses that employ illegal immigrants, to back up his strong stand on that issue. He declined to do so, however, stating that it was not his policy to make such pledges. Well, if that is the case, why did he sign the anti-tax pledge??

April 30, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Sen. Hanger's campaign kick-off

State Senator Emmett Hanger launched his campaign at a press conference in Verona last week, receiving endorsements from nearly all of the elected officials from Augusta County. One of them was David Beyeler, a semi-retired farmer who represents the South River District on the Board of Supervisors: "The Senator represents this area well, and he has seniority." In his remarks, Sen. Hanger criticized anti-tax activists who are behind his opponent, Scott Sayre. He complained about the misleading radio advertisements attacking him and declared "that he wouldn't be bullied by 'anti-tax, anti-government extremists.'" Good for him! The article in the News Leader quoted some folks who tried to link Sen. Hanger to the big-spending ways of Gov. Tim Kaine and the Democrats, which is just plain ridiculous.

Even though he is friendly and well-liked by his constituents, Sen. Hanger is anything but a professional politician, which may explain his relaxed attitude toward the campaign. In fact, it was not until yesterday that I saw the first Hanger road signs posted. There were four of them along Route 11 between Harrisonburg and Fort Defiance, where he went to high school.

I was taken aback by the hostile reaction of some pro-Sayre bloggers to the endorsements received by Hanger. Those bloggers have been railing against Hanger for months, and now they complain about his "negative" campaign statements. For a person like me who has been involved with these things first hand for many months, such a reaction could not possibly be more ironic. As one example, "SWAC Girl" (the "s" is questionable, I think) claimed that Hanger had "slammed the grassroots volunteers who work for the Republican Party," when all he did was to point out -- quite rightly -- that several Republican committee chairs in this area have contrived to paint a false image of widespread opposition to Hanger from within the party rank and file. Hanger said nothing negative about "grassroots volunteers" at all. Perhaps it all comes down to how a "grassroots volunteer" is defined. She also listed the elected officials who endorsed Hanger, along with their salaries, and then listed the local Republican party officers who have endorsed Sayre. She made one glaring omission, however: Guess who?

If you ask me, Sen. Hanger should be proud to get the endorsements of those public officials. After all, they are all folks who are responsible for properly managing the taxpayers' money, and they know how hard it is to deliver vital public services while keeping the tax burden to a tolerable level. In contrast, many people from the private sector fail to appreciate how difficult it is to maintain fiscal responsibility. That is why those anti-tax pledges are so pernicious -- they convey the false impression that all you have to do to solve a problem in public affairs is just make a declaration. In reality, getting things done (or undone) in government involves a lot of a hard bargaining.

Spank That Donkey also called attention to the "grass-roots" nature of Sayre's campaign. Well, it may have "grass-roots" aspects in terms of the folks who are doing the heavy lifting and sign-hammering, but it is anything but "grass-roots" in terms of who is funding and organizing the campaign. As is well known, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform group has been recruiting right-wing candidates to run against moderate conservatives for the past several years. In 2004 that group put out an angry "Wanted" poster showing all the members of the Virginia General Assembly who voted for the tax hike, and Sen. Hanger's face was among those on it. (At least it didn't say "dead or alive.") Their choice to run against Hanger (not necessarily their first choice) was Scott Sayre, who has no experience in politics whatsover, as far as anyone knows.

Bloggers for Sayre?

At last count, there were fifteen blogs signed up on Bloggers for Sayre, but most of their identities are either anonymous or dubious. As far as I know, I'm the only blogger in the 24th District who supports Emmett Hanger, though I'm sure there must be at least one or two Hanger supporters who blog elsewhere in the Old Dominion. Whether that says more about Hanger, or more about the current state of the "conservative" blogosphere in Virginia, remains to be seen.

COMMENT by: Alton foley, of Collinsville, VA on May 01, 2007 17:34 PM
Most? Anonymous? And of all things, dubious? You pompous jerk. If you will count again you will see that 11 of the 15 are known to you by name, if not on sight. Of the 11 most of us have our legal name right there on our blog, just as you do. Thank you for mirroring Mr. Hanger's contempt of grass roots party workers. Alton B. Foley Collinsville, VA (Oh, and I work in Stuart.)

COMMENT by: Alton foley, of Collinsville, VA on May 01, 2007 22:05 PM
"She made one glaring omission, however: Guess who?" Do you mean Alex Davis? I thought he was one of the dubious gang of fifteen. I thought he was Secretary of the Staunton Republican Committe.

COMMENT by: Stacey Morris, of Staunton , VA on May 01, 2007 22:32 PM
Andrew is the secretary of the Staunton party, Alex lost and one of the members made a motion for him to be made the fill in if Andrew isn't there just to make him feel better but there isn't anything in our by-laws for such a position, it was simply a feel good. Lynn posted a lie on her SWAC newsleter...what else is new, junior high still lives. Now you may think Andrew knows who you are but I don't and when you use your blog name to write in to the papers neither does anyone else.

COMMENT by: Alton foley, of Collinsville, VA on May 01, 2007 22:51 PM
I don't know who the heck you are either Stacy morris. But I do know that Mr. Clem, (or is it Dr. Clem) who was illegally elected in a private meeting without a quorum, contrary to the party plan and has no authority to claim himself to be secretary is doing so. I've never used my blog name to write into any paper. My real name is Alton B. Foley. I am not a doctor, but I've stayed many nights in a Holiday Inn Express. My blog name is I'm Not Emeril. Remeber, us "dubious" "anonymous" bloggers keep up with what is going on in our party. Maybe since you claim to be a party member you should too.

COMMENT by: Stacey Morris, of Staunton , VA on May 02, 2007 02:45 AM
Alton it was a quorum, and he is our secretary...sorry. I look forward to meeting you but I stick to more grown up reading material.

May 1, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Sayre bloggers take offense

One paragraph from my blog post yesterday began "I was taken aback by the hostile reaction of some pro-Sayre bloggers to the endorsements received by Hanger." Today I was really taken aback to see how much outrage was sparked by one or two innocuous comments I wrote. One thing is clear: You do not want to get on the Sayre bloggers' bad side. Let's go to the reactions, one by one:

Alton Foley, one of the pro-Sayre bloggers with an open identity, took the time to post a comment on my blog (a rare event), but violated my cardinal rule of using polite language. It's too bad, as he seems like an interesting character, from having read his blog off and on. For the record, the fact that I aspire to high standards does not mean that I am an "elitist," or that I look on others with disdain. To each his own. Furthermore, I do not have contempt for Republicans who are working for Sayre. As I wrote on April 19, "

I should state that I have no problem with those in the Republican ranks who are working to elect the political novice Scott Sayre, just as I have no problem with those who sincerely object to the Bush administration's policy in Iraq.

But I'm afraid Alton went way outside the norms of propriety in accusing me of "Chutzpah Squared" and "hypocrisy," even casting doubt on my academic credentials. He also revealed the contents of a personal e-mail message in his blog post, which is very bad form, to put it mildly. As for my application to join the Old Dominion Blog Alliance earlier this year, I never raised a peep about the unusual rejection, in stark contrast to other bloggers I know who have protested loudly about getting excluded from this or that blog roll or aggregator. "Sour grapes"? Not me.

"Johnathan Maxfield" got carried away with his retort, badly misconstruing my remarks. All I can say is, I did not mean to be "disparaging" pro-Sayre bloggers, just that I won't pay very much attention to the ones who hide behind pseudonyms.

Scott White weighed in, saying my blog is "weird." Guilty as charged! (It comes from taking Apple's "Think Different" slogan a little too seriously, I suppose.) Scott cited one passage I wrote, but it was not based on the paragraph from the New Dominion article he cited, but rather from the following paragraph, which began, "'We have a situation right now where we have several chairs who have agendas of their own,' said Hanger."

For the sake of balance, however, I probably should have mentioned Sen. Hanger's remark (which Scott cited) about party officers who do "somewhat thankless jobs that we kind of hand over to anybody who says they want them..." First, there is a lot of truth in that, as I can attest from personal experience, and second, it is not the sort of thing that should be said openly.

I was surprised that Alton and Scott thought taking a screen shot of my blog post would be necessary, since no one has ever accused me of altering previously posted text. I adhere to a clear set of blog practices, occasionally correcting misspellings and factual errors, in which case I use [brackets] to indicate it. Clicking on the permalink for each blog post shows a time stamp at the bottom to show when the last change (if any) was made.

I was also cited by the lefty C-ville wunderkind Waldo Jaquith, who spotted some Rose-breasted grosbeaks today. So did I, yesterday.

Frankly, I didn't think my reference to "anonymous or dubious" identities would hit such a raw nerve. What are those people so sensitive about? It brings us back to my blog post on February 11 which listed my top criteria for assessing which blogs deserve the most credibility. Right at the top is "Open identity (not anonymous)." If a person has good reason for using a pseudonym, that's one thing, but misrepresenting one's own background is grounds for banning a given blog, as far as I'm concerned. And, yes, Alton, I am a doctor.

May 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Senator Hanger on tax reform

Anyone who thinks that Sen. Emmett Hanger is "running away from his tax-hiking record" (as D.J. McGuire stated) should take a close look at his detailed policy statement on tax reform at his new blog, "The Responsible Republican." (Actually, his blog is almost two weeks old already, and I'm just now getting caught up with it!) Sen. Hanger really tells it like it is, making some of the same points he made to the Staunton Republican Committee three weeks ago:

For the overwhelming majority of the families that I represent, the net impact of the tax package was a tax reduction rather than a tax increase. The implication that it was the "largest tax increase in Virginia's history" is totally bogus.

The major changes that figure into this are:
  1. Income tax was decreased slightly for everyone, no matter what income level by increasing the personal exemption amount from $800 to $900
  2. Sales tax was increased by one half of a percent (this was the major component of the tax increase), but two percent was taken off of food
  3. The estate tax was eliminated
  4. Cigarette taxes were increased and the proceeds directed to health costs
  5. Recordation fees were increased for real estate transactions
These changes produced approximately $700 million per year in additional revenue to the state, but roughly $500 million per year of that amount was returned to the localities to pay for existing programs, primarily education and public safety. The remaining additional revenue was allocated to higher education costs (reducing the need for increased tuition) and mandated Chesapeake Bay cleanup costs.

The statement that the additional revenue was used to "create new liberal social programs" is totally bogus.

The point about returning most of the additional revenues to the localities is especially important in light of recent controversies about property tax rates in Staunton and Waynesboro. Obviously, Sen. Hanger knows his stuff, inside and out. As they say, read the whole thing.

On a more general level, I am usually very skeptical whenever I hear about a tax hike or tax cut of X million dollars; any such scalar (one-dimensional) measure is bound to be misleading, because it depends on the time frame and economic projections, which are never certain. It's better to compare changes in rates for particular kinds of taxes, restricting the focus to single-year intervals, and then to evaluate the overall revenue effect after the fact.

May 17, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Will Dems run in 24th District?

According to The New Dominion, the Democrats are planning to take advantage of divisions within the Republican Party by nominating a candidate to run in the 24th District state senate seat currently held by Emmett Hanger. And to think that this has been considered a "safe" district for Republicans...

Tom Long, the chairman of the Augusta County Democratic Committee, confirm[ed] today that Democrats in the 24th do plan to run a candidate in the November general election.

Long said that one candidate has pre-filed for a May 29 party mass meeting where a nominee for the seat -- currenly held by Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger -- will be named.

Well, as the Church Lady said, "Isn't that interesting?" That article also quoted U.Va.'s Sean O'Brien, who expects the Democrats to reach out to the center of the political spectrum and nominate moderate candidates in districts where moderate Republicans are being challenged by right-wingers. If Hanger wins the nomination, he will be a shoo-in come November; if Sayre wins it will be a toss-up. But I'm sure that the "conservative movement" activists will keep on dreaming up ways to "mobilize the (right-wing) base" and identify "hard core" Republican voters in their election campaign strategy. Those folks are tragically and utterly blind to the fundamental reality that the vital center is, far more often than not, where political fortunes are won or lost.

Hat tip to D.J. McGuire, who offers a solid analysis based on policy preferences and the hankering of many right-wingers to defect to the Libertarian Arin Sime in case Hanger beats Sayre. He igores, however, the large number of voters who are sick of endless polarized bickering in Richmond and just want legislators who are competent and able to hammer out pragmatic deals that serve the public interest. (Guess who's good in that department?) He also overlooks the personal character and incumbency aspects which weigh heavily in Hanger's favor. By the way, D.J. is the very same guy who doubted my suggestion last week that the Democrats might contest the seat after all. At least he acknowledged the error, which is admirable -- and rather uncommon in the blogosphere.

The prospect which McGuire raises, of a large number of Sayre supporters from within the Republican ranks ending up voting for the Libertarian Sime in the general elections should Hanger defeat Sayre, says a lot about party loyalty these days. Even with all the nastiness and dirty tricks used by Sayre supporters against fellow Republicans which I have witnessed over the past several months, at this point I would still be inclined to vote for Sayre in November if he defeats Sen. Hanger. It all depends on whether the closing weeks of the campaign are clean or not.

Hanger vs. Sayre in Staunton

The two candidates vying for that senate seat, Emmett Hanger and Scott Sayre, spoke to the Staunton Republican Committee on Tuesday evening. Each candidate was only allotted ten minutes, however, and no questions were allowed from the audience, so it wasn't the Great Debate that we Hanger supporters have been hoping for. Afterwards, there was a forum on "media bias" consisting of Chris Graham, editor of The New Dominion, Melanie Lofton, a reporter/producer with WHSV TV-3 in Harrisonburg, Steven Winslow, editor of the new Conservative Viewpoints blog, and Bruce Grover, vice chairman of the Staunton Republican Committee. I was delighted that one of our members raised the issue of anonymous bloggers and the damage they do by spreading false rumors and misinformation, without being held accountable. Graham and Winslow both agreed with her that bloggers who use their real names deserve more credibility (!), and of course, they both blog using their real names.

I'm sorry to say this, but the version of that meeting as reported by "SWAC Girl" did not accord with what I observed. For one thing, Sen. Hanger spoke first, contrary to what she wrote, because Sayre arrived late. As the senator was leaving, a few of his supporters did leave the room to speak to him for a few minutes (I could see them from the rostrum where I was seated, whereas "SWAC Girl" was seated in the rear), but most of the Hanger crowd stayed in the chambers and politely listened to Mr. Sayre. There was no hostility shown to either guest, and I did not notice any banging doors. As for the alleged "bullying and intimidating" of our chairwoman, there was a motion from the floor which she ruled out of order, and an appeal by me which she refused to act upon properly. That's all. After several members objected vehemently to this, she abruptly declared that the meeting was adjourned without even taking a vote and left the chambers, leaving the members and guests stunned. An "orderly meeting"? Not! The only rude words I heard came from a young Sayre supporter who told one of the long-standing party members (a Hanger supporter) that he hoped he was offending her and wanted to know what else he could say that might offend her even more. (He must have learned that line from Alton Foley. ) I could challenge other assertions made in that blog post, but it would not be appropriate to do so in a public forum.

(Notwithstanding the date above, this was originally posted after midnight on May 18, to make room in the politics category for a big post on immigration tomorrow, I mean today.)

May 19, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Apostates rewrite RPV Creed

In response to Arianism and other heretical movements that threatened to tear Christianity apart, in 325 A.D. bishops from throughout Christendom convened at the Council of Nicaea, and drew up the Nicene Creed to clarify the essential elements of Christian theology. Based on all the talk about "RINOs" and other epithets over the past few years, I think the Republican Party needs to engage in such a large-scale soul-searching exercise.

I bring this up because Chris Green, of "Spank That Donkey," committed a major doctrinal gaffe during a podcast interview with The New Dominion on May 7. He was talking about his colleagues on Bloggers 4 Sayre, and elaborated (at 23:45 into the podcast):

They're just all good, pretty solid kind of conservatives on when you get down to taxes, the issue of taxes, which is a plank in the Republican Party Plan, or the Republican Party Creed I should say...

Wrong. The RPV Creed says nothing at all about taxes. Indeed, the only pertinent section of it reads as follows:

That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government. (SOURCE: rpv.org)

Fiscal responsibility -- i.e., making sure you've got enough money to pay the bills -- does not mean cutting taxes, the fad which Scott Sayre and many on the Right espouse these days. Indeed, it could be construed as justifying tax increases when necessary. Sadly, there are probably many people who are led astray by such misinformation about basic Republican Party principles. Ironically, it is the doctrinal "apostates" who are bemoaning the "Republicans In Name Only," their term for political leaders such as Sen. Hanger who actually live up to the party's core principles. What kind of Orwellian double-speak is this?

I recently commented on STD in hopes of correcting the false statements about who holds the office of secretary of the Staunton Republican Party. All I got in response was juvenile taunts, which is par for that course, I guess. If you're a "true believer" in the religion of tax cuts, it seems, facts just don't matter.

Bloggers for Hanger?

I knew I wasn't the only one! In response to the fabulously influential (or totally discredited, depending on whom you ask) Bloggers 4 Sayre blog, some clever guy has come up with Bloggers 4 Hanger, with five contributors listed: "Alex," "Lynn," "Chris," "Kurt," and "Truthserum." Well, most of the "contributors" are not anonymous, at least!

"Republitarian" (Myron, from the Harrisonburg area) recently solicited questions to be asked of Sen. Emmett Hanger, who has now answered all of them. He is still waiting to hear from Scott Sayre...

More blog intrigues

I got a nice plug last week from local Democratic blogger Clifford Garstang. He wrote that Clem "eschews the shrillness of those other bloggers. And of course they [the other SWAC-GOP bloggers] attack him for that." Did Waldo put him up to this? Actually, I happened to meet Clifford at the Bookstack in downtown Staunton a couple months ago, and even though I take sharp exception to his letters to the editor on the war, etc., he seems like a nice fellow. It says a lot about the state of conservatism today that someone like me gets treated with more courtesy from a Democrat than from people in his own party.

May 20, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Sixth District Republican Gala

Jacqueline joined me, as guests of Carol and Ray Ergenbright, at the Virginia Sixth District Republican Gala, which was held at the Lexington Golf and Country Club last night. It was the first time I had attended this annual event. I was especially pleased that Sixth District Chairman Fred Anderson made a point to remind the guests of the Virginia Republican Creed, which was included in the program. (I hope the "apostates" took note.)

Va 6th District GOP Gala 2007

Clockwise, from top left: Sixth District Chairman Fred Anderson, Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, State Senator Emmett Hanger, Larry Roller, Scott Sayre, Vickie Parkinson, House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, and Delegate Ben Cline, among others.

The setting for this fund-raising event was truly spectacular, with a great view of the golf course and mountains beyond as the sun went down. The food was excellent, and the people were pleasant and friendly. Both of the candidates for the hotly contested 24th District senate seat -- incumbent Emmett Hanger and chalenger Scott Sayre -- were present, along with several of their respective supporters. (Thanks to Vickie Parkinson for giving up her seat at the table with Senator Hanger so that we late arrivals could sit together!)

In his introductory remarks, Congressman Goodlatte talked about the difficulties in working with the Democrats on Capitol Hill now that they have regained the majority once again. He sharply criticized the Democratic leaders' attempts to force a premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, saying he was quite certain that if only the Democrats would allow an up or down vote on the question of funding the war in Iraq, many Democrats and nearly all Republicans would vote "yes." On the subject of the proposed comprehensive immigration reform, he reiterated his firm opposition to any form of amnesty, which would only reward illegal behavior.

In his keynote address, Attorney General McDonnell focused on the theme of liberty, in the context of the global war on terror and the ongoing political battles in the United States. He noted how the founding of Jamestown by the English settlers four hundred years ago gave rise to a nation -- and a global cause -- that they never could have imagined at the time. He also reminded his guests of the perils to liberty that come with expanded government social programs, and urged everyone to work hard to elect Republicans in the upcoming elections.

At the end of the evening, several Republicans received the Eagle Award from Congressman Bob Goodlatte for their hard work on the campaign trail last year. Among those was Alex Davis from Staunton. Congratulations, Alex!

May 21, 2007 [LINK / comment]

New Dominion podcast

This morning I was interviewed by Chris and Crystal Graham of The New Dominion, and you can listen to it directly (or download it for later use) at their podcast link page. Most of their questions centered around the Hanger vs. Sayre race for the state senate, and the blogospheric controversies and partisan infighting surrounding that. I expressed guarded hope that the party will come back together after the June 12 primary, and cast doubt on the idea that Sen. Hanger might run as an independent candidate if he loses to Scott Sayre. Of course, that will depend in part on whether the campaign stays relatively clean.

I hope I avoided any major gaffes about facts or party doctrine such as Chris Green committed two weeks ago. I took a beating for calling attention to that from D.J. McGuire, who said what I wrote was an "intellectually dishonest half-truth." I asked him to explain or to apologize, and I am still waiting. There are plenty of sophomoric jeers in the rest of the comments on that page, in case you're in need of amusement. That is the sort of political discourse that voters will be able to either endorse or reject when they go into the polls on June 12.

By the way, when I wrote of "apostates" in the GOP ranks, I chose my words carefully. Many party members emphatically reject the traditional principles which The Party of Lincoln has long embodied, and some of them are quite conscious of this fact. That is why they cannot tolerate the presence of fiscal conservatives who actually take such principles at face value, because they know they will be called on it eventually, and there will be hell to pay.

For you folks in Rio Linda, apostasy is defined by Webster's New World Dictionary (Third College Edition) as: "an abandoning of what one has believed in, as a faith, cause, principles, etc." I distinctly recall that the Republicans used to be the party of fiscal responsibility, sometimes taking their lumps at the polls on Election Day for having done the right thing on Capitol Hill. If you're under 40, you might not even be aware of that heritage. Back in the 1990s my heroes were Warren Rudman (co-founder of the Concord Coalition, to which I once belonged), Newt Gingrich, and John Kasich, but the GOP has sadly gotten off track under Bush II, and now many people are terribly confused.

UPDATE: Chris Graham has written up his summary of the interview he did with me, entitled "Blogger4Hanger." It's fair and accurate, though it's a bit uncomfortable for me to see all the unfortunate hard feelings among local party members broadcast for all the world to see.

May 22, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Senator Hanger: party loyalist

In my New Dominion podcast interview yesterday, I cast doubt on the possibility that Sen. Emmett Hanger might run as an independent this fall in the event that Scott Sayre wins the primary election. This was in response to a question from Chris Graham that was prompted by blogospheric rumors which are totally unfounded. Nevertheless, "Elle" somehow took my comment to mean that I was emphasizing the likelihood of such a contingency. To clear things up, Senator Hanger contacted me today to declare unconditionally that he remains a loyal Republican, just as he has been for the better part of three decades, and that he will not run as an independent.

I should state for the record that, although I strongly and wholeheartedly support Senator Hanger in this race, I do not speak for him in any way, shape, or form. The senator has a mind of his own, and exercises his own judgment on policy questions, and so do I. Furthermore, I have no formal responsibility in the senator's re-election campaign, and any statements to the contrary are false.

So who's ahead?

Frankly, I don't have a clue. In The New Dominion, Chris Graham suggests that the 24th District senate nomination race is "Scott Sayre's to lose," based on the much greater degree of mobilization among his supporters, which will no doubt have a big impact on turnout. He observes, however,

that 24th District Dems might actually have a chance in November if Hanger is upset in the primary next month -- because the one factor holding Hrovat back right now, his lack of political experience, is negated by the fact that Sayre as well has not been elected to public office. I still think Sayre wins in November if he gets the nomination in June, but if the Democratic Party of Virginia decides to target the race early on, things could get interesting around here around the end of September.

Indeed. Sayre's whole campaign is based on the idea that the Democrats couldn't win the 24th district in any case, which is one heck of a gamble.

Closet leftists/Dems?

As I feared might be the case, "Spank That Donkey" [link corrected] did not take my description of him as an "apostate" well at all. Well, he keeps saying that he does not consider people like Emmett Hanger to be real Republicans, so what does he expect? He went on to repeat the rumors originated by "General Grievous' Dog" about my supposed regular contacts with lefty bloggers. It seems to me the right wingers are starting to believe their own feverish rhetoric about "RINOs," which is perfectly in keeping with the "paranoid style" of pseudo-conservatives (scroll down to second item). Waldo Jaquith must be rolling on the floor laughing at all of this...

Phil Cronginger had a similar experience with STD, who accused him of being a Democrat, just because some of the people on Daily Whack Job are, but Phil says he is willing to "bury the hatchet" and "end the in-fighting amongst conservatives." Me, too. Can we at least agree that conservatism encompasses a broad range of specific concerns? Or will the right wing try to purge the moderate conservatives, thereby handing power over to the Democratic-Socialists?

May 29, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Hanger vs. Sayre: the podcast

State Senator Emmett Hanger and the challenger, Scott Sayre, were both interviewed by Chris and Crystal Graham of The New Dominion on Friday, and you can listen to the podcast at your leisure. Sen. Hanger made his main points effectively without getting bogged down in the murky details. Mr. Sayre is getting better at handling questions, but he still has a very long way to go in terms of addressing complex issues.

The first question -- on defining "fiscal conservatism" -- was an easy "lob" pitch for which Sen. Hanger was well prepared. He linked that term to fiscal responsibility, which for him "has to do with much more than being for or against any particular tax, it has to do with balancing budgets..." and is tied to the basic idea of limited government. He reminded everyone that the Republican Party (of Virginia) creed has been his guideline for political philosophy ever since he joined the party.

Sen. Hanger did exceptionally well in explaining his position on in-state tuition for illegal aliens, about which I had my doubts. Now I understand better where he is coming from. His goal is to force the courts to revisit the Supreme Court ruling that prohibited public schools from asking whether immigrant students had legal status or not. It is a good example of issues in which responsibility between the states and the federal government is blurred. Mr. Sayre voiced outrage at the immigration status quo, but didn't offer much in the way of solutions.

Both candidates were asked whether they would support their opponents in the general election. Sen. Hanger reiterated his loyalty to the Republican Party, making it clear he would not run as an independent. In contrast, Mr. Sayre demurred on this vital question, missing an opportunity to help unify the splintered Virginia GOP. He noted correctly that he has not been involved in politics, so the question had not really occurred to him, while boasting of his endorsements by local Republican Party chairmen -- for whatever that's worth.

Tonight the two candidates will square off in a forum at Blue Ridge Community College.

BRCC forum update

At this evening's public forum, both candidates made pretty much the same points as they had made in their podcasts, and I didn't notice any gaffes. Sen. Hanger once again displayed a thorough command of the complex issues facing the state government, and Mr. Sayre kept coming back with crowd-pleasing one-liners. In response to the question about whether each candidate would run as an independent should they lose on June 12, Mr. Sayre said that he expected to win. Well! If he based his optimism on the results of the telephone survey (in which I participated) last week, he should heed this word of caution: those "push-polls" with leading questions ("Do you think incumbent Sen. Hanger deserves another term, or is it time for a change?") do not yield valid indicators of voting behavior. For most of the time, Sayre had a smirk on his face, perhaps anticipating the silly stunt with the umbrella in his closing remarks, an attempt to ridicule a new enclosed walkway between the State Capitol Building and the legislators' offices. Stay tuned for video clips of Sen. Hanger and/or Mr. Sayre...

"Progressive" support

In Friday's News Leader, Al Dahler wrote an op-ed piece entitled "Sayre strikes a bargain with the devil." [This was in reference to the no-tax pledge he signed, as part of the quid pro quo with Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.] In it, [Mr. Dahler] praised Sen. Hanger:

Personally, I applaud Sen. Hanger's prudence to transcend ideology, assuring Virginia's fiscal health. Conscientious conservatives recognize the state's obligation to meet its citizens' myriad legitimate requirements and aspirations. Energetic economic growth rests on a foundation of adequately state-funded services, an excellent education system and a first-rate transportation infrastructure.

Well put; too bad it had to come from a "progressive" (leftist). Dogwood Pundit jumped on this op-ed piece to make the case that Sen. Hanger is the darling of leftists throughout the Old Dominion. Not exactly. The true significance of Dahler's piece is that the Republican Party of today is giving away to the Democrats its traditional advantage on the issue of fiscal responsibility. Among pragmatic-minded centrist voters, that issue carries a lot of weight and has often been the decisive factor in close elections.

We can leave the question of what a "progressive" is until later. Suffice it to say that Sen. Hanger's model Republican leader, Teddy Roosevelt, was a progressive Republican, believing in reform on behalf of the broad public interest. Like "TR," Sen. Hanger is a strong advocated of nature and wildlife conservation.

May 30, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Local Democrats nominate Cox

While we Republicans were hashing out our policy differences at the Hanger-Sayre forum last night (Myron "Republitarian" called it a draw), the Democrats held a mass meeting in Verona and nominated David Cox to run for the 24th District seat in the Virginia Senate. It was a surprise ending to the sudden surge of activity by Democrats in this area; Will Hrovat had been touted as the presumptive nominee. (For more background, see May 22 and May 17.) Former State Senator Frank Nolen, the Democrat who was unseated by Emmett Hanger in 1995 election, noted with irony that the same rhetoric which Sen. Hanger used against Nolen back then, is now being used by Mr. Sayre against Sen. Hanger. (There was certainly more validity to charge that the opponent was a "tax-spending liberal" in 1995 than there is today.) See The New Dominion. Cox is a retired Episcopal (!) priest from Rockbridge County who lost to Ben Cline in the 2005 race for House of Delegates -- also the 24th District, by pure coincidence. About this nomination, Staunton Democratic blogger Clifford Garstang crows:

It was a stark contrast to the mud-slinging we've seen in the Republican party contest between Emmett Hanger and Scott Sayre, and should tell the public something about the state of the Democratic Party in Virginia today: we are united in our goal of restoring fiscal responsibilty and people-centered policies to our General Assembly.

Meanwhile, we Republicans cannot even agree on what the "fiscal responsibilty" part of the RPV creed means, and some are even questioning who holds which party offices. It's not a very good way to start the fall campaign...

Bush "wins" on war funding

The Democrats in Congress can make all the noise they want, but at the end of the day enough of them will make sure the troops on the ground in Iraq get enough funding to continue their operations. So, the victory by President Bush in getting Congress to pass the Iraq war funding measure last week (see Washington Post) was not very surprising. The big question is, at what cost did the victory come? For me, two things stand out: the dreaded "benchmarks" term, which puts a tight leash on the Iraqi government at a time when they need to be exercising their prerogatives of sovereignty. It's hard for the U.S. government to get out of that dilemma. Second, Bush had to make so many legislative compromises just to get a short-term extension of funding that he helped the Democrats achieve much of what they promised in last fall's campaign. For example, raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour over the next two years will induce even more illegal immigration, as businesses seek cheaper labor. To me, adding further fuel to the ongoing firestorm of controversy over immigration is just plain idiotic. More of Karl Rove's genius?

Thus, I would find it hard to disagree with Richmond Democrat, who wrote that Bush merely won a "Pyrrhic victory" on the Iraq funding bill. For you folks in Rio Linda, that refers to Pyrrhus, the King of Epirus, who defeated the Roman army in 280 B.C. but at such a high cost in casualties that the Romans eventually repelled his invading forces. (I learned that in Miss Lydia Bartling's Latin class back in high school.) The implication is that by winning this battle, President Bush may have conceded long-term defeat in the overall policy war in Washington.

May 31, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Campaigning with Emmett

Clines, Emmett Hanger

Local Republicans Stan and Jean Cline, along with Senator Emmett Hanger, at a gathering hosted by Mr. Michael Organ at the Belle Grae Inn in Staunton on Wednesday evening.

I hit the streets of Staunton with Senator Hanger and some other volunteers last night, and got quite a workout climbing those hills in the New Town area. It just shows that I'm still not in shape. The senator chatted with a number of local residents of that revitalizing historic district, and was received very warmly, listening to their various concerns. New Town is the perfect embodiment of an old-fashioned community, where people of various income levels live together in harmony. Afterwards, Senator Hanger met with a number of neighborhood residents at the Belle Grae Inn, discussing policy issues in depth.

June 1, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Stars shine for Senator Hanger

Hanger Fundraiser montage

Braving nearby thunderstorms, over a hundred friends and supporters of State Senator Emmett Hanger showed up at the home of Tom and Peggy Sheets last night. (Fortunately, the rain held off until later in the evening.) The event featured nationally-known musicians Jimmy Fortune (one of the Statler Brothers) and Robin Williams (half of the Robin and Linda Williams duo). After playing their musical set, Fortune and Williams made very gracious and heartfelt appeals to the guests to help re-elect Emmett Hanger. Williams stressed that the senator is a strong "reasonable voice" in Richmond whom we should not take for granted, to which Fortune said "Amen." Fortune went on, "Emmett's always been a good friend of mine. I'm here not so much for politics, but just to support my good friend, Emmett Hanger." He also quipped "And I don't want him in Nashville, OK?" A bit later, the Senator strapped on a guitar and entertained the crowd with a "one-hit medley" of a song he wrote, earning (wryly begrudging) admiration from Mr. Fortune and loud applause from his supporters. I play guitar, and I must say, he certainly impressed me.

Besides the musical stars, there were a number of big names in local politics as well, including Delegate Steve Landes, Augusta County supervisors Larry Howdyshell and David Beyeler, as well as County Treasurer Richard Homes and Commissioner of Revenue Jean Shrewsbury. Staunton Republicans Cliff and Erma Fretwell, Richard and Elnora Hazlett, and James and Stacey Morris were also there, besides many others from the surrounding area. We all had a wonderful time, enjoying great music, a lovely setting, and fine catered food and beverages.

Later on, the host Tom Sheets introduced Senator Hanger, recalling when the two of them used to ride the same school bus together. Sheets said his grandmother often asked why Emmett was always carrying a stack of books home with him but Sheets wasn't. The folks got a hearty laugh from that. Sheets said that he is now making up for not doing his homework by asking all the guests to do their "homework" in getting out the vote for Emmett Hanger. Finally, Senator Hanger spoke briefly about his re-election bid:

I intend to win this election with your help, and I can with your help, and I was telling someone this a while ago. You know, God has a plan for us all, and if I happen not to win the election, but have friends like you behind me anyway, that's what it's about. The election is secondary to that. Just an affirmation of the fact that you have friends, that you've accumulated friends over time and that people will stand with you at critical junctures in your life, and I thank you for that.

I spoke with quite a few people at last night's event, including many I had never met before, and every one of them expressed a strong belief that re-electing Emmett Hanger to the state Senate is crucial to the future of Virginia. It may be getting late in the campaign, but Sen. Hanger's supporters are devoted to the cause of good, thrifty government, and they will be sparing no effort to help him stay in office over the next ten days. Personally, I am proud and deeply honored to play a (small) role in Senator Hanger's campaign, and however it turns out, I will have no regrets. Many, many thanks to Tom and Peggy Sheets for helping keep a good man like Emmett Hanger in the state Senate.

Mud slinging?

I have very little patience for strident personal attacks and incessant bickering, so I refuse to take part in the blog frenzy sparked by Republitarian two days ago. The facts of the DWI cases were verified by The New Dominion, and everyone can decide for themselves whether they are relevant to the 24th district senate race. Phil Croninger, Tom Krehbiel, and Virginia Virtucon each seemed to think that this flap reflected poorly on Hanger's campaign, but it was really just the doing of one over-eager blogger. If any of them had the first-hand knowledge of local politics in this area that I have, they would have arrived at a different conclusion about which side is really "playing dirty." I thought "Bloggers4Hanger" was just a parody blog all along, aptly mocking the hyperbolic rhetoric on Bloggers4Sayre. After my May 19 post, I never bothered to link to it. When it started getting semi-serious about actual issues, it "jumped the shark," and it is just as well that it has been taken down. I don't approve of the "eye-for-an-eye" approach to politics, and I know Emmett Hanger doesn't either.

Also, someone has been defacing Sayre road signs with the phrase "Eats Babies," and several of the Bloggers4Sayre complained about this, implying that Hanger supporters might be behind it. Not bloody likely. These are the same people, of course, who suggest that I am working on behalf of MoveOn.org, and who have often shown hypersensitivity to any kind of criticism, so their protests should be taken with a grain of salt. I noticed a post from one of them yesterday on BNN-Virginia ("Scott Sayre Eats Babies"), but it was later deleted from Bloggers4Sayre. Interesting...

"Moonbat" indeed

Doug Mataconis has more guts in standing up to "The Base" than most other right-of-center bloggers in this state: "Sam Brownback Is A Moonbat." It is in reference to Sen. Brownback's statement that any scientific research that contradicts the book of Genesis should be dismissed as part of an atheistic agenda.

June 3, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Senator Hanger on leadership

With barely one week to go in the primary campaign, increasing attention is being paid by many commentators to the "horse race" aspect. For example, "SWAC Girl" began a recent post by asking "What are Hanger's polling numbers?" She was trying to downplay the significance of the endorsement of Emmett Hanger by Delegate Steve Landes and the lack of endorsements [of her candidate Scott Sayre by Republican] elected officials, possibly worried about the effect this may have on voters. I say, chill out: "Que sera, sera." [!]

That being said, let's get this straight: Emmett Hanger does not consult public opinion polls every time he makes a decision. He never has, and he never will. Some people say that show's he's "out of touch" with his constituents; I call it leadership. In that regard, it's well worth reading the statement he made when he announced his candidacy for reelection on April 25:

True and effective leadership, in my opinion, should be capable and willing to be visionary, recognize problems, and develop long term strategies to resolve those problems. Therein is the problem. Modern politics fosters "leaders" that in essence are followers. In order to be successful in modern politics you must convince people that your ideas are exactly what your constituents already believe to be the solution. In essence you must follow their lead.

That must change. You should never support someone to represent you that doesn't represent your basic viewpoints, but on the other hand you should not support them just because they have taken a poll and are telling you exactly what they know you want to hear.

I am prepared to continue providing leadership in the General Assembly, not only for the Republican Party, but for all of the citizens of the Commonwealth. I am prepared to confront the challenging issues of our day and attempt to forge consensus on how to address them. There is much work to do, but much of the foundation has been laid over the past several years to allow us to build an even better and stronger Virginia.

The contrast with the solicitous approach of Scott Sayre could not be starker.

More Sayre bloggers

Evidently, their 14-to-2 blogospheric preponderance (formerly 15-to-1) in the battle to unseat Sen. Hanger wasn't enough, so the bloggers4sayre have recruited three four more bloggers "to help in the conservative battle in the blogosphere." It's funny how the self-proclaimed "Davids" seem to think they need more reinforcements to stand up against us "Goliaths."

Fred in Richmond!

Fred Thompson was the featured speaker at the Republican Party of Virginia's annual Commonwealth Gala dinner in Richmond last night, and he declared that the Republicans were about to rebound and hit the "comeback trail," with him in the lead. I certainly hope so; the party is in danger of cracking up over immigration, the war, and other vital issues. Whether or not he has much of substance to offer, he possesses the stylistic "mojo" of a winner. Thompson filed preliminary papers for a possible presidential run last week, and assuming the money starts flowing in as everyone expects, he will probably declare his candidacy later this month. Possible problem: When I saw the photo of Thompson with his wife Jeri in the Washington Post, I assumed it was his daughter.

Fiscal responsibility

In Saturday's News Leader, Al Dahler urged voters to vote to uphold fiscal responsibility, the meaning of which is obvious to all but a few hard-core ideologues, but he doesn't name the candidates.

CORRECTION: On Tuesday I cited an earlier op-ed piece by Mr. Dahler and referred to him as a "'progressive' (leftist)." After contacting him, I learned that he used to be a member of the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee, and that he does not consider himself a leftist. My apologies for the major-league goof; at least I acknowledged multiple meanings of "progressive" in my blog post.

Plame memo, in full

This is a potential bombshell news item, but it somehow escaped my notice last week: Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO), of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has released the entire text of Valerie Plame's February 12, 2002 memo (only excerpts had been released previously), and it indicates that she did suggest that her husband Joe Wilson would be a good person to make a fact-finding trip to Niger, even before Vice President Dick Cheney was involved. This contradicts her testimony before Congress. See nationalreview.com ; hat tip to Junkyard Blog.

June 5, 2007[LINK / comment]

Electoral calculations

D. J. McGuire tries valiantly to explain something he previously dismissed as unlikely: the entry of a Democrat (David Cox) into the state senate race. D.J. says, "The Democrats think Sayre will win." ... More to the point, the Dems want Sayre to win." Contrary to D.J., I really don't think the Dems really expect Cox to have much of a chance in the November election in any case, given the solidly conservative makeup of the electorate in this area. To me, the nomination of David Cox by the Democrats looks like a strategic move to minimize the likelihood of what is (for them) the worst-case scenario: a victory by Scott Sayre in November. Thus, the Democrats seek to galvanize moderate and liberal voters who haven't been paying much attention to local politics lately and stoke their fear of the right-wing agenda Scott Sayre supports so that they will vote against him in the primary election.

D.J. argues that the Libertarian candidate Sime will be forced to hunt for votes toward the liberal side of the political spectrum. Possibly, but I think more voters will make their choices according to character, practical questions, and specific issues than on ideological purity. What I wrote on Dec. 9, 2005 is especially pertinent to electoral contests such as the upcoming one in which a third party makes a strong challenge. It calls attention to the craving among voters for pragmatic, results-oriented legislators, not ideological mouthpieces:

Those who attempt to portray political leanings as falling somewhere along a one-dimensional right-to-left scale simply do not grasp the underlying political dynamics in this country, specifically the latent impulse for fundamental reforms and the intriguing drama about who will capitalize on it.

What struck me as particularly odd was D.J.'s assertion that "Hanger cannot rely on a single Democrat to support him in a primary." In this respect, he is contradicted by most of the other Bloggers 4 Sayre, who have been harping on the support among some Democrats that Sen. Hanger enjoys. See, for example, "Elle", "Yankee Phil", and "Spank That Donkey". Ironically, I agree with those folks that the senator does enjoy a wide base of support across party lines, but I don't see that as a bad thing, necessarily.

I have to credit D.J. for spreading the word about a new (anonymous) blog whose main purpose seems to supporting Emmett Hanger: Teddy's Truth. (Might it be the same guy who did the defunct satirical, hard-edged "Bloggers 4 Hanger"?) I bring this up primarily to make it perfectly clear that I am not the "Andrew" who has left comments there. I will respond to D.J.'s challenge regarding limited government after he responds to the questions I asked him in a comment on his blog post of May 19, and I can promise that I won't take as much time as he has.

Sen. Hanger recently spoke with the editorial staff of the News Leader, reaffirming his commitment to the Republican Party, regardless of the outcome on June 12. He stressed that what is at stake is truly monumental: "This primary for the 24th Senatorial District will determine the direction of the Republican Party in Virginia."

Some of the photos I took at the fund-raising event last week are now posted at EmmettHanger.com. I'm still working on the videos...

June 6, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Political morality vs. treachery

One of the new Bloggers 4 Sayre, Leslie Carbone, compared the 24th district senate race to the situation in Pennsylvania last year, when Senator Rick Santorum lost his bid for reelection in part because many conservatives stayed home to express anger for his support of his colleague in the Senate, Arlen Specter. Carbone is worried because "some Republicans--including former Senator George Allen--are thinking of endorsing liberal [emphasis added to express my incredulity] incumbent Emmett Hanger..." She believes that it is both morally and political wrong for Republican officeholders to endorse members of their party who are not rock-solid, true-blue conservatives. She cited her Nov. 11, 2006 post: "Pennsylvania conservatives proved that Sen. Santorum was too treacherous to win re-election." "Treacherous"? Is that what being loyal to an incumbent of one's own party is? I would venture to say that Santorum's defeat last year proved (among other things) that the Pennsylvania conservatives who didn't bother to vote for him were too spiteful and short-sighted to see the consequences of giving away the election -- and thus, the U.S. Senate -- to the Democrats. I am fairly confident that conservatives in Virginia are wiser than that.

What Ms. Carbone fails to realize is that the strident rhetoric and exclusionary attitude of many hard-line conservatives have been undermining the Republican Party, corroding the bonds of trust that are essential for any political organization to succeed. This trend has been building almost since the outset of President Bush's second term; see my Mar. 30, 2005 post. (That was back when I identified myself as a strong conservative, before Bush blew his window of opportunity for reform.) Ms. Carbone stands in opposition to the current Republican Party of Virginia leadership -- RPV Chairman Ed Gillespie and Vice-chairman Charles Judd -- who want the party to appeal to a broader range of the electorate.

More generally, pontificating about what is or isn't "moral" in the political sphere is usually problematic. Politics always has and always will involve pragmatic bargaining among leaders and factions who share common interests, and compromising over principles will be necessary from time to time in order to get anything done. Ideological purity or majority status: take your pick.

Speaking of "strident rhetoric," Jim McCloskey's cartoon in today's News Leader really hit the nail on the head: "The Sayre campaign staying on message." I'm glad to see that the News Leader's editorial staff has been paying attention to the recent SWAC-area blogospheric cacaphony.

Sayre rejects gas tax

I got a campaign flyer in the mail today from Scott Sayre, and he says: "Gas prices are high enough. There is no reason to raise the gas tax." Who is he to say how high gasoline prices should be? Has he ever heard of free markets? (After all, he's a businessman.) And where is the money going to come from to pay for improvements to I-81 which he favors, anyway? Just how is he going to "fund it and fix it"? There are two fundamental alternative approaches to the energy problem and the related transportation problem: Either fashion public policies based on the acknowledgement that fuel and roads are scarce and becoming scarcer all the time, or else pander to folks who just want to put their heads in the sand and "let the good times roll."

June 7, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Goodlatte endorses Hanger

Ending days of suspense, Congressman Bob Goodlatte announced he is endorsing incumbent state Senator Emmett Hanger in the upcoming primary election. As reported by the News Virginian, Goodlatte told a group of people gathered at a fundraiser for Sen. Hanger in Mount Crawford:

I have known him for more than a quarter century and he is a reliable guy. ... He has the same values I have. He stands for limited government, free enterprise and strong families.

This endorsement was not a huge surprise, because the party leaders in Richmond and Washington are keenly aware that the survival of the party depends on upholding common sense and shunning the vitriolic bullies who have sullied the image of the Party of Lincoln of late. Hopefully, sweet reason will prevail once again after the primary election, and those who have been led astray by the fringe elements will return to the mainstream of the party.

"SWAC Girl" was not happy at all by the interest Senator Hanger has expressed in helping rebuild the local Republican Party committees, which have been experiencing serious tensions (to put it mildly) in recent months:

It speaks volumes when a candidate lashes out like this. He has no message and therefore resorts to baseless lies and threats. Those lambs who follow him had better watch out -- looks like the good Senator is leading them to slaughter.

If I didn't know better, I would say that sounded like a threat!

Arin Sime Q & A

Myron "Republitarian" asked six questions of Arin Sime, the Libertarian candidate for the 24th senate district, and he received six thoughtful answers.

June 8, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Immigration compromise fails

Here we go again: fourteen months ago I had a blog post with the very same title, but this time conservative Republicans in the Senate are the ones holding things up; see Washington Post. Frankly, I can't blame them. I wish a compromise were possible, but in the current political climate, I am very skeptical of any "comprehensive" approaches to immigration reform. To me, it sounds like they just want to say, "Well, at least we tried." Until more political leaders candidly acknowledge the function that illegal immigration serves to paper over the deep contradictions in the modern-day American economy (i.e., free market ideals versus entitlements in practice), no reform proposal will accomplish very much.

I will have much more to say on this subject tomorrow. In the mean time, I have compiled a special Immigration blog archive page. Future topical blog archive pages may include the Hanger-Sayre primary race, Republican party problems, entitlements, etc.

My letter endorsing Sen. Hanger

The Staunton News Leader printed my letter to the editor endorsing Senator Hanger today. They have strict guidelines on length, so several sentences were stripped down to the bare bones of subject and predicate. For the record, here is the unedited letter I submitted:

Dear Editor:

As someone who has been active with the local Republican Party for nearly five years, I have a lot to say about the upcoming primary election between state Senator Emmett Hanger and Scott Sayre. I have nothing against the challenging candidate, Mr. Sayre, and if he wins, I plan to support him in the November general election. The problem is that many of the people working on his behalf have been spreading misleading information, and the voters deserve to know the truth. Contrary to much of what has been written and said about him, Senator Emmett Hanger is a solid, responsible conservative leader who stands by his principles and refuses to buckle under pressure. Unlike his opponent, Senator Hanger is not beholden to any special interest group, and he is not by any stretch of the imagination a "professional politician," as some people say. Indeed, because of his modest nature, he is often slow to respond to unfair accusations about his record.

When Senator Hanger agreed to the compromise tax package in 2004, he did so to defend the state's solid financial record. Wrongly described by his opponent as "the largest tax increase in Virginia history," it included several provisions to ease the burden on people in rural parts of the state such as ours. Furthermore, Senator Hanger has worked long and hard on behalf of tax reform, successfully pushing for the abolition of the state "death tax," and reducing other taxes. With his seniority, he has the clout to get things done in Richmond. As for Mr. Sayre's no-tax-hike pledge, do you remember what that "read my lips" boast did to George Bush the Elder? Big mistake. The use of such pledges as a way to "starve the government" is fiscally irresponsible.

His critics often charge that Senator Hanger is "out of touch" with his constituents, perhaps because he does not consult public opinion polls every time he makes a decision. I do know this: whenever I have contacted Senator Hanger in the past to voice my opinion on policy questions, he has always responded promptly and courteously. I don't always agree with him, but I can't think of anyone with better judgment and in-depth knowledge of policy issues. Losing a dedicated public servant like him would be a tragic blow to all of Virginia, not just our area.

As Senator Hanger stated in his conversation with your editorial staff, this primary election "will determine the direction of the Republican Party in Virginia." I stand with him and all those who want the Republican Party to expand its base of support by adopting a friendlier, more welcoming attitude. I call on all voters in the 24th senate district who believe in the old-fashioned virtues of fiscal responsibility and good, thrifty government to vote for the man I am proud to support: Emmett Hanger.


Andrew G. Clem
Staunton Republican Committee

Senator Hanger: responsive

I thought it might help to provide an example of Senator Hanger's responsiveness that my letter mentioned. With his permission, I am reproducing below the contents of an e-mail message that he sent to me in March 2005. This was before I became disillusioned with the ability of conservatives to enact a genuine comprehensive market-based reform agenda. I was asking Sen. Hanger to explain why (I thought) the state budget estimates were being manipulated to justify higher taxes than were necessary, and his response set me straight on a few things:

Thanks Andrew,

I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Actually the fiscal situation last year was not misrepresented. State law allows us to appropriate money based only on reliable forecasts of what will be coming in and Virginia historically has used conservative estimates.

As you may be aware, additional money was used to allow the state to meet it's obligations back to the localities. This was a great help in taking the pressure off of local real estate taxes and other fees.

The additional money coming in is a good thing but most of it can be attributed to the red hot economy in Northern Virginia fueled by federal spending on Defense and Homeland Security and paid for with federal red ink.

The average family in our area saw their taxes decrease as a result of the changes. Obviously if they are a heavy smoker there was a direct new cost, but everybody's income tax went down except for those with high incomes over 62 in age.

It is common in good times for there to be a growth in revenue above the projected numbers by at least a $billion. With that we can make sure that the state continues to meet it's obligations back to the localities and that we grant additional tax relief as well as handle a few unmet needs. I introduced legislation this year to repeal the estate tax and further reduce the sales tax on food. We put money aside for the rainy day fund (saved).

We also put $360 million in transportation funding form the general fund. We shouldn't do this in the long run or we will back in trouble again.


Thanks, Emmett

June 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Immigration panel discussion

On Friday afternoon, I joined in a panel discussion on the topic of immigration reform for the WVPT-TV program "Virginia Viewpoints," at the gracious invitation of the host Chris Graham, who edits The New Dominion. The show will be broadcast Tuesday evening at 7:30, just after the polls close. (I was relieved to learn that whatever I said would not end up having an effect on the primary election, in case of gaffes.) The other panelists were Linda Jones, who has been a regular on that program, as well as fellow blogger Phil Croninger, and Rick Castaneda [!], of the Hispanic Council in Harrisonburg. Like me, the latter two were first-timers on the show. We barely scratched the surface of the issue, but the tone was positive and constructive at least. I made my usual points about the lack of attention to using free market solutions to the problem of illegal immigration, both in terms of U.S. domestic and trade policies, and the policies of countries in Latin America. There is a huge pressing need to create more opportunities for workers in countries south of the border, and we Americans could make things a lot easier by easing import restrictions on things like textiles and food.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to bring up a brief personal anecdote from 1993 or so: I was arguing with someone in Charlottesville about how important it was to pass NAFTA, and I tried to emphasize the necessity of setting up a system to oversee the burgeoning economic interchange between Mexico and the United States: "It's either NAFTA or a wall along our border." Too bad NAFTA has not been implemented the way it was supposed to be...

The Senate's NO vote

The discussion topic was especially timely because of what had just taken place on Capitol Hill. Whatever legislation that had resulted would have been a hideously complex set of measures that would not have dealt with the fundamental problems. The Federation for American Immigration Reform was performing the herculean task of keeping track of all the amendments that were attached to the bill, no doubt diluting its intended effects.

Regarding the collapse of the compromise immigration package in the Senate, the Washington Post pointed out the underlying reasons for the failure of the compromise measure: the fact that compromise is a dirty word in the Bush administration.

Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg said until the president leaves office, the prospects for bipartisan cooperation will remain slim. "The reason we have this [polarized] politics is George Bush," he said. "Not the Democratic Party or even the Republicans in Congress. The climate of this era has been set by Bush."

The end result of the Rovian strategy of polarized hard-ball politics is that policy-making in Washington has ground to a halt, leaving the door wide open for extremists such as the Minutemen to take matters into their own hands. Way to go, Karl!

In terms of politics, grass-roots conservatives have begun to defect from Bush in droves, leaving him without much of a support base. He is already a lame duck president, with 19 more months to go.

Sen. Hanger on immigration

On May 18, I analyzed Scott Sayre's position on immigration, agreeing with some parts but mostly very critical of what seems to be an insincere attempt to use this as a "wedge issue" for electoral purposes only. (Taking his cue from Karl Rove, perhaps?) As far as I can tell, Sayre offers no constructive solutions, just the lame slogan "What part of 'illegal' don't they understand?"

Emmett Hanger, on the other hand, has been grappling with this issue for several years, and is determined to have the courts revisit the matter of verifying the legal residency of public school students. (As things stand, public schools are prohibited from asking.) He wrote the law requiring verification of legal presence in order to qualify for any type of public benefit, and he wants to make sure that our public schools are only open to those who are here legally, or have begun the necessary legal steps. His approach is "common sense," pragmatically dealing with the current reality, while defending national security and our nation's heritage of justice and fair play.

The News Leader printed a letter by Daniel Piper aptly rebutting the Sayre campaign's distortions. You can read for yourself the bill (SB 1204) that Sen. Hanger sponsored this past session at leg1.state.va.us:

In-state tuition rates; prohibited for certain individuals. Prohibits the board of visitors or other governing body of a public institution of higher education in the Commonwealth from authorizing in-state tuition rates for individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States. The bill also provides that, notwithstanding the provisions regarding the governing bodies' mandates, any person shall be eligible for in-state tuition who: (i) has resided in Virginia while attending high school; (ii) has graduated from a public or private high school in Virginia or has received a General Education Development (GED) certificate in Virginia; (iii) has resided in the Commonwealth for at least three years on the date of high school graduation; (iv) has registered in an institution of higher education; (v) has provided an affidavit stating that he has filed an application to become a permanent resident of the United States and is actively pursuing such permanent residency or will do so as soon as he is eligible; and (vi) has submitted evidence that he or, in the case of a dependent student, at least one parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis, filed, unless exempted by state law, Virginia income tax returns for at least three years prior to the date of enrollment.

Sayre has been deriding those stipulations as meaningless, accusing Hanger of "false advertising." A better way to look at it is to see those stipulations as a very effective "lever" that will force many illegal immigrant families to seek regularized status. While many people would regard that as nothing more than a "loophole," it's certainly better than the status quo, in which millions of immigrants hide and/or work in exploitive conditions, for fear of being deported. In any case, because of opposition by the House of Delegates, Sen. Hanger's SB 1204 did not pass this year.

Negative? Who, us???

Sometimes dead-serious blogging is even funnier than the kind of parody news you find on The Onion. Take this self-contradictory blog post by "Yankee Philip", who tries to defend the "Bloggers 4 Sayre" from all the criticism for their nastiness during this campaign:

There was a lot of sarcasm. There was a lot of humor. There were no hostile or malicious comments. The name calling and threats did not come from the Sayre supporters. The name calling didn't just come from the Senator's supporters either. The only time any of the Sayre people seem anyway negative is in defense, in responding to belligerant behavior.

I swear, those people must live on a different planet... Hat tip to Thomas Krehbiel, who observed, "Not understanding what sarcasm means could explain why Bloggers 4 Sayre doesn't play very well with others."

When this is all over, I half expect Alton Foley to be revealed as a covert operative for the Emmett Hanger campaign! NOTE to you folks in Rio Linda: the smile means I'm just kidding!

The final stretch...

As expected, we've been bombarded with a frantic, last-minute advertising and mailings from the Sayre camp, much of which is patently bogus. Members of right-to-life groups were targeted with a blue postcard from "Pro-Life for Sayre," a pretend organization with the same mailing address as the Sayre campaign itself. Ditto for hunters and gun-rights folks. NOTE TO MR. SAYRE: You're wasting your time; Emmett Hanger has impeccable credentials on both those issues! Today I received the first (and only) issue of the "Shenandoah-Blue Ridge News-Times," a pretend newspaper that just happens to cover the 24th senate district. In addition, the local GOP leaders who support Sayre even appeared on a television ad I saw today, and boy did they look worried! Finally, I got phone calls today from the malevolent Grover Norquist and Dr. Kurt Michael urging me to vote for Sayre. More on Grover tomorrow...

According to "Not Larry Sabato", the 24th Senate District "Leans Hanger." Staunton's Clifford Garstang, a Democrat, agrees with NLS but doesn't "think it will even be close." (Once again, a key assertion made by D. J. McGuire -- in this case, that Democrats expect and want Sayre to win -- is contradicted.) Garstang lays much of the blame on Sayre's out-of-control "blogging friends."I don't know what the final results will be, but there is no question that the momentum has shifted since Chris Graham opined three weeks ago that race was "Scott Sayre's to lose..."

The Tate scandal

Speaking of Not Larry Sabato (a.k.a. Ben Tribbett), he sparked a scandal by accusing Shaun Kenney, communications director for the Virginia Republican Party, of leaking information about the impending indictment of Mark D. Tate, a candidate for the senate seat being vacated by Russell Potts. It involves campaign funding violations, but it is hard to say whether it was just a technical error or something really bad. This story actually made the Washington Post. What raised my eyebrows was the fact that the prosecutors are tied to Virginia Conservative Action PAC, which endorsed the opposing candidate, Jill Holtzman Vogel and is also backing Scott Sayre! To me, that smelled fishy right off the bat. I wonder how far this web of nefarious politicking stretches?

Oops! Another after-midnight prior-dated post...

June 10, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Grover Norquist: anti-tax kingpin

Since Grover Norquist was kind enough to call me yesterday, asking me to vote for Scott Sayre, I thought I would scour my archives and find out when I began to express worries about his malign influence in the Republican Party. Why should you care who Grover Norquist is? Well, he is the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, the organization that has been planning to defeat state Senator Emmett Hanger ever since the mid-2004 tax compromise. They have pumped lots of money and resources into the Sayre campaign, and I think it is safe to surmise that Sayre would never have been a candidate had they not recruited him. Norquist's ATR is the central nexus of power in the movement to unseat any Republicans who refuse to bend to their demands on tax cuts, though a variety of spin-off organizations do more of the work at the state and local level. I should state at the outset that one of the first things that really impressed me about Emmett Hanger was his awareness of what Norquist was doing in Washington and in state governments.

I noted on Aug. 4, 2004, "Grover Norquist has been defending a Saudi financial supporter who has proclaimed sympathy with the cause of the terrorists."

Upon the occasion of the second Bush inaugural festitivites, in January 2005 I wrote:

Also present at that forum was Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist who has earned a reputation as a political bruiser in Washington. Norquist emphasized the goal of enabling individual Americans to achieve their own financial freedom, as part of the vision of an "ownership society." Thomas noted that Norquist seems not to care whether the Social Security system goes belly up, and Norquist didn't try to deny it. My sense is that Norquist's focus on tax cutting blinds him to the urgency of other structural reforms, such as tort liability.

On Mar. 30, 2005, I identified Norquist as one of the "rogues in the GOP," along with Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay. Those three men were the core group of Republicans who favored hardball tactics and dirty dealing to get their way in Washington. Of the three, only Norquist remains in power. On May 10 of that year, I warned that Norquist's arrogant hubris (e.g., mocking the Democrats as "neutered" farm animals) might "end up ruining the Republicans' ability to govern effectively as a majority party." Indeed, it did.

On the other hand, Norquist did reach out to gay Republicans, in spite of anger from the Religious Right: see Oct. 21, 2005. For Norquist, "traditional family values" have little or no meaning; it's all about amassing power and money.

So even if Norquist is unsavory, what does that have to do with the political races in Virginia? For anyone who has been wondering from whence all of the mean-spiritedness in the Hanger-Sayre race emanated, this quote by Norquist from 2003 should clear things up:

We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals -- and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship.
Bipartisanship is another name for date rape.

SOURCE: Denver Post, "Rancor becomes top D.C. export: GOP leads charge in ideological war," May 26, 2003. (Archives $$$) (Hat tip to "Cobalt 6".) Just remember, whenever you hear Sayre supporters putting down Emmett Hanger for his "get-along, go-along" approach to politics (what normal people call serious negotiations), it boils down to an excuse for even harsher rhetoric and sharper divisions in our state and country than we have experienced recently. It's the exact opposite of what we need in time of war.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

-- Abraham Lincoln, 1858

Sayre's bogus mail

"Teddy Roosevelt" (apparently a pseudonym ) has much more detail on the bogus mailings sent out by the Sayre campaign last week; I covered it briefly yesterday (scroll down), but I should have emphasized it more. I have seen so many dirty tricks and distortions by the Sayre campaign that I have become jaded and blase about it.

RSS feed glitch

For arcane technical reasons, my RSS feed was not working for the past few days, which is why my blog posts were not showing up on Virginia blog net news. I have made a temporary fix: eliminating accented characters from the first few sentences of my recent blog posts. I should have a permanent fix by tomorrow.

Oops! Another after-midnight prior-dated post...

June 11, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Emmett Hanger "music video"!

Just in time for the primary election tomorrow, I have finished editing the video I took at the fundraiser on May 31, featuring Jimmy Fortune and Robin Williams. (See my June 1 post.) It lasts just under three minutes, and features warm endorsements from Mr. Fortune and Mr. Williams, as well a brief excerpt of the senator himself performing a song he wrote. To view it, just click on the image above. (Apple's QuickTime format.) I am in the process of setting up a YouTube account, and hope to have the video uploaded later today. On the upload page, it says it "may take several minutes," but on the help page it says it "may take several hours."

The heartfelt appeal Senator Hanger makes at the end of the video really makes it clear what this election is all about. He talks about looking out of the best interests of all Virginians, not just those who belong to any particular political party. He pledges to continue defending rural Virginia, and the quality of life we who live here are privileged to enjoy. The more you listen to him, the more you will understand: Senator Hanger gets it. To hear audio clips from Senator Hanger, his wife Sharon, and others, go to his Web site: emmetthanger.com.

The fate of the Virginia GOP

Sunday's Washington Post examined the Virginia primary elections, and quoted various analysts who expect turnout to be low. That might help the challengers such as Scott Sayre, many of whose supporters are part of the well-organized "insurgency." The race in the 24th senate district has become highly visible in the past couple weeks, however, so I don't think that will apply here. The Post article identifies main "targets" of the anti-tax movement: Senators Walter Stosch (Majority Leader), Martin Williams, and our own Emmett Hanger. The Club for Growth is identified as a key player in this effort; our own delegate Chris Saxman is a prominent member of that organization. Scott Sayre was quoted as saying Sen. Hanger is a moderate who is not in step with the conservative sentiment of most Virginians, apparently unaware that conservatism is by its very nature moderate.

Whither the conservative soul?

Beyond the immediate struggle within the Republican Party lies to broader struggle to define the nature of conservatism in America. Several months ago I read Andrew Sullivan's book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back, which scrutinizes the pernicious impact of the Religious Right on modern politics. In case you are not aware, Sullivan is a renowned conservative commentator who recently moved his blog to The Atlantic Monthly. In some respects, his criticisms parallel those of John Danforth, who wrote Faith and Politics; see my Oct. 4 post. [link fixed] Sullivan's primary purpose is to highlight the sharp contradiction between fundamentalism (which is religious) and conservatism (which is political). For the past two decades, those two approaches to life co-existed in relative harmony, thanks to the efforts of televangelists such as the late Jerry Falwell. Now, however, the latent tensions between them are becoming as obvious as night and day.

Sullivan emphasizes that conservatives are essentially skeptical about words and cautious about deeds: "The defining characteristic of a conservative is that he knows what he doesn't know." Fundamentalists, in contrast, are certain that they possess the Truth, and therefore tend to regard any opposing opinions or belief systems as inherently subversive. For them, honest disagreement is impossible, and moderation or compromise is a vice. (Anyone who reads the local SWAC blogs will find this doctrinaire closed-mindedness on open display.) Those who have studied what Jesus said in the Gospels know that the self-proclaimed arbiters of moral correctness (e.g., the Pharisees) were often the furthest from God.

Two months ago, Al Dahler had a very good column in the News Leader along the same lines as Sullivan. He is keenly aware of the intellectual roots of 20th Century conservatism in 18th Century liberalism that underlay the U.S. Constitution, and the perversion of its meaning by many politicians whose only concern is how to win the next election:

Many contemporary religious personalities wrap themselves in conservatism to camouflage their theocratic ambitions. In Augusta County and throughout Virginia, people confound the concepts of political conservatism and religious fundamentalism and often use them interchangeably or in conjunction with one another. Conservatism is a political theory while religious fundamentalism is a set of religious beliefs. The two concepts are not correlative; rather, their intentions diverge. Claiming to be a political conservative and a religious fundamentalist is, in reality, an oxymoron.

Finally, Sullivan emphasizes that "Tradition is not a static entity" for conservatives, whose task when governing is to adjust to social evolution as soberly and as prudently as possible. (Sullivan slips in an argument on behalf of gay rights.) I came to a similar realization about the nature of intellectual conservatism toward the end of my graduate studies at the University of Virginia. In Chapter 2 of my dissertation, I quoted British philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote about striking a balance between continuity and change:

Moreover, to be conservative is not merely to be averse from change ...; it is also a manner of accommodating ourselves to changes, ... For, change is a threat to identity, and every change is an emblem of extinction. ... And it is by some such subterfuge of conservatism [defending identity in the open field of experience] that every man or people compelled to suffer a notable change avoids the shame of extinction.

In other words, true conservatives do not cling to the past at all costs (as a reactionary would), but rather seek to preserve what is good from the past, and dispense with what is no longer practical. Emmett Hanger knows what is good about life in the Shenandoah Valley - Blue Ridge Mountain region, and as a genuine, thoughtful conservative, he is determined to preserve it.

UPDATE: Multiple spelling corrections. Obviously, I've been in a hurry!

Thanks to BNN

I would like to acknowledge the prompt technical assistance from the folks at Blog Net News in getting my RSS feed back online last night. Just in time!

Meet David Cox

After tomorrow, depending on who wins the GOP primary, there may be increasing attention to the Democrats' nominee for the 24th district senate seat: David Cox. Cobalt6, a new Democratic blog in this area, has a profile on him. (That's where I got that quote by Grover Norquist yesterday.)

June 12, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Republicans In Name Only?
You be the judge!

Right to the bitter end, supporters of Scott Sayre are tarring incumbent Senator Emmett Hanger with the unfair label of "RINO." As election day dawns, therefore, it behooves us to take a look at the facts to see which candidate has stronger credentials as a Republican.

Emmett Hanger

Scott Sayre
Over 25 years as an active Republican, including service as Augusta County GOP chairman; well-known and respected by his constituents. No known experience in politics, a proverbial "dark horse" until February.
Long record of legislative accomplishments on behalf of conservative causes and success in negotiating deals in the Virginia General Assembly. Long record of success in business since leaving military service.
Endorsed by former Senator George Allen, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Congressman Virgil Goode, House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell, House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, Delegate Steve Landes, and nearly all local GOP elected officials, who are accountable to the general public. Endorsed by nearly all local GOP committee chairmen, accountable to whomever they can muster at mass meetings.
Strong, consistent believer in the Creed of the Republican Party of Virginia -- including the "fiscal reponsibility" part. Has pledged never to raise taxes, letting the Democrats take credit for fiscal reponsibility.

In contrast to the challenging candidate, who is a political novice, Emmett Hanger worked his way up through the system, beginning in 1979 when he was elected Commissioner of Revenue for Augusta County, the first Republican to win county office since Reconstruction. A few years later he won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1995, he ran for Virginia State Senate and defeated the incumbent Democrat, Frank Nolen. All this while, he was helping to build the Republican Party in the Shenandoah Valley - Mountain region, playing a key role in helping the GOP gain a majority in the Virginia state legislature. For this lifetime of hard, devoted work, he is now being attacked -- or dare I say "betrayed"? -- by a small but vocal fringe group who presume to embody the real Republican Party.

In terms of policy and ideology, there is no question that Emmett Hanger belongs on the conservative side of the spectrum. He has been unwavering in his commitment to the sanctity of life and Second Amendment rights, having received superlative ratings from the National Rifle Association. For Mr. Sayre to suggest that he can claim support from that organization is an outrage.

Famous "RINOs"

I have long had ambivalent feelings about moderate Republicans, some of whom lack all conviction, but I have refused to join in demonizing them as "RINOs," as many on the Right are fond of doing. As I wrote on May 21, 2005:

GOP moderates are often called "RINOs" (Republicans in name only) by the hard-core conservative activists, the kind who gravitate toward Grover Norquist and Karl Rove. Even though I'm usually on the conservative side of things, I have a strong distaste for harsh rhetoric those guys specialize in, and I don't take kindly to impugning the motives of people who share party affiliation or general leanings. Moderates have a vital role to play within the Republican party and within Congress.

By the twisted standards of today's world, sadly, past Republican presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower or Teddy Roosevelt would probably be considered "RINOs" just because they put the public interest first and foremost. On Jan. 3 of this year I wondered whether the late president Gerald Ford would be considered a "RINO" by the Republicans of today, based on his desire to heal the wounds of Watergate and work with the Democrats in Congress. On Jan. 18 I asked the same thing about Newt Gingrich, who has a "dangerous" tendency to use his brain and speak his mind. As many will recall, I raised hackles on May 18 by suggesting that many Republicans who demonize others as "RINOs" are themselves the ones who have strayed from the party's traditional doctrine. Get the picture?

It's now up to the voters to define the mainstream of the Party of Lincoln...

UPDATE: YouTube!

For whatever reason, uploading the Emmett Hanger campaign event video to YouTube failed after several attempts. Finally, I got lucky late this afternoon. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"

June 13, 2007 [LINK / comment]

How sweet: Reason prevails

Emmett, Stacey, Erma, Elnora So, the good guys won, after all. All that sacrifice and work finally paid off! Our incumbent state senator Emmett Hanger overcame a ferocious challenge to win renomination last night as the Republican candidate for the 24th District State Senate. As soon as the polls closed, we Hanger supporters gathered to watch the election results coming in, and our patience was tried by the slow tabulation. (Coincidentally, we also got to watch my television debut as a panelist on WVPT's Virginia Viewpoints show hosted by Chris Graham, but it was hard to stay focused on that.) For some reason, however, Wards 3 and 4 in Staunton were very slow in reporting their vote totals. Even though we were pretty sure by 8:15 PM or so that Hanger had won, it was not until about 8:45 when the Staunton votes were all counted that we could let loose and celebrate.

"Just desserts"

Hanger, banana split And speaking of "sweet," as soon as we received confirmation of the big win, we all headed down to Wright's Dairy-Rite in Staunton to celebrate the historic triumph of reason and hope over hatred and fear. The Senator treated all his supporters to a milk shake or an ice cream sundae. Yum! It was a fitting treat for those who really deserved it -- hence, "just desserts." The atmosphere was jubilant, as upwards of fifty friends and supporters crowded into the old-fashioned drive-in restaurant that is one of Staunton's iconic landmarks.

Hanger, Beyeler I was glad to meet a number of Emmett's key supporters, especially his legislative aide Holly Herman. His wife Sharon joined him, as did their daughter Heidi and her family. Also joining in the festivities were Delegate Steve Landes, Augusta County supervisor David Beyeler, County Treasurer Richard Homes, and Commissioner of Revenue Jean Shrewsbury, along with Tom and Peggy Sheets, who hosted the big fund-raising event on May 31. Staunton Republicans Stacey Morris, Cliff and Erma Fretwell, Ray and Carol Ergenbright, Richard and Elnora Hazlett were there, as well as Hanger campaign volunteers Carol Brown, Craig and Shirley ???, and Kathryn ???, a JMU student who belongs to a pro-education organization called Century 21. I am extremely proud to have worked with all these fine folks as a member of the the Hanger team. (I didn't bring a notebook, so I apologize for not getting more names correctly.)

"Cleaning house"

Today's News Leader had an unusually long and blunt editorial about this primary election and the ramifications thereof: "Time to clean house." For the benefit of those who have been observing the Hanger-Sayre race from a distance, without first-hand knowledge of the shame and agony that we true "grass roots" party members have been enduring, here are some key excerpts:

Local Republican party politics have been spinning out of control for several years now. Increasingly nasty campaigns have made a mockery of the principles and ethics of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan by embracing the tactics of Republican advertising spinmeister Scott Howell, White House wormtongue Karl Rove and the libertarian guru of slash-and-burn, Grover Norquist. Since the failed Republican gubernatorial candidacy of Jerry Kilgore through the failed senatorial campaigns of George Allen and Scott Sayre, an even more pernicious trend has emerged: Vile, abusive, truth-twisting (when outright falsehoods were not being spread) and ad hominem attacks made via cowardly, anonymous blogs run by the very people who claim to be the leaders of the local Republican party.

It is time for the adults to seize the steering wheel from the hands of the willful children and plot a more reasonable course. It is time for local Republicans to engage in reasoned discourse and put the rancor away. That cannot happen, however, without cleaning house.


Betrayal is a serious matter and insubordination must be dealt with swiftly. It's time to clear the underbrush of the snakes. Better yet, the snakes should resign. Today.

Those of us in the local Republican Party who supported Emmett Hanger -- in the face of extraordinary pressure and intimidation -- put our reputations (or even our careers) on the line in endorsing him, and we made it clear that our fundamental purpose was to restore the party's good name and get it back on track to governing in responsible way. We supporters of Emmett Hanger have been a strong majority on the Staunton Republican Committee all along (hence my election as secretary in March), but you never would have known it from the news about endorsements or public events that were supposedly sponsored by our committee -- without our approval, or even advance consultation! Before the primary election, I tried to be discreet about all the dirty tricks and charades that were being perpetrated by the other side, not wanting to be accused of "airing dirty laundry." As of now, all bets are off. As I wrote yesterday, "It's now up to the voters to define the mainstream of the Party of Lincoln..." The people have spoken.

A blog too far?

smile big As for the blog war in which I became embroiled, it became clear several weeks ago that "Bloggers 4 Sayre" had passed the point of diminishing returns, with an overloaded roster of bloggers most of whom were smart enough to stay out of the fray -- B4S "in name only," you might say. Adding the heavy-weight "reinforcements" from outside the 24th District late in the game looked desperate to me, a sign that our side had grabbed the momentum. Likewise, piling on their puny blog opponents (Myron and me, basically) with preposterous slurs and insinuations backfired terribly. Fortunately, some of those bloggers refrained from the filthy mud-slinging, showing that there is some hope for reconciliation within the Republican Party -- once they express contrition for siding with those who tried to wreck the party, that is. As for the hot-headed zealots, however, they should consider "spending more time with their families."

Sign envy? NOT!

I think Emmett Hanger's big win validates my long-standing skepticism of the efficacy of yard signs. Sure, it's good to show your support, and it keeps up morale to see signs sprinkled about here and there, but let's not get carried away, folks! When I saw the dozens of Sayre signs outside the polling places (just like outside Blue Ridge Community College during the forum on May 29), it reminded me of the similar absurd deluge of Kerry-Edward signs outside the polls on November 2, 2004 -- all for nought. Can you say "overkill"? When you've got a weak candidate with a simplistic message, you're going to need a lot more than bombastic blogs and huge signs to change anybody's vote.

Another lesson is the importance of holding open, fair elections -- primary as well as general elections -- under the supervision of a public board. When I think of how, without a fair and transparent process, the nomination might well have been "hijacked" by the local "Mayberry Machiavellis" in the same way that they have hijacked the Republican Party leadership positions in recent years, my past opposition to the use of public funds for political parties' nominations is called into question.

Money talks

According to the Virginia Public Access Project Emmett Hanger raised $232,321, of which the largest portion (about a tenth) came from Leadership for Virginia, which lobbies for Northern Virginia interests. In general, Hanger drew support from a much broader, diverse range of individuals and interest groups than his opponent did. Mr. Sayre raised $152,707, but that does not include money spent on the anti-Hanger radio ads or other propaganda campaigns waged by outside PACs. Of that total, nearly one third came from Harrisonburg businessman Walter Curt, and I learned last night why Mr. Curt has a grudge against Senator Hanger. Another big contributor to Sayre was former House of Delegates Speaker Vance Wilkins, who sent an unusually harsh and bitter letter attacking Emmett Hanger. Apparently, he can't forgive Hanger for not coming to his defense during the sex scandal which (among other things) led to his resignation in 2002.

The election results

I was guardedly optimistic about Senator Hanger's chances, and the 53%-47% election result was about what I expected. I must say, Myron deserves credit for his very accurate prediction, based on the high turnout. The vote totals highlight one very interesting fact: the localities in which the pro-Sayre "SWAC job" bloggers reside, and where they focused the bulk of their campaign efforts, were the very places where Emmett Hanger won by the biggest margin. If that is not a stinging rebuke to their negative political style, and definitive proof of their utter political incompetence, I don't know what is. Will higher-level Republican officials in Virginia take notice?

In that regard, it is perhaps a fortuitous coincidence that RPV Chairman Ed Gillespie announced that he is resigning his position to go work in the White House, replacing Dan Bartlett as Counselor to President Bush; see rpv.org. Indeed, the party needs a fresh start, from top to bottom.

LOCALITY Emmett Hanger % Scott Sayre %
ALBEMARLE COUNTY 113 29.81% 266 70.18%
AUGUSTA COUNTY 3,780 59.27% 2,597 40.72%
GREENE COUNTY 206 30.70% 465 69.29%
HIGHLAND COUNTY 156 57.99% 113 42.00%
LEXINGTON CITY 162 53.64% 140 46.35%
ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY 263 46.22% 306 53.77%
ROCKINGHAM COUNTY 974 47.37% 1,082 52.62%
STAUNTON CITY 1,255 62.22% 762 37.77%
Staunton Ward 1 144 54.75% 119 45.24%
Staunton Ward 2 282 58.62% 199 41.37%
Staunton Ward 3 254 62.40% 153 37.59%
Staunton Ward 4 309 65.05% 166 34.94%
Staunton Ward 5 223 69.04% 100 30.95%
Staunton absentee 43 63.23% 25 36.76%
WAYNESBORO CITY 709 40.95% 1,022 59.04%
GRAND TOTAL 7,618 53.00% 6,753 46.99%

SOURCE: Virginia State Board of Elections

Elsewhere in Virginia

Among the other incumbent moderate conservatives being challenged in the Old Dominion, Senate Majority Leader Walter Stosch (Henrico) survived by a narrow margin, but Martin Williams (Newport News) was defeated by Patricia Stall, and Brandon Bell (Roanoke County) was defeated by Ralph Smith. Oddly, the Washington Post emphasized that most moderates in Virginia were defeated, but their article ignored the two GOP senate incubments who overcame their challengers: Emmett Hanger and Walter Stosch. Perhaps this was because those two leaders are more conservative than moderate. In any case, the primary elections yielded a mixed message overall, neither confirming nor invalidating the effectiveness of the anti-tax, anti-government movement -- VCAP and the rest of their ilk. Those groups live to fight another day...

June 16, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Hanger vs. Sayre fallout

For folks like me who don't live and breathe politics 24/7, the past couple days have been quite a welcome relief. Here are a few random, disjointed musings about what various people thought the primary election meant, and what is on tap for coming months:

At The New Dominion, Chris Graham doubted the sincerity of the early gestures of conciliation by the local GOP leaders who had endorsed Scott Sayre. They seemed to think that Sen. Hanger was chastened by the close primary election results, in which he almost lost his seat. Graham disagrees vehemently, saying "Hanger doesn't feel anything close to chastened after beating back Sayre's challenge." Nor should he: He withstood a fierce, well-organized, well-funded challenge without changing his laid-back style or backtracking on policy issues. He held his ground, he played on his own old-fashioned terms, and he ended up winning the battle, anyway.

If I were to quibble with Sen. Hanger's fiscal policy positions, it would be more on the spending side, doing more to scrutinize and put the brakes on state expenditures. As Sen. Hanger says, in boom times such as we have been in, a revenue surplus is what you expect -- which is why the state government should put away money in a "rainy day" fund.

In an interview with WHSV TV-3 Staunton GOP chair Anne Taetszch said she will now support Emmett Hanger this fall; "We're all in the same party. We all come together." It's too bad she didn't make that clearer during the primary campaign. But is reconciliation within the party really possible after everything that has happened? One of the leading local Republican activists, a Sayre supporter, once chided me for (supposedly) thinking that politics was all about hand-holding and singing "Kubayah." I guess from the perspective of one who believes that politics is always a hard-ball, winner-take-all sport, anyone like me who strives for reasoned compromise is a fool.

James Atticus Bowden surveyed the four big GOP senate primary races, and observed, "The difference between the losing and the winning among Hanger, Stosch, Bell and Williams is very local and idiosyncratic." He claims credit for the "peasant rebellion" that unseated Marty Williams, and looks forward to further progress in the next election cycle. To the contrary, I don't think the Republicans can continue on the current path toward populism without some major shakeout or defection.

Richmond Democrat observes, "The infamous 'Bloggers for Sayre"' (aka the 'SWACtion') bet everything on a challenge to the Republican incumbent, and may have actually cost Sayre the race." Gee, do ya think?

Waldo Jaquith scorns the anonymous SWAC bloggers who are universally assumed to be the leaders of the Republican Party in these parts. (Hey, don't ask me, I'm only the secretary. ) Those folks "bet everything on Hanger losing," but may try to cling to power nonetheless. Waldo concludes, "As a rational human, I hope they never work in politics again, but as a Democrat, I hope they stick around."

The bottom line is that, given the very high-profile endorsements of Sayre by the local GOP chairs, and the very high importance that Sayre attached to those endorsements in his campaign, the Republican candidate for the 24th district senate seat this fall will be at a distinct disadvantage as things currently stand. Now, given Emmett Hanger's superb level of respect from most Valley residents, perhaps he could afford to lose a few percentage points. But in a three-way race, maybe not. It should be fairly obvious to everyone that the seven GOP chairs who endorsed Sayre will be a serious detriment to Hanger in the fall campaign if they continue to occupy their present positions. If enough Sayre voters defect from the GOP and vote for Arin Sime, moreover, it could prove to be the decisive factor in losing the general election, and possibly GOP control of the state senate.


A couple weeks ago, Richmond Democrat took note of a news item I wrote for the Staunton GOP Web site, about the SWAC breakfast meeting in February attemded by new RPV Vice Chair Charlie Judd. "RD" found it ironic that I would report on Kurt Michael's praise of two of the "SWAC jobbers," in light of the subsequent blog attacks against me. He didn't notice, however, (and I suppose hardly anyone else noticed, either) the permalink to my Feb. 12 post on the subject of blog credibility which I had embedded in my name at the end of the story. Also, I had thought the tongue-in-cheek tone of "a novel form of political communication and opinion shaping that is gaining in credibility" (as if blogs were a new fad) would be obvious. I guess my subtle, dry Midwestern humor (Bob Newhart, Johnny Carson) doesn't always come across -- hence all the smiley faces for the sake of clarity...

Farewell "Teddy"

Finally, the Richmond Democrat has revealed the identity of the anonymous pro-Hanger blogger "Teddy Roosevelt"! And to think that two different people in the last few days told me they thought it was ME! Whoever "Teddy" is, he must have a lot of talent and/or time on his hands to produce that hilarious farewell musical animation, which is a must-see.

Sigh... blog posting just after midnight again.

June 21, 2007 [LINK / comment]

On the ethics of blogging

The recent Hanger vs. Sayre state senate campaign has left quite a legacy in terms of blogging issues to be resolved. Waldo Jaquith recently got into quite a dustup with Carl Kilo (who called him a liar) over the alleged false identity used by a commenter. Techno-wiz Waldo has been tracking down the IP address of blog commenters, and concluded that Carl was hiding behind the pseudonym "Teddy's Turds," a reference to the Teddy's Truth blog. I'm not an expert in such things, but it seems very unlikely that someone could have planted a fake IP address in that comment, or that it could be a pure coincidence.

I communicated briefly with Carl a few times earlier this year, even offering (semi-seriously) to help with a legal defense fund on one occasion. That's why I was deeply disappointed to learn that he had divulged to someone else a personal e-mail message that I sent to him. (An excerpt of it, without the proper context, was posted by Alton Foley on his blog.) If it weren't for that grievous lapse of ethics on Carl's part, I might be more sympathetic or willing to believe him.

Phil Chroniger has a fair and balanced take on that, noting correctly that both Waldo and Carl have ambiguous records when it comes to blogging standards.

There is anonymous commenting, and then there is anonymous blogging, which is one of my pet peeves. Unlike me, Republitarian seems to have an "anything goes" attitude about that. His post did inspire a good comment thread, at least, and some folks acknowledged the ethical pitfalls. I have a hard time linking anonymous comments with freedom of speech, as some do, but I will grant that many of our Founding Fathers used pseudonyms such as "Publius." That was in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, however, when people were still killing each other over political differences.

As most folks know, my observation about the anonymous Bloggers 4 Sayre sparked an avalanche of vitriol against me, which in retrospect was probably the moment when the Sayre campaign went into decline.

Blogs are many things to many people, and it would be vain to expect everyone to abide by the same standards of conduct. For example, I "speak" to a general (though small) "audience," maintaining a relatively formal, polite tone, and aside from occasional jests, I refrain from addressing individuals in the second person. (That's you, for you folks in Rio Linda.) Exposing an individual to embarrassment or ridicule in the blogosphere with words such as, "so, John Doe, are you still my friend?" can be abusive and threatening. Blogs are for public discourse, e-mail is for private discourse.

On a more light-hearted note, I enjoyed Whackette's "Ten Commandments for bloggers," which was inspired by the Vatican's "Ten Commandments for drivers." Overall, the rules she drew up are very appropriate, though most of the blog commandments (eleven, actually) were obviously directed in satirical fashion at a certain group with whom I am familiar. For example, "Convincing 'well respected' bloggers to join your cause and blog with you doesn't raise your credibility, it just lowers theirs." (Sorry, Leslie. ) Whackette forgot to include one very important commandment, however:

  • Thou shalt honor thy blogparents.

Otherwise, they may disown you.

Close but no cigar

One week after Scott Sayre lost to incumbent Sen. Emmett Hanger by six percent, "SWAC Girl" still can't get over the narrow margin of defeat. She keeps talking of Sayre as if he had been the underdog in this race, which is contradicted by a number of indicators. For one thing, Sayre stated quite clearly that he expected to win, which is why he declined to answer the question of whether he would support Hanger if Hanger beat him. Furthermore, his demeanor at public forums (BRCC, Staunton GOP) suggested that he believed he would win; see May 29.

For another thing, the pro-Sayre bloggers were positively gloating about their anticipated victory as the campaign progressed, and jeering those of us who supported the incumbent. "Spank That Donkey" wrote on June 8 (not posted until June 13) that the hoped-for endorsements of Sayre by Delegates Saxman and Cline "probably would drive the last nails in Emmett's coffin, in this race." From late May through early June, moreover, General Grievous' Dog had daily blog posts (invoking those Star Wars characters) warning us Hanger supporters of impending doom. "SWAC Girl" drew attention to that at least once, but the link in a blog post she made points to a page that has no longer exists. Yes, the sophomoric "GGD" has apparently deleted all of his pre-election blog archives! "Blog credibility," indeed; what a weasel.

In light of all the hardball politicking that has happened in this area, I find "SWAC Girl's" righteous indignation a little hard to swallow: "as a Republican volunteer I resent the fact he actively recruited democrats to cross over and vote in a Republican Primary." (She consistently uses small d for democrat and large R for Republican; what's that all about?)

UPDATE: After thinking about it, there are two possible reasons for the small d: either she means to disparage the other party as not worthy of a capital letter, or she is making a sharp distinction between Republicans and those who believe in democracy. Either way, it sends the wrong message about the Party of Lincoln. FACT CHECK: "SWAC Girl" stated that Sayre was "outspent 4:1 by the Hanger campaign," but VPAP data show that the actual margin was 3:2 ($232,321 to $152,707) -- and that does not include the anti-Hanger radio ads sponsored by VCAP, etc.

As for reuniting the party in the wake of the bruising primary campaign, I think the first step would be to refrain from insinuating that our party's nominee is a "RINO" or a closet Democrat. It would probably help to apologize for past statements along those lines. Republicans should all agree on the general commitment to restrain the size of government, and not spend so much time quibbling over how much restraint is necessary. Beyond that, I think it's best to refrain from further comments on this topic, and hope (against hope) that time will heal the emotional wounds caused by this primary race.

President Bloomberg?

Groan... Speculation about third-party presidential candidacies this far in advance wears my patience thin. Likewise, polling numbers about Fred vs. Rudy or Hillary vs. Barack bore me to tears. I'll start paying more attention to Decision 2008 this fall.

June 24, 2007 [LINK / comment]

SWAC bloggers air dirty laundry

One of the elementary norms of politics is that disagreements among members of a political party should be kept out of the public eye whenever possible. Unfortunately, that does not seem to have occurred to the less-temperate bloggers in this area who tried and failed to unseat incumbent state senator Emmett Hanger. "SWAC Girl" accuses me of trying to "split the party," which is extremely ironic in light of the nasty "guerrilla" campaign she and others waged on behalf of Scott Sayre, and the unexplained ice-cold hostility she has shown toward several Staunton GOP members (including me) since last fall. She plays hard-ball politics as a vengeful "blood sport," almost reminding one of the Clintons (!), whereas I would just as soon try to get along with everybody. Which approach do you think is more likely to heal the wounds in the Party of Lincoln?

Not only did "SWAC Girl" improperly leak a private communication intended only for party members, she wrote that I am "posing [emphasis added] as secretary of the committee," apparently on the grounds that guests had to be excused from the meeting when I was elected in March. (This was done for the sake of order; indeed, a fist fight almost broke out after the meeting formally adjourned and guests were allowed to return to listen to Delegate Chris Saxman.) The election results were accepted by all members at that time, however, and no Staunton Republicans have challenged my election since then. What's more, "SWAC Girl" attended both of the committee meetings since I was elected without questioning my position. There are proper ways of handling disputed elections, and creating a public scandal is not one of them. MEMO TO "SWAC Girl": Your young protege Alex was no more elected secretary of the committee than he is a lawyer. If you and Dr. Michael had only refrained from trying to take over our Staunton GOP meeting in March, there would have been no reason for us to hold an executive session. Butt out, OK?

"Spank That Donkey" likewise seems to think I am trying to "split the party," offering a bizarre interpretation of my motivations. From what I can tell, he seems to be threatening to take his "ideologically Center-Right group [!!??] over to Arin Sime, the Libertarian Candidate." MEMO TO SPANKY: The party is already split, and it has been for almost a year now! How are we supposed to get back together again if we are prevented from meeting as a group and hashing things out? Just read the next-to-last sentence again:

Please be aware that our primary objective is to get our party back to the way it used to be, with friendly, open meetings held on a regular monthly basis, reconciling the factions and working toward our common goals.

What in the world is so wrong about that? Beyond the SWAC area, meanwhile, in the far reaches of Appalachia, Carl Kilo weighed in on this. MEMO TO CARL: You might want to get first-hand accounts from both sides of the story before commenting.

For the record, I sent the meeting call out last Thursday, after conferring with my colleagues on the Staunton Republican Committee about the need to repair the party's negative image stemming from the Hanger-Sayre primary race. Some time after 10:00 PM on Friday I got a call from Dr. Kurt Michael, chairman of the Augusta GOP, asking me if I would stand by the letter which explained the reasons for the meeting. I replied affirmatively, and asked him if he had any problem with the letter. He said, no, he did not. Just to make sure, I asked him again, saying that if he did have a problem with the letter, that this would be a good time to say so. He clearly stated once again that he did not have a problem with the letter, and the conversation ended.

At or about that same time Friday evening, however, Kurt was conferring about this matter with Congressman Bob Goodlatte (!), "SWAC Girl," and the Staunton GOP chair and vice-chair Anne Taetszch and Bruce Grover. That meeting was the prelude to this weekend's disgusting blog attacks against me. Now why couldn't Kurt just be honest and tell me what his objections were so we could work things out? Is leaking party secrets and defaming other party officers the way a responsible party leader deals with disputes? I don't think so.

As for the issues under dispute, there was no "purge" of members, as SWAC Girl claims. The RPV state party plan (ARTICLE VII, Section D) clearly states that

A member of an Official Committee other than an ex-officio member automatically loses his committee position if he is absent three (3) consecutive meetings without representation by a person holding a proxy...

There is a nearly identical provision in the Staunton GOP Unit bylaws. Please note the word automatically; there was no discretion on my part whatsoever. (Unfortunately, there was lax observance of the Staunton GOP bylaws in the past, but because of various disputes, we agreed at the February meeting to get serious about the rules.) In fact, most of those whose membership has lapsed had not attended a single committee meeting since March 2006.

Also, the bylaws specify when the meeting calls must be sent, not when it must be received, as SWAC Girl claimed. This provision was included in the resolution:

Such call shall include a written agenda and be mailed not less than a week before the meeting.

Clearly, we have met all the requirements for holding a meeting, so notwithstanding the declaration of our obstructionist Chair, it will be 100% legitimate. In this regard, it should be noted that when we called the meeting in April, to give Emmett Hanger the same opportunity to address the committee that Scott Sayre had had in February, Ms. Taetszch did everything she could to try to stop the meeting from taking place. She simply refused to acknowledge the provision in the bylaws by which the committee members themselves can call meetings. It's all part of a pattern. As it says in the letter we wrote, her

repeated cancelation of meetings (or the abrupt adjournment thereof) have prevented our Committee from functioning as a group, and we are presently at an impasse.

How long can this insanity go on? Let us meet, for crying out loud! As for "SWAC Girl," many of us have become increasingly annoyed by the self-serving and extremely partial way she abuses her office in the party. During the Hanger-Sayre campaign, the e-mail newsletters she sends out became steadily divorced from reality, filled with blatant falsehoods and distortions. It is sadly typical of the people in that faction of the party whose partisan zeal is so strong that it colors everything they see and hear.

July 4, 2007 [LINK / comment]

4th of July parade in Staunton

The Emmett Hanger fall campaign got off with a bang at the 4th of July parade here in Staunton today. Fresh from his narrow primary election victory over Scott Sayre, our friendly state senator waved at the big crowd from the back of a pickup truck, and was received warmly by the local folks. Because of the deep divisions in the Republican party, locally as well as state-wide, Hanger knows that he cannot count on an easy victory this November. He will have to spend a lot of effort mending fences with supporters of Scott Sayre, but on the other hand he has to avoid caving in to their demands if he wants to have any clout in Richmond next year. Handling this delicate situation in the right way will be one of the biggest challenges of his political career.

Emmett Hanger truck

State Senator Emmett Hanger, along with his wife Sharon, and several of their children.

Because of the problems within the Republican Party, we didn't have a booth at Gypsy Hill park or a float in the parade this year, whereas the Democrats had a booth and a float. In lieu of the usual joint float effort between the Staunton and Augusta County Republican Committees, the Augusta County Republican elected officials put together their own float, highlighting Emmett Hanger, and it looked very impressive:

Hanger, Aug Co GOP float 1

Augusta County supervisor David Beyeler (standing on right side of float), County Treasurer Richard Homes and Commissioner of Revenue Jean Shrewsbury (both walking, at lower right). Roll mouse over this image to see a different perspective.

Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate for the 24th district state senate seat, David Cox, walked along a Democratic float. It was the biggest such endeavour the Other Party has put together since I have lived in Staunton -- five years. There were also many signs and balloons for the third party senatorial candidate, the Libertarian Arin Sime. I even saw a Republican who was carrying a Sime sign, which is not a good sign for the GOP.

November 6, 2007 [LINK / comment]

The 24th District Senate race

As the folks at Daily Whack Job recently said, the campaign for the 24th District Senate seat currently held by Emmett Hanger has been quite anti-climactic compared to the bruising primary battle between Hanger and Scott Sayre. That is only because Senator Hanger has campaigned in a very cautious, low-key way this fall, striving above all to avoid doing anything that might provoke defections by those who voted for Sayre to the Libertarian candidate Arin Sime. It's also because Hanger's supporters have been biting their lips about the recent behind-the-scenes maneuvers of the folks who tried so hard to unseat Hanger in the primary campaign. Yes, sports fans, the Hanger-vs.-Sayre battle rages on five months after we thought the issue had been decided. Day after day we see TV news reports and articles in the local papers that simply do not seem to grasp the situation. Well, they'll figure things out before long, I suppose.

As for the election, most people assume that Hanger will end up on top, but his margin of victory won't be as big as it would have been if he had campaigned more actively. That's just Emmett's style as an "un-politician." It's too bad, as it may detract from Senator Hanger's perceived influence when the General Assembly convenes in Richmond in January. In a two-way race, Hanger would expect to get 60% or more of the vote, but in this three-way race, he will be lucky to get 45%. The late-campaign surge of advertising by David Cox and Arin Sime may close the gap, but since neither one seems to have generated much more momentum than the other, they will probaly finish within ten percent of each other in the final vote tally. Cox's slogan of "Because he'll actually do something" comes across to me as a little sarcastic. The Dems need to come up with a serious alternative budget, or else pay attention to smarter campaign consultants. If Sime can get at least 25% of the vote, he may just earn a reputation as a serious figure in Virginia politics.

Election Day update: Br-r-r-r!

I spent all morning and part of the afternoon working the polls for the GOP, but turnout here in Staunton has been low because there is only one contested race. A cold front came through last night, and as the wind picked up, it became very uncomfortable standing outside. I was surprised by the absence of Democratic poll workers, and by the presence of poll workers for Arin Sime, the Libertarian candidate. It just so happened that Mr. Sime and his wife Lauren showed up at the first polling station where I worked this morning, the National Guard Armory. It was the first time I had met him, and he impressed me for being courteous and intelligent. Then after I left for a quick lunch break they showed up at the second polling station, R.E. Lee High School. It was like he was following me around or something! At both places I had a chance to talk to the candidate and his supporters, who are friendly and thoughtful. We chatted about property rights, eminent domain, rural conservation, and about pornography, which has grabbed people's attention here in Staunton lately. (The Libertarian solution? Don't buy it!) We agreed that if Scott Sayre had won the GOP primary in June, the Democratic candidate would have had a better chance to win the general election, since many of Sayre's supporters identify with Sime's position. I told Arin he would be a strong second preference for me, since there are several important issues on which Republicans and Libertarians see eye to eye, but that if he ended up causing Cox to win this election, I would wring his neck!

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend the victory celebration of the Augusta County Republicans tonight because my lovely wife and I bought tickets to The Police concert, at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.

Arin Sime, Andrew

Arin Sime, candidate for the 24th district senate seat, and yours truly in front of R.E. Lee High School. Senator Hanger called me later in the afternoon to see how things were going, and I told him I hoped he wouldn't take offense by having this photo taken.

My blog practices

My general practice is to make no more than one blog post per day on any one category. For this reason, some blog posts may address more than one specific issue, as indicated by separate headings. If something important happens during the day after I make a blog post, I may add an updated paragraph or section to it, using the word "UPDATE" and sometimes a horizontal rule to distinguish the new material from the original material. For each successive day, blog posts are listed on the central blog page (which brings together all topics) from top to bottom in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the order in which the posts were originally made:

  1. Wild birds (LAST)
  2. War
  3. Science & Technology *
  4. Politics
  5. Latin America
  6. Culture & Travel *
  7. Canaries ("Home birds")
  8. Baseball (FIRST)

* part of "Macintosh & Miscellanous" until Feb. 2007

The date of each blog post refers to when the bulk of it was written, in the Eastern Time Zone. For each blog post, the time and date of the original posting (or the last update or comment thereupon) is displayed on the individual archival blog post page that appears (just before the comments section) when you click the [LINK / comments] link next to the date. Non-trivial corrections and clarifications to original blog entries are indicated by the use of [brackets] and/or strikethroughs, as appropriate so as to accurately convey both the factual truth and my original representation of it. Nobody's perfect, but I strive for continual improvement. That is also why some of the nature photos that appear on the archive pages may differ from the (inferior) ones that were originally posted.

The current "home made" blog organization system that I created, featuring real permalinks, was instituted on November 1, 2004. Prior to that date, blog posts were handled inconsistently, and for that reason the pre-2005 archives pages are something of a mess. Furthermore, my blogging prior to June 1, 2004 was often sporadic in terms of frequency.