Thursday, August 27, 2009

73rd House Seat: Shields Making Headway

With all of the attention being played on national policies like Healthcare these days, little covergae is being given to various local races throughout the Commonwealth this Fall. One of the more interesting races is right here in the Richmond area for the seat representing the 73rd district in the House of Delegates.

Incumbant, Dr. John O'Bannon-R is being challenged by University of Richmond, Director of the Center for Leadership in Education Tom Shields. Shields announced his candidacy early this year with very little fanfare frankly, but as the months have passed Shields has been gaining momentum.

Shields can attribute this "mo" to the fact that he is waging a community by community campaign and has embraced hitting the street and meeting with residents of the 73rd. Shields has not simply gone the way that so many incumbants do with so-called "meet and greets", but rather has systematically hit major neighboorhoods and knock on doors and spoken with residents on their own porches delivering a focused message.

Shields is hitting those streets that in the past may very well have voted Republican and not merely focusing on trying to get the historic Democrat vote out at the polls. This strategy is paying off. His name recognition is climbing as a result of a campaign maintaining a consistent strategy. (Maybe the Deeds camp should be calling these folks for advice)

The payoff? To be honest I can attest to many former McCain supporters from last fall taking a second look at Shields in this race. Why? Neglect. The biggest issue facing incumbant O'Bannon is in reality the perception to many that he is disengaged with constituents. That criticism is always a hard one to overcome, but the O'Bannon camp is trying. For many residents it is the first time that Republican volunteers are working to get the vote out in this district for a "local" race. Many folks have expressed the feeling that they fel as though their votes appear to have been taken for granted in years past and given the rising tide of apathy toward Washington and the political game lately that hurts any incumbant.

Many bloggers left this race in the 73rd alone early this year in large part because it looked as if it was pretty much a safe seat for the Republicans. It appears as though many bloggers took for granted those votes as well.

Shield's folks have stopped by my parents home in the 73rd at least three times. Once to introduce Tom Shields, then to touch base and then to followup on some answers to some questions.

Shields has held 2 town halls, one on the economy and one on education, this month with plans on a few more before Election Day. I was particularly interested in the Education meeting. It intereested me because Virginia Democrats have always historicially taken education on as a campaign piece and I wanted to see if Shields was planning on offering something substantively different than many other Democrats.

There is no doubt in my mind that Shields has the Education debate down solid and his background can attest to his understanding of the issues facing our local school systems throughout the Commonwealth. The problem though is if your a voter and you did not get the opportunity to hear Shields speak on Education and you get word that the Virginia Education Association Fund has endorsed him there could be a real disconnect. Many voters, especially Independent ones, in the 73rd will see such an endorsement as a negative given rising criticisms on entrenched educational bureaucracy that has created much of the unneccessary expenses associated with the education budget.

I have no doubt that Tom Shield' head and heart is in the right place on Education, but only a few months remain to see if he can reach more voters on other issues facing the Commonwealth. For example, where does Shields stand on Transportation? On Federal Stimulus Money allocation?

If you happen to be one of the fortunate voters with the opportunity to have Tom Shields knock on your door; a few questions

Where do you stand on leasing out the Virginia Lottery to a management company?

Would you support the privatization of the Virginia Alcohol Board of Control (VABC)?

What released plans offered by the Deeds or McDonnell campaign could you endorse?

As an educator, where do you stand on illegal immigrants receiving State Finanacial Aid for college?

How would you as a Delegate work with the Congressional Delegation to get Federal permission for rights to the Virginia Rest Areas along Virginia's interstates to lease to private companies to be maintained? (Why is it MD can have the Chesepeake House in the middle of I95?)

Would you support localities being forced to implement "impact fees" over cash proffers through State legislation?

Will you committ to not supporting any increase in gas or sales taxes from the current levels?

How will you work to alleviate the burdens placed upon our commercial fishing enterprise?

Will you support or work to support opening up Virginia to offshore drilling?

Some of these may not have direct GA implications but it may offer voters greater insight to where the candidate is truly coming from over rhetoric or campaign releases.

In the end, Republicans took for granted they had the 73rd in hand this Fall but it appears as though Tom Shields is in this to make this a real race come November.


JoAnne said...

This post is why I like dropping by and checking out whats on your mind.

I can always tell you are seeking out the truth in everyone regardless what Party affiliation. Unfortunately, many blogs these days are engaging in blatant misinformation and partisan politics.

I am glad to see there are still some out there talking about real people and real issues.

Thank you.

Tom White said...

Tom Shields is a very nice guy, and I like him a lot. I told him if I were younger, I think I would have enjoyed taking his class. He is a great professor. However, after attending both of his Town Hall meetings, the one at J Sarge and the other at the Library, a trend emerged that I find a bit troubling.

As each speaker talked about the issues he was concerned about, the one thing they all had in common was $$$$. Dozens of pet concerns and Professor Shields agreed with each and every one. He never brought up the $6 billion budget shortfall. That looms large.

He also agreed to not raise taxes, which is good, but he only has one proposal to save some money. He thinks we can shave some cost savings out of the $35 million we spend on SOL's.

He did criticize his opponent for several votes that lowered spending. Most of these were for a smaller increase, and not an actual cut.

Professor Shields comes from a world where he gives his pie in the sky desires and leaves the funding to the administration. They are rarely told no, and have no concept of having to fund your own requests.

My concern is, he is saying yes to everything his supporters want, and has no way to fund any of it.

I think that if Tom Shields left the University and worked in the corporate world as a CEO or CFO for a few years, perhaps 5, he would make a great Delegate, one I could endorse. But his outside world experience, which we really need right now, is quite thin on his Resume'.

Dr. O'Bannon is the only Doctor in the House. And all partisan politics aside, can we afford NOT to have at least ONE medical expert in the House in these times?

And I have yet to run across even one person that said O'Bannon had failed to respond to anything they asked him. Including the Town Hall meetings, which were overwhelmingly Shields supporters.

I will say, Tom Shields has been very welcoming to me at both Town Halls and I think he is a very decent guy. He is just not ready yet.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that is a question of "ready" with regard to Tom. He has been a member of our church and has laways been very approachable and gracious as well as involved with our community.

Voters are tired of the same retred from local government like Loupassi who was elected on the same grounds as Tom White is using to anaylize Tom Shields. Loupassi won last time in his district over Waddell pledging alot of things that he never delivered on either. Pledging to "work for" constituent interests is quite different than working for special interest. Tom offers a new kind of leadership and a new direction, especially if we really want to work to solve some of the areas of the budget that need greater citizen input like education and transportation. We all know that anything he proposes must go through the committee so many of us prefer someone who is genuine enough not to be out there promoting things that he knows will never even get through that system like Loupassi did last time. Most voters have no clue who Dr. O'Bannon is and that is part of the problem. How has O'Bannon proposed to solve the social services shortfalls in Virginia or the health budgets? What solutions is the incumbant offering up on issues he should have the greatest experience with? Non of us voters have heard a single one.

Bill said...


Tom White has a great peice over at his site regarding his impressions of Tom Shields at the town hall meetings as well. Check it out.

Is Loupassi unopposed this cycle?

John in Bon Air said...

William "Bill" Grogan is challenging Manoli Loupassi in the 68th.

He is running as an Independent and ran in the last cycle when it was Katherine Waddell, Loupassi and Grogan facing off. Grogan in that race earned just under 5% of the vote.

This one os rather safe for the House Republicans.

Early indications are that O'Bannon is not as safe as Loupassi. The district has alot of elderly and retired voters who actually vote in off-cycle elections. The question is whether Shields will have done an effective job reaching those constituents with his message.

Tom White said...

"Loupassi won last time in his district over Waddell pledging alot of things that he never delivered on either. "

I am sure a lot of folks made promises, but in 2007, the economy was going fine and the State had ample money, relatively speaking. The slowdown happened in December 2007 they say. And a first year Delegate is not really going to get much past the old guard. Like anywhere, you must earn it.

I know Tom Shields says he brings a new kind of leadership and will not work for special interests, but what does that mean, really? He brings a kind of leadership that has been taught in Leadership theory classes. But they teach many kinds of leadership, and none of it is new. It is a compilation of the leadership traits of past leaders. And it is all classroom, not real world.

Professor Shields is young and would make a fine Delegate in a few years with some outside of the classroom experience. I worked at U of R for several years, and entering the campus is like moving in a sanctuary. It is a great place to learn, but he lacks practical experience in the outside world. I don't say that in a mean way. He has a great foundation. But when you are thrust upon the stage for the first time, no learning can prepare you for the reality of life.

Voters that vote in a new Delegate are agreeing to accept an ineffective leader for 2 to 4 years. It does not matter who it is. Delegate O'Bannon had to pay his dues. He did not get the committee assignments right away. He serves on the Appropriations, Health, Welfare and Institutions, and Privileges and Elections Committees. John also serves as Chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee and of the Campaign Finance Subcommittee of the Privileges and Elections Committee. He is a member of the Secure Commonwealth Panel and the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Health Care.

That is what you have to consider giving up to elect Tom Shields. It will take several years to build up the clout.

I really don't think this is a good time for an inexperienced rookie that will not have input on the budget cuts. I promise you Tom Shields will not be on the Appropriations committee, where most of the cuts will pass through. The 73rd is lucky indeed to have representation on the king of committees.

I really think it is in the best interest of the district to keep Dr. O'Bannon and work with him on the issues. He has a website. Call him, email him, go by his HQ and talk to him. I can assure you you will get a response from someone that has the committee assignments RIGHT NOW to do more for you than any other Delegate.

Just so you know, I do not work for Dr. O'Bannon, and have only spoken with him 3 or 4 times. I have talked to Tom Shields twice and I exchanged an email or two with both.

I try to look beyond the political talk and see which candidate will be in the best position to get things done. The committee assignments tell the story.

But do as I have done and contact both candidates. There may be a debate in the coming weeks, but I am not sure. But I can tell you, both of them will answer your emails. I have not called them, but I am sure the same is true.

Get as much information as you can on both, then weigh the pros and cons. I am sure you will reach the same conclusion I have.

Alter of Freedom said...

Thank you for your viewpoint and perspective Tom. I enjoy reading your thoughts on your site over at Virginia Right.

In evaluating the issues that we face as a Commonwealth, I tend to come at this years delegate races from a different angle.

I think that the "committee system" is exactly what is wrong with the entire process. The system rewards seniority and was opposed by many of our ancestoral leaders here in Virginia.The points you make regarding Dr. O'Bannon are certainly valid and appropriate given the current system, which in all honesty is not about to change anytime soon as long as we keep sending a disportionate number of lawyers to Richmond and Washington for that matter.

In this case, this race is blessed to have a race being undertaken on intellectual grounds by two professionals. "Academic" or not, leadership is brought to the table in many forms. I do take exception with the underlying notion rergarding "classrrom experience" with regard to leadership. I say this because that exactly what we offer when we graduate "citizen soldiers" from the Virginia Military Institute. VMI, not unlike Professor Shields, prepares leaders for the future by developing characterisitics we have taken from the experiences of the proven leaders that have come before us. Afterall, no one entered say the Army War College with real battlefield experience, but learned from those battles and tactics that were undertaken by others throughout military history.

Regardless of whether I see Professor Shields as an experienced legislator or not is frankly irrelevent in light of a representational democracy. The victor in any race should go to Richmond and seek to represent the interests of his/her constituents to the best of his/her ability period. You do not have to be a lawyer to do that effectively and in fact what we lack in leadership today in Richmond and especially Washington is a greater depth of our professions represented in our legislative process. Sometimes we need real down to earth folks who understand what it means to be living in the real world on the ground experiencing the impacts of the legislation being passed and folks connected within the community with more than the elite or insider political class.

For example, only lawyers would engage in promoting a smoking ban and only lawyers would close rest areas along our highways without any consideration for the average Virginian and the real impact. Not the impact on legal paper, but on actual citizens and families.

I recall hitting Emporia on a return trip this summer from the Beach and seeing "Next Rest Area 152 Miles"--- I thought right at that moment that any legislator who let that happen was an IDIOT and deserves to be thrown out of office. Given all the pork and rising budgets in Richmond, were the rest areas closures really neccessary?

Leaders, if they are true Leaders, can and will be "effective" from day one regardless. The requirement is the opportunity and the will or desire to do the peoples work. "Clout" has you say Tom simply is not a good enough justification for sending the same people back to Richmond every time they are up for re-election and frankly if you truly want to look at it objectively that is exactly what the real problem is in Washington and to a lessor extent Richmond.

The "clout" and the committee system lend itself to issues most of us have with so-called lobbyists. We run into severe problems when the lobbyists have the ears of our leaders more so than the people in the districts do.

I encourage voters to heed the advice of Tom White and email or call these Virginians and ask that they stand before the district and debate the issues of the day.

Anonymous said...

We should not be making exsues for Loupassi Mr. White.

I supported Loupassi, but in evaluating his time in office he his certainly less skilled and effective than Katherine Waddell was.

How can this conclusion be drawn? Loupassi has a had a Republican majority in the House of Delegates, while Waddell managed to get significant bills passed as an Independent. Many viewed her simply as a Democrat turned Independent, but she was effective at getting needs from constituents met through the legislature.

I question just what Loupassi has accomplished or better yet even set out to accomplish. The latter I think is worth some serious analysis.

John said...

Just to offer up a perspective here, but the last comment may just illustrate the point that Tom White was making regarding Shields.

Do not expect very much from a first term Delegate. Loupassi very well may prove his point.

Lucks Lane said...

With respect to roads and rest stops

1-It was not cheap to put up the fences and barriers to close the rest stops.

2-Just finished 2 buss trips and 1 vacation on 64 between Va Beach and Waynesboro. Something has to be done about I-64. Two lanes are not enough.

Alter of Freedom said... emails have been rolling in since I made this post.

You would think I crashed someone's party or something by even posting something about this race.

I was even screamed at via email for dipping inot this race because I don't even live in the district......she was correct but I kindly informed her my parents have for about twenty five years!!!

Again, people need to stop seeing people as Rep. or Dem and just talk with those running and get to know them and check on where their head and heart are at. Treat people like people and acting on blind impulse because of the letter by ones name.

Afterall, any smuck can try and get the nod from a local committee to run for office if they dare. Voters are better served by listening to candidates befor making judgements.

All a few people who emailed me knew about Shields was he was a Democrat and yet still launched into running me through the mud....that just crazy.

ccjjharmon said...

I'm curious of similar thoughts and sentiments for my district (the 69th) and who is running... I've seen Ernesto Sampson and his volunteers out hitting the streets in my neighborhood, but nary anything from anyone else running...

Alter of Freedom said...

I will look into the 69th as well. I have not heard very much about that race either and there does not seem to be much activity on on regarding that race.

Anonymous said...

O'Bannon is a jackass. He is now sending his flock out in full because of the success Shields has had at getting people to listen to him.

Anonymous said...

O'Bannon is a jackass...
and so is Loupassi
Vote them both out!

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