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.

Monday, August 24, 2009

UPDATE: Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) WRVA

If Sen. Mark Warner set out today to absolutely confuse and baffle even his own supporters throughout Central Virginia, its fair to say he succeeded. After being virtually silent for weeks regarding such issues as Cap & Trade and the Healthcare debate, the traditionally pro-business, free market supporter Warner seemed caught between two mothers. One, his decade long stance on the value of free markets and growing business, especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia, through private enterprise clashes with his current stance on the problems facing healthcare. As Governor, Warner did not propose or support any meaure that would bring healthcare into the domain of State government like say the Massachusetts and yet now as a Senator in Congress it is apparent he approves the Federal Government taking over control of healthcare. The operative word in this debate is "control". Warner as long been a supporter of using the government as a regulator, but no where in his record has he ever expressed that the free markets and private markets should be controlled by the government. Regulated certainly, but not controlled. In fact, even Warner had addressed the shortcomings of unfunded liabilities to the federal budget in the area of Medicare/Medicaid recognizing both the shortfalls of this program as well as Social Security. Warner traveled the Commonwealth telling voters that it was his position that it was "spending" that was the biggest issue facing the country as late as Spring 2008 and that spending had to be reigned in up in Washington.

Since his election, Warner has done very little in proposing any reductions in spending. In fact, he left voters today thinking that he would endorse such measures as Cap & Trade and Healthcare, though he admitted that the government in effect only has the power to "regulate" via interstate commerce clauses and really does not have a right under the Constitution to tell people what healthcare they could or should have. Again, free market, individual-right Warner is in conflict with pro-control, government Nanny-State Warner.

Warner was elected by wide margins last Fall over former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) to be sure. However, in looking at his performance versus some of the other races it is evident that Warner pulled in high percentages of both Republicans (moderates) and Independents.

Here's the rub. Obama and now the actions of Warner will contribute to driving those who supported Warner on the notion that he would go to Washington and be a "moderate" voice further and further away from the DPVA. Warner's biggest problem now is the perception that he has spent years building across the Commowealth is being eroded by the actions of the current administration and frankly Obama himself.

Virginians appear poised to reject Cap & Trade and the Warner that we all once knew certainly would have as well. The new Warner has alot to answer for and given his performance and articulated positions today will leave many voters wondering just who this guy really is.

Warner's current stance on Cap & Trade and Healthcare seem contrary to the brand Warner has built here in Virginia. Is it merely politics or are Warner's true colors begining to shine through given many believe he will likely be in contention in 2016 for the Presidency should Obama win a second term. Is he simply playing to the ultra-liberal base here for some future play or does he truly buy into these policies?

I for one think it would be in Warner's best interest, as well as many Southern Senators, that Cap & Trade NEVER see the light of day on the Senate floor. Healthcare of some fashion will certainly make it to the floor, but should the House version of C&T come up for a vote in the Senate I doubt many Democrats in the South and Midwest (think Evan Byah) will really want to embrace it, especially if Obama's job approval is south of 45% if an Healthcare bill is rammed through reconciliation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Warner,Webb, Scott duck invite by WRVA; offer no Town Halls

In an effort to get the issues on the healthcare debate out there and to bring about greater accessibility that those little town hall meetings do not seem to be offering, WRVA 1140 and the Doc Thompson show invited Warner, Webb, and Scott whom have no scheduled town hall meeting for citizens to come on the show and broaden the dialogue with voters.

Apparently, WRVA has gotten no response to their invitation. It begs the question exactly why it would be that such prominent leaders representing the DPVA as Senators Webb and Warner would duck an invitation by one of the largest audiences in Central Virginia . Rep. Bobby Scott (D) was also extended an invitation to come on the radio. WRVA 1140 carries Glenn Beck and Rush followed by the Doc Thompson show which is based right here in Richmond each day during the week.

None of these leaders have a single scheduled event to take the case of the Obama Administration directly to the voters. Is this not the fight of the Democrat Party? Is not the healthcare debate more important than a two week trip to Asia by Sen. Jim Webb? Why is the man who has built his brand around being "business savvy" in Sen. Mark Warner not talking the case directly to the people regarding the cost effectiveness of the proposals being worked out in both the House and Senate?

How is it that Virginia Democrats are sitting on the sidelines during this debate over Healthcare? It seems apparent that the GOP is rallying forces to defeat such proposals, though locally neither Rep. Eric Cantor (R-7th CD) nor Rep. Randy Forbes(R-Chesterfield) have formal town hall meetings scheduled either. Forbes has held so-called "teleconferences" with voters, but those things are not exactly open-access. Cantor never seesm to hold meetings during the recess period and has historically since entering Congress used that time for fundraising purposes for both himself, PACS and other GOP candidates.

One would think basaed on the voting patterns in Virginia and the nature of the State being largely populated with independent-minded voters whom often split-tickets at the polls that there would be more effort put in, especially by the Democrats to make the case for Obama's agenda.

Evidently as Obama's numbers continue to decline, now under 50% for the first time according to Rassmussen, these leaders appear content to hide out and play wait and see until September.

The problem with that strategy is they run the risk of it being too late in September.

Eric Cantor, whom some have said is potentially a likely candidate for the Senate if not a potential run at the White House is losing a great opportunity to build some real recognition in this debate and Sen. Warner and Webb are missing an opportunity to address those supoporters in the "middle" throughout Virginia that elected them in the first place.