Elephant Ears

This blog is dedicated to the political happenings in the Valley and Southwest Virginia. As the the name implies, this blog will have posts based on what is heard by this elephant's (GOPer's) ears. It is also a great treat to get while at the county fair or a carnival.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Redistricting Update

NOVADem, in concert with myself and NLS are doing redistricting coverage. He has up a post with an overview of House of Delegate changes in the 2010 census and resulting redistricting. Right now it looks like Loudoun will gain 2 seats, Prince William will gains 1.5 seats and the Stafford/Spotsylvania area will gain 1 seat. Richmond City will lose half a seat, Arlington/Alexandria will lose a seat and Fairfax County will also lose a seat.
Its a pretty good rundown of showing how the regions will look in 2011.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Redrawing the 8th District

The 8th Congressional District is the easiest to guess on makeup because it doesn't change much. We know it will have Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and the rest will be Fairfax County. Based on projections 411,811 of Fairfax County's 1,053,269 projected residents will be in the 8th. That leaves 641,458 in Fairfax for the 10th and 11th.

Here is the projected breakdown in 2011:
Alexandria City: 128,091 (17.5%)
Arlington County: 181,113 (24.7%)
Falls Church City: 11,387 (1.6%)
Fairfax County: 411,811 (56.2%)

I hope to have a breakdown for the 11th later this week.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Redistricting Update

I have started looking at population changes throughout Virginia in the last few weeks. Over the next few months, I will propose what the Virginia electoral map may look like in 2011 after the next redistricting.

Here is some preliminary information that will be used in all my future anaylsis:
Virginia Population: 7,078,515 in 2000 to 8,056,415 people in 2010
Congressional Seat: 643,501 to 732,401 people
State Senate Seat: 176,963 to 201,410 people
House of Delegates Seat: 70,785 to 80,564 people

From what I see right now, Virginia will probably not gain (or lose) a House seat so we will still have 11 Congressional seats after 2010.

I will begin with Congressional districts and work my way down to Delegate seats. We will see how it goes. I will begin with the 8th Congressional District which should be up sometime tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Vets for Freedom

Everyone should check out and join Vets for Freedom. Its an organization co-founded by Wade Zirkle, the former Shenandoah Valley field director for the Kilgore campaign. Wade served 2 tours in Iraq as a Marine and has now started this organization to set the record straight on the War on Terror and give a solider's perspective on it. I think its a great organization and would encourage everyone to join.

UPDATE: Apparently there is a poll that shows 72% of soliders do not want the U.S. to stay in Iraq "as long as necessary". The poll, done by Zogby, is found here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

CR In Hot Water Again

Our friend Libertas over at Perseverando has a post up regarding a comment made to the Roanoke Times by the Virginia CR 1st Vice-Chairman/VT CR Chairman regarding diversity at Virginia Tech. As many of you know this is not the first incident she has been involved in that has gotten attention in the blogosphere. At any rate, this is the current issue at hand.

I largely agree with the point she was trying to make with her comment, but she shouldn't have used the same wording. Diversity should not be based solely on the color of skin, but that seems to be the only diversity our Universities worry about these days. I have surely made comments I wish I could word differently, and perhaps she was even misquoted (the Roanoke Times isn't the most favorable publication toward conservatives). Even so, most people will come away from this statement that she believes diversity of ethnicity isn't important. These type of comments are a huge liability for the Republican Party because the liberals tell everyone we think like this to start with. When one of our own says it, it makes people think we agree with it. This conservative, as well as many others believe ethnic diversity is only a part of the overall diversity a University should strive to achieve. Diversity of ideas is just as important.
What this young lady needs to remember is that her comments and actions reflect upon not only her, but her organization as well. If she cannot remember she is representing something larger than herself with her actions, she needs to resign from her positions.

I would also like to commend the Virginia State CR Chairman Andrew Lamar for this open letter asking that petty behavior not take place among CRs.
I want to reiterate that I believe CRs do alot of work and don't get alot of the credit for getting Republicans elected all across this state and this nation. Their work should be commended and they should be proud of what they have done for our party. These types of actions and comments only deflect attention from the good things the CRs do and give them a bad name. It is unfortunate that the Virginia CRs are getting good some bad press right now, but I am confident they will continue to be a strong and integral part of getting Republicans elected in 2006 and beyond.

Blog Carnival

J. Sarge of New Dominion has up the new Blog Carnival for this week.
Its a good one, check it out.

American Ports Should Be American

The battle over ports is getting more and more attention as every day goes by. For those of you who don't know, the British Company that runs 6 of our major ports (Miami, Baltimore, New York, New Orleans,Philadelphia, and New Jersey) is being bought by a company based in the United Arab Emirates. The article says Sen. Clinton and Sen. Menedez of New Jersey are going to propose a bill that bans the sale of ports to foreign countries. Rep. Tom Davis is even quoted in the article as saying we are in a global economy and this situation is a tough call.

Having the British run our ports was bad enough. I am opposed to any country running our ports, not just Arab nations. Don't we have people here that can do it? Also, how many other ports in the US are run by foreign companies?
For once in my life I agree with Hilary Clinton on this one.

UPDATE: Bill Frist has joined the chorus against this port transfer. Well done Senator. He joins Gov. Ehrlich of Maryland and Gov. Pataki of NY as seriously opposing this. Also, Jimmy Carter has come out in support of turning the ports over. That is reason enough to oppose it right there.

UPDATE2: President Bush issued a stern statement today on the port deal. Drudge is reporting that the President has threatened to veto any bill stopping this from happening. He also asks why everyone is making a big deal now that an Arab company wants to buy it when no one cared when a British firm owned them.
If I knew any foreign company owned our ports, I would have raised hell. As I said before, does anyone know of other ports owned or operated by foreign companies?

UPDATE3: Chuck Schumer says he would rather have Halliburton run the ports than the UAE. Sounds like a good plan to me. We even have the democratic backing to give them a contract this time.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Lynchburg Politics

NLS has a great post up on his continuing anaylsis of voter growth throughout Virginia. This week he has Lynchburg as his region for study. Much like the Roanoke area, the Lynchburg area is seeing a massive GOP shift in federal elections but that has not transferred over into state elections. The most recent evidence of this is the victory of Shannon Valentine in the 23rd, a district that has long been held by the GOP.
This anaylsis seems to prove what is an increasingly national trend, rural areas are turning decidely Republican. As we have seen in both Roanoke and Lynchburg, the cities themselves have seen moderate GOP voter growth; but the outer lying counties have had a GOP explosion.
We may need this to counter the seemingly eroding GOP margins in NOVA and Hampton Roads. What we should take from this and the Roanoke area is that the GOP's biggest concern should be solidifying the base in these areas and converting federal election success into state politics as well. These areas will be key in defending our majorities in the General Assembly as well as winning statewide races.

On another note, according to Census projections; Lynchburg City has actually lost a few hundred people since 2000. At the current rate, the 23rd HOD seat would go from consisting of 93% Lynchburg-7% Amherst County to 81% Lynchburg-19% Amherst/Bedford County. This extra 10,000 in population in a heavily Republican area should help to strengthen the GOP margin here and make it easier to oust Valentine and then defend the seat.

UPDATE: My numbers on the 23rd are that Lynchburg City has 65k residents (the same as in 2000). Based on current projections, HOD seats will rise from 70k residents/seat now to 80k in 2010. Since Lynchburg City isn't growing, there will be an additional 10k residents that will have to be drawn into the district (assuming the City isnt busted up or anything like that).

Friday, February 17, 2006

New Lynchburg GOP

Tonight the Lynchburg GOP Committee picked a new chairman. Mark Peake won the nomination after current chair Wendell Walker pulled his name from contention.
Apparently Walker was a big supporter of Robert Garber, who ran against Preston Bryant in the primaries. I suppose the Lynchburg GOP was ready for a new leader, as Walker has been chairman for the past 10 years.
Hopefully Mr. Peake will begin right away at recruiting a candidate to field against Shannon Valentine in 2007.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

New Gas Tax Plan

The RTD says the Senate has proposed a new gas tax plan. This one levies a 5% tax on wholesale gasoline, which will obviously be passed onto the consumer. The kicker is that consumers will be able to get the tax they pay rebated by saving receipts. Luckily Speaker Howell shot this down quickly.
First off, if we are going to have a tax; why are we going to rebate it? Second, if this rebate is based on the price we pay at the pump and the 5% is based on wholesaler prices there will actually be rebated more than what the state receives if everyone got their rebate.

Terrible idea folks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More Money

The RTD is reporting that the state has an additional $61 million to spend. The new revenue forecast says the state is going to have an additional $216 million but 102 million of that is being earmarked for the rainy day fund and 53 million is for teacher raises and bonuses for national guardsmen who re-enlist.
I am sure the idea of not spending this 61 million is totally out of the question, but maybe the idea could be thrown around. I say we use it to retire debt, but if we are then going to turn around and borrow more, just spend it. If nothing else, this can bite into the proposed 4 billion in new taxes the governor wants.
Yet again the question should be asked, why do we need new taxes when revenue continues to climb?

Kudos to Kaine on at least agreeing to the idea of bonds. After all, we "needed" the last tax increase to preserve our AAA bond rating. Why worry about your bond rating dropping if you aren't going to borrow anyway?

Monday, February 13, 2006

The High Stakes VP Game

Much has been circulated about the possibility of VP Dick Cheney having to resign his position. In light of his health, the Scooter Libby scandal, and now shooting his friend while hunting; Cheney has more than enough reasons to resign. Our friend Old Zach is calling for him to do just that.
Here is the big question: If Cheney resigns, who replaces him? I personally think this is the ideal move for George W. Bush to select his successor for the GOP nomination in 2008. Certainly any and all probable '08 candidates will be angling for the VP nod if one occurs. Some have said Bush isn't worried about his legacy from that prespective, but I tend to disagree. Bush would want another GOP to follow him. If the next in line fails, its their fault. If they succeed, Bush can claim partial responsibility. If a dem follows him, Bush will get blamed if things go bad and will get no credit if things are good.
At any rate, who would George W. Bush pick as VP is Cheney resigns? My guess: John McCain. This would do 2 things: Eliminate the gang of 14 ringleader and therefore make getting his agenda passed and also set him up as being moderate and nice to the guy he beat. Also it would boost his standing on the war by having a POW being his right-hand man.

Of course, Cheney could stay and none of this could happen at all.

Spending Restraint in Education

Mr. Brightside at Morgan's Riflemen has a great post up about school budgets. While it points to specifically the Valley, the entire state is probably affected the same way; our local school budgets are getting bloated. As Republicans, we need to establish fiscal restraint at all levels of government, and starting with the local ones would probably help the most.

Today too many people think money is the answer to education, but its not. Most Valley schools spend much less than systems throughout Virginia and still have equal or better SOL scores than those schools that spent alot more.
Wasteful spending is everywhere in school budgets. For example, schools don't need to be built every few years just b/c people want a nice new building. Thats wasteful. As long as a building meets capacity requirements, keep it in good shape and it will last a long time.
Same goes for books. Last time I checked, math doesn't change. Why then do our school systems buy new books every few years even when there is nothing wrong with their current books? Again, money could be saved if books were replaced every 10 years instead of 3-5.

We need to hold our local elected officials accountable for this wasteful spending problem and try to right the ship. Encourage your school boards, supervisors and city council members to slow the spending growth that exists in school budgets. If everyone does that, it will go a long way toward curbing spending growth at the state and national levels as well.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Early '06 Governors Outlook

There are 22 GOP and 14 Dem governors races in 2006 (the GOP holds a 28-22 edge overall). With the current fund advantage the RNC commands over the DNC, this may not be as big a factor as usual. The bigger effect is where these seats are and also the overall political climate.
Here is a list that Larry Sabato says will be competitive. He has 13 of 22 GOPs and 8 of 14 dems in the competitive column. He predicts a party change for GOP to dem in New York, Massachusetts and probably Ohio. If that is all that changes, there will be a 25-25 tie for the gubenatorial majority. Considering the seats up for election this year, that would probably be a wonderful outcome for the GOP. If they could manage to defend the majority and only lose 2, it would be a huge victory.
Here is my competitive list (NY and MA are guaranteed Dem pickups):

GOP Held Seats:
Colorado: Depends on who gets the nominations
Minnesota: Pawlenty(R) leads 47-44
California: Arnold Tied with Dems
Ohio: Ted Strickland (D) leads Ken Blackwell (R) 44-40
Alabama: Only if Roy Moore wins the GOP primary
Arkansas: Mike Beebe (D) leads 46-40
Maryland: Ehrlich (R) leads 47-42
Nevada: GOP by 5

Dem Held Seats:
Maine: The GOP may have a shot here
Pennsylvania: Lynn Swann (R) leads 45-43
Iowa: GOP edge here
Illinois: Topinka (R) with 48-37 lead

I must reiterate that if the GOP can defend its gubenatorial majority in 2006, we will be very well positioned for the future. We are defending all but 6 seats this year, so we will likely be set in the majority for 4 more years if we come out of '06 retaining the majority. With 2 guaranteed losses and a less than helpful political climate for the GOP, we need to turn the tide and protect this majority. The GOP has some good chances for pickups in places like PA, IA and IL so we need to capitalize. Notice that MN, CA and MD are blue states in the GOP column (and also MA and NY) whereas Iowa is the only red state in the Dem list, so that makes our task even tougher.
Our 5-1 fund advantage might come in handy this year, we will need every cent of it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Federal Surplus

The U.S. Government recorded a $21 billion surplus in January. That is excluding the budget cuts signed by President Bush in the past few days. I would point out January 15th is when the first estimated tax payments are due, so I am sure that is what contributed to the surplus (there was an $8 billion surplus last January). This also follows a $10 billion surplus in December. April typically has a surplus because of all the tax returns, so hopefully when the budget deficit is re-estimated, it will be substantially lower. Right now for FY2006 (Oct '05-Sept '06) we have a $98 billion deficit. Last year we had a $104 billion deficit at this point. Feburary will tell the tale, as 1/3 of last year's deficit came in Feburary ($113 billion in Feb '05).

Much still remains to be cut in the federal budget and hopefully the GOP will one day start doing something about it. This first round of budget cuts is a good start though.

UPDATE: The current deficit estimate (including the new data) is $423 billion for FY2006.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Home Prices on the Rise

Over at Republitarian I have a post up on Virginia home price growth.
The Harrisonburg and Winchester areas are leading the growth in 2006, while NOVA is actually forecasted to have a decline.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Early '06 Senate Outlook

Since Virginia probably won't be a very active year for campaigns, we will probably be paying more attention to national politics in the election coverage.
The Senate is 55 GOPs-45 Dems with Dick Cheney as VP so the dems need a net gain of 6 seats here to retake the majority.
Here is a list of what the real Larry Sabato is saying about the races:
In '06 there are 15 GOP seats and 19 dem seats.

Vunerable GOPs:
Rick Santorum (PA) Trailing Bob Casey (D) 53-38
Lincoln Chafee (RI)
Mike Dewine (OH) Leads 45-40
Conrad Burns (MT) Tied at 45-45 with John Tester (D)
Jim Talent (MO)
Trailing Claire McCaskill (D) 46-43
Bill Frist's open seat (TN)
Jon Kyl (AZ)

Vunerable Dems:
Mark Dayton's open seat (MN) Very close
Bob Menendez (NJ) Trailing Tom Kean (R) 42-35
Ben Nelson (NE)
Maria Cantwell (WA) Leads 51-36
Paul Sarbanes open seat (MD) Michael Steele (R) leads 45-40
Bill Nelson (FL) Leads 54-31
Joe Lieberman (CT) Leads 47-25
Robert Byrd (WV)

An interesting thing about these polls is that while many expect the GOP to be in trouble, these polls numbers show just the opposite. 3 dem seats have GOPs leading or tied, while 3 GOP seats are losing or tied with dems. Also, the threatened GOP seats aren't really a factor of negative feeling toward the national GOP. Everyone has known Santorum is in trouble, DeWine is more so b/c of the scandal in Ohio. Even though the dems will be defending more seats than the Republicans, the dems need to capitalize on GOP weakness right now. If they come out of '06 with a net gain of 0, they will be very badly positioned to retake the majority in the near future. From my perspective though, thats a good thing. Even so, it is still early and anything can happen in 9 months.

I will have a post on Governor's races soon.

GOP Courting Black Voters

Here is a great editorial on how the GOP can take advantage of the black vote and try to gain more of it. They cite new rising stars in the Republican Party like Condi Rice, Ken Blackwell, Michael Steele, and Lynn Swann as well as the fact that democrats have taken the black vote for granted for so long.
I am not convinced that any strategy will ever bring us a massive percentage of the black vote, but I think its important to show them why many blacks are Republicans and why they should entrust us with their vote.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Star City Politics

NLS has up a post on vote shifts in the Roanoke Area and how it is becoming more and more Republican. Even so, Kilgore narrowly won the area (Roanoke City and County, Salem City, Botetourt, Franklin and Craig Counties).

The area has typically been Roanoke City being heavily democratic with the County and Salem being moderately Republican. After redistricting, many districts in the area were therefore drawn into Botetourt and Franklin County to ensure GOP victories. Even so, Roanoke is showing signs of GOP strength in recent years with the election of Ralph Smith as mayor and Octavia Johnson as Sheriff. This area, like most of SWVA is becoming more Republican. Bush only lost the City 52-48 in '04, which is much better than most "cities".

I would add Montgomery County (Blacksburg/Christisansburg) to this "metro area" since Montgomery's 2 Senators, John Edwards and Brandon Bell, havetheir districts in Roanoke as well. Montgomery is made of basically 2 parts: Christiansburg and rural areas being heavily Republican and Blacksburg being heavily democratic. Demographics are changing though, even Jim Shuler's 12th district delegate seat in Blacksburg was drawn to be a safe dem seat, but Bush actually won it 51-49.
Now we just need to transfer the federal election success in this area to state elections. This is largely due to SWVA not voting party as much as most areas. In 2004 Rep. Rick Boucher got 60% in the same district that Bush got 59%. Conversely, in 2005 Octavia Johnson got 51% when Kaine got 62% in Roanoke City. SWVA voters seem to be much more "vote for the person not the party" type people. I don't think there is anything we can do to change that.

New Taxes Killed

The House Finance Committee has killed 2 of the tax increase proposals. The Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Increase and Car Insurance Tax were both killed by a 14-8 party line vote. Of note, 2 of those GOPs were Finance Cmte. Chairman Harry Parrish and Bobby Orrock, voted for the '04 tax increase. This proves that those members who wanted the increase 2 years ago are probably not going to favor another one (there are at least 2 more tax increase GOPs who will not be voting that way again).
It looks like neither side may budge very much in the upcoming budget battle.
Hopefully the House will stand strong and stop more tax increases, and if we are really lucky, the Senate will do so as well.

Monday, February 06, 2006

New Blog

Morgan's Rifleman is a new blog about the issues and politics of the Shenandoah Valley. It looks like a good blog so far.
Glad to another blogger from the valley.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

No New Taxes!

The RTD is reporting that Speaker Howell and House Republicans will be rolling their transportation plan out shortly. The plan includes no new taxes and will focus on reform and fixing problems, not throwing money at them. Keep in mind this is different "reform" than the Mark Warner type, which is to raise taxes and spend more money and never fix the problems.
I think our caucus has a very capable bunch of people and we will hopefully hold the line on taxes and spending. We need new ideas, not taxes.
I have confidence in Speaker Howell and the rest of the GOP that we will hold the line this time around. If we don't, it could mean more House losses and Speaker Howell's head.

UPDATE: Chad Dotson tells us that Kaine will lengthen the session or call a special one to iron out transportation solutions. To the House GOP: Stand Firm! No more "budget reform" crap. We need real, tangible cost savings; not tax increases. By the way, what the hell happened to this huge surplus Warner created?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Smoking Ban Bill

The RTD is reporting that a indoor smoking ban proposed by Brandon Bell has passed committee in the Senate. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote. The 5 Senators voting against it in Committee were Houck, Martin, Newman, Ruff and Rerras. Good for those guys.
I have always believed it should be solely up to the owner of a facility at regulating smoking in indoor establishments, not the government.
Hopefully this bill will ultimately fail.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

New RPV Chairman

First off, I do not think Kate is going to resign.
Second, I am not calling for her to do so b/c I don't think the recent losses can be pinned on her.

Throughtout the blogosphere most of the people calling for a new chair are from NOVA. That is understandable considering the recent losses up there. Even so, Connaughton among other NOVAians have been proposed as possible chairmen to replace Kate.

What concerns me is that the same logic is being used for this as for Connaughton's LG bid. I was a self-admitted Bolling supporter in the primaries, but one of the reasons was I didnt think Connaughton had a plan. The only reason any person ever gave me was that he would help carry NOVA and thats why he should get the nod. That theory didnt work out very well considering Bob McDonnell is from Virginia Beach, and Jerry Kilgore is the first statewide GOP to lose that locality in quite a while. That proves candidates do not necessarily bring their home area with them for other ticket members.
The same can be said now. I think any new chairman should be a person with knowledge and a plan of how to control NOVA, but not automatically from there. Just b/c Davis, Connaughton or whoever is from NOVA doesn't mean they know how to fix the problems either. They also may not know how to run the party for the rest of state (I know that is a tough concept for some of you guys, but there is another 70% of the state outside of NOVA).

I think a new chair should have a vision of how the GOP will turn the tide. They need to be a good fundraiser, good recruiter, and someone who is a leader on all fronts. They need to control more than just the press releases from the RPV and let someone else do the rest. That person should have a knowledge of politics in all areas of the state and be able to develop strategy for winning everywhere. What the RPV needs most is a leader that everyone knows is the top dog. That person might be Bolling, McDonnell, Speaker Howell, Sean Connaughton or Kate Griffin.

If Kate can be this person, she should stay. If, in the future, there are more losses and she does not possess these qualities, then perhaps it will be her time to go.


I've been "tagged" by Old Zach over at SST. Apparently I am supposed to answer a few questions, but I am not answering all of them b/c I dont have 4 for most of the categories.

Four movies I can watch over and over:
1. Patton
2. Dirty Work
3. Men of Valor
4. Fast and the Furious

Four TV Shows I love:
1. M*A*S*H*
2. A-Team
3. Nash Bridges
4. The Practice

Four places I've vacationed (I dont really like to travel):
1. Bahamas
2. Philly
3. Virginia Beach
4. Daytona Beach

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. Steak
2. Macaroni & Cheese
3. Mashed Potatoes
4. Seafood

Four sites I visit daily:
1. Hokiesports
2. Drudge Report
3. Commonwealth Watch
4. Not Larry Sabato

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

RPV Shakeup?

Too Conservative is reporting that a emergency meeting has been called of the RPV Executive Committee in Richmond Saturday to discuss some things. He is speculating that there could be a leadership shakeup in the party at that meeting. I have heard nothing to prove or deny this.
At any rate, what does everyone think? Do we need a new chairman? If so, who?

UPDATE: Poli Amateur says there is no leadership change coming. The meeting is apparently about the strategy of dealing with the moderate Senators. Best of luck to them on that task.
I will be sure to let everyone know whenever I find out what is determined at the meeting.