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.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Fixing Gay Marriage

I have figured out what we need to do to fix the gay marriage issue.

From best I can tell, the only benefit you get by being married is that you can file income taxes jointly if you are married. Most any other supposed "rights" of married couples are allowed to anyone by making a will, power of attorney, or some other legal document. Most of these are required even for legally married spouses.

This leads me to my fix. One tax plan that has gotten more attention in the past few years is the "FairTax". Under this plan, our federal government would abolish all taxes (income, FICA, etc) and replace them all with a national sales tax. Its considered more of a "fair tax" because it only taxes consumption, not income or anything else.

Anyway, if the federal government adopted this plan we would repeal the 16th amendment and abolish the federal income tax. Then we would need Virginia to do the same thing and married couples would have no unusual benefits.

There you go folks, adopt the FairTax for both the federal government and in Virginia and we eliminate the gay marriage discussion. Maybe the commonwealth coalition will adopt this plan.

Problem Solved.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Approval Ratings and the Allen-Webb Race

The new Rasmussen poll is out showing George Allen in the lead by 11 points. Everyone already knows that.
The 2 important pieces of information I took out of the poll (assuming they are correct, which we never can know) is that George Allen's approval rating is at 64%. Also, George W. Bush's is 52% in Virginia.
No one has posted on this, but it seems to be a big issue. Jim Webb's central focus is that George Allen is George W Bush. If this poll is correct, isn't that a bad strategy? If 52% approve of Bush, that message doesn't seem like it is going to help much.
One last note, if Allen's approval rating is 64%, why is he only polling at 50%? Will that number (50%) rise once we get closer to election when people are paying attention?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Keys to the Election - 9th District

In addition to the Roanoke Metro area, Southwest Virginia's 9th congressional district has become another area that seems to hold the key to a statewide election here in Virginia. This is yet another area that can and has been won by both the GOP and democrats in recent elections. While the 9th does not always predict the statewide winner, it is still a very valuable part of the electoral map of Virginia.
Here are the past results for the 9th and (statewide):
'05 Gov: Kilgore - 55.3%, Kaine - 43.1%; (46-51.7)
'05 LG: Bolling - 56.9%, Byrne - 43%; (50.5-49.3)
'05 AG: McDonnell - 52.5%, Deeds - 47.8%; (50-50)
'04 Pres: Bush - 59.5%, Kerry - 39.3%; (53.7-45.4)
'01 Gov: Earley - 46.8%, Warner - 52.3%; (47-52.1)
'01 LG: Katzen - 49.1%, Kaine - 48.8%; (48-50.4)
'00 Pres: Bush - 54.5%, Gore - 42.4%; (52.5-44.4)
'00 Sen: Allen - 56.6%, Robb - 43.4%; (52.2-47.7)
'97 Gov: Gilmore - 57.1%, Beyer - 40.9%; (55.8-42.6)
'97 LG: Hager - 50.7%, Payne - 44.1%; (50.2-45.1)
'97 AG: Earley - 55.6%, Dolan - 44.4; (57.5-42.4)
'96 Pres: Dole - 42.6%, Clinton - 45.6%; (51.1-48.9)
'96 Sen: John Warner - 44.5%, M Warner - 55.5%; (52.6-47.4)

(Keep in mind the district changed after 2001 which made the 9th a tad bit more GOP leaning.)

As you can see, the GOP has moved from a time where they could lose the 9th by a considerable margin and still win; to now a situation where it seems almost imperative that they carry the 9th.
Since 1996, many things have happened. First, the GOP was winning Fairfax County in 1996 and getting huge margins in places like Henrico and Loudoun; where they now are lucky to break 52%. Because of this shift, the rural areas of the state like SWVA have become much more important to the GOP strategy. Even though the 2005 election may not be the best indicator of these suburban trends, few disagree that the GOP will have a tough time holding their Bush '04 margins in most suburban areas going forward.

Also, the 9th is an area that is actually becoming more Republican contrary to the rest of the state. In areas like Tazewell and Russell counties, coal mining unions have lost some of their political clout in the area and both of those counties broke for the GOP in the past 2 elections. The rest of the area is largely Republican anyway, but the margins are holding, which is a good sign for the GOP here.

As it appears, the GOP almost has to win the 9th in order to win a statewide election. That being the case, it gives the dems a great opportunity. If they can run candidates who perform well in areas like Roanoke and the 9th district, it then forces the GOP to have to run strong in the traditional GOP strongholds where our numbers are shrinking. That folks, is a recipe for democratic victory in Virginia.

Make no mistake, SWVA cannot come close to offsetting the vote rich suburban areas forever. The bleeding has to be stemed is those parts of the state in order to prevent Virginia from "turning blue". Even so, SWVA may hold the key to at least postponing that color change for a few more elections if nothing else. As for right now, the 9th district is still a major player in the electoral map of Virginia.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sales Tax Holiday

Many of you have probably seen the NLS rant against the new sales tax holiday and what it covers and what it doesn't cover. It does look quite ridiculous. Many are wondering why it we are giving tax breaks on diapers but not computers.

I have the answer: The Senate did it, and the House went along with it.

SB571 was patroned by Sen. Ryan McDougle and co-sponsored by Del. Chris Saxman. The original bill said this:
...school supplies, or clothing and footwear designed to be worn on or about the human body, provided that the selling price of each article is $100 or less; (ii) computer systems, provided that the selling price of each system is $1,500 or less; or (iii) computers, computer hardware, computer software, or portable or hand-held calculators, provided that the selling price of each item is $500 or less...

When the bill came out of Senate Finance Cmte (which McDougle is not on) and then the full Senate; the bill said this:
...school supplies including, but not limited to, dictionaries, notebooks, pens, pencils, notebook paper, and calculators, and (ii) clothing and footwear designed to be worn on or about the human body. The tax exemption shall apply to each article of school supplies with a selling price of $20 or less, and each article of clothing or footwear with a selling price of $100 or less...

The House then passed the original version with the computer exemption but it was defeated unanimously in the Senate. A conference committee was formed of Senators McDougle, Hanger and Saslaw and Delegates Parrish, Purkey and Hull. The conference committee essentially agreed on the Senate Finance verison of the bill and it then passed both houses unanimously.

It then appears the governor set the actual items it would entail since it says "including but not limited to..." but I am not positive of this.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

22nd Senate Seat Rundown

NLS is reporting that Senator Brandon Bell may draw a primary challenger in 2007 due to his siding with the "moderates" in the Senate on the latest tax battle.
This seems like a possibility as I told you back in May.

According to NLS, two of the possible challengers are former Roanoke mayor Ralph Smith and former candidate for the 22nd Joe Obenshain. Both are also considered potential candidates to run for Lacey Putney's 19th HOD seat when he retires. Even so, after Putney's wife's death last year, many expect him to stay in the House for life now (it was rumored he was going to retire last year to spend more time with his wife). Even if he does retire, Bedford County/City controls about 2/3 of the district, and both Smith and Obenshain are from Botetourt. Also, I have been told that a powerhouse has emerged from Bedford as a replacement for Putney anyway. Don't forget, Smith actually moved from Roanoke city to Botetourt to run for something.

I know of no potential candidates that would run against Bell from Montgomery and can't think of any from Roanoke (when I get back to VT I may be able to get a better idea).

If these are the only 2 challengers, Bell may be in decent shape since the bulk of the district is Roanoke County/Salem City (where Bell is from).
I personally have not seen much distaste for Bell in Montgomery/Radford, so a Botetourt candidate will have an uphill battle here.

My guess is Bell is going to stay a Senator unless someone from Roanoke County runs against him. The regional setup of the district will make it very tough for someone from Botetourt to win.

UPDATE: I have confirmed that Joe Obenshain will not be challening Brandon Bell and I also have learned that Ralph Smith is likely to be the challenger against Bell. He was seen at the Virginians for a Conservative Senate fundraiser in D.C. Smith was a sponsor of the event as well.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Keys to the Election - Roanoke Metro

The Roanoke Metro area is very important in the electoral map of Virginia because of its an area that can result in a big win for the GOP or the dems. For our analysis I will be considering the "Roanoke metro area" to be Roanoke County, Roanoke City and Salem City.
Since at least 1996, every statewide candidate that won the Roanoke metro area went on to win the election.
Here are the results for the metro area and (statewide):
'05 Gov: Kilgore - 47.4%, Kaine - 52.6%; (46-51.7)
'05 LG: Bolling - 53%, Byrne - 47%; (50.5-49.3)
'05 AG: McDonnell - 51.2%, Deeds - 48.8%; (50-50)
'04 Pres: Bush - 58.1%, Kerry - 41.9%; (53.7-45.4)
'01 Gov: Earley - 46.5%, Warner - 53.5%; (47-52.1)
'01 LG: Katzen - 49.3%, Kaine - 50.7%; (48-50.4)
'00 Pres: Bush - 54.8%, Gore - 45.2%; (52.5-44.4)
'00 Sen: Allen - 53.3%, Robb - 46.7%; (52.2-47.7)
'97 Gov: Gilmore - 57.6%, Beyer - 42.4%; (55.8-42.6)
'97 LG: Hager - 50.1%, Payne - 49.9%; (50.2-45.1)
'97 AG: Earley - 59.2%, Dolan - 40.8%; (57.5-42.4)
'96 Pres: Dole - 50.6%, Clinton - 49.4%; (51.1-48.9)
'96 Sen: John Warner - 50.7%, M Warner - 49.3%; (52.6-47.4)

As you can see, the Roanoke results are typically close to statewide results, and is important to any statewide candidate who must carry this area to win.

The other important thing to remember about this area is that in big GOP wins like 2004, Salem city basically offset Roanoke city leaving Roanoke county to start offsetting NOVA losses. Conversely, in 2005 Kilgore had to go into Botetourt and Bedford to offset the Roanoke losses. Those votes will make a big difference when we see how far the NOVA offset stretches.

This area is very important to keep in mind for the election this year b/c Allen should do well here due to his rural appeal; but Webb' consultant Mudcat Saunders, who lives next door in Franklin county and engineered Warner's strength in this area, could even the playing field. If NOVA is as weak as it appears for the GOP, Allen will need to get a big win from this area to win. The more votes he can send from here to NOVA, the better he will be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Keys to the Election - Overview

Since it is late July and we will be getting into full swing of the campaign season soon (hopefully anyway), I thought I would do a rundown of the several key areas of the state that have determined the election statewide in the past 10 years or so.

As most of you know, Virginia is basically a big GOP area with pockets of democrats. Unfortunately for us GOPs, those dem pockets are highly populated. Essesntially the election map breaks down into how far out the break-even line is from the center of the democratic stronghold (for example how far from Richmond city you have to go for the dem margin in Richmond to be elminated by the suburban GOP strongholds).

I will have 6 parts to this: the Roanoke Metro area, the 9th congressional district, Charlottesville area, Richmond Metro area, Hampton Roads, and Northern Virginia. I will break down these 6 areas and show what has happened over the past few years. I will also show what the basic strategy will be for this year.

I will have the Roanoke post up sometime tomorrow.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Election Snatchers

Over at Raising Kaine there is a post giving an in-depth look at how the GOP stole the 2004 election and how the dems need to be on guard in 2006 in order to prevent it from happening again.

Since 2000, there has certainly been plenty of speculation that the GOP stole the election in Florida in the 2000 election. While I don't think it happened, I can at least see someone's arguement that we cheated 500 or so ballots out of several million to win.

The 2004 election is an entirely different ballgame. RK suggests in 17 situations that the GOP stole the election from Kerry. They also cite exit-polling data as well as pre-election polls to support their belief that Bush didn't really win. The post basically suggests that the Bush machine literally stole millions of votes.

Here are my questions:
First off, Bush won by 3.5 million votes in 2004. Is the GOP so good that we can cheat/steal/doctor at least 3.5 million votes? Bush won Ohio alone by 135,000 votes.
My next question is that if we did or can, why do we ever lose elections? Kilgore lost by a measely 100,000 votes; surely we could have at least 125,000 to cheat them out of (or maybe we did and Kilgore really lost by 225,000; I dunno).
Finally, why is it that we GOPers only steal elections in the most democratic areas of the U.S? In the 2000 election debacle, the dems accused us of fixing the votes in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. These are the 2 strongest democratic localities in Florida. There were very few if any GOP officials at any level of their government. Wouldn't it be more likely that if we were going to steal an election, we would do it in an area that is already favorable to GOPs (in Virginia terms, its as if we would try to fix the election in Richmond and Charlottesville, as opposed to Chesterfield and Rockingham Counties)?

It just amazes me how far some dems have went with legitimizing why they lose elections. The dems need to realize that accusing the GOP of stealing elections is not going to get them anywhere. Realizing the true reasons for losing is the first step in regaining your majority (the other option is letting your opponent destroy himself, which seems to be the democratic strategy right now).

On a related note, the GOP needs to quit using the "biased media" as our excuse for losing as well. That doesn't accomplish anything either.

Funny Wikipedia article

For some reason I decided to look at the Wikipedia article of Jim Gilmore since NGB at NLS says Gilmore is making a play for 2009 with his new PAC. Anyway, the first interesting thing about this article is that in explaining his "No Car Tax" plan as governor, they cite the "swelling" Virginia budget 3 times.
Also, at the end they say:
"It is rumored that Gilmore will be running to return to the office of governor in 2009 when incumbent Gov. Tim Kaine (D) steps down. It is also rumored he may instead run for U.S. Senate in 2008 should veteran Republican Sen. John Warner retire."

So who wrote this and submitted it to wikipedia anyway?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Transportation Work is Not Over

Recently many bloggers seem to be working under the assumption that transportation is done for the rest of year. Everyone has apparently forgotten that there is still a special session in September to work out this problem. Our budget was simply passed to prevent holding up the entire state just to fix one problem area. This is not over.

Certainly the House GOP now has much more leverage to prevent a tax increase now, but another tax increase isn't necessarily needed to fix transportation. Dems and some GOPs will say that we need "x" amount of new money for transportation. Since I have never heard anyone say it had to be done any certain way, why is everyone assuming this issue is dead?

Perhaps the Albo/Rust/Frederick plan will work with raising fees and debt to fund solutions. Maybe it will be a regional taxing authority that allows NOVA to levy taxes on themselves. Maybe it will be all debt. It might even be a public-private partnership idea.

At any rate folks, transportation still might get fixed. Why do some people think we have to do it with another sales or gas tax increase? Why don't we give all ideas equal benefit?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


While reading this article today on the budget impasse in New Jersey, I noticed something interesting. According to the article, NJ has a $31 Billion budget. Compare that to the $74 Billion budget we just passed.
According to census data, NJ has 8.7 million residents as of July 1, 2005 whereas Virginia had 7.6 million.
Why does our state spend more than twice as much as a state who is bigger than us?
Mark Warner was given the award of Virginia being the most well run state in America last year. How can that be? NJ is apparently run better than us, or they at least are more efficient.

This info further reinforces the idea that our budget is extremely bloated. Republicans especially need to do some serious work on this. This is unacceptable to the taxpayers of Virginia.

UPDATE: Upon further checking, the $31 billion is for one year. Their 2006-2007 budget is $59 Billion. Thats still much lower than our $74 Billion, and they still have 1 million more people than us.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of July

Congratulations on 230 years America! Hopefully the next 230 will be as successful as these have been.
Have a good 4th everyone, and don't blow yourselves up with the illegal fireworks.
God Bless America!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Government Shutdown...

...but its not in Virginia. New Jersey has shutdown the gov't over a spar between democrats on taxes and how to bridge a budget shortfall. I guess we now see that Republicans and democrats aren't the only ones who can't agree.
NJ dems can't agree with NJ dems. Perhaps their party's divide will help Tom Kean Jr. defeat Bob Menendez in this year's senate race.