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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Primary in the 22nd

As most of you probably already knew, Sen. Brandon Bell will be primaried by former Roanoke Mayor Ralph Smith this year.
This district is made up of Botetourt, part of Roanoke and Montgomery Counties, Salem and Radford Cities.
It is a pretty solid GOP district, but a "perfect storm" could allow a democrat to win here.

Like most all the primaries this year, this race is occurring due to Bell's support of Chichester and the tax increase proposals. This is interesting because Bell actually opposed the tax increases in 2004.
One other issue in this race is the bill on an indoor smoking ban, which Bell patroned. From what I have seen, this is actually a bigger issue for most people than his support of the tax increases.

One advantage Bell has here is that his support for social issues is not being challenged, which probably means he will hold that constituency within the party. The marriage amendment passed overwhelmingly in the district, so that probably bodes well for him too.

Smith's advantage is his name ID from being Roanoke mayor; but none of Roanoke City is in the district. In fact, Ralph actually moved to Botetourt to run for Lacey Putney's seat in 2005; but when Putney ran for re-election Smith decided not to get into the race. Now with Putney running again in 2007; Smith has opted to run against Bell.

On the money front, Bell has $65,879 in the bank; while Smith has not reported yet. Smith is independently wealthy; so he will likely do a good bit of self-financing if he needs additional money that he cannot raise. This is also one reason he has gotten alot of support from the VCSS and affliated groups; b/c they won't have to send money his way and hopefully he can give them some. This would tend to favor Smith, as 65k isn't very much for a senate district.

One interesting thing about this race is that Sandy Cupp-Davis, a board member of VCAP, is apparently supporting Bell (she lives in Blacksburg, right outside the district). She has given money to him several times since 2005; including a donation on 12/31/06. That is certainly one disadvantage Smith will face as the only board member near him is not supporting him (and she has a nice house for fundraisers).

It appears alot of the major players are staying out of this race. I have been told that Del. Griffith and Fralin are not taking sides here, and I think Del. Nutter is staying out of it as well. That part probably helps Smith, since it would appear that they don't support Brandon 100%.

As for the activists, I think Bell probably has the early advantage. Certainly this is only so important; as money and ultimately votes matter the most, but the grassroots look to be in Bell's favor right now. This also helps Bell b/c these people are the ones who can usually sway the GOP undecideds on how to vote in the primaries.

Lastly, the fallout from this could be huge. If there is a nasty primary and each side refuses to support the winner of the primary, the GOP could possibly lose the seat. My biggest concern is that with none of the HOD races being competitive, and no major races emerging in the constitutional offices, people could just not vote b/c they don't feel like there is anything to vote for. While this area is solidly GOP, there are still enough dems to keep it interesting if a large block of the GOPs don't show up. There are 2 dems looking at running, so they know there is an opportunity as well.

I think Bell has the advantage right now, but we will have a better idea as the organizations start really shaping up.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Primary Battles Overview

As we get closer to spring the primary battles will start heating up. Just today I was at the Montgomery County GOP luncheon and the race for the 22nd has already started.

In the next few days I will try and cover each declared primary battle and explain what is going on in each one and what the main issues and factors are. I will also cover some of the Senators who do not have formal challengers but that will probably face one.

I want to preface these by saying that I will take as honest a look at them as possible and bring no biases to them as much as I can.

I will say though, that I firmly believe that all the primary challengers will have a very tough time, and I will go into that in each race. I am not saying I do not support them, but alot of people think this is going to be easier than it is.

As many of you know, VCAP, RSVP and Virginians for a Conservative State Senate will be pouring money into their coffers; while the Senate Leadership Trust will probably be helping out the incumbents. For future info, the money situation for them looks like this as of Jan 1:

Senate Leadership Trust: $565,638 Cash on Hand

RSVP: $25,025
VCSS: $4132 (as of 9/30/06, new report not out yet)
VCAP: $22,355
Total: $51,512 Cash on Hand

As you can see, the incumbents have a monumental cash advantage going into the year. As you will see later, the individual candidates races see a similar pattern.

As of right now I have Stosch, Bell and Potts with declared challengers. I also have Hanger, Chichester, Watkins, Stolle and Norment as possible ones. Let me know if there are any others and will cover them as well.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

VT Racist?

The Roanoke Times thinks so...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Webb for VP?

I have noticed that since the SOTU response by Sen Webb that some people are now saying he would make a good VP candidate. I just thought that was funny since Mark Warner was once considered a presidential candidate and is now still considered a VP possibility.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the guy he helped get elected ends up beating him out for the VP spot in '08?

Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hokie Basketball Update

The Hokies basketball team is now 15-5, 5-1 in ACC play and is ranked #24 in the AP poll and #23 in the Coaches'.
Our next game is Sunday at 3:30 at Georgia Tech. We then play NC State at Cassell next Wednesday.

I think if we can get 3 more wins, that would guarantee an 8-8 record in the ACC and I think that should be enough to get us into the NCAA tourney.

Currently ESPN has us projected as a 5th seed in the tournament.

The Hokies need to just keep up the good work and we will make it to the big dance.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

WSJ Hammers Va GOP

From tomorrow's Wall Street Journal editorial page...

Virginia's Republican Hams
January 22, 2007

Virginia was once a solidly conservative Republican state, but in recent years it has tilted Democratic. A big reason for the shift is the GOP's recent love affair with higher taxes. In the 1990s Republican Governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore won sweeping victories running as tax cutters. Then in 2004 Richmond Republicans enacted the largest tax increase in the commonwealth's history -- a $1 billion hike in sales and tobacco taxes. Now they are flirting with another tax hike even though the state has a Blue Ridge Mountain-high $900 million budget surplus.

Why? The hot political issue in northern Virginia is traffic congestion. Though the state budget has doubled in 10 years, road building hasn't kept pace with population. "Not a penny of the 2004 tax increase went to fund the state's highest need, roads," fumes GOP state Senator Ken Cucinelli.

The Republican plan would spend $1 billion more for roads and cost-inefficient transit programs and pay for it through borrowing, raising taxes and fees on cars and trucks, and giving local governments authority to raise their assessments.

To be fair, these are nickel and dime fees compared to the $600 million in new taxes that Democratic Governor Tim Kaine is seeking. Democrats in the legislature, who pretend they want to fix the traffic problem, are cynically obstructing any solution so that Republicans take a fall. But if the GOP raises taxes yet again, Mr. Kaine is let off the hook and Republicans forfeit their brand identity as the anti-tax party.

Only 10 years ago the Virginia GOP was riding high after Jim Gilmore was elected Governor on a wildly popular message: "End the Car Tax." Now the Virginia Republicans want to raise car taxes. Have they learned nothing from the party's implosion in Washington?

Anyone think a scolding from the WSJ will make us wake up?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Great Job

I still haven't fully digested the new GOP transportation proposal, but I am glad to see something. This is a great step in trying to fix our transportation woes, and I am glad that my party finally has come to an agreement on something.

Now the big question is, will Kaine go along with it?

This certainly puts the ball in the GOP's court, as they now have a plan; so Kaine either has to agree to it or make his own proposal and risk the GOP opposing that.

This should be good politically for the GOP as well as good for the state as there will be movement on doing something.

GOP Senate Primaries

Here is a rundown of the cash on hand for all the declared and possible GOP Senate primary races.

Declared challenges:

Walter Stosch: no report yet (had $266,281 at 6/30/06)
Joe Blackburn: $57,366

Brandon Bell: $65,879
Ralph Smith: no report

John Watkins: $156,271
David Johnson: no report

Possible Challenges:

John Chichester: $336,675
Ken Stolle: $233,585
Emmett Hanger: $40,840
Fred Quayle: $57,548
Tommy Norment: $218,821

With these numbers, it could push some people away from challenging Chichester, Stolle and Norment due to their huge warchests. Conversely, Hanger and Quayle could draw one due to their relatively small warchests; which could be matched by a potential candidate quickly.

I will keep you up to date on any new developments in this arena.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

27th Senate Race

The fundrace reports are out, and the 27th is heating up fast. In the battle to unseat Russ Potts (if he runs again) there is a ton of money already in the coffers of the candidates.

Mark Tate has raised $260,746 and still has $247,046 of that on hand.
Jill Holtzman-Vogel has raised $323,115 and still has $194,080 on hand.
Russ Potts has raised $122,224 and has $20,594 on hand.

This is interesting because Holtzman-Vogel has long been assumed to end up commanding a huge fund advantage. She still may, as her father can always write a check to give whatever is necessary. She also has alot of RNC connections and VCAP.
I have heard Tate has some major backers as well, but its hard to say how hard they are willing to push the money.

Jill will be kicking her campaign off this week and Mark began his quest a couple weeks ago. There is still no word on whether Russ will run or not.

There appears to be no other major developments in this race other than one. Phil Griffin was a big supporter of Mark Tate and was probably going to be able to deliver a good amount of votes from at least Winchester city to Tate. With the current situation, it is unclear what role he will play if any in this race. My gut feeling is Phil is probably done with politics for awhile, so this may hurt Tate. To what extent, is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Political Money Machines

Everyone knows money is one of the biggest and most important aspects of campaigns and politics. In order to win elections, you have to have money and know how to wisely use it.

Something that I am somewhat concerned about for my party right now is the money situation.

The GOP has long been the party with business community ties and therefore usually has been able to command a fundraising advantage over the democrats. There is no better example of this than in Virginia, when Mark Warner was the first democrat in forever to outspend a GOP opponent in a governor's race (of course this was due to his personal wealth, but it still illistrates the point).

One thing that concerns me right now for the Va GOP is that we may find ourselves in a fundraising crunch. Right now, the dems are in a much better position with respect to fundraisers than we are. The dems have a former governor (and possible VP candidate), sitting governor, and sitting Senator. They also have 3 sitting congressmen who all have relatively powerful positions due to their senority. Not only that, but Warner has a huge cash pile that he will not need for an '08 run, which he can send to races in '07 and also for his gubentorial race in '09.

Compare this to the GOP, who at this time last year had a sitting Senator and presidential hopeful, LG and AG, and 8 congressmen; 4 of which held powerful positions in the House. That greatly enabled us to raise money by having a great stable of headliners for fundraisers and events. Now with the loss of Sen. Allen and the House majority; we find ourselves at a great disadvantage.

This is particularly concerning to me because the GOP has a more expensive structure for campaigns. We rely heavily on GOTV and media to get our message and our voters to the polls. We do not have the luxury the dems do of having unions do alot of work for us, we have to do it ourselves. If we now find ourselves being outspend by the dems; we could be at a major disadvantage.

Fundraising matters most in races like HOD and state senate where money can be limited. Typically whoever has a better bench to fundraise from will have the upper hand. That bench is quickly turning into a democratic stronghold, and the General Assembly will follow if we cannot do something to stem the tide.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hokies Win Again

It was unbelivable tonight folks. VT's 94-88 win over #1 UNC was amazing.
It was also the first time I have been able to rush the court, so that was fun.

Hopefully the Hokies can continue this great play in the ACC.

UPDATE: For the first time since 1996, the Hokies have cracked the Basketball polls. We are #23 in the AP and #25 in the Coaches.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kilgore Backing Giuliani

According to the RTD's Jeff Schapiro, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani's campaign chairman in Virginia for his presidential campaign will be former AG Jerry Kilgore.
This is an interesting pick because Kilgore was beaten pretty badly two years ago, and even upset some Republicans with refusing to take a hard stance on abortion.

I assume the theory here for Giuliani is that he is an urban/suburban style candidate, so adding rural Kilgore could help him in western Virginia.

I think this is a terrible plan, since Giuliani isn't going to gain the nomination by going after the socially conservative rural voters. He will win by promoting leadership abilities to places like NOVA that will be receptive to his experience and moderate social views. Making Kilgore his mouthpiece to the state will be a grave mistake; as Kilgore will drag Giuliani's support in the areas Rudy already has the best chance of performing well in.
As for the rural areas, Giuliani will have no chance due to his pro-gun control stances and other generally socially moderate/liberal beliefs. Rural Virginia is not in play for Giuliani no matter who his campaign chair is.

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Blog

As the Virginia blogosphere continues to grow, I have another member to add.
Republican Perspective is a new blog more geared toward national politics, but they have a few posts on more local things as well.

Check em out.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Some Things

Just to follow up on my trip, we had a good time; other than the fact the Hokies blew an 18 point lead and lost the bowl game. We were there through New Years, and Atlanta has a Peach drop similiar to the Ball drop in Times Square. The Peach is only about 2 ft. in diameter though, so I don't know how big the actual Ball is in Times Square.
All and all the trip was fun.

In other news, the Hokies beat #5 Duke yesterday in BBall in Cameron Indoor. I am still pretty excited about that, and hopefully VT can continue to do well in Basketball.

I will hopefully start having political stuff this coming week.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Back from Atlanta

I am back, but I still haven't gotten caught up on everything yet.
Hope everyone had a great New Years.