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, April 25, 2007

Endorsements in the Primary Races

As you have probably seen by now, Delegates Bill Janis and Jack Reid have both endorsed Joe Blackburn in the race to unseat Sen. Stosch. This comes after he already has the backing of former Congressman Tom Bliley.
I predicted this type of thing would come to fruition back in February in this post when I said Blackburn having Boyd Marcus as his consultant would greatly aid in his ability to garner endorsements and support. Both of these delegates have ties to Marcus and that is probably one big reason Blackburn was able to score these endorsements.

Our friend SWAC Girl is now asking if the same thing could happen in the Hanger race. She proposes that perhaps Delegates Cline, Landes and Saxman (although she does not reference them by name) could do the same in the race in the 24th. My hunch is that they will not, although they could always surprise me. Saxman would be the most likely to do so, since he has ties to VCAP.

In the 22nd it still appears none of the Delegates will take sides in the primary.

I will let everyone know if there are any other developments in this arena.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Race is On in the 28th

As campaign season heats up, the 28th Senate District looks to potentially be a very competitve race. As you all know, the dems have convinced former Del. Albert Pollard from the northern neck to run for this seat.

The GOP nomination seems to be a bit more murky right now. Intially, it appeared John Van Hoy would be the default candidate due to his support and closeness to 1st District Chair Russ Moulton and being on State Central. Since then two more Stafford candidates have emerged: Joe Graziano, a narrowly defeated supervisor candidate; and Jonathon Myers, a long time party activist and GOP committee secretary. Had there been a convention, one these three candidates would have virtually been guaranteed the nomination due to Stafford having control of the process.

Instead, the method of nomination will be firehouse primary. This opens the possibily of a candidate from the northern neck having a shot; especially with 3 Stafford candidates in the race.

In light of this, former Westmoreland County Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Stuart has thrown his hat into the GOP nomination battle. Under most circumstances, he would have virtually no shot at the nomination. Even so, this particular situation lends itself to him potentially securing it.

First off, we are assuming that the three Stafford candidates will all have a decent showing in the Stafford/Fauquier area. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses; but it would appear they should each get a pretty equal portion of the votes in this area. Conversely, Stuart should have a good shot at securing nearly all the votes in the northern neck. Van Hoy has family and business connections in that area, but it still seems likely that Stuart will carry the day by a wide margin here.

From the 2005 GOP Gubentorial primary, total votes cast looked like this:
Stafford County: 2483
Fauquier County: 345
Frederickburg: 119
Prince William: 37
Total for Stafford Area: 2984

King George County: 420
Lancaster: 540
Northumberland: 469
Richmond County: 197
Westmoreland: 281
Total Northern Neck Area: 1907

As you can see, intially the northern neck has a severe disadvantage here. Even so, if the Stafford candidates evenly split that area they each only get around 1000 votes; while Stuart gets the 1900 from the northern neck. Whats more is that because of the dynamics of this race, Stuart may be able to even garner votes in the Stafford area b/c he has the best chance of winning. Let me explain:

First off, the dem opponent is from the northern neck. One of the biggest concerns right now in GOP circles is that since Pollard represented all 5 northern neck counties as a Delegate, that he may be able to pull big numbers here, despite the GOP tilt of the area. Conversely, the Stafford County area is already pretty strong GOP, with no reason to change based on name ID or local dynamics. Based on this knowledge, it would appear the GOP's best bet is to run someone from the northern neck to counter Pollard's advantage there.

Local election results in the '06 Senate race look like this:

Stafford County: Allen +3903
Fauquier: Allen +917
Fredericksburg: Webb +268
Prince William: Allen +36
Total Stafford Area: Allen +4588

King George County: Allen +1158
Lancaster: Allen +787
Northumberland: Allen +947
Richmond County: Allen +638
Westmoreland: Webb +16
Total Northern Neck Area: Allen +3514

Based on this, the GOP has a bigger vote advantage in Stafford. Most of this is due to shear population; but it also plays into what I said eariler. The GOP has a strong area, with no apparent reason to see a weak showing. Conversely, the GOP has less votes in the northern neck; and Pollard could potentially make that problem worse.

Most importantly, not only is Stuart from the northern neck, but is from by far the most democratic locality in the area. Allen got 58-62% of the vote in the other 4 locales but lost Westmoreland County by several votes. Whats more is that Stuart defeated incumbent CA Peggy Garland in 2003 with 64% of the vote in that same county.

Even after all this analysis, Stuart does face two potential problems. First, is his resignation of his CA job in 2005. The article says he did it due be with his family while they experienced health problems. If that is truly the reason, that won't be much of a problem; especially since Del. Pollard retired in 2005 basically for similar reasons.
The second problem for Stuart is that he gave Del. Pollard a donation in 2001 as well as Mark Warner's Inaugural committee in 2002. Even so, apparently that wasn't enough to stop the Westmoreland GOP from giving him their party's nomination for CA in 2003. Also, Jim Webb endorsed George Allen in 2000; but that didn't stop him from defeating him 6 years later.

There is no clear indication yet what will happen in the primary, but Stuart has a major strategic advantage for both the nomination and more importantly the general election. The big question here is whether Stafford Republicans would rather risk the seat to get one of their own as a Senator, or if the GOP Senate majority is more important to them.

Monday, April 23, 2007

New Finance Reports

In our continuing saga of the primary battles, we have the finance reports from Jan 1-Mar 31 (they were released the beginning of last week, but there were other things going on).

As I am sure you have already seen elsewhere, the Cash on Hand looks like this:

12th District
Walter Stosch - $368,893
Joe Blackburn - $72,040

Stosch looks to be in a pretty good position at this point with a 5-1 cash advantage going into the home stretch. Expect a massive media barrage in the Richmond metro area in the next few weeks, as Stosch has enough money to probably go on TV and radio a decent amount while Blackburn will probably have to stick to mail and maybe a little radio. I would think Stosch is still the favorite here, but Blackburn seems to be getting good traction.

22nd District
Brandon Bell - $104,029
Ralph Smith - $34,836

An interesting report from Smith here. 37k of his 49k raised is from either himself or his mayoral campaign account. On the Bell side, he received a 25k contribution from the Jimmy Hazel backed Leadership for Va PAC. Neither side has really done too much yet; but Bell does have almost a 3-1 advantage here to do plenty of mailers with. Smith will need more money to win, but the big question now is how much more cash is Smith willing to drop into his own campaign? Conversely, how much will Hazel give to counter Smith?

24th District
Emmett Hanger - $117,563
Scott Sayre - $32,772

This race creates a major conundrum. Hanger has a 3-1 advantage which should prove helpful, but has spent nothing. Sayre can spend most all his money on mailers and other voter outreach while Hanger will have to spend at least some of his cash on buying signs, stickers and the like. Like Bell, Hanger also received a 25k contribution from Leadership for Va. Here again is a question of how much Mr. Hazel wants to see Sen. Hanger return to Richmond. Also, will Sayre contribute a larger amount in the following few weeks to balance it out? I still think Sayre needs more to win, but I don't know what the magic number would be.

One other major thing to keep in mind here are the ancillary accounts. The Senate Leadership Trust and other related accounts are flush with cash, while the VCAP and VCSS will doubtfully be able to deliver equivalent funding for their candidates. One thing that may aid the challengers is the entrance of primaries against Marty Williams and Fred Quayle that could spread incumbent funds a little thinner, but not a tremedous amount. It still looks like the incumbents are still in a pretty good position.

27th District
Jill Holtzman-Vogel - $169,724
Mark Tate - $156,099

Of the open seat races, the 27th leads all battles where around half a million has already been spent and another 300k+ is still in the bank of Holtzman-Vogel and Tate. Could a million be spent even before the general election gets underway? Jill still seems to be the favorite here, but I am not sure how you could accurately be able to tell.

In the 28th, a few faces have joined the race to replace Sen. Chichester. While John Van Hoy has been running for several weeks now, Joe Graziano and Jonathon Myers have entered the race as well. The reports are pretty useless here, as no one has much money. Van Hoy still seems to be the favorite here.

33rd District
John Andrews - $232,875
Patricia Philips - $13,213

Last but not least is the battle to take on Sen. Mark Herring. Developer John Andrews has a massive financial advantage over his opponent Patricia Philips (250k of his 350k raised came from himself and family); but she seems to have more of the "grassroots". Also, this race is tough to know much about right now until the problems with the LCRC get straightened out, including their calls. Furthermore, Andrews is hindered by being a developer in an increasingly anti-developer area. At this point, I would favor Philips for the nomination and Herring still as a strong favorite for the general election.

I will try and keep everyone up to date with developments in these races.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Just letting everyone know some of the updates on the situation here at VT.

First off, classes will return on Monday; but there is a rather complicated system that will be used for determining grades wherein each student has some individual choices.

Second, there are a number of sporting events that are cancelled, including the Spring Game. A full list can be found at hokiesports.com.

Lastly, continue to keep everyone in your thoughts and prayers as a good number of the community will be hurting for some time.

I will resume political blogging next week sometime.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thanks to Everyone

I want to personally thank everyone in the political and blogging community for the outpouring of support for me and my schoolmates. We have all been through a very tough time these last 36 hours or so, but it has greatly helped to know that everyone in America and around the world is praying for and with us to help heal. You have been great.

For those of you who were not here today, go to HokieSports.com where you can see a picture from the candlelight vigil tonight and the video of the convocation we had today.

Thanks again everyone. You can't imagine how much you have helped.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Events Tomorrow

I would encourage everyone to come show support and come tomorrow to the convocation at Cassell Coliseum at 2 PM. I assume it will be open to the public, but I don't know the details yet. I know Governor Kaine and AG McDonnell will be here as well as most likely all the other major political figures in the state.
I just heard in the last 5 minutes that President Bush will also be in attendance.

Also tomorrow evening on the drillfield there will be a candlelight vigil at 7:30 PM.

Dark Day in Blacksburg

Right now the number is 22 dead and 28 wounded and that includes one shooter dead. They believe he/she acted alone, but that is not confirmed. There is no apparent motive currently other than they believe the shooting at West AJ this morning was a man shooting his girlfriend and Resident Advisor.

From all reports, this is the worst school shooting ever.

School is closed today and tomorrow and there is supposed to be some type of convocation service in Cassell Coliseum tomorrow at 2 PM.

If you have family or something that you want to reunite with, they are telling everyone to go to the Inn at VT off Prices Fork Road. Also, if you call someone and do not get them; do not be automatically alarmed. The cell towers are jammed like crazy, so it may be difficult to get through.

I will keep everyone updates as much as possible, but it hard to say how long it will take to fully grasp what has happened.

UPDATE: The death toll is reported to be 32 now. Governor Kaine has released a statement and is returning from Tokyo. I will get the link to any and all press releases as soon as I can get them. Virginia Tech President Charles Steger's comments can be heard here.

UPDATE2: Sorry for the delay but I just got internet service back. The press conference at 4:30 confirmed 2 dead at West AJ and 31 dead at Norris Hall including the shooter. 15 are still being hospitalized. The shooter was reported to have committed suicide. LG Bolling was on Fox News and AG McDonnell has been on CNN so far. That is still basically all the info that has been released. Tomorrow we should know some of the victims and hopefully the shooter. One key note is that the police have not 100% satisfied themselves that the two shootings are related (although it would seem they are).

UPDATE3: Apparently they are still not sure the Norris shooter and West AJ shooter were the same person. The "person of interest" in the first shooting was being questioned when the second one occurred, so it looks like there were potentially two unrelated shootings today. This storyline gets more murky each time another press conference is done.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Gloves Come Off in the 22nd

Friday I attended the Roanoke County Luncheon, where Sen. Bell and Ralph Smith were the speakers in a town hall format. It was around 45 people there, including many of activists in the Roanoke Valley. Specifically absent were Delegates Griffith and Fralin; who are both staying neutral in the Senate primary.
Of those in attendance I would say about 10 had Bell stickers, 15-20 had Smith and the rest were wearing none.

Each candidate gave their opening statements and then they took questions from the audience.

Smith used his statement to go on the attack; pointing out taxes, business rights, and out of control spending that he would be a better at than the current Senator. This comes in stark contrast to his speech several months ago to the Montgomery GOP where he simply talked about open government. He also pointed to his long term committment to the party by citing all his leadership roles and volunteer work he has done for the party over the years.

Bell's statements were typical of the incumbents where he says he hopes to set the record straight on some misconceptions and misinterpretations of his record. He also pointed to illegal immigration as a major issue that we need try and address here at the state level since the feds wont do anything about it.

In the Q&A section, there were a couple of interesting moments. One came when a lady asked about Smith's proposal for a website that shows government contractors and the business they did for the state. Everyone seemed to agree it was a great idea; including Senator Bell who pointed out that it already exists (the website is datapoint.apa.virginia.gov) and cited work Smith's company had done for the state as evidence of what you can find there.

Another interesting thing was there is a guy who has been passing out a several page handout on "RINO hunting" and basically showcasing something Bell did that was non-conservative. He has been doing this for about a year now, and this month it was a Roanoke Times article on the transportation solution. Anyway, during the Q&A session, a Bell supporter stood up and chided the gentleman who distributed these as hurting the party and actually being offended by them. That gentleman then replied: Brandon Bell offends me!

All in all it was a good event and I think everyone enjoyed the unique setup.

I saw two major things from this event.
The first was that Smith has seemingly changed his strategy. As I told you 2 months ago, he had to go on the attack and talk about taxes and the smoking ban to ever have a shot at Bell. He did just that at this event, but there is a catch. I imagine everyone in that room has already made up their mind about who they will be supporting; so the key now is for him to get his message out to the broader public.
The second is that Bell probably in a better position than many of the other primaried Senators in that his own district GOP people are either behind him or are staying neutral. This is in stark contrast to say the Hanger race where Rockingham Chair Mike Meredith and nearly every committee member in the locales is behind Sayre. Bell actually has some support from the committees, and he doesn't have any of the leadership working against him.

I don't think a tremendous amount has changed in this race yet; but we will know much more after the financial reports are made public in the next day or so. If Smith has a ton of money (either raised or self-financed) he could make this race interesting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Interesting Statistics

Facebook now allows you to see various statistics within a "network" (this is essentially the school you attend).
One of the statistics you can see is the percentages of each political views. Obviously this isn't a perfect example, b/c alot of people do not post their political beliefs; but it is a good guide.

Below is the breakdowns for some of our schools here in Virginia:

Virginia Tech: 15% Conservative, 14% Moderate, 13% Liberal
UVa: 21% Liberal, 13% Moderate, 10% Conservative
JMU: 18% Liberal, 14% Moderate, 14% Conservative
VMI: 38% Conservative, 16% Moderate, 3% Liberal
GMU: 16% Liberal, 14% Moderate, 10% Conservative
VCU: 21% Liberal, 13% Moderate, 8% Conservative

Based on the results I would say this is pretty accurate. I was naturally glad to see the conservatives edge the liberals here in Blacksburg.

If you want to know another school's breakdown, leave it in the comments section and I will get it for you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Smoking Ban

I didn't really want to weigh in on this issue since I know I cannot convince one single person to change their opinion on this; but its been a very slow week in the blog world.

Many of you have seen both arguements for and against an indoor smoking ban. Proponents of a ban say that we need it to prevent people from being subject to second-hand smoke while opponents point to property rights and the rights of business owners to make their own decisions.

I would like people to compare this to another social issue. President Clinton once said something to the effect that in a perfect world abortion would be legal but no one would choose to have them. I think there are a good number of people who would conditionally agree with that statement (even though in reality it would never happen). Why not apply the same concept to the smoking ban?
What if every restaurant banned smoking, but it was still legal? Yet again, this isn't practical and would never happen; but it shows what could happen.

As you can probably guess, I am not a proponent of an indoor smoking ban, b/c I am a very business minded person and believe in the free market. I think a smoking ban could hurt any number of businesses if it were passed; simply b/c it would eliminate the ability of a restaurant owner to create a "niche" market. In fact, restaurant owners who have already banned smoking in their establishments would probably be the ones hurt most from a bill like this; due to their clients being able to frequent any restaurant they choose after a bill like this passed.

I fully realize that one day Virginia will have an indoor smoking ban, simply because people (more specifically voters) all too often put their own wants and benefits ahead of the public good. Even so, that doesn't mean its the right thing to do.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Veto Session Begins

I have heard that some are expecting this session to take more than just today.

Some of the governor's amendments to the transportation plan seem to be a little concerning for some, specifically the reach of the impact fees (from 6 counties to 67).

There may be a few more issues that are taken up again by the Assembly.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More Retirements

With the veto session tomorrow, we should know by Thursday all the General Assembly members who are retiring. Many members choose to announce their retirements on the final day of session on the floor.

We already know about several in both the House and Senate.

We have now confirmed that Del. Leo Wardrup will in fact deliver his retirement address tomorrow.

Another interesting one is Del. Beverly Sherwood. In today's Winchester Star, they say she "is said to be giving strong consideration to another campaign". I would think she would have made up her mind by now, so there is an outside chance Sherwood retires. I haven't heard anything to suggest this, but this is still an interesting comment in the newspaper.

The only other potential retirement I have heard is that of Del. Melanie Rapp. I cannot 100% confirm this, but it sounds very likely. I do not know much more than that as to when she is supposed to announce or anything else.

Are there any more retirements we should know about before tomorrow?

Monday, April 02, 2007

AFP in Staunton

This past Saturday, Americans for Prosperity had a luncheon at Rowe's in Staunton to try and get the grassroots fired up about getting government spending under control. About 70 people showed up to the event to hear from Del. Chris Saxman, AG Bob McDonnell and AFP Director Whitney Duff.

All of them spoke on the out-of-control spending that has been going on in the Congress and General Assembly and how we need to cut pork and earmarks. Strangely enough, the "Bridge to Nowhere" is at the town Saxman, Alaska which has some ancestoral relationship to Del. Chris Saxman.

Another dynamic there was the Senate primary. Being in Staunton, we were right in the heart of the 24th Senate district. Scott Sayre was there and seemed to be well taken in by the crowd. Even so, only about a third of those in attendance were wearing Sayre buttons (although alot of people will probably not publicly support anyone in this race). Even so, based on the group (anti-taxers and spending cutters) I would have expected a bigger percentage to be openly backing Sayre.

There was also some statewide talk going on. Some are pushing Chris Saxman to run for LG in 2009, which it appears he is still considering.
The major talk was surrounding Bob McDonnell and what his future holds. As usual, alot of people were hoping he will run for governor in '09 and some in the crowd are already supporting him. I did hear one person encourage McDonnell to run for U.S. Senate due to his military credentials, but I don't think it is very likely that will happen.

On that front, I think it is interesting that McDonnell is now starting to try to be a crusader of taxes and spending (or at least appear that way). Historically he has largely talked about AG issues like eminent domain and crime when he speaks at events. We now see him broadening his issue base to these talking points about taxes as well as his helping get the transportation plan through the General Assembly. It appears he is implementing his full court press to begin gathering support for the race in '09.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

83rd District Update

As many of you probably saw, NLS broke the story that Del. Leo Wardrup will not seek re-election. I had been hearing this for several weeks, but still nothing has been concrete yet.

I heard yesterday that at the Va Beach GOP breakfast Del. Wardrup was circulating petitions and also was doing a lit drop afterwards. Furthermore, I have heard that Wardrup has told people he doesn't know why anyone thinks he is retiring b/c he has never said that to anyone.

Either way, many are predicting that he will announce his retirement on the House floor on Wednesday. This seems to be the most probable outcome.

Joe Bouchard has already announced he is running for the seat as a dem; and perhaps others will try for that nomination if Wardrup steps down.

On the GOP side, Del. John Welch's legislative aide Robert Rummells appears to be running for the seat. I would imagine others will join the race; but Rummells should be considered the frontrunner right now for the GOP nomination.

One thing to keep in mind is the $109k Wardrup has in the bank. If he chooses to give that to his successor, the GOP will be in a much stronger position to hold the seat. Getting Wardrup's endorsement could also prove vital to getting the GOP nod here, if he gave his entire warchest to whomever he wanted to replace him.