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.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Gone to the Advance

I look forward to seeing everyone this weekend and hopefully it will be a great event.

Also, the Hokies are taking on BC in the ACC Championship Game; so hopefully we can get a big win tomorrow and head to the Orange Bowl with another ACC Title in hand.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another Special Election?

NLS is reporting that Sen. William Wampler will be taking a job at the State Corporation Commission. This would require him to resign his Senate seat. This is largely seen as a move by the dems to shore up their Senate majority, in the event that one of their members (specifically Chuck Colgan) was unable to complete their term. I expect that some on my side of the aisle will say this is Wampler's repayment for helping the dems while they were in the minority, as he was a powerful member of the Senate Leadership Trust.

NLS claims that Del. Joe Johnson will be the dem nominee, while speculating that Del. Terry Kilgore could be the GOP standard bearer. I personally do not see either of these happening.
Johnson has long been rumored to be at the end of his GA service with bad health and old age. From Terry's prespective, why would you give up MAJORITY Caucus Chairman in the House to be in the minority with no senority in the Senate. If Kilgore does run for the Senate, it signals to me that he expects there will be a regime change in the House in a couple years (Kilgore is a big ally of Speaker Howell, which is why he is Caucus Chair in the first place).

While I have no idea who the dems would run, my early guess for the GOP is Kevin Triplett. He has been interested in running for something again since his Congressional race; and he could raise money and has name ID. I have not heard much on this race yet, but he would be my bet right now for the Republicans.

As for the likely outcome, its a special election and anything can happen. Obviously the district has a strong GOP lean, but turnout is everything in a special election. I would give the early edge to the GOP here, b/c we have better local parties and more local electeds in this Senate district than in Phil Puckett's, so that should help the Republican candidate here. If however Johnson does get in the race, it could get very interesting.

On another note, this move carries another big political impact. Sen. Wampler has always been viewed as the GOP's most likely candidate to run for the 9th when Boucher retires. With Wampler's retirement, this picture will now become much more unclear. Any Republican in this Senate district would have the inside track on a race like that, b/c it has all the GOP strongholds in Southwest Virginia needed to win the 9th. Anyone thinking about running for the 9th in the future will have to take a very serious look at running for this seat to give themselves a shot at the Congressional seat down the road.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Go Hokies!

If anyone missed it, the Hokies are playing in the ACC Championship game this Saturday at 1 PM in a rematch against Boston College. It should be a good time watching the game at the Advance.
This is kind of an open thread on VT Football and/or the RPV Advance this weekend.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Road to Majority

Now that we have lost the Senate majority, we need to find a way to get it back. This is obviously a long process that will not happen for at least 4 years (unless an unforseen opening occurs). Even so, the GOP needs to start doing things to position themselves to retake the Senate in 2011; and also hold the House in 2009.

As I said in my last post, the key to achieving our goal is putting forward a positive limited government platform that will resonate with people. We cannot be the party of simply lower taxes and social issues; we have to be the party that efficiently uses our tax dollars and that defends why we need strong moral values.

The best example of this is in the budgetary process. One of the biggest problems our state's (and every government) budget is faced with is social backlash. If the government gives anyone or anything less money than last time around; its a cut in funding. In fact, if something is given less money than they asked for but is still more than last year it is viewed as a cut. The problem is, no one cheers when we cut funding for something; they only complain. Certainly there are people who favor cutting stuff, but they are usually silent when it happens.
We have to be the party that explains why something is being cut (either literally or by media standards). This can only be accomplished one way: prioritized spending.

In our own families, we prioritize what we need to spend money on and we spend it in that order. If we are lucky enough to have some left over, we save it. If not, we have to cut out something. For example, most people would say their house payment is pretty important, so they make sure they have enough money for that. If that means they have to cut back on going to Outback Steakhouse, thats what they do. Every voter does this, and its a pretty simple concept to understand.
Unfortunately, government rarely works this way. We say, "well education needs more money and so does the transportation. I guess we have to borrow money or raise taxes, b/c we can't cut anything." No family runs their personal life this way, so why should government?

What I propose is that our party's leadership has to put forth a platform of priorites. If transportation truly is our biggest "crisis", then we should first budget our money for that. If education is second, then we should fully fund that. If this style ends up resulting in money running out when we get to the Art Foundation's funding, then they don't get any.
This is what feeds into tax policy. If we approached government like this, it would severely limit tax increases b/c you would have to show the people what you were raising taxes for. If we fund everything but the Art Foundation and they still want money, our Delegates and Senators have to essentially vote to raise taxes to fund that program. It makes it much tougher to approve something like that, when it is viewed that way. On the other hand, if we get halfway through education and run out of money, then if people want more money for schools and are willing to pay for it, then they can. In another scenario, if we fully fund everything and we still have money left over; we can return it by cutting taxes. This way, we are being efficient with our tax money and ensuring that the most important things get done.

This also has the effect of making people look for ways to reduce spending. Right now, there is very little incentive to find waste; b/c everything is rolled up together. Under this system, cutting waste may be what allows your project to get funded when it otherwise would not have.

Until our party looks at the budget like a family, it will get tougher and tougher to get the people to trust us to handle their money.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Road to Minority

Since election day, everyone seems to think they have the answers to why the GOP lost the State Senate and continues to bleed seats in the House of Delegates. Our friends at VCAP and their supporters argue its b/c the GOP isn't conservative enough. Their evidence for this arguement is that "RINO" Devolites-Davis lost while conservative Cuccinelli won. They also cite Karen Schultz running "a smart campaign by adopting traditionally conservative positions on gun rights, the right to life, and taxes" in her loss to Jill Holtzman-Vogel as proof that being conservative wins.

Our friends on the other side of the aisle claim the opposite. They claim the GOP has gotten too conservative and their evidence is the loss of Tricia Stall and the weak showings for Jill Vogel and Ralph Smith in their GOP heavy districts.

This isn't that surprising. After all, every group is naturally going to think they aren't the reason for losing. The key I think to this arguement is not whether conservativism wins; but what "conservatism" really is.

It is a proven fact that areas like NOVA are in fact pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-higher taxes (depending on the reason). So how did Ken Cuccinelli win? The Dems must be wrong. But wait, Tricia Stall lost a race in a straight GOP district; and Ralph Smith squeaked by in a solid GOP leaning district that favors guns, lower taxes and babies. The VCAPers must be wrong too huh?

I propose that conservativism does win, but it has to be implemented correctly.
In order to win, conservatism has to be a true limited government platform. We can be socially conservative, but we have to be more than that. We have to oppose spending increases and look for ways to streamline government. We have to assess government like a business and run it as such. Opposing taxes isn't the key, its ensuring that the taxes we are already paying are being properly used. Then if we don't need all of it, we can cut taxes and return that money to the people.

The GOP is currently suffering from a contradictory stance on our economic policy. We favor "limited government", but have grown the budget more than the dems. The problem is that the GOP isn't the party of limited government, its the party of lower taxes. That is a problem b/c without less spending, you can't lower taxes but so much. The public knows that roads need to be built and schools need to be funded, and contantly cutting taxes without cutting spending cannot continue indefinitely.
In a related issue, some aren't even opposed to taxes. Stall and Smith ousted their opponents largely on their support of the '04 tax increase, but neither of those (or any of the other primary challengers) campaigned on trying to roll back that tax increase. How can you expect the general electorate to believe you, when you don't even oppose the one thing you are accusing your primary opponent of doing?

Now that I have bashed the VCAP crowd and the general GOP, the Dems aren't right either. They are simply resting on the failures of the GOP in their victories. They aren't winning so much as we are losing.
They will not really be "moderate" when they get in power either. The best example of this is the concept of non-partisan redistricting. Sen. Deeds has constantly tried to get that to pass, but now incoming Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw has said that issue will not be a big concern for his party anymore. Shocking; the dems wanted non-partisan redistricting as long as they had no say in the current system; but now want the system to stay the same since they can control it. This is exactly how I think they will operate in many other issues once they are in charge. Its not a shot at their people, its largely just a natural progression.
When you are trying to win, you are all on the same team fighting the enemy. Once you achieve power, you have to fight amongst yourselves to figure out which way to run things.

Obviously, many of you will disagree with my theory here; but I am interested in seeing how everyone else sees the results of the elections a few weeks ago.