Norm Leahy

Candidates In Crowded GOP Lt. Gov. Field Face Potential Game Changing Debate Tuesday Night

It may be unique in the long history of Virginia politics: Seven candidates standing for a party nomination for a statewide office. But that's the situation this year as seven Republicans seek to win the second spot on the GOP ticket at the party's May 18 convention. There hasn't been anything like this since 1985, when five ran for the number two spot at the GOP convention at Norfolk's Scope. But seven? There are similarities to the two campaigns aside from the large number, though not enough to draw many parallels. The one major common denominator is that both nominations were decided by convention instead of primary, drawing a lot of interest from people who would not have otherwise run.

Precisely because of that, the candidates are by and large unknown to many GOP activists going into the convention at the Richmond Coliseum. Not one has been able to cut through the clutter of an already hot gubernatorial general election campaign between Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, as well as a more easy to sort through GOP campaign for attorney general between Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle County and Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg. Throwing seven candidates into the mix for a part-time position that has two official duties — preside over the Virginia Senate and fill the office in case of vacancy — makes deciding who is best a difficult task.

However, there may be a game changer in the LG race in the form of a late-in-the-process-debate Tuesday night in Richmond at Benedictine College Prep at 6:30. The Central Virginia GOP Lieutenant Governor Candidates Forum is sponsored by several of that area's GOP committees, including the Richmond City and Henrico County units. They selected the location in the middle of the city as a way to bring the conservative message to areas that don't always hear it, and reach young people and Catholic voters as well.

All seven candidates have agreed to attend and a buzz (see Norm Leahy at Bearing Drift) is building up over it primarily because its proximity to the convention could create a breakthrough wave for a candidate that impresses or sink one who doesn't. In addition, the host committee and moderator Scott Lee, a conservative talk show host on Richmond radio station WRVA and the host of the syndicated Score Radio Show (which previewed the debate with its organizers last weekend), have promised questions that won't lend themselves to campaign brochure blather. We'll see and we'll be there to report.

The event is free and, while elected convention delegates may take special interest to attend, is open to the public as well. Doors at the Benedictine College Prep gym open at 6:00. The school is located at 304 North Sheppard Street (23221). Click here for more information. The candidates are: former Senator Jeannemarie Davis, E.W. Jackson, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, Senator Steve Martin, Pete Snyder, Prince WIlliam County Board Chairman Corey Stewart, Stafford County Board Chairman Susan Stimpson.

Northern Virginia Democrats Try To Intimidate Constituents At Town Hall Meeting Last Night!

At a town hall meeting for constituents in Lorton last night, sponsored by Democrat Delegate Mark Sickles (D-43, Fairfax) and Democrat Senator George Barker (D-39, Fairfax), Senator Barker's staff continually blocked a constituent taping the meeting (via our friend Norm Leahy of ScoreRadioNetwork.com via his Twitter account via the legacy of all this, our friend Greg Letiecq at Black Velvet Bruce Li (read his recommendations for the senator's next town hall meeting). Funny how news travels these days, isn't? Ironically, while the question directed to Senator Barker at the time of the taping concerned his support for the newly redistricted and peculiarly shaped Senate districts in the northern part of the state, it was asked politely. Yet, a staffer immediately jumped in the way of the camera. Proud of your vote, Senator, then no problem. A bit embarrassed? Then we can see why you tolerate such rudeness. Then, one liberal activist clearly clamors for the videographer, his mother and any Republicans in the room to be thrown out, that it was a "meeting for Democrats." Funny. Don't elected officials represent all voters? More irony: If not for the Republicans in the room, there probably wouldn't have been a meeting — it was that sparsely attended.

Still more absurdity: Once Delegate Sickles finally made his campaign speech answered the question, he complains about the "partisan" House redistricting plan. Little side note: He voted for it — as did all but seven Democrats who jumped ship in order to save their own skin, party caucus be damned. Really partisan, that. He (and all but 10 Dems) even voted for the first version of the House plan, which Governor Bob McDonnell vetoed (Washington Post), in part, because of its partisan or ill-drawn aspects — none of which stopped Delegate Sickles from slamming the governor anyway. Nothing like a little political double speak to lighten up an evening of political intimidation.

Nothing like a little political double speak to lighten up a night of intimidation. Or is it the other way around?

While Digging For New Roads Apparently VDOT Buried The Money

All these years General Assembly tax and spenders tried to out bid each other for the highest tax increase possible to pay to improve Virginia's transportation system. The most partisan governor in recent years, Tim Kaine, even closed down rest areas to make it seem as if we couldn't even perform basic highway functions, just to prove his tax-increasing point. Well, now. A just completed private audit of VDOT, the results of which were released this afternoon (Washington Post), shows that while Mr. Kaine was robo-calling into House of Delegate districts to bludgeon Republicans who wouldn't support a tax increase — many of whom called for this very audit first before any new taxpayer money was thrown at VDOT — his administration wasn't even spending the money it had! As in about $500 million in money laying around.

This story already is making national headlines as a perfect example of government inefficiency (Business Week). Unfortunately, it proves too many people's suspicions and confirms much of the reputation VDOT has curiously earned over the years. To be sure, there are many angles to this story, and just taking this money and putting it to work isn't as easy as it appears. It also may put the clamps on real government and VDOT reform (we have the cash, now, no longer a need to change things) as Norm Leahy explains at Tertium Quids. Mind you, this wasn't a performance audit, as to whether the state has planned wisely and where roads and systems should go, but a spending audit. But the McDonnell adminstrationgets kudos for at least finding these dead bodies. For his part, the DNC chairman took time out from slamming Congressional Republicans to claim his "reforms" led to the "saved" cash. Un-huh.

There will be more about this story and hopefully it will lead to some good somewhere down the road. At the very least, it may be the most significant evidence yet that discredits the idea that massive (unchecked) spending by the government works, that the government knows what it is doing, and that the answer to every ill is a knee-jerk reaction to siphon off families' hard earned money for centrally planned, government-run schemes. Somehow, we think, they'll still come back for more next year, having either still not learned their lesson, or displaying about $500 million worth of chutzpah.

Can The States Stop Nationalized Health Care? Bob Marshall Says, "Yes"

As mentioned here (and according to the AP), 13 attorneys general are preparing to file suit on behalf of their states to block any eventual nationalization of America's health care system — or at least leave their states free to choose whether to participate. Virginia Attorney General Bill Mims is one of the 13. Law suits have been known to work. It is, after all, the states which have the right and obligation to defend themselves from participation in any federal scheme not enumerated in the constitution as a federal responsibility — also known as the 10th Amendment. Of course, the 10th Amendment, nor anything about the constitution, has stopped the federales from increasing its size and scope over our lives throughout recent decades.

But law suits aside, what else can the states do? Apart from the attorney general, who else is in the game? What about legislatures? If Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Prince William) has anything to do with it, Virginia's General Assembly will have a lot to do with it. Last month, he made a presentation to the Tuesday Morning Group Coalition about HB 10, The Health Care Freedom Act, a bill he has already filed. Other patrons thus far are John O'Bannon (R-73, Henrico), Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Prince William), Harvey Morgan (R-98, Gloucester) and Bob Tata (R-85, Virginia Beach). HB 10 reads, in its entirety, thus:

No law shall restrict a person's natural right and power of contract to secure the blessings of liberty to choose private health care systems or private plans. No law shall interfere with the right of a person or entity to pay for lawful medical services to preserve life or health, nor shall any law impose a penalty, tax, fee, or fine, of any type, to decline or to contract for health care coverage or to participate in any particular health care system or plan, except as required by a court where an individual or entity is a named party in a judicial dispute. Nothing herein shall be construed to expand, limit or otherwise modify any determination of law regarding what constitutes lawful medical services within the Commonwealth.

Marshall, as ever, is sure of its legislative cure as well as its constitutionality, as we are reminded by Norm Leahy at Tertium Quids. In fact, as Leahy points out, Delegate Marshall offers a Q&A on Dr. Bob Hollsworth's Virginia Tomorrow blog, asking and answering questions himself, a FAQ tutorial on state legislative prerogative on federal issues, if you will. At least as far as it concerns the federal takeover of the health care industry and individuals' constitutional rights to be forced into it. 

So, the 10th Amendment lives? We'll see what Virginia's General Assembly says — about its own authority. Virginia could make hay as the bulwark against the largest federal power grab in history. That would really give the lawyers something to fight about.

Belated Congrats To TQ

Speaking of Norm Leahy and the folks at Tertium Quids, congrats on their somewhat recent accolade by the Washington Post, which named its blog one of the best political blogs in Virginia. So much for friendship stopping at the Internet's edge . . . it's a worthy selection and one blog we check on regularly. Shamelessy self-promote all you want, guys!

"Productivity Collapse" . . . Massive Education Spending Fails Report, But They Want Still More!

We owe our friend Norm Leahy at Tertium Quids a big Hat Tip (here) for bringing this to our attention. It hit us like a hammer over the head last week while putting together the most recent News Stand, where a couple of articles coalesced to drive the point home. The first paragraph has our preliminary commentary on the subject — the relation of government education spending and (lack of) student achievement.  As an April 29 article in the Wall Street Journal on a report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress confirms (here), despite trillions of dollars taxed away from private income at the local, state and federal levels since 1971, standardized test scores for 17-year-olds have improved by exactly three points: by one in English and by two in math. If a three point improvement over nearly 40 years and trillions of dollars of your money doesn't infuriate you, we could elaborate. But Andrew Coulson of The Cato Institute does it better than anyone else. As he posted at Cato's blog (here), and quoted by Leahy at TQ, it's simply a productivity collapse — twice the money for the same results:

"How serious of a collapse is it? Total k-12 expenditures in this country were about $630 billion two years ago (see Table 25, Digest of Ed Statistics 2008). The efficiency of our education system is less than half what it was in 1971 (i.e., we spend more than twice as much to get the same results — see Table 181, same source).

So if we'd managed to ensure that education productivity just stagnated, we'd be saving over $300 billion EVERY YEAR. If we'd actually seen productivity improvements in education such as we've seen in other fields, we'd be saving at least that much money and enjoying higher student achievement at the same time.

My guess is that most people would consider saving $3 trillion per decade and more fully realizing children's intellectual potential are both very important."

Prophetically, Leahy adds:

The knee-jerk response will be to throw even more money at the problem, hoping that somehow, an extra dollop of cash will change everything.

Exactly! On the heels of the report, we have this from the April 29 Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Virginia is in talks with Maryland and Washington about seeking part of an additional $5 billion in stimulus money that will be awarded to states most aggressively trying to improve student achievement.

On what basis is there proof that anything they do with that money will work? When is enough, enough? Certainly not another $5 billion, right?  Solution? Reforms so often blocked by the educationists and unions, such as more charter schools, more choice, more competition. But there's no need to reform when trillions for nothing come your way.

This wasted national treasure reminds me of the refrain of naive liberals about all the money "wasted" on defense spending: "Imagine all the good that could be done with that money instead of building bombs." Never mind that the military constantly improves efficiency and protects our country.

But . . . when it comes to governments, at any level, taxing our hard-earned income and spending it on an education system that has progressed by virtually nothing, it makes us think: Imagine all the good that could have been done with that money if left in the hands of parents to find better ways to educate their children.

Where To Cut The State Budget? Here's Two Ideas (Or, The Need For Budget Transparency Now)

When I appeared on Tertium Quids Radio Friday (click here) with fellow guest Nick Howard, host Norm Leahy asked us where we would make cuts to balance the in-deficit Virginia budget. I offered the observation that the deficit is about the exact size of the new spending over the previous budget's baseline, i.e., when revenue is flat, you don't spend more. Imagine that! (Especially when it's people's money). But here are two good specific cuts, not only because they will save money, but because the principle involved is sound and just. First, all state money to Planned Parenthood must be eliminated, immediately. An organization that makes millions killing babies should not be on the government dole (see here). Regardless of what you think about abortion, if it is such a "private matter" then it should not be publicly financed.

It would save us at least $200,000 a year in Virginia. We can't say for sure because that's all we can find for sure. The rest is tucked away in certain nooks and crannies of state bureaucracy under grants and contracts that are not always easy to find, for various reasons.

This brings us to another, but not unrelated topic (also discussed Friday): Budget transparency. It's not too early to bug your delegate and senator about voting for online budget legislation this coming General Assembly session so we easily find where our money goes. Simple line items for entire agencies doesn't cut it anymore. We need to know which vendors are employed, where the grant money goes and why, and what contracts are offered and to whom.

Here's another example, courtesy of Republican Attorney General candidate Dave Foster. Friday, he released a letter he sent to Jean Cunningham,  chairman of the Virginia State Board of Elections and all board members.    First, as a matter of principle and dignity, he urged the board to count the hundreds of absentee ballots cast by Virginians serving overseas in the military. (The courts have ruled that Virginia is at fault here, but did not offer a remedy, unfortunately.) As if their votes not counting isn't bad enough, get a load out of this:

According to Foster:

"In response to a complaint filed by the Department of Justice, the Board is refusing to count even those ballots that were filled out by Election Day. As you read this, your tax dollars are supporting the legal fees of a private law firm that is defending the Board's refusal to count these ballots." (Emphasis added. See full statement here.)

We don't know the figure, but one dollar is too much. Governor Kaine (contact here) should order an immediate halt to this horrible insult to those who serve and defend our country.

There. That's two ideas. Plus budget transparency. Plus holding back the increase over the last budget. Pretty soon, we'll see surpluses again.

Review: Your Admin On The Tertium Quids Christmas Show!

It was an honor to discuss the events of the day, discuss (and try in vain to predict the actions of) the General Asseembly, project (in equal vain) ahead to the 2009 campaign, and offer Internet Land merry Christmas wishes with host Norm Leahy and fellow guest Nick Howard this morning on Tertium Quids Radio. Among the topics covered (hard to believe it was just 30 minutes) were the auto bailout, the state budget and its deficit, the budget transparency/online budget bill and its prospects, the Democrat gubernatorial campaign, possible tax/fee increases, Tim Kaine losing the Mark Warner playbook (line of the day cred to Nick), and our political Christmas gift requests. Mine was for a conservative leader to emerge and focus the country on the virtues of our founding principles with clarity and purpose. But there's much more, and in a very entertaining format, so don't use this summary as an excuse not to listen.

So it turned out pretty well, but it's hard to screw up when in such fine company. The podcast is posted, so click here to listen to the discussion in its entirety (and to access other excellent programming on TQ Radio). We hope you take a listen and find what you hear informative and entertaining.

An Internet Radio Christmas

Last month, I must have been such a ratings hit on the Tertium Quids Radio Show (hear, here) that host Norm Leahy — he of immense policy wisdom, proficient prose and impeccable taste — has invited me back! Well, perhaps I wasn't such a hit, because the young, yet inestimable, Nick Howard, a blogging and conservative movement star in his own right, will share the mic as we'll form a panel of sorts to discuss 2008 and what to expect at the General Assembly in 2009, with perhaps some light and Christmas fare as well (see TQ, here). The show is live, tomorrow, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, and will last for 30 minutes. It will be archived for podcast if you miss the live version. All bluster aside, it should be entertaining and informative. Hope you get the opportunity to listen in.

Quote Of The Day

In a Daily Press article yesterday (click here) about the commonwealth's deteriorating budget and financial situation, Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-93, Newport News), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions, as well as vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee provided a classic one-liner:

"I hope that we actually have an open, honest and candid discussion about the expenditures we make. There are a lot of sacred cows in the budget. In some cases, the farmers have left, and the cows are still doing well."

Here's hoping for a few less cows. Norm Leahy at Tertium Quids has some thoughts as to which and whose cows should get gored (click here). Or at least diet some. After all, isn't that what we humans have to do when our budgets are tight? 

You Can Hear Me Now

For those dying to hear your anonymous admin on the airwaves, here I am: The interview was conducted today at 9:00 a.m. and is archived here, at Tertium Quids Radio ("Charting a Principle Course"). It runs about 30 minutes and host Norm Leahy did a great job keeping me focused (I have a terrible habit of going off topic) and in facilitating a great conversation. From Norm's headline, you get a spot on idea of the thrust of the interview. We covered a number of topics — education choice, life, marriage, property rights, limited government, campaign strategies and tactics, and more — under the general topic of the challenges  conservatives face and what do the national and Virginia Republican parties do in light of admonitions that they have gone too far to the right, despite the fact that social issues were rarely raised in the recently completed campaign, and that the Republican standard bearer was a moderate. 

In an attempt to sound like I knew what I was talking about, I fully prepared myself. The 30 minutes seemed as if it was 30 seconds. There wasn't enough time to cover all the topics I briefed myself on. One thing I omitted was that Senator John McCain lost the plot when he suspended his campaign to go to Washington to work on the financial crisis. He wasn't part of the solution, acted as if he was panicked and couldn't handle multiple issues at one time, and — to compound matters — allowed himself to be the easel for then-Senator Obama to paint him as W II when Senator McCain did nothing but vote for the Bush plan instead of standing up with those conservatives opposed to the bailout. Then-Senator Obama voted for it as well, but Senator McCain blew his chance to prove that he was the anti-Bush, rally skeptical conservatives (who ended up staying home) and flip the dynamics of the campaign. That allowed Senator Obama own the "change" issue.

But there I go again, off topic. Take a listen to TQ Radio and let us know what you think.

You Can Hear Me Tuesday

Your chatty familyfoundation.org admin will be on Tertium Quids Radio Tuesday, November 12, at 9:00 a.m. Host Norm Leahy will ask me questions about the recent elections and the future of the Republican Party and conservatism in Virginia. The interview will be archived for podcast shortly after it concludes and we'll post the corresponding links here as well. I need to ask Norm how many people turned him down before he came to me, a fire-from-the-hip blogger, but I'm looking forward to it. ; - ) A million thanks to Norm and the TQ folks for extending such a great invitation. We hope all of our readers get a chance to listen in live or later.