June 7, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Sixth Congressional District race

I got a campaign flyer from Congressman Bob Goodlatte in the mail today, stressing his support for pro-life and pro-gun causes, as well as fiscal conservatism. He says he has been "[leading] the fight against Barack Obama's liberal agenda..." It's unusual to get such a mailer for this time of year, because Goodlatte has not faced any opposition from within the Republican Party since he was first elected to Congress in 1992. This year is different: libertarian-leaning Karen Kwiatkowski (karenkforcongress.com) is mounting a serious challenge, forcing Goodlatte to dip into his campaign fund which is usually devoted to resisting challengers on the Democratic side, if any. The primary election will be held next Tuesday, June 12. (There's also a senate primary election that day; see below.)

There was actually a debate among the Sixth Congressional District candidates on Monday night, but the incumbent Rep. Bob Goodlatte failed to show up. That's a shame; I'd like to see him defend his record and give an honest appraisal of the Bush (Junior) administration, when everything started going awry. So, the Republican Karen Kwiatkowski and Democrat Andy Schmookler held a debate of sorts on Monday, and the Daily News Record covered the event. I saw both of those candidates speak at separate events earlier this year (Kwiatkowski on February 12, Schmookler on March 31), and talked to both of them at length. They are each very impressive, in their own ways; see April 1.

Staunton's News Leader recently called attention to the rare political contest within the Republican Party. (Well, it's not that rare; after all, quite a few Republican legislators in Virginia were challenged by right-wing candidates in 2007, including our own State Senator Emmett Hanger.) That article says that Sixth District GOP Chairman Wendell Walker "believes the energy from the primary campaigns and the vote next Tuesday will build momentum for the party going into November." If there is such energy out there, I'm not feeling it yet.

Somehow I missed a rather heated confrontation between the primary candidates that took place five weeks ago, during the busiest time of year for me. As reported by Steve Kijak (Rightside VA), Congressmen Goodlatte appeared as a guest at the "SWAC Breakfast," expecting to meet with his constituents, and was surprised to find Karen Kwiatkowski there, badgering him with pointed questions. Steve wonders whether this was an "ambush" deliberately set up and hosted by the "SWAC-Gang." It sounds like the kind of stunt they would pull. I only found out about that confrontation very recently.

In the Rockbridge Weekly last month, Ms. Kwiatkowski insisted that Goodlatte can be beat, noting that "Republican incumbents -- against common wisdom -- are losing ground to the conservative and constitutionalist wing of the party. Just ask Senator Lugar." (See below.) This race made me think of all those signs on semi-trailers two years ago: "Vote out all incumbents!" Really? All of them???

As for Goodlatte, if the best he can offer budget hawks like me his proposed balanced-budget constitutional amendment, I'm just not impressed. To me, it was little more than a gimmick aimed at winning votes. (See the last line of my Dec. 3 blog post.) If he had taken concrete actions to oppose the Bush administration's reckless policy of raising spending and cutting taxes, I would take his words more seriously. Right now, I'm leaning toward voting for Ms. Kwiatkowski...

GOP Senate primary race

There is another big contest on the June 12 ballot: former U.S. Senator George Allen, running for the seat he once held, is being challenged by Del. Bob Marshall and Jamie Radtke, who are both considered stronger conservatives, highlighting their commitment to small-government consitutionalism. Marshall puts more emphasis on social issues such as abortion. In any event, Allen should win easily. I'm not particularly enthusiastic about any of those candidates, but I'm sure Allen will do just fine if (as I hope) he beats Democrat Tim Kaine in November. Ironically, Allen is now considered the Republican establishment moderate candidate, whereas a decade ago, he represented the populist right wing of the party, and then-Sen. John Warner was the GOP establishment moderate. How times change...

Adios, Dick Lugar

When Karen Kwiatkowski expressed a negative opinion about Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana (see above), who was recently defeated in a primary race, I felt compelled to jump to his defense on Facebook:

Very good points, very well expressed. I happen to admire Senator Lugar, and I think there are times when compromise is in the national interest. I am also close to a number of party veterans who were shoved aside on totally bogus grounds, and I think that those who have devoted their time and efforts to the party over the decades do deserve respect. But it is also obvious that there is a lot of "deadwood" in the party, people who tolerate the status quo for the sake of preserving their status in the party hierarchy, and that has got to change.

It's a shame when men and women who have earned the respect of party members for their decades of service get the boot, but that's the way politics is nowadays: nasty and brutal. Sen. Lugar was not only a good man, he was also a very effective conservative political leader. Just because (or mainly because) he declined to block some of President Obama's judicial nominations (there is already a serious vacancy problem in the Federal judiciary due to the partisan logjam), some people in the GOP right wing decided he was one of those wishy-washy "RINOs," and had to go. In a Washington Post column last October, George Will noted that, of "760 votes over the eight Reagan years, ... Lugar supported the president 88 percent of the time -- more than any other senator." Once again, How times change... frown