November 9, 2011 [LINK / comment]

Republicans gain, State Senate is tied (?)

The results of the elections held in Virginia on Tuesday aren't final yet, but as of tonight, it appears that the Grand Old Party is on the verge of a real legislative majority in Richmond. The Republicans increased the number of seats in the House of Delegates from 58 to 67, and added at least one and probably two seats in the Senate, which would yield an even 20-20 split between the two parties. It's not quite a smashing victory, but it's pretty close. With Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling casting the tie-breaking vote, there is relatively little need for any kind of "power-sharing" arrangement, as some people are talking about. Hopefully they can at least make some token accommodations to the Democrats, for the sake of comity. McDonnell says he will push on socially conservative issues, while the Democrats' leader in the Senate, current Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, warned Republicans not "to go crazy with some far-right agenda." See the Washington Post. His definition of a "far-right agenda" is probably much different than mine, or else I would tend to agree with him on that.

There will certainly be a recount in the 17th Senate District, where at one point the margin of victory was less than 100 votes, too close to call. RPV Chairman Pat Mullins reported (on Facebook) that "Today's re-canvassing of the votes in the Bryce Reeves vs Edd Houck race showed another numerical error in Bryce's favor. Bryce's margin has gone from 86 votes to 224 votes!" That is indeed what it says about the on the State Board of Elections Web site. The other big race was in the 20th Senate District (south side, Martinsville, etc.), where Republican William Stanley unseated incumbent Democrat Roscoe Reynolds.

Here in the Valley, incumbent Republican Emmett Hanger won without any opposition, a tribute to the broad respect and admiration he has earned. His 24th Senate District now includes Madison County and most of Culpeper County, well to the east of the Blue Ridge. In Northern Virginia, Jeff Frederick lost by a substantial margin.

I have a feeling the redistricting mess will come back to haunt the state legislators in the months and years to come...

As I commented on the NBC-29 Facebook wall:

Two cheers! With power comes responsibility, and I just hope that the Republican members follow the example of our governor in putting the state's best interests ahead of party or ideology.

GOP prevails in Augusta County

Most of the Republican candidates won in Augusta County, but the "Independent" faction won three of the four contested Board of Supervisors seats. That may be a troubling sign for the future. There were two very close BOS races: in Beverly Manor District, David Karaffa edged out incumbent Jeremy Shifflett, and in Wayne District, Jeff Moore prevailed over Kurt Michael. Now that the "grassroots" faction has come out openly against the local Republican Party, and making common cause with two leaders who were affiliated with the Democrats until recently, it will be interesting to see whether the local SWAC leaders (Kurt Michael and Lynn Mitchell) remain active with their Republican allies in other parts of the state. Who knows, perhaps word will start to get around about what they've really been up to for the past five years...

Augusta County Board of Supervisors election results
% "Independent"
% Independent
Beverly Manor Jeremy Shifflett 47.5% David Karaffa 50.7%
Middle River Larry Wills 99.2%
North River Larry Roller 23.8% Marshall Pattie 64.3% Steve Morris 11.7%
Pastures Jim Warren 34.8% Tracy Pyles 65.1%
Riverheads Michael Shull 95.6%
South River David Beyeler 98.6%
Wayne Jeff Moore 53.2% Kurt Michael 46.6%

NOTE: Unofficial results from the State Board of Elections. Winners' names in red background. Incumbents' names in bold face.

I was struck by the fact that voters rejected three of the four BOS candidates who were endorsed by the Staunton News Leader. The sole winning endorsee, Marshall Pattie, is an effective public speaker. I saw him at a candidates' forum in Verona several weeks ago. Perhaps the fact that he has a background as a Democrat means that he will be less likely to take marching orders from the leaders of the "Independent" faction.

Steve Kijak joined the victory party at the Augusta County Republican headquarters*, and posted some photos of it at RightsideVA. (I was teaching an evening class and couldn't be there.) My comment:

It is a shame that Jeremy lost after building strong credentials as a leader with a mind of his own. I agree the way the News Leader reported that non-attendance non-issue was unfortunate. I heard a radio ad for Karaffa this morning, all patriotic and all but pretty vague about issues. Now he'll be watched very closely. At least the voters were aware of Kurt Yanchenko Michael's past record of mischief.

* Speaking of the local unit headquarters, I checked the RPV Web site, and it indicates that the Augusta County GOP HQ is in Verona, but the last time they used that location was at least three years ago. It also states that the Staunton GOP HQ is at 123 Greenville Ave., which is downtown. I highly doubt it. Somebody needs to update that Web site!

Requiring photo IDs to vote?

As the polarization of the American body politic continues to rise, suspicions that the other side may be cheating rise as well. The razor-close presidential election of 2000 is a perfect example of this sad phenomenon ("Gore losers!"), but in recent years, some Republicans have indulged in such behavior as well. Some folks on the right actually seem to believe that Barack Obama did not really win the 2008 election, but somehow stuffed the ballot boxes or contrived to get millions of extra votes counted in their favor. Not very likely. It is for this reason that Facebook friend Bill Shireman expressed a strong dislike of the idea of requiring photo identification cards to cast a vote, calling attention to a New York Times editorial last month. It cited a study of various recent state laws by the Brennan Center for Justice. My response to Bill:

I would agree that exaggerating the extent of voter fraud is dangerous, but so is underplaying it, as that NYT editorial does. I just can't see any reason to object to the various legislative measures covered in that Brennan Center study. Building confidence in our voting practices ought to be a matter of consensus, and establishing one's identity for a solemn civic act such as voting is not unreasonable. As for partisanship, it was the Democrats who were crying "fraud" after the 2000 Bush-Gore disputed election. We don't want that to happen again, especially in the current deeply polarized political climate. As long as getting a proper photo ID is free and easy, there is no reason to fear discrimination. Critics of these laws should focus their efforts on ensuring access to ID cards.

Misc. Facebook comments

For the record, here are a few other Facebook comments I've made recently:

In response to Chris Graham's assertion a few days ago that there is a job crisis right but not a debt crisis, as claimed by the Tea Party folks, I commented:

In neither case is it truly a "crisis," which implies an emergency. Both the employment situation and the debt/deficit situation have been getting worse for a long time, and both problems are symptoms of severe underlying structural imbalances in the economy. Neither party seems to have either the brains or the willpower to address the causes of those imbalances, however. Trying to push for either more jobs or lower deficits without making more basic reforms would only have temporary results and would be ultimately futile. I'm not very optimistic.

In response to some derisive jabs about Indiana Senator Richard Lugar being a "RINO," etc. (he will apparently face a challenger next year from within the GOP ranks), I wrote "He is a decent, responsible leader with strong national security credentials who puts the national interest ahead of partisan agendas."

Finally, back in September, after finishing the book cited below, I posted this brief observation of current political trends:

Clinton Rossiter wrote in "Conservatism in America" (1962) that the conservative movement must throw off or control the various "eccentric or irrelevant" factions (such as pseudo-conservatives or the populist "poujadistes") that seek to control it. Regarding the latter pathology, "for this is to escape into a never-never land where the answer to every social problem is very simply: 'Cut taxes.'" Wow, half a century ago! Maybe things don't change as much as we think.