Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I wanted to take a moment to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Both Zak and I will be taking a long break over the Christmas holiday.

Thanks to all that have been reading Roanoke Red Zone and made it a great success! We will be back after the New Year with more posts. If you have not visited in a while, check our posts below from the last month. Comments are always welcome.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Birthday Resolution

Today’s my birthday. I’m 49. I tell you that not to get a response, but to declare a goal of mine. That goal is to lose 60 pounds before I turn 50 years old.

You know, it’s said that the best way to stay on track towards a goal is to tell people about it. Knowing that others are aware of your goal makes most people much more likely to succeed in what they set out to do. What better way to tell others than to announce my goal on this blog.

My goal is not only weight related, but overall fitness. I’ve completed triathlons and even a marathon just six years ago. There is no question that my service in the Senate help set me back physically. Now that I have more time on my hands, I am ready to reverse course. Hey, this is at least one upside to losing the primary! My commitment today to you and my family is that in exactly one year, I will weigh 158 pounds and be in the best shape of my life.

I know it’s tempting, but keep the old age and fat jokes to yourself. I’ve already heard them all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Good Candidate Recruitment Is Key

Shaun Kenney has a great post up about some comments made by outgoing Senate Finance Chairman John Chichester. Kenney agrees with Chichester’s assessment that there is very little candidate recruitment taking place. Kenney says we are often quick to promote within the party and usually fail to look outside of the party. He actually makes a great case for why I have started Virginia’s Future Leaders. I have seen the same thing going on for years. Most local party leaders fail to think outside of the box when it comes to candidates. And many times, we get candidates that have very little connection to the community and end up losing because of it.

One aspect of VFL is to identify, recruit and assist candidates in addition to those in the “party pool”. We should be talking to local Chamber’s of Commerce and community based organizations about prospective candidates. Not to say someone from within the party cannot be a good candidate. They can. But, we need to be broader in our search. And remember, good, well-rounded candidates mean more election victories!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Is Bill Bolling Impressive, Or What?

The more I am around Lt Governor Bill Bolling, the more impressed I get. I attended the luncheon he hosted on Monday here in Roanoke. Bolling started his comments by telling the audience how good of friends he and Governor Kaine are and what a decent person the Governor is. I don’t think half the people in the crowd knew what to say or think. But, Bolling went on to say that in spite of the great personal relationship they have, they don’t always agree on policy and went into a lengthy rant about the Governor’s new budget. With this, the crowd’s spirits lifted a bit. I too disagree with much of Kaine’s politics, but also feel that the Governor is a good, decent person. I commend Bolling for his candor. First class all the way.

Bolling went on to talk about the State of our Republican Party. Two of his points really made an impression on me. He reminded those in attendance that “the enemy is not in this room”. He said Republicans had to stop fighting each other and that “a house divided will fall”. I couldn’t help but imagine how a few in the crowd who participated in the primary smear of Senator Bell felt. Uncomfortable, I hope.

Bolling also said that we need to define our Republican Party not by what we are against, but what we are for. It’s easy to be against things. It doesn’t require any deep thought. Many in our party will state their opposition to a proposal, but rarely offer their own solutions for the problem. Bolling said that wasn’t good enough any more and I agree. He mentioned education. He said the Republican Party cannot be defined as the party opposed to public education. It’s non-sense, but that’s the impression many in the public have. We’ve got to change that. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how the Democrats have successfully labeled us as the anti-environment party. Again, that’s a losing proposition. Most people want clean air and clean water. Do we really want to be the party against those things? That doesn’t sound like a winning election theme to me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Return To A Real Convention?

Not Larry Sabato has a detailed post up on the presidential primaries. He predicts John McCain will win Virginia and become the Republican nominee, with Hillary as the Democrat. I’ve been vocal about my support of Mike Huckabee, but it’s not in that vain that I disagree with NLS on his analysis. McCain had his chance 8 years ago and it didn’t happen. Mike Huckabee might not be the eventual nominee, but I don’t see any support for McCain in Virginia. Nor do I see a dynamic where he builds support by February 12th.

I think there is a chance that the Republicans won’t have a clear front runner after primary season. We could have 5 candidates--Huckabee, Romney, McCain, Thompson and Giuliani--all with roughly 20% of the Delegates and no clear winner. Even Ron Paul could be at 10%. With no front runner, don’t expect any of these guys to fold up their tents and go home. Most candidates drop out when the money dries up, but many of these candidates can tap personal resources and stay in the race. Huckabee may not have the financial resources, but he’s got hard core Christian Conservative support that can sustain him.

We could go into the September Convention not knowing who the nominee will be. And think about this scenario--in Virginia, and likely the case in other states, the delegates are only bound to vote for the State’s primary winner in the first ballot. If it goes to second ballot the delegates can vote for who ever they want. Just imagine Mitt Romney showing up at a delegate’s house for dinner and a little talk about that second ballot. This makes for great political theater and will no doubt be fun to watch, but it won’t be good for our party.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Huckabee On The Ballot!

I got word today that Mike Huckabee will turn in over 19,000 signatures to the State Board of Elections, nearly twice the number needed to appear on the Virginia Presidential Primary ballot.

It has been a pleasure and an honor to work on this effort over the last two weeks. I want to thank and acknowledge all of the volunteers and campaign staff, including Vincent Harris, David John and TJ Maloney, whose dedication made this happen. I especially want to acknowledge my wife Debbie for all of her hard work. She did a fantastic job. Debbie jumped into this campaign headfirst, organizing the collection of hundreds of signatures. She and I actually drove those petitions up to Staunton late last night. It was nice to get back involved in the hard work of grassroots politics for such a great candidate.

With Huckabee’s place on the ballot secured, we now have to begin the next phase of the campaign. Help us spread the word of Mike’s positive vision for our party and our country. Talk to your family, friends and neighbors. Take some time to visit the campaign website using the link on the right. Encourage others to do so as well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Setting the Tax Record Straight

Right Wing Liberal has a new post up in response to a Roanoke Red Zone post several days ago about my tax record.

There was much talk about the 2004 tax increase in my primary (and ironically not much before that). The blogs and newspapers were full of stories. Unfortunately, most got it wrong. I NEVER supported the tax increase. It wasn't until my primary opponent made a variety of baseless allegations about my tax record that I got lumped into the "tax raising" crowd. Remember in 2004, the Most Wanted Poster for those House and Senate members raising taxes? Guess what? I wasn't on it.

Here is my record on the 2004 tax increase:

SB 635 - $3.8 billion tax increased proposed in the Senate. I voted No. Bill passed the Senate 27 to 12 on 2/20/04.

SB 30 – 2004-2006 Budget proposed in the Senate. Contained the tax increase. I voted No. Bill passed the Senate 30 to 9 on 2/26/04.

HB 5018 – Compromise tax package passed by both the House and Senate. I opposed, but was in Detroit on a business trip planned months ahead and could not vote. It was a Special Session and after having made many trips to Richmond and doing nothing, I didn't know the vote would be that day as opposed to being postponed again. After having opposed the tax increase throughout the 2004 Session, why on earth would I have supported it this time? The compromise was going to pass the Senate regardless of how I voted. I had no reason to vote for it and every reason to vote against it, which is what I would have done.

As for 2006, every Republican voted for the Senate budget that included the transportation taxes. This includes Cuccinelli, Obenshain etc. If they were truly opposed to the tax increase, they should have voted against the budget, as I did in 2004.

I have always been consistent in my belief that we did not need general fund revenue increases (2004), but we did need a transportation revenue increase (2006). Was the 2006 transportation plan perfect. Not by a long shot! It's not the plan I would have written had I been in the leadership. But, I had to vote Yes or No. I voted for a solution, as difficult and imperfect as it was.

Democrats Unite in Roanoke City....Maybe

Democrats in Roanoke City voted for unification over division at their reorganization meeting last night. This is good news for elected Democrats like Councilman Bev Fitzpatrick, Mayor Nelson Harris and Delegate Onzlee Ware. It's probably not the best news for Roanoke City Republicans.

I believe it's clear from this outcome that Fitzpatrick and Harris will run for re-election as Democrats. The question now is how do Bowers, McFarland etc run. With their allies removed from power, do they risk challenging incumbents Fitzpatrick and Harris for the Democrat nomination? Or, do they take a turn running as "Independent Democrats"?

I have heard that Councilman Brian Wishneff will not run for re-election. And all indications are that Rich Cranwell, Dickie's son, will run. A united Democrat ticket of Harris, Fitzpatrick, Sherman Lea and Rich Cranwell is the worst case scenario for City Republicans.

Can Republicans win next year? Sure they can. But it's going to be hard. I think Harris will be very difficult, if not impossible to beat in a 2 way race. Throw in Bowers as an Independent, and the GOP may have a shot.

Republicans would be wise to run one candidate for Council and maximize the Republican vote. This strategy was not successful in 2006, but it can be. When recruiting candidates, we need to look for a respected member of the business community that is well known in the Valley. School Board Chair and business leader Dan Carson is the first name that comes to mind. It also wouldn't hurt to look for a young professional with charisma and fresh ideas; an individual that could appeal to that increasingly vocal and active voting block. One thing is for certain. We've got to steer clear of nominating an ideologue, which will only ensure defeat.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reynolds and Puckett: The Keys to a New Republican Majority?

Good Washington Post article today on the geographical tensions within the fragile Senate Democrat majority. The article indicates that the Democrats may have trouble holding onto the votes of some rural Senators including Reynolds, Puckett, Edwards and Deeds. They could be key swing votes on issues such as right to work and gun control.

Reynolds and Puckett could also be key to a new Republican majority. Both represent Republican districts. Both will inevitable come into frequent conflict with their more urban counterparts in Northern Virginia and Tidewater. I have a solution that would reinstall Republicans as the majority party and give Western Virginia some much needed clout. Reynolds and Puckett could declare themselves as Independents and agree to caucus with Republicans. In exchange, they would be given Chairmanships.

Puckett would be an ideal choice to Chair Transportation, and more of an asset to our region than soon to be Chair Yvonne Miller of Norfolk. Reynolds may be interested in Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. Ag would be a good fit for his rural district and would make a whole lot more sense than Senator Ticer who is from the City of Alexandria.

Some may have heartburn about “making a deal with the devil”. But, there is certainly historical precedent for this type of action. Does anyone remember that Virgil Goode was once a Democrat? We welcomed him with open arms. We should extend the same invitation to Reynolds and Puckett. It would be good for our Republican Party and it would be good for Western Virginia.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Right Wing Liberal Goes Over the Top on Taxes

I knew I would take some cheap shots when I entered the blogging world. After twenty years in politics, I guess I am used to it. Shoot, I ran in a primary this year against an opponent who just made stuff up when he was attacking me. Frustrating no doubt, but I’ve got a thick skin. The Right Wing Liberal recently called me one the of “the worst tax hiking cipher(s) to ever darken the door of the Virginia Senate Republican caucus…”. Give me a break. I might have a thick skin, but I also need to set the record straight on this one.

In my first term, I never voted for a statewide tax increase. I was part of the effort to defeat Senator Elliot Schewel’s tax increase on the rich. And I wholeheartedly supported then Governor George Allen’s elimination of the B-Poll tax on our businesses. One of the reasons I lost in 1995 was because I was deemed “too conservative”. Go figure.

Yes, I voted to increase transportation revenue in 2006--a tax increase that all but one member of the Senate, Democrat Chuck Colgan, ultimately voted for (see link below). Of course, this increase was never signed into law. I voted against the 2004 tax increase on the grounds that it was unnecessary and I was proven right. I voted for the successful cut of the food tax and elimination the death tax. I patroned a bill to increase the 529 College Savings Plan tax deduction. If the Right Wing Liberal has kids, he just might benefit from my efforts one day.

Maybe my record on taxes wasn’t perfect enough for some. But was I one of the worst tax hikers in VA Senate Republican history? I think not.

2006 Budget Vote, which included transportation tax increase:

We Need Tom Davis to Run!

As has been widely noted, Fairfax Congressman Tom Davis was noticeably absent from the Advance earlier this month. He was obviously very involved in his wife’s State Senate race and I am sure he’s taking the loss pretty hard. Unfortunately, he needed to be there.

Keith Fimian is challenging Davis for the Republican nomination and had a hospitality suite at the Advance.

Davis’ absence left many speculating that he doesn’t intend to run for re-election. At the Saturday luncheon, RNC Chair Mike Duncan even referred to the race as the seat held by Tom Davis.

It quickly became clear why so many were speculating about Davis’ intentions. Many people expressed concern that if Davis does not run, Republicans can kiss the seat goodbye. I tend to agree. The demographics in the 11th District are rapidly changing and our incumbent Congressman is in the best position to hold the seat. It’s unfortunate that should he decide to run, he first has to contend with a primary opponent before setting his sites on Leslie Byrne, the sure to be well funded Democrat challenger.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Virginia's Future Leaders

As many of you know, I have recently formed a new organization called Virginia's Future Leaders. I've created this "political incubator" to recruit and support candidates for local and state office. I would encourage you to check out the new website we've got up and running. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Wampler and the 40th District Senate Seat

GOP Hokie ( has a good post up about the 40th Senate seat currently held by William Wampler. I served with William for 8 years in the Senate and consider him a friend. He has been a tremendous asset to Southwest Virginia. An asset we will sorely miss. Even though we lost the majority to the Democrats, Wampler would be the ranking Republican on Finance, still a powerful position. His potential retirement is yet another blow to this part of the State.

I think Donnie Ratliff’s close ties to Wampler will give him the inside track on the Republican nomination. As GOP Hokie says, his company has given to both parties. But I seriously doubt most Republican voters will hold him accountable for the contributions of the company he works for.

Speaking of our regional political woes, a recent Roanoke Times article said that SW Democrats Edwards, Puckett and Reynolds have been given leadership posts within their caucus. As nice as this sounds, these posts are largely ceremonial, as the real power lies with the Committee Chairs, none of which are from SW. Interestingly, Senator Locke, the new General Laws Chair, actually has less seniority than all three of these men. It’s really quite unfortunate for our region that none of these Senators received a Chairmanship.

A Sore Winner in Roanoke County

The Roanoke Times ran a story today on the cover of the Virginia section about incoming Roanoke County Supervisor Charlotte Moore. Apparently Moore is upset that her recent election opponent, Republican Rodney McNeil, was re-appointed to the Planning Commission for the Cave Spring District--McNeil is currently serving on the Commission. Moore felt the current Board "snubbed" her and "acted wrongly" by re-appointing McNeil. She wanted to make the appointment herself. I understand why she feels that way, but was this really the type of media coverage Moore is looking for? She should have taken the high road, commending McNeil for his willingness to serve and expressing a sincere desire to work with him. Instead, Moore looked like a sore winner.

Huckabee Is a Fiscal Conservative

I wanted to share this article written by Dick Morris regarding Mike Huckabee's fiscal record as Arkansas Governor. I realize that numbers and figures can be used to justify just about any argument, especially when those figures involve tax rates and spending. However, in light of attacks by the Club for Growth and others, I thought an alternative viewpoint was warranted.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A 3 Way Race for Governor?

There was much talk among those attending the Advance about the race for Governor in 2009. All three potential contenders were in attendance. But each had a different demeanor and approach.

Bob McDonnell is clearly running and was as close as you can get to openly campaigning without actually doing so. Supporters were spotted wearing “Run Bob Run – Governor 2009” buttons.

George Allen and Bill Bolling were a different story. Allen attended the Saturday luncheon and spoke as Fred Thompson’s surrogate. However, George did not have any type of personal or campaign presence. At the very least I expected a hospitality suite. Allen was not acting like a candidate committed to running for Governor.

As focused as McDonnell seemed to be on 2009, Bolling could not have been more different. In fact, his theme was “Keep the Focus on 2008”. While many were openly speculating about his plans in the coming years, he seemed to find the talk of 2009 distracting. There is no question in my mind that Bill is running in 2009. I just don't believe he knows which office he will seek.

Who Let Those Dawgs Out?

Living in Virginia Tech country, I couldn’t be happier about how the Hokies’ season has worked out. They are to be commended for making a BCS bowl. My wife is a Tech grad, so I hear about the Hokies a lot!

As much as we love VT, I have to comment today on the success of my alma mater. I am a graduate of Mississippi State and I do love SEC sports of most every type. I am extremely proud that my dawgs are going to the Liberty Bowl. This is their first bowl in seven years! There is no doubt that going 7-5 in the toughest conference in America is a major accomplishment.

It is also with a great sense of pride that I congratulate our coach, Sylvester Croom. Coming in four years ago as the first African American coach in the SEC, he had a difficult task ahead of him. The former Alabama star lineman under Bear Bryant has built an up and coming program the right way. Kids that couldn’t take his discipline left the program. When recruiting, he told parents that he would make sure they got an education—not into the NFL. He told them they would go to class or be off his team.

One of my favorite stories on Coach Croom was from his first year. One of his star players arrived late for a class and sat down in front, not thinking much about it. At the end of the class the professor asked for questions and way in the back came a question from none other than Coach Croom. He had been in the class the whole time. The star player slid down in his seat because he knew he was going to be running a few wind sprints that day!

Thanks Coach Croom. You have restored my faith in college sports.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Saxman Out in 2008 – Looking to 2012?

I had a great time at the Republican Advance this weekend. The Presidential campaigns were in full swing. I had the honor of joining Speaker Howell in escorting Mrs. Janet Huckabee, wife of the Presidential candidate, as she meet with Virginia Republicans.

Gilmore is running for the US Senate and had a large sign and staff presence. As I predicted last week, Chris Saxman will not challenge Gilmore but is instead creating an exploratory committee to run for Lt Governor in 2009.

What I find interesting is that according to the morning paper, Saxman has formed a Federal PAC. That seems a bit strange if you want to run for a State office since there are more fundraising restrictions. Could it be that Saxman is hedging his bets in case Bill Bolling runs for re-election in 2009? Could he be focused on a Federal run in 2012? He could challenge freshman Senator Jim Webb. Or, with redistricting in 2011, he could have an opportunity to run for a US Congressional seat.

Saxman’s short lived Senate bid certainly elevated his profile. It worked this time but I don’t know if party activists will be as forgiving if his Lt Governor run turns out to be a Federal race.

To the detriment of our party, that leaves Gilmore as the only official candidate for the Senate. I heard concern from many over the weekend that Gilmore just can’t win this seat. We as Republicans need a choice and can only hope another potential candidate comes forward.

Tomorrow, I plan to examine the 2009 Governor's race.