Thursday, October 27, 2005

Political Medley

Last night I had an opportunity to speak with three current members and one potential member of the Virginia General Assembly.

Delegates Rob Bell (R-58), Bill Janis (R-56), and Ed Scott (R-30) were all on hand to cheer on the efforts of Tom McCrystal in his campaign to succeed retiring Delegate Mitch Van Yahres (D-57). McCrystal faces token opposition from former Charlottesville City Council member David Toscano. (What Toscano has in the form of a campaign treasury, McCrystal has in grit and determination -- or, as one Democratic voter told him as he was walking through a hard-scrabble Charlottesville neighborhood, "Man, you've got balls!")

The occasion was a Virginia's Future - McCrystal 2005 fundraiser at Fellini's, a long-shuttered but legendary downtown Charlottesville restaurant that has recently been resurrected by new management. Judging from the size of the crowd, which included former Fifth Congressional District GOP chair Randolph Byrd, 57th District co-chair Patricia Earle, and current Charlottesville GOP unit chair Bob Hodous, among other activists and FOTs ("Friends of Tom"), the event raised several thousand dollars for the McCrystal campaign. The money will likely be used for direct-mail outreach to voters in the last few days of the campaign, which ends November 8, the day Virginia voters go to the polls.

In remarks to the crowd, Bell said that Republicans in the area had been looking for a long time for a good candidate to run in the 57th District. He said that the choice of McCrystal was particularly good, because Tom knows the district and he is a particularly apt fit, in terms of temperament and his views on key issues, to his constituency.

For his part, McCrystal emphasized how he sees his role as a member of the House of Delegates as a representative of the people who will elect him. Taking a shot at his opponent's recent press conference announcing ambitious environmental initiatives, McCrystal said that "David Toscano wants to save the world; I want to take care of the problems at the Ivy landfill."

Referring to his experience on a General Assembly advisory panel on information technology issues, McCrystal said that the three Delegates present last night -- Bell, Janis, and Scott -- had been mentors for him and he knew that, because of their help and his experience in Richmond, he would be able "to hit the ground running" when he arrives at the state Capitol in January.

On that particular issue, McCrystal said that he would work on privacy issues, with special attention to the way new technologies threaten people's privacy through identity theft and other forms of fraud. "Twenty years ago," he said, "an invasion of privacy might have been a neighborhood kid looking in your mailbox to see what your electric bill says. Now it's some kid in Romania who hacks into your bank account and steals your savings." He told the crowd of supporters that he would bring his long experience as a computer consultant to bear in working with other members of the General Assembly to promote policies that will protect personal privacy. "As a member of the minority party in Richmond," he said, "my opponent will not have the connections and cooperation he needs to be effective for his constituents in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. I will."

In conversations with the sitting legislators, I was able to discuss some issues close to my heart. Bill Janis thanked me for my blog posting on the Virginia Piglet Book, and we talked about the culture of spending in Richmond and Washington. I said I was disappointed that the mainstream media, besides Bob Gibson in the Daily Progress, had largely ignored the release of the Piglet Book, but he noted that the story was covered extensively on local Richmond TV news programs, and that his wife dragged him out of bed so he could watch himself on the 11:00 o'clock news.

Prompted by a question from local GOP activist Joe Bishop, Ed Scott predicted that one of the first acts of the General Assembly next year will be to pass legislation to make it illegal for local or state governments to use eminent domain authority to transfer private property from one private owner to another, under the pretext of indirect public benefit rather than the clear constitutional requirement of public use. This would be the General Assembly's proper reaction to the Supreme Court's shameful decision in Kelo v. City of New London. (I also congratulated Delegate Scott for winning his primary election -- although I tempered my praise by saying I was disappointed that he had no general election opponent -- over that wacko theocrat, Mark Jarvis.) I also asked him if he had endorsed the Freedom & Prosperity Agenda, and he said he had talked to John Taylor about it but was otherwise non-committal.

I also spoke briefly to Rob Bell about his campaign commercials, which seem to be on TV every three minutes or so. I complimented him on how he was able to use the ads to highlight his legislative successes. (Most of his ads focus on the bill he shepherded through the General Assembly last session, which aims to combat bullying in government schools.) He said he felt it was important to accentuate the positive and avoid negative campaigning.

To my surprise, Scott said he recognized my name "from the Internet" and both Bell and Janis introduced me to bystanders as a prominent Virginia blogger. I blush at the compliment, and I think I have to work harder to live up to it.

I left the fundraising reception about 20 minutes past the announced end-time, yet there were still about a dozen or more supporters still milling about, talking with the candidate and the legislators. For all I know, especially given the presence of UVA College Republicans, it might still be going strong.

1 comment:

J. Scott Leake said...

As a Republican political refugee from Charlottesville, I am heartened by this report. It's not easy being in the political minority. The people like Tom and Bob who continue to "fight the good fight" deserve a special place in GOP heaven.