Sunday, February 19, 2006

Let the Race Begin

A few political notes from around the state:

On Friday evening, a group of about a dozen libertarian Republican activists met in Fredericksburg with the aim of reinvigorating the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia, which has been inactive in recent months. RLC-Virginia chairman Dave Briggman was there, along with Spotsylvania GOP activist (and former state Senate candidate) Shaun Kenney, who was kind enough to set up the meeting and to draw up an agenda. Well-known Virginia bloggers Jon Henke and Tim Hulsey also participated in the meeting.

The group became an ad hoc steering committee and decided to call a state RLC convention for early to mid-May in Charlottesville, contingent on the availability of a venue and an appropriate keynote speaker.

The Republican Liberty Caucus, which can best be characterized as "the Republican wing of the Republican Party," stands for reducing the size and scope of government in the tradition of Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan. Several current Members of Congress, including Ron Paul of Texas and Jeff Flake of Arizona, personify the RLC's approach to politics and policy. RLC Advisory Board member John Shadegg was a candidate for House Majority Leader last month, running a three-way race with Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt and eventual winner, John Boehner of Ohio.

The RLC-Virginia convention will serve as an opportunity for RLC members from around the state to meet each other in a non-virtual fashion. (A lively email list now serves as the primary method of communication among RLC-Virginia members.) The agenda will include electing officers and consideration of endorsements for this fall's elections. Watch this space for more details as plans are concretized.

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville news, incumbent City Council member Rob Schilling will announce his re-election bid on Tuesday morning, February 21, at Clark Elementary School. The announcement is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on the side of the school facing Tufton Street.

The Clark School setting is particularly apt because four years ago Schilling promised voters that he would lead the city toward a shift from an appointed to an elected School Board. With overwhelming support from Charlottesville voters and despite near-unanimous opposition from the city's political elites, Councilor Schilling delivered on that promise, so that on May 2, for the first time, Charlottesville voters will have a direct voice in the selection of those who serve on the city's School Board.

Schilling has also served as a taxpayer's watchdog on Council, putting enough pressure on his dais-mates to force through property tax rate reductions (a total of 8 cents in four years) after 20 straight years of rate increases. He was a key proponent for Charlottesville's decision to get rid of those sticky, dreaded personal property tax decals for vehicles, resulting in a savings of $40,000 each year -- not to mention the messy frustration of trying to remove the old stickers from the windshield every year.

Matt Smyth, an analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, told the Augusta Free Press last month that "Rob Schilling has been successful in part because he doesn't approach people saying that he is a Republican who advocates every single facet of the Republican Party agenda without fail. He presents himself as a Republican who is also a single member of a five-member city council who can bring to the table certain ideas that maybe aren't represented elsewhere on the council."

The Charlottesville Republican Party will have a mass meeting on March 5 to nominate candidates for City Council. Should he win his party's nomination, Schilling will face likely Democratic nominees Dave Norris and Julian Taliaferro (the only announced candidates so far) in November. Independent candidates have until March 7 to turn in 125 valid signatures of registered voters on a petition of candidacy to qualify for the ballot.

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