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Elaine in Roanoke

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Update from Roanoke’s 11th

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Some Democrats are getting concerned by the money dump into the 11th House District by Bill Howell in support  of Octavia Johnson, the GOP candidate in the special election that will fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Democrat Onzlee Ware.  Whether Howell smells a pick-up or whether he just figures that he can spare the money from his ALEC-fattened money pot is unclear. However, I have seldom seen a worse candidate for office than Octavia Johnson.

Johnson was first elected sheriff when the then-Sheriff George McMillan, a Democrat, was embroiled in several charges of sexual harassment. She won reelection in a three-way race where her opponents split the anti-Octavia vote. In 2013, however, she lost in yet another three-way race. What amazes me is that Johnson is someone who has run campaigns before, but this time she's sleep-walking through the election. (Smile)

There have been only two opportunities for both candidates to meet in public forums. Johnson refused to appear at either one, including an opportunity to speak before the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. Although the chamber didn't officially endorse a candidate, they appeared very impressed with Rasoul's positions, especially regarding small and medium-sized businesses, and the importance of investment in education to prepare students for employment or college.

The Republican Party of Virginia and Howell have spent lots of money on multiple mailings to Roanokers while Johnson herself has been invisible. Rasoul, in contrast, has been hard at work doing the things one would expect of a candidate, knocking on doors, phone banking, using social media, attending neighborhood events. He also has received the endorsement of the Roanoke Valley Association of Realtors.

Bob Goodlatte's attempt to campaign with Johnson hardly helped her cause.

Mark Warner Endorses Sam Rasoul

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Sam Rasoul's campaign for the 11th District House of Delegates special election in January 7 got an important endorsement today. According to a press release from the campaign, Sen. Mark Warner said, "I am proud to endorse Sam Rasoul for the House of Delegates 11th District. I worked with Sam in 2008 and was impressed with his work ethic and business background. His experience in finding consensus with people from various backgrounds will make him a valuable asset in Richmond, representing the citizens of Roanoke. Vote Sam Rasoul on January 7."

Kimble Reynolds, who briefly sought an independent run for the 11th, withdrew his candidacy after speaking with Sam Rasoul about his views on education. "I was uncertain as to whether or not there was a candidate that would be that strong advocate for education," Reynolds said in a news release. "...After learning more about Sam Rasoul and speaking with him about the sincerity of his commitment to education, I believe Roanoke has that strong candidate.

Rasoul has stated that one major issue he will stress in the campaign is bridging the gap between public schools and the skill needs of the business community. "As Delegate, I want to do more to empower our educators to be able to implement programs that provide job-ready skills upon graduation. This way our businesses can hire local students who are ready to start their career after high school or community college," Rasoul said.

Now, the key to keeping this district as the only Democratic House seat in SW Virginia is to get our voters to turn out for a special election in the dead of winter. From the activity I have seen so far by Sam Rasoul, that looks better and better.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto

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How much stranger can the race for the seat of retiring Roanoke Del. Onzlee Ware get? First, the establishment candidate, David Trinkle, loses to Sam Rasoul, who cobbled together a diverse coalition of various groups who have felt left out of city politics. Then today, the news breaks that there will be a third candidate in the race, Kimble Reynolds, Jr., a lawyer who filed petitions to run as an independent and has been certified by the Roanoke City registrar. Reynolds is a lawyer with the Martinsville law firm of Kimble Reynolds and Associates, but he and his wife only recently bought a house in Roanoke. Until a year ago, Reynolds served on the Martinsville City Council.

Evidently, Reynolds' petitions for candidacy were circulated on Sunday and notarized also on Sunday, the day after the firehouse primary that chose Sam Rasoul as the Democratic candidate. Reynolds has always been a Democrat in the past, but this time he is facing a duly chosen Democratic nominee as an independent. He ran against Robert Hurt for House of Delegates in 2003 and lost decisively. He also served as a aide to Tom Perriello when Perriello was in Congress.  

All of this happens as the Democrats in the city have rallied behind Sam Rasoul, including the man who lost to him by 44 votes, David Trinkle. Trinkle hosted a unity rally at one of the restaurants he owns in Roanoke. Onzlee Ware, State Sen. John Edwards, the other candidates for the nomination all joined to support the nominee chosen by the people.

This development is certainly a stumbling block in the election for the only seat in the House of Delegates from Southwest Virginia still held by a Democrat. If Mr. Reynolds indeed is a strong Democrat, this is a srange way to show it. At worst, Reynolds will bleed off votes and elect Octavia Johnson, who is ill prepared to serve in the office. At best, he will just be a diversion for Sam Rasoul in his quest for the office. I can think of conspiracy theories to explain this whole thing, but I can't think of any logical explanation. Can you?  

Reflections on a Firehouse Primary

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Today's story about the firehouse primary held yesterday in Roanoke City should center on the victory of Sam Rasoul, who won a four-way primary race by beating Councilman David Trinkle by 44 votes. That would be the story if Mayor David Bowers hadn't lost his cool when the candidate he endorsed, Trinkle, lost. Instead, the story has become the dismaying comments Bowers made to the Roanoke Times

Bowers insinuated that there were somehow dirty tricks involved in the primary. "The things I've heard that may have happened over the last couple of days are dirty and despicable and cause me to question the legitimacy of this nomination," he said.

All I can figure out is that Bowers somehow thinks Republicans interfered to insure victory for a weaker candidate than Trinkle. Others involved disagreed, including Trinkle himself. Trinkle told the Times that he thought it was "a pretty good Democratic day." Additionally, Onzlee Ware called Bowers' remarks "regrettable," noting that as a long-time office holder he knew better than to make unsubstantiated charges.

The turnout for the primary was about twice what was expected - 2,632. Evidently, that set Bowers off. David Bowers has been notorious in the past for making rather outrageous claims, but I thought he had outgrown that "foot-in-mouth disease." I guess not. The job of Democratic office holders now is to do everything to insure that Del. Ware's seat stays in Democratic hands, not to provide ammunition to Rasoul's Republican opponent.

There is another way to read the large turnout.

Trinkle Likely 11th District Democratic Nominee?

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Now that the governor has set a date for the special election to replace retiring Del. Onzlee Ware in the 11th District, the push begins in earnest by the five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat that encompasses most of Roanoke City. The winner will be chosen in a firehouse primary on Dec. 7 at the Roanoke Civic Center. Since two sitting members of Roanoke City Council, Court Rosen and David Trinkle, are seeking the nomination, local politics could also be up in the air if either one wins.

The last time Roanoke Democrats used a firehouse primary to choose a nominee was the last mayoral election. In that primary David Bowers, the incumbent, beat Sam Rasoul. About 1,200 people participated in that primary, and there certainly aren't likely to be more participants this time. With a five-person field, I really can't handicap this race. Whoever can get three or four hundred or more supporters to show up on a December Saturday will take the race. Even so, I'll try to do some guessing.

The person who seems strongest going in is David Trinkle, who has served on city council and was a school board member before that. Dr. Trinkle is up for re-election to council in May, but he hasn't announced whether he will seek another term or not. Trinkle is the "establishment candidate," touting his experience and readiness to represent the city in Richmond. The other council member, Court Rosen, also has made his council experience a selling point; however, if past experience is what people at the primary use to guide their vote, Trinkle wins.

Then, we get to the kicker that makes calling a winner so difficult - three other candidates who bring their own constituencies to the race.  

Candidates Line Up for Ware’s Roanoke Seat

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Del. Onzlee Ware (D-11th), who was re-elected to his seat this month without opposition, has informed Gov. McDonnell that he is resigning his seat because of  family issues. Ware revealed that his mother, who lives with him, had a stroke last summer and requires his care and attention. First elected in 2002, Ware said that her illness occurred after the deadline for removing his name from the ballot. (Or, as some are surmising, is Ware clearing the way for his name to be put forth as a judge?  After all, he has hardly been a thorn in the side of the GOP in Richmond. Both Bob McDonnell and Bill Howell praised him to the heavens after Ware announced his retirement. A sitting member of the legislature cannot be named a judge.)

Already, a bevy of candidates are lining up to vie for the open seat. Because the seat leans heavily Democratic, several potential candidates  have already signaled their intention to seek the Democratic nomination.

Court Rosen, vice mayor of Roanoke, is even running ads for the nomination touting himself as the candidate to vote for in a special election primary, but the Democratic Party in the city hasn't yet announced the way it will select its candidate. (Maybe Rosen knows something the rest of us don't.) Also announcing their  intention to run are Sam Rasoul, one-time candidate for Congress in the 6th District and loser in the last mayoral firehouse primary, and Patricia White-Boyd, a well-known organizer for Democratic campaigns in the city and a member of the 6th Congressional District Democratic Committee. Two more Democrats, Councilman David Trinkle and Keith Wheaton, founder of JBT Media Holdings, are said to be very interested in running, as is Jeff Artis, a  leader in the city chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  

Clinton, McAuliffe, Herring Rally in Roanoke

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UntitledA crowd of 450-500 people packed into the City Market Building to see and hear Terry McAuliffe, former President Bill Clinton, and Mark Herring, candidate for attorney general, as they continued their tour to get out the vote on November 5. As people waited outside to enter the venue, Mark Herring greeted them. Herring has been traveling with McAuliffe and Clinton as the campaign ticks down to its final days. Speaking later, he encouraged people to vote for moderation, not extremism and to bring others to the polls. Herring's presence on this campaign swing is a vital part of a campaign plan to make sure voters know who he is and how he differs from his extremist Republican opponent.

When he took the podium,  President Clinton told the audience that one party, the Republican, is driven by a sense of opposition and conflict that arouses intense emotion in its followers but just compounds problems by refusing to see any reality but its own, while the other, the Democratic, believes that only by cooperation and compromise will our serious problems be solved.

I personally was struck by the fact that former State Senator Brandon Bell, a Republican,  took the stage to explain why he was endorsing Terry McAuliffe for governor. (Bell once represented the senate district I live in.)  Bell noted that he sat near Ken Coccinelli in the State Senate and knows exactly what motivates Cooch. Cuccinelli, Bell said, only wants what will advance his career or what fits his extremist ideology. He is incapable of putting the interests of Virginia above his own extremist views or his own self-interest.

Cantor Destroys Representative Democracy

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Late at night on September 30, Republicans on the House Rules Committee changed the standing rules of the House so that the only member allowed to call up the Senate's clean government funding bill for a vote was Eric Cantor or whoever he designated to do so. That rule pretty much guaranteed that the government would shut down with no recourse for any other duly elected member to call for a vote.

Before the Republicans on that committee took away representative democracy, under the standing rules of the House (Rule 22, section 4) any member could have called for a vote to amend the House version and thus pass the Senate clean CR that had been sent to the House. Representative democracy was eliminated so that the Tea Party and "Cruzite crazies" could force a government shutdown. So, as of September 30, Cantor, or anyone he anoints, has control over the entire House. Other members are subject to his whims. Meanwhile, Virginia is the #1 state harmed by the government shutdown, a shutdown induced by the insanity gripping House Republicans, aided and abetted by Cantor.  

“Government” by Extortion

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The absurdities of the dangerous temper tantrum Republicans in the House of Representatives are inflicting on the rest of us is not simply beyond stupid. It is grossly unfair to all of us, except Congress itself. For example, the partial government shutdown means that every member of Congress must decide who on his or her staff is "essential" and who is "non-essential." Non-essentials are furloughed without pay. The staff members who are deemed essential will remain at work but won't collect their pay until this madness ends. However, one group on the Hill will still get paid in full and on time - members of Congress. It seems that the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, the one that forbids Congress members from changing their own pay, also protects them from losing their paychecks.

How absurd is it that the Constitution can insulate the Teahadists from the results of their blackmail of the rest of us, yet so few people in the media point out that the same Constitution prohibits Congress from breaching the debt limit and throwing the United States into default, and most likely another recession? That's the next crisis the GOP plans to exploit to extort what they demand. The 14th Amendment declares, "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law,... shall not be questioned."

At the opening of each session of Congress, members in both houses take an oath to support and defend the Constitution "against all enemies, foreign and domestic." They also swear to "well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office." One of those duties is to pass a budget to operate the government. Another is to uphold the 14th Amendment's directive to pay the public debt. In 2014 all Virginia voters should keep in mind that every Republican representing the state in the House of Representatives voted to shut down the government, to shakedown the nation. They have not fulfilled their oath to conduct their office in a responsible manner. They also are part of the cabal that next threatens default and endangers our economic way of life. They should be kicked out of office.  

Obama’s Options: All Lousy

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Boy, some  people having a great time trying to pin what is happening in Syria and in Russian-American relations completely on the Obama administration. Situations that grew over decades, even centuries, simply aren't solvable by one U.S. administration and its foreign policy, certainly not an administration that took the reins of government with two wars raging and a depression threatening.

What caused the rupture between the U.S. and Russia? Most of the recent problems arose during the Bush years. Russia and Georgia fought the 2008 South Ossetia war. Poland was one of the leaders in condemning Russia and supporting  Georgia. The Bush administration and Poland signed an agreement to install an interceptor missile system in Poland, against strenuous Russian objections. Then-Russian President Medvedev reacted by stating that the missile system was a direct provocation to Russia, making Poland a legitimate target in any conflict. Also, remember that during the Clinton administration Poland joined NATO, upsetting Russia's military strategy.

Add to all that the fact that Russia's only remaining naval installation on the Mediterranean is in Syria in a deal worked out by Assad and company and you have the rationale for Russia's adamant support of the Assad regime. Plus, you have the fact that Putin and Obama simply don't like or trust one another, neither did Putin and Bush.

There is an ancient feud being worked out by war in the Middle East. The Sunnis hate the Shia and vice versa. Iran wants to be the regional power, but so do Turkey and Saudi Arabia. We're hated by pretty much everyone there, and Russia and China are trying to take advantage of that fact. In many ways, the Middle East is a conglomeration of tribes, all distrustful of one another, at best. We're caught in the midst for several reasons. We still need Saudi oil. We will never betray in any way our ally, Israel. We are still looked upon as the world's remaining major power by the rest of the world (and by ourselves, too).  

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