Kuesters, Maloney, and FDK

If you’re wondering what “FDK” is, read something else. If not, then you know that bringing full-day kindergarten to Loudoun county would cut the list of Virginia jurisdictions that don’t already have it from four down to three, and that doing so has become one of the short list of critical issues in this campaign cycle. Of course, it matters most in the race for school board, where the choice in Broad Run is between the incumbent, Republican-endorsed Kevin Kuesters, and his returning challenger, Democratic-endorsed Joy Maloney.

Here’s the short version: Maloney is solidly in support of FDK, Kuesters thinks it isn’t worth the money.

The longer version is where policy gives way to politics, as both of them know how popular the idea of FDK is in Loudoun county. Thus, for Joy Maloney, the fact that she is with the majority on this issue is something she wants known as widely as it can be. For Kevin Kuesters, the fact that he’s, at the best, on the fence about it, just isn’t going to win him many votes. So, Joy has the relatively easy task of telling voters she will try to get them what they want, while Kevin is stuck trying to look like he’s in favor of something that he actually doesn’t support. And that’s where you find out if a politician will talk straight or not. Alas, Kevin’s not.

Now, for what it’s worth, I get along with Kevin pretty well on a personal basis. He’s a pleasant guy who, with me, proves that two people with opposing political views can be mutually cordial. However, we’ve never run against each other in an election. Joy (who is also a very nice person) has fairly put it out there, in her campaign materials, that Kevin isn’t backing FDK. Here’s one of her flyers:

Comparative Mailer1

 

And, albeit a bit hard to read (for the lack of a lot of pixels), here’s Kevin’s online denial (from a Facebook ad):

kevinad

Let’s blow that up a bit:

kevinadx

It says, “Joy Maloney’s mailer is dishonest.”

Is it? She does cite a reference. Let’s look at Kevin’s full statement from Ashburn Rising:

I will not support expanding full-day kindergarten just so the third graders reader better,” he said, also requesting more information [from school staff] about benefits in the senior year of high school.

That could be read as leaving him with an open mind, but still in need of convincing. That bit about “third graders” is an example of what we lawyers call “weasel words,” which are qualifiers that let you avoid the hard implications of whatever else it is that you’ve said. But, Kevin’s apologists might jump on the fact that Joy’s mailer kept the definite part (“I will not support expanding full-day kindergarten…”) while leaving out the weasel words. Those words, his apologists might say, make a difference.

Except they don’t and here is why: Kevin made his comment about third-graders in December of last year. In January of this year, in Leesburg Today, he said this:

There is clearly a strong belief that FDK is a valuable and desirable program offering for schools, which is a real benefit for property values. It is also true that FDK assists with childcare expenses and logistics for parents who do not have to arrange for half-day schooling and half-day childcare. On the other hand, research consistently shows that by third grade there is no statistical difference between the academic performances of students who attended FDK versus those who attended half-day kindergarten (except at-risk kids). As a school board member, I have to decide if the actual benefits (perceived value, short-term performance and childcare) outweigh the actual costs ($50 million one-time construction costs, $12 $14 million recurring annual costs).

In other words, Kevin had already made up his mind that his weasel words really didn’t matter. Moreover, he says he has to balance the needs of the students against the impact on the taxpayers. As a former member of the board of supervisors, I can say with certainty that such balancing is not the job of a member of the school board. The school board’s job is to develop a budget that will meet the needs of the students. While the Code of Virginia imposes a duty of frugality on school boards, it does not authorize school boards to knowingly exclude funding a program just to ease the burden imposed on taxpayers. (I will add that a bit of Googling will show you that research on the benefits of FDK are far from consistent in proving what Kevin asserts above: there’s a lot of evidence that FDK, if followed by appropriate first-grade and later curricula, has lasting benefits.)

Bottom line: Joy’s mailer is not dishonest. She’s holding Kevin Kuesters to his own position, which he now knows is not the one that the voters want him to take. Dirty politics is what you get when people make stuff up, lie about their opponents, or attack each other’s character. Joy’s mailer is as clean as it gets. Kevin may wish he’d said something else, but it’s the political process doing its job (and a political candidate doing hers) when all a campaign is doing is holding an elected official accountable for his public record.

Joy Maloney supports FDK. Kevin Kuesters doesn’t. That’s as clean as it gets.

 

King Vs York, A Tale Of Two Wagers

Scott York announces campaign
In the battle of wagers, Scott York comes out looking prescient regarding the Republican electorate.

No one knows what’s going to happen in the Loudoun County elections on Tuesday, as is always the case, because there is almost never any polling conducted. In the race for chair of the Board of Supervisors, predictions are particularly hard because four people are running, two of whom are Independents and likely to cut into whatever party loyalty might exist in 2015.

Both Republican Charlie King and Independent Scott York took the leap of faith every would-be candidate must make prior to tossing their hats in the ring, but they’ve each taken a further risk in their respective approaches during the campaign.

York’s wager was an obvious one, in retrospect, but still a gamble at the time: With overwhelming name recognition throughout Loudoun County, and a reputation for being on the preservationist side of the question of development in the West, he decided to make a strong play for Republican votes by immediately endorsing a number of Republican candidates.

York had most recently won office after joining the Republican ticket in 2011, riding the wave of a Republican sweep of county offices. As an Independent in 2015, he sought a different wave: of dissatisfaction among the Republican rank-and-file, and willingness to reject party authority.

In case you hadn’t seen the news lately, this turns out to be a most excellent year in terms of Republican willingness to reject party authority. If there were ever a year for banking on voters to defy the local Republican Party and their “pledge,” 2015 is that year. Kudos must go to Scott York for reading the tea leaves correctly, and discerning from the temperament of the electorate following the Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC) convention that there might have been dissension in the ranks afterwards. One of York’s endorsements was of Republican Sheriff Mike Chapman, who prevailed in a primary contest at the convention.

steve-simpson_charlie-king
Steve Simpson (L) and Charlie King had what appeared to be a joint PR effort to reduce the authority of Mike Chapman’s Sheriff’s Office.

Which brings us to Charlie King’s wager. King faced a tough situation already, before York even joined the race, because a vocal part of King’s support came from a faction of the LCRC which worked to defeat Sheriff Chapman before the convention, and afterward lauded in social media and elsewhere the fact that Steve Simpson was jumping from the Republican fold to run as an Independent against Chapman. The, uh, “pledge” be damned.

If anyone had a stake in the generic concept of Republican loyalty and keeping the pledge, it was Charlie King. But right off the bat, an influential part of the LCRC said, in effect, “we don’t need no stinking pledge, voting for Independent candidates is ok,” their celebratory fist bumps became roundhouses to King’s face, and into that Perot-sized opening stepped Scott York.

How would King respond? Well, interestingly. In a campaign that has been absent prominent discussion of major issues, and in which the King campaign has garnered very few headlines in the local news for taking a stance on policy matters, King apparently decided last month to take a virtual jab at Sheriff Chapman by calling for creation of a county police department. That actually may be the only issue-oriented headline King has gotten this year. Scott York weighed in to correct King’s assertion that the idea had not been sufficiently explored, and to educate King about the fact that the bigger decision would be changing Loudoun County’s form of government (an odd oversight on King’s part).

Steve Simpson, for his part, quickly joined in with what appeared a lot like a tag-team effort against Chapman.

In terms of public perception, the notion that Charlie King was part of the “Steve Simpson wing of the LCRC” was not repudiated, to say the least: King seems to be wagering he can pull maximum votes from the anti-Chapman Republicans, tick off the other half of the local Republican electorate, and still pull out a win in the general election.

King is a smart man and he does seem to understand politics, but one can be forgiven for questioning his math.

Sterling Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio and Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman both campaigned actively against Mike Chapman back in April, before the convention, but since then have said nary a word about the race for sheriff and certainly nothing publicly to disparage Chapman. Both men might have believed they had some political capital to burn in opposing a popular Republican sheriff.

We can’t know how Republican or Independent voters have been influenced by these political maneuvers, if at all. We can’t even say if it will matter in the end: The big winner from the battle between King and York for Republican votes could be the Democratic candidate, Phyllis Randall. If she holds onto the majority of Democratic votes, and makes some inroads with Independents, and York and King split their voters somewhat evenly, Randall could emerge with a plurality.

Two factors point to King ending up on the losing side of his wager (which, for the record, I don’t want to see happen – Charlie King would make a great chair of the Loudoun Board).

First, York absolutely crushed the competition in fundraising. York lapped the field by raising more than his three opponents’ combined totals so far. But more importantly, York seems to have taken a huge share of potential Republican dollars. Charlie King raised less than $50,000, on top of $28,000 in loans to himself. Scott York raised quadruple that amount even as a very late entrant to the campaign. In fact, nine of the district supervisor candidates raised more money than King.

republican-charlie-king
The message of King’s campaign in the final week is that he is the “Republican” candidate.

Second, King’s promotional campaign, which seems to have begun last week (at least at this Sterling household), appears to acknowledge that he’s Republican-challenged. The message of his mail pieces is that Charlie King is THE Republican in the race, in case you didn’t know.

A robo-call from Ken Cuccinelli this morning had the same message, and “Republican Charlie King” seems, along the lines of “Pistol Pete Maravich” or “Broadway Danny Rose,” like the drumbeat phrase we are supposed to internalize in the final week of the campaign.

Which is all fine and good, and probably necessary, especially when one of the King campaign’s most resonant public statements of the past two months was for a position opposed by our Republican sheriff, and supported by the Independent and Democratic candidates for sheriff. In a year when voters seem more than willing to thumb their noses at the party anyway, King has to hope he is the one to inspire loyalty among Loudoun County Republicans.

Jebbie, We Hardly Knew Ye

Jeb Bush Boring Supporters
Jeb! (which in Spanish means “Wake Up!”) was chosen as Jeb Bush’s campaign theme because “Me!” sounded too vague and “Blah!” too edgy.

Jeb Bush is toast, the annointing is canceled, because after his disastrous debate performance the other night, all those rich people who wasted millions of dollars on his presidential campaign will decide to do something more useful with their remaining cash, like burning it in the backyard to make s’mores.

Anyone not from Florida may wonder what all the fuss is about, and most of those in Florida are probably nodding sagely and saying “Yeah, we could have told you he did not have that much going on upstairs.” The only people troubled or vexed by Bush’s humiliating implosion will be the few, the shallow, the bandwagon-jumping political establishment and consulting class folks who saw patronage and paychecks in them thar legendary hills of Tallahassee.

Politics, which can be defined as a jobs program for blabbermouths, provides speaking opportunities for people whose minds are not sharp enough to normally merit anyone paying attention to what they say.

Many of the blowhards in politics are in it for one thing and that is to draw a paycheck. Of the rest, most seek ego fulfillment, which may seem to us a thin motivation, but when a very rich person is trying to upgrade from a great yacht to a better yacht, and something gets in the way of that purchase, you’ll see how big a factor mere ego can be. Political careerists will say ANYTHING to keep hold of the power position that delivers the cash or recognition they so desperately need. A few people thereby occupy positions of policy influence for years and years, solely because they can work the system.

In addition to all the economic and social destruction delivered by our oligarchic government, they irritate us to no end. We are a nation of spectators, which probably is not so great from the standpoint of personal life value, but no one can deny we the people can set a high bar for entertainment. So when a politician is boring, it pains us. Because Person A is in politics – either as an office seeker or a political consultant or an “expert” commentator – Persons B through ZZZ are often forced to listen. This is annoying for the listeners, particularly when the yammerers are spouting formulaic nonsense, as they so often do.

But that is how Jeb Bush became a “frontrunner” in the Republican presidential primary before any polls were taken and Bush’s only recent accomplishment had been the trail of dozing millennials left behind his every public appearance.

(Full disclosure: Jeb Bush’s mother says he’s not boring.)

Thus, when an opportunity arises to shut the doofuses up, to mute the speakers, to draw the curtains, well, gosh darn it, people really love that sort of thing.

Now, we’ve seen all of the “Bush dynasty” that we will ever likely see. What the hacks have lost is America’s gain, and worth savoring, because chances to derail another ensconcing are few and far between. The ruling class generally does not tolerate opposition, and that is why every Cantor-ization is so treasured, and why a Donald Trump who thumbs his nose at both the Party and the Media Commentariat brings such joy to the commoners.

Bruce Lee once said the focus of life should not be on increasing what we can take on, but decreasing distractions – “hacking away” at non-essentials. That’s advice we should especially heed today, with so many voices coming at us from so many directions. As we close the chapter on Jeb! our lives will actually get better.

Questions Before The Elections: Loudoun Democrats At Odds In Sterling

Eugene Delgaudio Sterling Boulevard
Eugene Delgaudio’s campaign won the Sterling “sign wars” and may be about to win an historic fifth term in office.

Every four years, Loudoun County Democrats try to defeat Sterling District Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, a Republican, and every four years for the last sixteen they’ve managed to fail despite massive pre-election bluster and fulminations. This year, a rumor has been circulating in Sterling that the Democrats are not entirely united behind Delgaudio’s opponent, Koran Saines – which raises the question, yet again: Are the Democrats really intent on removing Delgaudio?

That question took on new salience in Sterling the night before last, in a mass email from one of our most well-known local Democrats, a self-identified “longtime Sterling District community and political advocate,” who stated:

Ethics, accountability, community loyalty, and leadership qualities are what I look for in our political leaders. With that said, I strongly support and endorse the eleven (11) candidates below…

The endorsements included many local Democrat office seekers – Randall, Umstattd, Ohneiser, Boysko, Liz Miller, Bell, Murphy, Wexton, Favola – and two running for the non-political offices, Flannery and Sheridan.

Missing was any endorsement in the Sterling District, certainly a significant omission on this person’s list, in the same sense that a missing roof would be a significant omission on a new home.

There was, however, this “note” in small print beneath the letter, “I also encourage you to vote against the current Sterling District Supervisor, Eugene Delgaudio.”

The loyal Democrat felt compelled to state opposition to Delgaudio, without quite being able to identify Delgaudio’s opponent by name. (Which would leave open the option of Sterling Democrats casting a write-in vote).

I don’t know what the problem is with Koran Saines: Having met him, I find him to be an intelligent fellow, not as ideological as you’d expect from a Democrat, and running a decent, albeit quiet, campaign. There has been the traditional dust-up between campaigns over “sign wars,” with Delgaudio claiming on social media that Saines’ campaign is stealing Delgaudio’s campaign signs – although riding around Sterling, one gets the impression Delgaudio has won the sign wars once again.

But whatever is going on on the Democrat side, if there are hard feelings – if Koran Saines or his campaign have appeared untrustworthy or lacking in “ethics, accountability, community loyalty, and leadership qualities” – the Democrats are going to have a tough time defeating a savvy and tireless campaigner like Delgaudio. The Republican seems to thrive on retail politics and will have made an extraordinary amount of personal, direct contact with voters by the time the polls open on Tuesday.

I speculated years ago that if Loudoun County Democrats did not have Eugene Delgaudio, they would have to invent him, because they get so much traction from his statements …. his statements outside the boardroom, that is. His day job as a nationally-known conservative activist is what gets all the attention from his partisan opponents. That Delgaudio makes great fodder for media grandstanding and fundraising letters. His voting record, however, is what you would expect from a Republican: not particularly radical, nor surprising. As an office holder, Delgaudio is a known quantity who everyone admits does care about Sterling and works hard for the district.

And maybe some Democrats are deciding, as many Sterling voters have done for 16 years, that the Delgaudio they know is preferable to a candidate they are not sure about.

Matt Letourneau Admits He Was Fooled

Dulles district supervisor Matt Letourneau got raked over the coals in a letter to Leesburg Today, for not warning his constituents that Dominion Virginia Power planned to run power-lines directly along Route 50. Big ones, too. Like this one:

transformer3

Letourneau didn’t warn anyone because (he says) he didn’t know. His challenger, Anjan Chimaladinne, is pointing out that, after having multiple meetings with Dominion, months ahead of time, Letourneau should have known. Anjan is right, and it proves conclusively that he should be the next district supervisor.

Albeit with different boundaries, I was the previous Dulles supervisor. I regularly met with representatives of businesses and other groups that wanted to build projects in our district. As a Democrat, I knew that a lot of those projects were sponsored by entities that don’t typically support us lefties. Still, we met, and, as best I could, I made sure I was able to pass reliable, complete information to my constituents. Letourneau, as a Republican, particularly as a Republican associated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and most particularly as a Republican associated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in his capacity as a public relations expert on energy, should have known what Dominion was doing.

In a stridently defensive letter of his own, Letourneau goes on at great length, recounting the extensive history of his many contacts with Dominion, including the public-input phase that he apparently wants credit for having helped orchestrate. A funny thing to brag about, however, when, in his own words, Letourneau says, “the public outreach process was for show.” After all those meetings, how could Letourneau not have known that?

…the public outreach process was for show.

In his letter, Letourneau starts out by attacking the writer of the letter complaining about his ineffectiveness, saying it was written by, “a long-time Democratic activist.” Why that’s a defense, he doesn’t say. What’s important, however, is that Letourneau, a long-time Republican activist, is supposed to be the friend of business (as all Republicans say they are). If anyone should have been able to build a relationship of trust with, and get straight information from, Dominion Virginia Power, wouldn’t a Republican say he should have been able to do it? Instead, Letourneau still wants you to vote for him, even though he didn’t know what Dominion was up to, because he got fooled, and he says we shouldn’t blame him for that.

I don’t recall anyone, ever saying my mistakes as a supervisor (yes, I made some) were excusable in those cases where somebody played me. Most certainly, I would not have suggested that being played was an excuse when the issue involved something that was a bedrock Democratic strong-point. Here, an elected Republican whose professional resumé emphasizes his fondness for the energy business community, just got played by one of the biggest energy businesses in Virginia.

If a pro-business Republican, particularly this pro-business Republican, can’t protect you from the public-relations trickery of a major Virginia business, what good is he to you?

If I still lived in the Dulles district, I would vote for change. I would vote for Anjan.

CREW Spin-off Goes After Comstock

The American Democracy Legal Fund, created about a year ago as a more overtly political spin-off of David Brock’s Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has sent a letter of complaint to Democratic Representative David Skaggs (co-chair of the Office of Congressional Ethics), alleging misconduct by Barbara Comstock. The full text of their complaint (which actually names quite a few members of Congress), essentially says she has signed a contract requiring her to tailor her legislative agenda to the tastes of the National Republican Congressional Committee, in order to get their help in her next campaign. ADLF says this is a misuse of government resources, in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 1301.

ADLF has gone after Comstock before, shortly after coming into being last year. Comstock’s office isn’t commenting, but NRCC’s spokesman says, “This ridiculous complaint is by a partisan complaint factory and completely without merit.” I’d be surprised if it goes anywhere with the current congressional majority (if there is one). But CREW has been around for over a decade, meaning that ADLF was created by experienced watchdogs. If nothing else, they may be compiling good material for future challengers.

Barbara Comstock Professional Republican
Barbara Comstock

Tony Buffington No-Show for LWV Debate

Rich Jimmerson, independent candidate against Republican nominee Tony Buffington for the Blue Ridge district Loudoun board seat, debated an empty chair last night, as Buffington didn’t show up for the League of Women Voters debate in Leesburg. Karen Jimmerson (Rich’s wife) reports that Buffington never even responded to the invitation.

This is not a good moment for Tony Buffington.

NoBuffington

The League is the gold-standard for debates. Locally, it has a reputation for being mildly right of center, but I have never heard them accused of being partisan in their debates. I have done two League debates, and was perfectly fairly treated, both times. There is simply no excuse for not responding and, absent an extreme circumstance, no excuse for not appearing.

My first debate was scheduled to be against then-supervisor Steve Snow. He had said he would come, but changed his mind and didn’t. My second was against Del. Tom Rust. The second one was easy. Debating an empty chair, however, is hard. That’s because you are either listening to a question or speaking an answer at all times. When your opponent shows up, you get to think about your answer more, while your opponent is speaking. Also, rebutting your opponent is often easier than just thinking up your own answers all the time. Everyone told me that it was the defining moment in that race, and I won largely because he wasn’t there (in all humility, people like Mark Herring also told me I looked pretty good). So, this is all to the best for Rich. But don’t anyone think he had it easy. It’s much harder to carry the whole thing on your own, than it is to switch off of your opponent.

Special Prosecutor Ends York Investigation

Special prosecutor Theo Stamos has replied to a complaint brought by Loudoun resident Sally Mann, stating that 31 of the 36 alleged reporting violations Mann claims to have found in Scott York’s campaign finance reports are barred from prosecution by the statute of limitations, and the rest haven’t yet triggered a review by the registrar. Stamos’s letter spells out the law, explaining that there is no violation that can be looked into by a prosecutor until the registrar determines there is something improper in a filing. Even then, the registrar must notify the campaign, which has ten days to provide corrections.

In the event a campaign has filed an incomplete report, the general registrar shall notify the campaign in writing of the deficiency. The campaign has ten days to supply the missing information or it will receive a civil fine. If the filing remains incomplete for more than one hundred twenty days, the matter shall be forwarded to the appropriate Commonwealth’s Attorney unless the campaign is granted an extension. (from Theo Stamos’s letter to Sally Mann)

Theo Stamos must be getting kind of tired of Loudoun county. I don’t think I’m betraying any confidences when I say that she told me herself, during the Delgaudio-removal effort, that she had no intention of being used as anyone’s political weapon, regardless of party affiliations. Since York is running as an independent in a race that has a Republican nominee, I think our own Commonwealth’s Attorney, Jim Plowman, could have used his prosecutorial discretion and drawn the same conclusions Stamos has drawn, without any fear of being called partisan for it. At the same time, he’s running for re-election himself, so I don’t blame him for being particularly white-glove about this. (But I wouldn’t blame Theo Stamos, either, if she asks him to start sending this noise to someone else for a while.)

Scott York, Loudoun Chairman
Scott York (R, R, I, R, I, ?)

Moderate Candidate Speaks. Both Members of the Crowd Go Wild.

nba-empty-arena-5466472539

The political CW is that the middle (that is, moderate, centrist, independent voters) decides who wins competitive elections. All races for president are competitive, so the middle is choosing our presidents. Yet, it is the candidates on the far ends of the spectrum that turn out the people at their campaign rallies. Ben Carson just drew 2,000 here in Loudoun. Dr. Carson is a soft-spoken man, but what he says is pretty intense: he’s anti-choice, says Muslims have to renounce their faith to run for office, and has compared Obamacare to slavery. Bernie Sanders just drew 19,000 to a rally in Portland. Bernie is… well, Bernie is a Socialist. ‘Nuff said, eh?

This is primary season, of course, so we’re not going to see candidates playing to the middle right now. After the two major parties choose their nominees, both will, to some extent, push Mitt Romney’s famous “reset button” and find their inner moderates. At that point, however, their rallies will shrink. The Americans who will choose our next president just don’t tend to find our candidates exciting enough to gather in very large numbers. Are we bored? Lazy? Disgusted? Probably some mixture of them all. But, if moderates choose the president, and no moderate ever really runs, one has to wonder if our system isn’t failing its purpose of representative democracy as a result.

It’s Not Like Those Are Real Jobs, Right?

Dick Black tweeted what he apparently thinks are the comparative resumé items of note for himself and Dr. Jill McCabe, his challenger. Because someone who still had an ounce of sense in them deleted that tweet shortly after, here it is for you:

BlackTweetMcCabe

McCabe’s list is actually somewhat longer than what Black admits to. She’s been part-owner of a small business, a department head at a large business, and, well, done some other stuff. No reason to get into it, as the tweet above really makes its own point, and it’s not about anyone’s resumé.

I do think a couple of the entries on Black’s side are kind of funny: Herpetologist? No, that’s not a person who specializes in sexually transmitted diseases: it’s a person who studies snakes. I’ve been following Col. Black’s career for a number of years, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that one mentioned. Frankly, snakes aren’t something I think a career politician ought to bring up, but maybe I’m overly sensitive.

A couple more that caught my eye were these: “Juris Doctor” and “Career Prosecutor.” Both of those are oblique ways of avoiding having to use the word “lawyer.” See, a “juris” doctor is a holder of a law degree (that’s as opposed to a real doctor, who holds a medical degree, like Dr. Jill McCabe). Republicans, many of whom are lawyers, tend to think the world has too many lawyers in it, so, obviously, attorney Dick Black wants to avoid using that word. But, it’s important to the point (he thinks) he is making to have his list be as long as possible. So there it is, really, twice, just in stealth mode.

Someone pulled the tweet already, but the attentive Huffington Post caught it and wrote about it today.

(Herpetologist? Seriously?)

Charlie King’s Senior Staff Quits

Ashburn Rising reports that Charlie King’s campaign manager, Tom Julia, has quit the campaign. Amazingly, they also quote him as saying he is not endorsing any candidate for chair. Perhaps because it is the right thing for an officer of a party to do when he can’t endorse his own nominees, Julia has also resigned from the RPV.

The Loudoun Times-Mirror confirms the departure and resignation, adding also that senior campaign staffer Chad Campbell has also quit King’s campaign. They report that Republican David O’Connell will serve in place of both Julia and Campbell.

It’s true that campaign staff come and go, but local races don’t have much “staff,” with the manager often being the only paid worker on a campaign. To lose his manager this close to election day is not a good thing for King.

King-Charlie-Campaign-300x300

Who Tries This?

Yet again, someone has tried to board a plane with a loaded pistol in their carry-on bag. According the WaPo, TSA finds one this way about once each month at National Airport alone.

A lot of people talk about “responsible gun owners.” That’s a concept I like, but we need to get a little more specific about what it means. I’m pretty sure all rational people agree that there are some folks who should not have guns. I’ll push that concept one bit further and say most rational people agree that there are some people who should not be allowed to have guns. Those three extra words make a big difference, to some folks, because they naturally suggest that someone, somewhere, will have the authority to decide who will, and who will not, be allowed to have a gun. Right now, we seem to operate on the assumption that, until proven otherwise, everyone is fit to have a gun. Alas, one of the ways we learn who is not fit to have a gun is that the person in question kills one or more people by shooting them for no good reason. That person is typically no longer allowed to own a gun. This seems bass-ackwards, to me.

Opponents tend to extrapolate from any gun control proposal whatsoever all the way to the doomsday scenario: that those in favor of gun control will never stop until no one can have a gun, ever again. So, they reason, all efforts at gun control must be opposed, as all efforts at gun control are really just another step towards universal confiscation.

Now, I have direct personal knowledge of the fact that not everyone who proposes more gun control secretly seeks universal confiscation. That’s because I am one such proponent. I have two guns and I don’t want to give them up. But, when I read that, once very single month at one airport alone, so-called “responsible” gun owners are so careless that they actually try (let’s hope it’s through mere negligence) to get a loaded pistol onto a plane, I cannot help but wonder if, by that act alone, they have demonstrated they are not fit to have a gun. That they should not have a gun. That they should not be allowed to have a gun.

A well-trained, well-regulated sector of citizens who choose to carry guns might actually make the world a slightly safer place. I rather like the idea that anyone who wants to be ready to defend themself, their family, their friends and neighbors, and maybe even just the rest of us out on the wild and dangerous streets of America, might be able to use a pistol in order to do so. But only if they’re fit to have one. Maybe I am wrong, but I suspect that there would be far fewer than one pistol found heading onto a plane every month if all gun owners had to take substantive training, pass reasonable tests, and demonstrate their proficiency periodically. Such a set of requirements need not (nor would they necessarily be proposed to) lead to universal confiscation. Quite the opposite. I believe it would give all Americans who are worried that people carrying pistols might be more dangerous to society than if they all just left them at home, a reason to calm down. Every gun you saw, and every gun carried on the street, would either be in the hands of a person with established qualifications and actual knowledge of how to use it safely, or in the hands of a crook. Yes, making guns illegal doesn’t seem to stop crooks from having them. But the mere legal ownership of a gun doesn’t make the person who owns it, nor those of us who travel the same streets (or airports) as that person any safer.

Responsible gun owners (they exist; I like to think I am one) get proper training. I did. I took a class, passed a test, and I go to a shooting range periodically to make sure I haven’t forgotten so much that I’m more dangerous than useful. I know quite a few shooters who do as much or more. I respect them. They are fit to have their guns, at least most of them. So what would be so bad if that much instruction and demonstration of competency were simply required? Wouldn’t a responsible gun owner do that much anyway? Wouldn’t the only burden felt be felt by irresponsible gun owners? Do we mind if irresponsible gun owners find reasonable training and competency requirements burdensome?

Yes, if one thinks that any gun regulation is just another step in the direction of universal confiscation, this idea would be as intolerable as confiscation itself, and, thus, yet another non-starter (if one thinks that way). But, what if it’s not? What if honest people really meant it when they said, “We’d be happy to let anyone have a gun, and carry it wherever a gun can safely go, provided they meet the same training and competency requirements that typical responsible gun owners already voluntarily impose upon themselves.” Take it as given, for the sake of answering, that those honest people don’t want to confiscate all guns. What would be wrong with that?

Until we have some kind of competency requirement before a person can have a gun, we’re just going to keep finding out who’s not competent after they do something stupid. Like try to take it on a plane, or kill someone for no good reason. Because, at the rate we’re finding those incompetent people, I’m increasingly unable to feel that just owning a gun makes a person a responsible gun owner.