Michael Haynes, chairman of the Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC), observed that “after days of rain and gloomy weather, the sun came out to welcome our candidates,” an appropriate backdrop for Friday’s GOP “Unity” event in Leesburg. Joined by Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck, it served as an unofficial kickoff for the 2015 campaign, a chance to clarify positions on Independent candidates, and an opportunity to smooth over differences from the recent LCRC convention.
King took two Independent candidates to task: Scott York (Board chair), who left the Republican Party, and Steve Simpson (sheriff candidate), who pledged to support the 2015 ticket, and then broke the pledge for a second time since 2007.
Regarding Simpson, King said that for police, “reputation is everything”:
Based on an officer’s word, people will be convicted of crimes and sent to jail. How can Steve Simpson possibly lead the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office when he cannot honor simple promises to play by the rules?
But King focused most of his condemnation on York, his opponent for Board chair. He characterized York’s change of heart about seeking another term as “waffling”:
Loudoun County needs a decisive leader. If Mr. York takes months to make a decision while reversing himself over and over, how can the voters believe he is capable of making the many tough calls the next Board will have to make?
The GOP nominee for Broad Run supervisor, Ron Meyer, highlighted nuts-and-bolts issues showing the Republican ticket unified on “conservative values to make people’s lives better …. Better commute, better schools, better cost of living, a better place to be.” Meyer noted the economic potential of Metro locations coming to Loudoun, and said commercial development will allow the county to continue increasing school funding and road improvements.
Meyer said the best way to seek lower fees on the Greenway is by expanding alternatives to the Greenway: “Take it to their pocket book so we can bring them to the table.”
In one of the stranger political counterpoints in recent memory, Loudoun County’s Democratic and Republican constitutional officer candidates each made their own respective news yesterday. The Republicans came out ahead.
While the LCRC was all about unity and party, the LCDC (“LC” possibly now meaning “Litigation Central”) was more evocative of hoisting, and petards.
On a sunny Friday afternoon on the historic Leesburg courthouse steps, Loudoun County Republican candidates and elected officials stood in a show of unity, delivering statements and holding a brief press conference.
Notably, Sheriff Mike Chapman and Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman shared the same stage. Just over a month ago, at the LCRC convention, Plowman opposed Chapman’s nomination to another term. Plowman had actively supported Chapman’s primary opponent, Eric Noble. (Plowman was unopposed for nomination).
Chapman, appearing relaxed and upbeat, said the convention had provided Republicans “an opportunity to air our differences,” and
Now is the time when we all pull together… We share the same values of fiscal responsibility, law and order, the ability to treat each other with dignity and respect. This is about pooling all of our resources together, working as a team, going forward as a team, and making sure that the voters out there understand what we’re all about.
Asked whether his campaign would highlight any of the ethics questions involving his current opponent and former sheriff Stephen O. Simpson, raised in the media during the 2011 campaign, Chapman said he ran a positive campaign then, and would take the same approach in 2015, emphasizing the accomplishments of the past four years.
The cheery end to the week did not extend to the Democratic side of town, and here is where the irony comes in: Just prior to the GOP unity event, the Loudoun Times-Mirror published a story about the Loudoun Democrats’ rejection of their candidate for sheriff – to be a member of their own political committee. (Also noted here at FWN.) When the vote came, according to the report, it appears the sheriff candidate did not receive a single vote from the membership.
But that may not have been the biggest news in the piece by reporter Crystal Owens. Brian Allman, the sheriff nominee, who is now engaged in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against at least one LCDC member, apparently was originally supported for nomination by the Democrats’ candidate for commonwealth’s attorney, Bob Ohneiser. (In order to be voted on, Allman’s nomination for membership had to be seconded at the previous month’s meeting, and that second was provided by Ohneiser.)
Whether Ohneiser brought Allman to the LCDC for consideration originally, Owens’ story does not say, but Ohneiser’s support for Allman might clear up one mystery: How did Allman get the sheriff nomination in the first place, when he was not even a member of the committee? Vouching by a prominent local Democrat like Ohneiser could have made a newcomer’s path to nomination smoother.
So while the Republican commonwealth’s attorney candidate was working very publicly against the eventual Republican sheriff nominee, the Democratic CA candidate was supporting the Democrats’ sheriff nominee. And while the first two have made up well enough now, in June, to present at least a nominal united front, the latter two may still be united, but the only “front” they present is more like the lead cars in a train wreck.
It would not be surprising if, during the upcoming campaign, Republican candidates posed the question to their Democratic opponents: Have you gotten your house in order yet, and what have you learned, to assure voters you would not bring the management chaos of the Democratic Committee to Loudoun County as a whole?
The LTM story also does not say whether LCDC Chair Val Suzdak has changed her position on the Brian Allman nomination. In a March press release, Suzdak praised the LCDC ticket – including Brian Allman – as “the strongest, most dedicated, and most virtuous group of candidates I’ve seen since I’ve lived here in Loudoun County.” However, at this time, Allman is no longer listed on the LCDC Web page as a 2015 candidate. Suzdak has not responded to a FirewallNOVA request for comment.
The Democratic Party, as a rule, champions the right to redress a wrong through legal means, which is seen as a key protection accorded everyone in modern civil society. Without the right to sue for damages, the average citizen has no legal recourse.
We will need to wait and see if the Loudoun Democrats can move on from this episode of misunderstanding, and join together in support of their own average citizen, a sheriff candidate who thus far appears to have done no more than exercise his Democratic-supported right to redress. Maybe they will even have the discussion about his qualifications which they should have had months ago, and then reconsider his membership (although one supposes he would need to drop the lawsuit first). If Brian Allman becomes a committee member, the LCDC will save face and Allman will likely have an easier time conducting a viable campaign.
Like the Irish walking stick that helps you get from point A to point B, serves a head smack to someone in the way, and holds seemingly magical powers, the pledge provides access to the LCRC institution, is invoked to threaten and sanction opponents, while projecting the committee’s faux-authority to intimidate neophytes and rubes.
Can you get from point A to B without a shillelagh? Of course you can, and when needed you can toss it aside – or simply wink at it and it will disappear. Because it is magical, and essentially fake. Just like the LCRC pledge.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I am here today not to bury Steve Simpson but to praise him, because in a political arena of mushmouthed lies, Simpson is unapologetically realistic.
All that matters is the office and who holds it. As you get further up the government hierarchy the two-party system dominates, but at the end of the day the parties are merely devices for getting to an actual place of power.
Oh, you might not know that from listening to the parties. They have principles and platforms and pledges and creeds. That’s all a load of hooey aimed at capturing market segments, as “principled” as the red of a soda can or the blue of a corporate logo.
The LCRC pledge takes on poignance in Simpson’s case for a few reasons. He supported Eric Noble prior to the LCRC convention, and Noble used the pledge as a club to hit his GOP primary opponent, Mike Chapman, repeatedly. Noble and his supporters online goaded Chapman about keeping the pledge, presumably under the expectation Noble would prevail at the convention and Chapman would be tempted to run as an Independent. Shortly after Noble lost, those supporters seemed rather positive about the possibility of Simpson breaking the pledges he took (in order to join the LCRC and then vote at the convention) and run for the office himself.
Disclosure: When I argue the LCRC pledge is a sham, I should point out, I do so as someone who has a 100 percent perfect recordkeeping the LCRC pledge. I have never failed to vote for an LCRC nominee on any ballot since I moved here in 2004, despite not being an LCRC member most of that time, and my loyalty includes 2007 when I supported the LCRC nominee for sheriff, Greg Ahlemann. That last item – if my calculations are correct – places me higher atop the pinnacle of LCRC perfection than the majority of Republicans who were on the committee in 2007.
Does that make me some kind of great Republican? No, in fact what it makes me is a rube. But let’s take a quick look the texts comprising the so-called pledge.
The political business of the day in Loudoun County is called moral equivalence. And business is good.
The local Republican leadership waited a full two weeks to defend Sheriff Mike Chapman against a rebellion contravening party rules, presumably out of prudence and a need to gather all the facts. It is safe to assume, then, that those same leaders will wait another two weeks – until, say, June 8 – to defend Charlie King.
Let’s not do anything rash, please.
Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC) Chair Mike Haynes just issued a stern press release which is reprinted below the fold. In it, Haynes calls on former sheriff, former Republican, former Independent, newly-Republican and once again threatening-to-go Independent Steve Simpson, to please stick to the GOP “pledge” that Simpson just signed in order to vote at the LCRC Convention earlier this month.
To recap: Soon after the LCRC Convention results quashed the attempt of a GOP faction to take down Republican Sheriff Mike Chapman, Steve Simpson announced he was considering a run for sheriff as an Independent, despite having just rejoined the LCRC and supported Chapman’s challenger.
It became evident, and not very secret, that some in the anti-Chapman contingent of Republicans might be quietly celebrating Simpson’s entry. Voters need to have a choice, don’t ya know.
Response from the LCRC leadership about this open threat to reneg on the “pledge”? Not a peep.
Presumably Chapman was on his own.
Then yesterday, when Shawn Williams made noises about going back on HIS pledge, and joining the race for chairman, and dealing a very real threat to the head of the Republican ticket, Charlie King…. apparently alarms went off.
As they say in the vernacular: S–t just got real.
And the wink-wink at Steve Simpson became a little too hypocritical for comfort, apparently.
So before Haynes could fire off a press release chastising Shawn Williams – a press release that would pass the laugh test – someone must have whispered in his ear that he’d better, first, address that Steve Simpson fellow who was doing THE EXACT SAME THING two weeks ago.
Unfortunately you cannot back date a press release, but better late than never.
Mike Chapman finally got his party leadership’s support, and in a couple of weeks Haynes can issue a new press release, condemning Shawn Williams, that will not be met with a chorus of guffaws.
Although he recently rejoined the Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC), former Sheriff Steve Simpson says he is considering running for his old office – and because the LCRC nominee is current Sheriff Mike Chapman, Simpson will need to run either as a Democrat or Independent.
Until 2007, Simpson was the Republican sheriff of Loudoun County. He lost the GOP nomination that year, and successfully ran for office again as an Independent.
Simpson attended the April Republican candidates’ debate as a supporter of Eric Noble, and also participated in last week’s LCRC convention. In order to vote at the convention, Simpson had to sign a pledge to support the Republican ticket in the fall.
The LCRC pledge, however, is regarded as dubious by many observers, and Simpson’s recent statement certainly confirms it.
As reported today at The Bull Elephant, Simpson says he is being encouraged by members of both parties. Simpson says “many” LCRC convention participants were unhappy that Eric Noble lost the contest to Mike Chapman, and “have contacted me asking me to run.”
Someone uninformed about the inherent holiness of the Republican Party might think this is about nothing more than a raw quest for power. But the LCRC has had a love-hate relationship with the Independent side of the fence and there would be ample precedent for LCRC members to encourage such a candidate.
In 2007, a large segment of the committee turned their back on the Republican nominee for sheriff, Greg Ahlemann, in order to support Simpson’s Independent campaign. Simpson had been defeated by Ahlemann for the GOP nomination at the June, 2007 LCRC convention, and the next morning reneged on the Republican “pledge” and announced he would run as an Independent.
Because of Simpson’s history as an Independent, it seems likely that is the route he would take.
(I did not hear any tally information, just that the sheriff’s race was “close.”)
Congrats to Eric Noble for putting up a spirited campaign.
As an update to my earlier report on the slowness of the vote: That was a little unfair on my part because the committee picked up the pace, and the process was remarkably fast. The stall was irritating for some who needed to leave, but the recovery was impressive.
Good job all around by the LCRC!
Here are the revised attendance figures following working out of the vote count problem.
An electronic data error resulted in a new count – following are, for each district: 1 allocated, 2 present, and 3 weight per vote
Mike Chapman (foreground) and Eric Noble (background) work the line of delegates from Sterling district waiting to enter the voting area.
The voting process went very quickly once the Ashburn problem was cleared, or pushed temporarily to the side as the case may be.
Everyone here to vote has voted. Most have left the building.
Those who are hard core will sit, and eat candy, and wait. The introverts, I mean. Others are probably out talking.
It would seem if the vote is close for either sheriff or Ashburn supervisor, this could get complicated. The overvote would affect two races. So, one would hope that neither race is close, because one can only eat so much candy.
In about 48 hours the Loudoun County Republican campaign for sheriff will be done, but over the past 12 hours Eric Noble’s supporters have been caught in laughable acts of desperation. Beginning with an attempt to reclaim a “Tea Party” pedigree, of all things, and continuing with a humiliating smack-down by the Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC), these daft moves may or may not reflect the Noble campaign’s internal assessment of the race in its closing days.
Is Eric Noble’s campaign this incompetent? While it seems to have been run pretty darn well up until yesterday, something like the email below, sent right before the convention, suggests otherwise.
According to this official LCRC statement, the email that went out yesterday to certain LCRC delegates points to a major ethical lapse by Noble’s campaign. Either the campaign itself sent out a dishonest message, or the campaign gave the delegate list to someone who sent out the message. In either case, according to the LCRC, Eric Noble’s campaign is responsible.
The offending email was received this morning. Framed as an official LCRC communication, it contains registration instructions for Saturday’s convention – along with an endorsement of Eric Noble, right in the body of the text just before the time and location, and two attachments which are Noble campaign materials.
The email is nothing less than a breathtaking act of political deceit, and an attempt to manipulate the vote by claiming party sanction of one for the candidates.
Less legally dubious, and much more humorous: Yesterday afternoon a blogger who co-owns the Republican site The Bull Elephant tried to claim that certain “Tea Party” endorsements are more bona fide than others. Anyone who knows anything about so-called Tea Party groups knows that your dog and cat can form a “Tea Party.”
For those of you who want a quick primer on the 2015 campaign for Loudoun County sheriff, this short video clip from the April 13 debate captures a lot. If you are a delegate at Saturday’s Loudoun County Republican Committee convention, you ought to watch this because it underlies what you will hear in the speeches by current Sheriff Mike Chapman, and the challenger Eric Noble.
The video is from the point where the men are allowed to ask the other a question. It contains Mike Chapman’s question, Eric Noble’s answer, and Chapman’s rebuttal.
Watch the interchange and listen carefully. (If you are not in a position to watch video, here is a link to the relevant part of the transcript – but the video gives a much better understanding.)
Chapman sums up the problem he has had with Noble from the beginning of the campaign, and which Chapman up until this point has not stated this directly: When Chapman took office, he elevated Noble to a position of trust and authority, following Noble’s professed desire to serve in the new administration. But from early on, Noble worked to undermine Chapman, in public yet under the cloak of anonymity, rather than address the disagreements in-house.
Yes, it is a long question, but for anyone listening it could have been boiled down to a very short one. To paraphrase Julius Caesar:
Below is a letter just received from Sheriff Mike Chapman, in response to the Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman’s letter issued yesterday.
In addition to the fact that Chapman was able to fire off such a comprehensive reply in such a short time, what follows is worth reading for two more reasons. First, this is a unique public argument, between our sheriff and chief prosecutor.
But more importantly, Chapman’s letter addresses ongoing controversial issues (including some touched on in yesterday’s post here), with surprising frankness: quite a departure from the typical euphemistic official-speak we are accustomed to hearing from elected officials.
If you want an unvarnished view of matters of serious disagreement between the sheriff and Plowman – and the challenger, Eric Noble – touching on politics, policy and ethics … here it is.
April 27, 2015
Today Commonwealth Attorney Jim Plowman distributed a letter containing false statements to help Mr. Noble win the Republican nomination. His motive is clear and he offers no facts. He simply wants a puppet for sheriff. Here is the real evidence:
He campaigned in 2011 on a platform “to move the Sheriff’s Office into the 21st century,” and Mike Chapman says the many innovations he brought have done exactly that. But Loudoun County’s sheriff says there have been contingents within both the Republican Party and the Sheriff’s Office who continue to see him as an unwelcome change.
Chapman says, from the naysayers’ viewpoint: “Back then I was the outsider; I’m still the outsider.”
In addition to making personnel changes that upset the “old guard” when he first came into office, Chapman thinks his approach to bringing problems to light, and inviting outside agencies to ensure objectivity, has not gone over well with everyone.
“I’m the one that uncovers things, and it ticks them off. When we caught up with the asset forfeiture accounts being changed back in 2008, as soon as we found there was an anomaly I called in the state police to investigate.”
Regarding certain conflicts – including on issues where he has taken an opposing position from that of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office – Chapman has observed that there is an old guard within the local government for whom maintaining control – “the power thing” – is paramount.
“But for me, it’s not. It’s just about doing the right thing. And when you have a situation like money disappearing, I don’t want there to be any suspicion we are trying to cover anything up. I want to have somebody from the outside come in. They are not used to that in this county. In many ways it’s still backwards.”
Chapman’s challenger for the Republican nomination, Eric Noble, believes Chapman has not been forward-thinking enough, and cites the expanding heroin problem in Loudoun County as evidence.
Some say elections are won and lost by soldiers in the trenches. Boots on the ground. None fits that bill better than the contest for sheriff of Loudoun County, where boots cover socks, and soldiers are puppets.
In other words: Sock puppets.
Of the gifts Loudoun County politics bestows upon local bloggers – and trust me, the cornucopia is bountiful – few surpass the sideshows and subplots of our beloved quadrennial sheriff campaigns.
This year, the incumbent Sheriff Mike Chapman faces former deputy Eric Noble in the battle for the Republican nomination, which will be decided on May 2 at the Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC) convention. Both are likeable, decent men. As noted in yesterday’s article, Chapman has enjoyed a successful first term in office, though periodically under surprising criticism from political opponents within the LCRC.
One of Noble’s key errors in the run up to this race was to engage in anonymous commenting on local news sites, along with his campaign “tag team” member and former Loudoun deputy, Ricky Frye. Despite being an impressive public speaker and – in my opinion – political natural, Noble has undercut some of his key campaign messages this time around. For instance, Noble has levelled the charge that Chapman’s management style is too controlling and extends too far down the chain of command, but experienced managers may well read the story that follows as evidence of Chapman’s need to do exactly that, coming in, in order to improve the agency.
This unforced error does not mean Noble should be written off politically: If he does not prevail on May 2, he seems a likely candidate for another office in the future.
But some convention voters may balk because, as Chapman has said, the expectation of honesty and integrity is higher for the Sheriff’s Office than for most jobs: “We don’t just have to abide by the law. We have to abide by General Orders.”
So, about this rookie mistake. Who among us has not been tempted to don a persona and give it voice? Fulminating or complaining from the safety of anonymity: What finer of guilty pleasures can there be? Be cautious when holding forth on matters over which you someday wish to preside, of course. Like if you plan to get into a pitched and negative political campaign, and you plan to be the one pushing the negative angle, then you might want to be really, really non-specific in your anonymous statements.
So they don’t get traced back to you.
But in any case, the Loudoun County sock puppet story needs to be brought out into the open so it can be fully acknowledged, and put to bed. It will be useful for those interested in this particular campaign, and perhaps also for anyone attempting to balance puppetry and politics going forward.
Chapman, Noble and Frye are not the only characters in this tale. But they are the only ones made of flesh and blood.
Having earned a record 91.5% public approval rating, and with the crime rate down 18%, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office under Mike Chapman would seem headed into the 2015 election season on a high note. And by all accounts, among county residents, that is the case.
But within the local political party it’s a different story, and Chapman faces a nomination contest prior to the November elections. Instead of anything resembling smooth sailing, Chapman’s potential path to re-election will be turbulent. He must overcome a Republican faction bearing overheated rhetoric – and taunting Chapman to quit the party – and an opponent leading a mini-rebellion from within the agency (which actually began about the time Chapman took office) who also happens to have the backing of a Republican-turned-Independent, turned-Republican, former sheriff (who always seemed to hold substantial Republican support). And there is a subplot, with sock puppets.
Party politics is about nothing if not chest-thumping, temporary loyalty, brandished in a bellicose spree of righteousness and situational ethics, where a careful observer can almost always pinpoint the irony.
This introduction is the first in a series of articles between now and the May 2 Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC) convention, in which we’ll cover some of the complexities of the race for the nomination for sheriff.