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Democratic Committee Meeting

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Edith Jones is 104 Years Old and She Votes

Edith Jones is 104 years old.    She says everything she starts, she finishes, and that's why she's never missed an opportunity to vote.

The first state to hold a presidential primary to select delegates to a national convention was Florida in 1904, when Democratic Party voters held a primary among uninstructed candidates for delegate.

Edith was born on July 12th of 1908.  Early in 1908, the only two Republican contenders running nationwide campaigns for the presidential nomination were Secretary of War William Howard Taft and Governor Joseph B. Foraker, both of Ohio. 

In the nomination contest, four states held primaries to select national convention delegates.   In Ohio, the state Republican Party held a primary on February 11.   Candidates pledged to Taft were printed on the ballot in a Taft column, and candidates pledged to Foraker were printed in a column under his name.   Taft won a resounding victory in Ohio.   The three states holding primaries to select delegates without the preference component were split:  California chose a slate of delegates that supported Taft;  Wisconsin elected a slate that supported Wisconsin Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr., and Pennsylvania elected a slate that supported its Senator Philander C. Knox.

The 1908 Republican Convention was held in Chicago from June 16 to June 19.    William Howard Taft was nominated with 702 votes to 68 for Knox, 67 for Hughes, 58 for Cannon, 40 for Fairbanks, 25 for LaFollette, 16 for Foraker, 3 for President Roosevelt, and one abstention.   About a month later Edith Jones cried her first cry and entered the world as it was then.   Theodore Roosevelt was the president for the first few months of Edith's life.

The United States presidential election of 1908 was held on Nov.   Popular incumbent President Theodore Roosevelt, honoring a promise not to seek a third term, persuaded the Republican Party to nominate William Howard Taft, his close friend and Secretary of War, to become his successor.

The Democratic Party turned to two time nominee William Jennings Bryan, who had been defeated in 1896 and 1900 by 
Republican William McKinley.   Despite his two previous defeats, Bryan remained extremely popular among the more liberal and populist elements of the Democratic Party.   Despite running a vigorous campaign against the nation's business elite, Bryan suffered the worst loss in his three presidential campaigns, and Taft won by a comfortable margin.

Edith has lived under the Presidential Administrations of Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama.   To say she has seen it all may not even begin to cover the story.   In theory when she attained the age to vote she had the right to do so.

Amendment XV to the U.S. Constitution -
Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Edith Jones has been casting her vote since the age of 29.  She first voted in 1937.   That was the year Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, was re-elected for his second term.  Born under the first Roosevelt and casting her first vote under the second Roosevelt to be an American President Edith has treasured and kept alive her tradition of voting for 75 years.

But if you ask her who her favorite president is, she'll say without any hesitation it was John F. Kennedy. 

"He had a vision and he had something he wanted to do that was worthwhile," she said.

Edith went the Amherst County Courthouse so she could vote. 

She says that's something she plans to do as long as she's able.

"Always.  Why not?  Why not vote?  See that's the trouble. People don't continue," said Jones. 

In a matter of minutes, she cast her vote and it was time to head back home.

For Jones, deciding who to vote for was easy.

"Forward.   That means onward, that means forward, not backward."

The day ended with a little more harmony from the once teacher and now mentor to many in her community.

When asked what is the key to living such a long and fulfilled life?   Jones said, "loving thy neighbor as thyself."

Mr Beasley answering questions about changes in the voting laws at one of our meetings.

ACVDN Salutes Edith Jones.   Gary Beasley and the whole team  at his office deserve a lot of credit for helping Amherst County Voters cast their ballots.    Mr. Beasley is the Amherst County General Registrar and his office is at 113 Taylor St on the first floor of the Amherst County Courthouse.     Phone numbers 434-946-9315 or 434-946-9345.

Working Phone Banks

You Never Know Who Might Show Up

Effect On Race Of

Virgil Goode and Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson

Virgil Goode has not gotten much attention from the press or pollsters in his quixotic quest to disrupt the Virginia theater of the presidential race.    PPP's recent poll ignored Goode & Gary Johnson when it showed Obama+2 in VA.   This race is close enough that the presence of two candidates with the capacity to siphon votes from Romney on the VA ballot could swing  VA's 13 electorial votes to Obama.    The New York Times did a piece last week on Johnson's campaign which included a bit on Goode but there has been a dearth of information on Goode's impact on the campaign.    PPP included Goode & Johnson in an October 7 poll showing  Goode with 1%,  Johnson with 4% and boosting Obama's lead by 1% overall from 3% to 4% with the inclusion of those two in that race.   Why PPP has chosen to leave them off their latest poll is unknown.    Goode is on the ballot in more than 20 states as the Constitution Party candidate but Virginia is the place this favorite son may actually sway the final tally.

Virgil Goode

For all the hand wringing that has made it's way into various diaries about polls and polling methodologies here I am surprised about the lack of  Virgil Goode data in VA.    It would be interesting to hear if anyone in Virginia, especially in Goode's congressional district, have any comments on the state of his campaign.    In a campaign that is too close to call where even one swing state  could tip the balance of the entire  race this information is worth at least some attention.   

In Nevada, a  CNN/ORC  International poll last month showed Goode winning 4% support and Johnson 3%, with Obama holding 
a 47%-44% lead over Romney in the state.    Based on 2008 turnout in Nevada, the support for Goode and Johnson would 
amount to about 67,000 votes.

Goode, a former Democrat-turned-Republican congressman from Virginia known for an anti-immigration stance and other strongly conservative policies, routinely won well over 120,000 votes in his home district in elections from 1996 to 2008.

If he gets only 10% of that support this time, it could be enough to swing what is currently considered a dead-even race for Virginia's 13 electoral votes to Obama.

Last week, the Republican Times Free Press of Chattanooga, TN endorsed Johnson over Romney.     Though TN is not a swing state, the endorsement has created blog buzz and   FWIW,  TN  does border on NC.

Some have argued that as a  "social liberal,"  Johnson might peel away Obama voters as much as Romney voters.   That's possible, but not likely.     Goode, on the other hand, will be attractive to Republicans who just don't trust Romney to be as racist as they would like.     Virgil Goode will sell well in the 5th and 6th districts of VA.

Here's Goode in 2006:   The Muslim Representative from Minnesota [Keith Ellison] was elected by the voters of that 
district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.    This was a lie told by Goode but it was believed by 5th district republicans.     Keith Ellison was sworn in using a Bible and never requested a Koran

That's red meat for some Virginia voters  (i.e., the 120,000 who voted for him in his last election for Congress) who think Romney is squishy on these issues.     These same tea party republicans are not happy with Romney being a Morman.

As for third party threats to Obama, Democrats have apparently learned the Nader lesson.    Green Party candidate Jill Stein barely shows up in polls, and is not on the ballot in swing states NC and NH.

ACVDN wishes Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode the best of luck and many votes.

Does Cutting Taxes Create Jobs?

Republicans say it all the time, over and over.    We will cut taxes on the job creators, the upper 1%, and the economy will flourish.    They never explain why it has failed to work for the Bush years and the Obama years.    The last time we had great job creation Bill Clinton was President and during his eight years 22 Million jobs were created and Bill raised taxes.

First the big picture.    While cutting taxes to boost the economy is commonly associated with Ronald Reagan and supply side economics, the underlying  “trickle-down”  idea is an old one:   if you let the people on top keep more of their money, they’ll invest it in business, creating jobs and eventually making those below better off.

John Kenneth Galbraith cynically referred to this as the  “horse and sparrow”  theory:   “If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.”     But there’s some sense to it.    Income taxes when Reagan took office were confiscatory — the top-bracket rate was 70 percent.    Few actually paid it, of course.    Over the years the wealthy had gamed the system to create a seamy mess of loopholes to avoid taxation.

Reagan changed that.   The top rate was cut sharply — today it’s 35 percent — and many tax shelters were eliminated. 

The result wasn’t a flat tax, but it was flatter and more transparent than before.

But Reagan didn’t change the other side of the big-government equation.    In his influential 1981 book Wealth and Poverty, George Gilder argued that tax cuts needed to be balanced with public spending cuts.    Reagan skipped that part.   He cut back on social programs but cranked the defense budget.    The excuse was the infamous Laffer Curve, the brainchild of economist Arthur Laffer, who reputedly sketched it on a napkin during a 1974 power lunch.    The curve plotted tax revenue against tax rates, supposedly showing lower rates would spur the economy and produce a net 
increase in government revenue.

Magic?    No, the start of the con.     Reagan’s first budget director, David Stockman, later admitted to journalist William Greider that he pushed through the 1981 tax cuts knowing full well they would lead to massive federal budget deficits.    He hoped this would keep Congress from spending on domestic programs.

How did this bastardized version of trickle-down economics work out for those on the bottom economic rung?    On the face of it, not too well.     Reagan took office with a 7.5 percent unemployment rate. By September 1982 it had climbed to more than 10 percent and didn’t drop below 7 percent till halfway through his second term.    From 1979 through 2004 the real after-tax income of the poorest fifth of the country rose by a paltry 9 percent, while that of the richest fifth rose by 69 percent.    Over roughly the same period CEO pay rose by about 500 percent.

That’s not the con, though.    The real cause of growing U.S. income disparity isn’t tax policy but globalization.    What with competition from China and other low-wage countries, U.S. workers are in no position to demand better pay.    It’s the crowd whose skills can’t be easily outsourced, known as the creative class if you’re part of it or the 1 percent if you’re not, that’s made off with most of the enormous increase in wealth of the past 30 years.

Which brings us to the con.    A string of millionaire candidates for public office has duped a good chunk of the electorate into thinking the way to create jobs and otherwise solve the problems of the middle class is to cut the taxes of the wealthy.    That's absurd.    If the massive tax cuts of the Reagan era didn’t do the average worker much good, trimming another percent or two now sure won’t.  

What it will do is leave more money in the pockets of the comfortably affluent.

Why does this self-serving argument fly?    Because too many Americans don’t get where they stand in the scheme of things.   The U.S. has one of the most unequal distributions of income in the developed world — we're closer to Latin America in that respect than to Europe — and perilously low economic mobility.    But much of the country's workforce believes it’s either already in the overtaxed bourgeoisie or on its way there.    The top 10 percent of filers shoulder most of the income tax burden  (about 70 percent in 2009).    For a typical U.S. wage-earner to worry about sharing in 
this plight is borderline delusional.

Don’t misunderstand.    Keeping taxes at a moderate level is a good thing.    Arthur Laffer makes the legitimate point that in 1925, 1965, and 1985, cutting taxes from very high levels to more reasonable ones caused the economy to boom.

But know this.    While cutting taxes sometimes may help the country as a whole, if you’re like most people, it probably won’t help you.

The Republicans hope you are uninformed and think cutting taxes on the wealthy will improve your lot.    It Won't.    

Amherst County Virginia

Democratic News



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden Visits Lynchburg

And The Hill City Turns Out Big Time and Packs City Amory

Sandy is holding the threat of great harm over the heads of 60 Million people.   That sounds a lot like the Republican Party but Sandy is a large and strangely behaving storm heading up the East Coast.   

Joe and the Biden family including Bo and Dr. Jill were heading for a rally in Lynchburg after cancelling  a get together in Virginia Beach ( storm related cancellation).   Joe and Dr. Jill made it to the Hill City but son Bo who is the Attorneys General of Delaware had to alter plans and head home since a state of emergency was declared and the Guard activated in anticipation of Sandy's visit.

Needless to say Joe Biden is a great speaker and the crowd of approx. 1900 was cheering and applauding wildly.   The crowd was alive with the four finger wave calling for 4 more years.   This 4 finger gesture was originally popularized in the Lynchburg Amory ** ( see note on spelling) by Pro Wrestler Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen and the crowd intensity could not be differentiated on this day of the Vice President's visit.

The standing room only audience was loaded with dignitaries and press.    The top Democrat in Virginia's Senate Districe 22,  Bert Dodson was there and busily accepting  "Hello's and Good to See You's from well wishers."    Burt is a Hill City Hero for his many years of service to the citizens of Lynchburg and Amherst County and his support of schools and education.    When I was chatting with Bert the Vice President had not yet arrived so I told him to 
collect his thoughts in case we needed a key note speaker on almost zero notice.    We both laughed but I know Bert is a man who can and will pick up the slack and shoulder the load when called upon to serve.

Amherst County Democratic Chairman Dave Burford,  Skipper Fitts and Magnolia Braxton , Sweet Briar Young Dems President Simone Faas, the Legendary Walter Fore of Steelworkers and Civil Rights fame,  Lynn and Ned Kable of the Amherst Dems, Rodney Taylor well known Amherst Co. Democrat and downtown Lynchburg restruant owner, Rosemary Witcombe who's photos of President Obama have been featured by ACVDN and  Tom Perriello former Congressman in the 5th District and on and on the listing of well known Democrats  stretches.   No doubt we all recognize this election is close and important and we need to win it.

NOTE**  Amory, Armory and Armoury are all accepted spellings of this Old English word that means home strength.    

Here's what Joe talked about.

Vice President Joe Biden says Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are fleeing from their record to appear more moderate than they are.

Biden says the GOP ticket has backtracked on issues, ranging from a GOP budget he says would slash Medicare to a planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.   Romney and Ryan will destroy Social Security and Medicare and cut Pell Grants for education to a bare minimum.

Biden said Romney and Ryan "are counting on the American people to have an overwhelming case of amnesia."

President Barack Obama has ridiculed Romney's apparent flip-flops as "Romnesia," which a boisterous crowd of 1,900 repeated.   Paul Ryan is suffering from such a severe case of Romnesia that he has completely forgotten his life long hero Ayn Rand and his old friend Todd Akin.

Biden began his speech by praising Senate candidate and former Virginia governor Tim Kaine, then adding "I'm a big Tim Kaine fan."

I heard later on a tv report that Biden had called Tim, Tom.  For most of the audience it went unnoticed and the crowd knew who Joe was endorsing.   Joe is famous for gaffs and when he doesn't make one or makes a small one it still gets attention.   Kaine joked in a tweet  "Thanks to the VPOTUS for the shout out today. I love Jay Biden!"

Here's a little history on Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr. (born November 20, 1942).

Joe the 47th and current Vice President of the United States, jointly elected with President Barack Obama.    He is a member of the Democratic Party and was a United States Senator from Delaware from January 3, 1973 until his resignation on January 15, 2009, following his election to the Vice Presidency.

Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and lived there for ten years before moving to Delaware.  He became an attorney in 1969, and was elected to a county council in 1970.  Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and became the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history.  He was re-elected to the Senate six times, was the fourth most senior senator at the time of his resignation, and is the 15th-longest serving Senator in history.  Biden was a long
-time member and former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.  His strong advocacy helped bring about U.S. military assistance and intervention during the Bosnian War.  He opposed the Gulf War in 1991.  He voted in favor of the Iraq War Resolution in 2002, but later proposed resolutions to alter U.S. strategy there.  He has also served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, dealing with issues related to drug policy, crime prevention, and civil liberties, and led creation of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and Violence Against Women Act.   He chaired the Judiciary Committee during the contentious U.S. Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

Biden unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008, both times dropping out early in 
the race.   Barack Obama selected Biden to be the Democratic Party nominee for Vice President in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.   Biden is the first Roman Catholic and the first Delawarean to become Vice President of the United States.    As Vice President, Biden has been heavily involved in Obama's decision-making process and held the oversight role for infra- structure spending from the Obama stimulus package aimed at counteracting the late-2000's recession.    His ability to negotiate with Congressional Republicans played a key role in bringing about the bipartisan deals that resulted in the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 that resolved a taxation deadlock and the Budget Control Act of 2011 that resolved the United States debt ceiling crisis.

Sandy won’t affect readiness for election day

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said on Sunday that his state is prepared for the severe storm that threatens to devastate the East Coast and potentially affect the outcome of the election.

Speaking on CNN's State of the Union, McDonnell said that the state had learned the lessons of the last monumental storm, which left Virginians without power for days, and was unconcerned about a repeat of that situation playing out with this storm.

"We've got about 2,000 additional people that are coming into Virginia to help our power suppliers, and the state Board of Elections is already planning for extended hours in advance for absentee voting, and it's now a priority -- moved up to the same level as hospitals and police stations -- to have power restored, so we don't anticipate the problem," he said.

I don't know why but I see a lot of incorrect dates printed and verbally passed on as to when we vote.   Remember it is the 1st tuesday after the 1st monday in November and nobody can steer you wrong and make you miss voting.

November 6th 2012

Election Day History

By an act of Congress in 1845, the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November was designated Election Day for future presidential elections.    The first such election took place on November 7, 1848.   Whig Party candidate Zachary Taylor won out over Democrat Lewis Cass and Free-Soil candidate (and former president) Martin Van Buren. 

Taylor's running mate was Millard Fillmore, who became the nation's 13th president on July 10, 1850, upon Taylor's untimely death.

Election Day for the Coming Years
Year          Election Day       Dates
2012    Tuesday,        November 6
2013    Tuesday,        November 5
2014    Tuesday,        November 4
2015    Tuesday,        November 3

The First Tuesday following the First Monday in November is designated as Election Day.

The Vice President finished his speech and came off stage and into the audience to shake hands, pose for photos, sign autographs, ect.     Joe is to the left of the hands raised in the air and under the bright light at the top of the photo.     I took several shots trying to capture him but the crowd was too large and too excited.    The camera is above my head, 7 feet in the air for this shot.

LOCAL  NEWS . . . .

Amherst County Virginia Democratic News

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Schmookler Drags Goodlatte Out Of Hiding for 3 Debates

Truth For A Change, I Can Vote For That

Andy Schmookler stood his ground, fought hard.   He got the three debates he wanted.  Three Debates in a 4 day stretch.  Andy held firm and got them held in the population centers of the 6th district so that the most people possible would be able to attend.  Getting Goodlatte to face the voters and answer questions is no small trick as he is somewhat famous for his lack of response to the needs of folks in the district and has been known to turn his back on a debate at the drop of a hat.   Andy is bewildered at the lack of truth coming from today's republican party and he knows the people of the 6th deserve better, Thus his slogan "Truth for a Change".

Debate 1 was in Roanoke at James Breckinridge Middle School and moderated by television anchor Jay Warren of WSLS 10.   Debate 2 took place in Bridgewater at Turner Ashby High School and Debate 3 in Lynchburg at Liberty University in the Supreme Court Room of the Law Center.   The questions at the Liberty Debate came from 5 members of the media including Television, Radio and Print.

Goodlatte is seeking his 11th term in the House so it is interesting to listen to him shift blame for matters that took place on his watch and under his thumb.  Goodlatte is quick to claim that he supports jobs but goes silent when it is revealed that he voted against funds to create construction and engineering jobs in the 6th District.   Goodlatte chatts about his support for women's rights and fair wages for all but folds in these areas too when it comes to light that he joined the rest of the GOP dog pack to try and road block these 

For 20 years Goodlatte has played this game and each election the R by his name has returned him to Washington and he fully plans to make it 22 years this time out.  Regressive, Conservative, Tea Party, Right Wing Bob Goodlatte even votes against seniors on issues important to that group and then stands before the people and proclaims he wants to protect Medicare and Sociasl Security.   Since this is the 11th time around it is past time for the voters to fact check Goodlatte's record and call him on his shortage of correct claims.

Goodlatte is not used to facing a real challenger who holds him accountable, not used to having to participate in a debate and not used to the mood that voters are in today.   Congressman like Goodlatte are so disliked by the voters that they enjoy popularity ratings as low as 7 Per Cent and Goodlatte has earned and is richly 
deserving of his low rating.   Goodlatte has already secured his lobbying job and it won't be hard for him to adjust to since he goes overboard representing their interests as part of his daily activities and knows them  on a first name basis.

It is time to end this debacle.   Goodlatte has over his twenty years in Congress put together a good government pension and benefit program as provided by the tax payers and can live out his days on the public dole.   We need a representative who plays well with others and can help move America forward.   Andy Schmookler brings a certain honesty with him and a sincere desire to help people and a willingness to work with  others to improve the lives of the people of the 6th.   Andy is asking for your vote and I am urging you to answer in the affirmative.   Truth for a Change.

Roanoke Debate 1

Saturday’s well-attended debate in Roanoke between Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-6th) and challenger Andy Schmookler was a civil affair, allowing both men to state their points without the mudslinging that typically plagues the national debates.

The debate, the first of three, was held at James Breckinridge Middle School and moderated by television anchor Jay Warren of WSLS 10 in Roanoke. Goodlatte and Schmookler were given 90 seconds to answer each question, with a 30-second rebuttal offered to the candidate who answered a question first.

Following the hour-long debate, both candidates seemed content with their performances.   “I felt very good,” Goodlatte said.    “I thought it was a good debate, I think I got over".

Said Schmookler,  “I felt like I got to say a lot of things that needed to be said.”

On the deficit:

“The time to be worrying about the deficit was when Mr. Goodlatte was voting for Bush’s budget during good economic times and doubled the national debt,” Schmookler said.

Schmookler said now isn’t the time to cut government spending, and said Republican cuts have led to hundreds of thousands of jobs lost. “The Europeans have been implementing Republican-style austerity and they are driving themselves into a second recession.”

Goodlatte said the United States has only balanced its budget five times in the last 50 years and Bill Clinton can be thanked for most of that.  Two wars on the credit card and the Bush tax breaks and the Bush prescription drug plan, "That’s why we have a 16 trillion dollar national debt.”

Goodlatte said President George W. Bush could have done a better job budgeting, but he added, “We haven't climbed completely out of the hole since Barack Obama has been president of the United States.  Almost 4 years and Obama hasn't gotten the job done.”

On bipartisanship:

“I’m not running as a partisan. I don’t think the battle in America today is between liberal versus conservative. I think it’s between constructive and destructive,” Schmookler said.

“There’s not a bill that comes up in the Congress where I attempt to work with members across the aisle, and I have a long history of not doing that,” Goodlatte said and I don't plan to change directions  now.

On raising the debt ceiling after the election:

Goodlatte, who has voted to raise the debt ceiling in the past, said: “If we continue to do that without bringing fiscal responsibility and spending restraints to that negotiation, to that discussion, what we’re gonna wind up with is a society that is doomed to follow the path of countries in Europe, like Greece and Portugal and Italy, where they turned around and could no longer finance their debt.   I have taken an oath and promised not to raise it again without offsets.”   Goodlatte appears to be refering to some sort of oath like 
the one Grover Norquist demands that republicans sign to not raise taxes and with members of the GOP anything is possible.

Schmookler said: “Now, we have a tradition in America. Over 80 times since World War II we have raised the debt ceiling. And we had a tradition about it that we ... don’t play politics with that, we don’t take the full faith and credit of the United States hostage.  Well, that’s what they did.”

On Medicare's long-term sustainability:

“It is not a Medicare problem, it is an American health system problem.   And we have an inefficient system, and we have a system that is not well designed to help the American people get the health care they need,”  Schmookler said.

“This is very much a Medicare problem and can be solved with a good voucher program like the one Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney support and I will vote for that.   Fact is I have already voted for the Paul Ryan Budget two times.,” Goodlatte said.

He added, “We are headed in the wrong direction in solving our health care problems.   We've got to cut benefits and hold costs down.  Let’s first look at what we need to do with Medicare privatization.”

The debate was held in the middle school’s cafeteria, and just about every chair at the event was used while other audience members had to stand in the back of the room.

“I think they identified what the big differences are in this election,” said Goodlatte supporter Max Beyer of Roanoke.

“I thought both candidates represented themselves and their point of view,” added Schmookler supporter Bart MacMillan of Fairfax.

The next debate will be held Monday at 10:30 a.m. at Turner Ashby High School in Bridgewater.    The third debate will be Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Liberty University in Lynchburg.

Bridgewater Debate 2

Monday's debate between the candidates for Virginia's 6th Congressional District didn't bristle with the dismissive body language or allusions to Big Bird featured in the presidential and vice presidential showdowns, but it was no less indicative of the disparity between candidates facing voters on Nov. 6.

In their second of three debates - held at Turner Ashby High School's auditorium - Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke) and his challenger, Democrat Andy Schmookler, faced questions on economics, health care and transportation from students of Rockingham County high schools.

Goodlatte, currently in his 11th term, largely spoke in themes of restricted government and an increased reliance on personal responsibility.

To Goodlatte, economic growth and government spending are the two biggest issues facing the nation.

"We can create millions of jobs if we would have government policy that encourages investment in our economy and ... a domestic energy policy that would incentivize the production of more of all sources of energy domestically," Goodlatte said in his opening statement.

Goodlatte credited the federal government's "over-regulation" of the manufacturing and financial sectors with the hampering of economic growth under the Obama administration.  Goodlatte did not speak to the poor economic growth under Bush.

Without that regulation, businesses will have increased fiscal breathing room and will infuse jobs and capital back into the economy.   If Goodlatte and the rest of the republicans blocking the Obama Job Plan would work to cure America's problems instead of picking partisan fights millions of new jobs would be created.

"There needs to be employment not just for young people but older people need jobs too to pay the additional health care cost their vouchers won't cover, all people in this country need jobs, and in far greater numbers," Goodlatte said.

Schmookler, a self-proclaimed "seeker of the truth," credits his perceived lack of honesty in Washington with bringing him into politics for the first time. He attributes that lack of honesty and "truth telling" to Goodlatte and the Republican Party.

"It is as a truth-teller and not a partisan that I say, never in our country's history has a political party been so dishonest with the American people," he said.

Schmookler went on to liken Goodlatte's themes of limited government to scare tactics broadly used across the Republican Party to garner support for GOP resistance to "big government." He then went on to purport that Goodlatte supports a type of "big government" that "tramples on the liberties that the founding fathers gave us."

The candidates fielded questions from students on a number of topics:

On the cost of higher education

Goodlatte, in the vein of his earlier message on limited government, said that college costs are primarily the responsibility of private institutions in the case of private schools and state governments with public universities and community colleges.  He said not all students need a hugher education.  He also urged that the 
federal government refrain from setting price controls or placing restrictions on public and private institutions.   Making these institutions conform to rules and regulations or do things to lower the cost of education would not be right.

Schmookler attacked Goodlatte, claiming he voted against measures for the continued stabilization of student loan interest rates, which Goodlatte claimed he supported.     Schmookler then deemed education a "right" and advocated an increase in Pell grants and student loans.

On Social Security

Schmookler cited income disparity as a catalyst for Social Security's revenue generation or lack thereof.   But he advocated only minor tweeks rather than full privatization, which he said would then turn the program into a "Wall Street casino."

Goodlatte said he believes that by borrowing from Social Security, the government adds debt to future generations but added we have to borrow the money from somewhere, and instead advocates making the program actuarily sound, citing the importance of people paying more into the system who will later take out less.  

The Social Security Fund is filled with IOU's left there by politicians who used the money to fund pet projects and now the republicans are not interested in repaying those IOU's.

On defense spending

Schmookler, who previously worked for the U.S. Army and as an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., lambasted the current level of defense spending. He urged a reduction of spending in favor of other sectors.

"Can you imagine any reason why a country with our values should be spending as much as the rest of the world put together?" he asked.

Goodlatte advocated striking a balance between spending and fiscal responsibility, but also urged that cuts should be very small, not be high and done only years from now when full budgetary reviews will be completed.  This represents a change of position for Goodlatte who favored an increase in the Pentagon Budget.  Amazing what a debate does for one's positions. 

The debate, held at 10:30 a.m. and the closest to the northern Shenandoah Valley, was attended by an audience nearly two-thirds high school students.    Goodlatte likes audiences made up of those yet to cast a vote just as much as he dislikes televised debates.

On transportation

When asked about problems facing transportation in the Shenandoah Valley, Goodlatte cited a limitation on resources, brought on by trillion-dollar deficits.   He went on to highlight his efforts on starting expansion and widening projects on Interstate 81. He also highlighted efforts to improve railroad infrastructure, such as the Heartland Corridor project, which would then take heavy truck traffic off of Interstate 81 and onto rail.    Goodlatte didn't explain why he voted against all the projects the Obama Admin. championed to create jobs and improve roads and bridges.

Schmookler sees transportation projects as a method to increase jobs, but blamed Republicans for blocking Obama administration efforts to increase such projects.

On Hydro Fracking

What is your position on the pros and cons of hydro-fracking?  

Candidate Schmookler's answer set off a storm of applause that were initiated by the students; applause that were in fact against the debate rules.

What Dr. Schmookler said about hydro-fracking, fossil fuels and climate change must have struck a chord with the students since it very likely agreed with what they have learned in Earth Science.  Apparently the truth about climate change is particularly important to the students as well as to the many other observers who quickly joined in the applause.  

Goodlatte said he was against regulating business in any way and was waiting for the evidence to come in on climate change but might be willing to attempt to fund an enviroment study on hydro-fracking in the coming congress.   Results will be available on the study, if funded, in in about twenty years.    Most of the audience will be elgible to vote in 5 or less years.

Schmookler and Goodlatte will meet for a third and final debate on Tuesday at Liberty University in Lynchburg.

Liberty University Debate 3

Questions about whether women have rights and an endorsement of presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweaked audience reactions during Tuesday's Debate between Bob Goodlatte and Democratic challenger Andy Schmookler.    Goodlatte supports a person-hood amendment that grants property rights to a fetus at the moment of conception.  

 The 6th District candidates addressed about 190 people in Liberty University’s Supreme Court Room in a debate sponsored by the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce.   Media members from Television, Radio and Print took turns asking questions for an hour.   The debators were limited to one and two minute statements and because both parties followed the rules a lot of territory got covered in that short and exciting hour.

Students along with leaders of Lynchburg’s Democratic and Republican parties were in the audience.   One must admire the way Liberty meets it main objective, to  trains and develops conservative republicans.   There must be a degree in this subject.    A BA in GOP, go tell it on the mountain.   Not all students can be so successfully programed and I wonder what happens to the ones who wash out, who are resistant to becoming regressives.   

Applause greeted a Schmookler statement that government shouldn’t tell doctors what they can say to women patients or require unnecessary procedures. 

In recent times Virginia has had quite a debate over forced vaginal probes supported by State Republicans and this push to control women and their bodies is the prime reason Bob McDonnell was passed over for Vice-President on the Mitt Romney Presidental ticket.   If there is any one issue that conservative republicans salivate over it is gaining complete control of the female body.

“Women should be trusted to make their own decisions,” Schmookler said, in an oblique reference to abortion regulations at the state-government level.

Goodlatte drew even louder applause when he said, “there are two rights involved and this is Liberty University.  There is the right of the mother, and also the right of the unborn child, and I strongly believe government has to find a balance in those laws.”

Schmookler drew a response when he said he had doubts about a Romney proposal to end government support of Amtrak passenger rail service, saying he would rely on experts’ opinions about privatizing Amtrak.   Amtrak is important to Lynchburg and connects the city with the Eastern Seaboard.

“But I do know something about Mr. Romney, and I am skeptical,” Schmookler said to a round of applause.

Goodlatte drew louder applause, saying “I’m not skeptical at all about Mitt Romney.    He's a republican and has good business sense, and I never ride the trains.”

The candidates disagreed on the affordable healthcare act, Medicare and Social Security with Goodlatte taking the position that they were useless, overpriced and needed to be replaced with programs run by the private market.

“Obamacare isn’t all I would like it to be, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Schmookler said. “Most of what I’ve heard from Mr. Goodlatte, about it being a government takeover, about increasing our debt, that it’s a job killer, is simply false.”

Goodlatte said he supports one aspect of the Affordable Care Act:  it increased support of community health care systems like Lynchburg’s Johnson Health Center (yet to prove he wasn't pandering to Lynchburg voters) adding he would vote to end Obamacare in its entirety and free people to provide their own healthcare.

“I support that section of Obamacare expansion because it so much more cost-effective than the enormous amount of waste in Obamacare,” Goodlatte also said he supports the voucher system proposed by Paul Ryan.

Schmookler said changes to Medicare that Goodlatte supports in a House-passed budget drafted by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan would cost senior citizens $6,500 a year and would not close the federal deficit.

Goodlatte responded the proposed changes to Medicare would be means-tested, with wealthy Americans removed from the system and receiving no Medicare assistance and really low-income people receiving “entire support.”     Goodlatte added $6500 a year is only about $550 a month.

People in the middle would pay upwardly varying amounts based on income, and the changes wouldn’t affect anyone over 55 right now, and anything we republicans do won't cost you a thin dime Goodlatte said.

Schmookler said Social Security faces only a small problem but its opponents have stirred up great fears that it won’t be available to today’s young adults.   “There’s just too much politics based on fear of things people don’t need to be afraid of,” he said.

Goodlatte said Social Security can be fixed by raising the age at which people become eligible for benefits and increasing the amount the tax is paid on to $225,000 and means testing the participants and adjusting a few other variables.

“I do not support privatization” of Social Security, as was proposed by President George W. Bush, Goodlatte said but he has voted twice for the Paul Ryan budget that makes Ayn Rand like adjustments.   The way George W Bush wanted to do it NO,   Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney's  way YES. 

PS:   First time I have run up on this gentleman in the scouts uniform.    He wants to de-criminalize pot.    That's a standard position in republican circles.    Gary Johnson who was in the GOP debates with Romney holds this position.    Gary didn't catch fire in the debates but is running for President as a minor party candidate. Ron Paul supported making all drugs legal, bar none.    

Thinking About Liberty University
How Long before they sell advertising or display political slogans on the mountain?

Govt Subsidized Religion:   

Liberty University Gets $445 Million From Taxpayers

The recent push by Republicans to eviscerate the poor, women, seniors, and the middle class is based on their evil ideology that only the wealthy deserve our precious tax dollars.   Since the 112th Congress has been in session, the GOP has worked tirelessly to take from the poor to feed the rich, and their claim is the country is too broke to pay for programs to help the least fortunate among us.   At a time when corporate wealth is growing exponentially and the oil industry is reaping obscene profits without paying tax on their wealth,  Republicans claim that depriving them of more wealth will kill jobs and hurt the economy.    However, there is another group of evil proponents of greed who are beneficiaries of Republican largesse with taxpayer dollars, and although the Founding Fathers specifically prohibited the government from funding and promoting their brand of hate and vitriol, the GOP continues enriching and establishing a religious ideology in America.

Last year, Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University was the recipient of $445,000,000 of taxpayer dollars and it is typical of the unconstitutional practice of establishing a religion.   Giving a religious organization nearly a half-a-billion dollars when Republicans are choking the life out of this country is immoral, and contributes to and perpetuates conservative Christian’s hatred of the poor.  One of the missions of the fanatical Christian university is churning out  “Christ-centered leaders, able to apply God’s word in every area of life.”   Liberty University is unapologetic about their intentions and they boast about their mission with a promise to students to provide an  “action-oriented curriculum dedicated to world evangelism and repudiation of political correctness.”   If there is any misunderstanding exactly what they mean, the website lays out that they provide, 

“A strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism, and firm support for America’s economic system of free enterprise.”

Religious fanatics are well-known as purveyors of supreme
hypocrisy, but if Liberty University is dedicated to the rejection of socialism and adherence to the free enterprise system; why are they taking nearly a half-a-billion dollars of taxpayer money to produce bible-toting nut jobs and greedy conservative minions?    When the 
founder of the university was alive, Jerry Falwell revealed the Christian conservative intention for this country and it should be a wake-up call to any legislator who claims to hold fast to the Founding Fathers’ original intent in the Constitution that religion and the government must be separate.    Falwell wrote in a book 
titled, America Can Be Saved,   “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools.    The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.   What a happy day that will be!”

There is more to the story than the Christian plans to take over the schools and eventually the government and it should cause outrage to any semi-intelligent American who advocates for fairness and adherence to the Constitution.    Liberty University, and indeed, nearly every church in America are tax exempt because they filed 
a piece of paper claiming to be non-profit organizations.    The government is giving American taxpayer dollars to a bunch of fanatical conservatives and they are not paying taxes on our money. 

The church, sectarian universities, and free-market, Ayn Rand conservative Christians are no different than corporations or the oil 
industry that rakes in obscene profits and pays nothing in taxes; because they claim to do “god’s work.”

The Christian bible makes no mention of god or Jesus telling their followers to oppose social programs that feed the poor or provide health care assistance to those who need it most.    Conversely, the bible does not teach Christians to be greedy, free-market capitalists who give other taxpayers’ dollars to corporations, the wealthy, the oil industry, and private religious institutions intent on destroying the Democratic form of government to install a theocracy in its place.    Falwell’s statement that churches should take over and 
eliminate the public school system in America should be a portent of the dangers of giving tax dollars to anti-American religious fanatics.    The Christian university has the same conservative ideology as the Koch brothers and Heritage Foundation that promotes eliminating public education in favor of private religious schools that propagate the notion that America was meant to be a privatized corporation promoting religious ideas.

Giving a Christian university nearly a half-a-billion dollars of taxpayer dollars is an outrage, but it also shows how far from the Founders original intent conservatives have taken America.    

Liberty University has taken their privileged status so far, that in their mission statement they complain that a public university being 
planned within 30 miles of the Christian school is a threat and will take away students and government money from Liberty University.    It is worth noting that students from religious schools default on student loans at a much higher percentage than public school graduates that makes their gift of Americans’ tax dollars all the more outrageous because taxpayers are left holding the bag for their defaults.    However, for some mysterious reason, faith-based groups in this country are given free rein to rob the government for taxpayer dollars just because they are non-profits and allegedly do the lord’s work.

It seems reasonable that at a time when the economy is sluggish and more Americans are out of work, conservatives would reconsider giving free money to the oil industry, corporations, the wealthy, and  free riders at religious schools and help Americans eat, find shelter, and have affordable health care.  Apparently though, conservatives would rather watch American citizens starve and lose their homes so Liberty University can churn out religiobots by the thousands who are well-trained in the conservative mindset that says social programs are despicable and only Christians are worthy of government funds.    The Founding Fathers were quite specific about prohibiting government involvement in religion, but then again, conservatives have made it their life’s work to ignore the Constitution where it contradicts their belief that America is god’s chosen nation.

This country needs a bold group to put a stop to funding any religious organization and start making them pay taxes like every other citizen.     Republicans contended that they had to slash social programs that feed the poor, seniors, and children because there were no funds available, but they do not mind giving taxpayer dollars to groups that pay no taxes and work to destroy what is left of the country.

Religious schools have no socially-redeeming quality and are a pariah on this nation.    They have enjoyed favored status for too long and it is time to hold them to the standards the rest of Americans have to follow.    That means paying taxes, following the Constitution, and stop trying to destroy the American way of life, because whether they want to admit it or not, the government is under no obligation to give them any funds and they have no business being involved in politics.    Liberty University and every Christian who supports their philosophy are nothing more than charlatans who are stealing money from American taxpayers to inculcate anti-American values into their students with a goal of changing America into a theocracy where some Pseudo-Leader like Jerry Falwell is king and does the bidding of the wealthy industrialists.

Liberty University should teach 8th grade civics classes so their bible-toting students understand they have no right to take one cent of taxpayer’s dollars for their religious education;  but that would never happen in a religious university that contradicts the Constitution.    Unfortunately, with conservative Christians firmly 
ensconced in the Supreme Court and Congress,  it is going to be a long time before religion is purged from our government, and by then, Reverend Koch will be king and any sign of public education or secular government will have long disappeared;  but there will be religious schools like Liberty University taking hundreds-of-millions 
of taxpayers’ dollars to finally finish off any remaining non-believers while they wait for their savior to return.   If and when a Jesus does return, he certainly will not recognize the carnival barkers  who call themselves conservative Christians.

If Bob McDonnell could have kept the Virginia republicans out of the war on women he would be running for VP with the shape shifter he is standing beside in this photo.   Sadly for Bob the moment someone says his name vaginal probe comes to the listeners mind.    Bob is one of Pat Robinson's robots and try as hard as he might he has been unable to escape.

Smiling Bob reports directly to Grover Norquist

It continues to amaze me that so many Republicans, who extol the virtues of Constitutional purity, violate the Constitution, or advocate changing it, given every passing right-wing-outraged fad. There are so many of them. 

The shear mass of their ‘fighting points,’ pouring in from religious, supply side, and anti-other sources converge like a raging river.   If you wrote them all down in one place, they would fill a very large volume which, doubtless, they would beat like their bibles with the bruises unfortunately showing up on the Constitution. 

Perhaps the most egregious violation currently is the “No Net Tax Increase” pledge that a large majority of Republicans have made to Grover Norquist.   He says the pledge is to the voter, but he is the enforcer. Those who are US Senators and Representatives have violated their Oaths of Office by signing that pledge and should do the honorable thing by resigning, or if not, they should be removed from office. Let me repeat the Oath.

“I, ___________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic:  that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;  that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;  and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.    So help me God.” 

The underlining above is mine;   I will show you why.   First let me point out that this oath is a mandatory requirement in holding those offices.   Article VI of the Constitution states: …. “The Senators and Representatives….shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this Constitution..”. 

Here is the violation.   Each of them has sworn or affirmed “..that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”   Article I, Section 8 enumerates the powers (and I would argue, duties) given to Congress by the Constitution.   It starts,   “The Congress shall have power, to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States”.    I argue that this is not a privilege, but a duty since when new taxes are needed there is no one else specified to do it.    The current refusal to raise the debt limit of the United States by those who have signed the  “no-tax-increases-or-deduction-decreases-pledge,” means that they are refusing to do their duty to pay the nation’s already incurred debt, if in fact, new or increased taxes are needed. 

In doing so, they are violating their oaths of office. 

Furthermore, in taking the Oath, they swore that they did so  “with no mental reservation or purpose of evasion”  and that they would “faithfully discharge the duties of the office.”    Clearly, they were either knowingly lying if they took the Oath of Office after signing the Grover Norquist pledge, having pledged that they would not 
raise taxes, no matter what, as one means of paying the nation’s debts and providing for the nation’s defense and general welfare. 

Signing that pledge meant that they had “mental reservations” about fully exercising the powers and duties of the office, and clearly intended to evade the duty to do so.    If they signed it after 
taking office, then they violated their Oath.    Far better to do what Jon Huntsman did by saying that he would take no oaths or make no pledges other than the Oath of Office.    Far better and more honorable, if knowing that being true to the Norquist pledge was a more sacred bond than the Oath of Office for the US Congress, it would have been to decline the Oath and the office.    To take the Oath and office, intending to keep the Norquist pledge above all else, was to enter into a conspiracy with other pledge signers to change the Constitution of the United States without any citizens ever being able to vote on it.

Some who signed it, rather than lying, likely feared retribution from Norquist and his organization (it is unknown where he gets his funding).    In that case, they willfully broke their oath and should be removed from office.

A little history is useful in understanding these Constitutional specifications.    When the Constitutional Convention was convened to ‘improve’ the Articles of Confederation, the US was in a deep recession and was having difficulty paying its debts, particularly those owed the French for helping us during the Revolutionary War.    Under the weak powers given the federal government, it was dependent on the states to fund it and pay its 
debts.    The states were merrily going their own ways and not doing a very good job of providing – something like deadbeat dads. 

Furthermore, given no power over commerce, the federal government was unable to stop the states from waging trade wars against each other, and imposing tariffs to block competition.   The states even had their own currencies.    These were the conditions that were largely responsible for the recession and the philosophy of sovereign states rights and a weak central government was the source.    Are you sure you want that again?    Grover Norquist does.

A little more Constitutional history from a later period also has relevance here.    After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was enacted to protect the rights of the recently freed slaves and some of its other provisions took other measures to assure that the secessionist states followed the laws of the land.   You have recently heard Section 4 of that Amendment discussed as a means for the President to prevent the US from defaulting on its debts, despite blocking efforts by the no-new-taxes-pledge Republicans. 

There is another provision of that same 14th Amendment that fits here as well. Section 3 states that  “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, … who, having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress to support the Constitution of the 
United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. 

Consider that these anti-government, no-new-tax-pledge-Republicans are again attempting to significantly weaken 
the federal government; some of them have even advocated secession. Furthermore, in signing the no tax pledge, 
they are giving aid and comfort to Grover Norquist, whose published intention is to “shrink the federal government to the point that it is small enough to drown in a bathtub.”    Is this, in principle, sufficiently different from giving aid and comfort to any other non-government organization whose intention is to weaken or destroy the United States government, even Al Qaeda?    True, Norquist does not advocate violent means, but his practices have wreaked violent harm to many.   A great many Norquist-pledging Tea Party state politicians have been slashing spending on health, education, and unemployment.    People have died because they no longer could pay for the treatments they desperately needed. That may not be change by violent means, but it is change that does violence. 

One could even question whether, in signing the No-Net-Tax-Increase-Pledge, elected official are bordering on committing an act of treason? 

Grover Norquist is on the Way Out

"Norquist says that members sometimes “get tripped up by hypothetical questions,” and the meeting should help clarify some of the confusion...“So part of it will be how to answer questions people might get on taxes and the pledge.  Then we want to answer questions on how the pledge will play out in tax reform as Ways and Means is getting ready to do tax reform next year.”"

So there you have it.   Grover Norquist is going to teach our elected politicians on how to answer embarrassing questions about the stupid pledge that they made to Grover Norquist.   Wow, what does Grover Norquist have over these Representatives and Senators?

These spineless republicans live in fear of Grover, WHY?   

Jeff Flake Promises Not To Sign Tax Pledge He Already Signed

Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican congressman running for U.S. Senate, said Wednesday he had not and would not sign the no-tax pledge from Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, even though the group says he already signed.

"The only pledge I'd sign is a pledge to sign no more pledges," Flake said at a debate with Democrat Richard Carmona and Libertarian Marc Victor.    "We've got to ensure that we go back and represent our constituents in a way -- I believe in limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility. I don't want higher taxes. 

But no more pledges."

Flake is listed as one of the 279 signers of the pledge against new taxes on the website of Americans for Tax Reform.    The pledge is a promise to voters to  "ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and 
credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

But it often gets in the way of legislation, because any attempt to raise revenue can be interpreted as a tax increase -- putting pledge-signers in the awkward position of either thwarting debt-reduction efforts or breaking their word.

The debate showed an effort to shift toward the center for both Flake and Carmona.     Flake emphasized his willingness to work with both parties, even though his record shows him consistently voting with his party.   He said he is not a member of the Tea Party, although he is proud to have the conservative group's support.

Flake said he worked with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on immigration issues, but offered no legislation on the subject.    Flake voted against the Dream Act, which would provide legal status to some undocumented young people, but said he supports a "version" of the Dream Act that would give states the option of charging in-state tuition prices to undocumented immigrants instead of out-of-state tuition.    He is struggling with Arizona Latino voters, who by and large support immigration reform.

Carmona, meanwhile, emphasized his long history as an independent, saying he became a Democrat for this election because the Republican Party has gone so far right.    He said he hopes to go bring change to the Senate.

Carmona said he would have voted against Obamacare as the law stands now, and would have instead encouraged Congress and the president to make adjustments.    Republicans quickly pointed out that the statement contradicts previous statements that he would have supported health care reform, although he did say earlier that he would have wanted changes.     Carmona said he stands behind the principle of health care for all, but does not view single-payer health care system as workable.

"The way it is, if the president and Congress was not willing to change it, I wouldn't have voted for it as is," Carmona said.    "And the reason is I believe that it's unsustainable in the long run. ... But I'm fully behind the aspiration to make sure that every American has access to a basic set of health care benefits."

Grover Norquist Pledge Against Taxes Attracts Fewer Republican Candidates

Rep. Scott Rigell's (R-Va.) message for up-and-coming Republicans would have been considered political heresy just two years ago: You don't have to bow to Grover Norquist to win.

"My advice and counsel to 'Young Guns' would be to not sign the Americans for Tax Reform pledge," the Virginia Republican told The Huffington Post. The anti-tax oath authored by conservative activist Norquist had, until recently, been signed by almost every Republican in Congress or aspirant.

This election season is different. Rigell is one of dozens of GOP challengers and incumbents who have declined, so far, to take the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Their objections range from personal to political. But underneath is the belief that being locked into a pledge to never support new revenues in a debt-reduction deal 
is unpalatable.

Just 45 of 83 of the Republican National Congressional Committee's current crop of so-called Young Guns have signed the no-tax pledge this election season, according to a Huffington Post analysis of pledge signatures. 

During the 2010 midterm elections, 81 of 92 of that Young Guns group signed the pledge.   The Young Guns program was founded by GOP leaders to promote and finance up-and-coming congressional candidates.

The sentiment hasn't been shared across the party's ranks. As Norquist's group has pointed out, nearly 100 more politicians today -- candidates and incumbents -- have signed the pledge than two years ago.    That's in part because more Republicans are in office. Moreover, campaign pressures can force a candidate's hand. Someone declining to sign the pledge today may think differently by November.

"You are interested in oranges. We are interested in apples," said John Kartch, a spokesman for Norquist's group.    A total of 539 incumbent lawmakers and candidates have signed the pledge, Kartch said.    That's more than the number of seats in Congress, as some races feature several candidates who all are pledge-takers. Since the Republican Party controls a healthy majority in the House, there is little risk that, come January 2013, there might be a rebellion on the group's pet issue.

"So many of the potentially GOP districts have already been won that any collection of ‘strong’ GOP candidates in 2012 would be less likely to win than the same group measured in 2010," Kartch said.

The eagerness of Rigell and others to downplay or ignore the pledge would have been anathema just two years ago.

Last month, Norquist hosted what he called an "educational meeting" on the Capitol Hill to remind incumbent lawmakers of their commitment to never vote for a tax increase. The Norquist huddle reportedly attracted 20 members of Congress, or 7 percent of the 279 federal legislators who have signed the pledge. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina walked out early. (Mulvaney’s spokesman said the lawmaker is “already familiar with” the pledge and didn’t need a refresher course).

Although Norquist hasn't shared the names of attendees, Rigell was not there.

The Virginia Republican, who was given Young Gun status in May 2010, yanked his signature from the anti-tax pledge in January, saying he objects to the pledge's prohibition against eliminating corporate loopholes or government subsidies unless the change in the tax code is revenue-neutral.

"I have a voting record," Rigell said. "I've voted a thousand times. If they want to know what Scott Rigell's about, they can go to Open Congress or whatever."

Rigell said he's "certain" the Taxpayer Protection Pledge won't help correct the government's long-term fiscal problems.    He told voters about his position five months before the primary, ignoring advisers' pleas to wait until he had secured the GOP nomination.

"If they want me with my convictions to represent them, that's wonderful.    I'd be honored,"  Rigell said.    "If they know I'm repudiating and distancing myself from the ATR pledge, and in their wisdom, if they want someone else to represent them, they need to have that opportunity."

Rigell is not the only GOP candidate who has publicly expressed concerns over the anti-tax pledge.    Young Gun Richard Tisei’s (R-Mass.) campaign circulated a Salem News article last month declaring that the candidate is "bucking the trend" and will be "one of the lone dissidents" if elected to Congress.

Tisei, running against Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), said he has known Norquist since his college days, when Tisei was the chairman of College Republicans at American University and Norquist was the executive director of the national organization.   Still, the former Massachusetts state senator insisted he wants to avoid getting "tied up in knots" if he's elected.

"I'm not signing any pledges," Tisei told The Huffington Post last week. "I'm just promising to use my best judgment as a congressman.    And I think that's the problem in Washington right now.    You have both Democrats and Republicans that are inflexible on certain issues."

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) also takes issue with the pledge's rigidity. The Young Gun easily won an April primary to replace retiring Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.) in which six opponents signed the pledge.

"To me, pledges, can be gimmicks,"  Perry told the York Dispatch in April.    "It is easy to candidates to sign pledges and make promises.    The proof is in my record."

Other Young Guns are still making up their minds. Businessman Joe Coors, who is trying to unseat Rep. Ed Perlmutter, the Democratic incumbent in Colorado's 7th Congressional District, has not yet taken the Norquist oath.   Coors promised to support and co-sponsor an amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting
congressional terms.    His signature is also on the Death Tax Repeal Pledge, which simply states a candidate "will support the 
permanent repeal of the federal estate and gift taxes."

In a statement, Coors spokeswoman Michelle Yi said the campaign is reviewing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to determine whether it "helps keep the conversation on how to get the economy back on track."

Despite the headline-grabbing defections, one Young Gun said she sees no reason to withhold her signature, even though she has, in the past, backed tax hikes.

In one of the year's most closely watched legislative races, former Saratoga Springs, Utah, Mayor Mia Love aims to become the first black Republican woman in Congress. In a statement provided by her campaign, the Young Gun said would not speculate why fellow Republican office-seekers have not signed the pledge.

Love is no stranger to the dreaded T-word. She has drawn the wrath of local Tea Party groups for a 116 percent property tax increase she approved while mayor.

"As for myself, I signed the pledge for the very simple reason that I firmly believe the federal government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem," Love said in the statement. "As our national economy continues to struggle, we do not need further tax increases."

UPDATE: 10:15 a.m. -- Coors announced Thursday that he will not be signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, delivering a letter to Norquist explaining his rationale.

"In the battle we find ourselves in as a nation, I don't want to be viewed as an ideologue.   That's not who I am," Coors wrote in the letter, which was provided to The Huffington Post by Yi.

Coors also wrote Norquist that House Republicans should not oppose tax increases because they have signed the pledge; they should oppose tax increases because they "harm the overall health of the economy."

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