Tag Archives: perriello

Don’t average voters deserve a little representation?

Here’s the thing about Rep. Robert Hurt: he’s a perfectly average congressman.

It’s tough to campaign against average. There’s a reason why just a shade less than 100% of Congressmen seeking reelection are successful: they keep their mouths shut and try not to do anything, while their staff dutifully arranges tours of the Capitol, mails out American flags, and expedites agency responses to constituents’ requests.

Hurt is one of these congressman. In his first two years in office, he has passed no legislation, and introduced just four bills. He’s cast no brave votes. He’s taken no principled stands. He’s a standard nobody freshman, and as long as he remains in congress, he will continue to be a nobody in congress. He’s not a major figure in the district, certainly not nearly as visible as past congressmen. I’ll wager that there’s a solid majority of congress who could not pick him out of a two-man lineup.

(Keep in mind, being a nobody in congress still makes you a congressman. There are a few hundred nobodies in congress. It’s perfectly ordinary.)

The other day I got a slick, two-page mailer from Hurt—paid for by the Republican Party of Virginia—and nowhere on it does he mention that he’s a Republican. An informed voter would probably figure out that he’s a Republican, based on some of his positions, but a lot of people would have no idea. That’s the point.

Hurt stands in sharp contrast to our last two congressmen: Virgil H. Goode (D/I/R/C) and Tom Perriello (D). Like ‘em or not, nobody could doubt where these guys stood.

Goode was firmly against NAFTA, Muslims, the United Nations, and Mexican restaurants displaying the Mexican flag. He made national headlines on a few occasions, none for reasons that made the district look particularly good, but most of which I’ll wager he was proud of. Goode routinely took unpopular positions, and his legislative priorities were either bold or Quixotesque, depending on one’s perspective.

Perriello distinguished himself by being quantifiably the hardest-working member of Congress, holding more town hall meetings with constituents than any other member. He met with thousands of constituents to discuss healthcare reform, ultimately becoming a notably important vote in favor of the Obama administration’s overhaul. Perriello suspected that his vote would cost him his seat, and he was right—he was one of a handful of freshman Democrats across the U.S. who were unseated in 2010, losses that were attributed widely to backlash over healthcare reform. Casting that vote, knowing that it would cost him his seat, is the very definition of taking a principled stand, regardless of what one thinks of healthcare reform. Perriello introduced 23 bills in the same amount of time in which Hurt introduced four, with seven passing the House (three resolutions, four bills) and one (the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act) passing into law.

Hurt has distinguished himself among this trio by doing absolutely nothing to distinguish himself.

You’ve got to feel for…Douglass? Is that name of the Democratic nominee? I truly cannot remember the name of the nominee. (I looked it up—yup, it’s John Douglass.) He’s got no purchase on Hurt. Sure, he can run against Hurt as a generic Republican, and that’s what he appears to be doing. This is effective in a wave election, or a demographic-shifting redistricting. but there’s no sign of the former and the latter does not describe last year’s redistricting, which did turn the Fifth District into a sociogeographically bizarre district, but it became only more conservative. Hurt was nominated two years ago by virtue of being the sole non-Tea-Party-aligned candidate, so he can’t even be tied to that fringe group’s fading fortunes.

President Obama has been rising in the polls in Virginia and nationally, and it’s certainly not impossible that he’ll win by the same landslide electoral college margin that he won in 2008. If that’s the case, it’s likewise not impossible that he’d bring Douglass along with him, if only because independents turned off by Mitt Romney’s incompetent campaign decide to toss in for some other Democrats as long as they’re in the booth.

Short of such an event, it’s tough to see how Hurt loses his seat any time soon. He’s got a district that was tailored to him and he’s unlikely to ever do anything interesting. Inertia is a powerful thing.

Links for February 16th

  • Washington Post: Ex-rep. Perriello might run for U.S. Senate in Va. if Kaine doesn’t
    Good. Kaine is my first choice, for practical reasons, but Perriello is my second.
  • Library of Congress: Chronicling America
    The LoC has the complete contents of long-ago newspapers from all around Virginia, mostly from around the turn of the last century. The Richmond Planet, the Tazewell Republican, the Highland Recorder, The [Fredericksburg] Free Lance, the Clarke Courier—they've got it all.
  • Hayes Carll: KMAG YOYO
    One of my favorite musicians, country artist Hayes Carll, has a new album that does not disappoint. His prior release, "Trouble in Mind," was just brilliant, and I figured that his follow-up probably couldn't reach that bar. After listening to it a few times through, I think "KMAG YOYO" is every bit as good. (The title is a military acronym: "kiss my ass, guys—you're on your own.") Standouts include the title track, one of the few songs about the war in Afghanistan, and the very funny "Another Like You." If you're a fan of Todd Snider—who performs on this album—you'll like Hayes Carll. If you like country, but not the crap that's passed for country for the past twenty years, then you'll love him.

Cuccinelli: Obama says Perriello is his favorite Congressman. Really?

Said Ken Cuccinelli, in a campaign letter today:

No wonder President Obama has called Perriello his “favorite Congressman”!

Really? I mean, that would be really cool, but that’s the first I’ve heard of that. My suspicion is that Cuccinelli’s so deep in the echo chamber that he’s not aware that’s an invention of the far right, but I don’t know that. It’s possible that, out of 435 members of congress, the president has chosen to single out a freshman from Virginia as his favorite. But I think probably not.

Can anybody find any support for this claim?

Robert Hurt, flaming liberal?

Sen. Robert Hurt has repeatedly accused Congressman Tom Perriello of being in the pocket of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi for voting with her 90% of the time, including just a few minutes ago, during their debate here in Charlottesville. Assuming that statistic is (I have no idea), I thought I’d run a quick comparison of Hurt’s own voting record.

I compared four years of the votes cast by Hurt in the state senate (in which he is the most conservative member) to those cast by Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (in which she is the most liberal member).

Sen. Hurt and Sen. Whipple voted the same way 1,833 times out of 2,342 shared votes, or 78% of the time. And they’re members of the opposite party—the two farthest-apart members of the senate!

For a comparison more like what Hurt is lobbing at Perriello, I looked at the farthest-left Republican in the senate, Sen. Fred Quayle. Hurt and Quayle voted identically 87% of the time.

The point of this isn’t to say that Hurt is a Democrat. The point is that calculating batting averages like this is meaningless. Votes that survive the committee process to finally get a floor vote tend strongly to pass. The point of the committee process is to weed out the bills that aren’t likely to pass; the ones that make it to the floor are ones that most members agree on. Knowing that Perriello and Pelosi vote together 90% of the time tells us absolutely nothing. Hurt must know that, having served in the General Assembly for eight years. It’s disappointing to me that he keeps claiming that statistic means something, when obviously it does not.

That explains why Hurt didn’t want to debate.

In tonight’s debate between Congressman Perriello and Robert Hurt, I’m surprised at how badly Hurt came off.

Although I don’t think I’ve ever met Hurt (I just can’t remember), we have a bunch of friends in common, and I know him to be a nice guy. He’s no dope. But with his performance this evening, one wouldn’t know that. Here I’d been giving him the benefit of the doubt that his refusal to debate was because of the involvement of a conservative third-party candidate and the usual sturm und drang that goes into arranging a candidate debate. Apparently, it’s because he’s totally unprepared.

Host Jay Warren asked no surprising questions. If Hurt’s staff was going to prep him for just a half dozen topics, those covered surely would have been among them. But Hurt could muster no meaningful responses, nearly all of which were somewhere between weak and just plain wrong. The fact that he couldn’t name a single federal program that he’d cut was pretty amazing. Hurt’s campaign, like those of many Republicans this year, has been based substantially on cutting spending. The man’s running for office on the promise to do that. But he can’t name anything that he’d actually cut? Nothing? That’s a shell of a candidate right there.

Maybe I gave Hurt too much credit. Or maybe, like post-2000 and pre-2008 John McCain, he’ll have to lose this election to regain the credibility that he’s losing now.

Well done, WSLS.

WSLS hosted a debate between Rep. Tom Perriello and challenger Robert Hurt this evening, and they deserve credit for how they did it. They simply tossed their six o’clock newscast out the window, and dedicated the entire time to having anchor Jay Warren question the two candidates. By airing it at that time, WSLS surely wound up with far more viewers than if they’d broadcast it in any other time slot. Good for them.

Clark has abandoned his professed beliefs for his own ambitions.

Jeff Clark, the far-right independent candidate in the 5 CD race, is considering filing a lawsuit to force his way into debates with Congressman Perriello and challenger Robert Hurt:

He has been working with the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization headquartered in Albemarle County, to challenge his exclusion from the debates. Clark said the organization may file a legal challenge to force his access into the debates.

What we’re seeing here is Clark tossing his professed beliefs out the window in support of his own political ambitions. Like the rest of the Tea Party, Clark is all about the supremacy of private property…unless it’s somebody else’s private property that he wants. Next week, Perriello and Hurt will be debating on Roanoke’s WSLS, a TV station owned by Media General. This is not a public resource. WSLS is not government-run. The FCC does not require that media outlets provide equal time. Clark has no more legal right to appear on WSLS than he does to walk into my front door and have a seat at my kitchen table. (Whether it is right for Clark to be excluded from debates is another matter.) If he were a socialist candidate I’d figure, “hey, at least he’s consistent.” Kelo, anyone?

The Tea Party talks a good game, but when push comes to shove, these guys are just politicians, in the worst sense of the world. This has to be a tough lesson for the political newbies backing this guy. Here they thought they were overthrowing the established order with an idealistic guy who would stand up for what’s right, no matter what. But Clark’s just another hypocritical political hack. Welcome to politics, kids.

Congressman Perriello’s got cojones.

Whatever one might think of Rep. Tom Perriello, only a fool or a liar would deny that the guy has cojones.

Just look at what he did this evening: speak at the monthly meeting of the Jefferson Area Tea Party. Consider that for a moment. Perriello is, for the second year in a row, holding dozens of town hall meetings across the district. Last year he held more such meetings than any other member of congress, and I imagine he’ll set the record this year, too. That’s really quite remarkable. Those of us in the district have come to regard this as normal, but it’s really not.

Can you imagine Virgil Goode having ever done this sort of thing? Speaking at—to use the left-wing equivalent of teabaggers—a meeting of angry socialists? Taking questions, some hostile, from audiences of hundreds of people? Of course not! Save for the minimal number of debates with challengers, I don’t remember Goode ever addressing an audience more challenging than his own donors, and that includes when he was a Democrat, independent, and a Republican.

I wonder if Robert Hurt might be willing to commit to doing the same thing, if elected. Would he agree to hold two dozen public forums throughout the district each year, take unscreened questions from audience members, and respond to all of them? Like all challengers, he’d almost certainly say “yes,” but the important thing is to get him on the record, in case he does win. If he does emerge victorious next November, I’d put $50 up against anybody that he won’t meet or exceed the bar established by Perriello in this regard.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more responsive, more open congressman in the nation than Rep. Perriello. Don’t lose sight of that.

Conservative poll shows Hurt leading Perriello.

I’m trying to figure out how to get back into the swing of things here after an extraordinarily trying month, but I do want to point out the first reasonable poll in the Fifth District. (And understand that I’m using “reasonable” loosely—this poll was conducted for the American Action Forum, a conservative group, making it inherently suspect.) Their survey shows Rep. Tom Perriello behind challenger Robert Hurt, 49/43. They do not specify the margin of error, but assuming it’s around a reasonable 3%, then they’re tied within the margin. Hurt’s got 75% name recognition, Perriello has 95%.

It’s entirely possible that Perriello is a few points behind Hurt now, given the political climate—these results may well be correct. And I think it’s good news that Hurt’s name recognition is comparatively low, because that gives Perriello a chance to define him. With this poll, I finally feel like this race can be assessed. Let the games begin.

Hurt will, won’t debate his opponents.

Republican congressional nominee Robert Hurt can’t seem to make up his mind as to whether he’s going to debate his challenger from the right, Jeff Clark. In a recorded interview with The Daily Progress a week ago, he had this exchange with the paper:

DP: [Are you] going to be willing to debate Jeff Clark and Tom Perriello?
RH: We need to work out all of the details, but debates are a very, very important part of elections and obviously we want to make ourselves available to all of the citizens who will be judging us and we’re committed to doing that but obviously we have the details to work out. We haven’t talked with the Perriello campaign—I don’t think—about what they’re interested in.
DP: But would you be willing to?
RH: Absolutely.

That couldn’t be much more clear.

Then, shortly after midnight this morning, Hurt’s campaign released a written statement to the paper, in which he said that “we cannot allow the important debate in this election to be sidetracked by a candidate who is not serious about his campaign or his ability to win.” The campaign claims that Hurt wasn’t answering the question of whether he would debate Clark, but instead was…uh…well, they’re not saying. Apparently, if you ask Hurt if he’s willing to do something, he just says “absolutely.”

Hurt’s campaign is right to want Clark excluded from debates. I imagine the guy is polling below the margin of error. Not only would his involvement in debates probably not be useful, but it would be a bad political move for Hurt to give Clark any attention. Congressman Perriello quite naturally wants Clark included, because every vote that Clark gets is taken from Hurt. The problem here is this business of saying one thing one week and another the next, without explaining the change and, worse still, pretending that the Progress is at fault here. It’s OK to change your mind in the face of new information—in fact, it’s often the only reasonable thing to do—but you’ve got to share those facts with others if you want to be perceived as reasonable. Attempting to discredit a newspaper whose endorsement will be important this November is a foolish move.

I’d put money on the Progress endorsing Hurt. Or, rather, I would have. Now I’m not so sure.

The RPV, caught in a lie, won’t even admit it.

This is just pathetic:

Virginia Republicans launched a pair of attack ads Wednesday questioning whether Reps. Tom Perriello, D-5th District, and Rick Boucher, D-9th District, joined with other congressional Democrats who applauded Mexican President Felipe Calderon last week for urging an assault weapons ban.

The problem, the Los Angeles Times pointed out Thursday, was neither Perriello nor Boucher attended Calderon’s speech.

It gets worse:

Garren Shipley, RPV director of communications, said in an e-mail statement that pro-gun Democrats like Perriello should have spoken out against Calderon’s speech. He said the ads would stay online until Perriello gives his opinion on Calderon’s call to ban sporting guns.

It was lame enough that the RPV half-assedly accused the congressmen of doing something without any evidence that they did it. Then, when shown to be wrong, their response is to further entrench themselves in that lie. Just admit it, RPV: you screwed up. Just say “we’re grateful to know that these congressman are on the right side of this issue.”

Accusing somebody of believing something that there’s no evidence that they believe, and then demanding that they repudiate that imaginary position, is a tactic of the most desperate, pathetic politics. It’s practiced by Democrats and Republicans alike, but really more the style of partisan bloggers than an entire state political party. Given how well Virginia Republicans did last November, can’t we expect better from them?

Teabaggers threaten congressman’s brother.

It’s official: Congressman Perriello’s opponents have gotten creepy and threatening:

Danville Tea Party Leader Nigel Coleman posted [Perriello's home] address on his Facebook profile, which is not limited to only his Facebook “friends.”

“This is Rep. Thomas Stuart Price Perriello’s home address,” Coleman wrote Monday. “… I ain’t holding back anymore!!”

When Coleman learned the address was actually Perriello’s brother’s — Politico reported he and his wife have four young children — Coleman commented on another blog that the mistake was “collateral damage.”

“Do you mean I posted his brother’s address on my Facebook?” Coleman wrote. “Oh well, collateral damage.”

“I ain’t holding back,” and “collateral damage.” That says it all, doesn’t it? Teabaggers don’t want to burn Perriello in effigy, they just want to burn him. On the plus side, these guys are doing a brilliant job at building sympathy for Perriello in the district.

Verga clarifies. Kind of.

In today’s Daily Progress, they’ve talked with Laurence Verga about his remarks about President Obama:

Laurence Verga, one of the seven Republicans hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Ivy, has clarified recent remarks that he said have been “mischaracterized as racist.”


On Tuesday, Verga released a statement with an unedited transcript of his remarks at the debate. The transcript, he said, shows he meant that Obama’s foreign policy is “political correctness run awry” because it is too soft on terrorism.

In Verga’s statement clarifying the remarks, he said the full transcript of his comments show he meant that political correctness has damaged the nation’s ability to fight “global war against jihad.”

To consider the veracity of his defense, let’s look at the text of his remarks, in the context in which he’s saying that they need to be placed:

The biggest threat to our country right now is ourselves. Not the people in this room, but the people that voted the current administration in are the biggest threats. And what that is, is political correctness run awry. We are in a war. There is a global jihad against the United States of America. This jihad wants to take away our freedom. They don’t like our freedom, they don’t like our religion, they don’t like anything about us. And what we need to do is stand up, forget the political correctness and fight this war. To win this war. And make sure that Americans on our soil and internationally are secure.

He goes on a little longer, about Israel and Iran.

Reading this over, one sees Verga’s trouble. He’s making two separate statements. The first is about politics:

The biggest threat to our country right now is ourselves. Not the people in this room, but the people that voted the current administration in are the biggest threats. And what that is, is political correctness run awry.

And the second is about war:

We are in a war. There is a global jihad against the United States of America. This jihad wants to take away our freedom. They don’t like our freedom, they don’t like our religion, they don’t like anything about us. And what we need to do is stand up, forget the political correctness and fight this war. And make sure that Americans on our soil and internationally are secure.

These are two barely related thoughts. The first is the patently stupid assertion that a majority of Americans hate America, led by the president, and that electing him is “political correctness run awry.” The second is the usual pap that terrorists hate us because they “don’t like our freedom,” that we have to “stand up” and “fight this war.”

Now, we’re fighting precisely as many wars as when George Bush was president, Guantanamo is open for business, the Patriot Act remains the law of the land, etc. Unless he’s advocating that we invade a third country, I can’t understand what he’s promoting here.

Verga’s difficulty here is that he’s claiming that his prior statement encompassed—beforehand—the seemingly unrelated one that he made a minute later. By way of comparison, imagine that he said this:

You can tell that President Obama is on the side of terrorists because of his race. We are in a war. There is a global jihad against the United States of America. This jihad wants to take away our freedom. They don’t like our freedom, they don’t like our religion, they don’t like anything about us. And what we need to do is stand up, forget the political races and fight this war. And make sure that Americans on our soil and internationally are secure.

Imagine that Verga said that, and then said “golly, I didn’t mean the president’s race, I was talking about political races, as I mentioned a minute later.” Yeah. Bullshit.

We’re left with two possibilities here. The first is that Laurence Verga was attacking President Obama along racial lines. The second is that Laurence Verga is perhaps the most incompetent public speaker that has ever graced a stage in the Fifth District, who made a gaffe of stunning proportions. I don’t know the man, I don’t know his character (other than that he’s publicly accused me of being the biggest threat to America’s national security), and so I figure it’s theoretically possible that he’s just accidentally said something enormously stupid. I think the evidence supports pretty strongly that he’s racist, but not being psychic, I can’t know his heart.

Best case, Verga (along with Jim McKelvey) merely accused half of the district’s voters of being America’s worst enemies. Worse case, he did that and he’s racist. Either way, with Bradley Rees out of the race, Verga’s now my man for the nomination. Whether racist or incompetent, this is definitely the guy I’d like to have as the face of Fifth District Republicans.

Video of Laurence Verga’s racist remarks about the president.

For the record, here is a video clip of congressional candidate Laurence Verga’s racist remarks about President Obama:

This doesn’t add new information, but it does prevent anybody from claiming that his remarks are being taken out of context, as I understand his supporters are claiming. This is an excerpt from the Lynchburg Tea Party’s video of the entire debate, provided by member Kurt Feigel. See it in a larger context still, if you’re interested.

Laurence Verga, racist.

The Daily Progress reports on Republican candidate for congress Laurence Verga’s response to the question of what the biggest threat to U.S. national security is:

Verga said the biggest threat is the Americans who voted the Obama administration into office. “That was political correctness gone awry,” Verga said.

There are two gems in here. The first is that 157,362 Fifth District voters—48.29% of us—are the biggest threat to national security. The second is that voting for Barack Obama was “political correctness.”

Let’s just take a moment to consider that Verga meant by that. “Political correctness” is conservative-speak for “supporting minorities.” There are many types of minorities, of course, but President Obama is only one kind: black. So what Laurence Verga is saying is that Obama is only president because he’s black. 69,456,897 Americans—52.9% of us—tossed national security aside because we supported President Obama over Sen. John McCain merely because Obama is a black man and, therefore, not a real American, so he can be known to be secretly undermining national security. Obama lacks other qualifications, but 48.29% of Fifth District voters are such morons that we voted for the man because we are, at heart, racists. Verga is not a racist, of course, he’s just keeping it real.

When people talk about teabaggers being racist, this is exactly the sort of shameful horseshit that they’re talking about. Fuck this guy.

National Journal Agrees: Perriello’s a centrist.

National Journal’s annual congressional vote rankings are out, and I think it’s interesting that all of their math has simply confirmed what GovTrack.us already demonstrated: that Rep. Tom Perriello is a solidly centrist member of congress. He votes more liberally 47.2% of the time, and conservatively 52.8% of the time. In fact, as it turns out, if you simply wanted to apply a dichotomous label to him, “conservative” would be the necessary word. Every other congressman in Virginia is way out in the wings (Eric Cantor, 88th percentile of the conservatives; Bobby Scott, 83rd percentile of the liberals; Bob Goodlatte, 85th percentile of the conservatives; Gerry Connolly, 72nd percentile of the liberals, etc.), with two exceptions: Glenn Nye votes are in the 55th percentile of conservatives, and Rick Boucher is in the 55th percentile of liberals.

So when you hear Republicans claim that Boucher or Perriello (or Nye) take marching orders from Nancy Pelosi or vote lockstep with Democrats, this is how you can know that they’re either ignorant or liars.

02/27 Update: I’ve changed a few words here to reflect the actual methodology used in the analysis. See my comment for details.

YA5DR declares candidacy.

Scott Schultz, of Albemarle County, is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Tom Perriello. He’s a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (Shire of Isenfir, which I gather is the local chapter), where he has the rank of Knight Marshal, and prefers to be known as “Lord Philip ap Griffith.” He’s running because working-class stronger party common-sense conservative values. Or some flavor of word soup like that.

Fifth District Republicans have devolved into self-parody. There’s nothing I can say that’s funnier than the reality of this.

So let me just take this occasion to say one more time that Sen. Robert Hurt is the right guy for Republicans to nominate, such that they may be encouraged to redouble their efforts to nominate a teabag-festooned lamppost or a suitably conservative andiron rather than somebody who has a chance of winning.

Perriello proposes prohibition on foreign corporate donations.

Rep. Tom Perriello is introducing a bill to make a brilliant modification to campaign finance law. It’s a bit breathtaking in its simplicity and utility. With the recent Supreme Court ruling (which is simultaneously legally correct and practically stupid), corporations can make unlimited contributions to candidates for political office. This will be, as anybody can see, a disaster. Note, though, that the restriction on contributions from non-citizens remains: you cannot give to a campaign if you’re Canadian, Mexican, or Iraqi. Americans only. There’s a clear conflict here. There’s nothing keeping somebody from establishing an American corporation but having a foreign national own the stock. That would allow foreigners to fund campaigns, which I suspect we can all agree is wrong.

Perriello to the rescue. He’s introducing a simple bill—and I do mean simple; it’s 10 lines long—that would prohibit corporations with foreign shareholders from contributing to campaigns.

I’ve only mulled over this for a few hours, but there’s really nothing to dislike about this. It fixes a significant loophole in the law in a simple, elegant way.

While I’m on the topic, here’s the good news about allowing corporations to donate to campaigns: it’ll force repatriation of some of these good-for-nothing faux-American companies who have moved their corporate headquarters into a mailbox in Bermuda. Stanley Tools was all set to move, but the outcry was great enough to keep them…but it doesn’t matter, I’ll never buy anything from them. Remember Tyco? They weaseled out of $400M/year in taxes by having their business in a country that they didn’t go to, where they had no offices, and required no services. If anti-American companies like these can’t get any skin in the game without paying U.S. taxes, maybe they’ll rethink this strategy.

That’s the worst silver lining I’ve ever ginned up.