Tag Archives: hurt

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.

Tea Party disappointed by Hurt’s inaccessibility.

The Tea Party is upset with Rep. Robert Hurt:

The group gathered in the parking lot outside Hurt’s Berkmar Circle office for about half an hour. After a few speeches, the crowd dispersed, with some attendees going to speak to office staff who were inside handling casework.

Some were upset that no representative from Hurt’s office came out to the event.

“When we did this at [Rep. Tom] Perriello’s office, he always had a representative to come down and listen to us,” said Don Woodsmall. “And no Hurt representative down here today? I’ve got to tell you, I’m severely disappointed.”

It was just in October that Hurt said: “I can promise you this, I will certainly be as accessible if not more accessible than Congressman Perriello has been.”

Virginia Redistricting Competition winners announced.

Quentin Kidd (of CNU) and Michael McDonald (of GMU) held a competition for the best redistricting plans for Congress, the Senate, and the House. Fifteen teams from eleven universities participated. The winners, selected by folks from the the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, were announced today. Of all of the submissions, UVA won for best Congressional districts, a different team from UVA won for best Senate districts, and GMU won for best House districts. (Detailed maps are available, too.)

Take a good look at these districts. In particular, study what your own districts would look like. They’re definitely not going to be perfect, but keep them in mind. When the new districts are announced by the General Assembly—and that’s how it’ll work, they’ll just be dropped into our laps one day, fully formed—compare your district to what it could have been. Most of us will be disappointed by reality.

The winning Congressional plan keeps me in the 5th congressional district, which would wind up making some unfortunate cuts across northwest Albemarle, as well as a few surrounding counties, rather than following the county boundaries. The southern end gets cut out, and it winds up extending clear to Richmond, but it strikes me as a generally sensible district. More sensible than the existing district, anyhow. This would cut Rep. Robert Hurt out of this district.

The winning Senate plan moves me out of the 25th (Creigh Deeds’ district). Heck, it moves Creigh Deeds out of Creigh Deeds’ district, into one that makes more sense for a man from Bath County. I wind up in a district—the 15th—that looks a lot like the new 5CD, extending slightly farther south and not getting as close to Richmond. Although my district looks a little odd as it dodges around Charlottesville, I think it’s otherwise reasonable.

And the winning House plan keeps me in the same district—the 58th, Rob Bell’s district—but the district gets a lot smaller, because it would include Charlottesville. If I’m right in my understanding of where Bell’s home is, that puts Bell into a runoff with Del. David Toscano, who represents the 57th, which consists of Charlottesville and the urban ring. Bell would undoubtedly lose that runoff, because his district would become far more liberal with the addition of Charlottesville, reliably the second-best performer in the state for Democrats. (Petersburg is #1.) Personally, I don’t think such concerns should matter in nonpartisan redistricting, so I’m happy to set that aside. I think the new 58th makes plenty of sense, and I’d have no quarrel with it.

As I said, not perfect, but pretty good. I could live with these districts. I should be so lucky to have the opportunity.

Hurt has filed a $1M lawsuit over a campaign ad.

In what strikes me as terrible, terrible timing, Robert Hurt has filed a lawsuit against the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, and two C’ville TV stations. He actually filed the suit two weeks ago, but nobody noticed, so it’s becoming public now, on the eve of the election. Here’s the advertisement that’s prompted his lawsuit:

I’m insufficiently familiar with the claims made here to know if they have any veracity (I’d heard about the ad, but never seen it—I dropped my satellite TV subscription back in the spring). The logic of the suit is that the Sierra Club and the LCV paid for the ad, and he’s suing NBC-29 and Virginia Broadcasting/Gray Television because they broadcast it. He wants $740k in compensatory damages and $350k in punitive damages.

There are a few things about this that don’t make sense to me. The first is the legal logic behind filing the lawsuit prior to the election. If he loses tomorrow, it’ll be by a narrow margin. In which case he’d have grounds to pump up those compensatory damages, since he could argue that he didn’t win the seat as a result on the ad. The second is the publicity logic behind filing the lawsuit prior to the election. It’d be one thing if he’d filed this six months ago. But two weeks before the campaign? It looks desperate. The third and most surprising aspect is that he’s filing this lawsuit at all. I’m no expert in first amendment cases, but I’m no slouch, either. Hurt is a public official, meaning that to win a slander case, he’s got to prove actual malice—that is, that all four of the defendants made specific that they knew or strongly suspected were not true. That’s a very, very high bar, one that’s pretty difficult to clear.

Maybe this late hour is simply too late to affect the outcome of this election. In which case, Hurt got plain lucky.

Update: PolitiFact ranks the ad as “barely true.” The facts are true, but their effects have been exaggerated. Hurt received a total of just $2,000 from Virginia Uranium, and over the course of seven years, at that. Also, Hurt went to the senate ethics committee to see if it would be a conflict of interest for him to vote on the bill; they gave him the green light. A political ad in which the facts are true, but their effects are exaggerated? That’s what you call a “political ad.” It ain’t right, but it’s par for the course.

Hurt says he’d be more accessible than Perriello.

I’m just going to enter this into the record:

Hurt was also asked if voters should expect him, if he is elected, to hold a similar number of town hall meetings as Perriello has over the last two years. During the run-up to the health care reform debate, Perriello held more town hall meetings with constituents than any other congressman.

Hurt declined to commit to holding a specific number of town hall meetings, but promised to listen to constituents.

“I can promise you this, I will certainly be as accessible if not more accessible than Congressman Perriello has been,” Hurt said.

Depending on how things turn out next week, this might be a pretty interesting promise—yes, he used the word “promise”—to look back on in a year or two. Perriello has been enormously accessible (recall that he’s repeatedly addressed Tea Party groups), setting a pretty high bar.

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.