Potomac News Online | Party loyalty rules are needed to curtail campaign mischief

Two weeks ago (Sept. 24), I bemoaned the fact that “Many voters will be more concerned about whether [school board] candidates are hausfraus who have volunteered in the schools, rather than their management skills or principles.” My focus was on whether candidates have educated themselves on important issues, questioning “the last substantive book or article they read on school reform or if they have even read one.”

Perhaps it’s my own lack of skill, but some people just didn’t get the fact that I was condemning the “identity politics” too frequently substituting for substantive policy debate. A Manassas reader missed the topic entirely, writing that “of course,” that the “‘hausfrau in question is the incumbent” chairman, and that my comment “belittles women.”

Executive Editor Susan Svihlik thought “that I implied “[t]hat being a homemaker… is something of which one should be ashamed and that said [homemakers] have no management skills.”

Both are wrong, on all counts. To her credit, the incumbent school board chairman has never practiced identity politics (the same cannot be said of some other candidates). I discuss the policies justifying voter support for her challenger, not the incumbent chairman’s sex. The educational bureaucracy seems to manage her, rather than vice versa. More importantly, she fears and opposes real school choice, parroting the unfounded criticisms of those who insist that the public responsibility to provide for education be met with government-controlled schools.

Attempts to play the victim card for the incumbent chairman simply don’t wash. The Manassas reader attempts to play the “identity politics” card for her. It is beneath the incumbent.

As for the notion that my comment “belittles women,” or my editor’s comment, I cannot be held responsible for what they infer, as I had no intention -? other than use it as an abundant example of local identity politics – to “imply” anything about hausfraus.?

As such is Mrs. Young’s choice of the last 15 months, to do either would be both wrong and foolishly contrary to my self-interest. Indeed, it is unfortunate that the ever-growing government leviathan deprives most women of this choice, as those who would otherwise prefer to stay home to raise their children must become bread winners to meet the concomitant growth of family tax burdens.

Candidates touting “credentials” as hausfrau or “school volunteer” alone too frequently appeal to such substanceless grounds. Examples abound.

Two former Montclair Property Owners Association presidents sought the school board seat in Dumfries, either as filed candidates or as “write-ins.” Republican-endorsed challenger Steve Keen has been criticized because he lacks a college degree. Republican-endorsed Neabsco incumbent Julie Lucas has been criticized in some quarters because she has no children, while her opponent, Jean Smith, has four. I support Smith on policy grounds; I categorically reject the notion that Lucas is somehow less qualified for the post simply because she is not a mother.

Which brings me to the topic of party loyalty, a topic that I should just resign myself to addressing every four years, when some local Republican leaders simply decide that their word isn’t worth much. It’s also the time when those not Republicans, attempt to tell the Republican Party how to conduct its business.

The Party Plan of the Republican Party of Virginia (and its local counterpart) briefly states their identical qualifications for participation. After barring racial, religious and sex-based discrimination, they require that those participating in GOP “mass meetings, party canvasses, conventions, or primaries encompassing their respective election districts” be prepared to, “if requested, express … their intent to support all of its nominees for public office in the ensuing election.”

Why is this requirement imposed? It is necessary because the legislature refuses to allow registration by political party, so Virginia’s parties cannot limit their activities to those who identify with them. Left without this device, outsiders are frequently able to make mischief.

Recent local primaries demonstrate that it’s not a small problem. Sheriff Lee Stoffregen, fearing GOP interference with his Democrat renomination, sponsored Larry Williams’ (whose business contributed to Stoffregen’s war chest) candidacy against Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton, diminishing Republican crossover votes. Either that, or Stoffregen was hedging his bets against the pathetic Democrat nominee for chairman.

But the practice of party loyalty is somewhat more complicated, and less onerous than my colleague on this page, James Simpson, recently suggested in a column discussing the county Republican Committee’s response to the outgoing Occoquan supervisor’s decision to endorse an independent. That endorsement violated the Republican incumbent’s pledge of “intent to support all of its nominees for public office in the ensuing election…,” rendered both when she was nominated as the GOP candidate, and when she voted in June’s primary.

There is virtually nothing, save for violation of this pledge, which is grounds for removal from an official Republican committee. And it is a burden which, for all practical purposes, applies only to official committee members, not to voters who identify themselves as Republicans, except when they appear to vote in a primary or other official GOP function.

Serving on an official Republican committee, or being a Republican nominee, is a higher office, one of leadership. It therefore carries with it greater burdens and responsibilities. And while one is clearly free within that office to express all manner of dispute with what are normally considered “core Republican values” – protection of life; limitation of government; reduction of the tax burden – the single standard imposed upon those who would participate in official Republican activities is the requirement that one “if requested, express … their intent to support all of its nominees for public office in the ensuing election…”

So the limits are also fairly well-defined. Some Republicans complain that party nominees and committee members are supporting school board candidates other than those endorsed by the GOP Committee. And while the endorsement carries moral force, such action certainly does not violate the letter or the spirit of the GOP “pledge.” That distinguishes the actions of the outgoing Occoquan supervisor in the race for her successor with those nominees supporting school board candidates not endorsed by the county GOP.

The Party Plan speaks only to “nominees,” not endorsees. Thus, while it’s fair to question the integrity of Republican committee members and officeholders who aid Democrat or independent nominees, the same criticism is not fairly leveled at those who refuse to lend their support to those merely carrying the GOP endorsement for school board.

An attorney, Young lives with his wife and their two sons in Montclair.

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