I've been meaning to post about the 26th District race for some time now. This race is possibly the closest and most interesting contest that is going on for the House of Delegates this year. I will certainly be doing my best to cover this race as we head to election day.
On the Republican side, candidate Matt Lohr
is a lifelong resident of Rockingham County, a farmer and small-businessman, a graduate of Virginia Tech, a husband and father of two, and an active member of the community, including a stint as Chairman of the Rockingham County School Board.
For the Democrats, the candidate is Lowell Fulk
. Fulk is a lifelong resident of Rockingham County, a farmer, a husband and father of three, and an active member of the community, including a stint on the Rockingham County School Board.
So what's the difference between these two candidates? Well, Fulk understands that the 26th district is heavily Republican and has been trying his best to paint himself as a Mark Warner type of Democrat. Unfortunately for Fulk, it is hard to convince the voters of Rockingham County that you are an "independent" Democrat when you are receiving the support of folks like Dickie Cranwell and Tim Kaine. Lohr, meanwhile, has been racking up support from beloved figures in the Shenandoah Valley like George Allen and Bob Goodlatte.
While we're talking endorsements, as the DNR reported
yesterday, Lohr has ranked up an impressive list of endorsements from groups that speak directly to the concerns of Valley voters. These include the NRA, the Valley Farm Bureau, and the National Federation of Independent Business. Fulk, on the other hand, has been endorsed by groups such as the AFL-CIO, the League of Conservation Voters and the Virginia Education Association. As you can see, Lohr is speaking to the issues that affect his potential constituents, while Fulk is kowtowing to the liberal political establishment.
As far as issues go, Lohr has maintained a focused message that plays well to Valley voters. Throughout the campaign, Lohr has touted lower taxes, protecting farms and small businesses, improvements in education, and traditional values on marriage and abortion. In a heavily Republican district, these issues are exactly what people want to hear about.
Lowell Fulk understands that, as a Democrat in this district, he is starting behind the 8-ball. As a result, Fulk has sought to turn attention away from his support for higher taxes and opposition to an Amendment protecting traditional marriage. Instead of focusing on positive issues, Fulk has attempted to make mountains out of molehills by pushing one of the most frivolous issues I have ever heard of.
Fulk argues that his opponent isn't qualified to serve in the General Assembly because he didn't attend all the school board meetings when he was a member. He then selectively focuses his criticism on a brief period when Lohr missed several meetings as a result of his motivational speaking business, which forces him to travel around the country. Finally, Fulk attacks Lohr for passing a pay raise for school board members that wouldn't take effect until Lohr was off the board. Basically, Fulk is using this silly attendance issue to distract the voters from realizing that his actual positions are out of line with the rest of the valley.
Fulk's attack on Lohr's school board attendance is absurd for a couple reasons. First of all, the sample size is so small that missing even a couple of meetings can drastically reduce the percentage of meetings attended without having any tangible effect on the actual business that gets done. For example, according to the DNR
, the Rockingham County school board held 19 regularly scheduled meetings in 2004. Missing even one of those meetings would mean that a person would have missed more than 5% of the Board's meetings. While it is not necessarily acceptable to miss meetings, it is ridiculous to fault someone for trying to earn their living while also making an effort to serve their community. I don't believe that the voters in the valley will respect this attack on Lohr's livelihood.
Secondly, the idea that missing some school board meetings can be extrapolated to show what Lohr would do as a Delegate is preposterous. In fact, the very nature of Lohr's business would actually make it easier for him to plan around the legislative session so that all of his speaking engagements could be scheduled when the legislature is not meeting. Further, while it is very easy for a school board to call "special" meetings when one or two members might not be able to make it, the calling of a special legislative session does not work the same way, and is highly unusual.
In sum, I believe it would be a huge mistake for the Valley and the 26th District if they did not send Matt Lohr to Richmond next year. Lohr is a bright and motivated young man who is firm in his convictions and will be a strong, conservative voice for the Valley. Lohr will be able to work well with the other Valley Republicans in the House of Delegates and his experience as a teacher, a farmer, and a small businessman will be a valuable asset for him in representing Rockingham County.
There is no question that the values of the Democratic Party of Virginia are out of line with the people of the 26th District. Lowell Fulk helped draft the Party's platform, he supported John Kerry, and if elected, he would be too beholden to the Democratc party leaders who aided his campaign. Fulk would simply not be able to represent the best interests of his constituents in the House of Delegates.
Finally, while I haven't done a good job covering this race, I wanted to point out that our friend GOPHokie has done a superb job keeping tabs on it over at his blog, Elephant Ears
. You can check out some of his coverage of the race here
. It's just the type of thoughtful, well-informed, first-rate analysis I'd expect from a Hokie.