Another Giffords attack casualty: the town hall meeting?

I was told by the editors this was a good article but there’s no room at the inn over at PJM this week, so you get this in its entirety. It happens to the best of us.

Most pundits look at the voting records when comparing the performance of individual members of Congress, but a less-noticed aspect of their job description comes in the area of constituent service and interaction. To many, a good public servant in Washington doesn’t just bring home the bacon but answers that Social Security question for Grandma or gets the neighbor’s son into one of the military academies.

As part of that service, many members of Congress hold public interactions with the residents of their district. It was at one of these meetings she dubbed “Congress On Your Corner” where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot by a crazed assailant, Jared Loughner. Ironically enough, the attack, which killed six bystanders including a nine-year old girl born on September 11th and a federal judge, occurred in front of a Safeway supermarket.

There’s no question that the shooting has prompted even more heated discussion on the already hot topic of our national political discourse – blaming Sarah Palin, who was half a country away at the time of the incident, for having a hand in the attack proves this point – but perhaps the more chilling lasting effect will be to further close off our Congress from public interaction during the period when Washington is out of session. While the complaints of their voting public prompted many Democratic Congress members to eschew the usual round of summertime meetings or make them telephone-only, the threat of violence may cast a pall over the summer schedule this year. Being hung in effigy is one thing but getting shot is completely another.

Yet there are attempts to maintain the format in several areas, such as this Philadelphia television station or a Virginia state senator who changed his session from a telephone town hall to an in-person one in defiance of the Giffords shooting. The question, of course, is whether these will be exceptions to the rule.

Common sense would dictate, if and when a robust schedule of townhall meetings is resumed, that security measures will be stepped up with more of a law enforcement presence. This leads to the question of whether those who get angry and passionate about their pet issues will be discouraged from speaking up with the long arm of the law looking on. Since the TEA Party is continually miscast as a group of violent extremists – witness the quickly-formed bandwagon blaming the Giffords shooting on a member of the radical right wing – tolerance for perceived misbehavior at any such gatherings will be limited.

But the argument against any sort of crackdown is strong. Even in the midst of an anger-filled mob back in March when the health care bill was being passed and a number of Congressmen walked amidst the protesters in front of the Capitol, the worst incidents which (allegedly) occurred were verbal attacks on particular members who were the victims of flying spittle. Obviously at that moment a Jared Loughner in that crowd could have mowed down any number of elected officials and bystanders before Capitol police would have arrived for assistance.

Instead, we the people can look for an increase in those scripted, press-friendly events where the message can be controlled and interaction limited. Members of Congress may instead argue that their constituents are able to communicate easily with their staffers via e-mail or telephone and that they can have their concerns answered outside of a face-to-face meeting. That is, of course, if you don’t call into a voice mailbox that’s full, which happens quite often during those times one would most like to interact. And if you’ve had my personal experience with e-mailing my Congressman it’s likely you can expect a form letter in response well after the vote has been taken or the issue is moot.

Whether you favored Gabrielle Giffords’ voting record or not, by many accounts she was a stickler for constituent service. That fact may have turned the tide in her favor in November despite running as a Blue Dog Democrat who voted in favor of Obamacare but later voted not to keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House – she instead voted for Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. Giffords only eked out a victory over Republican Jesse Kelly by 3,641 votes out of over 270,000 cast.

And whether you had that concern with Social Security payments, wanted to debate the health care issue, or was a neophyte politician who was just elected to her student council and sought to know more about the political world – as was the case with Christina-Taylor Green, the nine-year-old Tuscon shooting victim – the fact remains that the ability to speak in person with their representative in Washington face-to-face is a cornerstone of our republic. In Giffords’ situation, only the most extreme and draconian safety measures may have saved the victims, but they may also have served as an intimidating factor to those who simply wished to make their views known to her on a one-to-one basis.

While we generally identify with only our own era of history, it’s understood that political discourse has always been passionate and on four occasions our leaders have been slain by a madman’s bullets. But it’s a republic we remain, and we can’t allow the tragedy of Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting to place our government and its representatives farther from the people.

CAR/Chamber forum part 2 (District 38)

By far this was the more interesting of the debates; perhaps it’s because it covered my personal district. But just as a review from my other part:

The group asking was relatively diverse and included local businesswoman Dawn Tilghman, Terrence Lee of WMDT-TV, and Jennifer Cropper-Rines, president of the Coastal Association of Relators (CAR). Susan Parker of the Daily Times served as moderator. After an opening statement, candidates had to answer one question from each panel member and, with six to eight candidates on stage and two minutes allotted, there was really little need to get questions from the audience (hence my first post on the forum last night.)

Because of how the forum was set up, I’m going to evalute each question and answer in turn rather than summarize what each candidate said as a whole. I run the risk of writing this in a more dry fashion via this method but I think it would be more informative. This begins with the opening statements.

Opening statements:

Marty Pusey talked about limiting government and her respect for the other candidates in the race. “I believe strongly in protecting the public dollars,” she stated. Calling the election a “critical point for our country,” she further claimed “our state has an addiction, they raise taxes…we need to send our state to rehab.”

Michael James told the crowd “we need good representation now” and the “budget is in peril.” You raise revenue by creating jobs, and the worst thing the state did was raising taxes. We need a private sector person in office.

Recounting how as a child he built a paper route into a lucrative business, Norm Conway talked about his “work ethic” and how he set a goal to become a member of the House of Delegates.

Adding just a little humor to the proceedings, Mike McDermott talked about how he wasn’t cut out to be a chicken farmer. Instead, he went back into law enforcement and was happy there until he “saw a need” to get involved politically at the local level.

Since he served as Ocean City mayor, Jim Mathias claimed the “stable economic environment” he created helped the town grow. He would “strongly, proudly” represent the lower Shore in the Senate and “make one become 24”, referring to getting a majority in the Senate.

My faith “defines who I am,” said Mike McCready. He also spoke of his work ethic, his agricultural background and experience with MAFOs and CAFOs, and promised regular meetings with stakeholder groups like watermen and farmers.

Gee Williams stated the obvious: “We’re living in extraordinarily challenging times.” Recounting his business experience in the publishing industry and with nonprofits, he ticked off four bullet point items he’d like to accomplish: creating jobs, reducing fees, targeting tax cuts, and streamlining regulations. As a “principled, pragmatic” leader, he tried to paint himself as a centrist: “I reject extremism.”

Charles Otto went over his background and experience with the Maryland Farm Bureau and Farmers and Planters. In a nod to his predecessor, he praised the late Page Elmore by saying “he made a difference” for Somerset residents.

The first question, from Jennifer Cropper-Rines, asked about the possibility of alternate sources of funding for municipalities like a piggyback tax.

Mike McCready stated, “I wouldn’t be in favor of raising it any” and talked about the surplus they had in Somerset.

Similarly, Charles Otto was in favor of “limited” taxes, but the state does play a role.

Michael James would allow it if the voters wanted it, but personally would oppose this. Municipalities needed to watch their spending.

Norm Conway thought municipalities “should have options” through enabling legislation.

To Marty Pusey, “a tax is a tax is a tax.” She would try to have state funding restored first, in order to create as much of a positive business environment as possible and would vote against such measures.

Gee Williams wouldn’t support new revenue streams, since government should live within its means.

Jim Mathias wouldn’t initiate new tax mechanisms, but we needed to build a consensus on taxes with the business community. He also talked about the concept of “local courtesy” and how it would apply to this situation.

More bluntly, Mike McDermott said the power to tax was the power to destroy. Our legislature “understands destruction” but needed instead create a better environment for business.

Terrence Lee used an audience question asking about the education background each candidate had in economics.

In truth, only Marty Pusey and Charles Otto had taken college-level classes in economics, so most candidates cited their real-life experiences.

Mike McDermott talked about balancing his checkbook each month and how Maryland was living outside its means. We had gotten “off track.”

Jim Mathias told us “my degree in economics is the real world” and explained that he vetoed two Ocean City municipal budgets which included tax increases.

Again, Gee Williams spoke of his life experiences running 12 newspapers, working for the State Highway Administration, and various nonprofits. “Life is too complicated” right now and we should lower our expectations until we rebuild the economy.

Besides the college course, Marty Pusey cited her experience with creating budgets and working with the state’s accounting system for doing so.

Norm Conway said that as a youth, “my goal was to make money” – it was real-life economic training. He claimed the state had reduced spending $5.5 billion this term and that his goal was fiscal prudence with social responsibility.

“Maryland’s economics will not work long-term,” countered Michael James. We need to have business profits to create the revenue from businesses that the state needs.

Charles Otto put it simply and eloquently: “You learn to balance a budget when you get a 60 bushel crop and you expected 180.” His more formal economic training came from his agribusiness studies at Virginia Tech.

Mike McCready said that in his life, he set aside 10 percent as a tithe and 10 percent for a rainy day before he even considered which bills to pay. This is “not a time for a weak mind or inexperience” and referred again to lowering Somerset’s tax rate. He also claimed that, “we’re in better shape than the other Lower Shore counties, dollar for dollar” and how tax credits they could afford created or saved jobs at Rubberset and other companies.

Dawn Tilghman asked about the aggressive regulatory climate in the state.

Again talking about quarterly meetings with stakeholders, Mike McCready decried “one size fits all” solutions but supported a concept of the state picking up part of the salaries of people hired off the unemployment rolls. He would work across party lines to find solutions.

Charles Otto believed it was “time to restructure government” and these fines were “extortion.” It was a symptom of a “state government that knows best,” in the meantime “we have problems to solve.”

Michael James warned us we shouldn’t lose local control and needed to eliminate the perception that government is out to get businesses.

It was an “out of line, out of control” situation that needed to be modified, according to Norm Conway. He also blasted as “totally unreasonable” the University of Maryland law school for getting involved in the Hudson farm lawsuit on the environmentalists’ side.

We take away choices every time we pass regulations, said Marty Pusey. Environmental regulations should be “based on real science” and the assault on the poultry industry was “unacceptable.” But my favorite line of the night was when she said for every new law we create two old ones should be removed. That brought a “hell yeah” from me!

Gee Williams agreed with the tenor of the group, saying “they don’t give towns breaks.” While the goals of the Maryland Department of the Environment were noble, the application was unreasonable. “Litigating first and asking questions later is setting back our community,” concluded Williams.

A more educated regulator would help, argued Jim Mathias, yet we need to communicate our strengths and advocated for what we have. Agriculture was a “tremendous asset” to the state, and when we talk about it the governor and his staff listen.

Mike McDermott disagreed strongly, rebutting to Jim that the talk goes in one ear and out the other. Because of one-party rule in Maryland, “we are myopic.” He thought it was funny to hear liberals talk about conservative values. “Don’t tolerate that nonsense,” he said.

Closing statement:

Charles Otto believed part of our problem was the federal government – we are living in a “broke country…it’s time to change.” On the environmental front it was a question of compliance vs. stewardship, and he believed that some of the most recent and draconian regulations needed to be rolled back.

Gee Williams wanted our representative to “sit at the table and not at the back bench.” We needed to elect people who can make government work and disagree respectfully.

“Experience counts,” said Mike McCready, “and being County Commissioner counts for something.” He pointed out that his county was the only local county whose board of education didn’t request a maintenance of effort waiver from the state.

Jim Mathias rested on his “proven record” in securing capital projects and again promised to make one Senator into 24 by working with like-minded Senators.

“This is the election of our lifetime,” Mike McDermott said. “If we don’t see a change (we’ll get) bigger government and more taxes.” It’s not about edifices, but wholesale change from liberal values to conservative values.

Norm Conway “doesn’t consider himself a liberal or a conservative.” He was proud of the credibility he’d earned and believed in One Maryland.

Michael James accused the two incumbent Democrats of “reinventing their records” and asked where they were on sex offender laws before Sarah Foxwell. He promised to follow in the footsteps of outgoing Senator Lowell Stoltzfus.

Marty Pusey expounded on her “unique combination” of experiences and skills, though “we do need a change of culture in Annapolis. She pointed out the low marks business groups gave Conway based on his voting record, and promised to do right by the Maryland Constitution, which she waved a copy of during her close.

One item not used during the first session was the rebuttal. But both Mathias and Conway wanted to rebut Michael James’s assertion they’d voted for tax increases.

Mathias claimed that he’d voted for the House version of one package but it was changed in the Senate before the final vote, when he voted against it. (See below.) Norm Conway added that he voted for the one-cent increase of the sales tax, but half of that was supposed to go to the Transportation Trust Fund – without it, U.S. 113 would not have been dualized nor would future work on Maryland Route 589 (once Ocean Downs is renovated for slots) be on the radar.

Mike McDermott pithily rebutted Conway, noting that over the 40 years dualization of U.S. 113 was discussed they’d done one mile per year, it would already be done.

Michael James wanted to rebut Conway and Mathias, but moderator Susan Parker of the Daily Times denied his request, saying he’d made the original point. Fellow blogger G.A. Harrison commented from the crowd on the unfairness of that ruling but it stood. It ended a forum that became heated and contentious at the end.

My take:

First, as a service to readers, Mathias is correct that he voted against the tax bill (SB2) that became law in 2007. (The fiscal note explains the provisions which changed pretty well.) However, many of the same provisions were present in the House bill (HB2) that Mathias voted in favor of. (It also has a fiscal note.) Conway voted for both versions (along with the sales tax increase of HB5 that Mathias voted against), so his objection came from the substance of the legislative package as a whole.

It’s obvious that we may have a good cop-bad cop scenario here among the Republicans. McDermott and James are very forceful in painting their Democratic opponents as liberals, and here’s why – they are liberals! Just look at their voting records.

But Marty Pusey avoided being as confrontational and that may score her some points. In many respects she’s the most conservative of the bunch and her two-for-one line was my favorite.

Again, the Democrats who aren’t in office did their best to talk about crossing the aisle and bipartisanship, but I liked how Mike McDermott slapped that argument down. There are very few Democrats in Annapolis who give Republicans the time of day, and the limited number of instances where local Democrats are right is akin to a stopped clock being right twice a day – any other time it’s far from reliable and perhaps even detrimental.

There’s a reason that I get day after day of mailings from Jim Mathias explaining how, despite his Baltimore roots, he’s an Eastern Shore conservative at heart (today it’s being against “liberals” and for the death penalty.) Annapolis Democrats wouldn’t be backing him if he weren’t useful to them – they know the score and the fact they need Republicans to have fewer than 19 Senate seats to keep them meaningless. He will be no such thing as a loose cannon.

And Gee Williams will have to be happy with his back bench even if he wins – the real Democratic power in Annapolis represents the urban areas. We all know this.

Indeed, we can do better and last night’s forum showed why we need conservative leadership from the Eastern Shore.

CAR/Chamber forum part 1 (District 37)

Like the changing of leaves, it looks like forum season has arrived. One week after county candidates got into it at the FOP gathering, a more calm exchange was had last night at Wor-Wic Community College. Since there were fourteen hopefuls gathered last night, I’m going to split the posts and make one focused on District 37 candidates while the other covers District 38.

As with the FOP gathering, the sheer number of officeseekers included didn’t give a lot of opportunity for questions; however, the group asking was relatively diverse and included local businesswoman Dawn Tilghman, Terrence Lee of WMDT-TV, and Jennifer Cropper-Rines, president of the Coastal Association of Relators (CAR). Susan Parker of the Daily Times served as moderator. After an opening statement, candidates had to answer one question from each panel member and, with six to eight candidates on stage and two minutes allotted, there was really little need to get questions from the audience (hence my first post on the forum last night.)

Because of how the forum was set up, I’m going to evalute each question and answer in turn rather than summarize what each candidate said as a whole. I run the risk of writing this in a more dry fashion via this method but I think it would be more informative. This begins with the opening statements.

Opening Statements

Richard Colburn put it simply – “I am a Shore Senator.” Delving back in history to when each county had a Senator and the Eastern Shore was a more powerful political force, he hammered on the Montgomery County delegation as a whipping boy for enacting onerous agribusiness and critical areas restrictions which harm the Shore. Colburn also claimed he “brought the two-party system to the Shore” by running and winning as a Republican in the early 1980’s.

Addie Eckardt cited her experience in the health care field and looked at her Delegate job as one of “educating folks on how to work the process.” This also involved the concept of building bridges and listening to different viewpoints. But her main focus was economic, telling the audience “whatever I can do to build the tax base is really important.” As examples, she pointed out the usage of enterprise zones and targeted investments.

Her opponent, Patrice Stanley, believed the district was “fairly stagnant” so she jumped into the race. A former official in the Clinton Administration who now works for a public policy firm, she called for more accountability in education because local districts are “lagging”, a renewed emphasis on vocational training, and modifying the tax base.

Dustin Mills “chose to make this home” after a childhood spent in a number of different locales as the child of a military family. The Salisbury University graduate, though, feels the main issue plaguing the district and state is that of job creation. “The stimulus money is not going to get it done,” said Mills, who believes it’s time to reduce the tax burden on businesses and would bring a fresh perspective and attitude to Annapolis.

Chris Robinson recounted how he served as a legislative assistant and chief of staff to former Congressman Roy Dyson. Of course, he believed “we can do a lot better on the Shore” and criticized his opponent for failing to make the Shore attractive. He could help improve our quality of life, Robinson claimed.

Before he was elected, his race was a victim of taxation without representation, or so Rudy Cane claimed. Citing his Eastern Shore background as the “connection” which makes him dedicated to his district, he opined that our region was an “imtegral part” of Maryland.

Dawn Tilghman asked a question on onerous inspection practices affecting small businesses.

As a small businessman himself (law firm), Chris Robinson found the experiences he had with bureaucrats “troubling…I don’t think the law is intended to be a hammer.”

Rich Colburn thought the responsibility of the inspector was to assist small business, not to be punitive and fine them. Legislation may be necessary on how fines are administered.

“It begins and ends with attuitude,” said Dustin Mills, who pointed out that there’s more fines because the state needs the revenue.

Addie Eckardt was reminded by Mills’ remark about the spending affordability debate, and that legislative leaders seem to think the state’s economic solution lies in more government jobs – like inspectors. It leads to an “unbearable” punitive attitude.

Patrice Stanley agreed, and added that more aggressive regulations seem to begat less cooperative businesses.

This was a “prime example” of Maryland’s poor rank in business friendliness, said Rich Colburn, and what we need is “an even-handed, fair approach.” Small business can create the jobs if we allow them to.

On the same subject, Terrence Lee asked about how to help businesses grow.

We need to retain the jobs we have, said Rich Colburn, citing the implicit war against the poultry industry that Maryland is waging. Maryland farmers need to be kept competitive for this area to thrive.

Patrice Stanley agreed, and added we need to address state and county tax rates. She promised to work closely with the counties, and added that we should emphasize vocational training more.

Education and incentives along with a streamlined government were key ingredients, said Addie Eckardt, but she also stressed there are existing tax incentives in place and there are success stories out there, particularly in niche farming. It’s all in “how we put the package together,” she noted.

Rolling back the 2007 Special Session tax increases was a necessary part of helping business growth, argued Dustin Mills. Increases in the corporate tax and having a sales tax that puts us at a disadvantage to Delaware need to be addressed.

Rudy Cane pointed out the broadband system we enjoy could be used as an economic development tool.

A focus on education and safety while avoiding sprawl were items on the agenda of Chris Robinson.

With the increase in foreclosures, Jennifer Cropper-Rines wanted to know if lenders were intentionally avoiding transfer taxes by keeping homes in the original owner’s name, among other things.

When times were good, “Maryland was part of the problem,” said Rudy Cane. Thus, the state has to be part of the solution.

Home ownership is a proud milepost in the lives of young people, said Dustin Mills, but state hurdles like “smart growth” are “onerous and overbearing.” We need to promote home ownership by working with banks, developers, and homeowners.

Legislation hasn’t gone far enough in this area, said Addie Eckardt.

Patrice Stanley thought we should work with federal policy to help benefit the state. The modifications in place now were “too restrictive.”

A halt in foreclosures would “mess up the housing market,” said Rich Colburn, arguing that the market needs to find its balance point.

Chris Robinson actually answered the question directly to Cropper-Rines, arguing that saving a few hundred dollars in recordation tax was the least of lenders’ worries when they were staring at a market that features $300,000 houses going for half that price. This will be a “long lesson” for the parties involved as there is a wariness about buying right now.

Closing statements:

Rudy Cane told the crowd that he wasn’t in the General Assembly “just for a job” but because he had a love for the legislature.

There’s “so much anger…(it’s) so adversarial” in the public discourse right now, said Chris Robinson. We need to build bridges and work together to get things accomplished and that would be his attitude in Annapolis.

“I’m going up there to represent my people,” said Dustin Mills, who would mix criticism with solutions if elected.

Patrice Stanley cited her leadership and “forward thinking” as reasons she should be elected. Part of that was working with both parties in the best interests of the district.

Addie Eckardt countered that she’d been forward thinking for sixteen years and noted that at this “critical time…I have the relationships established” in the General Assembly. There’s no need to offer solutions where problems don’t exist.

Finally, Rich Colburn called the economy “the most important issue” and recalled his philosophy of fewer regulations and smaller government has earned him the endorsement of various business groups. He also cited his support of the numerous volunteer fire companies and municipalities in the district and called the 2007 sales tax increase “a severe blow” to the Eastern Shore.

My take:

Overall, this was the more tame of the two district forums. I know Cane and Mills have been more contentious on other occasions.

When you look at opening statements, they can be rather bland because most choose to spend time recounting their background. Generally, incumbents embellish what they’ve done and their opponents say the incumbents haven’t done enough. Overall, I liked the little history lesson Colburn gave and had to shake my head a bit at Cane’s “taxation without representation” statement. You have to wonder if he could win in any other district based simply on political philosophy.

Perhaps the thing which jumped out at me in answering the questions and in the closing arguments is that suddenly the Democrats want to work together with the Republicans and be more bipartisan. However, I think the attitude Rich Colburn condemned from the Montgomery County delegation is the one that the Democrats who come from the Shore would eventually adopt. They would sooner cross the street than talk to Republicans about solutions, simply because Democrats have unchecked power at the state level and have had it for much of the last 100 years. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it – Democrats talk conservative in the district but vote liberal in Annapolis.

As you’ll see in the District 38 debate, I have some who agree with me.

Wicomico Rutledge fundraiser a success

Once you found the road, the event was tough to miss. Just to make sure this display was left out by the road.

On Saturday I went to a secluded farm hard by the Worcester County line in order to attend a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rutledge. Looked pretty well packed from here.

A panoramic shot taken during the Jim Rutledge fundraiser outside Salisbury on May 22, 2010. About 70 people attended.

I think the Daily Times did a decent piece on the event but underestimated the crowd a little bit. Perhaps one can count the number of people in the picture.

Rutledge gave about thirty minutes’ worth of remarks.

Candidate for U.S. Senate Jim Rutledge spoke for about thirty minutes before supporters.

Jim pounded on a number of his campaign points, including:

  • Lowering taxes – “at heart, I’m still a Ronald Reagan conservative.” Jim vowed to repeal the tax code in its entirety if elected and replace it with a flat tax with few deductions. To spur investment Jim would also dump the capital gains tax.
  • Limited government – “the (federal government) beast is out of its cage.” On the other hand, “the Constitution is a forgotten document” and “the family is the fundamental unit of government.” One thing he could do to limit government would be to defund Obamacare – “we still have the purse strings in Congress” – since the political reality is that Obama is President until at least 2013.
  • National security – this includes border security. Jim excoriated Barbara Mikulski for applauding Mexican President Felipe Calderon for trashing our laws before Congress but otherwise being “missing in inaction” on the full scope of national security.

After he gave his remarks, Rutledge invited those attending to ask their own questions. Among them were some which touched on other issues he didn’t bring up during his remarks.

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rutledge answers a question posed by an observer at his fundraiser held outside Salisbury May 22, 2010.

  • On how to attract conservative Democrats: he’s launched campaign operations in Democratic strongholds already. Among issues, illegal immigration is a “huge issue” in the black community and school vouchers are also a winning issue. “Bold talk will bring across independents.”
  • I asked about the impact of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. Why not convene the best and brightest to attack the problem, asked Jim back. He attacked the federal government, saying their bungling made them co-responsible. Turning to energy in general, Jim criticized the “unreasonable fear” of nuclear energy but still supports additional oil and natural gas exploration, calling it “a matter of national security…life and death.”
  • Regarding immigration, Jim opined the Arizona SB1070 bill is “constitutional” and noted that blanket amnesty would be a reward for breaking the law. One idea he floated seemed acceptable to those attending – “when folks want to come (to America) they need to post bond.” If they overstayed their visas, there could be a process of finding scofflaws for a reward just like those who skip bond in criminal cases.
  • Why not the FairTax (a consumption-based tax)? The flat tax needs to come first because it can be adopted faster, said Rutledge. We only need “a revenue source for necessary services” but if the Sixteenth Amendment isn’t repealed as a consumption tax is adopted we’ll be stuck with both.
  • Government cuts Jim would make: stopping overseas commitments like what we’re pledging to help out Greece, abolishing Congressional pensions, and “we have to get out of the grant business.”
  • Regarding the Middle East and Afghanistan, Jim struck a bit of an isolationist tone. Because the mission isn’t well-defined, “we’re in a world of hurt” in Afghanistan. It is our job to defend our own sovereign state.
  • Jim predicted parts of the Obamacare bill will be struck down in court. It’s not among those items authorized for Congress to do in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
  • Someone asked how illegal immigrants have court standing. They have due process, stated Jim, but the immigration courts are “broken” and the message from our government is “a green light” to illegal immigration.
  • How do we fight teachers’ unions? Jim believes in “strong” schools but the unions “serve themselves.” He pointed out that he’s been endorsed by the National Right-To-Work organization.

Yet we didn’t just stand around and listen to Rutledge speak. There was good food, too.

Yes, the organizers let us eat cake. But there was seriously good pulled pork as well as other culinary delights, too.

We also had the chance to arrange for ourselves a mini-vacation as well as other silent auction items.

You could buy everything from the potted plant to a week in Florida. Yes, the potted plant was a bit cheaper.

Participants also had the chance to take a hayride, ride around the farm on all-terrain vehicles, pitch horseshoes, or just gab among themselves regarding the events of the day. This wasn’t one of those stuffy fundraisers where the candidate zips in and zips out, or you had to buy access by being a VIP – Jim was accessible to all comers and many took the opportunity. Plus they got to meet a number of other local candidates who attended.

Jim took the time to speak to a lot of folks at this event. I think people came away impressed with his openness to discuss ideas with them.

Now I like Jim, but perhaps the best thing he’s done in this campaign is make my heretofore apolitical significant other believe in a candidate. If he can inspire more like her Jim has a great chance of making it through the primary and knocking off a Senator who’s been there too long to stay in touch with her state.