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Thank You Voters
June 11, 2014 |

My fellow Virginians,

It is a privilege to serve the people of Virginia's 1st District, and I am honored that the voters across the district selected me as their nominee today in the Republican primary. I look forward to continuing to serve the great citizens of the 1st District and advocating for common-sense, conservative solutions to the challenges we face.

This is a critical year for America's future and for our party. The upcoming elections provide a significant opportunity for the American people to fill the House of Representatives and the Senate with leaders who can get this nation back on track. I will be working hard to ensure that the voices of Virginians are heard in Washington. First and foremost, I would like to thank my wife, Kathryn, and my entire family for their unwavering support. I am truly blessed to have them in my corner.

I would like to thank my opponent, Anthony Riedel, for his gracious words about the campaign and his pledge to support the Republican ticket going forward. It is important that Republicans come together and work hard to get this country headed in the right direction.

I would like to thank all the volunteers who have supported me by knocking on doors, talking to friends and family about the campaign, hosting and attending events, and calling fellow residents of the 1st District to remind them to vote. I am grateful for your support and look forward to working with you in the weeks and months ahead.



An open letter on "slating" in the 1st District
March 26, 2014 | Open Letter

To the Members of the First Congressional District Republican Committee:

I am writing to state my strong and unequivocal opposition to the practice of “slating” at our Republican Party local unit mass meetings and conventions.The underlying basis of slating – the purposeful exclusion of certain dedicated activists from our political processes – will spoil any chance to build a conservative Republican Party to be the majority party of Virginia and a home for liberty-minded people to work to reform our government at the local, state, and federal levels.

I applaud the efforts of the grassroots folks – many of whom make American’s First District home – who stood up and fought back against Tammany Hall style machine politics in our Commonwealth. I find it particularly encouraging that when they have been in the majority, the activists who have been the target of these slash-and-burn political tactics have not reciprocated by excluding others, but have instead opted to allow participation by all, as they did last night in Henrico County. It’s that kind of dedication to principle that will help build our party for years to come.

We must reject the practice of slating because it is wrong and in the end it is counterproductive to our goal to build a durable majority party based on Constitutional principles and freedom.We all understand that politics is a contact sport. But it is a game we win by the addition of people with whom we share common cause, not by serving short-term political goals based on exclusion of those with whom we disagree a fraction of the time. It’s time instead to unite around the universal principles that bind us all together as Republicans, and to end the destructive practice of slating. A political party based on fair play, transparency, and honesty will always win in the end.

Robert J. Wittman
Member of Congress

Governor contest tightens, poll says
September 19, 2013 | Times Dispatch

As Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli are locked in a tightening race, the Libertarian nominee for governor has siphoned support of 7 percent of likely Virginia voters.

Neither McAuliffe nor Cuccinelli have high favorability ratings among likely voters, potentially buoying Robert C. Sarvis, who, despite his support, is still unknown to most voters, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday.

Voters are split on McAuliffe — 38 percent view him favorably and 38 percent unfavorably — and Cuccinelli’s rating is upside down, 51 percent unfavorable and 34 percent favorable.

As for Sarvis, 85 percent of voters said they did not know enough about him to form an opinion, according to the poll.

Overall, McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli 44 percent to 41 percent, including voters who are leaning to one candidate, which is within the poll’s margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. Other recent polls had showed McAuliffe leading outside the margin of error.

“Sarvis’ backing is at an unusual and consistent level for a third-party candidate, and the reason is obvious: There’s widespread dissatisfaction with the two major-party nominees,” said Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, pointing to the favorability levels for Cuccinelli and McAuliffe in the survey.

As for whether Sarvis can maintain this level of support, Sabato said it would help him if he were allowed to participate in an upcoming debate.

“Sarvis doesn’t have the money to sustain support on his own. He has raised a pittance compared to the other two, and he’ll be drowned out in the final weeks of the campaign unless he gets lots of free news coverage.”

Sabato said “the one prominent exception to this rule for third-party candidates” was Ross Perot, who ran for president as an independent in 1992. Perot soared in the polls then faded, dropping out of the contest in July before re-entering the race that October.

“When he got back in the race in October ’92, he was at 4 percent; a month later he had zoomed to 19 percent,” Sabato said. “But he spent about $60 million to get there.”

In 1998, former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota as the Reform Party candidate, running a low-budget campaign that urged voters to turn against “politics as usual.”

In Virginia, it’s rare for third-party candidates for statewide office to exceed a couple of percentage points. The exceptions have usually been candidates who were well-known office seekers as Democrats or Republicans before they ran as independents.

For example, J. Marshall Coleman, a former attorney general and two-time Republican nominee for governor, ran as an independent and received 11 percent in the 1994 U.S. Senate election that also featured incumbent Charles S. Robb, a Democrat, and Oliver L. North, a Republican.

Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, said Sarvis’ numbers indicate that he has a problem common to third-party candidates generally, “which is they have a hard time breaking into the consciousness of voters.”

Third-party candidates have several issues that make it difficult, he said, including raising money, in part, because there is little party infrastructure for them to tap.

John Vaught LaBeaume, a campaign strategist for Sarvis, said: “We’re pleased to see Quinnipiac recognize that Robert Sarvis is running a professional, mainstream campaign by including him — finally — in their polling for this contest.

“And we’re reassured that they recognize, too, that the Sarvis vision for a Virginia that’s ‘Open-minded and Open Business’ needs to be polled so that it can be analyzed to determine how it’s received in a ‘purpling’ commonwealth undergoing significant demographic upheaval.”

Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, indicates that it’s difficult to determine which major party candidate Sarvis is impacting most.

“Right now, we can’t tell whether Sarvis’ candidacy is hurting Cuccinelli more than McAuliffe,” he said, adding that Sarvis is getting 3 percent of the GOP vote, 2 percent of the Democratic vote and 14 percent of independent voters.

“Since there are more people in Virginia who now consider themselves Democrats than Republicans, logic says that Cuccinelli needs a solid margin among independent voters. Instead, these voters are divided 37-37 percent between the Democrat and Republican,” Brown said.

Cuccinelli said Wednesday after an unrelated event that he thinks Sarvis is “probably pulling from both sides.”

Cuccinelli said his campaign addresses issues of importance to Libertarians, citing his ad that details his efforts to get justice for Thomas Haynesworth, who spent 27 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.

“I think as people learn more, we do better. Virginia races really don’t start to accelerate that process until after Labor Day, and I think we’ve got a lot of momentum, especially this week after the (Northern Virginia Technology Council’s PAC) endorsement and how the other side handled it.”

McAuliffe, who also commented Wednesday after addressing the Virginia Summit on Economic Competitiveness and Higher Education at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, said he’s “not paying attention to polls.”

“I feel great about where we are. We’re here talking education,” he said. “We had a spectacular day yesterday” he said, citing his endorsement by Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms.

“I think we have 15 former legislators … putting together quite a coalition. Building a great ground game.”

The poll released Wednesday shows a tightening between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, as the Democrat’s edge shrank from an August Quinnipiac poll that showed him with a 6-percentage point margin, 48 percent to 42 percent.

On whether the candidates have the right kind of experience to be governor, 58 percent of voters said Cuccinelli does and 47 percent said McAuliffe does.

Asked if they think the candidates are trustworthy, 39 percent of voters said they find Cuccinelli trustworthy and honest and 49 percent don’t. For McAuliffe, 39 percent said yes and 42 percent said no.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,005 likely voters Sept. 9-15 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general are still unknown to most voters.


(804) 649-6812

Twitter: @omeola

Staff writer Jim Nolan contributed to this report.


Syria crisis reveals uneasy relationship between Obama, nation's military leaders
September 19, 2013 | Washington Post

The Syrian crisis over the past few weeks has thrust President Obama into a role in which at times he has seemed uneasy: that of commander in chief.

The prospect of an attack to punish Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons exposed the Nobel Peace laureate’s strained and somewhat tentative relationship with the military. His dramatic oscillation from detachment on Syria to the brink of military action, with him ultimately settling for a potential diplomatic solution, has unsettled many people in uniform.

Obama’s two former defense secretaries weighed in on the controversy Tuesday night, saying they disagreed with the president’s decision to seek congressional authorization for a strike. While Leon E. Panetta said a cruise missile attack would have been worthwhile, Robert M. Gates said the plan was akin to “throwing gasoline on an extremely complex fire in the Middle East.”

“To blow a bunch of stuff up over a couple of days to underscore or validate a point or principle is not a strategy,” Gates said at a forum in Dallas in which the two appeared.

The prospect of a new U.S. military intervention in the Middle East elicited grumbling from a war-weary generation of senior commanders and veterans who share similar reservations to those voiced by the former defense secretaries. Their reluctance was informed by lingering distrust over the administration’s handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been wound down in ways that have left many in uniform feeling apprehensive, if not bitter.

But there was also trepidation about a White House that many career military officers say has monopolized decision-making in a tight circle dominated by civilians and that often deliberates endlessly, seemingly unwilling or unable to formulate decisive policies.

“The U.S. military feels it has been burnt with half-measures,” said Peter J. Munson, a retired Marine officer who most recently served as a senior adviser to a Marine Corps commander. “There is going to be on the part of our senior military leaders an aversion to using force when you don’t have clear ends and escalation can take on a life of its own.”

The prospect of a U.S. strike has faded after the United States and Russia agreed on a plan to dismantle Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical arsenal. The Pentagon, though, said that four Navy destroyers will stay within striking distance, signaling that the White House wants to keep the option of force on the table.

After largely sitting on the sidelines during Syria’s civil war, which is well into its third year, the White House’s response to the poison-gas attack in the Damascus suburbs startled commanders.

“These last few weeks have raised serious doubts about their agonizing failure to reach a clear decision,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former senior intelligence official at the Pentagon.“This basically was seen as the president’s worst moment.”

As the debate unfolded, an uncomfortable narrative for the White House began taking root: While Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry were advocating a strike with zeal, senior military leaders had deep reservations. The divide was perhaps most noticeable during congressional hearings that featured an emphatic Kerry sitting alongside Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the cerebral and soft-spoken chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Family Remembers Kathy Gaarde, Prince William County Victim of Navy Yard Shootings
September 17, 2013 | Lake Ridge Patch

By Rachel Hatzipanagos

Lake Ridge residents are grieving the loss of wife and mother Kathleen "Kathy" Gaarde, one the 12 victims of the gunman who went on a shooting rampage Monday at Washington Navy Yard.

Gaarde, 62, was a financial analyst who lived in Prince Willliam County with her husband, Douglass Gaarde. Five cars were parked in the driveway of the Gaarde home on the end of a cul-de-sac on the peaceful Tuesday morning.

A woman who answered the door said that the family was not prepared to speak with the media at this time. However, the Gaarde family did release the following statement: 

“Kathy was a caring daughter, fantastic mother, wife (of 38 years) and best friend for 43 years.  She loved her animals and was a blue bird counter for the local refuge,” the statement reads.

“She also loved hockey and the Washington Capitals and has been a season ticket holder for over 25 years.  She was born and raised in Chicago, IL and was a graduate of Florida State University. She and her family have been a resident of the DC area for 38 years,” the statement continues. 

The family is asking that donations be made in her name to the Virginia Branch of the Humane Society.

Neighbors also declined to speak Tuesday afternoon. However, Patrick Bolton, a neighbor, spoke to The Washington Post yesterday and described Gaarde as a “kind woman.” 

“She just helped make it a good home for her family and worked hard and provided everything her family could need,” Bolton told the Post. “They’re the kind of people you want to live next door to you.

“The mother was just the kindest lady in the world,” Bolton said. “I’m not even exaggerating. I’ve never seen her do anything but nice things for people.”

A relative told The Associated Press that Douglass Gaarde worked for the Navy until his retirement last year.