GOP Candidates Talk Clarke Politics

A slate of GOP election hopefuls gathered in Berryville, Virginia on Thursday evening to meet voters and make the case for why their positions on the issues will advance them to leadership roles in the November elections.

Virginia state senator Jill Vogel with GOP 10th District candidate John Whitbeck - Photo Edward Leonard

Incumbent Virginia state senator Jill Holtzman, a nationally recognized attorney and native Virginian, kicked off the evening with a short presentation outlining her campaign positions to about 50 local voters.

The forum was sponsored by the Clarke County Young Republicans, a political activist group made up of students from the areas home-schooling community.

“We wanted to get the Republican candidates together to answer questions for local citizens” said club president Josiah Alway.

When asked about the state of public education funding in Virginia, Vogel said the coming Virginia General Assembly session will focus on K-12 issues.

“Education issues really matter to me” Vogel said. “Jobs and the economy are the number one issue right now but you can’t talk about jobs without also talking about higher education. We have some of the best college and universities in the country here in Virginia but our students coming out of high school aren’t attending them. That’s got to change.”

Vogel said that she would like to see the coming General Assembly session focus on the core issues that are hurting local education in places like Clarke County.

“A couple of years ago I voted against a budget because of under funding for education” Vogel said. “I won’t walk away from the hard work that is going to be needed to fix our education system.”

One area need of change, according to Vogel, is the Virginia Retirement System.

“VRS is a major issue and it needs to be overhauled” Vogel said. “Teachers need to feel confident that their retirement will still be there when they are ready to use it. We also have to figure out how to create better incentives so that the best young people to go into teaching. When someone comes out of college and has the chance to be an engineer or a scientist we need them to also want to consider teaching.”

Vogel believes that the local composite index (LCI), an education funding redistribution system used in Virginia, also needs to be revised.

“The LCI puts counties like Clarke at a big disadvantage and I want to see the General Assembly reach a consensus on addressing the LCI.”

Vogel said that she would like to see a change in how taxpayers view education costs even when an individual no longer has children in the school system. Vogel believes that the nation’s overall economic health is tied to producing graduates that are able to compete in an increasingly global workplace.

“The importance of education needs to be recognized by every single, solitary person in Clarke County” Vogel said. “We have to make sure that when kids come out of high school they can go on to study at Virginia’s colleges. Not being competent in math or English is just not an option.”

Last night three candidates also campaigned for Virginia’s newly formed 10th House of Delegates seat. Randy Minchew and John Whitbeck, both Leesburg lawyers, are vying for the seat as well as healthcare system advocate Cara Townsend. Each of the three hopes to gain the Republican nomination for the new district which includes Loudoun, Frederick and Clarke Counties.

Randy Minchew said that if elected he will focus on keeping the tax burden on citizens at the current level or lower. Minchew said that the solution to issues like stagnant teacher salaries isn’t tied to raising taxes.

Randy Minchew addresses voters in Clarke County, Virginia - Photo Edward Leonard

“We need to learn how to live within our means and find greater equity and make sure that revenue positive places like Clarke County get back their fair share of education funding” Minchew said.  One solution, Minchew said, is to reform the local composite index used by Richmond to allocate education funding.

“The LCI is antiquated and always short changes places like Clarke County” Minchew said.

Minchew also said that he believes that additional funding can be squeezed from the Virginia Department of Education.

“Last year Governor McDonnell overhauled the Virginia Department of Transportation” Minchew observed. “When a closer look was taken at how VDOT was using its resources suddenly a lot of extra funding appeared. We need to look at VDOE just like VDOT.”

According to Minchew’s campaign website, Minchew  settled in Leesburg after serving as law clerk to Virginia Supreme Court justice.

Minchew also said that he would like to see the General Assembly provide voluntary operating guidelines to help local school districts make decisions about the ratio between teachers and administrators.

“I’d like to see a carrot approach so that school districts implement a higher proportion of employees in teaching positions rather than using teachers in middle management” Minchew said. “The state shouldn’t issue mandates but I would like see some guidelines in place.

Candidate John Whitbeck said that he sees balancing development pressure whiles at the same time maintaining a small town and rural atmosphere as important issues for Clarke County.

“It’s tough to do because at the same time you still have to provide a way to still do business” Whitbeck said.

Whitbeck is the founder of his Leesburg law firm, a small business with offices in Loudoun County and Clarke County. He practices family law, criminal law, mental health law, and other litigation.

Whitbeck said that transportation issues are important part of his campaign platform and if elected he will support on improving road systems that serve Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick counties.

“The commute to Loudoun County along Route 7 is a big deal for people here in Clarke County” Whitbeck said. “Route 7 backs up in several places, especially around Leesburg. I believe that before we spend any more money on mass transit we need to fix our roads. I think that our policy needs to support roads before rails.”

Whitbeck also said that the government needs to continue to hold the line against tax increases.

“People are tired of tax policies where they have seen both Democrats and Republicans raise taxes” Whitbeck remarked. Whitbeck said that he believes that the recent budget cuts tied to extending the federal debt ceiling didn’t go far enough.

“I’m not a Tea Party member but I have to say that their efforts have helped to hold the conservatives in Washington accountable” Whitbeck said. “The US doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.”

Whitbeck acknowledged that teacher salaries are a key component for delivering a quality education to students but also said that he didn’t believe that increased taxes were the solution to the issue.

“It’s possible that there may not be enough money to address teacher salaries next year” Whitbeck said. “I could only see a raise for teachers if the money is reallocated from somewhere else.”

Cara Townsend said that her campaign is focused on healthcare issues, energy, public safety and decreasing the amount of money that government spends. Townsend sees entitlement programs as big part of the country’s budget problems.

“We have to overhaul our entitlement programs, especially Medicaid” Townsend said. “The cost of Medicaid has increased at four times the rate of inflation. We just can’t keep spending at those levels.”

Cara Townsend is seeking the GOP nomination for Virginia's 10th Distirct - Photo Edward Leonard

A small business owner, Cara Townsend is currently co-founding the International Care Advocacy Foundation, a non-profit that specializes in patients, families, and civilian/military caregivers in crisis. Townsend’s campaign goals are influenced, in part, by her father who spent 40 years as a Virginia State Trooper and her mother who spent an equal amount of time as a nurse.

“One issue that I’m concerned about is a coming nursing shortage” Townsend said. “The average age of nurses in this country is 57 years old. The University of Virginia has a tiny nursing program because there aren’t enough nurses to be professors.

Townsend is also concerned about the difficulty that patients have navigating the country’s medical care system and said that she supports assigning a “care advocate” to help ensure that patients receive the proper care during hospital stays.

“The quality of care in our hospital system is not what it needs to be” Townsend said. “Every person who enters a hospital should be accompanied by a care advocate, paid for by insurance companies, to help them navigate the healthcare system and ensure that they receive the proper care.”

Townsend described taking a hard line on crime. “I’d like to see Virginia implement a Castle Doctrine” she said.

Known as a Castle  Law  or a  Defense of Habitation Law, the doctrine designates one’s place of residence as a place in which one enjoys protection from illegal trespassing and violent attack. It provides the legal right to use  deadly force  to defend that place (the “castle”), and any other innocent persons legally inside it, from violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to violent attack. From a legal context the Castle Doctrine allows the use of deadly force which results in death to be defended as  justifiable homicide.

“44 states have a Castle Doctrine” Townsend said. “It would protect a homeowner from paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal defense for just trying to protect themselves in their own home.”

Townsend said that she supports increased reliance on coal and natural gas to address the nation’s energy needs.

“We have a hundred year’s worth of coal and 200 years natural gas in this country” Townsend said. “I support offshore drilling along the East coast to produce both energy and jobs.”

Local Republican Party chairperson Kay Gunter said that she was very pleased with the overall slate of hopeful GOP candidates.

“The citizens of the 10th  district have a lot of choice which is good” Gunter said on Thursday. “I haven’t favored or endorsed any one candidate and I won’t. But once the nominee is selected I plan to work very, very hard to help them get elected.”

C DN Editor: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the race for the “10th congressional district”. The republican candidates mentioned in this article are running for the Virginia 10th District House of Delegates seat. We apologize for the oversight.



  1. How do you propose to change the LCI?

  2. Dapper Dan Man says:

    Ms. Townsend, does not Shenandoah University have a nursing program? The Medical College of Virginia @ VCU? Eastern Virginia Medical School?

    Let’s Google it, shall we…

    Each school found on this link offers a nursing program. Perhaps you should do a better job of researching a topic instead of spouting off as if your audience doesn’t know anything.

    • Full Disclosure: I am Cara’s campaign manager. I just wanted to insert a point of order that Cara’s concern is not that these schools don’t have nursing programs, but that we are facing a nursing shortage in our state and in our country. Therefore as part of education reforms statewide, we need to take a close look at the nursing program and find ways to improve.

  3. Lansdowne Voter says:

    Clarke county voters should be aware that there is good reason that John Whitbeck is not a TEA party member. His claims to hold the line on spending are not credible. Lansdowne residents have watched him spend freely with our association’s money and dues have gone up significantly while he was President of our HOA. TEA party members reject big spending Republicans like John Whitbeck.

    It is time to vote for politicians who actually do what they say instead of just saying it. John Whitbeck is one of those who makes claims and then doesn’t follow through. Lansdowne residents, who have had to deal with his mismanagement for years, know better.

    • Clarke County Voter says:

      In response to Lansdowne Voter,

      Mr. Whitbeck has never voted for a dues increase while on the board. Every time a dues increase has come before the board, he has voted against it. How can you knock him for increasing dues when he always votes against them? John has voted against every single budget that has raised HOA dues.

      What TEA party members should really know is that Randy Minchew openly advocated for one of the largest tax increases in Virginia history. He wrote, “this is a tax increase I can support” regarding the tax increase. He donated money to liberal Democrats like Dick Saslaw and even debated Delegate Bob Marshall in favor of raising taxes. If we want another Republican who votes like a Democrat, Randy Minchew is the perfect candidate.

      There is only one clear choice for voters concerned about increasing taxes and that is John Whitbeck.

  4. “The commute to Loudoun County along Route 7 is a big deal for people here in Clarke County” Whitbeck said. “Route 7 backs up in several places, especially around Leesburg. I believe that before we spend any more money on mass transit we need to fix our roads. I think that our policy needs to support roads before rails.”

    I drive Rt 7 through Leesburg every day, and while traffic does indeed back up at Leesburg, it is not a problem of road maintenance (Rt 7 is currently getting repaved in the Leesburg area), nor is it something an additional lane will remedy, unless VDOT is prepared to build what would be a very expensive third lane from the Rt 9/Rt 7 interchange all the way up to the Greenway.

    There are probably some improvements that could be made in the interchanges between Rt 9 and Leesburg (most of the fenderbenders occur in that area), including some “No injuries? Pull off the road” signage. More mass transit, more Federal support for off-peak work schedules, and continued support for telecommuting would help as well.

  5. Lansdowne Voter says:

    Clarke County Voter,

    This is playing games with words. John Whitbeck voted for fees increases (not specifically dues) and he voted FOR MUCH SPENDING! It is disingenuous to vote for one spending request after another, forcing dues to rise, and then vote against the dues increase when the money is running out.

    Not voting to raise taxes is NOTHING if you vote to increase spending. John Whitbeck’s spending votes would have driven Lansdowne into debt. He made that vote against dues increases without once explaining how he would cut spending to keep Lansdowne out of the red.

    TEA party members in Lansdowne know that John Whitbeck is a big spending pseudo-conservative who gives lip service to fiscal conservatism while increasing spending like he was President Obama.

    In fact John Whitbeck has a lot in common with Barack Obama. Both make meaningless promises and then DO something different. Both are – in their hearts – politicians – in every negative sense of the word. Both give speeches with no real content. When I heard WHitbeck speak he might as well threw in some “Hope” and “Change” to go with the rest of his empty rhetoric.

    We need someone who will take action to ACTUALLY reduce spending and spend money wisely. That would be Minchew. John Whitbeck offers NO specific proposals to reduce spending.

    And if you look at he fee spending record in Lansdowne, you know why. John Whitbeck spent Lansdowne into a dues increase that he knew would have to happen. His actions ACTUALLY forced Lansdowne residents to dig into their pockets and spend millions more over the last several years than they would have with real conservative leadership.

    John Whitbeck is no conservative. And he is no TEA party member either. For good reason.

    • Mr Mister says:

      The Tea party is one invite I hope I never receive. It’s OK to have convictions, but it’s better to compromise. I think this is why we have a two party system. After all do you really want what one entity having final say of everything? If you do, why not have a dictatorship? I agree there needs to be less spending, but unfortunately taxes needs to increase also. The recent congressional circus has been a disgrace. I don’t think we need more of that in our local politics.

      • “After all do you really want what one entity having final say of everything? If you do, why not have a dictatorship?”

        But I guess this was OK three years ago when we got Obamacare against the will of the people?

  6. Leesburg Boy Scout says:

    Lansdowne Voter- thanks for bringing up the fiscal responsibility aspect of these candidates, its worth a full vetting. If you want the full story on the Minchew-tax (a huge sales tax proposal that Minchew argued vehemently for in NoVa) click on this link and see the editorial that HE authored in favor of tax increases.:
    The Loudoun community of conservatives is still seething over it!

    Since you seem to be working in concert with the Minchew campaign, maybe you can tell us whether he is or is not in favor of tax increases? It is a big mystery.

    As for John Whitbeck, he never voted to raise the HOA dues as you ascertain. Produce the minutes to prove it.

    • Lansdowne Voter says:

      My post seems to have been lost?

      Anyway, I claimed his spending forced a dues increase:

      I am quoting from the Lansdowne Board of Directors meeting of October 23rd, 2007 as an example:

      Loan Application
      Ellen Shea MOVED to apply for a line of credit to have for the construction of the indoor pool project. The motion was SECONDED by Jeff Brown. Ellen Shea AMENDED the motion to apply for a $1.5 million loan for the construction of the indoor pool project. The amended motion was SECONDED by John Whitbeck. The amended motion PASSED unanimously. The original motion passed unanimously. Vote: 5-0

      Attacking Minchew for talking about doing something that Whitbeck actually did is a bit wrong isn’t it?

  7. Dear “Leesburg Boy Scout’,

    Your choice of a blog handle for yourself shows how low the Whitbeck campaign of slurs is going these days.

    While Whitbeck has no record of community service, other than selling his HOA out to the monopolists at Open Band, Randy Minchew has been the Scoutmaster of the Leesburg Boy Scout Troop and was selected to serve as the 2011 National Jamboree Scoutmaster for the Loudoun County Scout selected to attend that Jamboree. Last year, he was awarded the “Silver Beaver”, Scouting’s highest award given to adult leaders.

    If you really were a “Leesburg Boy Scout”, you would know that.

    But, you are not. You are instead just another one of Whitbeck’s blog attack dogs who get jollies out of slurring good Republcans like Randy Minchew.

  8. Mimi Stein says:

    Ok, so according to, we have two candidates, Townsend and Whitbeck, whose financial disclosure forms indicate personal liabilities (read, non-mortgage debt) of at least $50,000 and $100,000. Basically, they are living beyond their means (and that’s before they write the monthly mortgage check). So, will they run the State’s finances the same way they run their personal lives? Borrow and spend until the banks or credit card companies say no more? Isn’t that what got the country into trouble this year? Frankly, their personal dependence on debt does not inspire confidence in their handling of taxpayer revenue. And health care advocates? Wouldn’t that be a new government program requiring new government revenue? 100-year and 200-year supplies of coal and gas assume all of it is used at home and none of it is exported to China (an exeedingly coal-hungry country). After all, the free market and private enterprise do not respect national boundaries — only the highest bidder. As for roads, our policy — national, state, and local — has been roads before rail for the last 60 years. The real question is whether current levels of revenue are sufficient to maintain either option in working order.

    The third candidate, Mr. Minchew, is a wealthy (primary house, ski house, beach house) Loudoun development lawyer and Fairfax developer (with some interests in the Carolinas). When push comes to shove, whose way of life is he likely to promote — his clients or the rural preferences of his Western Loudoun and Clarke County constituents. Of course, one significant reason why teacher salaries in Loudoun are stagnant is because the County has to keep hiring hundreds of teachers each year to accomodate all the newbies in the houses Mr. Minchew’s clients built. More importantly, teacher salaries are paid for by tax revenue, end of story. I don’t understand why someone as intelligent as Mr. Minchew would make a comment that significant pay increases over time can be funded by anything other than tax increases or cuts to other State and Local services or obligations.

    Frankly, these hardly seem to be the best and brightest the 10th district might offer. I miss Joe May already.

    • Clarke Conservative says:

      Another pathetic liberal attempt at class envy. There are many families that have personal non-mortgage liabilities exceeding $50,000. In today’s world buy two new cars with car payments and you are there.

      What Mimi fails to disclose is other information at While not the landed gentry, it looks like Mr. Whitbeck, through his hard work and enterprise, has built up a successful law firm that provides a comfortable living for his family. His personal assets and income more than cover any liabilities. I just wish our President thought the same way with our money / taxes / debt.

      Mr. Whitbeck should be commended for his success, not vilified. This is America after all, not yet the communist / socialist state many Democrats want to drag us down to.

      By the way, David Bulter the Democrat nominee, hasn’t even reported his personal finances at, but with 2/3 of his political contributions coming from a $40,000 personal loan it looks like he is not hurting for money.

      • Mr Mister says:

        Typical response by a conservative. Tell us again why all democrats are bad, or have you not received the talking points from Fox News today. This article is about the GOP. Keep it there.

        • Clarke Conservative says:

          Wow I didn’t realize Fox News is giving talking points on local Delegate races. I have to upgrade my subscription to Premium status. (sic)

      • Mimi Stein says:

        The numbers I provided do not include car loans.
        Candidates do not submit filings to vpap; they submit them to the State Board of Elections. vpap, a non-partisan, non-profit, posts those filings. I looked for Mr. Butler’s filing, but so far, vpap is only posting financial disclosures for candidates in contested primaries. I expect that has something to do with the limited resources of being a non-profit. Hopefully, they will post have all candidates filings posted before the General Election in November.

  9. Uncle Jessie says:

    “I just wish our President thought the same way with our money / taxes / debt.”

    You mean President Bush, right?

    2 unfunded wars, tax cuts for the weathly are what got us in this mess- selective memory?

    • Clarke Conservative says:

      No, Obama. Two un-funded stimulus packages and Obamacare.

      • Uncle Jessie says:

        You may want to read up on when “Obamacare” goes into effect. Let’s keep footing the bill for the uninsured and their emergency room visits.

        I know this is hard to understand- but the 2 “un-funded” stimulus packages were to save jobs as a result of Bush’s 2 unfunded wars and tax cuts for the rich. If anything, they weren’t big enough.

        • Clarke Conservative says:

          Stop blaming Bush.

          Reagan inherited a much worse economy in 1980 from Jimmy Carter. High inflation, high unemployment, energy costs, etc. By 1983-84 the economy was roaring back because Reagan took charge and acted like a leader.

          This is Obama’s Economy, no matter how hard he tries to blame everyone else.

          • Let’s see:
            1.) TARP – a Bush idea.
            2.) Those tax cuts for the upper classes – a Bush idea that Obama stupidly allowed to continue.
            (Those were what depleted the budget surplus created under Clinton, along with the invasions
            of Afghanistan – given 9/11 – and Iraq – completely unnecessary.)
            3.) Prescription drug benefit – a Bush idea, costing untold billions.
            4.) Bailouts of AIG, GM, others – begun under Bush.
            5.) In truth, Obama has not shown a lot of leadership lately, and that his budget was shot down 97-
            0 in the Senate was telling.
            6.) The SEC, and other regulators on Bush’s watch, who let the derivatives market and other
            reckless real estate and other speculating get out of hand.

            The real issues are that
            (A) NEITHER political party can hide from the blame for this mess, NOR can the voters for
            electing these men and women;
            (B) cuts alone won’t solve the issue. What won’t be cut – Medicare/Medicaid? SS? Farm
            subsidies? (Certain Clarke farmers and others won’t like that.) Subsidies for oil companies, or
            other large firms? Privatize things, like the postal service? The IRS? What areas?
            (C) Increased revenues have to be on the table, despite what I-really-wanna-be-Speaker Cantor
            says. Let those Bush tax cuts expire, like when a sale ends and things go back to regular
            prices. Explore a national sales tax. Close tax code loopholes. Heck, I’d even consider a flat
            tax…if God only asks for 10%, surely Uncle Sam can do the same, no?

            The needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few, and certainly should trump scoring cheap political points or polishing one’s partisan bonafides. Cut the crap, roll up your sleeves, and get the work done. And, Mr. and Mrs. Public, it just might mean that we all have to feel a little more pain than we currently do.

          • “…if God only asks for 10%…”

            He asks for faith, not money. The church wants your money.

          • True, but He also said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” The 10% (a.k.a. the “tithe”) was established in the Old Testament to show our faith in God by offering back a portion of what He’s blessed us with. You know…”give and you shall receive” and all that.

          • And if you sacrifice your first born son then the 10% is totally cancelled out for minimum two fiscal years.


            With the route this thread is going, why don’t we just all pray really hard that god will bless Clarke County with more tax revenue? If we deserve it, he will provide – right? Let’s elect the candidate that can pray the best and get the most results!

            Rick Perry for President!

          • LOL…well, that was a mite more flippant than necessary for the point I was trying to make, but glad you have a sense of humor.

          • As far as I’m concerned, the best praying man in the U.S. right now is the guy who did the opening prayer at the recent NASCAR race where he thanked God for his “Smokin’ hot wife” and various other NASCAR related things.