Senate candidate Allen, at liberty in Rappahannock

Former Virginia governor and Senate hopeful George Allen poses at Gray Ghost Vineyards with supporters who came to hear him speak last Wednesday, including (from left) Hurley Smith, Danielle Junk, Donna Smith, George Allen, Regina Knight, Barbara Cioffi, Demaris Miller, Walter Longyear, Jim and Joan Gannon, Cheryl Kellert, Roger Welch and Al Kellert. Alex Sharp VIII | Rappahannock News
Former Virginia governor and Senate hopeful George Allen poses at Gray Ghost Vineyards with supporters who came to hear him speak last Wednesday, including (from left) Hurley Smith, Danielle Junk, Donna Smith, George Allen, Regina Knight, Barbara Cioffi, Demaris Miller, Walter Longyear, Jim and Joan Gannon, Cheryl Kellert, Roger Welch and Al Kellert.

Former Virginia governor, senator and U.S. Senate hopeful George Allen came to town last Wednesday evening (April 4) to shake many hands and address a spirited crowd at Gray Ghost Vineyards in Amissville, where his visit coincided with blue skies and sixty-five degree sunshine, cherry trees in bloom, rows of grape vines and a setting sun.

Virginia will be the focus of one of the nation’s most tightly contested U.S. Senate races in November’s election, as Allen tries to recapture the Senate seat that he lost in 2006 to Democrat James Webb. Webb’s decision not to seek reelection has opened the door for what political analysts expect will be a heated race between two former Virginia governors – Republican Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine, as event organizer Jim Gannon wrote in a recent Rappahannock News edition. Gannon is also founder of the Friends of Liberty, a local group that “seeks to advance liberty and conservative principles” – and whose membership was out in force to greet Allen.

“Mr. Allen said he has come to Rappahannock several times in the past, so he probably knows that in this county, what you see here is a large group of the voters,” Gannon said, gesturing to the crowd of about 50. “We don’t get a lot of visits from politicians and office holders, which might have something to do with the fact that cows outnumber voters by about 10 to one here – and they don’t vote.”

Gray Ghost’s Al and Cheryl Kellert opened their doors to Allen and the Friends of Liberty, and good weather brought a slight change of venue – so Allen’s speech and question-and-answer session were relocated from inside the winery to the outdoor patio overlooking the vineyard.

Allen speaks on the veranda outside Gray Ghost’s tasting room.Alex Sharp VIII | Rappahannock News
Allen speaks on the veranda outside Gray Ghost’s tasting room.

“Al and Cheryl . . . thank you both so much for your hospitality and thank you for your investment,” Allen said in his opening remarks, after about an hour of meeting and greeting locals who included board of supervisors chairman Roger Welch. “Mr. Jefferson’d be proud of you, growing grapes and wines here in Rappahannock County.”

Earlier in the day, after Allen said he and his campaign team found that Sperryville’s High on the Hog barbecue was closed on Wednesdays, the crew instead ate at Burgers N’ Things, just across the Thornton River on U.S. 211. “Not your typical fast food joint,” he said minutes before his speech. Allen said he loves Rappahannock, and appreciates that cows outnumber people and that there are no stoplights.

For nearly an hour, Allen described his campaign approach, addressed health care and energy reform, minimizing federal government influence in localities, continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and introduced the “Blueprint for America’s Comeback,” his plan to create more jobs, in part by lowering taxes on job-creating businesses, and saving college graduates from under-employment.

“Look, we’re running against Tim Kaine, who is the handpicked chairman of the Democratic National Committee, by President Obama,” Allen said. “He is in effect the handpicked senator. Virginians deserve a senator for their voices and their values. We are trying to provide that leadership for you.”

Allen’s speech and Q&A session:

My daughter graduated in 2010 from James Madison University and she moved home because she didn’t have a job . . . it’s one of the motivations that Susan and I have for getting off the sidelines and into this fight. This is a pivotal year in the course of America’s history. The decisions made by you and our fellow Virginians are gonna determine the trajectory of our country. And one of the things that motivated me was seeing our daughter – and she’s lucky, she eventually found a job, but I saw a lot of others her age and her colleagues – and this is the worst job market there has been since World War II, for young people . . .

Out of the graduating class of 2011, 85 percent of the graduates in this country moved back home. And I was reading in a paper in Washington that a person was saying, “Well these young people, they’re expectations are too high.” And I was just thinking, “My goodness, this is America! In America, you’re only limited by your imagination, your ingenuity, your diligence, your hard work. Don’t tell future generations they’re expectations are too high.” A lot of our motivations – the reason you’re here – is obviously for yourself but mostly for your family. We want to make sure the future generations have the same opportunities in life that we had growing up. But that hope, that optimism is being diminished by what’s going on in Washington these days – because it seems like everything coming out of Washington is against us. We need to get in control of our own destiny, here in our country. We’re vulnerable to outside forces because of our dangerous levels of debt, as well as our counter productive energy policies. And so this campaign is as much for young people and future generations as it is for us.

There are people who are discouraged, no doubt about it. Some are disillusioned. People will talk about unemployment rates being at over 8 percent for 37 straight months, all very interesting. I’ll tell you where I think most of the discouragement comes from is under-employment, which is 15, 16 percent. There’re a lot of young people, and middle-aged people, who have a job – and any job is better than no job at all – however those jobs are not fully utilizing their skills and their education and their talents.

Now our campaign motto or our blueprint is called the “Blueprint for America’s Comeback.” It’s a pro-jobs plan of action. It makes sure we’re reinvigorating the entrepreneurial spirit of America, with the right economic, the right regulatory, the right energy policies – and education is empowering and important, but mostly a state and local responsibility – and what we want to do is make sure that America is not limited by a government that is really the biggest problem in impeding people’s opportunities in our country.

We’re number one in two areas; one is bad and one is good . . . The bad is that we are No. 1 in the world when it comes to taxes on job-creating businesses. Japan has just lowered their tax on businesses and now we’re the highest at 35 percent. The international average is 25 percent. I believe that America should be better than average, and that’s why I have been proposing since last spring, reducing the tax on job-creating businesses – whether they’re small, medium or large – to 20 percent; that, from independent studies, would help create 500,000 jobs a year. That’s 5 million jobs over a 10-year period. That in itself would send a message to the world that America’s open for business . . .

The good news. We’re No. 1 in the world when it comes to energy resources. When we say grace, we ought to thank God that we have more energy resources than any other country in the world; Russia’s second. We’re No. 1. We’re blessed. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington seem to look at our resources as a curse, because they put them off limits. You have an administration in Washington that says to Virginia, “No, you can’t explore and produce oil and natural gas off our coast.” You have EPA, the legislative branch cannot pass that cap-and-trade energy tax scheme which was in effect, economic unilateral disarmament. Now we have EPA putting in this regulation that they’ve put forth last week. Who in the heck elected EPA? No one. They’re an unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy, and they’re virtually going to outlaw coal. And the result of all that means when we’re paying our electric bills every month, it’s going to be the same pain we’re feeling at the pump every time we fill up with gasoline these days . . .

And so the point is, is we do have energy resources in our country. We have those resources under our land and under our water. We have the resources in the creativity in the American people. What is missing is the political will to unleash those resources. And if you hire me on, I’m going to provide that political will. On day one, there’re four bills I’m going to introduce. One of ’em would be to allow us in Virginia to produce oil and gas off our coast and share the royalties with Virginia, for roads and transportation.

I think it’s absolutely essential that we unleash our American energy resources. And if we did so, what would be the result? The result would be there would be hundreds of thousands of new, good-paying jobs in our country. If we’re unleashing our resources from the coast of Virginia, to the Gulf of Mexico, to the bare north slope of Alaska, from the Appalachians, to the Rocky Mountains, we’d have much more affordable fuel. We’d have more affordable food. All of this affects farmers. I guarantee all this affects even grape growers. Right?

It all affects the food, the groceries and our electricity bills. If we unleashed our American energy resources, we could really see an industrial renaissance in this country . . . Our country could have that renaissance, as far as industrial capabilities and leaders in innovation. We’d also be less vulnerable to hostile dictators and oligarchs and cartels, which is a national security matter. The federal government would get over one trillion dollars in revenues, without raising taxes. And best of all, folks, we’d be keeping our money here in the United States of America!

And that’s why I’m gonna be like a dog on a bone if you hire me on, on this issue of energy, because I do think it truly improves the quality of life, and opportunities for Americans – not just in the goal fields and down at the ports, but for all of us . . .

My general view is the federal government has certain responsibilities. They are to protect our God-given civil rights. They are to make sure we have unimpeded, interstate commerce. And national security and national defense is really the most important of their functions. And then you need to keep our promises to our veterans and their families for the benefits that they have earned. And we do need to have a strong national defense. Other than that, generally speaking, I would like to see the federal government stay out of our lives and out of our business.

We don’t need more government, we need more freedom. We need more competition. I love health savings accounts, where individuals own those policies and can carry them from job to job and don’t have to worry about a pre-existing condition if they shift from one job to another. And these folks that say Obamacare is so great, including some of the big union bosses, if it’s so great why do they get waivers from it? How come there’s folks that are getting waivers that are well connected? And these members of Congress, or anybody that says Obamacare is so great, my view is it ought to apply to members of Congress. Why should they have a different system that they’re imposing on the rest of us . . .

Ronald Reagan said there were two things he wished he had accomplished when he was president. One was a balanced budget requirement in the Constitution, the other is for future presidents to have line-item veto authority – and I think that’s really important; not more of these commissions and super committees and all this abdication of responsibility; we really need to get that changed in the Constitution. And I’ll introduce that on day one as well . . .  

Questions and Comments

This conflict started in your first term, and it’s still going on. So my question is, upon election, when do you cut funding to Afghanistan?

First of all, let me say it this way, I think our troops do need to be coming home. Our troops, our country has given a lot of blood, treasure, lives; people are coming back and they’re disabled for life. Afghanistan’s a country that has a lot of different ethnicities, tribes divided by a massive mountain range, and we’ve done just about all that we can do to allow them to stand up and take control of their own lives, their own destinies in their villages, their provinces. The one thing I don’t like doing is ever telling your opposition what you ought to do. So I wouldn’t want to say – because I don’t think it’s right for President Obama to say “we’re leaving as of this date.” If you’re going to retreat – now you served in the military so I’ll defer to you – but it doesn’t make lot of sense to me to let your opposition know when you’re leaving . . .

I think that if you’re gonna have a retreat, you have a strategic retreat; you need to, so to speak, leave the campfires burning, and while they’re burning we’ve left – and that’s the sort of approach it takes. So I wouldn’t want to say a date certain, but I think that that’s what’s happening. It’s not as if we would have a complete disengagement from them, but the boots on the ground aspect is going to be down to nil. I think we ought to keep using unmanned aerial vehicles. I think they can strike with pretty good precision if we get information of here’s a terrorist group, or some group that needs to be taken out. As a practical matter, what you (the questioner) and the men and women in uniform did, is knocked out Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda’s not there. The Taliban is not the same as Al Qaeda. But you do not want Afghanistan to become a haven for these terrorist organizations.

What part will social issues play in your campaign?

The prominent aspect in my campaign is the Blueprint for America’s Comeback, and it is focused on jobs. I think the best social program is a job. If somebody has a job, they’re taking care of themselves, they’re taking care of their families, there’s self worth, personal responsibility – rather than this initiative-sapping dependence on the government that’s being fostered in Washington these days. The focus of our campaign is America’s comeback, and that means getting our country competitive for investment in jobs, and that includes economic and regulatory matters.

I feel powerless as a citizen in national government. Any suggestions?

Here’s what you’re doing. First of all, you’re here. You’re getting informed. If you’re informed and educated – well you’re already educated before listening to me, you’re maybe just getting informed on what in the heck is Allen running on so you get an idea. You all have a lot of influence. You can email. You can talk to me. You can write. You can influence people you work with, you worship with, people you recreate with. And each one of you is very very important, not just here in Rappahannock but all over the Commonwealth of Virginia . . . This is gonna be a really close race. Every single vote’ll count. The last election I was in it was a narrow loss. And we’re doing things differently. I learned from losing; it’s a humbling experience and it’s something though that will not ever have any complacency. We want to create a grassroots insurgency. We’re well organized in every county and city. Walter [Longyear] knows the way we ran campaigns back in the 90s in the governor’s race; you’ve got to have that grassroots support. And each and every one of you can be an ambassador for our team.

Look, we’re running against Tim Kaine, who is the handpicked chairman of the democratic national committee, by President Obama. He is in effect the handpicked senator. Virginians deserve a senator for their voices and their values. We are trying to provide that leadership for you.