Degner campaign mailer attacks Wilt

Alex Sirney -- June 11th, 2010

A mailer received by district residents this week questions Republican candidate for delegate in the 26th district Tony WIlt’s campaign points, calling his ideas “bad for the Valley” and the “Worst idea ever.”

The mailer, sent on behalf of Democratic candidate and Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner’s campaign, claims that Wilt’s ideas are to “Raise taxes on small businesses,” “Slash funding for Valley schools” and “Cut job creation in the Valley.” It is reminiscent of the Wilt campaign mailer from May.

Degner mailerThis mailer accuses Wilt of being “hand-picked” by political insiders and characterizes him as a “follower,” citing an AugustaFreePress story in which Wilt’s primary opponent John Elledge criticizes the Republican party’s handling of the primary polling that resulted in Wilt’s victory as “backroom politics.”

Conclusions are also drawn from Wilt’s comments about school funding at the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce and from Wilt’s interviews with about cutting the budget. Wilt told the Chamber that he would be willing to vote for a budget that did not fully fund K-12 education, as did Independent candidate Carolyn Frank. Degner “stopped short” of saying he would vote against such a budget.

Degner Mailer, Tony WiltMuch seems to be made of Wilt’s unqualified support of former Delegate Matt Lohr, and Wilt’s comments about cuts to state programs appears to form the basis of the claim that Wilt would cut job creation.

The charge that Wilt supported a tax increase on businesses references The Washington Business Journal as well as SB 1495, presumably with the implication that Wilt’s stated support of former Delegate Matt Lohr would include this legislation. SB 1495 was opposed by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce in a statement signed by local chambers of commerce, including the HRCC.

Wilt is on record repeatedly as saying that he would oppose any tax increases to businesses and has made his anti-tax, pro-business stance a key part of his campaign.

The Wilt campaign has not responded to email inquiries.

75 Responses to “Degner campaign mailer attacks Wilt”

  1. republitarian says:

    The other mailer was the nastiest….

    • Alex Sirney says:

      Which one? Maybe we didn’t get it… or did you mean Wilt’s “big city liberal” one?

  2. republitarian says:

    No, the one accusing Tony of hiding his conflict of interest. It basically calls Tony a crook.

  3. republitarian says:

    Tony maybe a lot of things…like a believer in Jesus and a good ole’ county boy….but he ain’t a crook.

  4. City Dweller says:

    Whether people like it or not, these kind of mailers come out in most every state level campaign. It’s definitely part of the game. I can say that at least this mailer is based on actual facts and quotes, rather than a few straight lies and misrepresentations. I was surprised when Wilt’s campaign sent out their negative mailer so early on and didn’t wait until later. It wouldn’t have given the Degner camp time to sift through what was false.

  5. I have not seen any of these mailers, and I am perfectly willing to believe that Tony Wilt is not a crook, although I do not know him at all. I think what is more disturbing about his handling of the hydro-fracking situation is that he failed to realize early on that his personal relationship to the issue was an issue that he needed to get out openly and upfront rather than having it brought up to him by others. This suggests a lack of competence or knowing what is going on or what is important that I think a delegate should have.

  6. Brooke says:

    Yeah I was VERY disappointed at the most recent mailer. Like I said earlier, tell me why I should vote FOR you, not why I shouldn’t vote for the other guy. I find the unnecessarily negative tone of the mailers (on either side) to be disappointing and discouraging, because it smacks of “politics as usual.”

  7. Jane says:

    I don’t typically post on blogs – more of a reader than talker. I have to say, however, that I have been a Kai supporter until now. I am saddened to see that even our generation (I too am a Gen X/Gen Y) can’t move beyond party politics. The fear tactics and the growing chasm between political poles threatens the very foundation of our nation and if we cannot make a change locally or with our young politicians, change seems hopeless.

    There is a great quote from NY Times writer, Thomas Friedman, about the dysfunction of our political system: “My definition of broken is simple. It is a system in which Republicans will be voted out for doing the right thing (raising taxes when needed) and Democrats will be voted out for doing the right thing (cutting services when needed). When your political system punishes lawmakers for the doing the right things, it is broken. That is why we need political innovation that takes America’s disempowered radical center and enables it to act in proportion to its true size, unconstrained by the two parties, interest groups and orthodoxies that have tied our politics in knots. ”

    You can see the entire article here:

    Thank you ALL for the comments and discussion. I truly enjoy reading everyone’s perspectives and also appreciate the opportunity to contribute.

    • Thanks for commenting, Jane. Interesting article.

      • David Miller says:

        While I agree with Friedman I’d have to qualify it by saying that our system has always been broken.

        I’m not disappointed by the mailer though, I think that it’s fair to call out your opponent on real issues like hydro, taxes and services. The people who got the mailer are the same folks who voted in the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors just raised taxes yesterday (DNR, Fire Marshall Fees for businesses). The R’s are railing against Gov spending and tax increases without publicly acknowledging that these things are necessary. If anyone is to blame for the polarization I’d point in their direction. You can’t run for government while railing against it and expect an educated electorate. You’ve spent all your time making sure they can’t be.

  8. Barnabas says:

    From what I’ve seen of Tony, it almost seems like he doesn’t care, or maybe it’s that he feels confident that he has the election in the bag. I’ve voted republican pretty much across the board, but Tony rubs me the wrong way, and I don’t really know why. The hydro-frack thing deffinatly bothers me, but I had already decided against him before that. We deffinatly need more parties.

  9. Brooke says:

    Hey, is it just me, or did Kai disable commenting on his Facebook page? Maybe he disabled for everyone, but I don’t see anything posted past June 1st.

  10. Dave Briggman says:

    Nope…he has, in fact, disabled commenting on his Facebook page.

  11. Dave Briggman says:

    Actually, you can comment, but you cannot post anything new to his Wall…my mistake.

  12. Brooke says:

    I’m about ready not to go to vote. I am so disillusioned with Kai right now, and feel like he’s showing himself to be just another politician playing the same stupid party political games. I certainly don’t want to vote for Tony or Carolyn, for some of the same reasons, as well as the fact that I disagree with them on many of their stances. This whole race is starting to make me sick to my stomach.

    • There’s a book about that I perused once called Going Negative.

      “…Negative ads suppress voter turnout by discouraging nonpartisan or independent voters and that such ads increase voters’ cynicism about elections and their own ability to affect the political system.”

      • Brooke says:

        That quote is exactly right. I’m not a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian and I have no party loyalties to play to. I vote my conscience, and for the candidate I feel would do the best job of representing me. Politicians playing up partisan angles just makes me feel like they don’t care about my vote, or me as a constituent – that they just care about courting their party followers.

        • It’s unlikely this stuff is originating with Kai (just as the negative Wilt mailer likely did not come from Tony). When you have state parties dumping tens of thousands of dollars into your campaign, you lose control of your message. They sign off on it because they get swept up in the desire to win. Also, at some point, it’s no longer about the candidate him/herself.

          These campaign advisers are likely the same ones turning off (or urging Kai to turn off) commenting on his Facebook page and profile, or advising Tony to not participate in an hburgnews debate.

          Tony was a family friend when I was a kid in Cornerstone Church (then “Mennonite Fellowship”) and I met Kai in Citizen Academy 2006 (Here’s a picture of the inaugural graduating class).

          IMO, the negative campaign literature reflects neither candidates’ personalities. This is the RPV and DPVA pissing it out over the 26th district.

          • Renee says:

            Yes, I agree that these mailers likely don’t originate with the candidates, but from their parties. However, I believe they have to approve every mailer’s content. Kai took a risk sending out a negative mailer – it’s not going to affect my vote one way or another, but I can’t say I was happy to see it.

        • David Miller says:

          Brooke, I respect your disdain for politics as usual. I’m pretty sure that no one enjoys it, the trick here is that we have three choices. If you stay home, you vote for Wilt. If you’re pro hydrofracking without thoughtful regulation, pro politics as usual and are looking forward to public servants like teachers getting fired in across the board budget cutbacks then by all means make take the moral high ground and stay home on Tuesday.

          • Brooke says:

            But I hate feeling like I’m signing off on it, like Kai is signing off on these stupid ads coming from Richmond. At some point there has to be some accountability. I will probably vote, but I hate, HATE, that the candidate I am supporting is buying into the win at all costs political games, and I hate that by casting my vote for him, I’ll be buying into it, too. It’s NOT the only way to win, and I hate that so many are making excuses and saying, “that’s just how it is.” No, it isn’t. We have just chosen to accept it. *gag*

          • Brooke says:

            (I know I used the word “hate” a lot in that post. I don’t mean that I hate anybody in the campaign – I don’t – I just can’t think of a different word strong enough word to communicate how much I dislike this crap.)

    • Deb SF says:

      Brooke, how would you have had Kai respond to this mailer?

      For everyone on this site who’s voiced dismay with Kai’s strategies, there are other Dems out there who like seeing Democrats do something more than stand there and take a punch. I get the “eye for an eye and the whole world’s blind” thing, I really do. I get that the “he hit me first” argument isn’t an excuse, either. But it seems to me that not reacting to tactics like the Wilt mailer from a month ago just doesn’t work. This isn’t the ideal world. It’s the real one.

      • Brooke says:

        Like he already did, Deb. Point by point, giving the facts. You don’t need to stoop to the same level to tell the truth.

        • Deb SF says:

          I think you have to fight to win, though. And that means engaging not only the rational but the emotional side of the voter. You have to make people not only think, but feel. Polite truth telling is important, and for the mostly rational voter, it connects. I think, though, anymore, that kind of voter makes up a minority of the electorate.

          None of this is new. Thomas Jefferson was called the anti-Christ. Lincoln was called a horrible-looking wretch, or something like that. Much research shows that negative ads actually lead to a better informed electorate, because they raise specific issues and make people pay attention, get engaged, move them to the polls. Negative ads are actually more likely to focus on issues, and that’s been largely true of the two mailers people have been talking about from the Wilt and Degner campaigns. Can they go over the line? Sure. IMO, these haven’t.

          • Brooke says:

            And the problem? He’s engaging the wrong emotional side of certain voters. How effective a campaign strategy is it if it makes people not want to vote for you at all?

        • Deb SF says:

          You can tell the truth and give the facts in a lot of different ways. I can say that my opponent had an attendance record of 94% during the legislative session, or I could say that my opponent missed 17 crucial votes on environmental regulation, changes in the tax code, and improving the protection of children from pedophiles. Both may be correct and factual, but put the second phrase in black and red over an unflattering picture of the other guy, and it would be perceived as negative. I think the much of the reaction is more against the frame, the way the facts are told than a reaction about the absence of “facts”.

          Lying, of course, is bad. That’s a different story.

    • Bazrik says:

      Vote, Brooke. Don’t like the candidates, then write someone in. But vote. People fight and die in other countries to get these basic freedoms, and we take them for granted. I’m not saying the choices aren’t bad and the system isn’t screwy – they are and it is. But the one part of our system that still has some semblance of its original intent is the people’s choice. Please use it.

  13. BANDIT says:

    At least these two (Kai & Tony) are campaigning. Carolyn Frank is doing zero, zip, notta….

  14. The word, Benny, is “nada”.

    Boy, oh boy, Benny. You tried to take a shot at Carolyn on WSVA this morning, and you had your butt handed to you by two consecutive callers.

    You don’t even live in the 26th District and your wife can’t vote, but you have a really odd obsession with Carolyn Frank, almost like a little obsessive, or, too many paint fumes.

  15. Brooke says:

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, Deb. You don’t have to be nasty just because the other guy is. It’s the difference between self-defense (countering campaign lies with the truth about yourself) and offense (getting just as nasty and negative as the next guy.

    • Emmy says:

      I agree with you Brooke. The nastier it gets the less likely I am to go out and vote. Maybe I’m the minority, but there is just too much negativity in the world and when you allow your name or image to appear on something like that then you are saying that you are OK with however it looks to others. I would not have wanted my name associated in any way with either Tony’s or Kai’s mailers. Sure, you might see a record loss at the polls but you can still sleep comfortably at night. I guess if people don’t vote for you because you ran a positive campaign then you know the type of people you were going to be representing if you got the job.

  16. Brooke says:

    I agree, Emmy. And I really despise the emotional blackmail of “if you don’t vote for Kai, you’re voting for Tony.” Sorry to be blunt, but that’s bullcrap, and I’m not buying into it. If Kai loses this election because of negative campaign strategies and political games turning people off and making them feel like he’s no better than any other politician (just a different flavor), then he can blame himself. No one else. I have to be able to stand by my vote. I just need to decide if I can still vote for Kai and feel like I stand by that decision.

    • “negative campaign strategies”? What are you talking about? It may be the ugly truth, but everything in that mailer is true. And there is nothing more “negative” than having your elected representative hang you out to dry just so he can talk about being “fiscally conservative”. Remember, this is the crowd that told us to trust/deregulate Wall Street, and put us $2 trillion down the Iraqi rathole.

      • Brooke says:

        Dude, read through my posting history. You seem to be under the impression that I’m either defending Tony or considering voting for Tony. Neither is the case. Tony’s fliers pissed me off, too. There’s the truth, and then there’s the truth delivered with snark and nastiness. Tony’s are worse because he flat out lied. While Kai’s were technically “the truth” they had the same nasty ring to the tone. I felt like Kai’s were disappointing (to say the least) because I felt Kai was above that, and I hated seeing him resort to the same political games as his opponent, even if more “honestly.” Honesty doesn’t change the fact that they were more negatively toned than they needed to be. And I also thought it was a dumb, dumb move to focus on a “we Democrats need to take back…” type message when Kai needs to court the independent and crossover vote, as well.

        That kind of stuff makes me, as an independent, feel like my vote doesn’t matter to him because it’s NOT about representing the Valley well. It’s about Democrats retaining a seat for representing Democrats.

        And then Kai pretty much said as much the 2nd time he came by. I expressed my concerns about focusing on Democrats, and first he tried to tell me I was a Democrat (neither of us are), then when I said the part about needing every vote he can get, including the independents and cross overs, and said that really wasn’t the case, because if all the Democrats come out for him, he should have it. How does that not send the message that he doesn’t “need” anyone but Democrats. And it certainly tells me who he’ll be representing. Not that Tony is any better. He’s not. My point isn’t that Tony is any better, but rather, that I’m feeling like Kai is just a different side (Democrat) of the same political coin.

        • Deb SF says:

          “…concerns about focusing on Democrats, and first he tried to tell me I was a Democrat (neither of us are)” – I’m a little confused. Isn’t Kai a Democrat, running with the Dem nomination?

  17. jim purcell says:

    It seems, in politics, that the choice is becoming more and more, voting for the lesser of two “evils,” because that’s all we hear/read about anymore.

    The fact remains, that one of these candidates is going to be our delegate. Which one do you want it to be?

    Nothing in life, especially in politics, is pure. You just have to take a measure of the candidates and vote for the one that has more in common with your beliefs than not.

    In order to do that, you have to get past all the “noise.”

  18. newby says:

    I am not a very political person, and relatively new to the area. But after having followed, to a certain extent, the campaigns for State Delegate in District 26, I have come away with the following impressions of the candidates:
    • One candidate is not local, but came here as a student. Whereas many students leave after having received their degrees, he stayed because he liked the area. He got a bachelor’s degree and an MBA, bought a house, and got engaged in community work and local politics.
    • Two candidates are local. One obviously liked the city so much that she got involved in politics to help improve the city. The other candidate was born here, inherited a business, but did not seek public service until (coincidentally?) after he had signed a contract with an oil/gas drilling company that seeks permission from the local government (which he would represent) to drill on what is now his brother’s (and his parents’?) land.
    • One candidate was pro-active and laid out a rough draft for legislation to regulate the extraction of gas in a safe manner with special concern for the environment and the population that will be exposed to all activities (trucks, pipelines, drilling rigs, etc.), including issues of liability.
    • One candidate did not bother to think of the future in those terms, but believes that he should be able to do whatever he wants to do on his land, regardless of impact on the land and his neighbors. In order to stay away from accusations of conflict of interest, he suggested that he might not vote on a matter that might be one of the most important decisions for the district.
    • One candidate, in order to prepare himself for public office, took classes in public administration, urban planning, financing, grant writing,legal issues, and the like. He also attended workshops in Richmond about the workings of the state government.
    • One candidate does not seem to have prepared himself in any manner for the challenges a delegate will face in the state legislature.
    • One candidate arrived prepared, wearing a suit and tie, for a video for hburgnews , and spoke in clear and precise language about his goals, even though a motorcycle interrupted the taping.
    • One candidate, even though all candidates had a week’s notice, seemed to be rather unprepared for this video shoot and spoke more of himself than the issues at hand.
    • One candidate looks at the reality of the diverse population in and around Harrisonburg as an asset that needs to be tapped for the good of all and sees the benefits of incorporating all ethnic groups into the community.
    • One candidate sees only illegal immigrants, even if they are children and therefore should not be held responsible for the actions of their parents.
    • One candidate, as an unknown, needed to work on gaining the respect of many people in the community so that he was elected to public office where he seemed to energize people across party lines and sometimes ruffled the feathers of his own party.
    • One candidate seems to think that he should automatically command the respect of the voters by virtue of having inherited and running a local business.
    • All in all: one candidate has been doing his homework and preparing himself for the honor of representing the District, the other candidate seems to be flying by the seat of his pants. And the third candidate seems to be rather nice.

    So, who do you think is the better candidate? Whom would you vote for?

    • Dave Briggman says:

      My choice would be to write in “None of the Above”, or NOTA.

      Such may be my message that I intend on sending out this weekend to the approximately 2,500 City and County school employees.

  19. BANDIT says:

    Carolyn Frank couldn’t be reached for a story in today’s DN-R. How clumsy can one be? She can’t answer her phone or at least return messages? In my mind, this is not the way a Christian candidate should act in a campaign. It makes no sense at all…..sorry but, she is rubbing me wrong.

  20. David Miller says:

    It’s not my job to defend Carolyn but ‘couldn’t be reached for comment’ usually means they didn’t even call her. Just speaking from experience

  21. Brooke says:

    I think David has a valid point. We can’t be too quick to assume Carolyn somehow *made* herself unavailable. I’ve seen newscasters say “refused to speak with” “didn’t return our call” – THAT would indicate what you’re speaking of, Bandit. Note, they didn’t say that.

  22. republitarian says:

    Maybe she is rubbing you wrong because she took your wife out of a taxpayer paid 110,000k gravy job which made you a regular joe who has to pack his lunch instead of eating out all the time?

    Carolyn is taking a family vacation to the beach this weekend which was planned months ago.

    If people only knew how the paper treats candidates other than republicans you would quickly realize the wasn’t missing an “opportunity”.

  23. BANDIT says:

    Yes, these are all possible excuses however, are you all saying the news paper would miss lead us?
    As far as vacationing…cell phones work almost everywhere.

  24. Dave Briggman says:

    I’ve had no problem getting a hold of Carolyn on her cell phone.

  25. Brooke says:

    Benny, I have no reason to make excuses for Carolyn. I’m not voting for, I don’t believe she’s the best candidate for the job. I think I’ve been fairly clear about that – to the point that I’ve been castigated for expressing that. So, no dog in this fight in “defending” her. You, however, have a HUGE axe to grind with her, so your being like a dog with a bone over what is likely a complete non-issue is more than a little suspect.

  26. Emmy says:

    There are lots of reasons why someone could be “unavailable for comment” that have nothing to do with them not wanting to talk to the press. Sometimes the reporter waits too long to call and the person doesn’t get back with them in time for the issue to go to press. If you don’t call someone until 10 minutes before you need the quote then you have to put something in there.

    I also have no idea what her Christianity has to do with this.

  27. republitarian says:

    It was a story on door knocking…SERIOUSLY. What is she going to say that has major implications in this race….other than, “Life’s a beach!”

    • City Dweller says:

      Does anyone else find it ridiculous that the story was triggered by Degner’s campaign organizing volunteers and they took the picture of Wilt? There is no way he’s knocked 1/10 of the doors Degner has.

  28. MF says:

    Really she went to the beach??? I mean come on, that is kind of crazy. Why would you not change your vacation plans when you decide to run for office. The election is less then 4 days away and she goes to the beach!?!? That shows no commitment at all.

  29. republitarian says:

    I love getting under you’re all’s skin…..

  30. BANDIT says:

    Call Jeff Mellott to find out the reason…421-6090 (cell)

  31. BANDIT says:

    I believe I’ve only been stating the obvious when it comes to Carolyn. No lies or half truths. I was not the one(s) making legitimate excuses on why she was not available for one of the last major opportunities to “show her stuff” in a major news outlet… The Daily News Record goes to almost every voter. So, instead of you all making excuses for her, I gave you the man with the answer, Jeff Mellott. Good Day!

  32. Brooke says:

    You’re missing the point, Benny. None of us care. Her supporters don’t care. Her non-supporters don’t care. It’s a non-issue. We don’t care, but we all know why you do. So, again, if you want to know so badly, call Jeff yourself.

  33. Jamie Smith says:

    Paragraph: Had a visitor today campaigning for Kai. Asked him how long he had been here. He said he is from Va. Beach. First trip to the area. Apparently the state party is pulling out a lot of stops.
    I told him to pray for a flood!

  34. David Miller says:

    Why doesn’t everyone just post by your real name, it would avoid so many problems

  35. republitarian says:

    Here’s Bandit singing….

    • Alex Sirney says:

      This is uncalled for. BANDIT’s handle is his own and it doesn’t seem to be a problem since you all seem to know who he is anyway.

      I don’t think a video of anyone singing has much to do with the topic at hand. I’ve deleted the follow-up to this post.

      • Bazrik says:

        Typical republitarian response – trying to call people out, “expose” people…quite petty as usual.

        • republitarian says:

          Benny and I have talked privately….he messes with Carolyn…well, you can figure out the rest.

  36. Oh, Alex, you’re quite the little censor, aren’t you?

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