In the pure democracy of ancient Athens every citizen had to gather in the arena to vote on every governmental decision.

In America, we elect representatives to go to the “arena” — Congress or the General Assembly — and make governmental decisions on our behalf — as our representatives.

Unfortunately, over time, we began allowing political parties to control the nomination process so that the parties controlled who represents us rather than we the people reserving that control to ourselves. Voters failed to realize that the real effort to “drain the swamp” doesn’t happen in the general election in November; it happens in the nominating process.

The 6th Congressional District Republican Committee recently won a case in both the U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond wherein Virginia’s “Incumbent Protection Act” was ruled unconstitutional. The IPA said that an incumbent could determine the nomination process for his/her office. They generally chose primaries because their name recognition and their money made it easier for them to win reelection. With the IPA decision, it is now easier for citizens to choose conventions, mass meetings, or party canvasses as the method of nomination. However, some old guard politicians have managed to maintain primaries as the nominating process in their districts.

The News Virginian circulation area has two Republican primaries of which I am aware. Delegate Dickie Bell has decided not to run for reelection to the House of Delegates from the 20th District. John Avioli and Dave Bourne both want the Republican nomination for that seat. I’ve met both gentlemen and talked with each of them briefly. I do not know them well enough to offer a preference, although a friend of mine from Staunton suggested that Bourne is the more conservative. Since the district is Republican by a two to one margin, the winner of this primary will likely be the Delegate from the district. I hope voters in Waynesboro, Staunton, and the parts of Augusta, Highland, and Nelson counties that are in the district will take a few minutes to find out about each man and then speak at the polls about which one should represent you in Richmond.

The most important primary — perhaps in the state — pits incumbent Emmett Hanger against Tina Freitas in the 24th State Senate District. The 24th includes parts of Augusta, Culpeper, Greene, Madison, and Rockingham counties as well as Staunton and Waynesboro.

Emmett is another of these long serving incumbents who say one thing on their campaign literature and vote a different way in Richmond. Emmett says he is pro-gun yet his vote has killed several pro-gun rights bills in three straight sessions. He says he is pro-life, but Tina can show you videos of him urging senators to kill a measure that would prevent state funding from being used for abortions. He says he is for lower taxes, but he has voted for a number of tax increases over the past several years. He often votes with Democrats when their bill is so bad no other Republican will. That is not the kind of representation the strongly conservative 24th Senate District voters want in Richmond.

Tina Freitas, on the other hand, is who she says she is. She votes the way she says she will. She has been endorsed by Morton Blackwell, Virginia’s revered representative to the Republican National Committee. Grassroots Republicans respect Morton and give heed to his opinions because of his faithfulness to conservative beliefs even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Virginia’s pre-eminent gun rights group, the Virginia Civil Defense League (VCDL), has endorsed Tina. Republican State Senator David Sutterlein (Roanoke) recently endorsed Tina. This is notable because senators don’t usually weigh in on other senator’s races. But the importance of replacing Emmett Hanger in the Senate outweighs political protocol. And I attended a meeting last week of the Republican leadership of the Sixth Congressional District. Someone observed that almost every leader represented in the room supports Tina over Emmett. That includes both grassroots conservatives and old guard Republicans.

Tina is unequivocally pro-life. She has clear and valid reasons for supporting gun rights for women that won’t disappear when she gets to Richmond. She believes that higher taxes hurt families and the economy. She believes that the government is too big and too intrusive. And with three children, she believes parents should control the educational system, not special interests. I urge 24th Senate District voters to choose Tina Freitas this Tuesday.

The nomination process is as crucial as the general election. Choose wisely.

Steve “Doc” Troxel, who lives in Lynchburg, is a columnist for The News Virginian. He is a retired university professor who writes a weekly email on political issues. To subscribe to his email, contact him at His column is published every other Monday.

Get Breaking News Alerts

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
Load comments