VG: What is the most anticipated race for the 2011 state elections (like Reeves v. Houck in the Senate, or Delegates)
JF: At this point, it’s hard to say. This cycle, there is so much uncertainty going into the election year due to redistricting, I don’t think you can label any race “most anticipated” this early. I think the two biggest questions are: a) what impact does the TEA Party have on nomination processes (i.e. do people like Norment, Stosch, etc. fail to get the GOP nomination) and b) does the current anti-Dem* mood of the electorate persist 11 months from now? *the GOP didn’t win this year, the Dems lost, similar to 2008 where the Dems didn’t win, but the GOP lost.
VG: Would you consider a return to politics or party politics in the near future?
JF: “Party politics, no. I firmly believe God has a plan for my life, and I’m still trying to figure out how that plan included the whole Chairmanship thing. We overwhelmingly won an incredible election for that job, firmly defeating the establishment, only to find that the status quo was still strongly in place in just about every other state party position available, most of whom would stop at nothing to sabotage me – and from the moment my victory was announced, they sought to “fix things”. It didn’t matter that I raised more in my first 6 months than any of my predecessors or my successor; got the Party out of debt and better equipped online; and started to decentralize things (this being one of the biggest beefs of the establishment) to better represent the grassroots and better position the Party to both positively impact our candidates but also hold our GOP-electeds accountable. No matter if I parted my hair wrong or failed to use a turn signal, any excuse was a good one to get rid of me. Allegations, no matter true (I had my company do work for the Party, but for free) or untrue (the twitter fiasco), it didn’t matter – any and every excuse was used to tar and feather me. Now the RPV is back in debt, raising little, has no permanent field staff, and is controlled by the current statewide flavor of the year, top-down instead of the bottom-up approach I advocated. But, that whole experience made me realize something I really should have realized earlier (especially given my approach to running and winning public office) – I’m not that good of a partisan. This whole “we good, they bad” approach is wrong and only contributes to the disgust so many people have with politics, as well as the paralyzation of the process. The fact is, Democrats sometimes do good and Republicans sometimes do bad. Both parties have trouble with intellectual honesty and they are filled with people who choose power (real or perceived) over principle, not to mention hypocrisy over consistency/integrity. I’d rather label myself as a “keeping-it-real-principled-conservative” than a “Republican”, and that sort of inherently conflicts with being the Party’s top cheerleader. Sorry to digress a bit. Regarding public office, honestly, who knows. I’m open to it, but not itching to get back in and have no imminent plans to do so. If a door opens where Amy and I feel like we can contribute to making our community, Commonwealth, and country a better place to live, work, and raise a family – and better the secure the future of our children – then we’ll take a serious look at it and see where God leads. If not, that’s fine too. We really are enjoying private life these days, and are excited about some opportunities we have at contributing in other ways.”
VG: Has a new generation of young/moderate republicans been 'shoo-ed' away from the GOP by the Tea Party?
JF: “As the youngest RPV chair in memory, and the first/only Latino chair ever, I do think new generations of Republicans are being “shoo-ed” away, but not by the TEA Party – but by the status quo who discourage institutional change in their pursuits of power without purpose. The TEA Party, I believe, has had the opposite affect by empowering these new generations and former non-activists to get involved in the process and simply go around the Party establishment. That’s kind of what we did in winning my chairman’s race, but the now current depth and broad nature of the TEA Party movement makes it much more difficult for the Party bosses to shut down; 57 votes on the State Central Committee won’t work today. The new generation (which isn’t necessarily just made up of young people) is now empowered by the TEA Party movement. With respect to moderates in the Party, my view is simple. It’s okay to be a moderate if that’s who you truly are and what you truly believe – and you have been consistent in that (i.e. not one day being a conservative to appease an electorate and then moderating once safely in office – or vice versa). We need to welcome them. It’s far easier to work with someone of whom you know where they stand than someone who is constantly sticking their finger in the wind and adapting based on what they think the public and/or special interest(s) mood is(are). It’s exceedingly difficult to find common ground with a moving target. Thus, much of the gridlock you find in legislative bodies these days. It’s okay that people might disagree on things, but if you know where folks consistently disagree on principle, you’re more likely to find the openings to forge agreement. Does that make sense?”
VG: Who would you like to see be the GOP nominee for US Senate in 2012?
JF: “I have some thoughts on who I like, but I’m not ready to discuss that publically just yet. What I can say is that I will not support George Allen. He was complicit in all the big government conservatism that came out of the Congress during his years in the Senate, cheerleading for it all and never leading against it. Allen was a go-along member of the GOP majority that lost power because it lost its principles, and he really is the opposite of the ideal candidate for those of us looking for a constitutional, first-principles, non-GOP-status-quo type of candidate. George Allen is the poster child for the establishment.”
VG: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment, both as the Chair of RPV and a Delegate?
JF: “Looking back at my legislative career, we really got a lot done in my 6 years. Sure, I filed a lot of bills because I thought the legislature needed to at least consider a lot of new things. Most of those things ultimately failed, but they got people talking. And, in sheer numbers of actual accomplishments (i.e. not a percentage of bills filed and passed but the stand-alone number of bills passed), I had a better record than just about anyone of my seniority. We got landmark stuff done on land use, protections for military personnel, and giving community college students better access to our 4 year colleges/universities. We made progress on making health care more affordable (in a free-market based way) for small businesses, provided some (but not enough) tax relief, and got some much needed transportation funding for Eastern Prince William County. But, the thing I’m most proud of – which has literally saved lives and helped families – is our reform of the metabolic screening laws for newborns in Virginia. It’s not the sexiest of accomplishments to talk about, but it is by far the most impacting. I was/am very proud to have been able to be a small part of HB1824 (2005). In a less tangible context, as Delegate, I am very proud of my record in reaching out to new folks, and bringing a diverse group of people – if not into the GOP – into my campaigns and legislative efforts. While my voting record was among the most conservative in the General Assembly, I had lots of Democrats and Independents supporting me (and even contributing to my campaigns). We didn’t always agree all the time, but Amy and I don’t agree all the time. My constituents and I, I think, had a mutual respect and trust. I knew that folks sincerely cared, and folks knew that I worked my butt off to serve them and the best interests of our community and Commonwealth. Opinions varied on how to make progress, and I was always available to listen to and consider those opinions and be up front and honest about my own. I never forgot who I worked for and who my bosses were. My district wasn’t the most conservative-friendly one around (64% Obama district, actually), but I truly loved representing the people of Eastern Prince William and wouldn’t have traded any of them for voters more favorable to my personal political philosophy. The question is a bit harder to answer with respect to my accomplishments at RPV, since I spent so much time of my chairmanship fighting off the Executive Committee who seemed intent on having me ask permission to order staples or give the staff a bathroom break. I guess the top of the list was that we largely succeeded in implementing my “100 Day Plan” (although it took a bit more than 100 days), including putting permanent field staff all around the state, making RPV resources tangibly available to unit and district chairs – since the true strength of our party is in our local communities, not on Grace Street in Richmond. We put on a fantastic national convention experience for our delegates and guests in 2008, and had (I think) one of the most enjoyed Advances in years. As I said earlier, we raised more in my first six months than any prior chairman, and refocused the Party to have a real impact online and with technology. I also turned a lot of attention to the fact that RPV was largely useless to our candidates and began to provide tangible services to them (but RPV discontinued those candidate services after I left). I gave unit chairs a seat at the table, and made communication between me and our local levels a priority (hosting a bi-weekly call with them). Finally, partly due to the necessity of having a lot to do to get RPV up to speed and partly to decentralize Party operations, I created a bunch of committees to share the load and spread out the operations of the Party. I was widely criticized for establishing all these committees (as well as talking to unit chairs directly and regularly), but those committees are mostly all still operating. Heck, most of the changes I made (those not dependent upon finances) are still in effect – the most prominent and obvious of which being the RPV logo.”