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The 1989 campaign STORY, CONTINUED: SANDY is accused of TAKING DOWN SIGNS, speaks at a BLACK CHURCH and gets ready for debate……

“Brickley/Sanders Spar over Sovereign Immunity”

SPAR over WHAT?  Sovereign Immunity?  Is this related to ICLEI?

No, I am afraid it is not related to ICLEI!  Sovereign Immunity is the legal doctrine that the state cannot be sued without its permission.  It is based on a perversion of the doctrine, “The King can do no wrong” (It is actually the King cannot be sued in his own courts)and in our Commonwealth, sovereign immunity is king!

There had been a terrible murder of a saleslady and part owner of a store in a Dale City strip mall.  The perpetrator was a prisoner who had wandered off a highway work crew.  He had violent tendencies to start with and it is not clear how he wandered off.  So there was potential negligence against the Commonwealth.  But due to the VA Tort Claims Act, the estate could only collect $75,000.00 maximum.  (Of course they could sue the perpetrator for millions but what can he pay a judgment with?)  I thought that was wrong and I said so to the reporter in a subsequent interview with the Potomac News reporter.  I started it to introduce a new issue to talk about.  The reporter then went to Brickley and the next day here it was – front page Potomac News:  Brickley/Sanders Spar Over Sovereign Immunity.  I thought I was sunk…

My treasurer said I did great!  Greg Cebula said I was on the front page and treated as the equal of the incumbent.  The story was not too bad, actually, Brickley seemed focused on the criminal action (The defendant got the death penalty and was executed) but agreed with me that $75,000 was not enough.  (Brickley was either about to or actually studied for the law in a law office and eventually took the bar and is now an attorney in Woodbridge.)

Menawhile, Newsom was busy – criticizing me!  I was not universally loved in the PWC GOP and I think part of it was I was a conservative Christian.  One prominent Republican decided to be Newsom’s campaign manager and immediately criticized me:  You are taking down Larry’s signs!

I was trying not to laugh at such an absurd charge.  First, my petition drive was no good and now this!  Considering what my signs loked like, perhaps I should have hired Newsom to take MY signs down!  They had SANDERS in small letters and were unreadable from the road.  Too much detail!  My slogan:  VISION for a NEW DOMINION was on the sign, too.  I was so disgusted with the signs I did not keep one after the election.

The day I put up what seemed like a million unreadable signs, I was at a major intersection and I found a Newsom sign all torn up and a stake on the ground with a red mark next to it.  I was resourceful!  I took the stake and put up an unreadable SANDERS sign.  I took the Newsom sign and deposited it in the trash.

Within two hours or so, I got a call from Newsom’s campaign manager:  BUSTED!  You took down Larry’s sign and placed your sign there!  I told her it was absurd.  “How do you explain that YOUR sign was on LARRYS post!?  HUH!?  All of this was done with a BUSTED tone of voice.  I contemplated this as I asked:  Where did this happen?  It was at the major intersection exactly where I thought it was:  The stake was Larry’s and it had the red mark on it.  I carefully explained and she snarled, “You ought not have used Larry’s stake!”  I said I did not take down Larry’s sign and basically hung up on her.

It was about this time I got my campaign manager – an older woman I admired from GOP politics named Helen Tobey.  Tobey had been in the GOP committee for many years and when she discovered I was running for delegate she said Brickley would win but she’d help me, especially if some of the old stalwarts were against me.  (It is ironic that Newsom was standard right-wing social conservative and they were social liberals.  One of them decided in 1992 to support Clinton!  They apparently did not like the fact I mentioned in my bio that I was a deacon at Lake Ridge Baptist Church.  I was trying to show integrity and leadership qualities.)  I did have support:  A Manassas Park City Councilman came out for me and so did the older couple Uriah and Ruby Kroh on the committee.  The paper reported in our first article that I seemed to be the establishment candidate.  But I never asked people to help me or give me money.  Newsom, to his credit, took off time, asked every committee member for help, did door to door campaigning and a phone bank!

Tobey had a major thing about another stalwart member of the GOP committee and told me to watch her carefully.  She also invited me to church – the Seventh Day Adventists.  I got a call early in Saturday AM and Tobey said – meet me right away at the Seventh Day Adventists for a campaign.  So I was sitting on a Saturday morning in church and was introduced by Tobey to the small but fervent congregation.  I just acknowledged the introduction and offered to stay afterwards and met a couple of nice people.  No workers or sure votes, though.

Meanwhile, I had been deeply involved in a semi-pro bono (That’s legal speak for free work) manner for a group of African-Americans who wanted to honor an African-American woman named Jennie Dean who started churches in the 1800s and raised money for a school for her people in 1893:  The Manassas Industrial School.  I liked the idea both for political and better reasons (I admired a fellow believers’ effort for spiritual and educational betterment) to help them with their cause.  We wanted to save the Jennie Dean site (no way BUT the City of Manassas did come up with a nice memorial on the front yard of the Jennie Dean ES in town) and honor her memory in a museum (No way but the Manassas Museum decided to do a permanent Dean part of its museum).  We also did in 1990 an event honoring the 125th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery; this event was at a black church in Dumfries.  I say semi pro-bono because I volunteered my time but I was at an event for the Jennie Dean effort and a prominent African-American lady stood up and asked:  What’s been done for Attorney Sanders?  Nothing?  She immediately wrote me a check for $500 right on the spot!  I was touched and greatly honored.

So I had some support in the African-American community.  I, being a Jack Kemp Republican, was elated to attempt to reach out to the African-American community with the GOP message of hope.  The GOP is the true party of civil rights!  Well, these African-American leaders, many of whom had offices or were prominent in the NAACP, had a “press conference” to discuss the museum plans AND to endorse ME for delegate.  There was in the Manassas paper and a weekly suburban paper in Woodbridge a nice photograph of this endorsement.  Another mistake:  Not in the Potomac News!  The Woodbridge paper everybody reads!  (Some cynical political observers said my courting of the black vote in a GOP primary was a huge mistake!  In effect a waste of time.  BUT I am proud of my efforts to reach out.  I’d do it again.)

Tobey approved the black vote effort and told me the Dems were worried (I do not know how she knew) about the black outreach.  At least Newsom had nothing to say.  Apparently no effort to find me a sign thief or vandal!  But the article led to my appearance on a Sunday AM in a black church.

I was invited my the pastor at the behest of one of my African-American supporters (who I had discussed the possibility of a follow-up to the endorsement) to speak briefly in the pulpit of this venerable old black church.  I was there, with Tobey, I think, and was introduced by the pastor on the basis of the work I had done for the Jennie Dean effort.

I had decided that church on a Sunday morning was no place for an open political speech.  I then talked about how I was a fellow Baptist (a previous denominational permutation) a fellow Christian, a deacon in my church and believed in the cause of trying to help honor Jennie Dean.  I also suggested that this was a good time for African-Americans to commit political heresy:  Vote in a GOP primary.  (Especially after their candidate, Lt. Governor Wilder said stay out of the GOP primary!  Another error…)  Make sure you have a friend on both sides of the general election ballot.  (I was implicitly saying – where’s Newsom?  You’ll never see him here asking for your vote!)

Again, I met a few people after church and people were nice but not effusive in support.  I do not know if it was the injection of politics into church or if I was an evil Republican!  I would like to say I rocked the church but I didn’t.  Tobey liked it.  The pastor liked me.  BUT I am proud of my effort.

There was a debate, which was sponsored by the GOP, Women’s Club.  I actually got flowers from one of the ladies I had met during the campaign.  The debate was attended by about twenty people and the reporter for the suburban newspaper.  Michele McQuigg presided and I realized she was not my friend (at the time – I have completely made up with McQuigg).  We talked about the issues.  Newsom was for simplistic ideas like contraflow lanes.

A Republican member of the PW board of supervisors asked about the issue that Metrorail could not cross the bridge into DC without a waiver of punitive damages.  Shall we waive them?  I explained how punitive damages worked and how rare they are but felt strongly that there should be no waiver of punitive damages – the jury should decide that not Metrorail.  Newsom said, no big deal, waive the punitives.

Should residents of public housing be kicked out for drugs?  Yes, I said but we need to have protections in place to make sure families did not get kicked out for “just one joint”.  Newsom:  Unlike my opponent, no drug use is acceptable.

Divorce?  Get rid of the wheel that crushes women and children. Shorten the separation period.  Make child support like domestic violence – a crime and get the non-payers arrested.  “If men at a construction site see one being arrested for non-support, they’ll start paying again or keep one paying!”  Newsom:  Let’s not encourage divorce but try to keep people together.

Drugs:  Strengthen the first offender statute.  Newsom:  More money for lab reports to come back quicker.

See what I mean?  I am sure I offered up the abolition of parole and cut the car tax somewhere in my opening.

After the debate, the majority thought I won, (I had packed the place with Sanders supporters which was reported by the suburban newspaper but I did not get it into the Potomac News (Another mistake!)) I went for a coke with the woman who sent me flowers.  She was excited about the debate and I thanked her for the flowers.

Next post -the campaign wraps up…

The secret meeting – Dirt on Brickley and the forum before the GOP committee.

Are divorce law reform and sovereign immunity important issues like transportation?

Working the polls on election day…

Election night and the surprise after my concession speech

 

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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