GOP dominates shad planking politics

Published 12:23 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

WAKEFIELD—It was too early to tell whether pizza cutters were more efficient at chopping up shad fish than a regular butcher knife, but so far, three hours into the event, Wakefield Ruritan Serving Committee Chair Ed Castle had experienced no problems.

Still, such a switch is not without some risk, shad fish being the smoky staple of the traditional “Shad Planking” event, where political hopefuls gather each spring to mingle with constituents in Wakefield, and partake of the flat, bony fish, often with a side of cornbread and an alcoholic beverage.

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It was the second year the event also permitted vendors. Last year, the Wakefield Ruritan Club decided to change the name to the Shad, Grapes and Grains Festival in an attempt to appeal to a larger demographic. For 68 years it was called the Shad Planking and originally only allowed men. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

While the crowd seemed thinner than years past, Wakefield Ruritan Club Shad Planking Chairman Chris Simms said the club had sold roughly the same amount of tickets as the previous year, and that the event was simply more spread out.

A noticeable absence to some were members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They were told by the Ruritan Club that they could no longer approach political candidates for pictures with the Confederate flag or while wearing period uniforms, and so opted not to attend this year, according to Simms.

Others noted the lack of Democrats — both candidates and constituents.

“I just don’t think this is their territory,” said Cathy Cheliras of Chesapeake, who sported a Frank Wagner sticker.

Reid Ervin also noticed there were few Democrats in attendance, but chalked it up to what he called a “hostile environment.”

“I guess the Democrats figured it was a wasted trip,” said Ervin who doesn’t consider himself a die-hard member of either party.

Three gubernatorial candidates took the stage at the annual event to introduce themselves and their messages, including Republicans Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner and Libertarian Cliff Hyra.

Hyra, a patent lawyer from Mechanicsville, spoke about eliminating income tax in the state, and putting a stop to incarceration for marijuana use, claiming his efforts would save citizens at least $2,500 annually.

Stewart, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Prince William County, said he has deported numerous illegal aliens during his tenure on the Board, and has stood up for the protection of the Second amendment.

As candidates spoke, a small plane whirled overhead trailing a large Confederate flag and a banner with Stewart’s name.

Stewart said he was “not ashamed to stand up for our Virginia heritage.”

In a statement issued Monday concerning the Confederate flag, Stewart said banning historical symbols was about “out-of-control political correctness that shames people for celebrating their ancestry and heritage.”

Wagner, who lives in Virginia Beach, was the final speaker, and referenced his experience in the Navy, as a legislator in the General Assembly and as a business owner.

“The private sector is not the enemy,” said Wagner.

Wagner said a priority for him is to address transportation issues in Virginia, which he said would be the first step in aiding the state’s economic growth.

Gubernatorial candidates not in attendance at the shad planking event were Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrats Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello.

One attorney general candidate and four lieutenant governor candidates also spoke at the event, of whom only one was not running as a Republican.

Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Gene Rossi received a few mumbled boos as he took the stage.

“I know this crowd is not all Democratic,” said Rossi, a former federal prosecutor. “I’m not delusional.

“I hope I have honored you by showing up.”

Rossi went on to advocate expanding Medicaid as well as programs for people suffering from addiction.

John Adams was the sole attorney general candidate to address the crowd, calling himself a traditionalist, advocating smaller government.

“This is where men and women govern themselves,” Adams said of Virginia.

Other Lt. Governor candidates included Glenn Davis, Bryce Reeves and Jill Vogel.

Davis, a member of the House of Delegates for the 84th District and a small business owner, said he was devoted to helping small business owners achieve “the American Dream.”

“Just like Donald Trump is restoring it at the federal level, we’re going to restore it at the state level,” Davis said.

Reeves, a Virginia State Senator representing the 17th district, spoke of his military experience as well as his experience as another small business owner.

“I know what it’s like to lead men and women into combat,” said Reeves, who also commented on the importance of education and the Second amendment in the state.

State Senator Jill Vogel (R-27th), stated that she was the only Lt. Governor candidate to have received an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association, and that she would stand up for “everyone’s rights” if elected.

“The issues that matter to me are not partisan,” said Vogel. “I’ve got young children and I would like to leave to them the great things I had.”

The state primary is June 13.  {/mprestriction}