Community perspective: Candidates’ true intentions?

A contributed perspectives piece by Luke Forbes

Editor’s note: The Citizen welcomes civil, reasonable perspectives pieces on local political issues. If you submit one, please be prepared to participate in fact-checking.

In the past, the Harrisonburg GOP has supported so-called “independent” candidates for Harrisonburg City Council because our community is too progressive and diverse for the party of Donald Trump’s right-wing agenda.

George Hirschmann, for example, runs as an Independent, but his campaign events, his voting record, his donors, and even his own words speak to the contrary. What is particularly distressing is his performative activism this summer following the death of George Floyd. Councilman Hirschmann attended a JMU NAACP rally against police brutality, stating on his social media “I was honored to stand with members of the Harrisonburg community in the recent protests related to the killing of Mr. George Floyd…” and clarified his support for the goals of the group. However, in August he was seen at a “Blue Lives Matter” rally flanked by Sen. Mark Obenshain, one of the men who helped kill the End Qualified Immunity bill in the State Senate, and Del. Tony Wilt. He also showed up to a Corey Stewart for Senate event in 2018 well before the GOP primary that year. These actions leave massive doubts about his integrity. 

Other evidence against his fragile “independent” status include his donation record. His campaign donors include Sen. Mark Obenshain and Del. Tony Wilt, both Republicans, and the Rockingham County GOP and the Harrisonburg City GOP. All of this is firm evidence that Councilman Hirschmann has been using the independent moniker to conceal his GOP ties and voting status. Education advocates will recall how Hirschmann was a key vote in opposing the speedy construction of the second Harrisonburg High School in city council votes both in 2017 and 2019, showing blatant disregard for those in the Harrisonburg community who did not want to send their children to overcrowded schools. Instead of supporting our schools or the issues relevant to residents of Harrisonburg, he was the only sponsor of a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary City resolution in January of this year.

Perhaps even more concerning are the views and actions of Kathleen Kelley, the GOP nominee for city council. On her personal Facebook page, she shares and reposts many, many, many different QAnon conspiracy theory propaganda pieces. For those unfamiliar, QAnon is a far right, antisemetic conspiracy theory that alleges that prominent politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, are members of a global sex trafficking cabal. 

All of this shows that Hirschmann is a GOP wolf wearing independent sheep’s clothes, and Kelley is a dangerous and unpredictable asset of the far-right. Their deceptive strategies hide from the people of Harrisonburg their true intentions and serve to hurt the city as a whole by not providing them with the public commodities they need to build a more vibrant community. This election cycle we urge Harrisonburg NOT to vote for candidates who refuse to reveal their true intentions, but instead vote for candidates like Deanna Reed, Laura Dent, and Charles Hendricks, who aren’t duplicitous in their dealings and are, instead, pillars of the community who deserve your vote this November 3rd.

Luke Forbes is president of the JMU College Democrats

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