The sad, pathetic sideshow that has disrupted school board and town council meetings in our normally quiet corner of Southwestern Virginia brought a bluster-driven “Trump in cowboy boots” delegate candidate and a loud, but fact-challenged illegal militia activist to the Floyd County Supervisors meeting to attack Little River Supervisor Linda DeVito Kuchenbuch and threaten anyone who disagrees with their narrow, angry political views.
Floyd County resident Marie March, a restaurant owner running for the delegate seat left open by retreating Nick Rush, strutted to the podium, decked out in her large cowboy hat and boots costume, and declared “we will not be bullied” by Kuchenbuch or any other supervisor who dares question her or any of her own band of bullies who use bluster and threats as their replacement for facts or decorum.
March did not mention her candidacy and said she was appearing as a “concerned citizen” upset over Kuchenbuch standing up to the hyperbole handed down by first-term councilman David Whitaker, who — with her support — is running as a write-in candidate to unseat the town of Floyd’s popular current popular, mayor Will Griffin.
March claimed Kuchenbuch attacked Whitaker for supporting the sheriff’s department’s need for more money but a review of what was said showed the Little River Supervisor questioned Whitaker’s rhetoric, not his position.
March’s delegate campaign actions and bullying tactics are drawing an increased amount of criticism from Floyd County residents on social media. Some say she is “all hat, no cattle.”
Kuchenbuch was also threatened for not being a hardcore advocate of the Second Amendment.
Next came Locust Grove activist Jeff Dowd, part of Floyd’s illegal and unrecognized militia that Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Branscom says can only be created and recognized by the Virginia governor they hate and are, at best, “just a gun club.” The Floyd County “militia” is not recognized or supported by the Board of Trustees or the Sheriff. Branscom has a “Floyd County Militia” baseball hat in his office. When asked about it, he laughs and says: “They gave it to me.”
Dowd claimed Kuchenbuch met with Griffin behind closed doors as some sort of group of shadow supporters that he called “cowards.” Addressing DeVito and the board, Dowd said: “This will be good fodder in our campaigns against you in 2023.”
We see more than a little irony in that threat. When Whitaker attacked DeVito in the public comment period of an earlier supervisor meeting, he claimed she had no role in appearing before the town council because she “lives in Little River District and does not live in the town” or the Courthouse District.
Dowd identified himself at the supervisor meeting Tuesday night as a resident of the Locust Grove District, but he was attacking the Supervisor of Little River and suggests he will work to defeat her and any other supervisor he doesn’t like, even those who are not elected to serve his district.
Hypocrisy is alive and well too often in political circles and particularly in the right-wing actions of some Floyd County Republicans. I feel this way from the perspective of a former political operative for the national GOP.
The board of supervisors, as a rule, does not respond to the rhetoric of public comment sessions during that portion of the meetings. Some other localities’ governing bodies try to stop the spread of misinformation and discord at their meetings. Franklin County, for example, requires any candidate for office to fill out a form before they speak, listing what they plan to discuss and must agree to not promote their campaigns or ones for or against others, not promote their business interests and not insult or threaten anyone or use abusive language.
Steve Durbin, the board’s attorney, says the First Amendment’s definition of free speech does not always apply to public comment periods at governing board meetings. Maybe Floyd County’s Supervisors should take a look at what Franklin County is doing.
(This column was edited on October 26th and later to add additional and clarifying information. Two quotes were modified after reviewing a recording of the Supervisors meeting.)