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A Virginia Tradition: Shad, Beer and Politics

April 18, 2012

By Alex Morton
Capital News Service

Rainy weather did not stop more than 2,000 people from coming to the 64th annual Shad Planking in Wakefield this afternoon. Former Gov. George Allen was one of many state politicians who attended, seeking an opportunity to network and campaign with people on a personal level.

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Jamie Radtke, president of the Richmond Tea Party and chairwoman of the Federation of Virginia Tea Party Patriots, said she received many requests to come to the event, a political tradition in the Old Dominion.

“There’s a lot of political junkies here so this is the place where you can find the people that will help you knock on doors, make phones calls, and use their loud mouths to get the message out,” Radtke said.

Radtke is challenging Allen for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. Also running in that primary are conservative minister E.W. Jackson and state Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William County.

Former Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, did not attend the Shad Planking. The dwindling number of Democrats at the event was unlike previous years, when prominent Democratic politicians like former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and Sen. Mark Warner were keynote speakers. But recent years have included new groups of people, such as candidates from Libertarian parties and representatives from independent organizations.

One such organization was Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots organization that advocates free-market principles. Audrey Jackson, state director of AFP, said that since the organization began in 2008, it has remained politically independent and does not endorse any candidates.

“We have over 70,000 members in the state of Virginia. We support policies like limited government, free market and ways to create jobs so people can provide for their families,” Jackson said.

Aside from the unlimited smoked shad and beer, the highlight of the event was when Allen, a former U.S. senator, addressed the crowd.

He discussed the themes of his campaign, including lowering gas prices and getting rid of “Obamacare.” He called the shad planking “the best bipartisan political event in the entire commonwealth of Virginia.”

“This is the way politics ought to be, where people get to talk to each other face to face, eye to eye,” Allen said.