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Virginia Pundit Watch

Will Vehrs


Hands-Down:  It’s Hinkle


Choosing “Pundit of the Week” was a no-brainer this time around. Bart Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch laid bare the weaknesses of both major party gubernatorial candidates in separate dissections of their positions and their rhetoric. He was tough, he was fair, and he was balanced.


Hinkle exposed Tim Kaine’s tortured positions on a variety of issues: Abortion is bad, and should not be restricted; gun ownership is good, but should be restricted; gay individuals should be able to adopt, but not gay couples; and human life is sacred, but not worth exercising an existing gubernatorial power - nor nearly so sacred as lowering real-estate taxes or locking up the road fund, which merit amending Virginia's Constitution.


While calling the Democrat “fundamentally decent,” Hinkle asked, “Does Kaine really expect anyone to believe this is what he truly believes?”


On Kilgore, he zeroed in on the Republican’s desire to “have it both ways” on money: “Kilgore is running as a big-government conservative tax-cutter whose primary fiscal strategy is hope.”  After reviewing Kilgore’s numerous proposals, Hinkle found “a gap between revenue and expenses big enough to accommodate a sumo-wrestlers' convention.”


Hinkle also noted Kilgore’s silence “on proposals to limit state budget increases to population growth plus inflation.”


Hopefully, Hinkle will not stop at Kaine and Kilgore. An examination of Russ Potts is already overdue.


The Only Poll That Counts?


Margaret Edds of the Virginian-Pilot went gaga over the Mason-Dixon poll that showed the Virginia gubernatorial campaign as dead heat.  She casually dismissed previous Rasmussen or Survey USA polls that had consistently shown (and continue to show) a lead for Jerry Kilgore: “The quality of those polls, which depend on computerized telephoning, isn’t the same [as Mason-Dixon].”


It only took blogger Norm Leahy of One Man’s Trash a flick of the mouse to find a Slate article that demonstrated equal or better quality with computerized polling.


Pundit Discretion


Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on the big news story of the week, Republican Delegate Brad Marr’s fundraising letter that called a donor to his opponent a “homosexual.”  The story created a firestorm and Schapiro took criticism from some Republicans for his reporting.


Wisely, Schapiro did not explore the controversy in much detail for his by-lined op-ed column, instead offering a history lesson on similar controversies involving gubernatorial candidates.


Looking Out for Republicans


At the Daily Progress, Bob Gibson looks out for Republicans.  He asked why the GOP had revived the Ed Matricardi eavesdropping scandal with a lawsuit against an insurer.  He also pointed out differences between Jerry Kilgore and President Bush on the teaching of creationism; not that anyone else had noticed or much cared.


The latter column was noteworthy for Gibson’s continuing interest in blogging. He highlighted two local Charlottesville blogs and quoted a frequent blog commenter.


Transportation and Land Use


Bacon’s Rebellion pundit Patrick McSweeney performed a useful service this week. In his column, also published in the Daily Press, he clearly and succinctly described what linking transportation and land use, long the Holy Grail of policy wonks, would require. He presented it as a choice:


We must either give a state agency such as the Virginia Department of Transportation the power to make land-use decisions or give local governing bodies the power to decide when and where transportation facilities will be built, as well as the responsibility for funding those facilities, even if that means giving localities a share of the Highway Maintenance Fund.


McSweeney’s larger point is that campaigns should be about issues and that candidates should tell the people where they stand.


NOVA Man Walking


Marc Fisher of the Washington Post profiled Stewart Schwartz, director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.  Schwartz, an Old Town Alexandria resident, works to “make a car-oriented society just a bit friendlier to people who walk.” Sadly, Schwartz would move to DC “in a flash” if he could afford it.


Share the Wealth


The Richmond Times-Dispatch has printed a series of op-eds over the past few months on the subject of “regionalism,” the effort to unite the City of Richmond and the adjoining counties in common cause.  Most of the efforts have been eminently forgettable Rodney King-like pleas “to get along.” Finally, though, George Nyfeler, a land surveyor and Virginia Commonwealth University urban studies students, has offered a concrete proposal.  He suggested partial revenue-sharing similar to a Minnesota plan where “40 percent of real-estate tax revenue from new commercial and industrial development [would] be set aside for redistribution to member governments based inversely on relative commercial/industrial development figures.”


Bear Market


Kerry Dougherty of the Virginian-Pilot had tons of fun with a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) outreach effort to educate Asians on Virginia laws regarding bear parts.  It seems that bear gallbladders and paws can fetch thousands of dollars in Asia, but a “nutty” law in Virginia allows bear hunting, but not the sale of bear parts.  Given recent DGIF globetrotting to Zimbabwe, Dougherty smelled a possible junket to Asia.


-- August 8, 2005








Will Vehrs grew up in Prince William County. He has a degree in American history from the College of William and Mary and an MBA from Chapman University. Will's experience includes a stint with a Fortune 500 company and economic development work in state government. His "Punditwatch" column appears on FoxNews.com and Jewish World Review, as well as on his own Punditwatch website. He also writes for the Quasipundit political site.