By Steve Haner
A week after the March 3 Democratic presidential primary I was sick, probably with a cold but I had to wonder. No fever developed and patent medicines got me through. But it could have been COVID-19 after checking in hundreds of voters in the Maple Street Firehouse.
There is no way I’m repeating that activity on June 9. Thank you, Governor Ralph Northam, for saving me from having to abandon the other nice folks who work that precinct. Even if we are on the infection down slope, holding a primary that day is a risk we don’t need to impose on those volunteers.
Republican officials exploded when the stay at home directive was advanced to June 10. A statement released by the Republican Party of Virginia whined:
“… the timeline seems all too convenient,” said RPV Chairman Jack Wilson. “We ask that Governor Northam show us the data that led to his decision. It is not our opinion that the Governor is purposefully engaging in voter suppression, but an explanation would help to mitigate any concerns.”
Did my statement mitigate your concerns, Jack? I bet thousands of poll workers feel the same way.
Let’s drop the debate over which elected official or cabinet agency is more hapless and focus on some truly clueless people – this state’s all but dead Republican Party. Yesterday the state party certified three candidates to run June 9 seeking the nomination against Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia. Don’t look at the story yet, can you name one of them? I cannot. And I would love to see somebody give Warner a race. People forget how close Ed Gillespie came to beating Mark-not-John six years ago. Continue reading
By DJ Rippert
From Outer Banks to Outer Mongolia. Dare County, N.C. issued orders last week closing its borders to non-residents. Dare is a coastal county just south of Currituck County, N.C., which borders Virginia. Many Virginians know Dare County from Outer Banks vacations in towns such as Duck or fishing trips launched from Manteo. Checkpoints into and out of Dare County are apparently now manned by law enforcement officers who will check IDs to ensure that travelers are residents of Dare County or have pre-authorized transit permits issued by Dare County. As of last week there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Dare County, and it seems county officials want to keep it that way.
Is it legal? Some are questioning whether officials in Dare County can legally enforce a prohibition against non-residents entering the county. Apparently they can. North Carolina law, specifically N.C. General Statute 166A-19.31, allows local officials to control access and ingress to their jurisdiction during times of emergency. Given the Coronavirus outbreak, local officials in Dare County have decided to invoke that law.
We want your taxes but not you. Dare County has many vacation homes owned by non-Dare County residents. These homes are typically expensive and generate a material amount of tax revenue for the county. Originally, non-resident owners of these homes were allowed entry into the county by showing their tax receipts for the property along with valid ID. Yesterday that changed. Dare County is now excluding non-resident property owners from entering the county.
Commentary. I was originally predisposed to giving Dare County officials the benefit of the doubt regarding the border closure. For one thing all those expensive and unoccupied beach homes could be targets for burglars taking advantage of the Coronavirus outbreak. However, my perception changed when those same officials decided to bar entry for non-resident property owners. These are people who have invested in the county, who pay taxes to the county and who should have every right to go to their properties. I have no idea if Virginia law would permit the same type of buffoonery from our local officials. Let’s hope not However, even if such actions are allowed, I hope no Virginia jurisdiction would follow the selfish, arrogant and small minded actions of the officials in Dare County, N.C.
by Kerry Dougherty
Terry McAuliffe is a terrific politician. If you’ve met the former Virginia governor you know what I mean. He’s smooth. He oozes charm.
Like many skilled politicians, underneath that affable exterior lurks a ruthless operator with an elephantine memory.
Just ask LaBravia Jenkins, the well-respected commonwealth’s attorney for the City of Fredericksburg. It appears that she may have lost a bid to become a general district court judge last week over a four-year-old grudge harbored by McAuliffe and his disciples.
Another commonwealth’s attorney, Chuck Slemp, of Wise County was also bumped, apparently for the same reason.
In 2016, Jenkins was one of 43 prosecutors who signed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing McAuliffe’s blanket restoration of voting rights to more than 200,000 felons.
The Virginia Supreme Court agreed and found McAuliffe’s sweeping move unconstitutional. Governors are required to restore rights on a case-by-case basis. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
Erik Prince, the highly controversial former Navy SEAL and founder of the security firm Blackwater, recruited spies to infiltrate liberal groups and the 2018 political campaign of U.S. Rep Abigail Spanberger, according to media reports.
His role was disclosed in a lawsuit deposition involving the right-wing group Project Veritas that has tried to work covertly to embarrass journalists and others, according to the Washington Examiner.
Spanberger, a Democrat, knocked off U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, a conservative favorite, in the 7th District, which includes parts of the Richmond suburbs. Her victory stunned political watchers since the district historically has voted for Republicans. She had worked previously as an undercover operative for the CIA on issues including terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
Prince is alleged to have hired Richard Seddon, a former intelligence officer with MI-6, for various covert political missions. In one case, Seddon allegedly recruited Marisa Jorge, a Liberty University graduate to work in Spanberger’s campaign. Continue reading
By DJ Rippert
And then there were two. Today, Elizabeth Warren announced that she will withdraw from the presidential race. That leaves Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard (yes, she’s still running) as the remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination. Given that Tulsi Gabbard has exactly one delegate (from American Samoa where she was born), the odds of her prevailing are so low that the race can safely be considered a two- man contest. Two weeks ago Joe Biden’s campaign seemed deader than disco. Then came Super Tuesday. Now he’s the front runner.
It seems worthwhile, then, to consider how Biden’s announced policies would affect Virginia if he were elected president this November. Politico keeps an updated list of the candidates’ positions on the issues which you can see here. Politico records the candidates’ positions using fifteen categories. This blog post examines the first five categories — criminal justice, economy (excluding taxes which is a separate category), education, elections and energy (including the environment and climate change). The remaining ten categories will be examined in future articles.
Posted in Business and Economy, Commentary, Courts and law, Crime and corrections, Education (K-12), Elections, Federal, Finance (government), Money in politics, Politics, Taxes
Tagged DJ Rippert, Don Rippert, Joe Biden
Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer
by Kerry Dougherty
Virginia Beach Councilman Aaron Rouse — on the job for a mere 14 months — has announced that he’s ready to resign his seat to run for mayor.
Some of us who supported him for council feared this might happen. It’s a bad move. Very bad.
First, Mayor Bobby Dyer is doing a terrific job. Why in the world would voters fire him?
Dyer’s been in office since November of 2018 when he was elected to fill the remainder of Will Sessoms’ term after the former mayor abruptly quit. That expires this year and Dyer’s seeking his first full term as mayor.
In the convulsive 2018 local election — where three city council races went to recount, one councilman was removed by the courts over a residency problem, and the political establishment backed his opponent — Dyer won with 82,201 votes, and 51.8 recent of the vote. Continue reading
Not your grandfather’s suburb. Artist’s rendering of The View at Tysons re-development project.
by James A. Bacon
Virginia’s suburbs are undergoing profound demographic changes with tremendous implications for politics and real-estate development strategy, argues Greg Weatherford in Virginia Business magazine.
The suburbs are less white than they used to be. Northern Virginia, unsurprisingly, is leading the way. As of 2018, 49.4% of Northern Virginia residents identified as members of a racial minority, up from 36.5% in 2010. NoVa residents are younger, and a higher percentage, 27%, have been born in another country. Youth and ethnic diversity are demographic attributes that are strongly affiliated with Democratic voters.
The demographic shift is accompanied by changing tastes of suburban dwellers, many of whom no longer place a premium on living in a single-family dwelling in a subdivision. Increasingly, suburbanites are seeking “walkable urbanism” — enclaves where they can live in apartments or condos, don’t have yards to care for, and can stroll down the street to a pub or grocery store.
Weatherford argues that the new suburbia signals a complete reshaping of what we traditionally have thought about the suburbs. Virginia, he quotes Rachael Bitecofer at Christopher Newport University as saying, is “in the middle of a long-term realignment. It is going to have big ramifications.” Continue reading
By DJ Rippert
They’ll be back (in office forever). The USC Schwarzennegger Institute released a report finding that Virginia had the highest degree of partisan gerrymandering among all U.S. states. The report analyzed the “statewide popular vote in 2017 or 2018 state legislative elections and the partisan composition of the state legislative chambers in 2019.” While other studies draw somewhat different results, Virginia is often near the top of the list of “most gerrymandered states.” In mid-2019 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lawsuit by Virginia voters challenging Virginia’s voting districts on racial grounds.
As the USC report states, “Self-interested legislators who seek reelection have long attempted to draw their own districts to protect their personal reelection chances and to improve the electoral odds of their political party.” Repeating for emphasis, Virginia is not only one of many states with extreme gerrymandering, it is rated by this study as the most extreme case of partisan gerrymandering. This is no accident. It is the result of deliberate actions by members of our General Assembly hailing from both parties.
Partisan gerrymandering is a form of voter suppression and disenfranchisement. It should not be allowed and Virginia should certainly never be the worst offender. Beyond that, the Virginia Constitution states, “Every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district.” A state does not become the worst example of partisan gerrymandering in the United States by using contiguous and compact districts. Once again our General Assembly’s actions show that they believe laws are for the little people and not for themselves. Continue reading
By DJ Rippert
Almost heaven. West Virginia state legislator Gary Howell is spearheading an effort to allow Virginia jurisdictions frustrated by Richmond a chance to join West Virginia. While this might seem like gimmickry, Howell claims that “43 out of 100 West Virginia house members are sponsoring a resolution that would let West Virginia accept some of the largely rural Virginia counties unhappy with how things are being run in Richmond.” More specifically, West Virginia State Senator Charles Trump (no relation, I don’t think) has invited Frederick County, Va., to cross over to the Mountain State. An editorial in the Roanoke Times says Sen. Trump is on “firm legal ground.” A good summary of the matter written by Hoppy Kercheval, dean of West Virginia talk radio, can be found here.
Plantation elite. Before West Virginia’s offer is pushed aside as nonsense, it makes sense to examine some of the history behind such a proposition. After all, as Kercheval points out, western Virginians getting fed up with Richmond-based rule is not exactly a new or unique thought. In my mind, Virginia has long been under the yoke of a minority of Virginians from the plantations of central and southeast Virginia. This “plantation elite” are led by families who claim to be descended from Pocahontas and who further self-define themselves as “the first families of Virginia.” Continue reading
A new healthcare coalition has appeared on the scene in Virginia that claims to represent the interests of “thousands of Virginians with chronic diseases, small business owners, and older adults” to protect patients with pre-existing conditions and to “strengthen” the health insurance marketplace.
The Healthy Market VA Coalition is endorsing SB 404, which would limit the sale of “inadequate” Short-Term Limited Duration Plans, and Governor Ralph Northam’s proposal to convert Virginia’s federally facilitated medical insurance exchange to a state-run model. I have not evaluated either piece of legislation, so I cannot comment positively or negatively on them.
My purpose in this post is to call attention to the fact that the coalition does not consist of actual healthcare consumers but nonprofit organizations that have their own agendas. Typically, nonprofit organizations are predisposed to government or philanthropic solutions to society’s problems. Thus the focus of this group is on pre-existing conditions and health exchanges for lower-income Virginians — worthy topics of consideration, to be sure — but not, for example, the consolidation and cartelization of Virginia’s healthcare industry, the excess profits of “nonprofit” hospitals, the trade unionization of the medical occupations, or the ever-growing list of mandated benefits that make insurance policies increasingly unaffordable.
By DJ Rippert
Sticks and stones? Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne, D-Richmond, has introduced HB1627. The bill is entitled, “Threats and harassment of certain officials and property; venue.” The proposed legislation strengthens a series of very questionable laws already on the books.
The first few sections of the existing law make it illegal to make threats in written communications to kill or do bodily injury to a person in a variety of occupations and situations. For example, threats to elementary school, middle school or high school employees are called out in the existing legislation. Similarly, threats made on school buses, on school property, or against health care providers are also explicitly illegal. Beyond wondering why certain classes of people or places deserve extra protection from death threats or threats of bodily harm the existing legislation seems pretty straightforward. Ill-conceived and overly limited but straightforward.
Then comes the section entitled, “Harassment by computer, penalty.” This section goes well beyond outlawing death threats and threats of bodily harm. It specifically references Virginia state politicians as needing legal protection from such things as threatening illegal or “immoral” acts. Continue reading
Sen. Bryce Reeves
by James A. Bacon
With Democrats controlling the Governor’s mansion, the Attorney General’s office, the state Senate, and the House of Delegates, what’s a Republican to do, asks Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania.
Republicans constitute a minority caucus of 19 senators and 45 delegates, but they are hardly powerless, Reeves says in a Fredericksburg.com op-ed. Today’s Virginia Democrats, virtually indistinguishable from their national counterparts, are pushing a left-wing agenda that will turn Virginia into “East California.” (I prefer the South New Jersey analogy, but you get the point.) Says he: “It is our job to hold that majority — and its agenda — to account.”
Any mitigation of legislation to repeal right-to-work, impose costly new mandates on businesses, increase taxes, or force the cost of energy to skyrocket will depend on the determination of Republicans and the persuasiveness of our arguments. …
Republican legislators have a responsibility to speak up forcefully, to point out the deficiencies of the Democrats proposals, and to detail the negative consequences—both intended and unintended—that ordinary Virginians will experience as a result of the enactment of these policies.
I agree, Republicans must lead the fight against job-killing legislation that will increase taxes, repeal the Right to Work law, and impose a minimum wage appropriate for Northern Virginia across the entire state. But if the GOP ever hopes to regain its status as a majority party, it can’t just play defense. It has to play offense… which means articulating an agenda it’s for, not just against. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
To get a handle on how progressive (to be clear, I use “progressive” as a synonym for “leftist”) Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed two-year budget is, consider the following.
If Northam’s agenda is adopted, Virginia’s middle class will pay higher gas taxes, higher cigarette taxes, higher income taxes, and higher electric rates. That doesn’t include higher charges resulting from a new hospital tax last year, nor does it include higher college tuition, any of the proposals (such as an inheritance tax) proposed by emboldened Democrats in the legislature, higher who-knows-what-else is squirreled away in the budget, or ideas just hanging fire like the Transportation Climate Initiative.
What will the middle class get in return? Virtually nothing, unless you count expenditures on programs meant to benefit the public at large such as the environment, rural broadband, education, and workforce development. The majority of spending programs are targeted to help lower-income Virginians — and various Democratic Party constituencies who mask their self-serving agendas as benefiting the poor.
Going down the list of initiatives listed in Northam’s State of the Commonwealth address, we find: Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
In his State of the Commonwealth speech yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam outlined his proposals for hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending initiatives. Needless to say, it was impossible during such a high-altitude overview to provide a detailed explanation of the thinking behind each program. In most instances, he posited a “need,” proffered a government “solution,” and moved on. But in one intriguing instance, his $145 million program to make community college more affordable, he delved deeper.
There are two big barriers that hinder “non-traditional students” (those whose parents did not attend college) from completing their community college degrees, the Governor said. One is cost, and the other is life itself.
Here’s an example. At Reynolds Community College here in Richmond, a majority of students are people of color. The college looked at “retention rates” — who starts a degree program and then goes on to complete it. They identified students who started one academic year and didn’t come back the next. They asked why didn’t these students come back.
The answer is really important. The facts showed it was not academics that kept them from coming back. In fact, these students usually had earned a 3.1 grade point average when they left school.
These students enrolled in a degree program — trying to get a skill, so they can get a job, and provide for the people they love. They set a goal. They worked hard. They performed well, but they dropped out. Why? They left because life got in the way. The car broke down. Or the baby got sick. Or they lost their job. Just trying to get ahead. And then life hits you.
There’s a lot going on in that statement. Let’s unpack it. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Ralph Northam ran for governor as a don’t-rock-the-boat center-left moderate who would continue governance of Virginia in the tradition of his predecessors Terry McAuliffe and Tim Kaine. Virginians bit the bait. Then the blackface scandal happened, and Northam had to do penitence to Virginia’s progressives to survive politically. Subsequently, in what was in part a referendum on an unpopular President Trump, Virginians installed a Democratic Party majority in the General Assembly. I’m not sure Virginians knew what they were getting, but they’re now finding out.
Northam has chosen to govern as a classic tax-and-spend liberal. The Commonwealth’s budget (General Fund and Non General Fund) will have increased from $57 billion as originally submitted in Fiscal 2019 to $68.4 billion by Fiscal 2022, or 20%. That would constitute one of the biggest spending expansions in Virginia fiscal history. (If we adjust for inflation, which is much lower than in the past, it may be the biggest expansion of government in our lifetimes.) Judging from the governor’s State of the Commonwealth address yesterday, there is not a single problem facing Virginia that doesn’t warrant a government solution.
Yet, as much as Northam embraced big government yesterday, his agenda is not as radical as many of his Democratic confreres in the legislature would like. He did not advocate a rollback of the state’s Right to Work law. He believes that corporate investment is a good thing, and that Virginia needs more of it. He did call for a minimum wage increase but did not specify that it had to be $15, as many have called for. Rather than fund every special interest with its hand out, he actually proposes setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to build the state’s financial reserves to $1.9 billion, enough to safeguard Virginia’s AAA bond rating and provide a financial buffer against a recession.
Here’s a terrifying thought: Given the impotence of General Assembly Republicans, Northam may be the only thing standing between Virginia and a really radical progressive agenda. Continue reading