Youngkin’s “Bromance” with Petersburg’s Mayor

by Kerry Dougherty

They tried. Lord knows they did their best to find fault.

But even the leftie Washington Post was forced to hold its nose and admit that Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s commitment to his signature program — “Partnership for Petersburg” — is genuine and getting results.

For more than a year, Youngkin has been working with local and state officials, the private and public sectors and especially with Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham to turn that city’s fortunes around.

Petersburg is a city in distress. It’s riddled with crime, grinding poverty and the worst-performing schools in the commonwealth.

A hopeless example of urban decay, some would say, and on the decline.

In a lengthy story this week, The Post wrote about the friendship that has blossomed between Youngkin and the African-American mayor of that troubled city.

A Liberal Black City Has Become Va. Gov. Youngkin’s Unlikely Project,” looked for an ulterior motive in Youngkin’s enthusiastic and unrelenting efforts to help fix Petersburg and in the mayor’s budding “bromance” with the governor, but failed to find it.

Youngkin’s explanation for the effort, repeated at one event after another, is simple: “Petersburg matters.” In an interview with The Washington Post, he said he bonded with Parham when they met in early 2022 for a session on crime and was moved by the breadth of Petersburg’s predicament. No place in Virginia suffers a worse combination of violent crime, bad health outcomes and poor educational attainment.

Talking with Parham about that “was a real eye-opening, if not catalytic, moment for us,” Youngkin said. “Not just in understanding the breadth of the interlocked challenges, but also of a friendship.”

He decided to respond on a grand scale. Youngkin ordered every sector of state government to come up with steps to address aspects of Petersburg’s problems. Today the Partnership counts some 50 stakeholders — from state agencies to departments of local government, nonprofits, churches and businesses — in more than 90 separate initiatives, such as pop-up health clinics, after-school tutoring and homeownership seminars.

If The Post couldn’t poke holes in the myriad programs that Youngkin’s brought to Petersburg, they found one bitter partisan hack who could: Democrat Del. Don Scott of Portsmouth.

Color me unsurprised.

Scott seems to subscribe to the theory that African Americans BELONG to Democrats and any Dem who forms alliances with Republicans deserves scorn for wandering off the party plantation:

“Call me cynical, but it’s just optics. He (Youngkin) just needs Black bodies for his photo ops,” said House Minority Leader Don L. Scott Jr. (D-Portsmouth), who is Black. From Scott’s perspective, Youngkin wants to soften his image with suburban swing voters who will determine which party gains control in this year’s General Assembly elections — and who could also propel Youngkin’s national ambitions.

Parham is fed up with the suggestion that the partnership is simply an exercise in political image-building. His cozy relations with Youngkin have caused tension with other Democrats, but the city needs help, Parham said, and that fact eclipses politics.

Scott reportedly created a scene last year at a Petersburg Democratic Party banquet when he sneered at Parham’s partnership with the governor and warned against African Americans working with their white governor:

“The community should not be tap-dancing or aiding this idea of [Youngkin being] a savior to this Black community,” he said.

Before storming out of the event, Parham posed the rhetorical question: What exactly have Democrats have done for his city?

Parham expressed frustration with Democrats as a whole, who he said have taken for granted that Petersburg residents will vote for the party while the city’s problems just go on and on. State leaders have had “no type of plan to help a city that’s been struggling for decades. Keep them in poverty, keep them uneducated, keep them suffering, keep them Democrats. As long as you’re voting Democrat, we don’t have to do anything,” he said.

A better question for Scott would be, what exactly have he and the other powerful Portsmouth Democrats done for THEIR city, another failing Virginia metropolitan area?

The answer? Not much.

Portsmouth test scores are abysmal, real estate values are depressed, poverty is rampant and to describe city government as dysfunctional is being generous.

But Scott would rather stick to racial politics than reach across the aisle to work to improve Virginia’s struggling cities and the lives of minorities who live there.

Shame on Scott.

Good luck to the governor and the mayor of Petersburg.

Working together. Like Americans.

Republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed and Unedited.