Archive for May 2012
Leonard Pitts Jr. has become a leading voice on one of the most controversial issues facing the country today. The Trayvon Martin case presents the perfect mix of topics that fit into Pitts’ expertise. A powerful voice on civil rights and race issues, Pitts writes a regular column for the Miami Herald. The Martin case is based out of Florida and as much as it is garnered the attention across the country, the focus in the Sunshine State has been bright.
Pitts has written numerous, sometimes controversial, columns on the case and as a result has become a go-to perspective on the divisive issue that is still yet to be resolved.
But writing columns, is only part of Pitts’ contribution to the literary world. He is also an accomplished novelist and his latest book Freeman is already getting quite a bit of attention. Freeman tells the story of a black man living in Philadelphia shortly after the Confederacy surrendered the Civil War. In the wake of Union victory, African-Americans were now suddenly free, so the main character decides to walk back to Mississippi to reunite with his wife. A woman he hasn’t seen in 15 years, who was still enslaved.
Pitts was my live guest on NBC12 First at 4 and talked about his new book and the state of the Martin class. The full interview can be seen below:
It is, without a doubt, the one issue that brings Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell the most attention. But when asked, McDonnell makes it seem that, being a potential running mate for Mitt Romney, is the furthest thing from his mind.
His focus, he will tell you, is “governing”. Wrapping up the state budget process and overseeing whatever particular initiative his office is taking on. On Wednesday it was a new program that will offer ID cards to Virginia veterans.
Even politically, McDonnell claims that being the nominee for Vice President is low on his list of priorities. He often sites his work in 13 gubernatorial races as Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association and acting as a surrogate for Romney. He believes that work is more important than the frequent attention he receives as a potential VP nominee.
“I’m not asking for it, I’m not expecting it, I’m not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring,” McDonnell said. ”I will do what I can to help him (Romney).”
McDonnell told WTOP radio earlier in the week that he has not been asked to submit any information for what is usually a rigorous vetting process. The comment set off a series of national speculation that he was out of the running. McDonnell acted today as if that was no big deal.
“I don’t think it means anything,” he said. “I told Mitt Romney that I will help him in any way that I can.”
There are reports that the Romney campaign has begun the vetting process, but not one potential candidate has confirmed that they are being investigated.
McDonnell seems to not care either way.
But it’s not just what McDonnell says when it comes to the Veepstakes, it is also the way he acts. Both tell you that he is working hard to play it cool, while at the same time doing everything he can to position himself to be picked.
Wednesday during his event honoring Veterans, McDonnell didn’t get annoyed with questions about his Vice Presidential prospects, but he also didn’t just reject them outright. He stuck to his typical talking points (“I’m not asking for it, I’m not expecting it” is his go-to line) while touting his work building a foundation for a grass-roots operation for Romney team. It could be a way to show that he is ready to deliver the state come November.
He also is playing both sides of this tight rope in his work as governor. McDonnell, who is in the twilight of his governorship, has by no means decided to coast. He fought vigorously for his priorities in the state budget and continues to offer new initiatives and give every indication that he plans to see his legacy through. At the same time he has embarked on a statewide tour highlighting his administrations accomplishments and his campaign arm bought a significant amount of television time to tout his work in a slick 30 second ad. This, despite the fact that he isn’t running for anything.
Democrats have claimed that McDonnell made both moves to re-boost his popularity to make him a more attractive VP pick. They dubbed his tour of the Commonwealth as his “pick me tour”. McDonnell’s statewide popularity and national profile took a hit after a brutal legislative session that put him in the middle of controversial abortion and gun control legislation.
So after all of this, just where does McDonnell stand? There is no doubt that he has slipped a bit in the rankings. Prior to the lumps taken in the legislative session, McDonnell was regularly considered to be in the top 5 of most speculative polls, now he is considered to be somewhere around the top 10 and holding. Being picked as a VP nominee requires an incredible amount of good fortune together all at once, most of which is outside of your control. McDonnell really has no choice but to just play it cool. There isn’t much else he can do.
That doesn’t mean he is out of the running. Virginia remains one of, if not the most, competitive state in election. His approval rating, despite dropping, remains among the highest in his state of potential VP picks. While big names pop up and gain momentum from time to time, McDonnell has to hope he can remain consistently in the mix and when the time comes to make a final choice, that his attributes fit what Romney needs to get him over the top.
Until then, he will do what the campaign needs and just remain “cool”.
An extended clip from McDonnell’s remarks on the VP search can be seen below:
It may be nothing more than a speed bump on his way to 7th term in Congress and the further consolidation of his power as the House Majority Leader in Washington, D.C. Regardless for the first time in his career, Rep. Eric Cantor has a primary challenge.
It isn’t a serious challenge. His opponent, Floyd Bayne, has run against him before. He picked up 6% of the vote as an independent, essentially Tea Party candidate in 2010. Bayne doesn’t have much money and there is no polling data to suggest that he could pull off the impossible on June 12th. But on that day, in an election that could see less 5% of registered voters showing up, Bayne hopes anything is possible.
Here is my story on Cantor’s primary challenge from NBC12:
It may seem early, but a group of candidates are in a sprint to Election Day. It’s not the November election, but the June primary that will decide who is on the ballot. It usually brings out a very low turnout, but this year, there are some big names on the ballot including one of the most powerful politicians in America.
In two weeks House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will be on the ballot hoping to secure his party’s nomination, in a GOP primary.
“I think everyone should be taking elections seriously,” said Cantor during a visit to the Libbie Market in Richmond on Tuesday. “This is our God given gift as citizens of America.”
Cantor doesn’t seem worried about June 12th or Floyd Bayne who hopes to de-rail his march to another term.
The difference in their two campaigns is stark. Cantor, the second most powerful member of the House of Representatives brought national TV crews to Richmond. Tuesday evening, Bayne spoke to a small group of Tea Party activists in Henrico.
“We’ve gone to every meeting, Tea Party, Republican Party that will have me, and you just gotta get people out to vote,” Bayne said.
Bayne isn’t drawing big crowds but he might not need them. In 2008, less than 5% of registered voters came to the polls in congressional primaries.
“You just get out there and knock on doors and get boots on the ground,” Bayne said.
Cantor may not be worried, but he isn’t ignoring Bayne. He sent his supporters a letter reminding them to vote on the 12th and signs with a similar reminder have popped up around Richmond.
read and see the story on NBC12.com
Bayne talked to us extensively about his primary challenge. Extended clips from the interview are below:
Rep. Cantor also talked about his work to help small business and his view of the primary. That interview can be found below:
Wednesday night on NBC12, Sarah Bloom told the story of a Richmond preacher who has vowed to stand on a street corner every day until the election encouraging people not to re-elect President Barack Obama.
The pastor, Rev. Shirley Snead is an African-American and a one time supporter of the president who became a vocal opponent after Mr. Obama changed his stance on gay marriage. The black church was a strong bastion of support and energy for the president in 2008 and there is some concern that the gay marriage switch could dampen that enthusiasm.
But it seems that while many religious African-Americans may not support the president’s change of heart, it is going to take quite a bit more for them not to vote for him. One of the most prominent examples of that trend could be Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones. Jones is a strong supporter of the Obama, and is also a pastor that still preaches every Sunday.
Here is a snippet from Sarah’s report last night:
Even one of the President’s strongest supporters in Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, a pastor himself, doesn’t agree with the President’s new position on marriage.
A spokesperson said he still strongly supports Obama’s re-election.
Our political reporter, Ryan Nobles, said Jones is like many religious black voters who have more in common with the president than just that single issue.
“While most of them don’t agree with him on same-sex marriage, there’s still a lot more that they do agree with him on,” said Nobles.
And when voters go to the polls, Henrico School Board member and Obama supporter, Lamont Bagby believes gay marriage won’t be their biggest concern.
“Because I don’t think anyone has an opportunity at this point to be a single issue voter,” said Bagby.
See the entire report on NBC12.com
Jones might be the perfect example of the divide amongst religious African Americans, who remain opposed to same sex marriage, but remain strong supporters of Obama’s historic presidency. He may lose some, like Rev. Snead, but there is no evidence of a mass exodus from the Obama camp.
In fact, there are many examples of Obama’s change of heart, convincing other prominent African-American groups to move with him. The NAACP took Obama’s newfound position a step further defining marriage as a “civil right”. Obama’s current position supports the states who decide to legalize marriage for gays and lesbians.
It seems that this particular segment of the population is following a similar trend indicated in the many polls taken after Obama’s announcement. He lost some support and gained some support, but for the most part is right where he was before, locked in a very tight race that will remain that way until November.
UPDATE: See Sarah Bloom’s full story on NBC12.com
Sarah Bloom has the story tonight on NBC12 at 11.
This preacher, Rev. Shirley Snead, vows to stand at the corner of 18th and Broad in Shockoe Bottom everyday until the election, telling people to not vote for President Barack Obama. She said the president lost her support after he came out in support of gay marriage.
Is she an outlier or an extreme represenation of a potential problem for the president when it comes to gay marriage and the African-American church?
We examine every angle tonight at 11 on NBC12.
Feel free to tell us what you think on the NBC12 Facebook page.
It is the last of a string of controversial measures in the explosive 2012 Virginia General Assembly and today Governor Bob McDonnell is ready to put it behind him. The Governor signed into law a measure that will tighten the requirements to prove your identification when you cast a ballot in an election in Virginia.
Currently in Virginia, if you are registered but show up the polls without any ID, you are able to cast your ballot, but sign a sworn statement that you are who you say you are. The vote counts, but you could be charged with fraud after the fact if you vote under someone else’s name.
Republicans have long criticized the practice as being an easy opportunity for voter fraud. This new measure would still allow you to cast a ballot without an ID, but that ballot would only be provisional and would not count until you can produce one of the acceptable forms of ID.
Democrats angrily fought the measure and claimed that it was a GOP effort to suppress voters. In particular, voters who tend to vote for democrats, including minorities, the elderly and the poor.
The Virginia proposal was one of many passed in state legislatures around the country, but the Commonwealth’s bill did not go as far as some which forced voters to produce a photo ID at the polls. In fact, while the Virginia bill tightened the requirements at the polls, it actually expanded what you could show to prove your identity. Currently a Virginia Voter ID card, a driver’s licence, Social Security card, government-issued ID or a photo ID from your place of employment are all accepted. The new law would also allow utility bills, paychecks, bank statements, government checks or a current Virginia college ID.
In an effort to make sure everyone who wants to vote can, McDonnell is issuing an Executive Order requiring the Board of Elections to send new voter ID cards to every single registered voter in Virginia. This provision is addition to the current bill, which will now become law.
The liberal group “ProgressVA” was not impressed with McDonnell’s efforts to soften the impact of the new restrictions. They called the move a waste of taxpayer funds.
“This legislation and the accompanying executive order are an expensive fix to a nonexistent problem,” said Anna Scholl ProgressVA’s Executive Director ”We’ve never solved anything in this country with less democracy and we shouldn’t start now.”
The full statement from the Governor’s office and ProgressVA’s response can be found after the jump:
Stephanie Cutter is an important player in the Obama for America campaign infrastructure. As Deputy Campaign Manager, there is only one staff member higher on the organizational chart. As a regular surrogate for the campaign she regularly drives the discussion in frequent television and media appearances.
Cutter was on a local satellite tour Wednesday to talk about the campaign’s two-minute ad that attacks their opponent Mitt Romney‘s career at Bain Capital, a private equity firm. NBC12 was one of the stations where the ad aired, and we talked to Cutter about its impact on the election. Most of the interview as about the economy, but it was a general question about the shift back to the economy after a week talking about social issues where Cutter took the opportunity to wade into a very local issue. The failed nomination of Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland as District Judge.
Thorne- Begland is openly gay and made a very prominent stand against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during his time in the Military. His activism prompted conservative members of the Virginia House of Delegates to prevent his nomination from going forward. Cutter knew all about the fight and was not afraid to attack the GOP lead Virginia House of Delegates.
“I think that when things like this happen in this country and specifically Virginia, it turns people off,” Cutter said. ”The man is overly qualified to be a judge and this is a real leadership moment for some people in Virginia.”
While the Thorne-Begland controversy has grown well outside Richmond to media reports in numerous national outlets, the battle is over a relatively low-level judgeship. One primarily responsible for traffic tickets and vandalism. Important, no doubt, but more Judge Harry Stone, than Judge Thurgood Marshall. The basis of the battle, the fight over gay rights was enough for Cutter to call out the republican candidate for president of the United States.
“I think that it is an opportunity for Mitt Romney to stand up and say what the legislature did is just plain wrong,” she said. ”I don’t know if he will show that type of leadership, he hasn’t so far.
The Romney campaign had no interest in wading into this hyper-local issue that could put them at odds with republicans in Virginia.
“This is yet another example of how President Obama and his campaign would rather talk about anything other than his failed economic record,” said Curt Cashour, a Romney campaign spokesman.
The Romney Team did not specifically address the Thorne-Begland nomination at all. They chose not to support or condemn the House of Delegates move. Instead they tried to put the focus back on the Obama economic record.
“Obama’s presidency just hasn’t lived up to the promise of his 2008 campaign, and after more than three years in office, Americans are still suffering through one of the worst job markets in history,” Cashour said.
Meanwhile the battle over what is normally an easy nomination appears over. Andy Jenks today ran down all 36 members of the House of Delegates who didn’t vote to see how they would’ve voted, and why they decided to leave town. There appears to be no momentum to re-nominate Thorne- Begland who has gone back to his job as a prosecutor in the Richmond Commonwealths Attorney’s Office.
But while the battle is over, it appears the remnants of the is fight will continue on well into November.
You can see extended clips from Cutter’s remarks below: