Archive for the ‘General Assembly 2009’ Category
This year promises to be a hot year for a number of races in the House of Delegates. The power in the lower chamber currently belongs to Republicans, but Democrats are making an aggressive play, and that includes fierce challenges to a number of normally “safe” seats in the Richmond area.
But the GOP is not backing down either. Republicans have put up challengers of their own in a number of Democratic seats, meaning that this fall’s cycle could go either way.
If you are a political junkie, you do not want to miss tonight’s candidate forum put on by the Richmond Crusade for Voters and the Urban League Young Professionals. The event features almost every candidate running in House races that include Henrico County. I am going to stop in for a bit of the event and will have more tonight on NBC12 News at 11.
If you are interested, here are the details:
Henrico House of Delegate’s Candidates Forum
Where: September 29th- Dumbarton Library on Staples Mill Road. 6:30-8 P.M.
Who: Hosted by the Richmond Crusade for Voters, in conjunction with the Urban League Young Professionals. Media sponsor: The Henrico Citizen Moderator: The Honorable Frank Thornton
Candidates for Henrico House of Delegate Seats:
Delegate Joe Morrissey
Delegate John O’Bannon
Delegate Jennifer McClellan
Delegate Delores McQuinn
Dr. Thomas Shields
Mr. James Towey
Mr. Henry Otis Brown and Others…
Governor Tim Kaine is out of the state for the weekend, but according to spokesman Gordon Hickey, his legal staff is busy at work preparing to present the Governor with a long list of options to deal with the problems presented by the Supreme Court decision Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts.
Senator Ken Cuccinelli, a candidate for Attorney General called on the Governor to bring the legislature back to Richmond to deal immediately with the issue, that he claims. will lead to the prosecutors across the commonwealth dropping D.U.I cases.
“No one is taking this lightly,” said Hickey. “The Governor’s legal staff is exploring a variety of options and taking legislative action is among them.”
In a statement released late last night Cuccinelli said that the Kaine administration cannot waste time and must get the General Assembly back to work, before Commonwealth’s Attorneys across the state run out of options. Hickey said the Kaine administration is taking a measured approach to the issue and it indicated that it would be irresponsible to call the entire legislature back before exhausting all the options the Governor has in front of him.
“There is no need to jump right to the legislature,” Hickey said. “The Governor is closely working with his legal team to determine the appropriate course of action.”
Hickey said that while Kaine himself has not received calls from CA’s around Virginia, there have been “calls of concern” and that is why the staff is busy at work getting ready to provide the Governor with some options.
Cuccinelli’s opponent Steve Shannon‘s campaign has weighed in on the Melendez-Diaz issue on not suprisingly pointed to their candidates’ career as a prosecutor. Incoming Campaign Manager Mike Henry said that Cuccinelli is only attempting to “hide his weak record on drunk driving laws, with a PR stunt that would cost taxpayers money.”
Henry said that Shannon supports Governor Kaine’s efforts to find an administrative solution to the problem. His full statement can be found after the jump.
Republican candidate for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a member of the Virginia Senate himself, is asking Governor Tim Kaine to call a special session to deal with a Supreme Court ruling dealing with drinking and driving.
In a statement released late tonight, Cuccinelli claims that the decision by the Supreme Court justices in the Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts case presents a problem whereby prosecutors are being forced to suspend drunk driver prosecutions.
According to the Cuccinelli release, the Melendez-Diaz ruling prevents local Commonwealth’s Attorneys from using a certificate of analysis of their findings for use in court in drug and D.U.I. cases. In the past it has served as sufficient evidence to prove that a substance was in a defendant’s blood stream. In the wake of this case, Cuccinelli believes it will be necessary for prosecutors to call actual scientists to the stand in each case. Something the state has neither the time or money to pursue.
Senator Cuccinelli said, “A legislative fix would be much better than hiring 100-200 new scientists, which we couldn’t do now even if we tried.”
Cuccinelli said that if Kaine is reluctant to take call for the special session, he is going to encourage his legislative colleagues to do so on their own.
I am schedule to sit down with the Senator tomorrow to learn more about this effort. I will also reach out to his opponent Steve Shannon and Governor Kaine’s office as well. For now, you can read the candidate’s full release after the jump:
It is apparently a big night for news in the AG race. My friend Ben Tribbett at NLS is reporting that Mike Henry, of Warner/Kaine fame has signed on to help Steve Shannon. A quality, insider get for the for the first time statewide candidate.
Read the rest of this entry »
Governor Tim Kaine just responded to a letter former Attorney General and Republican Candidate for Governor Bob McDonnell sent to members of Congress. In his letter McDonnell asks the federal representatives to “remove the strings” connected to the release of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds for unemployment benefits. McDonnell has taken quite a bit of heat over his support of the Republican controlled House of Delegates efforts to prevent the expansion of unemployment benefits in order allow the commonwealth to be eligible for the federal funding.
In his original letter McDonnell instructs the members of congress that forcing permanent changes to the unemployment benefits structure would cost too much over the long term, to make it worth it to take advantage of two years of federal stimulus dollars. He suggests that if congress really wants to help the states, they should remove the language that requires any changes to be permanent.
While the letter was not directed to Governor Kaine, McDonnell mentions the Governor in the letter and wrote that he hopes to “work together to ensure Virginians get the help they need now.”
Governor Kaine took McDonnell up on his offer by following a similar pattern. he wrote a letter and then released it to the media.
Kaine outright rejects the basic claim in McDonnell’s proposal. He states emphatically that states are welcome to revert back to prior standards once stimulus funds are depleted. He goes on to say that now that McDonnell is aware that his concerns have already been addressed by the administration, that he should agree that it will benefit all Virginians for the General Assembly to reconvene to make the necessary changes and therefore have access to the federal funds.
Governor Kaine has been very careful to not wade into the race for his current job, despite his role as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In fact, overall he and McDonnell have had a very cordial relationship and have gone out of their way to not be critical of one another.
This however appears to be an opportunity too good for Kaine to turn down. The unemployment benefits squabble has been very near and dear to his heart and it gives him the chance to rap the guy who he wants to see lose, while at the same time acting as Governor. It also helps that it was McDonnell drew his sword first by mentioning Kaine in his intial letter.
Everyone is watching Kaine closely to see how he handles this race for Governor. As the DNC chair, he cannot sit on the sidelines. However, he risks losing his stature as a respected statesman if he gets too involved and his action gets in the way of his efforts to govern.
In the moments after the Republicans in the House of Delegates blocked a plan to extend unemployment benefits, a move that would have allowed the state to tap into $125 million in federal stimulus funds, an angry Governor Tim Kaine vowed to find a way to revisit the issue before he left office.
Tonight, one of his top deputies told me that she believes that Democrats won’t be able to revisit the issue until January.
Del. Jennifer McClellan, a rising star in the Democratic ranks and a close ally of Governor Kaine said that Democrats, particularly in the House of Delegates, will need a “change in leadership” before they have any hope of passing the changes to the system, that despite the intense criticism Republicans continue to face.
The issue has become a rallying cry for Democrats as they gear up for the fall elections when every seat in the House of Delegates and the Governor’s mansion will up for grabs. McClellan believes that voters will respond to their message and in turn send packing Republican members who voted against the plan and replace them with Democrats.
That of course is a big “if”. While the Democrats have had success reaching out to economically distressed voters, they still have a long way to go to get control of the House and they would also have to retain the Governor’s mansion which is a 50-50 proposition at best.
It would also mean that Governor Kaine, who is very passionate about this particular issue, won’t be able to keep his promise to find a way to get it done before he leaves town.
While Democrats continue to make the argument that Virginians are up in arms over the Republicans refusal to expand unemployment benefits, the Republicans are not backing down. Today the GOP held a press conference where they outlined specific points that they claim show, they had Virginia workers best interests in mind when the turned back the expansion and the $125 million in stimulus funds that came with it.
Democrats feel they have made progress with voters by harping on the issue. All three candidates for Governor are among more than 9,000 Virginians that have signed an online petition attacking the Republican’s move and calling for a change in leadership.
In addition to the GOP press event (which I will have more on later), the Republican Governor’s Association put out a press release today, calling the Democratic “Common Sense Tour” a failure. The Common Sense Tour followed Bob McDonnell around the commonwealth hoping to find Virginians angry over McDonnell’s decision to support the Republicans in the House and their opposition to the unemployment expansion. The release points to two different independent press accounts they reported a minimal response to the Common Sense effort.
**UPDATE** Common Sense Virginia sent me a response to the RGA’s release. They claim that “Bob McDonnell either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the challenges Virginians face in these tough economic times.” Their entire statement can be found after the jump as well.
Whether or not this is indicative of the success Democrats are having in gaining support over the issue is up for debate, but it does show that Republicans are attempting to stop the bleeding.
Tonight on NBC12 news and here on Decision Virginia, I will take a closer look at the issue and the marked change in the ultimate goals by Democrats when it comes to the battle over the unemployment benefits expansion.
It has been more than a week since my last post and looking back at what took place, I thought I would pick out a few key things that I thought were important.
*Bob McDonnell is very encouraged by poll numbers that show him at least 10 points up on any potential Democratic opponent. He also feels pretty good about his fund raising haul. His $3.5 million cash on hand is second only to Terry McAuliffe and McDonnell will not have to spend any money on an expensive primary.
*While McDonnell is riding high, Democrats are hoping to bruise him by making him target number one in their fight over the GOP’s block of changes to the state’s unemployment benefits package. The vote prevented Virginia from being eligible for $125 million dollars in stimulus money and McDonnell supported their efforts. All three democratic candidates for Governor signed a petition condemning his support of the plan.
*Democrats are not containing their displeasure over the unemployment vote to just the gubernatorial race. Party members will spend this weekend going door to door in GOP House districts to inform constituents about how their members voted. Del. John O’Bannon who is facing a fiesty challenge from Tom Shields in the 73rd district, is one of their targets.
*Brian Moran (who officially kicked off his campaign today in Northern Virginia) is dodging criticism over a Washington Post story that connects his brother Rep. Jim Moran‘s earmarks to his campaign donations. Moran’s campaign manager says there can be no influence because the former House Democratic leader is “entirely uninvolved” with his brother’s work in Washington.
*Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s Mayor who is hoping to be re-elected for a second time, despite the Big Apple’s two term limit, came to Virginia to meet with family members of the VA Tech tragedy. Bloomberg is specifically going after Bob McDonnell, who did not back down.
*Rep. Eric Cantor will be featured in a lengthy profile in tomorrow’s CBS Sunday Morning. A crew from the long form, feature news program followed the congressman through his local district. His segment is scheduled to air around 9:45am.
*The three Democratic candidates for Governor will meet in their first officially debate of the primary season. Brian Moran, Terry McAuliffe and Creigh Deeds will meet in the Farm Team Debate at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. I will be there and am planning to liveblog the affair on nbc12.com.
What did I miss? Let me know if something else signifcant happened that did not make my recap.
Perhaps in someway buoyed by Governor Tim Kaine‘s harsh reaction to the rejection by House Republicans of changes to the state unemployment benefits, Democrats are on the march. They seem to be using the issue as a clarion call for the upcoming election cycle. They see the vote as an example of a clear and distinct difference between themselves and their GOP counterparts.
For instance, Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe lashed out and Republican nominee Bob McDonnell (who supported the Republican vote). He just put out a statement saying the following:
‘At a time when we should be working across party lines to get our economy back on track, McDonnell has shown once again that he is more interested in political games and heated partisan rhetoric than working to find bipartisan solutions.’
State Senator Creigh Deeds, also a candidate for Governor was part of the battle on the legislative floor Wednesday night. He was forced to miss a scheduled appearance at his Richmond headquarters in order to be a part of the debate. He put out a statement moments after the vote that said in part:
“It’s unconscionable that Bob McDonnell and Virginia Republicans decided to turn their backs on stimulus funding that would have helped laid-off Virginia workers get back on their feet.”
In the moments after the vote, the seemingly boring piece of legislation which is very difficult to explain became heavy fodder on Democratic blogs. Many encouraging their readers to “take names” of the Republicans who voted against the plan and then “kick butt”.
It even sprinkled down to local elections for delegate seats. Tom Shields, a candidate in the 73rd district which includes Henrico and Richmond, sent me a statement last night criticizing his opponent the Republican incumbent John O’Bannon. It was the first release of any kind that I had recieved from his campaign. He took aim at O’Bannon’s vote calling it “out of touch”.
While this issue is certainly one that has the potential to enrage democratic-leaning voters, we will have to see if it resonates beyond the party faithful.
Governor Tim Kaine just wrapped up a press event where at one point he had to excuse himself from the conference room to control his emotions over a contentious vote.
The Republican House of Delegates turned back a plan to change the standards for unemployment benefits in Virginia to allow for more than $125 million in federal stimulus dollars to come to the Commonwealth. Kaine said that GOP legislators made a serious mistake based only in their need to wave their ideological fist at Washington.
He also said he planned to revisit the issue again and try and find another way, either administrativley or through the legislature, to get the Commonwealth access to the funds and in turn help Virginians in need.
The uncut video from his heated remarks is after the jump..
The Republican controlled House of Delegates, successfully turned back a proposal by Governor Tim Kaine to allow changes to the Virginia’s unemployment benefits standards. The changes would have given the state access to millions of dollars in federal stimulus money to help unemployed Virginians.
The Senate passed the measure, but only after a rigorous debate put up by Republicans. The Democratic senate passed the changes 21-19.
On the House side, the Republicans in charge argued that despite the $125 million lift the feds would provide, Virginia business owners could not afford the long term changes to the jobless benefit structure. GOP leaders believe it would put an unnecessary burden on small business owners in particular, who have been hit hard by the economic conditions. The argument was enough to block the measure on a predominately party line vote.
Governor Tim Kaine is expected to weigh in on the House vote shortly after the veto session gavels out. We will have the latest as soon as it becomes available, as well as coverage tonight on NBC12 news at 11.