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Top Ten Virginia political stories of 2010

6:17 AM ET, 12/30/2010

Lest we forget all that was 2010, the Bearing Drift team identified the following stories in 2010 as being critical to Virginia politics. If you were abducted by space aliens last Dec. 31, read this “Cliff’s Notes” version and you’ll be right back up to speed.

1. GOP landslide

Republicans regained in Virginia everything that they lost in 2008. Well, at least numerically. The Virginia GOP delegation held a majority in the 110th Congress with 8 Republicans to 3 Democrats only to fall to a minority of 6-5 in the 111th. In 2010, with the elections of Scott Rigell (2nd District), Robert Hurt (5th District) and Morgan Griffith (9th District), the 112th Congress will be 8-3 again. Their elections were part of a 63-seat gain by the Republicans – a sweeping mid-term election victory the likes we haven’t seen since 1946; Republicans have more congressmen in office than at any time since 1947 – 242.

2. Virginia Health Care Freedom/Lawsuit

Things were looking pretty grim when it came to Virginia’s health care freedom when U.S. Sen. Jim Webb cast the deciding vote on Christmas Eve 2009 to end debate on the bill and move forward with passing the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (aka ObamaCare). The bill, which soon-to-be-former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi famously said, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it,” and its individual mandate requiring citizens to purchase some form of healthcare, was the spark of a year-long (and continuing) debate between what the federal government can and cannot force a state to do. During the Virginia General Assembly, Senate Republicans, led by State Sen. Steve Martin, hammered together legislation that brought enough Democrats on-board and created what is now known as the “Virginia Health Care Freedom Act”. The legislation easily passed in the House of Delegates and was signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell. This act became the basis for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinell’s legal challenge of the federal government on healthcare, which federal Judge Henry Hudson recently ruled in the state’s favor. The case is sure to go to the Supreme Court.

3. BP Oil Spill / Obama Administration back-tracking on offshore drilling

A dramatic and tragic explosion in April in the Gulf of Mexico on the TransOcean “Deepwater Horizon” Oil Rig took 11 lives and caused naturally occurring oil and gas to leak directly into the water. The response by federal agencies, led by the United States Coast Guard, was unprecedented in its speed to contain the oil and kept the nation riveted to TV sets and the Internet as remote operating vehicles broadcast live-feeds of the “gusher” from the ocean floor. The Obama administration, however, which had previously indicated that beginning exploration for oil and natural gas in Virginia’s outer-continental shelf 50 miles offshore could move forward, suddenly reversed course because of the accident. In doing so, the national quest to rid our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and Virginia’s journey to create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenue took a giant step backward.

4. Balancing the budget

Former part-time Governor, now full-time Democratic National Committee Chairman, Tim Kaine, on his way out the door of the Executive Mansion, did the equivalent of leaving the commode un-flushed. Kaine left Governor Bob McDonnell a budget that wasn’t balanced unless there was an unprecedented raise in taxes – a tax increase (in the midst of a recession) that would have been the largest in Virginia history. While it wasn’t always pretty, and is now causing some localities to feel the pinch, the governor did manage to balance the state budget without raising taxes in the middle of a recession.

5. Inauguration of Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, Ken Cuccinelli

Easily the biggest single political event of last year, the pageantry and spectacle that is inauguration day ushered in the first Republican administration in 8 years – and brought a team dedicated to fiscal discipline, job creation, and standing-up to the federal government on Constitutional merit to Richmond.

6. McDonnell delivers GOP response to SOTU

The eyes of the nation are focused on the historic Virginia capitol building and the Commonwealth’s newly elected Republican governor. A feat many thought impossible, when the vaunted mainstream media called the GOP an “endangered species” just one year prior in 2009.

7. VDOT Audit yields $1.45 billion

When then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell called for an independent audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2008, Kaine famously quipped “It’s an excuse for those who don’t want to do anything.”

Kaine went onto to shutter rest stops in 2009 because VDOT, he claimed, didn’t have the funding to keep them open.

With McDonnell as governor, not only were the rest stops re-opened, but the independent audit was conducted and yielded a sum of $1.45 billion. No matter how much State Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw and Kaine attempted to spin it, clearly their adherence to raising taxes as opposed to smart, fiscal management was on full display.

8. Virginia Tea Party/Convention

In the fall of 2010, nearly 4,000 people attended clearly the largest Tea Party convention held in any state. The gathering of conservatives hosted Dick Morris, John Fund, Ginni Thomas, Lou Dobbs, Herman Cain, George Allen, Rick Santorum, and the aforementioned McDonnell, Bolling, and Cuccinelli, among others to talk about the values of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and adherence to the U.S. Constitution.

The emergence of the Tea Party as a political force has caused much hand-wringing and navel gazing amongst both Republicans and Democrats – and rightfully so. Kaine went so far as to say:

“This is just the latest battle in the corrosive Republican intra-party civil war that has resulted in the Tea Party devouring two Republicans in just as many weeks,” Kaine said [of former Republican Senator Bob Bennett losing his primary bid]. “If there was any question before, there should now be no doubt that the Republican leadership has handed the reigns to the Tea Party.”

However, despite tea party-backed candidates pulling some notable upsets in primaries in Delaware (Christine O’Donnell), Alaska (Joe Miller), and Nevada (Sharon Angle), it wasn’t all success for the group. However, in places like Kentucky (Rand Paul) and Florida (Marco Rubio), the group faired remarkable better.

Folks like Pat McSweeney and Jamie Radtke, highly involved in the now two years defunct Virginia Conservative Action PAC, seemed to take to the Tea Party like fish in water. Under their leadership, they have been able to harness the energy of limited government loyalists and build the movement to something of a force.

Jamie Radtke just announced her intention to seek the Virginia Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012.

9. Republican Party of Virginia chooses primary for 2012

This past December the Republican Party of Virginia made a choice that will likely make for a very exciting 2011 and 2012, at least for us political observers, for the U.S. Senate nomination bid: a primary.

In the 2008 Republican Party Convention, Del. Bob Marshall came within one delegate of potentially being the party’s nominee against the eventual nominee former Gov. Jim Gilmore – a surprising result to most of us. But the choice of a primary is expected to bring the energy of tens of thousands of conservatives from across the state to their choice to represent their values in challenging, presumably, Senator Webb.

Other possible candidates, besides Jamie Radtke, include former U.S. Senator George Allen, Del. Bob Marhsall, and Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart.

10. Bearing Drift launches e-zine; Eve Marie Barner Gleason, Leslie Carbone, Jason Johnson, Josh St. Louis, and Brian Schoeneman join Bearing Drift

We began experimenting with an expanded electronic format with the e-zine. This year alone we featured Gov. Bob McDonnell and Allen, as well as original commentary by Congressman Eric Cantor, Congressman Pete Sessions, and many more. By having an electronic magazine, we’re able to explore in greater depth and detail a lot of the issues that a shorter blog post might not be able to get into.

Also, already your number one source for conservative news and information in the commonwealth, we got a lot better with our new additions! I personally thank all the contributors for their marvelous insights into Virginia politics and making this site your first stop in the Virginia blogosphere….and we have more surprises in 2011! Thank you for choosing us to read us and have a very Happy New Year!

Later today…our 2011 predictions!

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Bearing Drift has been providing an online conservative voice in Virginia politics since 2004. The name describes relative motion at sea - without bearing drift, you need to move to the right to avoid a collision!
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