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A Web Window Onto Sausage-Making, Virginia Style

When Virginia's legislature convenes today with a big shindig in Jamestown, the descent into pessimism will have already begun. It's an election year, and while fear of losing their majority is driving Republicans to search for ways to persuade voters that they really do take traffic woes seriously, some Democrats are calculating that continued stalemate might be their best ticket, their best shot at winning a lot more seats in November.

But it ain't over till it's over, and for the next couple of months, we'll see a whole lot of wrangling about transportation, land use and a bunch of other issues. Virginia political blogger extraordinaire Waldo Jaquith has developed a nifty visual aid that shows how transportation and other issues rank in the minds of bill-writing legislators. Waldo fed the texts of all the bills filed so far this session into a program that produced a collage of words, a word cloud where transportation darkens the skies. You can see it here.

And the latest, coolest connect-to-the-voters shtick has some northern Virginia legislators blogging their way through the session. Delegates Kris Amundson and Bob Brink, Democrats from southeastern Fairfax and Arlington, respectively, are combining on 7-West, which not only covers the happenings in Richmond, but is a revealing window onto the long hours and continuing frustrations and joys of life at the grittiest rung of public life.

Delegate Adam Ebbin's new blog, In the Belly of the Beast, not only lists the legislation the Democrat from Arlington and Alexandria is proposing, but provides some surprisingly friendly memories of President Gerald Ford, and a travelogue of Ebbin's journey to London.

On the other side of the Red-Blue divide, Delegate Chris Saxman from Staunton offers a more policy-heavy blog, but manages to shoehorn in a nice rant against the increasingly pervasive practice of retailers' requiring customers to carry discount cards in order to get lower prices.

Virginia is the most web-savvy of the political scenes in this region, with far more politibloggers, blogging journalists and now blogging politicians too than Maryland and the District combined, and it's great to see that these technological innovations are leading to more engaged and intriguing political discourse.

By Marc Fisher |  January 10, 2007; 7:45 AM ET
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Thanks for mentioning that tag cloud, Marc! That blog entry was actually just a teaser for an entire website about the General Assembly for which that's just one small feature. It's called Richmond Sunlight. Take a few minutes to play with it -- I think you'll like it.

Posted by: Waldo Jaquith | January 10, 2007 8:18 PM

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