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Watkins Beats PW's Marshall

Tim Craig

Members of the Virginia Commission on Immigration this morning overwhelmingly selected Sen. John C. Watkins (R-Chesterfield), a moderate, over Del. Robert W. Marshall (R-Prince William) as the chairman of the panel.

Despite Marshall's arguments that he should be chairman because he sponsored the bill establishing the commission, the panel voted 16 to 3 to elect Watkins. The panel is suppose to advise Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) on possible changes to state policies related to immigration.

In the days leading up to the vote, moderate Senate Republicans and Kaine administration officials sought to line up support for Watkins because they said they thought Marshall was too conservative and combative to be effective.

In the final vote, Watkins drew support from all 10 panel members appointed by Kaine's (D). Delegates Jackson H. Miller (R-Manassas) and C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) supported Marshall. But Speaker William J. Howell's (R-Stafford) appointee to the panel, who works for Smithfield Foods, supported Watkins as did those members appointed by the Senate..

Before the vote, panel members had to wrestle the gavel away from Marshall, who had been serving as an interim chairman. Marshall, who wanted to delay the vote, then challenged Watkins to a debate.

"If you do not want this, you are telling Virginia that outside influences are controlling this commission," Marshall said.

Watkins objected to Marshall's antics, saying "We need to get on with the work of the commission and not have a political debate."

The panel then agreed to allow Marshall and Watkins to both make short speeches in support of their candidacy.

Marshall outlined his life story, telling the audience he got married in 1976, has three adopted children and takes care of an ailing relative who has dementia. He then warned the panel's conclusions won't be credible if he appears as if he was denied the chairmanship because of politics.

"I am suggesting the integrity and soundness of two years of work is up for grabs," Marshall said.

When Watkins spoke, he argued he would have an "even-handed approach."

"I have worked diligently during my offer a balanced, even-handed approach to dealing with tough issues and I intend to continue that approach," Watkins said.

By Tim Craig  |  September 25, 2007; 10:09 AM ET
Categories:  Immigration , Tim Craig  
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