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Virginia Politics Blog: February 1, 2009 - February 7, 2009

Armstrong Skips JJ Dinner

Many Democratic legislators attended tonight's Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner but one of their leaders, House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong (D-Henry), was noticeably absent. Republican legislators have criticized their Democratic colleagues for attending the event in past years because state law bans fundraising during the legislative session. "I don't vote for a bill that bans attendance at such events or citicize the speaker for participating in his own and then show up at JJ,'' Armstrong wrote in an email. For the third straight year, the House passed a bill that would ban lawmakers and statewide officials from attending fundraising events sponsored by a political party, lobbyist or campaign contributors during the legislative session....

By Anita Kumar  |  February 7, 2009; 8:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Democrats Party at the JJ

About 3,000 Democrats clad in black tie and ballgowns gathered in downtown Richmond for the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner. Each paid at least $175 per seat, generating the state party $700,000. Former President Bill Clinton, the keynote speaker, received a standing ovation as he took the stage shortly at 7:30 p.m. after being introduced by Del. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake). Clinton mentioned Virginia's many recent Democratic wins, which includes back-to-back governors, U.S. Senate seats and the majority of U.S. House seats. Republicans "have to go back to the drawing board just as we did and it may take them years to figure out,'' Clinton said. "I hope it does." Clinton mentioned all the state's prominent Democrats, including Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, U.S. Sens. James Webb and Mark R. Warner. He even gave a shout out to Saron S. Bulova, elected chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 7, 2009; 7:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
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Bowerbank Receives Support

Forty Democratic leaders and elected officials, many from southern Virginia, endorsed Jon Bowerbank for lieutenant governor today. "There is no candidate more qualified for lieutenant governor than Jon Bowerbank,'' Del. Clarence E. "Bud" Phillips (D-Dickenson) said. "Jon's business experience and expertise in the energy sector are unparalleled, and that's exactly the experience and expertise that we need in Virginia's government. If we want a Democrat in the lieutenant governor's office come November, we need Jon Bowerbank as our candidate." Bowerbank, a wealthy businessman from Russell County, faces former Finance Secretary Jody Wagner, political advisor Rich Savage and Pat Edmonson, a member of the Virginia Beach School Board, for the Democratic nomination. "Today's endorsements confirm the incredible amount of excitement and energy around this campaign,'' Bowerbank said. "As more and more people hear our message of common sense solutions to our economic, energy, and infrastructure challenges, our campaign gains more and...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 7, 2009; 4:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Anti-Smoking Groups Had Been Targeting Howell

Some Republicans are questioning whether House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) was worried about his own reelection chances when he decided to craft a deal with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to ban smoking in most bars and restaurants. According to GOP delegates, Howell stressed during a closed-door House Republican caucus meeting Wednesday that the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association had dispatched a paid organizer to his district. Officials close to the organizations confirm that an organizer had been working in Howell's district to "educate" the public about his previous opposition to an indoor smoking ban. Howell's district, which includes parts of Fredericksburg and Stafford County, has traditionally voted Republican. But in the November election, President Obama received 50 percent of the vote while Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) carried it with 62 percent of the vote. Other Republicans caution that Howell's decision to back...

By Tim Craig  |  February 6, 2009; 4:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
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McDonnell Opposes Smoking Ban

Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, the soon-to-be GOP nominee for governor, will not be supporting the proposed smoking ban floating through the General Assembly, according to his staff. J. Tucker Martin, a McDonnell spokesman, said the attorney general is happy that House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) tried to work out a compromise but believes 'the free market" should decide if smoking is banned in bars and restaurants. "He generally believes this is an issue that should be solved by the free market and not government," Martin said. McDonnell's stance could embolden some House and Senate Republicans to vote against the proposal. It also keeps McDonnell in good standing with his party's conservative base, many of whom are outraged that Howell brokered a deal with Kaine....

By Tim Craig  |  February 6, 2009; 9:58 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Robert F. McDonnell , Tim Craig  
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Legislators Targeted On Smoking Ban

Americans for Prosperity, a group that supports limited government and free trade, has hired a company to make tens of thousands of phone calls to the offices of a dozen legislators to pressure them to vote against a smoking ban. Targeted legislators include Republicans and Democrats who may be considering voting for a smoking ban this year because it is being supported by Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). "Our members are upset that the Speaker has chosen to trust big government to solve our problems instead of consumers," said Ben Marchi, the group's state director. "This is a consumer rights issue. This is the government telling consumers they aren't smart enough to decide for themselves where to patron."...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 5, 2009; 9:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Mayors Support Wagner

Six mayor endorsed former finance secretary Jody Wagner today in her race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Bill Euille of Alexandria, James Holley of Portmouth, Linda Johnson of Suffolk, Mimi Elrod of Lexington, Faye Prichard of Ashland and Annie Mickens of Petersburg said they support Wagner because of her history working for former governor Mark R. Warner and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and focus on economic development. "As mayors, we're on the front line every day dealing with this national economic crisis," Euille said. "We need leaders in state government who can help turn this economy around."...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 5, 2009; 9:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Smoking Ban: What Do You Think?

Vote in the poll below, and explain your vote in the comments. poll by twiigs.com...

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  February 5, 2009; 2:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  General Assembly 2009  
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Spruill Apologizes For Muslim Remark

Del. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake) apologized today for saying on the House floor yesterday that he doesn't like to hear prayers of different religions, "especially those of the Muslim faith that I don't care too much about." Spruill, who is also a member of the Democratic National Committee, issued his apology moments after his employer, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran, urged him to do so. Beside being a delegate and a DNC member, Spruill is a paid consultant for the Moran campaign when the General Assembly is not in session. Moran is paying Spruill $7,500 a month to do outreach in the African-American community, although his salary is suspended during the 45-day legislative session. During a House floor debate Wednesday, Spruill spoke out against a bill that would allow state police chaplains to use "Jesus" in public prayers. After Spruill's comment about Muslims were reported on in the Virginian Pilot, some...

By Tim Craig  |  February 5, 2009; 2:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
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Spruill's Remarks About Muslims Make News

Could Del. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake), who serves as senior advisor to former delegate Brian Moran, turn into a distraction for his boss' campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor? During a debate on the House floor yesterday, Spruill spoke out about a proposed law that would allow state police chaplains to use Jesus' name in public prayers. According to the Virginian Pilot, Spruill announced his opposition to the law but then said he doesn't like to hear prayers of different religions, "especially those of the Muslim faith that I don't care too much about." When the Pilot asked him later about his remarks, Spruill said he didn't mean to offend Muslims but maintains he doesn't like how they end their prayer. The Pilot article did not mention Spruill's connection to Moran. But the episode underscores the potential pitfalls associated with Moran's decision to put another elected official on his payroll....

By Tim Craig  |  February 5, 2009; 10:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
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Governor, Legislative Leaders Agree to Restaurant Smoking Ban

Virginia, a leading grower of tobacco in the U.S., will ban smoking in most restaurants and bars in an agreement announced today by Gov. Kaine. Only private clubs and restaurants, or those with an independently ventilated smoking room, would not be affected. The text of the governor's press release follows. RICHMOND--Governor Timothy M. Kaine and key leaders in the General Assembly today announced a landmark agreement to pass a statewide smoking ban in Virginia's bars and restaurants. The legislation will ban smoking in nearly all restaurants across the Commonwealth, allowing narrow exceptions for private clubs and restaurants with a designated smoking room that is physically separated and independently ventilated from non-smoking dining areas....

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  February 5, 2009; 10:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  General Assembly 2009  
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Huckabee Endorses Cuccinelli

Former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee endorsed state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax) in his race for the Republican nomination for attorney general this year. "Ken Cuccinelli is a rare breed of leader who boldly stands up for conservative principles,'' Huckabee wrote in an email. "I would have been honored to have served alongside a leader like Ken." Huckabee mentioned that Cuccinelli is "pro-life" and drafted the Senate parental consent law, which passed in 2003, supports the Second Amendment and will fight for lower taxes and to slow down the growth of government. "Virginia is blessed to have such a capable and proven leader like Ken,'' Huckabee wrote. "I am committed to doing what I can to help make sure the people of Virginia have Ken as their next attorney general." Cuccinelli faces John Brownlee, the former top prosecutor for Virginia's western district, and David M. Foster,...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 4, 2009; 5:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Romney Will Assist Comstock

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney will host a fundraiser this month for Barbara Comstock, who is running for a House of Delegates seat in Fairfax County in November. Comstock, a fixture in Republican circles inside the Beltway, is running against Democratic Del. Margaret G. Vanderhye. Comstock, who worked on Romney's presidential campaign last year, is now a lobbyist in the District. She has lived in McLean for more than 25 years. Comstock worked on Capitol Hill for Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and the Government Reform Committee, ran opposition research for the Republican National Committee and helped Scooter Libby's legal team in his criminal case....

By Anita Kumar  |  February 4, 2009; 5:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Virginia Notebook: Democratic Dinner Holds Answers

The Virginia Democratic Party will have its annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner Saturday at the Richmond Convention Center. Former president Bill Clinton will headline the fundraiser. A who's who of elected officials and party leaders and activists will attend. But the focus will be on the three Democratic candidates for governor: Terry McAuliffe, Brian J. Moran and Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath). Here are 15 questions that the dinner should help to answer. Check back next week for the answers....

By Tim Craig  |  February 4, 2009; 2:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Brian J. Moran , Creigh Deeds , Terry McAuliffe , Tim Craig  
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Candidates For Fairfax Board Waste No Time

The provisional ballots still aren't counted in yesterday's special election for Fairfax County board chairman, but already a new gaggle of candidates are launching campaigns to replace Democrat Sharon S. Bulova in the board's Braddock District seat. According to unofficial results, Bulova narrowly defeated Republican Pat S. Herrity to replace Democrat Gerald E. Connolly, who is now in Congress. Herrity has not yet conceded, however, and county election officials are still canvassing the results. Rokey Suleman, the general registrar, said he does not expect the results to change dramatically, meaning Bulova is likely to be certified the winner with no option of a recount for Herrity. In the meantime, state Democrats are celebrating Bulova's victory as a sign of momentum heading into the fall elections for governor and the House of Delegates. And local leaders are positioning themselves to replace Bulova....

By Amy Gardner  |  February 4, 2009; 11:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
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McAuliffe's Media Campaign Expands to Richmond

Terry McAuliffe, a Democratic candidate for governor, will expand his television advertising campaign to the Richmond market tomorrow, according to sources familar with his ad buy. McAuliffe's Richmond ad buy, however, is relatively small. Sources say he purchased about $15,000 in airtime. McAuliffe kicked off his media campaign last week by buying $30,000 in air time in the Norfolk market. On Sunday, McAuliffe aired an ad in Hampton Roads during the Super Bowl. McAuliffe is also airing radio ads in Richmond and Norfolk. McAuliffe's rivals for the Democratic nomination, Brian Moran and Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), have not yet started a paid media campaign....

By Tim Craig  |  February 4, 2009; 11:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Terry McAuliffe , Tim Craig  
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UPDATED: McCain Will Campaign for McDonnell

Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican nominee for governor, said today that former presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, will travel to Virginia to campaign for him next month. McCain and McDonnell will appear together at the McLean home of R. Carter Pate, McCain's Virginia finance chairman on March 25. McDonnell also said he expects to travel across the nation, including Texas, Chicago, Palm Beach and New York, for fundraisers. "I have been fortunate to get some pretty broad support from some major political leaders,'' he said. Mike Huckabee, the guitar-playing Baptist preacher and former Arkansas governor, will appear with McDonnell in the spring. Govs. Sarah Palin (Alaka), Rick Perry (Tex.), Charlie Crist (Fla.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.) are all expected to host fundraisers for McDonnell, GOP sources said....

By Anita Kumar  |  February 3, 2009; 10:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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McAuliffe Unveils More Radio Ads

Terry McAuliffe, a Democratic candidate for governor, released two new radio ads today that are aimed at winning over African-American voters. The ads, which focus on McAuliffe's pledge to create more jobs, will air on black radio stations in Richmond and Norfolk. In both spots, McAuliffe tries to preempt critics who argue he does not have deep enough roots in state and local politics. "Virginia has been my home for nearly twenty years; it's where my wife Dorothy and I are raising our five children," McAuliffe states. "I've listened to your needs and know what families are facing."...

By Tim Craig  |  February 3, 2009; 5:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Terry McAuliffe , Tim Craig  
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Senator Edwards "Leaning Towards" Run for AG

Sen. John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke) said today he is strongly considering entering this year's race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general. "I am leaning towards it," said Edwards, adding he will officially announce his plans when the legislative session ends Feb. 28. In 2001, Edwards unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for attorney general. He also flirted with a run in 2005. Last month, Edwards was spotted at a Richmond restaurant plotting campaign strategy. If he enters the race, Edwards will face Del. Steve Shannon (D-Fairfax) in the June 9 primary. Shannon has already amassed a hefty war chest; he had about $750,000 in the bank as of Dec. 31. But Edwards said he still thinks there is room for another candidate in the race, although he added "I have nothing bad to say against (Shannon) at all." If Edwards runs, it will be the first time in decades...

By Tim Craig  |  February 3, 2009; 3:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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McDonnell Resigns To Run for Governor

Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican nominee for governor, told his staff in an email today that he was resigning to campaign full-time as of Feb. 20. "To ensure that Virginia's citizens have the full time Attorney General they deserve I am, in keeping with Virginia political tradition, resigning as Attorney General,'' McDonnell wrote. In the email sent at 8 a.m., McDonnell calls serving as attorney general "the highest professional honor of my life." "This has been a very difficult decision to make because of my love for this office and all of you,'' he wrote....

By Anita Kumar  |  February 3, 2009; 9:18 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Fairfax Special Election Is On

Weather may be an impediment for those wishing to vote today in the special election for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. But the election will proceed, Rokey Suleman, the county's general registrar, said early this morning. Suleman was up at 2 a.m. to talk with state highway officials and the State Board of Elections about whether today's forecast warranted a postponement. "The reports look good through the close of polls," he said. "The weather service says we dodged a bullet. It's going to snow but the roads will just be wet."...

By Amy Gardner  |  February 3, 2009; 4:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Republicans Rally for Herrity

The Republican Party of Virginia sent out an urgent email alert encouraging supporters to help the GOP win tomorrow's special election for Fairfax County board chairman. "Tomorrow Republicans can make history and help push back against the pro-Obama Democrats who are attempting to take control of Virginia,'' according to the email. "But we need YOU to take action NOW!" Republican Supervisor Pat S. Herrity (Springfield) will face Democrat Sharon S. Bulova (Braddock), the vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and two independents in tomorrow's election. They are competing to replace Democrat Gerald E. Connolly, who won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November. "Virginia Democrats...have been very clear, if they lose this election, it will put a BIG damper on their plans to build on the Obama momentum and take back the Virginia House in next November's elections,'' according to the email....

By Anita Kumar  |  February 2, 2009; 5:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
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McDonnell Helps Push Herrity to Finish Line

Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) gave $25,000 last week to Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield), the GOP nominee in tomorrow's contest for Board Chairman. Herrity has not yet reported the donation to the State Board of Elections, but McDonnell advisors say it was delivered last week. The contest between Herrity and Supervisor Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock), the Democratic nominee, has become a crucial grudge match between Virginia Republicans and Democrats. A Herrity win would be an embarrassing setback for Virginia Democrats as they prepare for this year's races for governor and the House of Delegates. McDonnell, the GOP nominee for governor, has little to lose by taking an active role in Herrity's race. Considering the Democratic tilt of Fairfax County, the pressure is on Virginia Democrats to pull out a victory for Bulova. But if Herrity pulls out a surprise win, McDonnell can take part of the credit....

By Tim Craig  |  February 2, 2009; 2:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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McAuliffe Airs Ad During Super Bowl

Terry McAuliffe, a Democratic candidate for governor, aired a campaign commercial in Hampton Roads during the Super Bowl, according to a GOP strategist who saw the ad. The 30-second ad aired on Norfolk's NBC affiliate at 9:07 p.m. just after the conclusion of the 3rd Quarter. A McAuliffe spokesman confirmed the ad buy, but was unable to say how much it cost to purchase the airtime. McAuliffe began airing television ads in Hampton Roads last week, which is believed to be the earliest that any statewide candidate in Virginia has ever launched a paid media campaign. McAuliffe now also probably becomes the first statewide candidate to ever air a campaign commercial during the Super Bowl. Last year, President Obama made news when he aired a commerical in some markets during the Super Bowl, which occurred a few days before Super Tuesday. In McAuliffe's case, he is advertising for a Democratic...

By Tim Craig  |  February 1, 2009; 9:54 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Terry McAuliffe , Tim Craig  
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