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Armstrong Skips JJ Dinner

Anita Kumar

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.

Even though they complained about the bill, the majority of Democrats, including Armstrong, voted to send the bill to the Senate, mindful of how that vote might look come Election Day. The Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to kill the bill.

The House has spent several weeks bickering about whether legislators and statewide elected officials should be allowed to attend events, such as tonight's JJ Dinner, in which money is raised during the session.

Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairax) attended the dinner, as did dozens of delegates and senators and Armstrong's wife, Pam. But the state Democratic party, which organized the event, did not have each legislator appear on stage and be introduced as they have done in past years.

Under Virginia law, state office holders and the members of the General Assembly are barred from raising money during the regularly scheduled legislative session. Democrats argue that attendance at the JJ Dinner is allowed because they aree raising money for the party, not themselves.

Democrats, led by Armstrong, will try to win six seats in this November's House elections.

"We are six seats away from making Ward Armstrong the speaker of the House," Sen. Mark W. Warner (D) said in his speech.

By Anita Kumar  |  February 7, 2009; 8:49 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar  
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