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First Click - Virginia

Amy Gardner

Monday, Aug. 24, 2009

Greetings Earthlings, and Happy Monday! Here's what's happening in the ever-exciting world of Virginia politics today.

Gubernatorial hopefuls R. Creigh Deeds and Robert F. McDonnell continue their breakneck, pre-Labor Day campaign pace this week. McDonnell will hammer home his message that it's all about jobs with his ongoing RV tour of Deeds Country, I mean rural Virginia. And Deeds, on the air in his first TV ad campaign of the season, will seek to turn the momentum around in a race where he is trailing in polls and where his fortunes seem tied to a souring national mood for Democrats.

Deeds remains in his home turf of Charlottesville today for a visit to a small business selling only made-in-Virginia products, where he will tout his plan to boost, you guessed it, small businesses. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Deeds travels on to Northern Virginia for events still being mapped out by the campaign. McDonnell makes stops today in tiny Hurley, Oakwood and Marion. For inquiring minds, that's Buchanan (buck-AN-in) and Smyth counties in the far southwest of Virginia.

In the news over the weekend, The Washington Post's Anita Kumar explored how much is riding on Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in this year's gubernatorial race, i.e., what a disaster it would be for Kaine and President Obama if Deeds lost. And for those who were in media blackout mode on Saturday, here's Roz Helderman's take on Deeds's big Northern Virginia speech Friday, in which he slammed McDonnell and presented himself as a bipartisan heir to Kaine and his predecessor, Mark R. Warner. Here's the Virginian-Pilot's take on Deeds' effort to turn his campaign around. And the Richmond Times-Dispatch's take on the Deeds speech is here.

In Richmond, more bad news is out regarding the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, the beleaguered public-private partnership that handles virtually all of state government's technology support work and is under scrutiny for poor management and cost overruns. In case no one noticed, the halls of the General Assembly were crawling during the special session last Wednesday with lobbyists (I counted five) for Northrup Grumman, the company that holds the $2.3 billion contract. Now, word is out that the agency has been running over budget for the past three years, largely because there are a bunch of support services not covered by the contract that the agency has been performing, for an extra fee for Northrup Grumman, for various state offices. VITA ought to become a campaign issue soon.

In Hampton Roads, Republican Del. Phillip A. Hamilton of Newport News continued to keep his head above water (barely) after revelations last week that he actively sought a job with a new teacher training center at Old Dominion University for which he secured state funding as a powerful member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Del. Steve Shannon of Fairfax County, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, called on Hamilton to resign from the legislature. Shannon's Republican opponent, state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, weighed in too with a comment about wishing the events had unfolded differently. But like other Republicans who said they were disappointed with Hamilton, Cuccinelli stopped short of a call for Hamilton's ouster. Hamilton said he considered resigning but decided against it, and he spent the weekend knocking on doors, apologizing and otherwise battened down in the interest of weathering the darkest storm of his 21-year career in the House.

And speaking of VITA and Hamilton and message and the legislature, I'll leave you with a very interesting take on it all from Bob Holsworth this morning, in which he posits that Democrats have an opportunity to frame the elections this year -- both statewide and in House contests -- around ethics in government and what that's meant under Republican control. Don't expect the GOP to hand over the ethics issue. It was under Warner's watch, after all, that VITA was formed.

Until tomorrow.

By Amy Gardner  |  August 24, 2009; 7:45 AM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner , Election 2009  
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