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UPDATE: House Call: Hamilton's Seat Gets Hotter

Amy Gardner

Republican Del. Phillip A. Hamilton of Newport News has a little more explaining to do this week regarding the paid job he took with Old Dominion University after helping the school score a half-million-dollar state appropriation for a teacher training program.

According to reports in today's Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot, Hamilton actively sought the position before securing the state funding for ODU
as the House Appropriations Committee's ranking Republican.

The emails Hamilton sent to ODU officials seeking a post with the training center he was helping don't do him much good. They'll sting even more if (when?) Democrat Robin Abbott starts quoting them in radio and TV ads.

To then-ODU president Roseann Runte: "...when we talked about the Center last August, I expressed an interest in being associated with the initiative from a professional perspective."


To Dave Blackburn, the training program's director: "Currently, my part-time salary with [Newport News Public Schools] is around $37,000. I need at least that amount from the ODU Foundation to have a part-time salary of $75,000 per year. Of course, more than that is always appreciated."

Double ouch.

As the Daily Press's Hugh Lessig and Kimball Payne and the Pilot's Bill Sizemore report, Hamilton has resigned his position with ODU -- exactly the kind of development that could help Abbott turn the story into an election issue with traction. She'll probably be clamoring for a legal investigation, too; Virginia's conflict of interest law prohibits lawmakers from accepting money in exchange for legislative favors.

Hamilton was not immediately available to comment on the story, but Republican House Speaker William J. Howell offered another perspective: That Hamilton did the right thing in stepping down, and that he is too valuable to his community as a senior appropriator for voters to turn away from him now.

UPDATE: Hamilton issued a statement on the matter, including these remarks: "I apologize to everyone who had the same expectation for me - my family, my friends, my legislative and campaign staff, those who have stepped forward to publicly and financially support my campaign, the citizens that I was elected to represent, my legislative colleagues and legislative staff, and those that have questioned me about this situation. There is no one to blame for this circumstance but me, and I accept full responsibility for it."

Click here for Hamilton's complete remarks. And click here to read the letter Hamilton sent to current ODU President John R. Broderick.

Hamilton has been safe and unchallenged for most of his two decades representing the 93rd District. And he has collected some powerful endorsements in Newport News, including that of Democratic Mayor Joe Frank and Alan Diamonstein, the longtime Democratic delegate and powerbroker, as well as numerous long-time business leaders.

Hamilton's district, which includes a sliver of James City County, has trended more Democratic in recent elections. If the local business community's support for Hamilton begins to waver, that could spell trouble for him and the GOP.

"Sometimes an issue becomes too hot to handle," Said Del. Ken Plum of Reston, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "Is this one of those times? We'll find out in the next couple of days."

Republicans, of course, say there is no sign of that happening, even with this morning's revelations.

"This is obviously more than a distraction, but Phil is a fighter," Howell said. "He's not a quitter. He did the right thing resigning his position and he did the right thing not denying his role in this. And I think in the long run the people of Newport News are going to say, 'Do we want to continue to be represented by this man who has represented us for 21 years, or are we going to roll the dice? I think the answer is very clear."

By Amy Gardner  |  August 21, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner , Election 2009 , General Assembly 2009  
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This is a prime example of why most citizens do not trust government anymore. It seems that every politician has his hand out for a payoff, much more often than ever and what is really sad, is that they are getting paid off! I have known and respcted Del. Phil Hamilton for years, but this is just too much to excuse! I will never trust him again and will in fact work and vote to oust him for the House in this next election.

Phil, just what were you thinking? Will it hurt lossing your ill-gotten gains? When you look yourself in the mirror, how can you say you are not just a little higher up the ladder than a common thief? Rather than the use of a gun to steal, you used our trust to pad your own personal wallet and that is worse. The slim on this is just more than should be tollerated, even for our political elites and you should just resign your House seat and go home in shame!

Signed, "Not a friend of Phil any longer......"

Posted by: FlyBoy2 | August 21, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

12 Newport News schools miss student achievement targets, the same number as 2008. All Poquoson schools, 15 of 19 in York and 7 of 9 Isle of Wight made the AYP. Wow, I hope that Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership’s $500,000 per year grant minus Phil’s $40,000 per year starts helping soon. I was expecting much better results for two reasons 1) I just read “Kudos for Hamilton” in this paper, it went something like this:
Phil has been a great servant … continues to serve our local schools… There are few people in this country that could rival Hamilton's knowledge of education… and he knows how to apply educational goals in the real world. There is no doubt that Phil is highly qualified, if not the best candidate in the commonwealth, to work with ODU's center.
and 2) the Centers Mission Statement: The Center will assist at-risk schools and school districts to create evidence-based cultures that meet the educational needs of all children and their general well-being supported by coherent district organizations. Additionally, the Center serves as an incubator, catalyst, mirror, and training ground for this field.
How could our school not make the grade? Are we it trouble here or does it takes more than two years to start helping? Is this really the best? Please, what am I missing here?
“A long habit of NOT thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT” Thomas Paine

Posted by: capnmax | August 22, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

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