UPDATE: House Call: Hamilton's Seat Gets Hotter
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."
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."
August 21, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
Categories: Amy Gardner , Election 2009 , General Assembly 2009
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