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Political Memo: Cooch & Connolly - the Next Great TV Detective Series?

As uprisings go, this one had no scythes or pitchforks.

But a recent movement spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D) to persuade his party's leaders to roll back a tax provision in the healthcare overhaul may have been all the more effective without them.

Connolly, as head of the Democratic Party's freshmen class of congressmen, enlisted the support of 22 other members (including one non-freshman) to persuade House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reconsider the cutoff for a surtax on wealthy households to help pay for the healthcare makeover.

The upstarts, many of whom were Democrats representing prosperous suburbs, also boarded a bus to the White House to plead their case with the president and his staff, attracting the notice of The Wall Street Journal, CBS, CNN and other national media outlets.

"It was not really an insurrection," Connolly demurred. "I wouldn't characterize it as an insurrection because the Speaker was really supportive to us. The next time around the thresholds were higher."

The surtax initially would have hit individuals making $180,000 a year and families making $250,000, according to Connolly's office. That's wealthy almost anywhere in the country but Fairfax County, where about 14 percent of the people his district would have been slapped with the tax, Connolly said. Many of them are two-income earners or small business owners who file income taxes as inviduals.

Now, however, as three major healthcare bills wend their way through the House, the thresholds have been boosted a bit higher. The bill that includes the tax raised the ceiling to $250,000 and $350,000, and the House leadership is considering moving it even higher, to $500,000 and $1 million.

Connolly said the upward move will spare families who, at least on paper, might have seemed wealthy.

"These aren't movie moguls in Beverly Hills," Connolly said.

On almost any given weekend in Virginia, free enterprise and firearms come together in a gun show somewhere.

So does politics.

At a huge gun show in Chantilly last month, stacks of stickers for former Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, who is runnng for governor, and other Republican candidates lay on a table just inside the door. Hanging on a wall at the Dulles Expo Center was also a huge banner for state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, a Fairfax Republican running for Attorney General. Cuccinelli also dined that night with the show's promoters, Steve and Annette Elliott, of C&E Gun Shows.

Nowhere in evidence were any stickers, banners, buttons or other paraphernalia for state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, Del. Steve Shannon, who is running for Attorney General, or other Democratic candidates.

But the question is, whose support will prove more powerful at the ballot box this fall: the crowd pouring through the door at one of the state's largest gun shows who believe gun rights come first, or the people who believe more gun controls will make Virginia a safer state?

Cuccinelli, in an interview, said his presence at gun shows is an attempt to push for turnout among a group of people who agree with his longstanding support of gun rights.
"My positions are what they are," Cuccinelli said. "There are people in my district who don't appreciate those positions. At the same time, I am protective of the Constitution as it's written."

Mike Henry, Shannon's campaign manager, said the candidate planned to compete vigorously for the votes of hunters, fishermen and people who support gun rights. But that doesn't mean Shannon would back away from his pledge to close the gun show loophole.

"Steve Shannon supports that, at gun shows, everybody gets a background check," Henry said. "In Virginia, Democrats have a history of reaching out to people who hunt."

And a good number of those folks to go events such as the July exhibition at the Dulles Expo Center. A line of at least 100 people long waited for the doors to open at 9 a.m. to the Nation's Gun Show, a joyful bazaar whose underlying theme is--depending on your point of view--either extreme prudence or paranoia.

Some wore camouflage. A few appeared to be Goth devotees, with an array of body piercings and brightly colored tattoos, while others sported jarhead crewcuts that suggested they might be Marines on leave. There were a number of women, some black couples, and families of recent immigrants. But a glance at the crowd suggested more that a back office had emptied its cubicles for a weekend at the beach.

Most were white middle-aged guys in khaki shorts, knit shirts and loafers without socks. Except for the firearms they were toting, the entire crowd seemed to be from Suburbia, USA.

It also seemed clear that these were the GOP's people. Buying a membership in the National Rifle Association bought admission to the show, an NRA cap, and some other swag. The NRA was also registering voters, while radio station 630 WMAL, whose stable of talkers includes Rush Limbaugh, sent around a promotional crew.

And that was just fine with Elliott, who said he was so annoyed by Deeds' decision to close the so-called gunshow loophole, that Elliott no longer supported the Bath County native, despite Deeds' long record of standing up for gun rights.

"There won't be any Creigh Deeds stickers at our shows because I won't allow them," Elliott said. "Why should I support someone who's trying to put me out of business?"

By Anne Bartlett  |  August 20, 2009; 2:46 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Attorney General's Race , 2009 Governor's Race , Fredrick Kunkle  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Virginia Notebook: Obama, Kaine and Deeds
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