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VaTech Families Target Albo

Sandhya Somashekhar

Relatives of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre have been among the most vocal proponents of a change to state law that would close the state's so-called gun show "loophole," which permits private gun show vendors to sell to customers without first conducting a background check.

Now, some of those same family members are campaigning against a member of the House of Delegates whom they say betrayed them in that fight: Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax).

Funny thing is, Albo says he agrees with the familes that the law should be changed and even voted that way as chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission. But some of the Tech families believe Albo is paying lip service to his more liberal Northern Virginia constituents while obstructing the families' efforts behind the scenes to appease pro-gun Republicans.

Here's their beef: In January, Albo delayed a vote by the crime commission that would have recommended to the state legislature that the law be changed. The delay allowed Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott), an opponent of the legislation who was running late, to participate in a vote that deadlocked the panel. (More on that meeting here.)

So while Albo voted yes, his actions imply that he wanted the effort to fail, they say. Their suspicions were confirmed, they said, when Albo later told them to "just forget it" after they asked for further assistance.

Their outrage intensified this fall when Albo objected to his opponent, Democrat Greg Werkheiser, featuring Lori Haas in a mailer. By enlisting Haas, whose daughter Emily was injured in the shooting, Albo said Werkheiser was essentially exploiting the Tech tragedy for political gain. But in an open letter to Albo Tuesday, five family members including Haas countered that, "If anyone is guilty of exploiting the tragedy -- a tragedy that all of us live with every day -- it is you."

"Earlier this year, Greg Werkheiser helped Lori Haas share, in her own words, how you treated her and your record on the issue," they wrote. "It is clear to us that despite your pledge to support us, you never intended to follow through. It was all a fa├žade and clearly a political maneuver to obtain more votes this fall. Your recent mailer reinforced our belief when, like a typical politician, you used Lori's words against your opponent."

Albo said he is puzzled by the actions of the family members. "Usually I get people against me when I vote against their bill," he said. "This is a new one."

[By way of clarification, this bill has never gotten out of committee in the House over the years, and Albo has never had a chance to vote on it on the floor. The vote he is referring to was as part of the crime commission.]

Albo today said it is routine to delay a vote to wait for tardy members of the crime commission. And he said the "forget it" remark was simply a statement of fact about the bill's prospects this year. "If you can't get it out of the Democrat-controlled senate, you're not going to be able to get it passed this year," he elaborated.

"I'm really confused as to why this is all about me," he said. "I bent over backwards to give them their day. [Republican Del.] Rob Bell and I rewrote the entire mental health commitment laws. I am the sponsor and author of the bill that closed the [mental health] loophole that Cho actually used to get the guns. And I voted to close the gun show loophole exactly as they wanted, so I'm just confused about the animus."

He speculated that the family members might be campaigning against him in the hopes that a Democratic House of Delegates would be more favorable toward their legislation.

Haas acknowledged that she would like to see the Democrats take control of the House. "I would be happy to see a House of Delegates that would support gun safety, and I think our best shot is a Democratic-controlled House of Delegates," she said. But she said her problem with Albo goes deeper than that. "Del. Albo's actions belied his words," she said. "To our faces he said, 'Oh I want to close the gun show loophole.' His action was totally opposite."

By Sandhya Somashekhar  |  October 14, 2009; 4:42 PM ET
Categories:  Election 2009 , Sandhya Somashekhar  
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It's shameful that Greg Werkheiser is trying to use the tragedy as a political stepping stone.

Posted by: VABlogger | October 14, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I think it's appropriate to review how Delegate Albo has acted as a public servant. These families have a strong view of specific past incidents in which he played a part as an elected official and are sharing it. I can't imagine suggesting they should politely stay out of the race. Politics is supposed to include examining and responding to the candidates' public records or else it is a pointless exercise.

I'm baffled that Delegate Albo's position as the leading advocate for the draconian and Virginia-only abusive driver fees is not the main part of his record that's under attack, but just for the record, obviously that's fair game too.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | October 14, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Albo talks a good game when he's back home in Springfield trying to con his constituents, but he's completely enslaved to the downstate party bosses when he heads to Richmond.

His rude dismissal of a mourning constituent doesn't surprise me either.

Posted by: LortonJoe | October 14, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I don't see why people are targeting Dave for this. This is obviously just another false accusation against Dave from Werkheiser. I'm pretty sure Dave was the one who re-wrote the Mental Health Laws (which were the ones that actually relate to the VA Tech Shooting) and even closed the Mental Health Loophole. After reviewing the minutes of the Crime Commission, you can see that Dave voted to close the Gun Show Loophole (which was not correlated to the VA Tech Shooting). In fact, you can see the only person who did not vote to close the loophole, but to keep it, was a Werkheiser supporter, Democrat Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. Hmm.....

Posted by: mstockh1 | October 14, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

All of you "bloggers" and commenters and your partisan attacks are way over my head. I can't keep up with the back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans on this website.

All I know is that Dave Albo disrespected the victims of one of the most heinous crimes in Virginia history.

I don't understand the politics of this issue. I'm not a political pundit. Can somebody tell me why is it so hard to keep guns out of the hands of criminals? Why do politicians like Dave Albo keep defending mass murderers?

I don't get it. I just don't get it.

Posted by: LauraMosely | October 14, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

For years Dave Albo's actions have been geared around enhancing his status with the downstate Republicans so that he can be a leader in the Republican party and Chair the Crime Commission and Courts and Justice Committee. He constantly votes that way and, as such, is representing the rest of the state at the expense of his consitutents.

Posted by: Chris_inMountVernon | October 15, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

I can make it real simple. Albo wrote the bill to close the loophole that the Va Tech killer used to get his guns. So this who thing is just an orchestrated attack by the Democrats Party to try and defeat Albo so that can gain the majority.

Posted by: cmfmhs | October 20, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

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