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Virginia Politics Blog: December 13, 2009 - December 19, 2009

Ethics investigation into Moran closes

The Office of Congressional Ethics has told U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) and at least two other House members that its investigation of their relationships with the now-defunct lobbying firm PMA has been closed, and that it has recommended to the House ethics committee that it take no further action in its own probe. The board of the ethics office voted 6 to 0 to recommend dismissing allegations against Moran, including a charge that he "solicited or accepted contributions or other items of value in a manner which gave the appearance that the contributions were linked to an official act." It is not known how the board voted regarding Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) or Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), the other two House members who received similar letters today. The ethics committee publicly confirmed in June that it was also doing a PMA investigation, and the Justice Department has conducted...

By Amy Gardner  |  December 18, 2009; 5:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Amy Gardner , James P. Moran Jr.  
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Coming snowstorm brings back memories of '03

For many Northern Virginia residents, news of this weekend's fast-approaching winter weather brought back memories of the blizzard of 2003, the last big snowstorm to hit the region. For public works departments across the District, Maryland and Virginia, those memories aren't so great. Unlike Boston, Philadelphia and New York, the Washington area had a rough go of it over Presidents Day weekend nearly seven years ago. At points, snow fell at a rate of about an inch per hour and ice blanketed the region, snarling traffic, delaying Metrorail trains and commuter buses and leaving many residential neighborhoods snowbound. Some residents took the extraordinary step of shoveling snow off public roads. Days later, the snow gave way to flooding. In Alexandria, the sewer system backed up, causing street and basement flooding. In the Del Ray area of the city, manhole covers could be seen floating above the street. In Leesburg, the...

By Derek Kravitz  |  December 18, 2009; 3:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Derek Kravitz  
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In Fairfax, not 'letting a crisis go to waste'

Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D) taped the annual State of the County address on Thursday, telling residents that despite the county's expected $316 million budget shortfall, officials would not be "letting a crisis go to waste." While noting that revenue from personal and commercial property taxes has fallen 10 percent so far this year, a loss of about $244 million, Bulova said there were encouraging economic signs in the county. She noted Fairfax's comparatively low 4.7 percent unemployment rate and ongoing transportation construction projects, including Metrorail's Silver Line, the Beltway HOT lanes project, the Telegraph Road interchange and improvements to I-95 and the Fairfax County Parkway. County officials are also in the midst of developing revitalization plans for Tysons Corner, the Springfield Mall, the Mosaic at Merrifield and the Reston/Herndon area. The old Lorton Prison site and the Richmond Highway corridor are also under redevelopment and...

By Derek Kravitz  |  December 18, 2009; 3:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Fairfax County Board of Supervisors  
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Gilmore no fan of Kaine's car tax ax

Gov. James S. "Jim" Gilmore (R), who was elected in 1997 with a pledge to eliminate the car tax and helped design the state's system of reimbursing local governments for tax relief, on Friday blasted Kaine's proposal to do away with the tax and replace it with an income tax surchage. "It's a slight of hand," Gilmore said. "You can disguise it in all kinds of ways, but it's still a tax increase from people. It takes away money from their household budget. "He's proposing to raise taxes and give that money back to localties, and keep the billion for the car tax relief and spend it," he said. "This is no time to raise taxes on the people of Virginia. People are hurting." Gilmore also thinks putting forward a proposal sure to be rejected by Kaine's successor and Republicans in the legislature will mar his legacy. "I think he...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 18, 2009; 2:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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McDonnell opposes Kaine's proposed tax hike

In a diplomatic statement, Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell said he respects many of the proposals Gov. Tim Kaine outlined in the two-year state budget unveiled this morning. But, as we predicted, McDonnell did say that he opposes Kaine's idea to eliminate the car tax and instead raise the income tax. "It is bad economic policy to increase taxes on Virginians, especially as they continue to struggle with the worst economy in generations,'' he wrote. "Families and businesses are making strategic reforms and deep cuts, and government must do the same. We must be looking for every means by which we can attract businesses and entrepreneurs to the Commonwealth. Capital is mobile and I do not support any measures that could dissuade investment in Virginia, or put the state at a competitive disadvantage with our neighbors." Read the full statement below:...

By Anita Kumar  |  December 18, 2009; 2:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , Timothy M. Kaine  
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Not a lot of cheers for Kaine's budget proposal

We're up with our first take on Gov. Tim Kaine's budget proposal, which will be expanded and enlarged as the day goes on. In the meantime, reactions are starting to come to the proposal, and they are not terribly pretty. Neither Kaine's cuts nor his proposals to raise revenue are going to be popular. For instance, the Virginia Governmental Employees Association says in a statement that between a continued salary freeze, new employee contributions to pensions and hundreds of additional layoffs, Kaine's proposal is a "gut shot" to state employees. "We are severing the limbs of the nation's best managed state government," it says. Republicans are rejecting Kaine's proposal outright. But Democrats, too, seem hardly thrilled. Sen. J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen (D-Fairfax) wrote on his blog that there is no way he would vote for the proposal, noting he would hit lower income people as well as higher income folks....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 18, 2009; 12:42 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman , Timothy M. Kaine  
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Kaine proposes to end car tax, raising income tax

BREAKING: Gov. Tim Kaine proposes ending the full $950 million in reimbursements paid to local governments for car tax relief, reopening a decade long political dispute and causing an immediate rift with incoming Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). Kaine calls the relief a "$950 million folly" and proposes allowing local governments a 1 percent income tax surcharge for local governments in exchange for totally eliminating the local car tax instead. More details to come....

By Anita Kumar  |  December 18, 2009; 10:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Timothy M. Kaine  
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UPDATE: Webb under fire on health care

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is getting banged up by Republicans over what they expect is his impending vote for a Senate version of health reform. Webb hasn't even voted yet, but already he's being accused of flip-flopping in a video and in media interviews by state and national Republicans. Their evidence? Like many centrist Democrats, Webb has supported the idea of reform while expressing reservations about whether the bill will do what it's supposed to, notably reduce costs and expand coverage. Yet Webb's name is not mentioned in national reports about those Democrats who are not yet ready to end debate on the bill. That step requires 60 votes, while final passage requires only a simple majority....

By Amy Gardner  |  December 17, 2009; 9:41 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Amy Gardner , James Webb  
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Kaine to propose raising taxes, cutting services

All the talk on Capitol Square today was about the two-year budget Gov. Tim Kaine will unveil tomorrow morning in front of the General Assembly's money committees. Kaine's office was expected to brief House and Senate staffers this afternoon but we were told that meeting was abruptly canceled. Kaine did brief Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell behind closed doors at the Patrick Henry Building, but the usually tight-lipped McDonnell crowd revealed nothing to us. Many legislators (we're assuming mostly Democrats) have spent the last couple weeks talking to Kaine about their priorities for the next couple years, but most contacted today had not seen the final budget language. Sen. Charles Colgan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Senate Democrats expect to be briefed tomorrow before the 9:30 a.m. meeting. Here's what we do know: Kaine's budget will include tax increases as well as an unspecified number of layoffs and deep cuts...

By Anita Kumar  |  December 17, 2009; 7:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , Timothy M. Kaine  
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House approves $300M for Virginia and Maryland for BRAC

About $300 million seems to be on its way to military bases in Maryland and Virginia as part of the complex and costly movement of Defense Department jobs around the Washington region. The House passed the Defense Appropriations Bill on Wednesday, which includes $300 million to be split between the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia. "Without this money we would have had complete chaos when nearly 20,000 more people tried to get to Fort Belvoir as a result of BRAC relocations," said U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.). The Senate is expected to approve the bill in the coming days before it is forwarded to President Obama. The reorganization is the result of the Pentagon's 2005 base realignment and closure plan (BRAC), an effort to streamline defense resources across the country and upgrade them to new security standards. Local...

By Derek Kravitz  |  December 17, 2009; 5:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Derek Kravitz , James P. Moran Jr.  
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McDonnell inauguration begins to take shape

Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell's office began announcing details about his inauguration today at his new Website here. Events include black tie inaugural balls in Abingdon and Hampton Roads, a prayer breakfast, parade, the first lady's luncheon and, of course, the swearing-in. The inauguration will take place Jan. 16 in Richmond on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol. (Workers have been preparing the Capitol for the event for days). Check out the full list of events (so far) and how to get tickets here....

By Anita Kumar  |  December 17, 2009; 4:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Anita Kumar , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Where are the Va. Democrats on health care reform?

This morning, Republican leaders, including House Speaker Bill Howell, sent a letter to Virginia's Democratic senators urging them to oppose the U.S. Senate's health care bill. In recent weeks, we have seen other Republican leaders in Virginia, including former governor and senator George Allen, weigh in on health care as well. While we have heard from left-leaning groups on healthcare and other federal issues, we haven't heard a lot from Democratic elected officials in Virginia lately. Where's House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong? And Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw? (Palm Beach, apparently.) One reason Democrats may be so quiet these days is that they're still reeling from their enormous setbacks last month when they lost all three statewide races and half a dozen seats in the House of Delegates. But the more likely reason is that healthcare is just one of the many touchy issues for Virginia Democrats, who want to...

By Anita Kumar  |  December 17, 2009; 3:11 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , James Webb , Mark Warner  
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An Allen comeback, of a kind

Redskins fans probably have all kinds of thoughts related to football about the news that the team is replacing Executive Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato with former Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen. But on this blog, we are interested in this news mostly because it means the return of an Allen to Washington area football. After all, Bruce Allen is the son of legendary Redskins coach George Allen. Which means, of course, he is brother to former governor and U.S. senator George Allen. If George Allen were interested in a return to elected office, his brother could do him a world of good by improving the performance of the Washington Redskins. Northern Virginians feel that strongly about the team. On the other hand, if the team continues to lag ......

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 17, 2009; 2:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  George F. Allen , Rosalind Helderman  
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The best and worst campaigns of 2009

Our collegue Chris Cillizza over at The Fix has named the best and worst campaigns of 2009 and wouldn't you know it? The best and worst were right here in Virginia. Republican Bob McDonnell ran the best campaign and Democrat Creigh Deeds ran the worst campaign, according to Cillizza. Check out his analysis of the winning campaign and the losing one....

By Anita Kumar  |  December 17, 2009; 12:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Anita Kumar , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Some Tough Votes for Dems on the Hill

Vulnerable Democrats, four of them from Virginia, took some tough votes Wednesday on Capitol Hill: one to increase the federal debt limit by $290 billion, and another to spend $75 billion in surplus bailout funds to stimulate job growth. U.S. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) of Northern Virginia's 11th District continued to stake out a position of fiscal caution by voting against the jobs bill. Connolly said it makes no sense to appropriate more money when stimulus funds are still being spent and are finally starting to make a difference. And although the bill contains some appealing details particularly for regions hard hit by unemployment (such as $23 billion for states to hire teachers, police officers and firefighters), Connolly objected to spending bailout money without first committing much of it to deficit reduction. "The stimulus is working," Connolly said. "Let's give it a chance to work." Rep. Glenn C. Nye...

By Amy Gardner  |  December 17, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Amy Gardner , Election 2010 , Gerald E. Connolly , Glenn Nye , Tom Perriello  
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Cuccinelli unlikely to hire before New Year's

Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell has been making public appearances and announcing hires for his office in recent weeks. The transition period has been quieter for Attorney Gen.-elect Ken Cuccinelli. The Fairfax senator said today that he's been reviewing staff and thinking about whom to hire for his new office but that he was unlikely to make any staff selections until after Jan. 1....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 16, 2009; 4:44 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Virginia to cut General Assembly expenses, Howell boasts

Virginia will soon rank 46th among all 50 states in per capita spending on its legislature, down from 40th in the country in 2003. That's according to a release from House Speaker Bill Howell's today, touting new spending cuts at the General Assembly. The cuts result in $1 million in new savings on top of $1.1 million in cuts to legislative expenses adopted earlier this year....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 16, 2009; 2:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman , Timothy M. Kaine  
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Recession may have dampened but did not halt lobbying expenses

Spending by Virginia lobbyists dropped by 25 percent this year from last, according to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-partisan tracker of money in politics. According VPAP, lobbying expenses reported on financial financial disclosure forms covering the period from May 2008 through April 2009, show lobbying expenses dropped to $14.95 million from $19.84 million in 2007-2008. But the reason for the drop is not entirely clear. Surely, the recession played a role, limiting the amount lobbyists could spending wining and dining and wooing Virginia lawmakers on behalf of their clients. Entertainment expenses by lobbyists dropped from $1.13 million to $793,000....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 16, 2009; 2:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  General Assembly 2009 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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McDonnell still mulling options on release of schedule

As Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Commerce Secretary appointee Bob Sledd travel to Martinsville and Danville today, a release indicated that either McDonnell or Bolling plan to visit the economically-depressed Southside region of the state at least every 30 days. The promise is a smart way to demonstrate that the new administration is focused on the problems of that part of the state. It also has got us thinking about the new governor's schedule. After all, McDonnell has pledged to release his full schedule after he takes office, including his political activities -- which would make his promise on Southside easy for reporters and local residents to track....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 16, 2009; 11:28 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Bill Bolling , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , Timothy M. Kaine  
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Herrity still undecided on Congressional bid

So what side of the bed did Fairfax County Supervisor Pat S. Herrity wake up on this morning? It matters because Herrity (R-Springfield) is still seriously considering throwing his hat into a race to unseat first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly in Northern Virginia's 11th Congressional District, as calls from the region's Republican Party faithful for him to enter the contest intensify. And it appears Herrity's morning routine is playing a part in the still-undecided supervisor's decision. A few weeks ago, Herrity told a Washington Post reporter that on that particular day he was "leaning against" running. On Tuesday, he said things might be different and that it all "depended on how he felt on that day, on which side of the bed I wake up on." A run by Herrity, 49, a Springfield accountant who followed in his father's footsteps in 2007 and was elected a Fairfax supervisor,...

By Derek Kravitz  |  December 16, 2009; 8:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Fairfax County Board of Supervisors  
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Alexandria store serves as backdrop for Obama round table

Your Browser DoesNot Support IFrames. With winter nearly here, President Obama traveled to a Home Depot in Alexandria this morning to tout his proposal that Congress set up incentives for consumers who retrofit their homes to save energy and reduce utility bills. Obama also promoted the nearly $8 billion in stimulus funds already targeted for such efforts, which are intended to boost hiring in construction and manufacturing - sectors hit hard by the recession - while saving families money and reducing carbon emissions. His plans to expand the program are part of a larger proposal unveiled earlier this month to address unemployment in a variety of ways, including easing credit and implementing tax cuts. At the warehouse store in Alexandria, Obama held a roundtable discussion with a small group representing labor and manufacturers and installers of energy efficient material. He said devoting public dollars to retrofitting is an example of...

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  December 15, 2009; 1:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Amy Gardner , Barack Obama , Gerald E. Connolly , James P. Moran Jr. , Mark Warner  
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Former Sen. Allen weighs in: No to "Obama-Pelosi" health care

If Democrats in the Senate drop the Medicare buy-in idea from their health care bill, will they get Republican support for the rest of a bill that includes no public health care option? Unlikely, if former Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen's views on the issue on representative of his party. In a conference call with reporters today organized by the Republican Party of Virginia, Allen blasted the "Obama-Pelosi" health care initiative an expensive experiment that Virginians don't want....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 15, 2009; 12:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  George F. Allen , James Webb , Rosalind Helderman  
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McDonnell, loyal son, marches onward to victory

Appearing on the radio show SportsPhone with Big Al on Richmond's ESPN 950 this morning, Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell broke a cardinal rule of elected office: Never let them hear you sing. Instead, McDonnell was quite willing to sing along to the Notre Dame fight song. McDonnell was on the radio show to discuss the hiring of a new head coach by his beloved Fighting Irish football team. He also talked about a variety of other sports topics, including the possibility of an all-Virginia basketball tournament hosted at the Coliseum in Richmond. McDonnell was way into the idea, suggesting the tourney could be called the Governor's Classic. You can hear full audio of the second hour of SportsPhone below; the McDonnell interview came toward the end....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 15, 2009; 12:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Judge certifies Villanueva win in Virginia Beach

The final House of Delegates campaign formally concluded today, as a Virginia Beach judge signed an order certifying the results of a recount between Ron Villanueva and Del. Bobby Mathieson. After a recount, Villanueva defeated Mathieson by a razor-thin 16 votes out of 15,365 cast. In a statement, Mathieson said he called Villanueva today to formally concede the race and congratulate him on the win. "I asked for this recount to ensure that every single legally cast ballot got counted fairly in an open and transparent manner. The electoral process has now played itself out, and we now know who won the most votes in this critical race to serve the public," Mathieson said in a statement. "This process has shown the importance of getting actively involved in our democracy and has demonstrated just how much every single vote counts."...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 14, 2009; 5:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Election 2009 , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman  
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Auditors details troubles at state IT agency

Northrop-Grumman is likely to miss another deadline for overhauling Virginia's computer network, reported the state's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission this morning. JLARC said continued contractual disputes between the massive Los Angeles-based defense company and state agencies would probably result in the company missing a July 2010 deadline to complete its work. That deadline already represented a yearlong extension for the company. The JLARC study was the result of a two-year-long review of the $2.3 billion computer outsourcing contract awarded to Northrop-Grumman, the largest contract in Virginia history. Today's conclusions and recommendations expanded on those contained in a draft version of the report released in October....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 14, 2009; 3:39 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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McDonnell to discuss transition -- Notre Dame's

Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell will take a break from planning his own transition to office to discuss another transition near and dear to his heart: Notre Dame's hiring of a new football coach. McDonnell, who is a Notre Dame alum and an avid fan of the school's football team, will be on the air Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. on ESPN 950 in Richmond, on Sports Phone with Big Al, to discuss the hire. McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said McDonnell supports Notre Dame's decision to bring on University of Cincinnatti coach Brian Kelly as the Fighting Irish's new head coach. McDonnell actually joked with reporters last week before the announcement was made that he was a fan of Kelly's. Martin said McDonnell won't require any prep time for his appearance on the radio call-in show. "He needs no briefing to discuss Notre Dame football," he said....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 14, 2009; 1:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Dems on McDonnell advisers list: I'm doing what now?

Some Democrats are saying they found out they'd been asked to serve as advisers to Republican Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell in a fairly unconventional way: This very blog. Del. David Englin (D) said he was surprised to see his name included as a member of a committee advising McDonnell on natural resources on a list posted to the blog last week. He tweeted his reaction to his inclusion, prompting Del. Ken Plum (D) to check out the blog as well. And lo and behold, Plum said he discovered he too is advising McDonnell, on transportation. Other Democrats said they knew their names had been put forward by House Minority Leader Del. Ward Armstrong as being willing to serve on transition committees. But they had not been formally given their assignments or asked to take part in any meetings or conference calls before the list circulated publicly last week....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 14, 2009; 12:53 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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