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Updated: Members of black caucus want more communication from governor, but not necessarily a meeting

Anita Kumar

Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, in town for the legislature's one-day reconvened session today, said Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) needs to do a better job of reaching out to them before he makes decisions on important issues.

"It would be nice if the governor would meet with the caucus beforehand -- not do things, get in trouble and then call us,'' Del. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake) said.

In recent weeks, members of the black caucus have criticized McDonnell for declaring April Confederate History Month and revising the rights restoration process for nonviolent felons.

But sources in governor's office say McDonnell has been trying to set up a meeting with the caucus for weeks with no success.

During the 60-day session that ended last month, McDonnell invited the caucus to the governor's mansion for dinner but many members did not show. Del. Kenny Alexander, caucus chairman, said that was because most senators attended a previously planned event hosted by Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw.

Immediately after McDonnell apologized for leaving slavery out of the Confederate History Month proclamation, he called former governor Doug Wilder and met with King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP. His office set up a conference call with the black caucus, but the call never happened.

Alexander said enough members could not get on the call for a quorum to be present, and that even conference calls need a quorum in case action is taken.

He said this week marks the caucus's first opportunity to get together and talk since the regular session ended last month, and he expects to meet with the governor sometime in the future.

"We'll meet anybody anywhere anytime,'' he said. "We're here to work with the governor. We will talk to the governor. We will meet with the governor."

Not all members feel that way.

Spruill said he doesn't want to meet with McDonnell. Sen. Henry Marsh (D-Richmond) said McDonnell owes the public an explanation about recent events first. "We need to judge him by his deeds, not the words he says,'' Marsh said. "I think he owes us an explanation, not just to us but to the public."

Update: McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson issued this statement: "There have been preliminary discussions with caucus leadership today and we are currently working to arrange a time for them to meet with the Governor. The Governor has always been and continues to be willing to meeting with them."

By Anita Kumar  |  April 21, 2010; 11:46 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  
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