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Virginia Politics Blog: June 20, 2010 - June 26, 2010

McDonnell and family jet off to Ireland for vacation

Gov. Bob McDonnell, Virginia's first lady, their five childen and about 20 other members of their family are heading to the Emerald Isle Saturday for summer vacation. McDonnell -- if you couldn't tell by that name -- has some Irish blood in him and he's off to visit some relatives while touring the major sites on the third largest island in Europe. He'll visit the major attractions in Dublin -- Trinity College and the Guinness Storehouse (where they offer free samples of Guinness) as well as the Cliffs of Moher, Rock of Cashel and the Ring of Kerry in other parts of the country. McDonnell plans to keep in touch with the office through his BlackBerry, which has been specially configured to handle international calls and emails. He returns to work July 7....

By Anita Kumar  | June 25, 2010; 4:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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Several thousand expected for Palin in Norfolk

Sarah Palin is coming to Virginia! And one group is particularly excited: the Democratic Party of Virginia, which has been using her upcoming appearance to fundraise for several days. Palin will appear in Norfolk with former Sen. George Allen and former Republican senatorial candidate Oliver North at Freedom Fest, billed as a salute to military veterans. Also expected to attend is Republican congressional candidate Scott Rigell, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Glenn Nye (D). Thousands of conservatives are expected to attend at Old Dominion University. "You can bet she'll be firing off some of those famous 'Palin-isms,' " Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman C. Richard Cranwell wrote to supporters in an e-mail before asking Virginia Dems to "Sound Off to Sarah" by submitting notes expressing their feelings about the visit. Today, the Democrats began circulating some of the responses they received. "We don't need Sarah in Virginia," one Democrat wrote....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 25, 2010; 2:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  George F. Allen, Glenn Nye, Rosalind Helderman, Sarah Palin, Scott Rigell  
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Metro officials acknowlege Virginia committed funds, but say the timing is uncertain

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton told Metro Chief of Staff Shiva Pant that he was "considering an agreement" that would have the state pay its $500 million commitment to Metro over 10 years. Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein acknowledged the development late Thursday, reports The Post's Ann Scott Tyson, but Farbstein said the timing remained unclear. Pant passed that message along to the board members Thursday morning, she said. That didn't stop Metro Interim General Manager Richard Sarles from warning Virginia that if it did not act within 24 hours to renew its pledge to provide $500 million to match federal funding for Metro over the next 10 years, it would jeopardize the contract to purchase new Metro rail cars. Connaughton visited Metro headquarters Thursday to explain to Virginia's Metro Board representatives that he would commit to the funding even if it does not receive the seats on the Metro board...

By Anita Kumar  | June 25, 2010; 12:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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Virginia commits money to Metro, Connaughton says

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton said he told several senior Metro staff members, including Chief of Staff Shiva Pant, on Wednesday that Virginia is willing to pay Metro $500 million over 10 years even if it does not receive seats on the Metro board. He said he does not know why Metro Interim General Manager Richard Sarles on Thursday questioned the state's commitment. He said he reiterated the commitment by e-mail later Wednesday evening and in person Thursday to Pant and Metro's general counsel, Carol O'Keefe. Connaughton said he is reviewing a draft agreement between Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and the federal government in which they each contribute money toward Metro capital improvements. "We believe that this issue can be resolved quickly and amiably,'' he said. "We look forward to working together on a mutually beneficial and productive partnership that resolves this issue as well as long term involvement and...

By Anita Kumar  | June 24, 2010; 8:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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Cuccinelli, McCollum confer on health-care lawsuits

Leaders of the nation's two major legal efforts to overturn the federal health-care law had a chance to compare notes Wednesday, as Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) spoke by phone to discuss progress on the two suits. The Florida attorney general is running a vigorous campaign for governor, limiting his time for legal chit-chat. But the two were able to get together about 9:15 p.m. as McCollum drove home for a campaign event to discuss the legal arguments advanced by the federal government in defense of the law. Virginia will face the feds in court next week as a judge in Richmond hears oral arguments over a motion to dismiss the suit. In Florida, the federal government last week filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which now includes 20 states. "It was just to have the high-level connection before the low-level...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 24, 2010; 5:39 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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Metro to Va.: Renew pledge for cash

Metro Interim General tyson.gifManager Richard Sarles on Thursday warned Virginia that if it does not act within 24 hours to renew its pledge to provide $500 million to match federal funding for Metro over the next 10 years, that it will jeopardize the contract to purchase new Metro rail cars.

By Ann Scott Tyson and Christy Goodman  | June 24, 2010; 4:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell, Transportation  
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Education board supports McDonnell on national standards

The Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to oppose replacing Virginia's Standards of Learning curriculum with a new national curriculum guide, providing key support to Gov. Bob McDonnell's position on the issue. McDonnell (R) decided that Virginia should drop out of the Race to the Top competition, saying the potential federal money was not worth ditching the state's 15-year-old SOLs. The competition encourages states to adopt common national standards. The board, appointed by Democratic governors Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, followed Board of Education President Eleanor Saslaw's recommendation. The board had previously endorsed the development of the national standards, creating a possible perception that it was more supportive of the new curriculum than McDonnell. "The Board of Education supported -- and continues to support -- the development of internationally benchmarked standards for states to adopt outright or to use as models to improve their own standards,'' the board wrote...

By Anita Kumar  | June 24, 2010; 2:41 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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McDonnell no longer concerned about Arizona immigration law

Whatever misgivings Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) may have had about Arizona's tough immigration law he seems to have gotten over them. On his monthly call-in show Thursday on WRVA in Richmond, McDonnell told listeners that not only does he understand why lawmakers in Arizona passed their bill, but that many of the same provisions have already been enacted in Virginia. "We've taken a lot of steps, frankly since 9/11...to enact significant driver's license reform, to significantly crack down on criminal immigrants so that we have a no-bond presumption for people that are illegally present,'' he said. "We are actually checking the status of a person accused of a crime at the time of a offense. A good deal of those things are already in Virginia law. I'm a strong supporter of promoting the rule of law." In April, McDonnell said on the radio that parts of the Arizona bill...

By Anita Kumar  | June 24, 2010; 10:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Immigration, Robert F. McDonnell  
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Alexandria: Virginia should pay Metro match

The Post's Christy Goodman reported Wednesday that the Alexandria City Council voted unanimously to endorse a transportation panel's position that Virginia provide Metro with $50 million, the state's share of a match required for the federal government to provide $150 million for capital spending on rail cars and safety improvements. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has threatened to withhold the money unless the state is allowed to appoint two Virginia members to Metro's board of directors because he has said he is concerned about the way the transit system is run and its safety record. The first $12.5 million of Virginia's share is due July 1. The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission appoints two principal and two alternate members to Metro's board. The four seats are now held by elected officials from Alexandria and Fairfax and Arlington counties. Mayor William D. Euille said that he opposes McDonnell's request until the commonwealth provides...

By Anita Kumar  | June 24, 2010; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell, Transportation  
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McDonnell still optimistic about drilling off Virginia's coast

Gov. Bob McDonnell told reporters he still thinks that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will change his mind on the moratorium once some changes have been implemented.

By Anita Kumar  | June 23, 2010; 6:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (32)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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UPDATED: Shannon connects Cuccinelli campaign promise, donation

Former attorney general candidate Steve Shannon is back, leveling a pretty serious charge at the man who defeated him in the November election in a letter to the editor column published in this morning's Virginian-Pilot. Shannon's letter is broadly about ethics in politics and he calls for the creation of an independent watchdog group or special prosecutor in state government to investigate possible cases of ethical lapses by politicians. But he devotes much of his letter to reviewing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's interactions with major donor Bobby Thompson, a director of a charity now under investigation in Virginia and elsewhere and suggests that a major Cuccinelli campaign promise might have been motivated by his interactions with Thompson....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 23, 2010; 4:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman, Steve Shannon  
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Connaughton meeting a mystery to N.Va. Metro reps

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton has repeatedly said he is meeting with members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on Thursday to talk about giving the state a pair of seats on the Metro board. But Northern Virginia Transportation Commission members do not have any meeting scheduled with him or any other Virginia state official tomorrow. "I don't know of a meeting that I've been informed of,'' said NVTC Chairwoman Catherine Hudgins, who also serves on the Metro board and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Kala Quintana, an NVTC spokeswoman, said the four NVTC members who sit on the Metro Board -- Hudgins, William Euille, Chris Zimmerman and Jeff McKay -- said they heard from a state official several weeks ago about possibly setting up a meeting to talk, but that the state never followed through on setting up a date. The meeting was suggested weeks before Gov. Bob...

By Anita Kumar  | June 23, 2010; 2:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell, Transportation  
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Alcohol distributor gives House GOP $10,000

An alcohol distributer has contributed $10,000 to the campaign committee of the Republican caucus of the Virginia House of Delegates, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in state politics. Associated Distributors/Charmer Sun Group gave the caucus $10,000 on Friday. It's not a terribly unusual gift for the company, which is a major distributor of wine, beer and liquor in Virginia. Since 1996, the company has given more than $900,000 in campaign donations to both Democrats and Republicans in Virginia, including $87,750 to the Democratic Party's Commonwealth Victory Fund and almost $80,000 to Gov. Bob McDonnell's gubernatorial campaign and Inaugural committee. But this latest donation is interesting because it comes right as McDonnell is leading an effort to privatize state run liquor stores....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 23, 2010; 2:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Updated: Virginia failed to spend millions in federal transportation money, group says

Nearly $3 million in Federal Transit Administration earmarks approved by Congress for nine projects in Virginia were never spent and the money is no longer available, according to a new report by the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group.

By Anita Kumar  | June 23, 2010; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell, Timothy M. Kaine, Transportation  
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Federal government again asks that health-care suit be dismissed

The Obama administration has reiterated its request that a federal judge dismiss Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health-care law. .In a brief filed Tuesday evening, Justice Department lawyers acting on behalf of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, attempted to refute points made by Cuccinelli in a memo defending the suit filed earlier this month. Cuccinelli argues that Congress overreached with a provision of the bill that requires individuals who make above a certain amount to purchase health insurance or pay a fine....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 22, 2010; 6:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Barack Obama, Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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Updated: McDonnell holding firm on Metro money

Gov. Bob McDonnell said today that he will withhold the state's first $12.5 million payment to Metro until a decision is made on whether the state can have two seats on the agency's board of directors.

By Anita Kumar  | June 22, 2010; 5:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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Fairfax board chair Bulova gets a challenger

A Republican has emerged to challenge Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) for the county's top elected post in 2011. Marianne L. Horinko, a small-business owner who served as assistant administrator and acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during President George W. Bush's first term, filed paperwork with the state Board of Elections last week to form a campaign committee -- Friends of Marianne Horinko 2011. Horinko is well-known to area Republicans; she ran in the Republican primary to fill the 37th District seat in the Virginia Senate vacated by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, eventually losing in a firehouse primary to Steve Hunt, a former Fairfax County School Board member. The seat eventually went to state Sen. Dave W. Marsden (D-Fairfax). Since 2008, Horinko has become more active in Fairfax politics, joining the local Republican committee, the county's Chamber of Commerce and donating at least $27,000...

By Derek Kravitz  | June 22, 2010; 3:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Fairfax County, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors  
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Fairfax Dems criticize McDonnell over Metro standoff

Fairfax County's top elected official Tuesday called Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's threat to withhold $50 million in matching funds from Metro a "hostile action," saying it was jeopardizing the transit agency's efforts to improve safety. Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) was critical of McDonnell (R) and his threat to withhold Virginia's share of matching funds for the agency in exchange for two seats on Metro's board of directors. "I personally consider it a hostile act," Bulova said. "We are absolutely open to a discussion about adding new members but it should not be a factor about funding commitments. There should be no strings attached." Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), one of two principal directors on Metro's board and Fairfax's chief representative, called it an "urgent matter" and Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee), chairman of the body's transportation committee, went further, calling the lack of dedicated funding...

By Derek Kravitz  | June 22, 2010; 3:01 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Fairfax County Board of Supervisors  
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Top Va. budget cruncher hospitalized

When the House Appropriations Committee met Tuesday, a familiar face was conspicuously absent. Staff director Robert Vaughn, one of the most powerful legislative staffers on Capitol Square, has been hospitalized in Richmond, House Clerk Bruce Jamerson has informed staff. Vaughn was hospitalized June 11 and doctors have diagnosed acute pancreatitis.

By Anita Kumar  | June 22, 2010; 1:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2010, House of Delegates, William Howell  
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Judge stays Cuccinelli's U-Va. climate change subpoena, sets Aug. 20 court date

An Albermarle County judge has stayed Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's civil investigative demand to the University of Virginia for documents related to a former university climate scientist, pending the outcome of a legal challenge to the request. The university faced a July 26 deadline for complying with the subpoena but Circuit Court Judge Cheryl V. Higgins stayed the demand after the university petitioned the judge asking her to set Cuccinelli's inquiry aside. Cuccinelli has said he is investigating whether former university professor Michael Mann committed fraud when he sought and spent five public grants for his research. The university is resisting the request, arguing that Cuccinelli is intruding on Mann's academic freedom. Such a stay is common practice and was formalized as part of a scheduling order that has been in the works for some time (the judge seems to have signed it June 10) but has been circulated to...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 22, 2010; 12:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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Warner, Webb sign court brief backing fallen Marine's family

Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb have signed on to a friend of the court brief expressing support for the family of a fallen Marine who sued a Kansas City church for protesting at the Marine's military funeral. The Supreme Court will hear the Snyder v. Phelps case this fall. Its profile was raised in Virginia after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli declined to sign an amicus brief on the family's side, making Virginia one of only two states not to do so. Cuccinelli said he was concerned about the free speech implications of allowing the family to sue the church citing emotional distress over the protest....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 22, 2010; 11:02 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  James Webb, Ken Cuccinelli, Mark Warner, Rosalind Helderman  
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GOP poll shows Nye trailing in 2nd district

A survey conducted for Rep. Glenn Nye's opponent shows the freshman Democrat trailing in his reelection race.

By Ben Pershing  | June 22, 2010; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races, Ben Pershing, Election 2010, Glenn Nye, Scott Rigell  
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11 East Coast AGs pen letter to BP -- Cuccinelli writes his own

The attorneys general of every state on the East Coast, from Maine to Georgia, sent a joint letter to top executives at BP Monday asking the company to take a series of measures as they prepare for the "foreseeable risk of substantial harm" from oil drifting up the coast. Every state, that is, except Virginia. (A correction: New Jersey also did not sign the joint letter.) Declining to sign on to the joint missive, whose signatories include Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, nine other Democrats and one Republican, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) today penned his his own letter to BP. Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein said Cuccinelli was asked to sign the joint letter but decided to write his own after the group declined to add language Cuccinelli requested....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 21, 2010; 5:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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New system to check immigration status of arrestees activated in Virginia

A new system that lets local law enforcement check fingerprints of people who are arrested against immigration records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security is now in use in every county in Virginia, according to a joint release by the Attorney General's office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Previously, authorities could check fingerprints against the FBI's criminal history database. But the new "Secure Communities" program lets them check DHS records and automatically alerts ICE to those with immigration violations. According to a release, ICE will prioritize enforcement for those who are convicted of major drug offenses, murder, rape and kidnapping. Counting Virginia's participation, the program is now available in 336 jurisdictions in 22 states and will be available nationally by 2013. "This information sharing enables criminal aliens to be identified at the time they are booked in a jail anywhere in Virginia, and those convicted of...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 21, 2010; 3:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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House's deputy clerk to serve in Afghanistan

The deputy clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates, an Army reservist, has been called to active duty and will soon be deployed for a year-long tour in Afghanistan, House Clerk Bruce Jamerson has announced. In an e-mail to delegates and legislative staff, Jamerson wrote that Deputy Clerk for Committee Operations Scott Maddrea has been a reservist for the past 20 years, most recently serving as an instructor at the Army's Command and General Staff College. But Maddrea's primary training is as a military policeman, and he is being deployed overseas in that capacity. Maddrea's last day at the Capitol is Thursday; he is expected to be absent until Labor Day 2011, meaning he'll miss the 2011 legislative session and any special sessions that are held in the next year. Jamerson indicated that Maddrea's duties will temporarily fall to other staffers. "I join all Virginians in thanking Scott for his...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 21, 2010; 2:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Call for Virginia to be like Arizona brings challenger in Prince William

Post reporter Jennifer Buske has reported that Prince William supervisor Corey Stewart's call for Virginia to adopt Arizona-like immigration policies has earned him a challenger for his job. On the Post Now blog, she reported: A Prince William man said Friday that he has had enough of the chairman of the Board of County Supervisors Corey A. Stewart -- so he's going after the supervisor's job. John Gray said Friday that he has filed an application with the Virginia State Board of Elections to become a candidate for chairman in the 2011 elections. Although toying with the idea for awhile, Gray said he decided to do it after Stewart (R) announced Thursday his plan to lobby for new legislation that would crack down on illegal immigration in Virginia....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | June 21, 2010; 12:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Jennifer Buske, Prince William  
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Groups oppose McDonnell's bid for Metro board seats

Days before Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton meets with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to try to convince its members to give up seats on the Metro board, several other groups have come out against the proposal. The Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Sierra Club and the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation oppose Gov. Bob McDonnell's push for two seats and his decision to withhold Virginia's $50-million state match for federal funding until he gets them. The groups wrote a letter to McDonnell (R), Virginia's senators and Northern Virginia congressmen late Friday -- stressing that Maryland, the District and the federal government will withhold $250 million if Virginia does not pay. "Improving accountability and safety at Metro is important, but the Governor's proposed change would neither strengthen efforts to increase accountability nor improve safety at Metro,'' they wrote. "Replacing local public officials elected by the people of Northern Virginia with appointees...

By Anita Kumar  | June 21, 2010; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Mark Warner, Robert F. McDonnell  
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McDonnell's father-in-law dies; governor cancels weekend events

Gov. Bob McDonnell's father-in-law, Frank Gardner, died late Saturday night at his home at the Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, causing the governor to cancel his weekend events, including a bill signing in Crozet.

By Anita Kumar  | June 20, 2010; 4:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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