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Virginia Politics Blog: September 26, 2010 - October 2, 2010

With reservations, Washington area restaurants back Va. liquor plan

After Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) dropped new fees for restaurants from his liquor privatization proposal Thursday, the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, which represents eateries statewide, formally endorsed the plan. Now the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, which represents 700 restaurants in the D.C. region, including Northern Virginia, is offering its support as well--but with some reservations. "RAMW is pleased that the Governor is listening to our industry and is taking this initiative in the right direction," Claude Andersen, chairman of the group's board of directors and Director of Operations of Clyde's Restaurant Group, said in a statement. However, Andersen said his members remain concerned that a $17.50 per gallon excise tax, as proposed by McDonnell, would "put an undue burden on consumers." Meanwhile, the numbers in McDonnell's proposal will be getting a thorough scrubbing from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. JLARC's director informed a state senator Friday...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | October 1, 2010; 5:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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UPDATED: Wilder formally endorses McDonnell liquor plan

Former Gov. Doug Wilder (D) is endorsing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to privatize the sale of distilled spirits in Virginia. Wilder, who chaired a commission that recommended privatizing state-run liquor stores, has always been supportive of the concept. But until today, he had not put his name behind McDonnell's scheme to get the state out of the liquor business. (Indeed, just last week he called McDonnell's proposal "still a work in progress.") In an interview Friday, Wilder said McDonnell had moved in the right direction by dropping taxes out of his proposal. Wilder said he now thinks McDonnell's plan should be adopted. "I would underscore that we never envisioned any new taxes," Wilder said of the commission that he chaired. "I feel that he's moving in the right direction. ... In concept and in practice, I think it's the right thing to do."...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | October 1, 2010; 2:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Arlington names new county manager

Barbara Donnellan was named Arlington county manager Friday morning by the board, just four months after it had hired Michael B. Brown for the position. Brown resigned Thursday, citing personal reasons. "To be honest, this was not on my radar," Donnellan said. "I'm very excited about the opportunity. I really am." Donnellan is the first woman named as Arlington's county manager. She has been with the county for 27 years and has served as director of the Department of Management and Finance, as well as the deputy county manager, since October 2005. "I've done it for seven months," said Donnellan, who served as acting county manager from November 2009 until May 2010, as the county searched for former county manager Ron Carlee's replacement. "I'm not going in completely ignorant of what is expected." Donnellan said she looks forward to having an impact on her community, but said there are a...

By Christy Goodman  | October 1, 2010; 2:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Arlington County, Christy Goodman  
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Va. Dems hire communications director, unveil new Web site

Walloped in last year's state elections, Virginia's Democrats are taking steps to beef up their public relations and messaging as the November midterms approach. This week, the Democratic Party of Virginia debuted a new Web site. It features a nifty photo of the State Capitol, along with lots of information about upcoming Democratic events. And ways to give money, of course. Also, after going without a full-time communications director since December 2009, the party has now hired Brian Coy, who worked as press secretary for Steve Shannon's run for attorney general last year, to help handle media. Coy has also worked for Tigercomm, a Democratic political communications firm. And he more recently served as communications director for Ned Lamont's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor in Connecticut. Coy starts work Nov. 1. In a statement, DPVA Executive Director David Mills said the new Web site has additional tools...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | October 1, 2010; 11:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Cuccinelli names vets groups to receive campaign cash

Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli (R) has identified eight veterans charities that will receive money from his campaign account, as the result of his decision in July to give away donations he had received from a Florida man now wanted by Ohio authorities for suspected identity theft and fraudulent charity work. Cuccinelli said the groups will receive a total of $55,700 in donations -- which represents the $55,500 his campaign received from a man who said his name was Bobby Thompson, plus interest. Ohio authorities have said the man, who directed a group called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, stole Thompson's identity. They say they don't know his real name and have issued a warrant for his arrest....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 30, 2010; 5:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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U.S. Supreme Court rules against independent Virginia congressional candidate

An independent congressional candidate hoping to challenge Rep. Eric Cantor (R) in Virginia's 7th district has been foiled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

By Ben Pershing  | September 30, 2010; 4:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races, Ben Pershing, Election 2010, Eric Cantor  
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UPDATED: Looking for support, McDonnell drops restaurant fee from ABC plan

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is offering significant modifications to his plan to privatize the state's liquor monopoly, including dropping a controversial fee for restaurants and a 1 percent tax on liquor wholesaler's annual sales. The revisions come as McDonnell faces skepticism from legislators about his plan to sell off the state's wholesale and retail distilled spirits monopoly, which he says would bring in about $450 million for the state's ailing transportation network. McDonnell has proposed closing the state's 332 state-owned Alcohol Beverage Control stores and auctioning spirits licenses to 1,000 private retailers, including grocery and convenience stores. Dropping the two annual fees could bolster support for the plan from restaurateurs, the liquor industry and conservatives who have expressed reservations about backing a plan with hefty new fees. But it will also mean McDonnell's plan would produce $46.5 million less in annual revenue for the state in fiscal 2011 than Virginia's...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 30, 2010; 2:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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In Richmond, Obama chides McDonnell on Chesapeake Bay

Most of the back-and-forth between President Obama and invited local residents in south Richmond on Wednesday dealt with the economy and other national issues. But Obama did field one question on a Virginia state issue. And in his answer, he took a mild swipe at Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). One man asked Obama about a newly announced crackdown by the Environmental Protection Agency on five mid-Atlantic states, including Virginia, that are contributing to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The man bemoaned that state officials are resisting the EPA's desire to see tougher storm water run-off regulations, asserting that the clean-up effort would create jobs. "Well, I agree with you," Obama shot back. "And I'll pass on your suggestions to Mr. McDonnell." In a statement, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech said state officials are "deeply disappointed" with the EPA's efforts. He called them "costly federal mandates that will...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 30, 2010; 12:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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McDonnell will count votes before calling special session

A special legislative session to privatize the state's liquor monopoly and consider other government reforms is still in the works but is not a sure bet, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) suggested in a radio interview Thursday morning. On WRVA's monthly "Ask the Governor" program, McDonnell said he'd still like legislators to come to Richmond this fall to consider recommendations from his Government Reform Commission, which will wrap up its work next week. But McDonnell said he wanted to avoid the "disastrous" transportation special sessions held by his predecessor, Gov. Tim Kaine (D) and that doesn't want to call lawmakers to Richmond if he doesn't have the votes to pass his ABC plan. "We'll do a count here in the near future and see where we are," McDonnell said....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 30, 2010; 10:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Cantor welcomes Obama to Richmond, in a way

President Obama's visit to rainy Richmond on Wednesday for one of a series of backyard chats on the economy with middle-class supporters takes him to the back yard of one of his leading congressional nemeses. The Southampton Recreation Center that Obama will visit in the late afternoon sits in the district of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. Cantor has been one of the GOP's most vocal Obama critics and has slammed the president for advocating letting Bush-era tax cuts expire for families that earn more than $250,000 a year. Anticipating the event, Cantor has now released a "rebuttal" video, in which he says that anytime the president wants to visit Richmond, he's welcome. But Cantor goes on to once again push Obama to repeal the Bush tax cuts for all income brackets. "Now the President has chosen to visit my district today in Richmond. He's going to talk to some...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 29, 2010; 1:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Barack Obama, Eric Cantor, Rosalind Helderman  
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Looking to pick up support, McDonnell staff offering tweaks to ABC plan

Gov. Bob McDonnell's policy director told Virginia's convenience store association this week that the governor is considering a proposal to let retailers finance their bid offers for licenses to sell distilled spirits as part of his plan to privatize the state's liquor monopoly. That's according to Michael O'Connor, lobbyist for the Virginia Petroleum Convenience and Grocery Association, which represents 4,400 convenience stores and gas stations in Virginia. McDonnell has proposed creating 1,000 licenses for private retailers interested in selling booze in place of the state's 332 Alcoholic Beverage Control stores. The licenses would be divided into three categories -- 600 for big-box stores, 150 for freestanding package stores and 250 for convenience and drug stores -- and retailers would bid against one another for a license. McDonnell has estimated that the state would earn at least $265 million from the auction by setting minimum bids for licenses. Minimum bids so...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 29, 2010; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Arlington officials foresee 2012 budget gap

Arlington County officials are projecting a combined budget gap of $25 million to $35 million between the fiscal 2012 county and schools budgets.

By Christy Goodman  | September 28, 2010; 6:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Christy Goodman  
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UPDATED: Arlington opts out of federal immigration enforcement program

The Arlington County Board has unanimously passed a resolution to opt out of the federal Secure Communities program, which uses the fingerprints of people in custody for other reasons to identify illegal immigrants. "It is not the role of Arlington County law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws," the resolution states. Last spring, Virginia officials signed up for the program, which shares any arrested individuals' fingerprints with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, without asking Arlington law enforcement's opinion, said board member Walter Tejada, the resolution's sponsor. "We are not defending criminals," Tejada said at Tuesday's board meeting. However, he continued, "People who have not commited serious crimes...are finding themselves in this web" leading to deportation. The resolution states that Arlington strives to be a diverse and inclusive community, with more than one-third of the population belonging to a minority group and one-quarter being born outside of the country. While...

By Christy Goodman  | September 28, 2010; 5:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (26)
Categories:  Arlington County  
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Beer and wine wholesaler analysis shows spirits excise tax hike under McDonnell ABC plan

An analysis of Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to privatize the state's liquor monopoly conducted by a former chairman of the University of Richmond's economics department on behalf of Virginia beer and wine wholesalers shows the plan will raise excise taxes for current liquor consumers by 42.5 percent. The analysis also indicates that, as a result, liquor prices will rise by at least 16.5 percent. And it argues that imposing a gallonage excise tax -- as opposed to the percent of purchase excise tax now to purchase price -- is regressive, raising taxes more for those who buy cheap liquor than for those who buy the expensive stuff. McDonnell's spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor's staff would review the analysis but accused the beer and wine wholesalers, who funded the analysis, of opposing privatization because it would mean sharing shelf space with liquor at grocery and convenience stores that now sell...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 28, 2010; 3:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Webb accuses Pentagon of 'stiff-arming' Virginia on JFCOM closure

Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) turned up the heat on the Pentagon Tuesday over the proposed closure of the Joint Forces Command, using a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to amplify his complaints about the move and accuse the Defense Department of stonewalling.

By Ben Pershing  | September 28, 2010; 12:28 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Ben Pershing, Glenn Nye, James Webb, Robert F. McDonnell  
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McDonnell reports little progress overturning JFCOM closure

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) will get a chance to meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates to discuss defense cuts that could have a dramatic impact on the state's economy, the governor said Tuesday.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 28, 2010; 11:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Look who's not coming to breakfast: Defense Secretary Gates

Staff for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) are expressing disappointment that Defense Secretary Robert Gates will not be attending a breakfast meeting Tuesday at the Pentagon to discuss Gates' proposal to close a combat command in the Hampton Roads area. McDonnell is scheduled to meet with Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. James E. Cartwright to learn more about why Gates proposed closing the U.S. Joint Forces Command, as part of a broader proposal to cut military costs in coming years. Gates has also proposed slashing military contractors by 10 percent a year for three years, a shift that could rock Northern Virginia. McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson notes McDonnell requested a meeting with Gates himself and is not pleased that the secretary will not come....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 27, 2010; 5:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Mark Warner, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Norquist: McDonnell's ABC plan does not raise taxes

Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal to privatize state-run liquor stores would not raise taxes, declared perhaps the nation's best known anti-taxer today. In a letter sent to members of the Virginia General Assembly today Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, analyzed the taxes and fees McDonnell has suggested be imposed on liquor in a private system and declared that McDonnell's plan does not contain a net tax increase. Norquist said legislators who have signed pledges not to raise taxes could vote for McDonnell's proposal without violating their promises....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 27, 2010; 4:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Cuccinelli to campaign with candidates in Alabama -- and Iowa

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) will next week head to Alabama and, more interestingly, to Iowa to campaign with Republican candidates for attorney general. The outspoken Virginia conservative, who is suing the Obama administration over the federal health-care law and EPA greenhouse gas regulations, has been in increasing demand nationally from Republican candidates and organizations. His political action committee will announce Monday that he'll campaign for Republican Brenna Findley in Iowa on Oct. 4 and Republican Luther Strange in Alabama on Oct. 5. Neither trip involves taxpayer money. The trip to Iowa is sure to raise eyebrows in a state where the big debate so far has been whether Cuccinelli's ambitions include a run for governor or the U.S. Senate. After all, visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the nation's first presidential nominating contests, have long been the universal mark of politicians with presidential ambitions. Cuccinelli political...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 27, 2010; 2:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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Connolly ad: 'I've made both parties mad'

Rep. Gerald Connolly (D) is on the airwaves in Northern Virginia, emphasizing his pro-business record and his independence from his party.

By Ben Pershing  | September 27, 2010; 12:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races, Ben Pershing, Election 2010, Gerald E. Connolly, Keith Fimian  
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Democrats to hold town hall meetings on ABC privatization

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is not the only politician holding town hall meetings to discuss privatization of state-run liquor stores with voters. Fairfax Democratic Sen. Toddy Puller and Del. Scott Surovell are jointly hosting a town hall Monday evening in their district to hear from constituents on the same issue. Surovell said they're holding the event in part at the suggestion of Democratic Caucus Chairman Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who recommended that members of the minority caucus hold public meetings on ABC. Unlike McDonnell's events, those at the Democrats' town halls are likely to be skeptical of the idea. Puller argued against privatization at a public event hosted in Richmond by the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week. And Surovell said that he is "strongly leaning against" privatization and has posted an item on his blog raising questions about McDonnell's proposal. (You can find details for the town hall on Surovell's blog as...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | September 27, 2010; 12:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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