The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, July 29, 2005

Notes from the trail... B2

It’s not uncommon for political candidates in Virginia to hold conference calls with people who publish political news. It is uncommon, though, for gubernatorial candidates to hold exclusive conference calls with people who do their publishing on the World Wide Web.

Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine did just that on Wednesday, taking questions from seven bloggers who follow Virginia politics.

Blogs, also known as Web logs, are Internet publications, often operated by one person, that allow anyone with an Internet connection to publish whatever they want for the entire world to see.

A growing number of the new publications pay close attention to politics, including the politics of the Old Dominion.

Those invited included three conservative-leaning writers, Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chad Dotson, writer of Commonwealth Conservative; former executive director of U.S. Term Limits Norman Leahy, writer of One Man’s Trash; and Will Vehrs, one of the authors of Bacon’s Rebellion.

Kaine also invited three writers of the alternate political persuasion, 14-year-old Kenton Ngo, writer of 750 Volts; Lowell Feld, author of Raising Kaine; and Charlottesville-area activist Waldo Jaquith, author of an eponymous blog.
Washington Post writer-blogger Michael Shear was also invited.
— Daily Staff Report

Even with this week’s polls showing him in a statistical dead heat with Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine in the race for the governor’s mansion, Republican Jerry Kilgore’s stock is going up.

Almost literally.

TradeSports, a futures market based in Ireland, is offering futures contracts on all three of Virginia’s gubernatorial possibilities that pay $100 per share if the subject of the contract wins, nothing if he doesn’t.

As of Thursday, the former attorney general was trading at $53 on a very low volume. Kaine was trading with similar volume at $45. Independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, was trading at $2.

Other Virginia-related contracts on the exchange include Republican and Democratic presidential nominee offerings for both Gov. Mark R. Warner and U.S. Sen. George Allen.

Allen’s contract was trading at $20.60, just ahead of the second-highest priced contender, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at $19.60. Warner’s contract was trading at $11.80, second only to U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton at $46.50.
— Daily Staff Report


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Va. Democratic Party angry over GOP suit for insurance payback; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

The Republican Party of Virginia is suing its insurance carrier to recoup nearly $1 million in costs incurred to settle a lawsuit from a 2002 eavesdropping incident.

That has the state’s Democratic Party hopping mad — and thinking about going back to court for more money.
It started in March 2002, when then-Virginia GOP Executive Director Edmund Matricardi listened in on a Democratic conference call between members of the General Assembly and Gov. Mark R. Warner.

Before long, word got out about the eavesdropping, and Matricardi and others pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

Not long after, Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Springfield, and others who were on the call filed suit against the Republican Party in federal court. The case was settled for $750,000 in late 2004, just before it was slated to go to trial.

Party heavyweights, including 2005 GOP gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore, who was then the state’s attorney general, were deposed for the case and likely would have been called to testify. Party attorneys told the court that the GOP didn’t have any insurance to cover damages or a settlement.

At the time, all involved thought that was the end of the matter. But the GOP filed suit against its insurance company earlier this month, seeking $950,000 in restitution the party says should have been paid out under its liability policy.

“Now, seven months after this case was settled, we learned that Republican Party of Virginia did have insurance, and they want to collect on it,” Del. Bob Brink, D-Arlington, told reporters Thursday.

The suit is an “effort by the RPV to avoid responsibility for their actions. One of the reasons settling this suit last year was acceptable was the that [GOP] would be responsible for their actions,” he said.

If the party does recover its costs, it allows them to “make dirty tricks just a line item in their budget,” he said.

“This is roughly akin to the kid that kills his parents and then pleads for mercy on the grounds that he’s an orphan,” Saslaw said. “Then they want the insurance company to come and bail their ass out.”

Knowing that the money was coming out of Republican coffers, and not the pockets of an insurance company, was a major factor in closing the case, added state Sen. Phil Puckett, D-Tazewell.

“That was one of the considerations we gave in deciding to settle this out of court,” he said. “I think we’d have been much less likely to have settled. We’d have liked to have gone to court and have the facts presented in a court of law.”

“I don’t like being lied to. I think that’s awful,” said state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, D-Arlington.

But the GOP did no such thing, according to Executive Director Sean Smith.

At the time of the July filing, the party was relatively sure it didn’t have any relevant insurance coverage. The company, Union Insurance, sent the party a letter in April 2004 declining to pay any claim resulting from the eavesdropping.

“This is a contractual dispute between the RPV and our insurance carrier,” he said. “Our insurance carrier refused to provide coverage, and we’re asking the court to interpret that agreement.”

Still, “it’s a sin of omission,” said Mark Bergman, the Democratic Party’s communications director. The rules call for disclosure of any potential insurance help, not just policies that are known to provide relevant coverage.

While some said they’d like to reopen the case, others added that it wasn’t clear if that was even an option.

In the meantime, Democrats in Virginia holding conference calls — including Thursday’s — now keep the phone numbers and pass-codes to such calls close to their chest, frequently requiring reporters to ask for them.

They also ask who has joined the call every time a new participant “beeps” onto the line.


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GOP candidate says growth is ‘local issue’; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Local governments can expect help dealing with growth from a Jerry Kilgore administration in the form of transportation improvements and some school construction funding.

But new powers like impact fees, an adequate public facilities ordinance or other local levies are off the table, the Republican gubernatorial candidate and former attorney general said Thursday in an exclusive interview with the Daily.

“It’s a local issue,” Kilgore said of the explosive growth in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Local governments have repeatedly called on Richmond to authorize more powers to help deal with growth.

Laws like an adequate facilities ordinance, which would let governments turn down rezonings if they don’t have the roads and schools in place to support them, or impact fees, which would require developers to pay directly for the costs of building infrastructure as a condition of rezoning, have often been cited as good ways to handle the influx of new people and homes in the area.

But city, county and town governments can’t implement those measures on their own, due in large part to the Dillon Rule, a legal precept that limits local governments only to those powers specifically allotted to them by the General Assembly.

“I’m a strong supporter of the Dillon Rule, because it brings uniformity to Virginia law,” he said. “When we’re engaged in economic development, we can say to companies that want to locate or expand in Virginia, ‘Here are the rules that apply,’” he said.

Kilgore also said that the current toolbox of zoning rules, comprehensive plans and proffers is adequate for the task at hand in the valley.

“I believe that localities have the tools they need to guide the growth,” he said. “I believe localities can work with developers and look for that balance.”

“The General Assembly rightly controls the localities through the Dillon Rule,” he said. But “localities are free to come to the General Assembly if they have a need and get an exception.”

New restrictions on housing will only make a very tight market that much more inaccessible for those trying to own their own home, Kilgore said.

“We have to make sure in the future that we support affordable housing, that we look for ways to make sure that people can actually live and work in our communities,” he said. “I’m fearful that we’re moving in the opposite direction” and that “because of some local governments, ‘affordable’ and ‘housing’ are words that will never go together.”

At the end of the day, the state will help improve transportation and will come through with some money to help build new schools in fast-growing communities, he said.

But “we have to make sure that localities understand that we’re not going to come in as the state and mandate growth requirements. It’s a local issue.”

Kilgore also responded to criticism of his plan to cap property tax reassessments at a maximum of 5 percent every year.

Local officials all over the Northern Shenandoah Valley have said Richmond has no business being involved in local taxes.

His proposed changes won’t stop anyone from raising revenue, Kilgore said. Instead, they keep politicians from claiming they’re cutting taxes while people pay more money into government coffers.

“It doesn’t tie the hands of local government officials,” he said. “It requires them to deal honestly with their voters by setting a fair property tax rate.”

The GOP candidate spoke on the subject one day after netting an important housing-related endorsement from the Virginia Association of Realtors’ Political Action Committee.

The endorsement includes the entire Republican ticket of Kilgore, lieutenant governor candidate and state Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, and Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, the party’s nominee for attorney general.

In 2001, the PAC gave both verbal and financial support to Democrats at the top of the ticket, endorsing Gov. Mark R. Warner over Mark Earley. It also gave him a check for $30,000. RPAC gave $7,500 to Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine during his 2001 run for his current office.

In 1997, the committee split $30,000 between Republican nominee Jim Gilmore and Democratic nominee Don Beyer


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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Statewide candidates gain political endorsements; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

As the dust settles from the last round of polling in Virginia, a number of statewide candidates have brought home some important endorsements.

The Virginia Education Association announced its backing of the full Democratic ticket — Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine for governor, former Rep. Leslie Byrne for lieutenant governor and state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, for attorney general.

VEA’s political action committee had already announced its support for Kaine, but added the two other members of the ticket to its list of recommendations, along with almost 40 candidates for the House of Delegates in both parties, including Del. Joe May, R-Leesburg, who is unopposed in November.

In the 15th District race, the PAC didn’t back either candidate — Republican Todd Gilbert or Democrat Jim Blubaugh — to succeed Del. Alan Louderback, R-Luray.

“Those who prevail in the upcoming election will come to Richmond in January facing considerable challenges,” VEA President Princess Moss said.

“The funding needs of education are great. The Standards of Quality re-benchmarking [costs] exceeds $1.2 billion, four of the Board of Education’s SOQ revisions remain unfunded [and] billions are needed for construction and technology,” Moss says in a written statement.

“We stand with those who stand for public education,” Moss said. “Our recommendations are the results of analysis, candidate questionnaires, records and interviews. Electability, too, is a factor in our recommendation decisions.”

Other notable endorsements included Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore’s twin brother, in his race against Democratic nominee Rex McCarty.

Meanwhile, Jerry Kilgore’s bid was endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses last week. The endorsement was the first ever for the group, which represents some 600,000 small businesses across the country, including 9,000 in Virginia.

“The NFIB represents the same philosophy of the relationship between business and government that I hold,” Kilgore said at a press conference in Richmond. “Government should help business when it can, but get out of the way when it cannot.”

Aside from endorsements and polling, the two major-party campaigns have focused much of their fire on the periphery — sniping over the $540 million state surplus and promising to work to keep Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach open.

Kilgore’s camp has continued to hammer on apparent conflicts in Kaine’s recent statements on abortion. In radio ads running in some markets, Kaine says he supports restrictions on abortion.

But at a fundraising appearance with U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, Kaine strongly implied he would oppose new restrictions on abortion.

Election Day is Nov. 8.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Governor would win Senate bid, poll finds; A1

Potential Warner, Allen race close -- By Garren Shipley (Daily Staff Writer)

If the 2006 U.S. Senate election had been held last week — and Gov. Mark R. Warner was running — the results of a survey say the Democrat would defeat incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen.

A new poll by Mason-Dixon research commissioned by the Daily and other newspapers found that the potential race would be a hard-fought contest.

If a Warner-Allen contest were to materialize, Warner would win with 47 percent of the vote and Allen would get 42 percent.
Eleven percent remain undecided. The poll has a mar-gin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“Currently, Warner runs ahead of incumbent Republican George Al-len in a head-to-head match-up,” said J. Bradford Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director.

A Rasmussen Research poll last week found Warner defeating Allen 48 percent to 44 percent.

Warner’s high popularity numbers would be a great springboard from which to launch a bid for the Senate, according to pundits following the possible race.

The current governor has the highest approval ratings of any recent governor at this point in his term — 74 percent say Warner is doing either an “excellent” or “good” job, according to the poll.

However, it is his strength among self-described “independent” voters and in Southwest Virginia, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads that gives him the edge, Coker said.

“Most importantly, Warner would enter the race with higher personal popularity than Allen,” he said. “Statewide, 56 percent have a favorable opinion of Warner, while 51 percent have a favorable opinion of Allen.”

Allen also has higher unfavorable ratings — 23 percent versus Warner’s 14 percent.

Analysts are divided over whether Warner will in fact enter the fray.

Warner has formed a federal political action committee that could lay the groundwork for a run for federal office.

“Many observers feel Warner will pass on the 2006 Senate race, and instead focus on a 2008 presidential bid,” Coker said.

Larry Sabato, a political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics in Charlottesville, said that Warner’s true ambition is for the White House and it’s all but certain that he won’t run in 2006.

Warner spoke to the moderate Democratic Leadership Council’s annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday, giving what reads almost like a campaign kick-off speech.

“We as Democrats neglect the heartland at our own peril,” Warner said. “We saw it in 2004, when the electoral map was a sea of red, with a few blue edges.”

“So, if the Democratic Party believes that it is OK to continue to rely on a strategy of winning 16 states, and then somehow hitting a triple bank shot to win a 17th — we’re making a huge mistake,” he said.

A number of other possible presidential contenders, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., addressed the group.

But then again, maybe he will, according to Craig Brians, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech.

“Presidential” buzz is a great thing to have on your side if you’re planning to run for a lower office, Brians said. Warner’s entire White House operation may be just an effort to raise his stock as high as possible before announcing his second bid for the Senate.

Warner challenged Virginia’s other member of the Senate, Republican Sen. John Warner, in 1996.

While Warner and his staff continue to insist that his only political ambition at the moment is to finish his term successfully, Allen isn’t taking any chances.

“Governor Warner would be a very formidable opponent,” Allen’s 2006 campaign manager, Jason Miller, said. “That’s why Senator Allen is focused on fundraising so early this year.”

The former governor raised almost $2.5 million in the second quarter of this year.

Allen also has some significant presidential buzz surrounding him. With Vice President Dick Cheney expressing no interest in higher office, the GOP has no heir apparent in line to succeed President Bush.

Virginians aren’t terribly enthused at the idea of having either man seeking the presidency, according to Coker. Only 42 percent of those polled said they thought Warner or Allen should run.

Should either man be nominated, 55 percent said they’d vote for Warner, 47 percent said they’d back Allen — “hardly signs of overwhelming desire for a favorite-son candidacy,” Coker said.


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Kilgore camp says survey out of whack; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

A new Mason-Dixon poll may show Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine slightly ahead in the race to be Virginia’s next governor, but former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore’s campaign isn’t buying.

The poll, released Sunday, shows Kaine, the Democrat, with 38 percent of the vote, Republican Kilgore with 37 percent and state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, an independent candidate, with 9 percent.

The poll shows 16 percent of voters are undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
“This poll flies in the face of everything we have seen,” Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said over the weekend.
“Eight other public polls and our own internal polling … show Jerry Kilgore with a clear lead in this race.”

Previous polls from Mason-Dixon, SurveyUSA and Rasmussen Research have all showed Kilgore with a significant lead over Kaine.

And at this point in the campaign, both camps want to lay claim to “the momentum,” the public impression that the campaign is on a roll and headed toward victory.

The new Mason-Dixon numbers gave the Kaine camp a fresh claim to the impetus toward victory. Campaign Manager Mike Henry sent out a new appeal for volunteers and donations just hours after the poll became public.

The poll “shows what we’ve known all along — in the race for Virginia Governor, Tim Kaine clearly has the momentum, as voters are becoming more and more convinced that he is the best candidate to keep Virginia moving forward,” Henry e-mailed supporters.

But, just as for Kilgore’s camp, the only poll that matters “is the one on Election Day,” he said.

On the other side, one poll isn’t enough to kill months of positive GOP inertia, Murtaugh said.

“Everything we see places the momentum squarely on our side. Jerry Kilgore won the first debate, dominated the last fund-raising period and just welcomed President Bush to Virginia,” he said.

“Tim Kaine, meanwhile, lost the first debate, raised only half of what Kilgore raised in June and has completely abandoned rural Virginia,” he said.

“There is no evidence to support what this poll says,” he said. If Kaine were ahead, the campaign wouldn’t have needed help recently from 2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in the form of fundraising letters.

Regardless, “we will continue to run as if we are 10 points behind,” he said.

Even what looks like bad news for the Potts campaign is good news, according to the senator’s top political consultant.

Tom D’Amore said he was “right pleased,” to borrow a Southern expression, with the results. Polling at 9 percent when more than half of the state doesn’t recognize the candidate’s name is impressive.

“These polls at this stage aren’t measuring who’s going to win or lose. They’re really measuring voter recognition,” he said.
D’Amore said he was expecting a number of anywhere from 2 to 5 percent. Nine percent is going to make it much easier to bring their bank account back from the brink.

The campaign had less than $150,000 on hand at the end of the last reporting period.

Now, “there’s a real possibility that we could win this thing. It’s a real long shot, [but] it’s less of a long shot every day.” The campaign can’t succeed if 57 percent of voters continue to have no idea who Russ Potts is, though.

“We need to be on TV and do some paid media,” he said.

In the meantime, low recognition is “very good news for us. We’re virtually a blank piece of paper. If our ID was up and we were still this low,” the campaign would be in dire straits, D’Amore said.
R Contact Garren Shipley at gshipley@nvdaily.com


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Monday, July 25, 2005

Name recognition of some hopefuls lacking for voters; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Who?

That was the most frequent reaction from Virginia voters when Mason-Dixon pollsters asked them if they recognized any of the four candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The poll of 625 likely voters found that none of the four — state Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville; former Democratic Rep. Leslie Byrne; Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach; and state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County — had name recognition any higher than 44 percent, even after two bruising Republican primaries and one four-way Democratic race.

Of the two races, voters were more likely to recognize the names of the candidates for lieutenant governor (Bolling 44 percent, Byrne 39 percent). McDonnell and Deeds, candidates for attorney general, were recognized by 35 percent and 29 percent of those polled, respectively.

Among voters who did recognize their names, lieutenant governor candidates Bolling and Byrne have similar favorability ratings. Byrne nets 16 percent favorable, 17 percent neutral, 6 percent unfavorable, while Bolling comes away with 17 percent favorable, 23 percent neutral and 4 percent unfavorable.

Attorney general candidates McDonnell and Deeds have similar numbers.

Deeds polled 10 percent favorable, 17 percent neutral and 2 percent unfavorable. McDonnell came out with 14 percent favorable, 18 percent neutral and 3 percent unfavorable.

It all adds up to one big question mark going into the fall, according to the pollsters.

“None [of the four candidates] has a statistically significant lead heading into the fall campaign,” said Mason-Dixon’s Managing Director J. Bradford Coker.

That being said, voters did have a slight preference for Bolling over Byrne statewide, with the delegate leading the former congresswoman 37-34 percent.

Both poll well in their home areas — Byrne leads in Northern Virginia, Bolling in the Richmond area. They also do well in expected party strongholds, Byrne leading in Hampton Roads, Bolling doing well in the Shenandoah Valley and vicinity.

Bolling holds a commanding lead in Lynchburg and Southside, 41 percent to Byrne’s 27 percent. But a large undecided number, 32 percent, will have a major impact as voters start to make up their minds.

In Roanoke and points southwest, the two candidates are evenly matched at 35 percent, while the remainder of voters have yet to make up their minds.

The big picture at the bottom of the ticket is decidedly more foggy.

Statewide, Deeds and McDonnell are virtually tied in the race to be the next Virginia attorney general — McDonnell polls at 35 percent, Deeds at 34 percent. But with “undecided” in a solid third place, 31 percent, those numbers are all but certain to change.

Both men hold their home turf well. Deeds out-polls McDonnell in Roanoke and points southwest, 45 percent to 27 percent. McDonnell wins out in Hampton Roads, 42-32 percent. Beyond those areas, though, the race is a complete toss-up, with both men polling within the 4 percentage point margin of error of each other.

Even the predictable gender gap in both races — men trending Republican, women trending Democratic — is muddy down-ticket.

The gap is there in both races, but never stronger than an 8 percentage point spread between male and female support for Bolling. Forty-one percent of men support Bolling, while only 33 percent of women do.

But as with almost every other number in the non-gubernatorial polls, the undecided factor is so large as to leave significant room for movement on all sides.

“With the governor’s race very competitive, these two races will likely not get much attention from the voters for a while,” said Coker. “These numbers will be a useful benchmark to have when things start to break.”

Election Day is Nov. 8.


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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mason-Dixon: Kaine 38%, Kilgore 37%, Potts 9%




By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

It’s still anybody’s race, but a Mason-Dixon poll released Sunday had a boatload of good news for Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine’s gubernatorial bid.

The poll, conducted July 19-21 by Mason-Dixon Research, found the two leading contenders in the governor’s race in a virtual tie last week. Kaine, the Democratic nominee, was favored by 38 percent of likely voters while Republican Jerry Kilgore, the former attorney general, polled 37 percent.

State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, who is running an independent campaign for the Governor’s Mansion, polled at 9 percent.

The survey of 625 likely voters has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

“The race is close in most regions of the state,” said J. Bradford Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director.

“The candidates appear to be drawing predictable support from voters who identify with their own political parties. It is interesting to note that Potts draws a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats.”

All three campaigns could find things to cheer about in the data.

For Kaine, the best news was the most obvious. Sunday’s poll is the first to show the Democrat ahead of Kilgore statewide. Other polls, like those done by independent pollster Scott Rasmussen and SurveyUSA, have shown Kilgore ahead by as much as 6 percentage points.

Kaine’s favorability ratings continue to climb, reaching 31 percent this month, while his unfavorable ratings continue to hover at about 10 percent.

It’s also good news that Kaine’s boss is doing well.

Gov. Mark R. Warner’s favorability ratings are the highest of any of Virginia’s last six governors at this point in their term. Some 74 percent of voters rate Warner as doing either an “excellent” or “good” job.

In September 2001, Republican Gov. James Gilmore was at 54 percent.

There wasn’t as much good news for Kilgore.

Taxes and state spending ranked second when voters were asked what issue was most important to them, at 17 percent. Only education and public school funding ranked higher, at 21 percent.

Also, Northern Virginia and Southside still haven’t settled on a candidate yet. Kilgore holds a slight lead in Southside, with 37 percent against Kaine’s 36 percent.

Potts’ campaign can take comfort in the fact that the candidate is doing better among independent voters than the population as a whole.

Voters who don’t affiliate themselves with either major party are showing some an affinity for Potts compared to the population as a whole. Fourteen percent said they’d cast their ballot for the Winchester senator.

Potts also is reaching more voters in places where his central theme — transportation — is a bigger issue. He’s polling at 10 percent in Northern Virginia and 11 percent in Hampton Roads.

A majority of voters, 58 percent, want Potts included in any future debates.

Sunday’s poll had its share of downers, too, but more so for Kilgore than Kaine.

A plurality, 44 percent, of undecided voters said they would consider voting for a candidate that would require a referendum on future tax increases — Kilgore’s position.

Northern Virginia, one of the state’s more Democratic-leaning areas, is still “up for grabs,” Coker said.

The bad news for Kilgore is the most obvious. Sunday’s Mason-Dixon poll is the first to show him trailing Kaine.

Meanwhile, a majority of voters, 57 percent, said they supported the 2004 tax package approved by the General Assembly.

Kilgore’s campaign has tried to capitalize on the former attorney general’s opposition to the plan.

A plurality of undecided voters said they would consider voting for a candidate with Kaine’s position of opposing the death penalty and abortion, but allowing both to go forward because of laws on the books — 46 percent for the death penalty, 51 percent for abortion.

The bad news for Potts is the worst for any candidate, though.

He’s still polling at just 9 percent statewide, with lower totals in some of the richest voter hunting grounds in the commonwealth. He pulls in just 6 percent in the Richmond metro area, 5 percent in Lynchburg and Southside and 7 percent in Roanoke and Southwest Virginia.

Even worse, some 57 percent of those polled said they don’t recognize the candidate’s name. Only 19 percent had not heard of Kaine, and 9 percent had not heard of Kilgore.


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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Republican ticket vows to undo court’s recent property decision; B1

Candidates say they will make sure land grabs do not happen in Virginia
By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Virginia’s Republican ticket has decided to make undoing a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision a priority for the next legislative session.

In Kelo v. New London, the U.S. Supreme Court held that state legislatures have wide latitude in interpreting the meaning of “public use” when using the power of eminent domain to take private property.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that government can take property for public use, but not without just compensation. In Kelo v. New London, a Connecticut redevelopment authority sought to displace homeowners to redevelop their property into higher-value projects that would generate more tax revenue.

A five-justice majority held that the state legislature had the right to define what “public use” means, and that the redevelopers could take the homes.

State Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, and Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, GOP candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively, told reporters earlier this month that if elected they would join with former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the GOP candidate for governor, to make sure a Kelo-type land grab couldn’t happen in Virginia.

Eminent domain provisions in the state code would be amended to exclude takings for economic development. The constitution, which gives the General Assembly the job of defining “public use,” also would be amended to exclude efforts primarily for economic development.

Development authorities could continue to redevelop blighted areas, but there would have to be a larger benefit than just more tax money, the candidates said.

“What we have done is to maintain a fairly bright line in this proposal,” McDonnell said. Allowing takings just to make money for government is “completely contrary to our founders’ intent.”
Kelo is a “direct threat to the principle of private property rights, and we just can’t allow that decision to stand,” added Bolling.

The General Assembly must act to “make sure we’re not headed down a track of social land use engineering,” he said.
Democratic gubernatorial contender Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine issued statement opposing the ruling not long after it was released.

“I am deeply concerned with the effect the Supreme Court’s ruling could have on the rights of our home owners and small businesses,” the statement says.

“I know that we can redevelop neighborhoods that need it without infringing on our property rights,” he says. “As Governor, I will continue to strengthen Virginia law by supporting legislation that would strictly limit the definition of “public use” to justify condemnation.”

Kaine’s comments were echoed in a statement by state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, the Democratic nominee for attorney general.

“I will introduce the necessary legislation to protect our time honored practice of respecting personal property rights in the 2006 General Assembly session,” he says.

“At the same time, Virginia’s constitution provides state protections that I will ask the court to read in a manner that affords property owners greater protection,” he says.

Calls for changing eminent domain — and curtailing a potential economic development tool — come at a time when local governments are seeking more power from Richmond to raise money to deal with growing schools and other budget needs.

But local government’s request for help aren’t falling on deaf ears, said Bolling.

“I understand those concerns,” he said. “There are legitimate ways to promote economic development, but you don’t do that by seizing private property against their will.”

“We know we have aging cities,” added Rep. Thelma Drake, R-2nd. Both the state and federal government will work to achieve a balance between “the need to redevelop and the rights of private property owners.”

Kelo v. New Hampshire is a good example of why the Dillon Rule, the judicial precept that local governments can do only what they’re expressly authorized to do by the General Assembly, should stay a part of Virginia jurisprudence, McDonnell said.

It’s better for business and the economy, since companies only have to deal with one set of rules. Eminent domain rules shouldn’t be a “local whim,” he said.


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Friday, July 22, 2005

Potts’ pot of dough dwindles; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — If “Operation Upset” is to succeed, it’s going to need a major infusion of cash, and soon.

But officials overseeing the independent gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. H. Russell Potts say the IV has already been started.

At the end of June, Potts, R-Winchester, had raised just over $448,000 and spent $326,291, leaving him with $135,396 in the bank. The campaign is also spending money faster than it’s coming in — laying out about $50,000 more than it got in donations in June.

At that rate, the campaign would be out of useful funds sometime near the beginning of October.

Potts also closed out his Vision for Virginia ex-ploratory political action committee in June after transferring all of its remaining $305,395 into the campaign.

His Senate committee hasn’t yet contributed to his gubernatorial campaign, but it’s almost empty as well. The fund had just under $2,000 when the campaign filed its report for the first half of 2005.

“Am I worried about money? Absolutely,” said Tom D’Amore, Potts’ top consultant. “Everybody’s always worried about raising enough money in a campaign.”

The big hurdle was getting Potts on the ballot. But once that happened, supporters felt more secure in opening up their wallets.

“We didn’t start serious fundraising until about three or four weeks ago,” D’Amore said. The campaign has just hired a full-time professional fundraiser, and the cash is flowing in rapidly. D’Amore said the campaign has had one $100,000 donation, among other sizable contributions.

“Our fundraising has picked up, and that’s not BS,” he said.

Vision for Virginia was folded as a matter of state law, he added. Once the “exploring” is done and a candidate is in the race, exploratory PACs have to close up shop.

The real question isn’t whether or not Potts for Governor will fold up shop. That’s not going to happen, D’Amore said. Rather, what kind of media buying will they be able to do?

Regardless, “we’re not in this race to be a spoiler,” said Potts’ political director, Adam Piper.

Potts’ July finance report was a bit of a surprise to observers.

“I think people have been surprised that he’s raised so little,” said Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

It’s possible that Potts may not be getting more donations because he hasn’t spent enough money, according to some campaign observers.

“There are two things you can do if you have money, one you can save it, two, you can burn it and hope it gets you more,” said Craig Brians, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech.

For a candidate to burn through all his cash early isn’t necessarily a bad thing, provided it buys the kind of visibility that donors like to see. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., employed a similar strategy in 2000 and it paid off, giving the candidate enough money to contest the Republican nomination for president.

The Winchester senator isn’t unarmed in the war for donors and votes.

Potts has retained Minnesota-based North Woods Advertising, the unorthodox creative team behind Gov. Jesse Ventura’s 1998 Reform Party win. President and CEO Bill Hillsman’s team also worked on Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential run, as well as the 1990 campaign of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Good ad firms don’t come cheap. Potts has paid North Woods $52,835 to manage his broadcast and Internet presence. The campaign has been paying out a monthly retainer of roughly $10,000.

D’Amore and his company have been paid more than $119,000 for strategy and management. But that’s still a bargain compared to what the other two candidates have been shelling out.

Kilgore has paid $1.13 million to Scott Howell and Co., the group behind Bush-Cheney 2004’s media campaign, as well as a number of recent successful GOP bids for the Senate.

Kaine’s camp has written checks for more than $1 million to Media Strategies and Services in Fairfax.

They’ve also spent tens of thousands with Struble-Eichenbaum, the media firm behind the successful campaigns of Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Tim Johnson, D-S.D.

Potts’ media expenditures to date haven’t been chump change, but in a statewide race, a candidate needs money behind those initial dollars to keep the name-recognition wagon rolling.

If the ads that cash bought are just targeted at winning voters, it’ll be hard to stay in the race, because donors want to see their man in action, Brians said.

“If those supporters start to think that their contender isn’t in it anymore … they’ll still vote for you, but they may not give you any more money,” he said.

Election Day is Nov. 8.


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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Pollster tracking possible 2006 race; B1

Latest ‘what-if’ survey has Warner ahead of Allen

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Officially, there is no Warner-Allen race in 2006. There may not be one. But if there were, it’d be a barnburner.

A poll released Tuesday by independent pollster Scott Rasmussen found that if Virginia voters were to choose between the two, Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner would come out ahead of former Republican governor and U.S. Sen. George Allen by a margin of 48 percent to 44 percent, a significant reversal from an April survey.

“Many people consider it unlikely that Warner will challenge Allen. [But] it would be difficult for other Democrats to match Warner’s numbers at this time,” Rasmussen says in the poll’s abstract.

“That’s all but definite, it’s not going to happen,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political analyst.

Warner has a favorable-unfavorable ratio of 63 percent to 31 percent. Allen’s numbers are 58 percent versus 37 percent.

Warner press secretary Kevin Hall and other Democrats have consistently said it’s too soon to be talking about 2006, and that the governor is focused on finishing out his term before starting any campaigns.

Besides, Warner likely has a much higher office in mind later on down the road, Sabato said.

“He might well beat Allen if he ran. But why go through that to get a Senate seat if you want to be president?” he said. Warner’s name has been circulating among Democrats as a possible contender in 2008, and “the Senate is not a good place” to be to get elected president, Sabato said.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is getting a great deal of buzz — and millions in off-year contributions — as the presumptive Democratic front-runner in the 2008 presidential race. But Clinton doesn’t have the power to turn “red” states “blue,” Sabato said.

Warner might.

According to Sabato and other observers, a moderate Southern governor who has high popularity numbers in a solidly “red” state might be the prescription for an ailing national Democratic Party, which has gone from controlling Congress and the White House to neither in just more than a decade.

Warner recently announced the formation of a federal-level political action committee that will lay the groundwork for a run for federal office.

A “Draft Mark Warner” movement has sprung up on the Internet, where it’s not hard to find a “Warner for President 2008” T-shirt or bumper sticker.

But Allen isn’t one of those people who consider the possible 2006 Senate matchup unlikely.

The senator’s campaign re-cently announced fundraising of $2.5 million during the second quarter of the year and a war chest of more than $5 million in anticipation of facing an unnamed “wealthy, self-funder” next year.

“Governor Warner would be a very formidable opponent,” said Allen 2006 campaign manager Jason Miller. “That’s why

Senator Allen is focused on fundraising so early this year.”

Warner made a fortune during the 1990s in the cell-phone business and spent millions of his own money on his gubernatorial run and a failed 1996 U.S. Senate bid.

Even if Allen’s opponent isn’t Warner in 2006, the Republican campaign wants to be loaded for bear.

“We will be ready for whomever the Democrats send after us,” Miller said.

Of course, Allen might have his eye on the White House, too, according to campaign ob-servers. He’s been making trips to places like New Hampshire to speak with political groups — a first step to lay the groundwork for a Republican primary.

A former governor and congressman, some observers describe Allen as having the same “aw, shucks” kind of charm as Ronald Reagan.

“If the Republicans choose Allen, it’ll be because the conservative base of the party eliminates the rest of the candidates because they’re too moderate or too maverick,” Sabato said.

Other contenders more toward the middle of the political spectrum, like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have also cast an eye toward Pennsylvania Avenue.

Allen would also have to win out over other conservatives like Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

“It’s very, very early,” Sabato said. “It’s much too soon to say that Allen is front-runner.”


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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Kilgore’s stance on abortion rights worries Democrats; B2

Legislators ponder candidate’s non-answer to question at gubernatorial debate in W.Va.

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

What does Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement from the Supreme Court have to do with the race for Virginia’s governor’s mansion?

Maybe a lot, maybe nothing. But some Democrats in Richmond want to make it part of the race.

Three female Democratic delegates told reporters during a conference call Monday that they are concerned with gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore’s reported non-answer during Saturday’s debate on whether he supports the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.

There’s a chance that the court could revisit Roe v. Wade, and the decision could be overturned if President Bush appoints, and the Senate approves, a new justice to the right of O’Connor, the first female member of the high court.

“I think … [there is a] very real possibility that Roe. v. Wade will be overturned and sent back to the states,” said Del. Kris Amundson, D-Mount Vernon.

During Saturday’s West Virginia debate, Kilgore, Virginia’s former attorney general and Republican nominee for governor, declined to answer a hypothetical question about how his administration would react should the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion be overturned.

Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said that Kilgore’s stance remains the same: He’s pro-life and opposes abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or where the mother’s life or health is in jeopardy.

Any new legislation that came before a Kilgore administration would be screened using those same values, he said.

Regardless of what President Bush, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court and the next General Assembly do, the next governor of Virginia won’t have time to touch the issue, Murtaugh said.

The next governor “will be long gone before this ever happens,” he said. “This is a campaign issue for the 2009 gubernatorial election.”

Some Democrats in Richmond disagree.

“I know it’s what the House is going to send [the next governor], and it’s everybody’s worst nightmare,” Amundson said. “What I want to hear from Kilgore is that he supports Roe v. Wade, and I’m not going to hear it.”

“Over the last six years … in the General Assembly we have bill after bill after bill that would restrict access to abortion,” said Del. Vivian Watts, D-Annandale, including “measures that would not allow certain types of birth control.”

Those bills have been “Draconian measures,” said state Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth.

Defeated bills have included requiring anesthesia for a fetus during some abortions, requiring clinics to meet certain cleanliness standards and submitting them to the jurisdiction of the State Corporation Commission.

Others would have made it a crime to provide birth control to a minor who is known to be having sex with someone three years older than the minor.

The Democratic candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, thinks Virginia law is just about right when it comes to abortion, Press Secretary Delacey Skinner said. Add in a ban on partial-birth abortion that has an exception for the life and health of the mother, and he’d veto any other changes, she said.

All three female legislators said they aren’t concerned that Kaine is a Roman Catholic who has said he believes that “all life is sacred” and opposes the death penalty.

Kaine has said he would enforce the death penalty over his own opposition because it represents the law of the land.

“That is at the heart of what it means to be pro-choice,” Watts said. “That it is a very serious personal decision.”
Kaine’s position on abortion would leave the decision in the hands of women and their doctors.

The lieutenant governor’s position doesn’t hold water, especially given the pro-choice record of the legislators questioning Kilgore, Murtaugh countered.

“Either they don’t know about” Kaine’s recent moderation on abortion issues, he said, “or they know he doesn’t mean it.”
State Sen. H. Russell Potts, Jr., R-Winchester, an independent candidate for governor, has said he would oppose any reinstatement of a ban on abortion.

But that’s no reason for abortion supporters to jump ship from Kaine, Amundson said.

“I have never voted solely on one issue, and I hope that voters won’t vote solely on one issue,” she said.

Election Day is Nov. 8.


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Party candidates for governor have seven-digit war chests; B1

June campaign finance reports show most spending more than taking in

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)
It pays to be unopposed. Or to have a weak primary opponent. That’s the overriding theme in the June iteration of Virginia’s campaign finance reports.

Candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot were required to file the documents with the State Board of Elections by the close of business Friday.

It was a very good month for former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the Republican nominee for governor. The candidate had his best fundraising month during this election cycle, raising $2.1 million, more than double the $1.03 million generated by his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.

The two men ended the month with seven-digit war chests — $5.09 million for Kaine, $4.6 million for Kilgore. Factor out an early $1.5 million gift from the Democratic National Committee, and Kilgore has actually surpassed Kaine for the first time.

Kilgore’s donations also included another $100,000 from Joseph Gregory, the brother of the founder of Bristol, Tenn.-based King Pharmaceuticals. The Democratic ticket has tried to make significant political hay with Kilgore’s biggest donor, claiming the former AG let the company overcharge the state’s Medicaid program in exchange for donations.

Kilgore’s camp dismisses that charge as uninformed and incorrect, saying that the state did investigate King after the company reported the overcharge voluntarily.

Kilgore was also the only candidate to take in more money than he spent during the reporting period. The Scott County native spent just $726,167, even though he faced a June 14 primary challenge from Warrenton Mayor George Fitch. Kaine, who was unopposed, spent $1.14 million.

State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, who will be on the ballot as an independent, also spent more than he took in — $85,310 on some $37,251.

Farther down the ticket, there’s one overriding theme — quiet, sedate primaries are good. No primaries are even better.

Both candidates for lieutenant governor are rebuilding their war chests, but Del. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, has farther to go than former Rep. Leslie Byrne, a Democrat from Fairfax.

Bolling had some $62,671 left in his war chest at the end of the June reporting period, while Byrne had $126,068.

The Republican’s campaign spent $534,247 during June — almost as much as the Kilgore campaign — in the final days of the fight to win the nomination over Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton.

Byrne’s four-way fight for the nomination was far more sedate than the nasty, often personal, fight between Bolling and Connaughton. It was also cheaper.

Byrne has raised about $521,000 during this cycle, while Bolling has raised some $1.69 million. But the Republican had to spend virtually all of it to secure the nomination. In fact, of the money the Bolling campaign spent during the reporting period, $466,087 was spent on or before June 14.

But the difference between having to fight for the nomination and being the only candidate for the nomination couldn’t be clearer than the race at the bottom of the ticket.

As of the end of July, Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, was just about out of ammo in his race for attorney general. McDonnell had just $74,558 remaining.

His opponent, state Sen. Creigh Deeds, has eight times as much, $595,909, in the bank and ready to go. But that’s not a slight toward McDonnell’s fundraising.

During this campaign cycle, the Republican contender has nearly tripled Deeds’ efforts — $2.05 million versus $847,000. But his primary fight with Richmond attorney Steve Baril ate up the vast majority of that.

McDonnell had spent $1.8 million before the June reporting period began.

On the local level, the Republican contender holds a wide lead in the race to succeed Del. Alan Louderback, R-Luray.

Shenandoah County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Todd Gilbert raised $7,465 in June, while Democratic nominee Jim Blubaugh generated $3,514.

Gilbert also has a larger campaign war chest moving into the late summer — $39,312 versus Blubaugh’s $12,118.

The next reporting period for all candidates includes July and August, with reports due to the State Board of Elections by mid-September.


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Monday, July 18, 2005

Candidates differ on transportation issues; B1

Gubernatorial hopefuls have varying visions for future of state’s roads

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

The three men who want to be the next governor of Virginia all agree: Something has to give to get traffic moving again.

But they also have very different ideas about how to make gridlock a thing of the past — ideas that will define the nature of roads in Virginia for years to come.

There are some similarities. Republican Jerry Kilgore, Democrat Tim Kaine and independent H. Russell Potts Jr. agree that transportation issues will be the key issue for the new governor and General Assembly when they return to Richmond in January.

All have pledged to put the state’s transportation funds off limits to raids by the General Assembly, with Kaine and Kilgore both proposing a constitutional amendment to that effect.

Beyond that, the three candidates would be hard-pressed to be more different in their approaches. To understand how the
planned changes differ, it helps to understand the status quo.

At present, the Virginia Department of Transportation is responsible for the construction and maintenance of all public roads in the state, under the auspices of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

But it hasn’t always been so. Before 1932, the state was responsible only for state highways. Cities maintained their own streets and counties maintained their own roads. But the Secondary Roads Act changed all that.

The brainchild of Democratic Gov. Harry F. Byrd, Sr., the act was designed to give local governments, particularly rural counties, some financial breathing room to deal with the Great Depression. Today, only two counties in Virginia, Henrico and Arlington, maintain their own roads.

Kilgore, a former attorney general, has proposed a change in that rubric: the creation of regional transportation authorities.

Instead of tying big project decisions, taxes and bonds to the state level through the General Assembly and the Commonwealth Transportation Board, regions would be able work together across county lines and take matters into their own hands.

“The state has a responsibility to provide for major highways and rural roads, and we need to invest more in transportation at the state level,” said Kilgore, introducing his transportation plan in April. “But all the answers are not found in Richmond, and all the decisions should not be made there either. I trust the people driving on the roads, not the bureaucrat staring at a map in Richmond.”

Kaine, the lieutenant governor, dismisses the idea of regional authorities, saying Virginia has only one transportation network and needs a single authority to coordinate the show.

“We don’t need to take our limited dollars and create a new level of government,” Kaine said.

Localities need planning authority and need to sit down at the table together, but taking back the secondary road system would take things too far, according to Delacey Skinner, Kaine’s press secretary. That would take the form of Rural Planning Organizations, modeled on the federal Metropolitan Planning Organizations, which coordinate urban areas’ transit needs.

That doesn’t mean financial decisions and other power will be sent places other than Richmond, Skinner said. Localities will still be dealing with the Virginia Department of Transportation, albeit a reformed one.

Kaine and Kilgore don’t go far enough, according to Potts, the Republican state senator from Winchester.
Potts said he would consider anything to get Virginia’s traffic moving again — including letting counties try their hands at running road systems again.

“We ought to give them the flexibility” to deal with local transportation problems, he said. That might include sending chunks of VDOT’s funding and staff back to the counties.

Byrd’s vision for the road system was based on the fact that counties had a hard time finding engineers and other necessary professionals — and the money to pay them — during the Depression.

Today, there’s hardly a locality of any kind in Virginia that doesn’t have an engineer on staff or at the very least available in the community, he said.

If elected, Potts promises a special session of the General Assembly to draft transportation funding legislation and to get work crews on the roads as early as next July.

Election Day is Nov. 8.


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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Candidates spar today, sans Potts; B1

Kaine, Kilgore look to beat expectations

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

If Virginia’s pundits are right, today’s debate between Republican Jerry Kilgore and Democrat Tim Kaine is all about expectations — exceeding expectations for Kilgore, meeting them for Kaine.

The former attorney general and lieutenant governor will spar this morning at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., the site for this year’s Virginia Bar Association annual gathering.

Kilgore staffers and other Republicans have been doing their best to build up Kaine’s reputation as a slick-talking trial law-yer who is a master of the spoken word and more than a match for Kilgore, who also is a lawyer.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have been trying to shift the focus from the low performance expectations for Kilgore to his decision to participate in only two debates, neither of which will be televised.

The expectations game is a popular strategy, particularly if a candidate could truly be outclassed on the stump, said Bill Shendow, director of the Marsh Institute for Government and Public Policy at Shenandoah University.

“Kilgore has managed to set the bar low enough that he should clear it without any problem,” said Norman Leahy, the former executive director of U.S. Term Limits.

“Kaine, conversely, has been painted as the golden-tongued wonder of Central Virginia. That works against him.”

Even if one of the two men completely mops the floor with his opponent, not very many people will be paying attention without television coverage.

Kaine’s camp has been saying for weeks that Kilgore is scared to debate where he can be seen. Other Democrats — and independent candidate state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, picked up the call Friday.

“The closed-door session of lawyers in West Virginia does not count as a debate,” Potts says in a statement to reporters. Potts has sought inclusion in any debates, but Kilgore has refused to appear on stage with him, saying he’ll only debate “a candidate who has a chance of winning.”

According to Potts, “99.99 percent of Virginians will not have access to the forum. Unfortunately that is Jerry Kilgore’s strategy.”

“I’d like to remind my opponents that we are the candidates for governor of Virginia, not West Virginia,” Potts adds. “I hope Tim and Jerry will send a post card of their wild and wonderful time in West Virginia. Unlike my opponents, my campaign is focused on Virginia’s present geography.”

Potts will be speaking to the Virginia Parent Teacher Association Convention and Virginia National Organization for Women Convention today.

Partisans in the Mountain State got in on the act as well. The West Virginia Democratic Party issued a statement chastising Kilgore’s camp for putting up signs in White Sulphur Springs, and pointing out that state law prohibits attaching signs to utility poles.

“West Virginians can’t vote for Jerry Kilgore,” said Chairman Nick Casey. “Not only was this silly sign game a gigantic waste of money and manpower, it’s just plain bad manners to vandalize a town in which you’re a visitor.”

Will any of today’s talking have an impact on November?

“It’ll be a very limited audience,” said Shenandoah University’s Shendow.
Bob Griendling, a Northern Virginia political activist and author of the Democratic-leaning blog “Commonwealth Commonsense,” said he agreed.

Kilgore will likely come out on top because of the expectations game, he said, but “the only people who’ll know how he does will be [University of Virginia political scientist] Larry Sabato and [anonymous blogger] Not Larry Sabato,” he said.

“It’s July, people are on vacation. It’s Saturday. People are not sitting around watching the television or listening to the radio,” he said. “They’re either coming from the beach or going to the beach.”

“In some ways, they are like NASCAR races for wonks — the candidates go around and around, but all we really want to see are the verbal smash-ups,” added Leahy.


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Friday, July 15, 2005

Deeds says Kilgore let drug firm soak state for millions; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

The Democratic candidate for attorney general says that former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore looked the other way while a Kilgore campaign donor took taxpayers to the cleaners.

Kilgore’s camp says the charge proves that the Democratic ticket, including gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, are either liars or incompetent to run Virginia.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, ratcheted up Democratic criticism of Kilgore, accusing the former attorney general of looking the other way while King Pharmaceuticals overcharged the commonwealth’s Medicaid program for prescription drugs.

The company, located just across the state line in Bristol, Tenn., manufactures the blood pressure medication Altace and hypothyroid treatment Levoxyl, among others.

Speaking at the Richmond Senior Citizens Center, Deeds called for the state to launch an inquiry into King’s drug pricing.

Kilgore declined to investigate, Deeds alleged, because of his relationship with King founder John M. Gregory.

The retired Tennessean has donated some $475,000 to Kilgore’s various campaigns since 2001.

“Investigating drug companies for artificially inflated prices and defrauding the commonwealth will never take a back seat to campaign contributions,” Deeds said.

“I will never let personal friendship or campaign contributions come before the best interests of the taxpayers of Virginia,” he said. “The attorney general can do so much more to make affordable prescription drugs available to all Virginians.

“It starts by taking a pass on hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from drug companies and focusing on the needs of ordinary Virginians.”

Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh came out swinging in response, saying Deeds’ attack — and direct mail from Kaine attacking Gregory by name — was just another attempt by the top of the Democratic ticket to make blatantly incorrect, political charges resonate.

Deeds’ statement “demonstrates a willing disregard for the truth or an outstanding misunderstanding about how the office of the attorney general works,” he said.

Kilgore hasn’t taken a single dollar from King Pharmaceuticals, Murtaugh said. Rather, all the money came from Gregory’s personal funds. He left the company in 2002 and severed all ties to the firm.

But that doesn’t absolve Gregory of any responsibility, said Deeds spokesman Peter Jackson. The investigation includes time while Gregory was in charge.

“When you’ve got this much money in campaign contributions” and a potential multimillion-dollar fraud, “it makes sense to clear the air,” he said.

King is being investigated by the federal government for problems with drug pricing — allegedly overcharging the government by some $65 million over a period of several years for drugs it manufactures. A number of other drug companies also are being investigated.

Others already have been taken to court.

It was King, not the government that noticed the problem, Murtaugh said. And Virginia has been investigating King, along with 49 other states, through the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

“Virginia has been involved in the investigation since the earliest moment it was possible for us to be involved,” he said. King already has set aside some $130 million to pay back the government and any fines that result from any overcharging.

That investigation is nearly complete and could end soon with a financial settlement, according to the company.

Further, “the attorney general’s office cannot conduct investigations of the kind we’re talking about unless there’s a complaint or a referral from another state agency,” Murtaugh said.

That’s not true, according to Jackson. Kilgore could have asked for a referral from a state agency, which would have allowed his office to investigate.

But so could Kaine. “He did not,” Murtaugh said.

“Either they know all this and don’t care, or they don’t know any of this and demonstrate their incompetence to lead Virginia,” he said.

Election Day is Nov. 8.


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New poll: Kilgore still ahead of Kaine; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Republican Jerry Kilgore continues to lead Democrat Tim Kaine, according to a new poll released Thursday.

But polling data and Saturday’s debate in West Virginia hasn’t stopped the two tickets from trying to make political hay this week.

The former state attorney general still leads the Democratic lieutenant governor by 6 percent, according to a poll released Thursday by Rasmussen Research.

If the election had been held on July 12, according to the poll, Kilgore would have come home with 47 percent of the vote to Kaine’s 41 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

One month ago the margin was identical, with Kilgore taking 46 percent to Kaine’s 40. In April, Kilgore held an 8 percent lead, but that number dropped as both candidates brought in more support from undecided voters.
Rasmussen had more good news for Kilgore.

“At the moment, Kilgore’s voters are more committed than Kaine’s,” Rasmussen says in the poll’s abstract. “Among those most likely to vote, Kilgore leads 50 percent to 39 percent.”

The news wasn’t good for state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, who bounced back to 4 percent, up from 2 percent a month ago.

The poll of 500 likely voters didn’t mention Potts by name, giving voters a choice of Kaine, Kilgore or “other.” That’s by design, Rasmussen said.

The April poll found 5 percent supporting “other.”

Mentioning third-party candidates by name early in polling “tends to overstate their importance,” he said. “The only time we would change that would be after Labor Day” if Potts “appears to have a bigger impact.”

“We definitely feel good about where we are,” said Kaine press secretary Delacey Skinner. “The one poll that counts is the one on Nov. 8.”

After all, it’s just July.

“Some people are starting to pay attention, but some people are not,” she said. “We’re looking forward to the debates this weekend, hoping that we’ll be able to talk Jerry Kilgore into a statewide televised debate.”

Potts’ campaign didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

At the Kilgore camp, the new poll — along with early finance reports showing they’d doubled the June fundraising of Kaine — is taken as evidence that the race is rolling their way.
“This, coupled with our very strong performance in raising money in June … demonstrates that momentum is very obviously on our side,” said spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Kaine’s staff spent the day trying to change that perception.

The campaign took dead aim at Kilgore’s biggest contributor again on Thursday, following up on charges leveled by Democratic attorney general nominee state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, earlier in the week.

Skinner sent out a press release challenging Kilgore’s decision to take campaign contributions from John Gregory, the founder of Bristol, Tenn.-based King Pharmaceuticals. Gregory has donated almost $500,000 to Kilgore’s various campaigns since 2001.

Direct mailers from Kaine sent to competitive areas of the commonwealth in recent weeks accuse Kilgore of overlooking King’s admitted Medicaid overcharge of some $65 million because of Gregory’s donations.

Kilgore’s campaign has said the charges just prove that Kaine and Deeds don’t know how the attorney general’s office works, since the state was investigating King through a multi-state collaboration of Medicaid fraud units.

The GOP didn’t sit still for long after Deeds’ charges.

Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, the Republican candidate for attorney general, held a press conference Wednesday to call attention to Deeds’ favorable rating from the AFL-CIO and negative rating from business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

McDonnell, on the other hand, had uniformly high ratings from business and ratings at or near the bottom of the House of Delegates for labor issues.

“No matter what rating system you use to determine which candidate has been an effective legislator, or which candidate favors business and free enterprise verses unions, there is a stark contrast,” former Attorney General Randy Beales said at a press conference in Richmond.

“McDonnell is the clear choice to protect Virginia’s favorable business climate and right to work laws, and promote economic development,” stated Beales, who replaced Mark Earley in July 2001.

Back in Richmond, the state Democratic Party shot back at Kilgore, this time about debates.

Kaine and Kilgore will formally debate for the first time Saturday at the Virginia Bar Association annual meeting in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The event won’t be televised.

Democrats will “discover” that fact when they attempt to watch the 11 a.m. exchange at parties around the state, Communications Director Mark Bergman said.

Afterward, party faithful will head out to campaign for their man — and tell whoever will listen that Kilgore has yet to agree to a televised debate.

Election Day is Nov. 8.


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Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Plainspoken Potts; Editorial Page

Love him or loathe him, there’s no denying Russ Potts speaks his mind. Valley residents have known that for years, but residents of other regions of Virginia are getting perhaps their first earfuls of Potts’ plain talk as he plies the Old Dominion in his independent bid for governor.

The state senator from Winchester, who laments the rightward drift of his Republican Party, strode purposefully last week into the emotionally charged thicket of gay rights. While pointedly rejecting same-sex marriages, he supported letting gay couples adopt children, citing instances of gays being “very loving, caring parents.” “We're all God's children,” he told The Associated Press.

Such candor on a “hot-button” issue is both commendable and uncommon for a statewide candidate in Virginia, but then Potts is a long shot blissfully free of the political constraints on his rivals, Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine, the Democrat, and Republican Jerry Kilgore, the former attorney general, as they try to divine the winning combination in November.

Their campaigns, so far, have been marked by an abundance of caution and especially by a reluctance to boldly confront major issues. Both Kilgore and Kaine have plans and they talk gamely about leadership, but their proposals are more electoral gambits than solid solutions.

Potts, by contrast, says half measures won’t work when “Rome is burning.” He wants to tackle an array of problems — taxes, education, the social safety net but especially transportation, with a special General Assembly session with “everything on the table.”

His straight talk enlivens a drab gubernatorial campaign by prodding the main candidates and furthering discussion of key issues. Despite Potts’ slim chances of success, he deserves a place in the campaign, including any gubernatorial debates.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rumors of Kaine campaign implosion blown out of proportion; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Virginia’s political community has been abuzz with the biggest story of the campaign so far: the beginning of the end of Kaine for Governor.

But some of the signs of the end seen with gloom by Democrats and glee by the GOP have been blown a bit out of proportion, according to those involved.

It started with posts on conservative blogs about Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine showing up at the Salem Fair late on July 2, only to find the place awash in the colors of Jerry Kilgore, the former attorney general and now Republican candidate for governor, with hardly a Kaine sign or balloon to be seen.

Kaine allegedly lit into his staff for bad field work and then left. Over the course of the week, the story grew, and began to garner complaints from Democratic activists who don’t like the direction the campaign is taking.

“Raising Kaine,” a blog whose stated goal is “blogging Tim Kaine into the Governor’s Mansion” took up the cry, applauding Kaine for chastising his advance team, calling for staff changes at the Kaine camp and pointing out other missed opportunities.

“Perhaps July 4 was the moment when Tim Kaine saw for himself some serious problems in his campaign and began to move to correct them,” blogged Lowell Feld.

But there’s a problem with the Salem Fair incident, according to people who were there.

It didn’t happen.

Republicans had Marty Kilgore, the candidate’s wife, at the fair for about four hours, along with a sea of Kilgore orange and blue balloons. When Kaine arrived, the scene was nothing unusual, said Joshua Myers, chairman of the Salem Republican Committee.

“No one here locally saw anything,” said Myers. One volunteer reported back that he overheard Kaine ask staff, “Where’s my balloons? Don’t we have any balloons?” and staffers reported back that “we’re working on it.”

House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, also was there campaigning and spoke with Kaine shortly after he arrived.

“We’d been there about four hours with Marty Kilgore,” he said. “He seemed perfectly fine. Was he tired? Yes. So were we.”
But “he was in complete control. He was not having a Howard Dean moment.”

Anyone who knows Kaine understands that’s not the way he does things, his press secretary, Delacey Skinner, said on Monday. For all the good it does fundraising and organizing, she said the Internet gives rumors and outright lies legs they wouldn’t ordinarily have.

“There was absolutely nothing remotely like what was talked about,” she said.

Even if the incident has been overblown, Feld said, the campaign has missed opportunities to mobilize volunteers, both at events and via e-mail — a technique pioneered by Dean, now the Democratic National Committee chairman, during his 2004 presidential bid.

If the S.S. Kaine is sinking, it’s not showing the hallmarks of a campaign headed toward the rocks, according to Craig Brians, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech.

Other than not raising money, one of the more public signs of trouble shows up in the message, when a campaign starts “strafing everyone,” he said.

When the candidate and communications staff start lashing out at people who aren’t even in the race, “running against everyone and taking no prisoners,” the ship could be taking on water.

The Kaine camp has been anything but anemic in fundraising to date. Candidates don’t have to report their finances again until Friday, but as of the June 6 reporting deadline, Kaine was the money leader over both Kilgore and his other opponent, state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester.

And the Kaine camp has had one and only one target in its sights for months — Kilgore.

To date, Kaine has taken only one mild swipe at Potts. When asked by reporters last month, Kaine said that Potts’ transportation plan should look at projects, not funding first.

Potts’ name doesn’t appear once in the dozens of press releases sent out by the campaign’s staff.
Election Day is Nov. 8. Kaine and Kilgore are set to square off on Saturday.


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Wolf: FBI shift is a sea change for agency; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

It’s not an American MI-5, backers say, but it should help the country deal with terrorist threats abroad and at home more effectively.

President Bush has signed an executive order creating a National Security Service in-side the FBI, which will bring the agency’s counter-terrorism, espionage and intelligence units under one roof.

It’s a sea change for the agency, according to Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the FBI’s budget. The FBI is be-ing transformed into an anti-terrorism agency, rather than a crime-solving organization.

“This is a monumental shift, and runs counter to everything almost every FBI agent in the past was trained to do,” Wolf said.
One of the changes gives the director of national intelligence, a position created at the behest of the 9-11 Commission, authority over the assets devoted to the National Security Service.

“This is all part of a process. It’s long and it’s involved,” Wolf said. But Bush’s decision to make the changes — some 70 recommendations from the panel studying the intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war — are a big step.

At least one watchdog group says the newly created National Security Service goes too far toward turning cops into spies.

“This proposal upsets the delicate compromise Congress adopted last year which recognized the importance of keeping the FBI under the control of a director who reports to the attorney general,” said Timothy Edgar, the American Civil Liberties Union’s policy counsel for national security.

Domestic intelligence needs to stay in the realm of law enforcement, where protections for civil liberties and rights are far more entrenched as a matter of course.

That’s a legitimate concern, and President Bush has told the agencies involved that “this has got to be done within U.S. law and with protection for American privacy and civil liberties,” National Security Adviser Frances Townsend said, speaking during a press briefing at the White House.

Bush’s order creating the service calls for the Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to create guidelines for protecting liberties for Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

Getting Negroponte involved should actually provide more leverage for the law enforcement side in changing the FBI, Wolf said.

“I agree that the attorney general has to be seriously engaged in the transformation of the FBI ,” Wolf said. “Change is never easy. We all resist it. But the changes being asked of the FBI are critical to the safety of every American.”


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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

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For those of you who have been receiving the Daily's political e-mail, we hope this is a more convenient form to access the same content. For those who haven't been getting the daily missive, we hope you like what you see. There's a lot more in the actual newspaper every day. We hope you'll check it out. Our current online edition can be found at www.nvdaily.com.

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Potts comes out in favor of same-sex adoption; A1

Move could pull in support from left

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

WINCHESTER — He’s the only one in the race without a major party. He’s also the only one in the race in favor of allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

In an interview last week with The Associated Press, state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, said he supports adoption by homosexual couples.

“We’re all God’s children,” Potts said. “I don’t think that they ought to be precluded from adopting a child.”
Potts told reporters that mistreatment of homosexuals has bothered him his entire life.

“I can’t imagine that a gay person gets to the pearly gates of heaven and this loving, benevolent God is going to deny that person a place in his kingdom because he or she is gay.”

Potts’ position statement was welcome news to some of the state’s gay and lesbian advocates.

“We were very pleased … that [Potts] has taken such a position,” said Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia, a gay, lesbian and transgender advocacy group.

“All our families want is to be treated equally under the law,” she said.

But it’s too soon to say if that will be enough to get Equality Virginia’s membership to cast a ballot for the independent, Mason said.

“I think the election is just heating up, so it’s really hard to tell if this specific issue is going to motivate people,” she said.

The voters most likely to agree with Potts’ position tend to be Democratic, according to Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

“You never know whether it’s intentional or if Russ was just expressing his point of view,” Sabato said. For all the talk of Potts pulling away Republican support, Sabato added, positions like this one may draw some Democrats to the Winchester senator.

“It just underlines the fact that both candidates have to be worried about the voters that Potts would take out of their column,” he said.

Neither of the two major party candidates in the race support adoption by same-sex couples.

Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore “is opposed to gay adoption by either couples or individuals,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the GOP hopeful.

“He supports recognized state policy, that the best situation for a child is with a mother and a father,” he said.

Democratic contender Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine thinks the state’s laws are just fine the way they are, said spokeswoman Delacey Skinner.

“The way that the current adoption laws work is the right balance, because the focus really is on the best interest of the child,” she said. “Current adoption laws don’t allow anyone who is an unmarried couple to adopt children.”

But Kaine has also opposed legislation that would put more roadblocks in the way of homosexual adoptions, she said.

For example, a bill during the last General Assembly session would have required courts to consider whether a potential adoptive parent was homosexual or living with a partner out of wedlock.

The bill would have essentially banned any homosexual adoption. It passed the House of Delegates 71-24, but died in the Senate’s Courts of Justice committee.

Skinner said Kaine thought the legislation was “mean spirited” and would very likely veto any similar legislation sent to him as governor.

“It does not really reflect this idea of looking at the best interest of the child,” she said.

Kaine’s campaign wouldn’t comment on the potential impact of Potts’ announcement on their base, but other Democrats were quick to point out the Winchester Republican’s support for 2004’s Affirmation of Marriage Act, which banned any form of recognition for civil unions and other same-sex unions.

Potts’ campaign didn’t return calls for comment Monday.

Potts voted for the bill no fewer than four times as it made its way into the code of Virginia, over the objections of Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner.

“He’s more of a cafeteria selection,” Sabato said. “You can probably find something to like in Potts whether you’re a liberal, a moderate or a conservative.”


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Monday, July 11, 2005

Blogs, a new craze on Internet, give people chance to vent; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

They’re at times informative, scurrilous, insightful, self-referential and thoughtful. Often critical of the press, they report on politics and current events like media outlets. They’re liberal, conservative, libertarian and everything else.

The authors all have one thing in common, though: They’re having a great time.

Blogs, aka Web logs, are one of the new crazes on the Internet, giving anyone with a modem a chance to plug in and tell the entire world what they think. Some are simply streams of consciousness made public.

But dozens of the sites devote their space to Virginia politics. One of the more thorough — and controversial — sites out there is run by “Not Larry Sabato,” a not-so-veiled reference to the University of Virginia’s leading political analyst.

“Not Larry Sabato” is actually a group of four Virginia campaign veterans, according to one of the bloggers who spoke with the Daily recently.

“We’ve all worked within the parties,” he said. Two Democrats and two Republicans, the four are friends and have actually worked on opposing campaigns. Now, they work together to prognosticate and report on the 100 races for the House of Delegates.

Why blog? It’s fun to poke the status quo in the eye.

“We’re shaking up the establishment a little bit,” said the anonymous blogger.

Political fun is the reason three-year blogging veteran Norman Leahy, former executive director of U.S. Term Limits, keeps posting on his “One Man’s Trash” site day after day.

“My blog is little more than an electronic version of an 18th century broadside. It’s meant to rile, it’s meant to challenge and, if I’m very lucky, someone just might take a piece of it to heart and act.”
Leahy watches Virginia politics, and has devoted considerable space to the campaign of state Sen. H. Russell Potts, Jr., R-Winchester, the independent candidate on the Nov. 8 gubernatorial ballot.

“Above all, it’s fun. It’s interesting, too,” Leahy said. “The moment blogging ceases to be either of those things, I’ll give it up.”

It is fun, said former lobbyist, journalist and activist Bob Griendling, whose Commonwealth Commonsense blog tacks left where Leahy tacks right.

“I like the idea of getting ideas out in the public,” said Griendling, who added that he dislikes the gossipy, anonymous nature of some blogs, including the efforts of NLS.

“I come at it from a journalist’s background. I’m opinionated certainly, but I would feel terrible if I put something out there that was false that hurt somebody’s reputation,” he said.

While he has no problem lighting up politicians based on their positions, he said, personal stuff is out of bounds.

“Sometimes we joke around [like calling Creigh Deeds a ‘Charlottesville liberal’],” added anonymous bloggers Old Zach and Addison from “Sic Semper Tyrannis.”

“But for the most part we try to focus on the issues. ‘Sic Semper’ is our sounding board, and I think people will read us as long as we have something to say — be it politics, sports or entertainment.”

The NLS site is “gossipy, but not gossip,” one of the four anonymous NLS bloggers said. At the same time, it doesn’t adhere to the same standards of review that mainstream publications follow, partly because it’s a staff of four.

But the collective “Not Larrys” patrol their blog’s comment section for anything that might be out of line and pull the patently false or scurrilous entries.

Just how many people read the blogs isn’t clear.

The “Not Larry Sabato” team doesn’t have a hit counter, so they have no way of tracking how many people actually read their posts. Hit counters can betray IP addresses, and that could lead to their collective unmasking.

“We can’t do the blog effectively if we reveal our identities,” he said, but noted that NLS gets “four to five times the comments” of other Old Dominion blogs.

“I’ve been in [public relations] long enough to know not to believe your own press,” Griendling said.
The NLS bloggers think they are reaching voters, though, as evidenced by what they say was a swarm of e-mail around the June 14 primary.

“We were just getting bombed by real voters, e-mailing us asking questions,” the NLS blogger said. Voters researching candidates wanted to know more about their potential choices.

“We didn’t anticipate that when it started,” he said.

As of Nov. 9, Not Larry Sabato will go quiet — partly because the fun stuff will be over, but mainly because it’s a lot harder to get the good dirt when the General Assembly is in session.

“In session, the meetings are much smaller,” he said. That makes it easier to get caught.

Sic Semper’s future depends on football. “The first full season of college football will be a challenge, and we might not be working on the same blog by the end of it,” the two bloggers wrote.

Leahy said he’ll keep right on plugging even after the election is over. The 2006 General Assembly will be a good one for political junkies.

“It could be an explosive session, particularly if there’s a move to raise taxes to pay for more transportation projects,” he said. “There will also be some pressure on the [legislature] to get involved in the property tax issue, and I look for a bit of a tussle over ideas like a Taxpayers Bill of Rights.”

And then there’s the 2006 congressional midterms.

“Those races will only add to the fun,” Leahy said.


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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Lawmakers say eminent domain must be limited; A1

Politicians propose additional protection for Va. landowners

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

RICHMOND — It wasn’t on Virginia’s political radar until late last month.

But a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court letting a town in Connecticut take homes on Long Island Sound for economic redevelopment has some in the Old Dominion’s political class fired up about eminent domain.

The case, Kero v. New London, dealt with the power of government to take private property for public use. The U.S. Constitution requires that any such taking be for “public use” and that the owner be paid just compensation.

New London officials wanted the property to be taken and turned over to private developers, who would build higher-value projects that would generate jobs and more tax revenue than the existing homes.

Writing for the five-justice majority, Justice John Paul Stephens said the court has a history of respecting legislative determinations in matters of property seizure, and Kero is no different.

“[Connecticut’s] statute ex-presses a legislative determination that the taking of land, even developed land, as part of an economic development project is a ‘public use’ and in the ‘public interest,’” he wrote, citing the 1967 state law that authorized the taking purely for economic development purposes.

But the opinion left open, and almost invited, states to step in and limit the power of eminent domain in their borders.
“We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any state from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power,” he wrote.

A number of politicians responded to the invitation quickly.

House of Delegates Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, said the decision needs quick attention by the General Assembly.

“Governments ought not to be confiscating private property for reasons other than important governmental purposes,” Howell said. “I will see to it that delegates and others in the General Assembly work to determine whether legislation is necessary to protect Virginia private property owners.”

Virginia law does provide for eminent domain takings — it devotes an entire title to the procedures — including takings for economic redevelopment.

But that section of Virginia law is very specific as to when and why governments can take homes to redevelop property.

Property must be “blighted,” defined as displaying conditions “which impair economic values and tax revenues, cause an increase in and spread of disease and crime and constitute a menace to the health, safety, morals and welfare of the residents of the Commonwealth.”

Other political entities, like cities, counties, towns and the Commonwealth Transportation Board, are allowed to take property for public use, but not for economic development.

Some local legislators said it’s already clear that legislation is needed.

“In Virginia, we must act without delay,” said state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg. Obenshain promised to patron a bill in the 2006 General Assembly that would limit property takings through a narrow definition of “public use.”

The Virginia Constitution states in its Bill of Rights that takings cannot be done for any other reason than public use, but leaves it to the legislature to define the term.

“We have a choice. Are we are going to authorize state and local government to take the property of private citizens just to give it to another private party, or are we going to protect and defend the rights of property owners?” Obenshain said.

Republican Todd Gilbert, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Shenandoah County and candidate for the seat of retiring Del. Alan Louderback, R-Luray, concurred. Gilbert said the ruling of “a few liberal justices” had changed the meaning of the Constitution, and pledged to support legislation similar to Obenshain’s.

But the state shouldn’t take local authority to correct a federal wrong, said Gilbert’s Democratic opponent, Jim Blubaugh.

“What the Supreme Court primarily did was to state that localities have a right to control their own development,” he said.

“The best way to deal with this is to elect individuals that reflect the wishes of the community to county boards and city councils.”


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Deeds: Collect child support; B2

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Virginia’s youths are owed more than $2 billion in back child support, and the next attorney general should do something about it, according to one candidate for the office.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, said Thursday that he’d make collecting back support a priority for his office. Deeds is running against Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, to be the state’s next top lawyer.

A big part of that is finding more resources for the Department of Child Support Enforcement, Deed said.

“That agency, which does a wonderful job, is overworked and under-resourced,” he said. Virginia needs to “reinforce the troops we have,” he said.

There are some 480,000 children in Virginia owed child support, according to the agency.

It’s also important for taxpayers, Deeds said. Some 40 percent of non-custodial parents are unemployed, but custodial parents who get as little as $100 per month are three times less likely to need help from the public safety net.

“Virginia must close the child support gap,” said Deeds. To that end, the candidate said he’d work to get the General Assembly to institute new punishment options for parents who don’t pay.

Sending all deadbeats to jail is counterproductive, he said. Judges need more alternatives.

“If they go to jail, they’re not going to pay a huge chunk of money,” Deeds said.

Alternatives “might include weekend incarceration, day reporting centers, electronic monitoring, or other options that would allow them to continue working and supporting their children,” he said.

He also proposed reworking current state agreements with private collection agencies to get more money for children, as well as seeking out federal funds to pay for more law enforcement officers to assist in collections.

In the interim, a Child Support Replacement Fund, paid with fees from inmates serving weekend sentences, would generate some money that could be routed to families in need.

“Capitalization of this fund would not be easy,” he said. But “I think we have to take steps right now to decrease this $2 billion gap.”

“I would anticipate that we’d be able to raise a few hundred thousand dollars” through fees, he said.

“Maybe you almost have to look at means-testing to determine the neediest families,” he said. But “I honestly think we can make a difference with just a few hundred thousand dollars.”

As delinquent child support payments are collected, the fund will be paid back, saving the state the burden of providing public assistance.

Del. Brian Moran, D-Alexandria, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said he backs Deeds’ proposal in part for its fiscal sense.

Taxpayers “end up paying the bill that fathers should be paying,” he said.

“A lot of these dads don’t have jobs,” so threatening them with “pay or go to jail” is like “trying to get money out of a stone.”

Even something as simple as a resolution from the General Assembly urging judges to seek other options might help, he said.

“Under the current scrutiny our judges are receiving,” that kind of activism is discouraged, he said.


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