Del. Jim LeMunyon Tries Desperately to Hide His Crystal Clear Tea Party Ties. Fails.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

If you missed it, this morning's Oakton Patch had a fascinating article, entitled "Clingan Accuses LeMunyon of Serving Tea Party Interest Over His Constituents." That would be Eric Clingan, the Democratic candidate running against Republican incumbent Del. Jim LeMunyon in the 67th House of Delegates district. As the Patch article points out, correctly, LeMunyon received a $50,000 loanfrom something called the "Middle Resolution PAC." As you can see from the information below, this PAC pretends to be middle-of-the-road, but in fact is Tea Party and far-right-wing all the way.Evidence to back up this charge?
For starters, Jim LeMunyon himself credits the "Middle Resolution PAC" with winning him the 2009 election over Chuck Caputo in the McDonnell wipeout of Creigh Deeds:
"Our 2009 Virginia House race had no funding for television until Middle Resolution decided to become a partner in the campaign, and pay for substantially all of our TV advertising in October. We won by about 1100 votes out of more than 20,000. Did the television advertising help swing 1100 votes our way? Absolutely." Del. Jim LeMunyon
Next, read the following from the Patch article:
The [Middle Resolution] PAC supported two pieces of legislation in 2011: the Repeal Amendment, which LeMunyon introduced in the House, and the Secret Ballot, which LeMunyon voted in favor of. Both bills passed the House, but died before reaching the Senate floor.The Repeal Amendment calls for a constitutional amendment that would allow states to repeal any federal law or regulation.The Secret Ballot legislation advocates allowing workers in a labor organization to vote by secret ballot.
Clingan said not only did Middle Resolution "buy" the Repeal Amendment legislation through their 2009 contributions, but the legislation itself "opens the door to attack every piece of federal legislation ever written. As a constitutional lawyer, it is a rather far-reaching, reckless approach to government."
Clingan is absolutely correct; what LeMunyon and his far-right-wing supporters are pushing here is a truly dangerous, "far-reaching, reckless approach to government." Essentially, it allows states to nullify federal laws. Didn't we settle this question in the Civil War? Apparently not, in Jim LeMunyon's opinion.The only question is, do Jim LeMunyon's constituents know that their delegate is a Ken Kookinelli, Rick Perry-style extremist all the way, not in the least bit a moderate or middle-of-the-road representative for his strong Obama district? Perhaps they don't know it yet, but if Eric Clingan does his job right, they certainly should be aware of it by election day in two months.

So, who's financing the "Middle Resolution PAC?" First, there's Robert W Bailie, "CEO of Service Partners, LLC, a Hanover County distributor of residential fiberglass insulation and related contractor accessories," who has given the PAC a whopping $423,187. Other than "Middle Resolution PAC," Bailie's also donated nearly $400k to Virginia Republicans - including the most extreme, folks like Ken Kookinelli and Bob Marshall, as well as the Va Conservative Action PAC, Bill Bolling, Bob McDonnell, you name it - and ZERO to Virginia Democrats. Second, there's Frank B Bradley, III of Fas Mart Convenience Stores,who has given the PAC $134,556 (Bradley's also a huge donor to Bill Bolling and other Republicans). Getting the picture here?As for "Middle Resolution PAC," they claim to be "a grassroots coalition with members from across the political spectrum." They also claim that their PAC "was designed to appeal to anyone whose views lie within fifteen points to the right or left of the political 'center.'" If so, then how do they explain the following links, all of which clearly tie them to the hard-right-wing Tea Party, ALEC (also see ALEC Exposed: A Nationwide Blueprint for the Rightwing Takeover), etc.?
1. "Middle Resolution PAC" sponsored a panel by ALEC entitled, "Uniting States to Restore Federalism."
2. Sponsored a seminar at the VA Tea Party Convention led by the CATO Institute and entitled, "Is social security reform possible?"
3. Co-sponsored the VA Tea Party Convention in 2010. 'Nuff said.
4. Listed under "Affliliated Tea Party Info" by the Williamsburg Tea Party.
OK, so there's no doubt regarding the connection between the Orwellian-named "Middle Resolution PAC" (Orwellian because there's absolutely NOTHING "middle" about these guys!) and the Tea Party (and ALEC, etc.). There's also no doubt that "Middle Resolution PAC" is a huge financial supporter of Del. Jim LeMunyon.
All of which raises the question, why is LeMunyon running away from that connection by issuing denials via "staff" (see the Patch article), instead of proudly embracing his inner teahadist? Doesn't Jim LeMunyon believe that his constituents are entitled to know just how much their representative is beholden to a far-right-wing interest group and far-right-wing donors (all based outside his district, no less). Perhaps Jim LeMunyon's reticence has something to do with the fact that his district went for Barack Obama by 15 points in 2008, and in general is a moderate, Democratic-leaning district? Hmmmm. This should be a fascinating race to watch!

6 Questions Every Virginia Democratic Candidate Should Ask Their Teapublican Opponent This Fall

Monday, August 29, 2011

I was talking to a Virginia Democratic politico the other day, and he had an interesting suggestion: come up with a short list of really bad Republican/Tea Party "ideas," including on the national level, that their Virginia Democratic opponents should demand they explain. I thought this was a great idea, as Virginia Teapublican'ts in the General Assembly, Governor's mansion, and of course Attorney General's office, appear to be largely if not totally onboard with the crazy "ideas" coming out of Eric Can'tor's and John BONEr's head. Given that almost every Teapublican policy is a bad one, clearly the challenge here is coming up with a discreet, manageable list of the WORST of the bad "ideas," ones that can be posed as questions to Virginia Teapublican't candidates. I've pondered it, and come up with my own Dirty Half Dozen. Please let us know in the comments section whether these are the ones you would have chosen, and if not, which ones you'd prefer. Thanks.P.S. It's important to emphasize that these federal-level Republican/Tea Party Bad Ideas have direct - and very harmful - effects on Virginia.  For instance, they often directly affect our state budget and laws in a negative way. Republican State House and Senate Candidates should be made to answer whether they support or oppose these Republican Bad Ideas. No matter what, we shouldn't allow them to duck, dodge, or run away from the enormous damage that their ideological soulmates at the national level are inflicting on our nation and our state.
1. Do you agree with Paul Ryan's plan to destroy Medicare and ensure budget deficits for decades to come?
Correct answer: "I strongly oppose the Ryan plan to destroy Medicare and ensure budget deficits for decades to come." The question is, will Virginia Teapublicans say that? Or, more likely, will they say that they agree with the Ryan Plan or waffle/punt on the question? Either way, they lose. Nail them!
2. Do you support repealing health care reform, thereby re-opening the "Doughnut Hole," throwing children up to the age of 26 off their parents' insurance plans, reinstating the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage for "pre-existing conditions" as well as to retroactively cancel health insurance policies?
Correct answer: "I would NOT support reopening the Doughnut Hole, bringing back pre-existing condition exclusions, etc."  Again, will Virginia Teapublicans give that answer? I doubt it. In which case, nail them!
3. Do you agree with national Republicans that budgets should only be balanced with ALL cuts to education, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, transportation, and other crucial programs?
Correct answer: "Of course I disagree with an 'all-cuts' approach. As the American people have said over and over again, they want a balanced approach, with both new revenues and targeted cuts."  Of course, Virginia Teapublicans will not say that. In which case, nail them!
#4-#7 on the "flip"
lowkell :: 6 Questions Every Virginia Democratic Candidate Should Ask Their Teapublican Opponent This Fall
4. Do you agree with national Republicans that clean air and clean water protections should be severely curtailed or even eliminated, that we should take no action to deal with global warming, that we should eliminate plans to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and that we should continue subsidizing oil companies while failing to kick start the clean energy revolution that is absolutely crucial for our country?
Correct answer: "Environmental protection and clean energy are absolutely crucial goals, whether we're talking about national security, the economy, the Chesapeake Bay, etc. I strongly disagree with my national Republican brethren on this one." Anything less than that answer? Nail them!5. Do you agree with many national Republicans, including presidential candidates like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, that science - evolution, stem cells, climate, etc. - is something to be disregarded when it conflicts with the interests of power corporations, or with fundamentalist religious belief?
Correct answer: "Scientific evidence is absolutely crucial in determining public policy on the issues listed above, and many more. Personal religious beliefs are important, but should not supercede science in making sound public policy in America."  Unlikely they'll say this. More likely they'll parrot Rick Perry, deny evolution/climate science/embryonic stem cell research/etc. In which case, nail them for seriously harming our nation's, and our state's, future!
6. Do you agree with House Republicans Proposed Transportation Funding bill that would slash federal transportation funding - virtually eliminating funds to support transportation projects in NOVA?
Correct answer: "I absolutely disagree with slashing federal transportation funding for Virginia. Without that funding, the economic engine of this state will sputter out and die. We can't let that happen." Again, doubtful they'll say this, more likely they'll blather on about how important it is to "stop the spending!" If they do, then nail them for putting Virginia's economic prosperity into severe danger.

Virginia House, Senate Races to Keep Your Eye On This Fall

Thursday, August 25, 2011

With the primaries over, it's now time to turn our attention to the general election campaigns for Virginia State Senate and House of Delegates. I've been talking to knowledgeable Virginia Democrats, and have come up with lists of top races to watch (because they'll be competitive, entertaining, or both) for each chamber of the General Assembly. Keep in mind that Republicans currently hold a 59-39 (plus 2 Republican-leaning independents) in the House, while Democrats hold a 22-18 edge in the Senate.Also, per the Virginia Public Access Project, note that: 1) "Only 26 of 100 [House] districts have a nominee from each of the two major parties. This [is] the lowest level in a decade and fewer than half the number of competitive contests just two years ago." and 2) "At least 24 of 40 [Senate] districts have a nominee from each of the two major parties. This is the highest level in the last three cycles and 50% higher than the last cycle in 2007." In other words, Republicans are challenging incumbent Senate Democrats like crazy, while Democrats are NOT running many candidates against House Republicans. Heckuva job by Brian Moran!
State Senate Races to Watch
District 1: Sen. John Miller vs. Mickey Chohany (Gov. McDonnell has donated $50,000+ to Chohany so far. In the end, Miller should be ok in this race, in part because Chohany is not from the populous Newport News part of the district. Also, this district was made 9 points more Democratic in redistricting, which should help Miller significantly in November.)
District 13: Shawn Mitchell vs. Dick "Plastic Fetuses" Black (One of the most interesting races of this cycle, Black was exactly who Democrats wanted to run against in this new district, as he's a frothing-at-the-mouth right-wing extremist. Mitchell certainly has a shot in this district, even though Bob McDonnell won it with 65% of the vote in 2009.)
District 17: Sen. Edd Houck vs. Bryce Reeves (Gov. McDonnell has already put $50,000+ into this race, and will likely continue to play hard in this district, where he won 61% of the vote in 2009...should be interesting)
District 20: Sen. Roscoe Reynolds vs. Bill Stanley and Jeff Evans (Evans should pull from Stanley, helping Reynolds hold on here, although Gov. McDonnell has been funneling large sums of money to Stanley. This Southside district was made 7 points more Democratic in redistricting, but even so, McDonnell carried it with 60% of the vote in 2009)
District 21: Sen. John Edwards vs. Dave Nutter (Edwards is a popular, long-time incumbent, but Gov. McDonnell has donated over $40,000 to Nutter so far in a district he carried with 52% of the vote in 2009. How much more will McDonnell pour in?)
District 31: Barbara Favola vs. Caren Merrick (Merrick could pour in large sums of money to her campaign, but will she? If she does, it could make it interesting. This remains a strong Democratic district, although 10 points less so than prior to redistricting. Finally, one question hanging out there is how united is the Democratic Party after a particularly nasty primary? We're going to find out shortly.)
District 36: Sen. Toddy Puller vs. Jeff Frederick (Frederick's an energetic campaigner, but is the Republican Party united around him? Also, this is an approximately 56% DPI district, and Puller is popular, so she should be ok, but this won't be a cakewalk by any means.)
District 37: Sen. Dave Marsden vs. Jason Flanery (This is Marsden's first reelection race, which means he's potentially vulnerable, but in the end he should be ok. This district was made 3 points more Democratic, but was won by McDonnell with 54% of the vote in 2009.)
District 38: Sen. Phil Puckett vs. Adam Light (Gov. McDonnell has put $50,000 into Light's coffers. This is also a mid-40s DPI district. However, Puckett is well liked and should be ok in the end. We'll see...)
District 39: Sen. George Barker vs. Miller Baker (This is Barker's first reelection campaign, but Teapublican Baker is very right wing, and the old 39th went 11 points for Obama in 2008. Will Gov. McDonnell play hard in this district, which he won with 53% of the vote in 2009? Stay tuned.)
lowkell :: Virginia House, Senate Races to Keep Your Eye On This Fall
State House of Delegates Races to Watch
District 9: Del. Ward Armstrong vs. Del. Charles Poindexter (A dogfight between House Minority Leader Armstrong, who was redistricted out of his seat, and incumbent Poindexter in a strongly Republican district. If anyone can win this one for the Democrats, it's probably Armstrong, but I think it will be tough in a 68% McDonnell district.)
District 21: Adrianne Bennett vs. Del. Ron Villanueva (The district was drawn 1 point more Republican, but supposedly Republicans are concerned about this one, as Villanueva's not seen as a hard worker and as the old district went for Obama by about 7 points in 2008.)
District 34: Pam Danner vs. Del. Barbara Comstock (Comstock is seen as the most vulnerable incumbent House Republican, and people seem impressed with Danner, who has a lot of community connections in a district that used to be held by Democrat Margi Vanderhye and that went for Obama in 2008, but also that was made 3 points more Republican in redistricting. Let's hope!)
District 64: Del. Bill Barlow vs. Richard Morris (Morris is the guy who was arrested for public urination and who flunked the bar exam twice. Given Morris' sordid past,Barlow should be ok here. On the other hand, this is a district McDonnell won with 66% of the vote in 2009, so who knows?)
District 67: Eric Clingan vs. Del. Jim Lemunyon (This was a strong Obama district in 2008, but also a district McDonnell won with 58% of the vote in 2009. Lemunyon was first elected in 2009, so perhaps he's vulnerable in his first "reelect," but Clingan's still got to be seen as the underdog.)
District 87: Mike Kondratick vs. David Ramadan (Kondratick gets excellent reviews as a first-time candidate; Ramadan's pretty extreme and just came through a divisive Republican primary. The newly-drawn district, in parts of Loudoun and Prince William counties, went 59.4% for McDonnell in 2009.)
District 93: Robin Abbott vs. Michael Watson (This one could be a dogfight in a swingy district covering Newport News, James City, Williamsburg and York County)Finally, I'd say the 42nd House district is possibly winnable, but a longshot, against Del. Dave Albo. The Democratic candidate is Jack Dobbyn, who is smart, energetic, articulate, and with deep ties to the community. Having said that, we had a strong candidate with Greg Werkheiser in 2005, which was a much better year for Democrats than 2011, and we lost. What I'd say with this race is that Dobbyn absolutely can NOT win if he runs a cookie-cutter campaign, or attempts to do the "same thing people have done in the past and expect different results." However, if he runs an innovative, hard-hitting campaign that really fires up the grassroots, I think it's possible. We'll see, but given how reluctant the establishment is to try anything new, or go outside the Official Campaign Consultant Handbook, I'm skeptical. I hope I'm proven wrong on this one.
P.S. So, who did I leave out that should have been on this list? Who was on this list but shouldn't have been? Where was the analysis flawed? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks.
UPDATE: Two House races to watch that I should have included are 1) HD-02 (Esteban Garces vs. L Mark Dudenhefer), which is an open seat and a 59% Obama district; and 2) HD-12 (Don Langrehr vs. Joseph Ryan Yost), also an open seat and an Obama district in 2008).
UPDATE #2: Two more from the comments section. First, "SD-19, the fight between Sen. Ralph Smith and the man he ousted in a primary four years ago, Brandon Bell, who is running as an Independent. I think Smith has a big advantage, but any fight that features two Republicans and bitter feelings I thought would interest your readers here."
Second, "SD-6 (Northam vs Loyola) promises to be interesting." As I noted, this one was kind of "on the bubble," I thought about including it but in the end, I feel like Northam will pull it out. Still, it should be "interesting" in the sense of hard-fought and competitive.
UPDATE #3: I'm adding SD-22 to this list for the following reasons. First, Democrat Bert Dodson had significantly more cash on hand ($120,407) as of August 10 than his Republican opponent, Thomas Garrett Jr. ($16,630) did. Second, the Garrett just went through a nasty, divisive 5-way primary which Garrett barely won with 25.96% of the vote. Third, Garrett is a total right wingnut, definitely NOT a moderate Republican by any stretch of the imagination. Fourth, Dodson is a well-known business owner in populous Lynchburg, and also served on the Lynchburg City Council for 12 years, six as Vice Mayor. Fifth, Garrett is from Louisa County, which makes up just 5% of the district (compared to 21% for Lynchburg City). Bottom line: this one clearly looks like an interesting one to watch. Add this one to the list, big time!

Winners and Losers: Primary 2011 Edition

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Here are a few winners and losers from last night that I think are worth highlighting.Winners
1. Adam Ebbin. In talking to people the last few weeks, almost everyone was assuming that Ebbin would lose to Rob Krupicka. Instead, Ebbin won 39%-36%, a significant upset victory. Ebbin also made history as the first openly gay State Senator in Virginia history. Congratulations to Adam, as well as to LGBT Virginians, who now have a strong voice in Richmond to help stand up against the extreme, homophobic agenda of people like Ken Cuccinelli!
2. Janet Oleszek. She not only won last night, she beat the "machine," such as it is, in Fairfax County. She also won after getting started very late. Chap Petersen also is a big winner in this one, as he backed Janet strongly, including in the closing mailer to voters. It wasn't exactly Chap! vs. Sharon Bulova, but to the extent it was, Chap! won.
3. Alfonso Lopez. Won by a 2:1 margin last night, putting to rest any doubts about his willingness to work hard, to run a disciplined campaign, and to put together a strong coalition of grassroots and establishment supporters. That was impressive. Another winner in this context is Lopez's campaign manager, Brian Straw, who now rewards himself by heading off to law school. Or, is that a punishment? (my attorney wife, who hated law school, would probably argue "yes!") :)
4. Dick Black: I'm not going to get into Republican primaries too much here, but no doubt, Dick Black - despite being a bat**** crazy homophobe, infamous for sending plastic fetuses to lawmakers back when he was a delegate - won last night (38.8%-37.4%) in the 13th Senate district primary over the favorite, John Stirrup. This leads us to the next winner, on the Democratic side...
5. Shawn Mitchell. The Democratic nominee against Dick Black has got to be VERY happy this morning. After Black's win last night, the Mitchell campaign fired off an email which said, in part, "We know from Dick Black's eight years in Richmond that he is more interested in causing controversy than solving problems and will put his social agenda ahead of fixing the economy and creating jobs in Loudoun and Prince William Counties." DPVA chimed in: "The Tea Party and the radical right got their candidate in the 13th Senate District with political opportunist and far-right extremist Dick Black winning a close race." In short, Mitchell got the Republican opponent he wanted, definitely his best chance at victory in November. Now, we all have to help him beat crazy Dick Black, who truly would like to take us all back to the Stone Age.
6. Jeff Frederick. The former RPV chair, who was ousted for utter incompetence, staged a huge comeback last night in the 36th State Senate district, where he crushed Tito "the Builder" Muñoz by a 69%-31% margin. The question is whether this indicates that Frederick has truly unified the Republican Party behind him to face incumbent Senator Toddy Puller this fall. Let's hope not, but last night was impressive for Frederick, nonetheless.
7. Mack Crounse (Democratic strategic communications firm): Went "3 for 3 in VA primaries tonight" with wins for Theo Stamos, Alfonso Lopez, and Barbara Favola. Impressive!
lowkell :: Winners and Losers: Primary 2011 Edition
1. Washington Post. Endorsed in three Democratic primary races - the 30th and 31st Senate districts, the 49th House of Delegates district - of which two (30th and 31st) appeared to be truly competitive. The Post won one (Barbara Favola) big and lost one (Rob Krupicka) in a major upset. A so-so night for our friends at the Kaplan Post.
2. Rep. Gerry Connolly. Wisely kept out of the Oleszek-Wade primary for Braddock District Supervisor, while making it known that he was not pleased with Wade. That was smart. On the other hand, Connolly endorsed and worked for Rob Krupicka, who lost -- including by over 100 votes in Fairfax County to Adam Ebbin.
3. Barbara Favola. She won last night, big time, over Jaime Areizaga-Soto, putting to rest doubts about her ability to win a competitive Democratic primary (which she'd never done before). Last night, she did so, convincingly. On the other hand, it was a particularly nasty primary, in which the two candidates and their supporters clearly developed animosity towards each other. We'll see how this plays out in coming weeks, and whether Favola is able to achieve enough Democratic unity (so far, no Areizaga-Soto endorsement, from what I read this morning) and enthusiasm for her tough general election battle against the wealthy (not to mention "tanned, rested, and ready") Republican Caren Merrick. The jury's out right now...
4. Virginia NOW. Endorsed Adam Ebbin (big win!), Libby Garvey (big loss!), Alfonso Lopez (big win!), Stephanie Clifford (big loss!), Janet Oleszek (win!), and Barbara Favola (big win!). Mixed results, overall. Also, why on earth do interest groups endorse multiple candidates in contested races? I mean, would national NOW ever endorse multiple candidates in a Democratic primary for president (Hillary AND Obama in 2008?). I don't get it.
5. LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Endorsed Janet Oleszek (win!), Adam Ebbin (win!), Jaime Areizaga-Soto (big loss!), Stephanie Clifford (big loss!) and Alfonso Lopez (big win!). Again, what's with endorsing both candidates in a contested primary? I'm not a fan.
6. Environmental groups: A mixed bag here. The Virginia Sierra Club endorsed winners like Barbara Favola and Alfonso Lopez, but also losers like Rob Krupicka and Rick James. The Virginia LCV endorsed Adam Ebbin and Alfonso Lopez, both winners last night, but also endorsed Rick James, who was soundly beaten (60%-40%) last night by Del. Algie Howell. Kind of a mixed bag.
7. Progressive blogs. We didn't make any official Blue Virginia endorsements this year, but the front page of this blog (and me personally) clearly favored Jaime Areizaga-Soto, Janet Oleszek, and Theo Stamos. In addition, according to a Blue Virginia poll we did in July, Adam Ebbin was the clear favorite of our readers over Rob Krupicka and Libby Garvey. Our candidates went two for three last night. Meanwhile, NLS endorsed Janet Oleszek (win!), Jaime Areizaga-Soto (loss!), and Stephanie Clifford (loss!), Adam Ebbin (win!), and Theo Stamos (win!). NLS went 3-2 in those 5 races (not sure if I missed any NLS endorsements).
8. Dick Saslaw and Mary Margaret Whipple. They got the candidate, Barbara Favola, they (badly) wanted last night in the 31st State Senate district. But in doing so, they made a lot of people angry and spent tens of thousands of precious dollars (all of which SHOULD have been used for the general election and the battle to keep control of the State Senate this fall) in the process. The phrase "winning ugly" comes to mind.
9. Patsy Ticer: The retiring Senator in the 30th district backed Libby Garvey and Stephanie Clifford, both of whom lost badly. However, Ticer also gave money to Adam Ebbin, who won. And she endorsed Barbara Favola, who also won. All in all, a mixed bag for Patsy Ticer.Losers
1. Chadderdon Group. The Alexandria-based direct mail firm earned over $250,000 for its work with Rob Krupicka in the 30th Senate district and Jaime Areizaga-Soto in the 31st Senate district. Both candidates lost: in Jaime's case, by a wide margin; in Rob's case, in a major upset of the consensus favorite in the race. (note: Chadderdon also earned $9,800 from Barbara Favola in the 31st before switching to Areizaga-Soto, which is a highly unusual move for a direct mail firm).
2. Englin Consulting. Earned over $45,000 providing political consulting services to Rob Krupicka and Jaime Areizaga-Soto. Both candidates lost (Jaime in a wipeout, Krupicka in an upset loss after being the favorite from Day #1).
3. Del. David Englin. Endorsed Rob Krupicka and Jaime Areizaga-Soto, both of whom lost last night. Del. Englin also issued a statement condemning"Barbara Favola's racist statements that Jaime Areizaga-Soto cannot win or effectively represent us because of his ethnicity." We'll see how this goes over with Del. Englin's colleagues in Richmond, but I've definitely heard some grumbling.
4. Sharon Bulova. Endorsed and STRONGLY campaigned for Christopher Wade, a self-described McCain-Palin supporter in 2008 and a lifelong Republican who gave no reason whatsoever why he "switched" parties to run as a Democrat for Braddock District Supervisor. "McCain-Palin Dude," as I call him, lost to a real Democrat, Janet Oleszek, who defeated not just him but the Sharon Bulova political machine, such as it is (and it ain't much, apparently - lol!).
5. Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and Vice Mayor Kerry Donley. Both endorsed Rob Krupicka for the 30th State Senate district, about half of which is in Alexandria City. Krupicka won Alexandria, but not by nearly a wide enough margin (48%-35%) over Adam Ebbin to compensate for losses in Arlington County (where Krupicka got just 14% of the vote) and in Fairfax County (where Krupicka lost to Ebbin, 40%-35%). Not much of a political machine in Alexandria, it seems.
6. George Allen: Strongly endorsed Tito Muñoz, who was wiped out last night by Jeff Frederick. We might also want to add Sarah Palin (who made Muñoz famous in the first place, back in 2008) and Andrew Breitbart (who called Muñoz "one of the greatest voices" in the Tea Party) to this list. In fact, what the heck, we will! :)
7. Democracy: There were very few contested races yesterday, which is pathetic in and of itself. Ideally, in a democracy, it seems to me that there should be frequent primaries of incumbents. We certainly didn't have that yesterday, particularly on the Democratic side. As for the primaries that actually DID take place, turnout was pitiful (e.g., 7% and 8%, respectively, in the 30th and 31st Senate districts). I really don't know how a democracy can function effectively when 90%+ of registered voters don't exercise their right, and in my view obligation, to cast a ballot. Ugh.

Earthquake! AP Reports Pentagon, Capitol Being Evacuated [UPDATE: Magnitude 5.9]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wow, did you feel that? Here in Arlington, I felt a strong rumbling through the house, even had a clock fall to the ground. Crazy.Meanwhile, per USA today:
The Associated Press reports that the Pentagon is being evacuated.An apparent earthquake rocks Washington, D.C. area.
Fox news reports that several public buildings, including the Capitol, have been evacuated.
What are you hearing? Stay safe!UPDATE: The USGS reports that this quake measured 5.8 5.9 on the Richter Scale, was located at 37.875°N, 77.908°W, apparently near Louisa and Mineral, northwest of Richmond, 83 miles from Washington, DC, just 0.6 miles deep. Wow.
UPDATE #2ABC reports the quake was "felt in Washington, New York City, North Carolina."
UPDATE #3: My cell phone (Verizon) service isn't working, is yours?
UPDATE #4: Hey, now that the earthquake's gotten everyone's attention...make sure you go VOTE today! :) For Jaime Areizaga-Soto, Janet Oleszek, and Theo Stamos if you could. Thanks. :)
UPDATE #5: Per the Washington Post, Marcia McNutt of USGS says, "What the concern is, of course, is that this is a foreshock. If it's a foreshock, then the worse is yet to come."
UPDATE #6: From Del. Surovell on Facebook, "Report from VA: No casualties, no emergency declaration, no resource requests, no power outages, no transpo impacts, VA nuke plants ok"
UPDATE #7NBC reports, the "The [North Anna nuclear power] plant declared an 'unusual event' in the wake of the 5.9 magnitude quake, which is the lowest stage on the plant's emergency scale...As a result, the plant has been shut down."
UPDATE #8: Per Metro, "Customers should expect significant delays on Metrorail until further notice due to the reduced operating speed." Also, "Metro personnel are conducting track inspections of the entire rail system."
UPDATE #9: With people being sent home from work in DC and Virginia, I'm wondering if voting hours be extended? How will this impact today's elections? Who knows at this point. Craaaazy.
UPDATE #10: There's excellent quake coverage, specifically focused on Arlington, at ArlNow!
UPDATE #11: I just talked to a representative at the State Board of Elections, and she said they're focused on making sure polling places are safe, that some polling machines have actually been moved outside. So far, though, there's no sign that polling hours will be extended. Seems to me that's a mistake, but what do I know?

Polls are Closed: Results Thread

Feel free to use this as an open thread to discuss today's primaries. I'll start posting returns as soon as they start coming in. Also, you can follow the results at the Virginia State Board of Elections website. If you hear anything interesting, please post it in the comments section. Thanks!P.S. I just have to use this pun somewhere - will there be any political earthquakes today or just a natural one? :)
UPDATE 7:24 pm: With 5 of 54 precincts reporting in the 30th Senate district, it's Krupicka 43%, Ebbin 36%, Garvey 18%. With 3 of 59 precincts reporting in the 31st, it's Favola 61%, Areizaga-Soto 39%. Also, with 4 of 58 precincts reporting, Theo Stamos is up 76%-24% over David Deane for Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney.
UPDATE 7:29 pm: With 12 of 54 precincts reporting in the 30th Senate district, it's now Krupicka 42.0%-Ebbin 36.7%-Garvey 21.3%. In the 31st, it's Favola 63.2%-Areizaga-Soto 36.8% with 8 precincts reporting.
UPDATE 7:38 pm: With 21 of 54 precincts reporting in the 30th Senate district, it's now Krupicka 40.5%-Ebbin 38.4%-Garvey 21.1%. Most of Alexandria, which is Krupicka's strongest area, is already in. Hmmmm. As for the 31st, with 17 of 59 precincts in, Favola's ahead 63%-37%. Not looking great for Jaime right now. :(  On a more positive note, Theo Stamos is cruising to victory, right now with an 82%-18% lead. Congratulations to Theo, I think we can call this one! :)
UPDATE 7:43 pm: With 25 of 54 precincts counted in the 30th, Ebbin's pulled ahead of Krupicka 41%-37%, with Garvey trailing significantly behind at 22%. In the 31st, Favola's holding her large lead (62%-38%) with 20 precincts reporting. In the 49th HoD district, Alfonso Lopez is beating Stephanie Clifford by a 2:1 margin with about half the precincts reporting. I think we can call that one too - congratulations to Delegate-elect Alfonso Lopez!
UPDATE 7:47 pm: On the Republican side, Dick Black is leading by a 52%-26%-21% margin in the 13th State Senate district, with 29 of 52 precincts reporting. Stirrup's hope is to win big in PW County, whose results have just started coming in, but he's got a lot of ground to make up on Black!
UPDATE 8:04 pm: State Board of Elections site has been down for a while now. I sure hope they get this resolved soon!
UPDATE 8:07 pm: SBE back up. With 30 of 54 precincts reporting in the 30th, Ebbin's leading 39.5%, with Krupicka at 35.1% and Garvey at 25.2%. Looking pretty good for Ebbin right now! As for the 31st, with 36 of 53 precincts reporting, and Jaime trailing 63%-37% (including losing badly in Loudoun and trailing in Fairfax, both of which he needed to win), I think it's fair to call this one for Favola. Sigh...
UPDATE 8:18 pm: On the Republican side, with 44 of 52 precincts reporting, Dick Black is winning handily over John Stirrup and Robert Fitzsimmonds (46%-30%-23%). And in the 36th Senate district, Jeff Frederick is utterly demolishing "The Builder," 74%-26%. I guess that endorsement of Tito by powerhouse/kingmaker (not!) George Allen must have made all the difference. Hahahahahaha.
UPDATE 8:25 pm: With all votes counted in the 90th HoD district, Del. Algie Howell easily beat back a primary challenge from Rick James, who was supported by the Virginia Education Association, the LCV, the Sierra Club, and the AFL-CIO among others.
UPDATE 8:29 pm: Other Republican Senate results include Tommy Norment easily defeating Mark Frechette in the 3rd, Dick Black almost certainly winning in the 13th, Dave Nutter leading Tripp Godsey in the 21st, a tight race between 4 candidates in the 22nd, another tight race in the 37th (Flanary vs. Hunt), and what looks to be a fairly easy win by Miller Baker over Scott Martin in the 39th. On the House side, David Ramadan appears to have defeated Jo-Ann Chase in the 87th, and Randy Minchew has won the 10th over John Whitbeck and Cara Townsend.
UPDATE 8:48 pm: With 37 of 54 precincts reporting in the 30th Senate district, Adam Ebbin is leading by 249 votes over Rob Krupicka (Libby Garvey trailing far behind). The problem for Rob is that his strongest area, Alexandria, is all counted. Also, Rob's trailing Adam so far in Fairfax, which is his only hope to make up ground at this point. I'm getting close to calling this for Adam!
UPDATE 8:54 pm: I'm hearing that Rob has called to concede the race to Adam. Congratulations Senator-elect Ebbin on his upset win!
UPDATE 9:00 pm: Winners on the Senate Republican  side include Norment (3rd), Black (13th), Nutter (21st), most likely Garrett (22nd), Frederick (36th), most likely Flannery (37th), Baker (39th). Winners on the House Republican side include Minchew (10th), Webert (18th), Ramadan (87th), Hodges (98th), Ransone (99th).
UPDATE 9:07 pm: With 21 of 27 precincts counted in Braddock District, it's now Chris "Random McCain-Palin Dude" Wade leading Democrat Janet Oleszek by 7 votes (1,422-1,415). Does Janet ALWAYS have to be in razor-tight races?!?
UPDATE 9:30 pm: With 25 of 27 precincts counted in Braddock District, it's now Janet Oleszek by 19 votes (1,866-1,847) over McCain-Palin Dude. Go Janet!
UPDATE 9:49 pm: With 26 of 27 precincts counted in Braddock District, it's now Janet Oleszek by 26 votes (1,894-1,868) over McCain-Palin Dude. Go Janet!
UPDATE 9:53 pm: With ALL precincts counted in Braddock District, Janet Oleszek IS THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE! Psyched!!!

Stop the Environmentally Disastrous Tar Sands Pipeline

Monday, August 22, 2011

If you're in DC, stop by the White House and express your support for these folks, staging a sit-in at the White House in an attempt to stop approval of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands Pipeline. Why are they doing this? Because, as Tar Sands Action explains, "The tar sands represent a catastrophic threat to our communities, our climate, and our planet. We urge you to demonstrate real climate leadership by rejecting the requested permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and instead focus on developing safe, clean energy." Why the urgency? Because "President Barack Obama will decide as early as September whether to light a fuse to the largest carbon bomb in North America...the 1,700-mile long Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport this dirtiest of petroleum fuels all the way to Texas refineries."President Obama: say NO to this pipeline. It's wrong in every way, at a time when climate change is accelerating, and also when we urgently need to be getting off of fossil fuels and onto clean, renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, energy efficiency, etc.). This really isn't that complicated; in fact, the only reason it's even a question at all is that the oil industry, the wealthiest industry the world has ever known, has been applying enormous pressure on our politicians to "drill baby drill," regardless of the disastrous environmental consequences. In the case of tar sands, it's basically "drill baby drill" on steroids from an environmental damage perspective.  Why on earth would we move in this direction, especially when there's a much, much better way? Well, we shouldn't, and the folks in front of the White House are putting their bodies on the line to try and stop this thing. For that, we should all be eternally grateful -- but even better, we should lend them every bit of support we can.

Are We Really a "Center-Right Country?" Jon Huntsman Says "Yes." The American People Say "No."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Watching the Talking Head Shows this morning, I saw Jon Huntsman asserting, as if it was a clear factual statement, that we live in a "center-right country." Unsurprisingly, the corporate media (in this case Jake Tapper) didn't challenge Huntsman, but I will. First, let's look at some national polling on the key issues, and where, IMHO (feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section), that puts the American people on the political spectrum IN BOLD AND ALL CAPS.1. Abortion: 54% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in "all cases" or "most cases." Only 15% believe that abortion should be illegal "in all cases."  CENTER-LEFT
2. Energy: By a 69%-26% margin, Americans favor "Stricter regulations on oil drilling." By a 65%-28% margin, Americans favor "Limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions." By a 78%-17%, Americans favor "Requirements that utilities produce more energy from wind, solar or other renewable sources." By a 64%-33% margin, Americans oppose "building more nuclear power plants at this time."  CENTER-LEFT (although really, this shouldn't be a "left-right" issue at all)
3. Environment: By a 71%-28% margin, Americans want the EPA to continue "spending any money to enforce regulations on greenhouse gases and other environmental issues." By a 71%-26% margin, Americans "think the federal government should...regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming." By a 55%-39% margin, Americans favor giving priority to environmental protection, "even at the risk of limiting the amount of energy supplies -- such as oil, gas and coal -- which the United States produces." CENTER-LEFT (again, this shouldn't be a "left-right" issue at all, but a matter of science and the environmental health of the planet we all share)
4. Food:By a 75%-21% margin, Americans would favor "a law that would increase government regulation of food safety." CENTER-LEFT
5. Guns:By a 62%-35% margin, Americans believe "the federal government [should] be allowed to ban the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons, except for use by the military or police." By a 51%-7% margin, Americans believe "gun control laws in this country should be more strict than they are now" (39% say they're "about right" as they currently are). CENTER-LEFT
lowkell :: Are We Really a "Center-Right Country?" Jon Huntsman Says "Yes." The American People Say "No."
6. Health Policy: 53% of Americans believe Congress should either expand health care reform (33%) or "keep as is" (20%). Only 21% say "repeal and replace." By a 68%-21% margin, Americans say "the benefits from Medicare are worth the cost of the program for taxpayers." By a 54%-38% margin, Americans think it would be a "bad idea" to "overhaul Medicaid so that more of the responsibility for providing health care for low income people would shift from the federal government to the states." CENTER-LEFT7. Immigration: By a 54%-42% margin, Americans say they'd support a bill "that would allow illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college." By a 62%-35% margin, Americans do not believe that the 14t amendment ("that any person born in the United States or its territories is automatically considered a U.S. citizen") should be revised. By a 54%-44% margin, Americans say they oppose legislation "to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S. whose parents are illegal immigrants." However, by a 55%-43% margin, Americans say they oppose "a  bill to give some illegal immigrants living in the U.S. a path to legal status." Also, by a 68%-24% margin, Americans say that "immigration reform should primarily move in the direction of...of stricter enforcement of laws against illegal immigration" rather than "integrating illegal immigrants into American society." And Americans favor Arizona's immigration law by a 50%-31% margin. CENTER-RIGHT
8. >Gay Rights: By a 51%-45% margin, Americans "think it should be legal...for gay and lesbian couples to get married."  By an 83%-10% margin, Americans believe that "homosexuals / gays and lesbians who do NOT publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military." Only 24% of Americans oppose "allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military." CENTER-LEFT OR LEFT
9. Taxes/Deficit: By a 63%-36% margin, Americans favor "Increases in taxes on businesses and higher-income Americans" to reduce the deficit. By a 64%-35% margin, Americans oppose "Major changes to the Social Security and Medicare systems" in order to reduce the deficit. By a 57%-40% margin, Americans favor "Major cuts in spending on domestic government programs." By a 60%-33% margin, Americans favor "Increasing tax revenues by making major changes to the current federal tax code." CENTER OR CENTER-LEFT
10. Last but not least, when it comes to corporations, Americans overwhelmingly disagree that corporations are "persons," with "Nearly four
in five (79%) Americans support[ing] passage of an amendment to overturn the [Supreme Courty's Citizens United] decision and make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as
people, thus giving Congress the authority to limit the amount of money corporations can spend on elections." LEFT OR CENTER-LEFT
Bottom line: On all of these issues except for one (immigration), a majority or plurality of the American people favor "center" to "center-left" (aka, progressive) policies. Only when it comes to immigration can the American people be said to favor a "center-right" policy (although many polls also show Americans strongly supporting "comprehensive immigration reform," including a path to earned citizenship). [In addition, it's important to point out that only a VERY small minority of Americans support the far-right, extremist policies supported by Republican presidential candidates like Michele Bachman and Rick Perry] Yet, all this evidence to the contrary, the corporate media continues to accept, at face value, statements by politicians that America is a "center-right" nation. Why is that?

Primary Endorsements for August 23, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I thought it might be worthwhile to briefly recap my endorsements for this year's Democratic primaries, to be held this coming Tuesday, August 23. Whoever you decide to vote for, the main thing is to cast your vote. I know it's old fashioned and all, but my strong view is that voting in America is a right, a privilege, and in fact an obligation of being a citizen. Of course, being informed and engaged is also crucial, both before and after you cast your vote, so I hope you'll read up on all the candidates in your district and make a smart choice on election day!Braddock District Supervisor: This one's an absolute "no-brainer," with one superbly qualified Democrat (Janet Oleszek) battling a self-described McCain-Palin Republican, one with ZERO record of working for Democrats, of serving the community, of working for the Braddock District or for Fairfax. In stark contrast, Janet Oleszek - as Chap Petersen points out - stood up to Ken Cuccinelli when nobody else would. She also served on the Fairfax County School Board, where she was instrumental in bringing full-day kindergarten. As if that's not enough, Janet's also a passionate environmentalist, and very focused on transportation and other issues affecting her district. Bottom line: again, this choice is a no-brainer. Janet Oleszek for Braddock District Supervisor.
Arlington Commonwealth's AttorneyTheo Stamos. For more on this superbly qualified individual for the job of Commonwealth's Attorney, see here("Arlington, Falls Church Police Endorse Theo Stamos for Commonwealth's Attorney"), here (long-time Arlington CA Dick Trodden's endorsement). Theo's opponent, David Deane, seems like a good guy, but his campaign's been lackluster (at best). In the end, there's no comparison when it comes to Theo's experience and qualifications for this position. As I told Theo yesterday when she knocked on my door, as she canvassed my neighborhood (yes, she's been working incredibly hard for this job for many months now), I greatly look forward to having Theo Stamos as Arlington's Commonwealth Attorney. Go Theo!
lowkell :: Primary Endorsements for August 23, 2011
Senate District 31: This race has been rough and tumble, to put it mildly, but that's how primaries - both Democratic and Republican - get a lot of the time. Something tells me our Democracy will survive it. :)  Anyway, the clear choice in this race is Jaime Areizaga-Soto. Jaime's got an extremely impressive background -- Stanford Law grad, work at top law firms, appointment as a (nonpartisan) White House Fellow, appointment to the Obama Administration, leadership as a Lt. Colonel in the Army National Guard's Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG), and Vice President of the Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia. Jaime's also a strong, independent-minded, passionate progressive, who I'm confident will do what's right, and not just what the party bosses (some of whom, like Dick Saslaw, are not progressive in key ways, such as on environmental issues, payday lending, etc.). In contrast, Jaime's ethically-challenged opponent is almost completely the product of The Establishment. In this case, said Establishmen went to all lengths, including extremely heavy-handed tactics, in their attempt to "clear the field" for their Chosen Candidate. In addition, this individual is heavily funded by the real estate industry (despite an agreement among Arlington County Board members, herself included, NOT to take such contributions!), as well as the hated towing industry, from which she took $2,500 just 5 days before voting to raise their rates. Can we say "appearance of impropriety?" Finally, this individual has run a campaign filled with gaffes, wild distortions, and outright lies about her opponent, as well as about her own statements, actions, etc. It's truly been a disgrace, one of the worst campaigns I've ever seen in my 6 years of blogging about Virginia politics. The last thing voters should do on Tuesday is to reward her, and her allies like Dick Saslaw, for that behavior.30th Senate District: No endorsement in this race, as there are three strong progressives running. However, as I wrote the other day,  if I had to choose in this race, I'd go with either Adam Ebbin, who has a proven, strong progressive track record (with a few exceptions, such as his final vote to repeal the estate tax) or Rob Krupicka, an impressive policy wonk with tremendous knowledge of localities, something that would be very valuable to have in Richmond. As for Libby Garvey, I continue to like and admire her a lot personally, and think she'd do a good job in Richmond. However, I disagree with her that, in the end, "it all comes down to education." In fact, education is crucial, but there are tons of issues, ranging from GLBT equality to progressive taxation to a renewable portfolio standard to ethics in government name it, that have nothing to do, really, with education. Anyway, no matter who wins this race, the voters of the 30th District will come out ahead. See what happens when the "powers that be" allow Democracy some room to breath?!?
49th House of Delegates District: No endorsement here either, as there are two strong progressives running, both of whom have their strengths. If you want experience, you should go with Alfonso Lopez, as he's got far more of it (a great deal with the Kaine administration) than does his opponent. Lopez also has far more endorsements, including by former Gov. Kaine, who's holding an event for Lopez tonight. If you want a completely new voice, on the other hand, then consider Stephanie Clifford. She started off the campaign unpolished, but has improved markedly as the months have gone by. Stephanie's also backed by two good friends of mine, Arlington Revenue Commissioner Ingrid Morroy and former ACDC Chair Peter Rousselot. If Clifford doesn't win this coming Tuesday - and, frankly, she's an enormous underdog - I certainly hope she stays involved, engaged, and committed to helping fight for progressive values and Democratic victory in Arlington, Alexandria, and Virginia (and the nation) more broadly!

New Poll: Virginians Strongly Oppose Mountaintop Removal; Strongly Support Clean Water Act

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

new poll by Lake Research Partners completely rebuts the concept that people, even ones who live in coal producing states, support mountaintop removal coal mining and/or oppose protecting the environment. It's simply, blatantly, and absolutely false. Here are a few poll highlights, with a focus on the Virginia/Tennessee breakout.*Only 16% of general election voters in Virginia and Tennessee have a favorable opinion of mountaintop removal coal mining. In contrast, 40% have an unfavorable opinion, while 42% have no opinion or have never heard of, mountaintop removal coal mining. That's a 2.5:1 ratio against mountaintop removal coal mining in the coal producing states of Virginia and Tennessee!
*It's not that Virginians are anti-coal, as they support "coal mining" in general by a 55%-23% margin. However, they strongly disapprove of blowing up mountains, trashing the environment and severely harming the health and economic well being of people who live in those areas, to get at that coal. As well we all should!
*When mountaintop removal coal mining is described to voters in Virginia and Tennessee, accurately, as "where the top of a mountain is removed to extract the coal and waste is disposed in nearby valleys and streams," the percentages of "strongly oppose" and "somewhat oppose" jump, to 41% for the former and 17% for the latter (total oppose: 58%). In contrast, support for this heinous practice is just 17%, with 25% still not sure. That's a 3.5:1 ratio against mountaintop removal coal mining, as soon as people know what it is.
lowkell :: New Poll: Virginians Strongly Oppose Mountaintop Removal; Strongly Support Clean Water Act
*Given those results, perhaps it's not surprising that voters in Virginia and Tennessee favor banning mountaintop removal coal mining (by a 42%-25% margin), and overwhelmingly (74%-9%) favor "fully enforcing the Clean Water Act to safeguard streams, rivers, and lakes" in their state.
*As the press release accompanying the poll states, opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining "crosses typical political boundaries, including 64% of Democrats, 60% of independents and 51% of Republicans." In addition, "Fully three-fourths (75%) of Republican voters, and 68% of Tea Party supporters, in this survey support increasing Clean Water Act protections from Mountaintop Removal coal mining."
I spoke with Jane Branham of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Virginia, and she added several important points. First, only a tiny percentage of people (11%) in "coal country" are employed directly in the coal economy. Second, mountaintop removal coal mining, in addition to harming peoples' health (she said "it's literally killing people," and she's absolutely correct on that) and the environment, actually destroys jobs, as it's a highly mechanized (capital intensive) form of mining that requires few human beings to run. Finally, what's particularly disturbing is how afraid people are, despite their opposition to this barbaric practice, to speak out. That's due to the intimidation of the coal companies and its allies, in a wide variety of ways - economic and otherwise. Perhaps it's time for those of us who consume the electricity generated from mountaintop removal coal mining to start speaking out a bit more?

Only 17% of Incumbent Republican Delegates Being Challenged by Dems; Senate Even Worse

Sunday, August 14, 2011

About 2 months ago, I posted here about the fact that - as Mason Conservative first noted - only 15% of Virginia House of Delegates seats were being contested between a Republican and a Democrat. As I wrote at the time, this sucks on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. As a progressive, it sucks. As a Democrat, it sucks. As a citizen who believes that our Democracy depends on competitive elections, it sucks.Anyway, I was wondering how this suckiness has progressed (or regressed?) since June 19th. Courtesy of VPAP, here's the sad story:
*We're up to the whopping total of 23 contested House of Delegates races (out of 100) between a Democrat and a Republican. That's 23% total contested races now, compared to 15% in mid-June. Yipee.
*However, I count only 9 Republican incumbents (out of 52) being challenged by a Democrat. Those would be: Vern Presley (D) vs. Del. Will Morefield (R) in the 3rd; Ward Armstrong (D; redistricted out) vs. Del. Charles Poindexter (R) in the 9th; Carl Genthner (D) vs. Del. "Sidedshow" Bob Marshall (R) in the 13th; Laura Kleiner (D) vs. Del. Dickie Bell (R) in the 20th; Adrianne Bennett (D) vs. Del. Ron Villanueva (R) in the 21st; Roy Coffey (D) vs. Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R) in the 31st; Pamela Danner (D) vs. Del. Barbara Comstock (R) in the 34th; Jack Dobbyn (D) vs. Del. Dave "Abuser Fees" Albo (R) in the 42nd; and Eric Clingan (D) vs. Del. Jim LeMunyon (R) in the 67th.
*UPDATE: Also note that there are several contested races between non-incumbents (e.g., House districts 2, 10, 12, 19, 87 and 98; Senate districts 13, 22, 30 and 31). However, this doesn't change the percentage of contested races between a Republican and a Democrat, nor does it really change the overall conclusion. In the case of the Senate, the 30th and 31st are both solid Democratic districts, where Democratic incumbents are retiring, and where Republicans are challenging. In the 13th, I'm hopeful for Shawn Mitchell, especially if a loony-tunes Republican like Dick Black is that party's nominee. See the comments section for thoughts from Isaac Sarver in particular, on the 2nd, 10th and 12th House of Delegates districts.
See the "flip" for more
lowkell :: Only 17% of Incumbent Republican Delegates Being Challenged by Dems; Senate Even Worse
*Bottom line: only 23% of Virginia House of Delegates districts currently have a contested race between a Republican and a Democrat, while only 17% of incumbent Republican delegates are being challenged by a Democrat.*In talking to Democrats "in the know," the consensus seems to be that Democrats are likely to lose a number of seats this November, from the current 39 Democratic delegates to perhaps the low-to-mid 30s.
*Also, in talking to Democrats "in the know," the blame for this situation goes in a number of directions (in no particular order): 1) the DPVA and its "leader," Brian Moran (what on earth is he doing, other than ripping off kids in his job as for-profit scam "colleges" chair? hello?!?); 2) the House Democratic caucus (formerly led by Matt Mansell, who left late last year); and 3) a horrible Republican redistricting/gerrymander that basically killed Democrats' chances in the Virginia House of Delegates for the next decade.
So, that's where we're at right now in the House of Delegates. In the State Senate, I count 22 contested races out of 40 total Senate districts (55%) between a Republican and a Democrat. That sounds pretty good, except that 16 of those races have a Republican running against an incumbent Democrat. That compares to just 2 - count'em, TWO! - races in which a Democrat is running against an incumbent Republican (David Bernard vs. Sen. John Watkins in the 10th; Shaun Broy vs. Sen. Jill Vogel in the 27th). That's a 13% challenge rate for Democrats against incumbent Republican Senators.
Needless to say, this is not good news, as we attempt to defend our narrow, 22-18 majority in the State Senate. Sigh...

Compassionate Conservatism: Pretending to Have Our Backs

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

by Dan Sullivan

The three guests may be forgiven their lack of business savvy, they are physicians. But the self-proclaimed business icon and Virginia 2nd District Congressman Scott Rigell can't. In the Republican free market version of a death panel, the four of them claimed to be protecting those over 55.Representative Rigell hosted a town hall last night in Virginia Beach. It was billed as "Let's Talk About Health Care, A Conversation with Members of Congress." Everyone there recognized that there are problems and issues. There was plenty of chatter. But no one who attended was provided any information that would change their already rigid opinions. Anecdotes passed for evidence. No one on the panel had any credible argument to support positions presented. Everyone applauded statements they supported and ignored information challenging their firmly held assumptions. However one BIG LIE proffered was that grandfathering citizens over 55 in the current Medicare system is some magnanimous, compassionate gesture. Another BIG LIE is that business experience conveys financial acumen. Rigell never recognized the first BIG LIE, demonstrating the second BIG LIE (see Governor Bob McDonnell and ABC).

"To give us a little background on why this is such an issue going forward for our country, as you can see, the average couple turning 65 today in their lifetimes has contributed a little over $100,000 to the Medicare program over the course of their lives. But because of the increased costs of healthcare and all the technology and all the things we can do for people today, that same couple will have about $300,000 in benefits over the course of their lives." - Representative Larry Bucshon (M.D.) R-IN
So, what's your point, Doctor? That works out to be a surplus of over $54,888.88 at death. $100,000 invested on a straight line over 45 years earning a reasonable (until recently) 5% per annum, compounded, would yield $354,888.88 (game it yourself). A surplus even if the bill was levied on the first day of eligibility; which it isn't and the balance will continue to accrue interest and grow through the remainder of their hypothetical lives.

Yes, this is a simple illustration. But the more complex cases will have similar outcomes. One can quibble all day about the methodology, but it doesn't change the fact that these fellows have it wrong and Scott Rigell doesn't understand finance. To present these "facts" and pretend to be doing those who have paid in to Medicare their whole lives a favor is treachery. To send out messengers disguised as compassionate conservatives who may actually buy into the simple lies compounds the fraud being perpetrated.  The fact that Rigell's three guests (Congressman Phil Gingrey (M.D.) R-GA, and Phil Roe (M.D.) R-TN, joined Congressman Bucshon) took time from their schedules to travel to Hampton Roads says something. But it just doesn't say much about solving the issue. This IS NOT ABOUT increased costs and technology. It IS ABOUT executive and congressional irresponsibility acting as stewards of our nation's treasure. And if we can't blame Bush for a thing, then forget about pointing at past Congresses. Congress needs to make this right. And if the current health care law is not the answer, then build a better mousetrap. The United States has an obligation to fulfill its promises to her people. These gentlemen were offering nothing more than the switch of a bait and switch. And the record says this switch is a death knell for Medicare. They are the Medicare death panel.

Adam Ebbin: "I don't appreciate Libby speaking for me"

To date, the 30th State Senate district Democratic race has been a rather sedate affair, almost sleepy, certainly in comparison to the 31st. Well, after last night's Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA) debate, we can definitively say, "not anymore!" First, check out the video I've embedded to the left, specifically where Libby says, "I've been very disappointed, Rob, in your campaign, because you have said constantly you're the only candidate with children in the public schools, and that's felt to me, frankly, like code: Adam's gay, can't have children in the public schools, and I'm old..." Note the nervous laughter by the audience. Also, I was sitting in the front row, and Rob Krupicka looked surprised and taken aback by Garvey's remarks. Anyway, a bit earlier today, the Libby Garvey campaign sent out a fundraising email with their own video of this moment in the debate, and touting Libby's criticism of Krupicka:
Libby lays out exactly why she'll be the effective senator we need in Richmond to stand up to "coded language" and other hallmarks of politics as usual. At the end, she even calls out Rob Krupicka for some coded language of his own!
Perhaps this will be an effective fundraising email, I have no idea. One thing's for sure, though -- Garvey's opponents don't appreciate what she said in the least bit. For instance, the Krupicka campaign is responding, "Surprised to learn that @libbygarvey doesn't think GLBT parents can have kids in public schools. Wow." In general, Krupicka's folks appear stunned and angered by Garvey's charge of implicit homophobia and ageism on his part. I was curious what Adam Ebbin thought, since Garvey specifically mentioned him as not being able to have children in the public schools since he's gay, so I called him a few minutes ago. Ebbin's on-the-record reaction was: 1) "Gays do have kids in the public schools; 2) "I have gay friends with kids in the public schools;" 3) "I don't appreciate Libby speaking for me;" 4) "Let's just say, Libby is not going to win any awards for diplomacy;" and 5) "I don't think Rob has a homophobic bone in his body." Given that Krupicka's been a champion for GLBT rights in Alexandria, and that he "was the first straight member of the Virginia Partisans, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization," I think that should go without saying.

Topper Shutt: Excellent Meteorologist; On Climate Science and Clean Energy, Not So Much.

Look, WUSA TV-9's Topper Shutt is an excellent meteorologist, but his expertise is in short-term forecasting, not long-term climate modeling. And, just as I don't think Topper would like it if a climate scientist or a clean energy expert/businessperson/etc. casually, and without any proof, dismissed meteorology as a field, something tells me that climate scientists and folks in the clean energy industry don't appreciate him doing exactly that to them. Case in point:yesterday's and today's blog posts by Shutt, both on the issue of climate change and environmental/energy challenges more broadly. In the first column, entitled "World's Biggest Threat," the WUSA-TV chief meteorologist strays outside his swim lane, and in doing so, makes a number of egregrious errors. For instance, there's so much wrong with sentences like the following, it's hard to know where to start. Here are a few examples (in bold) with my comments (in italics).*"Some would have us believe that 'global warming', or now as it is called 'climate change' is our biggest threat to humanity."
That's just silliness; as NASA explains, "global warming became the dominant popular term in June 1988, when NASA scientist James E. Hansen had testified to Congress about climate, specifically referring to global warming....Hansen's testimony was very widely reported in popular and business media, and after that popular use of the term global warming exploded." The thing is, though, "temperature change itself isn't the most severe effect of changing climate," and for this reason, "'global climate change' is the more scientifically accurate term." That's not so hard to undrestand, now is it Mr. Shutt?
lowkell :: Topper Shutt: Excellent Meteorologist; On Climate Science and Clean Energy, Not So Much.

*" warming is way down on the list of serious threats to the health of our planet and all its inhabitants."
This is dead wrong. In fact, according to a report by doctors and climatologists published by The Lancet, climate change represents "the biggest global health threat of the 21st century." Among other things, "The doctors and researchers listed shortages of water and food, along with war and ecological collapse, as the most pressing health threats posed by climate change." As if that's not bad enough, climate change is also viewed as a serious national security threat to the United States. As if all that's not bad enough, there's also the fact that "approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5-2.5 °C (relative to 1980-1999)." In short, we're talking mass extinction due to climate change. If all that doesn't make you nervous, then you're simply not paying attention. Hello, Topper Shutt? Are you paying attention? :)*" and wind power are great but right now and in the near future will not be able to make much of a dent in our foreign oil addiction."Yes, in the "near future" - 5 years or whatever - that's true (although solar and wind are improving by leaps and bounds technologically). But, if we get serious about dealing with our energy and environmental challenges, we can certainly move within 15-20 years to a vehicle fleet that's powered by wind, solar, and other non-carbon-emitting power sources. Instead of talking about what we supposedly can't do, how about talking about what we CAN do if we put our minds and talents to the job?!?
OK, so those are really egregious errors, and I think it's important for the reality-based community to set the record straight. Fortunately, Topper Shutt does get a bunch of things right, even if - once again - they have absolutely nothing to do with his area of expertise, meteorology (e.g., short-term weather forecasting). For instance:
*"[Tom] Friedman puts me in a panic about the population explosion in the next thirty to fifty years... It's difficult to imagine the stress this number of people will place on oil, minerals, timber, food and clean water."
Absolutely, no doubt about it. And that includes per capita and total human emissions of greenhouse gases.
*"...the export of our way of life and the eventual end to resources we have taken for granted for hundreds and even thousands of years" represents a huge threat to the world.
Again, absolutely true. And again, that includes export of our profligate carbon-based energy consumption, and therefore our profligate emission of greenhouse gases and contribution to climate change.
*"If we export our rate of consumption and life style to the rest of the world many of our life sustaining life resources will simply run out."Ditto.
*"...every single material used for packaging and shipping most either be biodegradable or recyclable, preferably both."
Correct. We need to move away from the throwaway society, and from an overall assumption that resources are limitless and that the planet's environment can absorb every insult to it. And yes, that includes the spewing of billions of tons per year of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
*"We need to build and make homes and buildings more energy efficient. It is easier to save energy than to produce more energy."
100% correct; as I've argued a bazillion times, energy efficiency is by far and away the lowest of the "low-hanging fruits," the "biggest bang for the buck," or any other cliche you want to think about. From a climate change perspective, the energy you never consume at all is infinitely better than the fossil fuels you burn to power your cars, homes, etc.
Anyway, the bottom line is that Topper Shutt is a fine short-term weather forecaster. He is not, however, a climate scientist or energy expert, as demonstrated by the two blog posts referenced above. In the future, I hope that Shutt will stick to telling us whether it's going to rain or snow/be hot or cold tomorrow, as opposed to venturing into topics best left to people who actually have studied, researched, and worked for years in those areas.
P.S. Oh, by the way, just a personal note to Topper Shutt from a fellow blogger: welcome to social media, where people point out when you say wrong stuff. In short, welcome to my world! :)
P.P.S. Shutt might also want to talk to his fellow meteorologist Bob Ryan, who seems significantly better informed about climate change than Topper does.

For-Profit Education from the Inside

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

by Elaine in Roanoke

Twice in my life I have taken positions with for-profit companies that pretend to be educational institutions. Both times I desperately needed a job and got out as quickly as I could. So, I do feel that I can speak to the way far too many of these "schools" take advantage of their students, and also us taxpayers who provide the funds for educational loans their students take out.In my early twenties I was working as a technical editor in Connecticut when my company cut back on staff. After I exhausted my meager savings, I took an editorial job at a con operation then called "Famous Writers School" in Westport CT. The operation, founded by the late Bennett Cerf, was a correspondence school (the equivalent of online courses back then) for people that the school had convinced had "great" writing talent. When Jessica Mitford exposed the operation, 65,000 people were being taken advantage of. The whole thing smelled so bad to me that I quit after four weeks.
In 1995 I took a job as an instructor at one of those places that tells students they can get a associate's degree in 1.5 years. I left that job after one semester. The problems there were three-fold. The students were not screened to determine if they could do the course work. The jobs students were training for were fairly low-paying. The tuition was very high, so the company wanted students who could qualify for federal loans or federal retraining funding. At the time, I felt those same students would have been far better off attending community college.
One example of the lousy economic return was the program that promised a degree as a practical nurse. There was one big catch to that promise.
Elaine in Roanoke :: For-Profit Education from the Inside
In the state of Virginia, anyone who wants to work as a practical nurse must pass a rigorous state exam to be licensed. The classes at the school didn't prepare people to pass that test. Plus, the costs were high. Tuition, fees and books at the same for-profit school in 2011 total $24,800 per year. The school states that the nursing program takes 14 months to complete, but only 18% of students finish in that time.The same program at Virginia Western Community College costs $387.27 per class. Another big difference is that VWCC advertises that the program is a "restricted admissions program." Translated, that means students are tested to see if they have the ability to handle the level of difficulty the program has. The for-profit business takes all comers into the program, whether they are capable of completing the program or not. In fact, they make lots more money if students drop out in frustration, cases where loan programs get stuck when money isn't paid back.
Virginia Western doesn't just have a program in practical nursing. It also offers nursing aide, dental hygiene, radiography, and radiation oncology.
The saddest thing that for-profits do is they raise the expectations of some students who will never succeed in their "school." They do have their success stories, but I cannot see why anyone would attend one of them instead of the local community college, where instructors have to meet minimum criteria and where students will be placed in programs where they are most likely to succeed, with those needing it receiving remedial education.
If for-profit educational institutions want to burnish their lousy reputation, they could start by being more discriminating in the students they take into various programs, plus lower their tuition so that it is closer to their competitors, the community colleges. As it is, they rely on deceptive advertising and the availability of federal educational loans. After all, they're not the ones left holding the bag if a student defaults.
To sum up, for-profit schools have a very long way to go to make themselves reputable in my eyes.