Video: 45th House of Delegates District Democratic Debate (5/31/15)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The debate this afternoon for the 45th House of Delegates district Democratic nomination was put on by the Mt. Vernon  District Democratic Committee, and ably moderated by Matt Bell. Below, and also in the comments section, please see video from the debate (the first question was on the top priority each candidate would have as delegate). The candidates are (L-R) Craig Fifer, Clarence Tong, Larry Altenburg, Mark Levine and Julie Jakopic. In my view, these are all smart, articulate candidates - they certainly all performed well today! - really an "embarrassment of riches" in many ways, and also a tough choice for voters on June 9 (and for me in terms of who to endorse, if

Video: Question on Virginia Marijuana Laws (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Question on Economic Equity for Adjunct, Contract Workers (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Question on Dominion Virginia Power Bill (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Question on Offshore Wind Farms vs. Offshore Oil Drilling (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Question on Route 1 Corridor (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Question on Single-Use Plastic Bag Tax (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Question on Nonpartisan Redistricting (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Question on Virginia King's Dominion Law (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Question on Government Data Collection, Mass Surveillance (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Question on whether McAuliffe, Kaine and Warner are wrong on offshore oil drilling (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: Opening Statements (5/31/15) (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: 45th HoD District Dem Candidates' Closing Statements (5/31/15) (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Video: 45th HoD District Dem Candidates' Closing Statements (5/31/15) (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Two Mt. Vernon District Dem Candidates (Candice Bennett, Jack Dobbyn) Speak Prior to Forum (0.00 / 0[delete comment]
IP Address: 2601:a:1200:d637:2104:c054:7fb8:b5f4
The other candidates, Dan Storck and Tim Sargeant, were not present.

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Video: Question on animal protection, welfare (0.00 / 0[delete comment]

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Top 11 Virginia Primaries I'll Be Following Most Closely on June 9

There will be numerous primaries for the Virginia General Assembly and for local office (County Board, School Board, Mayor, etc.) on June 9. Here are the top eleven (note: I was going to do ten, but realized I needed to squeeze in one more) I'll be watching, in reverse order of how much I care about the particular election. How about you?11. Senate District 11 Republican primary: Can right winger Amanda Chase take advantage of her endorsement by the Republican Times-Disgrace Richmond Times-Dispatch today and knock off incumbent Sen. Steve Martin, one of the most bigoted and extreme members of the Virginia General Assembly (see, for instance, Virginia State Sen. Steve Martin: Muslim Americans Shouldn't be Protected by U.S. Constitution and "Child's Host" State Senator: Torture Justified "no matter what body parts are lost in the process"). Again, this is a safe Republican district, so it's not interersting from that perspective.
10. House District 28 Republican primary: I would have rated this one higher, but I find it hard to believe that Tea Partier Susan Stimpson will defeat House Spaker Bill "ALEC" Howell. It sure would be hilarious if she did. Also, a Stimpson victory is probably the only chance for Democratic nominee Kandy Hilliard in November. So...go Stimpson! ;)
9. Senate District 12 Republican primary: I'll be fascinated to see if Siobhan Stolle Dunnavant can defeat Bill Janis after this debacle by Dunnavant. This is a safe Republican seat, so it's not interesting from that perspective.
8. Senate District 16 Democratic primary: I'm rooting for Rosalyn Dance over the this guy (Joe Preston), who among other problems answered "undecided" to a slew of questions, including ones on important/hot-button issues like whether or not to support a "personhood" amendment (that would, effectively, ban abortion, as well as many forms of contraception, embryonic stem cell research, etc.), what he thinks about "physician-assisted suicide," "Common Core" educational standards, and a constitutional amendment requiring a 2/3 majority to impose new or increased taxes/fees.  I mean, how on earth can you be running for State Senate and be undecided on these important matters? Not serious. Also, Democrats need to make sure the nominee from this district defeats Independent slimeball Joe Morrissey in November, and Rosalyn Dance is the best one to do that.

7. House District 79 Democratic primary: It would be awesome to see Democrat Steve Heretick knock off the utterly egregious DINO Johnny Joannou, at long last, although Joannou has certainly proven that he's not easy to beat (for whatever reason). The bottom line is that there's no excuse to have such a godawful faux-"Democrat" in a safe "blue" district like this one. Right, 79th HoD district Democratic voters?!?6. Alexandria Mayor Democratic Primary: The three candidates include one current Mayor (Bill Euille), one former Mayor (Kerry Donley) and one current Vice Mayor (Allison Silberberg). This one could also be super close, and could have important ramifications for Alexandria's future...
5. Mt. Vernon District (Fairfax County) Supervisor Democratic primary: There are four candidates in this one --Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here!" Power executive Tim Sargeant, Dan Storck, Jack Dobbyn and Candice Bennett. Most elected officials appear to have lined up for either Storck (e.g., most of his fellow School Board members, Del. Scott Surovell) or Sargeant (Sen. Toddy Puller), and I'm hearing the outcome could be super close. Stay tuned...
4. House District 45 Democratic primary: This five-candidate race is to succeed Del. Rob Krupicka (D), who is stepping down in favor of doughnuts (can't say I blame him!). While this race will not determine the balance of control in the overwhelmingly Republican House of Delegates, nor is the general election outcome in any doubt given the overwhelmingly "blue" nature of the district, it's a fascinating race featuring several strong progressive candidates.
3. Arlington County Board Democratic primary: A five-way race for TWO open seats on the Arlington County Board, between Katie Cristol, Christian Dorsey, Peter Fallon, James Lander, Andrew Schneider and Bruce Wiljanen. This one could be super close and have important consequences for the future of Arlington. I'm rating this so high because I find it interesting, of course, but also because I live in Arlington. :)
2. Senate District 10 Democratic primary: I'm pulling for progressive and environmentalist Emily Francis to win, and for the disloyal DINO Dan Gecker to lose. This primary is super important, because Democrats have to pick up this seat (currently held by Republican John Watkins, who is retiring) to have any hope of taking back control of the State Senate.
1. Senate District 29 Democratic primary: Just as Democrats need to pick up John Watkins' seat in the 10th, we absolutely MUST hold the district that Sen. Chuck Colgan (D) has held for so many years. I'm pulling strongly for former U.S. combat Marine and current Prince William County teacher Atif Qarni, both as the best candidate on the merits, and also as the most likely of the three Democrats running to hold this Obama/Kaine district seat (but one in which Democratic "dropoff" is severe in off/odd-year elections like this one) in November.  

Can You Imagine if This Nut Had Been Elected Governor of Virginia?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

In our last installment of Ken Cuccinelli's crazy Facebook page and the bigoted extremists who comment on said page, we featured a status update in which the top-rated comment (by far) said that "illegal immigrant families...deserve a bullet." Today, there's another good one, with Cooch ranting and raving (does he ever do anything else?) about same-sex "marriage" (air quotes are his). According to Cooch: "The future is now in Canada thanks to their 2005 adoption of same-sex 'marriage.' Ten years later, the tyranny against Christians is well under way. What is this "tyranny" of which he speaks? In short, a strongly anti-LGBT, fundamentalist Christian law school was rejected for certification by British Columbia's Minister of Advanced Education. Whether or not you think that's right or wrong, it's a wee bit of overstatement to claim that it's evidence of "tyranny"/wholesale "persecution" of Christians in Canada, as Cooch breathlessly claims. It's also certainly not evidence of what the top-rated comment on Cooch's Facebook post claims it to be: evidence of the "last days" in which "you will not [be] allowed to buy or sell unless you accept the mark of the beast." But yeah, just another day in the bizarre, warped, paranoid, constantly-under-siege-from-gays-and-liberals-etc. world of Ken Cuccinelli's. Again, can you imagine if the nut had been elected Governor of Virginia?!? In the end, he lost, but it was horrifyingly too close for comfort...

On June 9, Time to Vote Worst "Democrat" in the Virginia General Assembly Out of Office

Friday, May 29, 2015

Del. Johnny Joannou is arguably the worst "Democrat" in the Virginia General Assembly, horrendous on just about everything, might as well be a Tea Party Republican. For more, see this website, and if you live in the 79th House of Delegates district (Portsmouth, Norfolk), make sure you vote for a real Democrat,Steve Heretick, on June 9!

Video: Jon Stewart Blasts Media's Coverage of Bernie Sanders

This is something that's been bugging me for weeks now, and Jon Stewart really nailed it last night: the media's coverage of Bernie Sanders has been an utter disgrace. Note that I don't say this as a Bernie Sanders supporter per se, simply as someone who finds the corporate media coverage of politics in this country - and of Sanders specifically - to be horrendously lame, irresponsible, brain dead, you name it.Thus, according to the corporate media political hacks, Bernie Sanders is not going to be "taken too credibly" because he's "a loon" who is a "socialist for god's sake, is "73 years old, he looks 91;" and, worst of all, "has a thick Brooklyn accent." My god, a THICK BROOKLYN ACCENT! We certainly can't have THAT in the White House! (snark)
On the other hand, according to the same corporate media hackdom, the following people ARE apparently to be taken credibly.
Ted Cruz: An extremist who has said so many crazy things, so many outrageously false things, it's hard to keep track. He also worked hard to shut down the government, is a raging anti-gay bigot, anti-Muslim bigot, etc, etc., denies climate science (an automatic disqualifier in and of itself), and is generally speaking a far-right, theocratic nutjob. Yet he's treated much more seriously by the corporate media than Bernie Sanders is. Perhaps because he's a Teapublican, and the corporate media is terrified of those people?
Rand Paul: Same deal as Ted Cruz, pretty much. This guy is an anti-vaxxer who defended BP during the Gulf of Mexico disaster (saying that anyone who criticized the oil company was "really un-American"), compared Benghazi to 9/11, compared healthcare to slavery, frequently "shushes" female rpeorters, is also a climate science denier and apparently a creationist as well, etc, etc. Total nutjob and far-right-wing extremist, in other words, yet he's a more serious candidate for president than Bernie Sanders, who by world standards would be slightly left of center (my god, he supports expanding Social Security - gasp - he must be a commie!). Again, the corporate media is utterly brain dead.
Jeb Bush: A climate science denier (automatic disqualifier) who's apparently still for the Iraq War (even knowing now what we didn't know then), also ran for Florida Governor on "a sweeping set of conservative proposals that, if enacted, would have made Florida a virtual laboratory for far-right policy." Yet Jeb Bush is treated more seriously by the corporate media as a candidate for president in 2016 than Bernie Sanders, who believes such wild-eyed thing like: we "must transform our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels and towards energy efficiency and sustainability;" "as the rich become much richer, the level of income and wealth inequality has reached obscene and astronomical levels;" and that "Congress must pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and move toward public funding of elections." Yep, crazy talk...except that it's not at all crazy, and also happens to be supported by the majority of Americans in each case. But whatever, Sanders isn't serious, so sayeth the corporate media, and Jeb Bush is. Gotcha.
Scott Walker: Yes, this is the Koch Brothers' Favorite Extremist (see that post for a million examples as to why), yet the corporate media treats HIM as a serious candidate, but not Bernie Sanders, who favors getting big money out of politics (something supported by a strong majority of Americans).
Rick Santorum: One of the most extreme of the extreme 2016 Republican candidates, yet Media Help Santorum Rebrand As "Champion Of The Working Class," Ignoring Economic Policies That Favor Wealthy. Great, huh?
Mike Huckabee: The corporate media seems to love this guy, even though he's...yes, totally bonkers. Why do I say that? Well, see 5 Quotes Show Why Mike Huckabee Is 2016's Most Dangerous Candidate and 11 Bizarre Mike Huckabee Quotes On Gay Marriage, Obama, And... Amy Winehouse? and Mike Huckabee's Craziest Comments and...we could go on all day. Yet Huckabee is treated seriously by the corporate media, far more so than Bernie Sanders, who advocates for...environmental protection (my god!) and a strong social safety net (can't have THAT!).
I could go on and on, but I don't have all day to cover all the dozen+ far-right Republican candidates (Donald Trump anyone? Ben Carson? Rick Perry?) spewing out their extreme beliefs and la-la-land craziness 24/7. Also, the corporate media seems to have that beat covered, except not in the sense of calling out these folks for their lunacy and extremism, but in treating it all as normal, "both sides," etc. Only in such a brain-dead world could Bernie Sanders - who Jon Stewart correctly described as a "rational, slightly left-of-center, mainstream politician" - while true extremists like the Republicans mentioned above are juuuuust fine with the corporate media. Sorry corporate media guys, but this judgement reflects a lot more on YOUR inadequacies (intellectual, moral, etc.) than on Bernie Sanders or anyone else you choose to trivialize, marginalize, mock, or ignore for no good reason whatsoever (other than your own cowardice and smug stupidity).

Blue Virginia 44th HoD Democratic Candidate Interviews: Paul Krizek

A few weeks ago, I sent identical questionnaires to both Democratic candidates in the 44th House of Delegates district. Below are the answers from Paul Krizek, who I am strongly endorsing this morning (joining other Krizek endorsers -- Congressman Gerry Connolly; Former Congressman Jim Moran; Senators Toddy Puller, Adam Ebbin and George Barker; Delegates Scott Surovell, Alfonso Lopez, Mark Sickles, Patrick Hope, Kaye Kory, Marcus Simon, David Bulova, and Eileen Filler-Corn; Supervisor Gerry Hyland and Supervisor Jeff McKay). If I receive responses from the other candidate, Justin Brown, I will print them, but I have repeatedly followed up with his campaign and, despite being told on May 12 that they would have responses back to me "asap," I haven't heard back since then. Whatever. Anyway, with that, here are Paul Krizek's answers, which I'd give an "A+" grade to -- thorough, thoughtful, strongly progressive, excellent no matter how you look at them!1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the Democratic candidates to represent the 44th House of Delegates district in Richmond. 
I love Mount Vernon, and I am deeply committed to my community.  I grew up in the 44th House District in Mount Vernon, went to the local public schools, and have a daughter at Carl Sandburg Middle School.
I want to go to Richmond to help those that are struggling in our community just as I have done as a charity executive and before that, as a legislative staffer for Congressman Jim Moran, where I worked for eight years on legislation and constituent service for the people of the 8th Congressional District. I find helping people immensely gratifying and rewarding.

Highlights and Lowlights from the 2015 Virginia Sierra Club General Assembly Scorecard

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Virginia Sierra Club scorecard for 2015 is now available, and sadly, an issue that should equally concern all of us - protecting the environment we all inhabit - continues to show a lamentable, absurd, frustrating partisan divide. For instance, courtesy of Ivy Main's Power for the People VA blog, note that every single Senator and Delegate receiving a perfect Sierra Club environmental score is a...yep, Democrat.
Thirteen Senators scored a perfect 100%, including Sen. Barker (D-39), Sen. Colgan (D-29), Sen. Dance (D-16), Sen. Ebbin (D-30), Sen. Favola (D-31), Sen. Howell (D-32), Sen. Lewis (D-6), Sen. Lucas (D-18), Sen. Marsden (D-37), Sen. McEachin (D-9), Sen. Miller (D-1), Sen. Petersen (D-34) and Sen. Wexton (D-33).Twenty-five Delegates scored a perfect 100%, including Del. Bulova (D-37), Del. Carr (D-69), Del. Filler-Corn (D-41), Del. Futrell (D-2), Del. Herring (D-46), Del. Hester (D-89), Del. Hope (D-47), Del. Keam (D-35), Del. Krupicka (D-45), Del. Lopez (D-49), Del. Mason (D-93), Del. McClellan (D-71), Del. McQuinn (D-70), Del. Morrissey (I-74), Del. Murphy (D-34), Del. Plum (D-36), Del. Preston (D-63), Del. Sickles (D-43), Del. Simon (D-53), Del. Spruill (D-77), Del. Sullivan (D-48), Del. Surovell (D-44), Del. Toscano (D-57), Del. Ward (D-92) and Del. Watts (D-39).
Again, I take no real pleasure in that list (although THANK YOU to everyone who voted for the environment, not for the polluters, in 2015!). The fact is, Republicans and Democrats breath the air and drink the water equally, so there really should be no partisan divide at all when it comes to the environment. Also, even if you're utterly cynical about it, the fact is that BOTH parties receive a lot of money from Dominion Power and other fossil fuel interests (although no doubt Republicans receive even more dirty fuel dollars than Democrats do), so again that should cut against such a stark partisan divide as we see in Virginia. Yet here we are, even as the science is screaming at us about the enormous environmental challenges we ALL face, with this stark partisan divide on what SHOULD be an utterly non-partisan issue.In that context, you'll understand why I find it sad and outrageous to see the Republican Party -- formerly the party of conservationist Teddy Roosevelt and even Richard Nixon, who did some excellent things for the environment -- become an earth-pillaging, Koch-sucking disaster. With that, here are the worst of the worst in the Virginia General Assembly, the Republicans who received "D" or "F" grades from the Sierra Club.
Senators Black, Carrico, Chafin, Cosgrove, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stuart, Wagner.
Delegates Adams, Albo, Anderson, Austin, Bell D., Bell R., Berg, Bloxom, Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Cox, Davis, DeSteph, Edmunds, Faris, Farrell, Fowler, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Howell, Hugo, Ingram, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall D., Marshall R., Massie, Miller, Minchew, Morefeld, Morris, O'Bannon, O'Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pillion, Pogge, Poindexter, Ramadan, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Rust, Scott, Stolle, Taylor, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yancey, Yost.
Oh yeah, and let's not forget two "Democrats": the godawful Johnny Joannou ("F" grade) and also Matthew James ("D" grade). No excuses there, but at least in Joannou's case, he has an opponent (Steve Heretick), who hopefully will beat him on June 9! As for the rest of the "D" and "F" Senators and Delegates,polling clearly shows that they are wildly out of step with their constituents, large percentages of whom (of both parties) support   switching to clean energy and reducing carbon pollution.  The question is, why aren't their supposed "representatives" listening to their constituents?!?

Audio: "The lady (Siobhan Dunnavant) doth protest too much, methinks"

This is fascinating: Siobhan Dunnavant, running for the Republican nomination for Virginia State Senate in the 12th district, completely contradicts the accounts of three Democrats -- Senator Dick Saslaw, Senator Donald McEachin and another unnamed Democrat - she met with. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dunnavant met with the Democrats "toward the end of the 2015 legislative session," and "what was that she was for Medicaid expansion." In addition, as John Fredericks reports in this interview:

1. Dick Saslaw said Dunnavant's brother called him (Saslaw) "to set a meeting up with the Democratic caucus because, he said, you were exploring running for State Senate and were exploring the potential for being the Democratic nominee, and he said that was the genesis, that was the catalyst of the meeting." (Dunnavant's response: "I don't know what happened between Ken [Stolle] and Dick...")

2. All three Democrats who met with Dunnavant said that Dunnavant didn't follow up with them, but Dunnavant said she DID follow up with them and told them she was running as a Republican. According to Dunnavant, "I have no explanation for why they said that, I spoke directly with Sen. Saslaw, and I called Sen. McEachin and within a few minutes he returned my call and we spoke...thanked them...I don't know why they don't remember that, I'm sure it was a busy time for them.")

Dunnavant goes on to spin a convoluted conspiracy theory, about how "now when my campaign is surging, all of a sudden this is coming up and being presented as an issue." She continues, asking "why is a powerful Democratic Senator getting involved in a Republican primary, except that I'm the best candidate and he doesn't want me to get the nomination?"

3. All three Democratic Senators say that Dunnavant told them she favored Sen. John Watkins' "Marketplace Virginia" Medicaid expansion compromise. Dunnavant says "I don't remember us talking about Marketplace Virginia at all...I can't answer for them...I can only tell you that I have a longstanding record of discussing these issues...and there are many people that will be happy to tell you my position, which is consistent with the position I've stated today, including the fact that I was invited to serve on a coalition for Marketplace Virginia to advocate for it and I refused."  Again, Dunnavant implies a conspiracy theory, saying she's running her campaign, getting great feedback, and says the story is about a "courtesy meeting" she had with Democrats "when you've got McEachin and Janis collaborating to undermine my campaign...and we're not talking about that." She asks, "why isn't that the story?"Of course, as John Fredericks follows up, why would Dunnavant even be setting a meeting up with Minority Leader Dick Saslaw at all, "why would you even be...making phone calls, having your brother make phone calls, or even be meeting with him at a hotel, when you're thinking about running on the other side, what would be the objective of that?" Yet again, Dunnavant says it was all "courtesy," that "of course" she'd meet with the Minority Leader, that Fredericks' "premise is flawed." Hmmmm.

Dunnavant adds that at the time of the meeting with the three Democrats, she was still in the process of pondering whether or not she might want to run for State Senate, in fact at the time "was pretty sure I wasn't running and I believe I told them that too." But, as Fredericks states, "they're telling me, ON THE RECORD, that during the meeting you were exploring how you would go about being their nominee, how the process would work, talking about committee assignments and things like that." Her response: "oh my"
Finally, Fredericks asks (somewhat incredulously), "why wouldn't [the Democrats] be in favor of you winning" ("maybe you'd actually work with them"), given her position on Medicaid expansion, "certainly better than some of the more conservative people in there," then what's the "incentive [the Democrats] they have to put this out there now."  This is where Dunnavant really lays it on thick and "protests too much":
Right, so that's curious that you don't see the incentive...because I see the incentive, the incentive is they don't want me to be the nominee. And you're exactly right, it doesn't add up. Why would somebody who was a College Republican, who has been a pro-life OBGYN, who has advocated for conservative principles and Republican candidates ever run as a Democrat?...The only thing that makes that this is a courtesy meeting on my part for a family friend that has been misconstrued and has some political advantage for the Democrats if it is interpreted in the way they are presenting.
So, Fredericks asks, is she saying that Senators Saslaw and McEachin are lying? "No," she says. Huh?Let me just add one other thing that doesn't make sense: this district is a rock-solid "red" district that was easily one by Ed Gillespie, Ken Cuccinelli, Mark Obenshain, Mitt Romney, George Allen and Bob McDonnell. Why, why, WHY on earth would Democrats want the more "moderate" Republican in the race tolose, let alone go through all these convoluted shenanigans and supposed conspiracies to try to make that happen? I'm baffled. Any theories, other than that Dunnavant is simply protesting too much, methinks?

Video: Democratic Debate for the 45th House of Delegates District

Here's video from last night's Democratic debate for the 45th House of Delegates district, held at the Alexandria Country Day Schoool. The candidates are Julie Jakopic, Mark Levine, Larry Altenburg, Clarence Tong and Craig Fifer. The first video is a question about the ethics issues raised by the resignation of (former) Del. David Englin and the egregious behavior of (former) Del. Joe Morrissey. More video - opening and closing statements, questions on taxes, Medicaid expansion, voting reform, police misconduct, local government, education, transportation, the environment, etc. in the comments section. Also, I may or may not end up grading this (depends how much time I've got today), but my initial impression was that the top three in this debate were (in no particular order) Mark Levine, Craig Fifer and Julie Jakopic, all of whom deserve "A" grades. I like Larry Altenburg and agree with much of what he has to say, but we are definitely not in sync on tax policy or on the importance of a delegate from this district helping to elect Democrats across Virginia (he thinks the latter is NOT the job of the delegate from the 45th; I strongly disagree). As for Clarence Tong, he's a good guy, very smart, and we agree on the vast majority of issues, but he's clearly not particularly comfortable with debating (or public speaking generally, for that matter)...
P.S. In the question on ethics, Jakopic ripped Joe Morrissey as a "pedophile" who "harassed that employee," and said there's "no excuse" for having him as an elected official. Tong said it's right to have a "high expectation" for our elected officials. Fifer said incarceration should be incompatible with service in the General Assembly, also finds it "a lot more offensive that the voters keep electing Joe Morrissey and some lawfully serving Republicans with terrible ideas." Altenburg said "criminals should not be legislative office," legislators should be "role models," it's reprehensible that people keep electing criminals. Levine says non-criminal behavior should not force someone against their will to leave office, that ex-felons should have a chance to serve, that non-violent drug crimes don't "bother me."

Video: Bob Schieffer On the Importance of Having Strong Beat Reporters as Antidote to Corruption

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What Bob Schieffer's talking about here (see partial transcript below) is so, so true, certainly in Virginia state (and local) government. I mean, just think about the decline of the Virginia state capitol press corps(e) the past few years, the exodus of reporters with decades of experience from keeping an eye on the crooks shenanigans going on in the Virginia General Assembly. Quick multiple-choice question: without that sunshine, do you think things will get a) better; b) worse? Hmmmm. And yes, political blogs have filled the gap to a small extent, but they're not even close to having the resources necessary to cover the Virginia General Assembly on a day-to-day basis during session, let alone the rest of the year. time you hear someone complain about how corrupt things are in government, remind them that there are fewer and fewer experienced eyes (or any eyes for that matter) shining any light on what's going on there.P.S. h/t to Chris Cillizza on this interview. As Cillizza writes: "Not only are there fewer eyes watching politicians, legislation and the like but also the pols are all-too-well well aware of that fact.  More things are tried -- in a bad way -- by politicians because they know there is a far smaller chance of them getting caught or even called on it." Not good at all. of the things that worries me about current journalism practices is the deemphasis on beat reporters. You know, so many newspapers around the country now - and I'm really worried about the state of newspaper journalism right now - because unless some entity comes along and does what local newspapers have been doing all these years, we're going to have corruption at a level we've never experienced...So many papers now can't afford to have a beat reporter...many papers don't have a city hall reporter cover city hall you have to be there every day, and you have to know the overall story...

Top-Rated Comment on Ken Cuccinelli's FB Page: "illegal immigrant families...deserve a bullet"

See below for the top-rated comment on Ken Cuccinelli's Facebook post regarding the three-judge panel's ruling on President Obama's immigration executive actions. I've crossed out the commenter's name, as that's not really relevant; the point is that this comment, claiming that any "illegal immigrant families" who "come back" to the U.S. "deserve a bullet" has received 126 "likes" as of 9 am Wednesday morning, and has not been removed or rebutted in any way by Ken Cuccinelli. What's horrifying is that Cuccinelli is not an outlier in today's Republican Party; to the contrary, he was elected Atttorney General of Virginia and almost elected Governor of Virginia as the Republican nominee in 2013. How can someone so extreme, so crazy, so godawful even be taken seriously in the United States of America? And how many others in his party agree with the sentiments expressed by the "bullet" commenter? Clearly, a large number, based on the 126 "likes." It's extremely disturbing, even more so that the media won't call out this party for what it has become, but continues its dangerous and cowardly "false equivalency," false "balance" "reporting" instead of simply reporting the TRUTH.

Breaking: Corrupt Slimeball Gives Lame Endorsement to Fellow Corrupt Slimeball

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

This endorsement would be hilarious if it weren't so pathetic. Actually, come to think of it, it IS hilarious.
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has said he wants to unseat powerful Republican state Sen. Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach as the Democrats seek to retake control of the chamber this year.Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, also a Democrat, isn't on board with the plan.
Fraim will emcee a fundraising luncheon for Wagner on Wednesday at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott catering to the maritime community.
"He is supporting Frank," said Wagner campaign manager Scott Weldon. "Mayor Fraim and Sen. Wagner go back years."
Fraim, Norfolk's mayor for 21 years, said Wagner asked for his support long before he knew there would be a Democratic challenger "and I committed to it."
How inspiring, huh? More like super lame. Why? First off, you've gotta love the Wagner campaign manager's pathetic "they go back years" reason for why Fraim is supporting his buddy Frank. Second, does Fraim really think we're all that stupid to believe he did this simply because Wagner asked for Fraim's support "before [Fraim] knew there would be a Democratic challenger 'and I committed to it.'" Uh huh...As to the "corrupt slimeball" part of the title, I refer you to Exhibit A ("Norfolk, Suffolk mayors resign from TowneBank boards") on Fraim and Exhibit B on Frank "Fully Owned and Operated by Dominion Power" Wagner ("During the 2015 legislation session, Senator Wagner carried SB 1349, controversial legislation on behalf of Dominion Virginia Power that restricted the oversight authority of the State Corporation Commission to order refunds when the utility overcharges its customers.  When it became public knowledge that Senator Wagner also owned stock in Dominion, he sold his shares during the legislative session.").
Bottom line: Wagner and Fraim are two slimy peas in a rotting pod, truly made for each other, and no surprise whatsoever that one would endorse the other. Politics at its "why so many people hate politicians" worst...

Israeli Intelligence, Military Alarmed Over Influence of Clueless Conservatives in Washington, DC

This article in today's Forward ("the most influential nationwide Jewish media outlet today") sums up what many of us who strongly support Israel, but who think the right wing is leading it to disaster, have been thinking. A few highlights.*First, the headline: "What Israel's Chief of Staff Is Worried About - No, It's Not Iran." That's right, Iran isn't even on the list (!) "of the main strategic threats facing Israel in the foreseeable future and its plans to meet them," as seen by Israel's military General Staff and intelligence services.
*Instead, what the Israeli intelligence and military services believe is exactly what President Obama, and most pro-Israel progressives like myself, believe: "the likelihood that the emerging nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers could minimize the Iranian threat for an extended period, allowing the military to redirect budgets and resources toward areas of more immediate concern."
*What most concerns the Israeli military? Hezbollah and Hamas, of course; also "the growing threat from global jihad movements, led by Al Qaeda and ISIS;" and the growing threat of cyber attacks."
*Now here's the best part for those of us who think that right wingnuts claiming to be pro-Israel are actually a serious menace to Israel's future:
Looming above all the border concerns is a clear but unstated nervousness within the military and the intelligence community over the yawning gap between their professional assessments of Israel's strategic posture and the agenda of the country's elected political leadership. It emerges in the nervous snickers of ranking IDF strategists in response congressional efforts, like the New York lawmakers' bunker-buster proposal, to bolster what the military command considers the fantasy of an Israeli attack on Iran. It emerges, too, in a growing curiosity tinged with alarm among current and retired military commanders over the influence in Washington of American Jewish conservatives who claim to be defending Israeli security but have little grasp of Israeli strategic thinking.
So yeah, I find myself in full agreement with the Israeli military and intelligence services (also with President Obama and most Democrats), and in full disagreement with the likes of Lindsey Graham, John McCain, John Bolton, and many other right wingers here and in Israel. Which would you believe?

Dick Saslaw's "Theory of the Case" for 2015 Virginia Senate Elections Dead Wrong

I feel like I've been having a similar discussion, over and over again, the past few months, about the Virginia 2015 elections, and specifically what it will take for Democrats to make gains in a low, low, LOW-turnout year. For instance, the other day I was "Gchatting" with one of the smartest Virginia Democratic political observers (SVDPO) I know, and we were discussing this very subject. Here's a rough transcript of the conversation, which started off with us ripping Dick Saslaw for being (as my smart Dem political friend put it), "both an embarrassment and very ineffective."Me: Saslaw's utterly ineffective as a strategist and tactician...wasted $1 million trying to hold Phil Puckett's seat in a 2:1 Republican district. Poor judgment after poor judgment.
SVDPO: Yes, he is completely ineffective at strategy at this point. That's because he's still living in the past, when there was a "Virginia Way" and Democrats were powerful so Republicans were their friends. Once they took power, theyve been kicking Dems like him who used to be their allies to the curb. It's a whole new ball game in Richmond and he hasn't a clue.
Me: Like, they think (conservadem/Independent who wanted to impeach/convict Bill Clinton and mused publicly about not voting to reelect President Obama in 2012) Dan Gecker is the best choice for the John Watkins open seat. That's nuts. Also, they think that they need a white guy to run against Hal Parrish. They tried recruiting two other white guys (David Brickley, who joined the Gilmore administration and effectively threw the House of Delegates to Republican control in 1998, being one of them), finally got Jeremy McPike (apparently anyone but the black guy or brown guy). Just like they said Jaime Areizaga-Soto couldn't win a deep-blue Senate district, which of course was utterly absurd...Jeremy will get trounced by Parrish if he's the nominee. Gecker will lose to Sturtevant. Their "theory of the case" is totally wrong. This is a low-turnout election in which it's all about motivating/firing up the BASE to turn out. Gecker won't do that, nor will McPike. If those two are the nominees, I think it's quite possible we end this election with 16 or 17 Senate seats. John Edwards is in trouble, as is the Colgan seat potentially. We'll see about Lynwood Lewis, hopefully he's ok. Let's also hope Jill McCabe runs a strong campaign against Dick Black.
SVDPO: Hopefully, McCabe will run a strong enough campaign. As for the rest, you are right.
Me: So under Dick's leadership, we've lost the Senate, thrown the House Dems under the bus (because that was supposed to guarantee the Senate, which we lost anyway), and got the worst of all worlds.

SVDPO: You basically summed up our troubles in Virginia. Dick Saslaw losing the legislature for us by his poor choices and inability to recognize that times have changed. I particularly cannot forgive his failure to see the fiasco with Puckett coming. And then actually making public statements that Puckett and Terry Kilgore did nothing wrong. How clueless was all that?
Again, this is an extremely low-turnout, "base" election year, in which the challenge for both Republicans and (to an even greater extent!) Democrats will be to motivate, enthuse, and ultimately turn out their "bases." The way to do that for the "blue team" is most certainly not to run candidates who can barely bring themselves to keep the "D" label by their names, who run away from President Obama, etc. (kinda like in 2009 with Creigh Deeds and in 2014 with Mark Warner). To the contrary, Democrats need...wait for it...strong, proud, forceful Democrats, who will fire up Democrats to work hard this summer and fall to take back the Virginia State Senate. That's my "theory of the case," one that is diametrically opposite to Dick Saslaw's, apparently. What's yours?
P.S. It's also factually incorrect and politically wayyyy off message for Gov. McAuliffe to talk about how supposedly great he's working with Senate Republicans. If that's the case, then why exactly do Democrats need to turn out in droves this November? The correct message, both factually and politically, should instead be: "You guys need to work hard to send me a Democratic Senate this November so I can get great stuff done for Virginia, because with far-right-wing, extreme Republicans controlling both chambers of the General Assembly, that's going to be almost impossible."

Questions For Each Arlington County Board Candidate

Monday, May 25, 2015

(These seem like serious and fair questions to me, so I'm promoting the diary... - promoted by lowkell)

On June 9th, Arlington Democrats will nominate two candidates for the County Board seats being vacated by Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada. Though there have been many debates and candidate forums, there still are some unanswered questions about the candidates that I have been hearing through the grapevine.  With two weeks left in the campaign, it's important that the candidates have an opportunity to address some of the harder-hitting questions that many Arlington Democrats have been asking behind-the-scenes but that have not come up in debates or forums. Therefore, below I have posed questions to each candidate, and I invite them to respond in the comments section. Questions are posed to the candidates in alphabetical order.Katie Cristol
Many people have questions about your professional background. You work for Education First Consulting, which seems to advocate on behalf of, among other things, charter schools. For example, one of the clients listed is the SEED Foundation, which supports charter schools across the country. Furthermore, many of the high-ranking Education First staff listed on the firm's website come from charter school backgrounds and have either founded or lobbied for charter schools across the United States. What is your position on charter schools, and would you support them as a member of the County Board?Furthermore, over the weekend the Arlington Education Association's PAC endorsed Christian Dorsey and Peter Fallon.  This seems odd given the fact that you work as an education consultant. How do you explain the AEA not supporting your candidacy?
Christian Dorsey
At two different debates, candidates were asked if they would support Libby Garvey or John Vihstadt for Board Chair.  Traditionally the chair rotates among board members, and so it is likely that Garvey, and possibly Vihstadt, will become chair during their tenure. However, a more important question is whether or not you will commit to not supporting John Vihstadt for County Board in 2018. One of your top supporters, Peter Rousselot, was instrumental in John Vihstadt's win last year, and your campaign manager was on Vihstadt's campaign staff. Assuming Libby Garvey wins re-election next year, she will likely again support Vihstadt's re-election. Given the close ties between your top supporters/staff and John Vihstadt's, will you commit now to supporting a Democrat for County Board in 2018?
ArlingtonObserver123 :: Questions For Each Arlington County Board Candidate
Peter Fallon
Your long history of service to Arlington County is commendable and much appreciated, and it's likely why the Washington Post endorsed your candidacy. However, some believe that, evidenced by your 2012 and 2014 campaigns for County Board, it was all in preparation for a run for elected office. I think even you would agree that if you lose this time your political career is likely finished. Thus, if you do not win the nomination on June 9th, will you commit to still continuing to serve Arlington in non-elected capacities even without a future in elected office?
James Lander
Many view your decision to seek the chairmanship of the School Board while simultaneously holding a full-time job and running for the County Board as irresponsible. At a time when our schools face critical issues, our children and teachers deserve a full-time School Board Chair, not someone juggling other responsibilities while focusing on running for higher office. Furthermore, questions have arisen about your work ethic on the School Board, and how prior to becoming Chair, you would oftentimes come to meetings unprepared. When Barbara Kanninen challenged you in 2013, her supporters claimed you were absent from roughly 50% of meetings. How do you justify your decision to seek the chairmanship and higher office, and will you commit to making the County Board a full-time job?
Andrew Schneider
Last year you seemingly came out of nowhere to run for Delegate in the 48th District. Only a few short months later you were making it known to the Arlington Democrats that you were running for County Board, leading some to believe that you just want to be an elected official. If you could choose between being a member of the County Board or being a member of the House of Delegates, which would you choose? Why?
Bruce Wiljanen 
Last reporting period, you reported receiving only $1400-- $200 as an in-kind contribution and $1200 worth of loans from yourself. In a Countywide primary election where voter contact is critical and expensive, and turnout is expected to be around 10,000, do you really have a shot at winning? Can you convince people that voting for you isn't a waste of one of their two votes?

Response from Katie Cristol (4.00 / 1[delete comment]
Hi, BlueVirginia and community: Thanks for the opportunity to address concerns directly.I'm always glad to have a conversation with neighbors and fellow progressives on charter schools; I think there's some interesting debate within our party right now. The short answer is that I'm anti-bad charters, and think that districts and states that grant charters freely and then don't move quickly to shut down poorly-performing charter operators are violating the public trust; and I'm pro-good charters, because they've demonstrated a powerful counterexample to the tired trope that "poor kids/kids of color can't learn" and forced us to have some difficult conversations about what it would take to close achievement gaps at scale.  If anyone wants to hear - or share - more, shoot a note to my team and me at - let's talk!
But the more relevant answer to this campaign is that our County Board has little, if any, role on the authorization of charter schools in Arlington - that role is specifically delegated to School Boards under Virginia's current charter laws - and I'm absolutely NOT looking to expand the County Board's influence on the issue or push the School Board in any direction. (If folks have particular hypothetical County Board situations or votes in mind, I'm happy to respond to them).
Regarding the Arlington Educators Association endorsement: I can't speak for them, but I think they had great candidates to choose from and that a lot of folks in Arlington are making hard decisions - and congratulations to Peter and Christian on earning their endorsement. I CAN tell you that charter schools didn't come up at all in our conversation or in their questionnaire (and if the AEA is comfortable, I'd be happy to share my answers to that questionnaire publicly on BlueVirginia).

Will Wonders Never Cease? Washington Post Endorses Atif Qarni for State Senate

Sunday, May 24, 2015

No, I'm still not a fan of Lee Hockstader's, but he certainly got this one right!
State Senate District 29: Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park. The Democratic incumbent, Charles J. Colgan, who has held the seat since 1976, is the longest serving state senator in Virginia's history. His retirement after 10 terms touched off a primary race featuring three plausible candidates, each of whom ran for the House of Delegates two years ago.The strongest of them is Atif M.Qarni, who served eight years in the U.S. Marines, including a tour in Iraq, before becoming a school teacher in Prince William County.
Mr. Qarni, widely admired for his energy, determination and commitment to service, would be the only active teacher in the Senate. He'd also be an effective advocate for schools who could speak to the real-world impact of legislation and policy from the perspective of someone working in one of the most diverse school districts anywhere.
Nailed it; this shouldn't even be a close call.Also of interest, the Post endorsed Paul Krizek in the 44th House of Delegates district, correctly calling him "abundantly qualified to serve in Richmond, having been heavily involved in local civic groups for more than two decades." Also nailed it.
Finally, Craig Fifer continues his endorsement momentum, picking up the Washington Post, which says his "background, combining policy savvy and on-the-ground experience, is excellent preparation for a legislator."
Now, we'll see how the candidates take advantage of the "Washington Post endorsed" label, and how much clout said endorsement carries.

Josh Duggar: "Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, and Mark Obenshain really are exemplary of our values"

In light of the news that Josh Duggar - member of the Duggars' dangerous cult of purity (not to mention the bizarre, warped "Quiverfull" movement) - "repeatedly molested young girls when he was 14," I've seen numerous blog posts and news stories connecting Josh Duggar to various Republican politicans (e.g., see What do Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush Have In Common? Josh Duggar). However, I haven't seen any noting that the Duggars - including Josh Duggar - actively campaigned for the 2013 Virginia Republican "extreme team" ticket of Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, and Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obesnhain. Here's Josh Duggar speaking at a rally for the Extreme Team in October 2013: "FRC Action, our goal is to encourage faith, family and freedom, and these men - Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, and Mark Obenshain - really are exemplary of our values." Any further questions about the Republican Party of Virginia? (note: that same party is now headed by a guy who likes to make anti-Semitic "jokes"; also includes extremists like "Sidehow Bob" Marshall, Dick Black, Steve Martin and many others)P.S. This remains relevant because all three members of the "Extreme Team" are active public figures and potential future candidates for office (e.g., it is certainly possible that Mark Obenshain will run for Virginia Attorney General in 2017).

Democratic Braddock Nominee Janet Oleszek Demolishes "Arrogant," "Insular" John Cook

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Good for Janet Oleszek, standing up to John Cook's continued attacks on her. This time, as you can see on the "flip," Cook is actually implying that Janet Oleszek doesn't care - as Oleszek points out on Twitter - "sex trafficking, sexual assault awareness or domestic violence." Of course, the exact opposite is true: Oleszek cares DEEPLY about all those things, and would be a strong advocate in all those areas on the Fairfax County Board.  So why would John Cook say such obnoxious things? Because, obviously, he's trying to raise money from his right-wingnut base, and this is the type of red-meat, moronic rhetoric they love to hear about evileviltaxandspendblahblahblahliberals™ So here's Cook's "reasoning" in a nutshell: if someone doens't attend HIS meetings and events on whatever topics, that means they don't care about those topics. Logic 101 #FAIL Or, as Janet Oleszek puts it: "The 99.99% of Braddock residents (including me) who did not attend your meetings doesn't indicate a lack of interest in topic.  It actually just indicates a lack of interest in listening to you." ZING!!! ;)

Josh Israel Reports from Last Night's Fairfax County Public School Board Curriculum Meeting

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thanks to Josh Israel for the following, excellent report from last night's Fairfax County Public School Board meeting.
While there were likely 100+ opponents of LGBT equality at last night's Fairfax County School Board meeting, led by Andrea Lafferty of the SPLC-designated hate group the Traditional Values Coalition and far-right former Fairfax School Board Member Mychele Brickner (R), wearing "Respect Parental Choice" stickers, this meeting was significantly calmer than the one a couple of weeks ago. Many of the opponents seemed confused about the fact that, under the proposed curriculum changes, parents will still be able to opt-out their kids from the portions of Family Life Education and that the topics being moved from the Family Life Education curriculum to the health curriculum are topics unrelated to sexual orientation and gender identity.There were about 25 of us supporters of equality there to show our support and Robert Rigby Jr., Alexandra Dixon, Metro DC PFLAG dad Phil Hicks, and (via video) a current out FCPS high school student each gave eloquently and heartfelt testimony about why this curriculum is a matter of life and death for LGBT and questioning kids.
lowkell :: Josh Israel Reports from Last Night's Fairfax County Public School Board Curriculum Meeting
Most of the speeches given during the "Citizen Participation" section by those on the other side were over the top and representing the most extreme arguments possible. Several outright rejected idea that homosexuality is normal, claimed that God created only two genders (not four!), claimed to rely on medical science to say that there is no such thing as being transgender. One woman explained that people think they are transgender either because they a chemical imbalance in the womb (like, she suggested, Bruce Jenner), or because their parents treat them as if they wish for a child of the opposite gender.  The most comical moment was when a speaker suggested that homosexuality is a new concept from the past 15 years and should be rejected, because it was never considered by Aristotle.  Given what we know about Athenian-era Greece, several of us cracked up at that.Because the board was not voting on these policies -- that will happen in a month -- and because the audience was smaller, there were no angry outbursts from audience members this time. Still, it is absolutely vital that everyone who believes that our teenagers need to learn that being LGBT or questioning is normal and okay needs to contact the school board between now and June 25th and, if possible, to be there on June 25 to make sure these hate groups don't get a  "heckler's veto."