Home Virginia Politics House Democrats Push to Allow Virginia Governors Two Terms in a Row

House Democrats Push to Allow Virginia Governors Two Terms in a Row


Virginia State CapitalIf a two-term executive is good for America, why is it bad for Virginia? House Democrats want to tear down that wall:

The commonwealth’s chief executive cannot serve two consecutive terms, something governors can do anywhere else in the country. (Virginia governors may serve a second term, but not two in a row.)

That makes the governor “a lame duck the minute he takes his hand off the bible,” said Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington). That also leads governors to “kick the can down the road” on tough problems that require long-term planning, such as transportation, Brink said.

So Brink is calling for a change to the state Constitution to allow two consecutive terms. He appeared at a news conference in Richmond on Monday along with other members of the House Democratic Caucus, including House Minority Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) and Caucus Chairman Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax).

This would seem to be on the list of Great Ideas Virginia Republicans Will Never Let Pass. “Traditionally, Virginia Republicans have been dead set against this, not because it might or might not promote greater accountability, but because Virginia Republicans favor a weak Governor and a weak government in Richmond,” says former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Peter Rousselot. “The one-term limit promotes weaker government in general, and that’s what Virginia Republicans are really after.” And when people like House Speaker William Howell have been in Richmond for literally decades, do you really think he’s going to give up even a fraction of his advantage in experience, long-term relationships & institutional inertia?

My only objection to the effort would be blaming one-term governors for our problems in Richmond. Tim Kaine couldn’t solve problems not because he was kicking the can down the road – he was roadblocked by anti-tax Republicans. Gov. Bob McDonnell has failed to solve our transportation funding issues because he’s more beholden to Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge than he is to Virginia families. As long as Virginia’s Republican Party remains opposed to new revenue in all forms (as well as opposed to civil rights for all Virginians), Virginia’s status as one of the best places in America to live, learn, work & play will be at risk.

  • kindler

    …and one more step to bring VA out of the Dark Ages.

    The other consequence of the one term limit is that our governors so frequently pivot  right away into running for president or VP — unsuccessfully that is, at least for the last 200 years.  We could save national politics from the clutter of Wilders and Allens and Warners making these hopeless runs — wouldn’t that be a gift to our country?

  • FairfaxInsider

    Kaine’s first two years were not blocked by anti-tax Republicans. He worked with pro-tax moderates like Vince Callahan and John Chichester and put together the infamous 2007 Transportation bill, the abuser fees bill with out-of-state-driver exemptions and unconstitutional unelected taxing authorities.

    However, after public opinion turned against the transportation bill, and Republicans and Democrats alike who had a hand in passing it, Kaine campaigned around the state attacking the Republicans he just worked with to pass the bill, and succeeded in taking over the State Senate. It wasn’t a surprise to see Republicans not fall for the same trap in 2008, Kaine’s last full year in office.

  • glennbear

    Virginia’s uniqueness at banning second terms needs to be consigned to the ash heap just as other failed policies have been. Miscegenation laws, massive resistance, Jim Crow laws, and slavery have no place in the 21st century neither does term limits on properly elected state chief executives. The GOP loves to cite the private corporation model as the proper one to run a government entity. Using that logic, how many successful companies change CEO’s like clockwork every 4 years ? With the governor’s office being used primarily as a stepping stone to national politics it is the welfare of the citizens of Virginia that is being stepped on.

  • Paba

    Any sitting governor should focus not on these, but on the matters at hand.

    If you think they aren’t doing this enough in the first term, why would they in the 2nd?

    I’m not convinced that this unique rule needs changing and I’m not convinced that the behavior will be any different in a 2nd term than the 1st.

  • Jason

    I would like to hear more debate pro and con.  At the moment, I’m agnostic on this, although if I had to pick I would be inclined to support two terms.  

  • epb22

    One aspect of this debate that is often overlooked is the impact of a two consecutive term governorship on the balance of power between the legislature and the executive. The GA only meets for a few months each year and their attention during that time is devoted entirely to passing legislation and, every other year, crafting a budget. The GA performs almost no oversight of the executive branch (which includes a fairly substantial number of commissions and advisory boards) and plays a negligible role in vetting nominees (I believe that Kaine’s labor nominee was the first to be “rejected” in a number of years). Certainly, the GA has JLARC, the finance/approps committees and a few commissions that could be said to fill a oversight role but the efforts of all of these entities combined does not even approach the level of oversight put in by other legislatures across the county or the US Congress (granting that the Congress oversees a much larger operation and therefore is an imperfect model).

    The non-consecutive term at least provides a natural turn-over in control that could be said to limit the harm any one person or set of nominees could inflict. Plus, it limits the personal following/political base that a governor can develop and translate into political pressure on the GA (imagine what Warner could have done with a second term? imagine what McDonnell could do if he wins by another landslide?) and therefore forces them to rely on/consult the more entrenched political leadership of the GA more then they otherwise might. I’m not saying that these concerns aren’t correctable. I do think they need to be considered. Democrats understandably have more faith in the governorship since we’ve controlled it more recently (just as Republicans have greater faith in the powers of the presidency).  However, that should not blind us to legitimate concerns about balance. I have not seen Brink’s entire proposal but, as described, it sounds like this aspect of the debate is ignored once again.