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Top Virginia Political Stories of 2015

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The following list is not meant to be comprehensive (nor is it in any particular order), but these are some of the top political stories, IMHO, that took place in Virginia during 2015. Note that I “crowd-sourced” this list, so these are not all my ideas (although I agree with them all). Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section. Thanks, and happy New Year!

  • Republicans hold the State Senate, despite a huge effort – and enormous cash infusion – by Democrats. On the plus side, Democrats held all their incumbents. On the negative side, so did Republicans. In short, there’s almost zero competition in the vast majority of incumbent-drawn-for-their-protection districts, and it showed in 2015.
  • House of Delegates Democrats, despite having minimal resources, manage to pick up a seat (getting them to 34 out of 100). Obviously, there’s still a long way to go to get to 50 or more, but there are plenty of Obama/Kaine districts held by Republicans that should, at least in theory, be competitive. Next shot: the gubernatorial election year of 2017.
  • Virginia Republicans continue their refusal to expand Medicaid. This, despite the fact that an increasing number of Republican-led states have moved to do just that. So far, though, “no go” here in Virginia. Perhaps the VHHA’s major push to figure out a way to bring back our tax dollars to help hospitals and the uninsured in Virginia will pay off in 2016. Let’s hope so, for all our sakes.
  • Battle over state Supreme Court nominee (currently Justice) Jane Roush. This one got super nasty, with utterly absurd charges of sexism and racism being thrown around. To the contrary, this was 100% about power, specifically a Republican power play to try and show Gov. McAuliffe who’s boss in Virginia. We’ll see how it goes in coming weeks, but right now it looks like Republicans plan to boot Roush off the court and install their own pick, whoever that might end up being. Ridiculous.
  • Rise of virulent Islamophobia in Virginia. Utterly appalling, with crap like this angry, bigoted mob in Spotsylvania County, the craziness over Roanoke Mayor Bowers relating Syrian immigrants and World War II internment camps for Japanese-Americans, “Liberty” University President Jerry Falwell talking about using a gun to “end those Muslims,” etc. Some of the ugliest days in Virginia since “massive resistance.” Ugh.
  • The soap opera of Joe Morrissey. It’s been going on for years (unfortunately), and in some ways was epitomized by this bizarre photo. At this point, what else can you even say about Joe Morrissey, other than “don’t let the door hit you…”
  • Battle over Dominion’s proposed natural gas pipelines. A terrible idea in almost every way, but this being Virginia, Dominion Power usually gets whatever it wants from its bought-and-paid-for political puppets. Fortunately, citizens are opposing Dominion, but given that Gov. McAuliffe and other muckety-mucks are backing the state-protected monopoly, it’s basically David vs. Goliath here. On the other hand, how did THAT battle work out again? LOL
  • Jim Webb tries, fails, to run for Democratic Presidential nomination. After deciding not to run for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2012, a lot of us assumed that Webb’s political career was over, that he’d go back to what he’s best at — writing. Instead, Webb decided to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, but got nowhere and dropped out. Now, the question is whether Webb will run as an independent. And if he does, will he do any better than Jim Gilmore’s doing right now in his run for the GOP presidential nomination? Heh.
  • Serious ethics reform gets nowhere. Sad but predictable, given that Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, House Speaker Bill Howell, etc. are all deeply invested in maintaining Virginia’s “legally corrupt” political system.
  • Democrats regain their mojo in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. In Arlington, a year after a Republican shocked everyone by winning not one but two elections for County Board, Democrats held the seats of departing Democrats Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes. In Loudoun County, Democrats will go from zero seats on the County Board to actually having the Chair of the Board (Phyllis Randall) as well as Koran Saines (who knocked off rabid homophobic nutjob Eugene Delgaudio). And in Fairfax County, Democrats actually picked up a seat on the County Board (congratulations to Kathy Smith!), while Del. Kathleen Murphy defeated a tough challenge and Jennifer Boysko was elected to the House of Delegates. Not too shabby!
  • Dominion Power continues to corrupt Virginia government, get (almost) whatever it wants. As one friend put it, “Dominion writes its own deregulatory bill and the state’s political class folds like a cheap suit to accomodate our monopoly.”
  • Virginia defends the Clean Power Plan. Despite reams of absurd disinformation spewed out by fossil fuel interests and a clueless/compliant media, the Clean Power Plan is moving ahead, with Virginia joining a coalition of states defending it in court.
  • Anti-transgender freakouts in Stafford, Fairfax Counties. See here and here, if you can bear to watch this crap. It’s truly embarrassing, and horrifying, that any parent would act like this.
  • Cruz-Cooch bromance. As I wrote, it’s one extremist bigot endorsing another extremist bigot. Shocker, eh?
  • Extremist bigot (and 2013 Virginia GOP nominee for LG) E.W. Jackson continues to rant and rave. There are innumerable examples from 2015, but just to give you a flavor, check out EW Jackson Defends Trump, Claims “political Islam…responsible for the murder of 270 million people”
  • 2016 presidential candidates start to gear up, organize for Virginia’s March 1 primary. Hillary Clinton headlined the 2015 Virginia Democratic “JJ dinner” and spoke at a rally in Alexandria the day after her marathon “Benghazi” testimony. Bernie Sanders spoke at Liberty University, Arlington and Manassas. Republican candidates are all over Virginia. The Virginia GOP wants March 1 primary voters to pledge loyalty. Etc, etc. Fun times, in other words, as the Virginia primary draws nearer…
  • Bob Goodlatte wages war on Chesapeake Bay and a bunch of other things. There are so many crazy Republican Virginia Congresscritters, it’s hard to decide who’s worst. No doubt, though, Bob BADlatte has got to be high on the “worst” list, given crap like this and this and this and so much more. Just the pits.
  • Battle over I-66 tolling, So much heat, so little light. So much misinformation, so little truth. And so much money spent on stupid TV ads which arguably didn’t impact a single Virginia political race in 2015. Meanwhile, the answer to I-66 congestion continues to be the same as always: stop sprawling, move towards smart growth and transit-oriented development. And do NOT think that wasting money building more highway capacity is going to do anything but make this problem worse.
  • Bloomberg’s gun safety group spends big on Virginia 2015 races. Not sure the ads made much difference, one way or the other, but presumably Bloomberg’s folks collected some helpful data for their efforts in 2016 and beyond.
  • Virginia hospitals fight for funding. Let’s just hope they succeed in 2016, for the sake of Virginia’s hospitals and the hundreds of thousands of Virginians who need health insurance.
  • Republicans start announcing, maneuvering for 2017. Ed Gillespie, Ken Cuccinelli, Rob Wittman, and whatever other crazies the Republicans come up with for governor in 2017. Should be loads of fun, especially if the Virginia GOP holds another convention like they did in 2013, when they nominated the infamous “extreme team” of Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain. Go for it, guys! LOL
  • Democratic 2017 ticket shapes up with announcements by Mark Herring, Ralph Northam. In early September, Mark Herring announced that he’d forgo a run for governor, which many (most?) people were expecting, and instead run for reelection as Attorney General. That, in trun, probably cleared the field for Ralph Northam for governor, unless someone else jumps in unexpectedly. Meanwhile, who’s going to run for LG on the Democratic side? I’m sure we’ll find out in 2016.
  • Redistricting lawsuits. We’ll probably know the outcome to this case in early 2016, and it could have major implications for the Virginia House of Representatives delegation. There was also a lawsuit challenging 12 majority-black House of Delegates districts; a three-judge panel ruled on that one in October, upholding the districts.
  • Mark Herring. Finally, from a political friend of mine: “Mark Herring emerges as most consistent, courageous progressive champion statewide since…I dunno, James Madison?” Perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but nice job by Attorney General Herring (despite the over-the-top, hyperventilating attacks on him by right-wing Republicans).