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Thursday News: Former Massey Coal CEO Don Blankenship Gets a Year in Prison; Dick Black Not a “Beloved” Fan


by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, April 7. Also, check out the video of Del. Alfonso Lopez discussing some of the bad bills and Republican actions last General Assembly session.

  • From the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University:

    As Wisconsin’s primary result adds fuel to the bitter Republican presidential contest and increases the likelihood of a fractious convention battle, many Republican voters in critical swing state Virginia say they will defect if the nominee is Donald Trump. On the Democrats’ side, despite gains by Bernie Sanders over frontrunner Hillary Clinton, very few Virginia Democrats say they would not support Clinton if she is nominated.

    With contentious primary races testing party loyalty across the country, the Wason
    Center sought to discover how solidly each party’s voters in Virginia would support
    Trump and Clinton if they become the general election candidates. Overall, Clinton
    leads Trump 44-35 in a hypothetical November matchup in Virginia. But focusing on
    those who voted in their party’s March 1 Super Tuesday primary shows a striking
    difference between Republicans and Democrats. A Trump general election candidacy would be in trouble in Virginia, with almost a third of likely Republican voters (29%) saying they would defect. In contrast, 90% of likely Democratic voters say they would stick with Clinton if she becomes the party’s nominee.

    “We found a real loyalty gap,” said Dr. Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center. “If
    Donald Trump turns out to be the Republican nominee, it’s clear that a very significant proportion of Republican voters will either defect or stay home. But it looks like most Democrats – even those who backed Bernie Sanders in the March primary – would support Clinton.”

    Where would those Republican voters go if Trump is the Republican nominee? Rather than vote for Trump, 13% say they would vote for the Democrat, 13% say they would vote for a 3rd party candidate, and 3% would stay home. Democrats, on the other hand, would strongly support Hillary Clinton, with just 4% switching to a Republican vote, 3% voting for a 3rd party, and 2% sitting it out on Election Day.

    Despite their concern over a Trump candidacy, a majority (57%) of Republicans and
    Independents who lean Republican oppose the use of a brokered convention to keep
    Trump from becoming the party’s nominee. Just over a third (36%) say they favor the
    use of a brokered convention to keep Trump from becoming the Republican nominee.

    “There’s a sizable distaste for Trump among Virginia Republican voters,” said Dr.
    Rachel Bitecofer, director of the Wason Center Survey Research Lab. “Almost a third
    would defect or stay home in November. A solid third like the idea of stopping him in
    July by giving the nomination to another candidate in a brokered convention. This adds up to a real advantage for Clinton in purple Virginia.”

    Among all likely Virginia voters in the survey, Clinton leads Trump, 44-35, in a
    presidential matchup. Significantly, though, she is not above 50%, and 14% of likely
    voters say they would not vote for either Clinton or Trump.

    Clinton’s lead shows strong support from Democrats, young voters, and women. Millennials, the 18-34 voter group that has strongly favored Clinton’s rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in the Democrats’ primary contests, nevertheless show a 22-point preference for Clinton over Trump in this survey. A gender gap also lifts Clinton, with women voters preferring her to Trump by 23 points, compared with male voters’ 6-point preference for Trump. Geographically, a suburban-rural divide is clear, as Clinton wins in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads, while Trump takes Southwest Virginia. However, even among all voters, Trump’s biggest liability is within his own party, where only 68% of Republicans say they would vote for him over Clinton in November.

  • Video: Tribute by Stephanie Clifford and Atima Omara to Tiffany Joslyn, who was tragically killed in a car accident a few weeks ago.


  • Quizzical

    Here’s a key quote from the article about the problem with Bernie’ revolution:

    “But even beyond that, there is another point that has always been the flaw in the Sanders model: It does liberals no good to turn out all these voters for a presidential election if they are not going to educate themselves about who else on the ballot they need to vote for.”

    That’s not just a problem with Bernie’s campaign of course. It is a chronic problem for the Democratic Party.

    Turnout in the mid-terms and voter engagement in the down ticket races. How do we fix those two problems?

  • Video: Senators Ebbin and Favola, Delegates Lopez and Sullilvan review the 2016 Virginia General Assembly session


  • From ProgressVA:

    7 Current & Former State Senators Held In Contempt of Court

    Fines could cost taxpayers $5K a week to keep public documents private; hired firm run by colleague to represent them

    Richmond, VA – Judge William R. Marchant this morning held seven current and former Virginia state Senators in contempt of court for refusing to turn over public documents around redistricting. The court approved a fine of $100 per Senator per day while they refuse to comply with the order, meaning their crusade against government transparency could cost taxpayers approximately $5,000 a week. Judge Marchant suspended the fine pending appeal.

    The group includes state Senators John Edwards, Richard Saslaw, Richard Stuart, David Marsden, and George Barker, as well as former state Senators Ralph Smith and Charles Colgan. The law firm of state Senator and candidate for lieutenant governor Jill Vogel represents them. The group intervened in a lawsuit backed by the advocacy group One Virginia 2021 over several state Senate and House of Delegates districts the groups say violate the state constitution’s compactness requirement.

    “It is simply outrageous the lengths these Senators are willing to go to keep public documents secret,” said Progress Virginia executive director Anna Scholl. “ We all know the redistricting process has been abused by politicians to rig elections and keep themselves in office. Now they’re sticking taxpayers with the bill and refusing to comply with a court order to come clean about how they really drew the lines. We’re demanding these current and former elected officials stop wasting our time and money and hand over the public documents they’re hiding.”

    Progress Virginia also demanded Thursday the group of Senators pick up their own tab for their legal bills. While State Senator and Lieutenant Governor candidate Jill Vogel is not a party to the suit, her firm represents the group, raising important questions about conflict of interest. The Richmond Times Dispatch reported the firm, HoltzmanVogel, has already billed approximately $180,000.

    “It’s unbelievable that a bipartisan group of Senators would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a colleague’s business with no transparency,” said Scholl. “I can’t decide what’s more ridiculous: that politicians would go to court rather than turn over public documents, that they could stick taxpayers with the fines after they refuse to comply with a court order, or that they would hire a firm run by a fellow politician to represent them in this whole mess.”

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Virginia families have been stuck with the bill for politician’s political misadventures. Progress Virginia discovered last year that Speaker of the House William Howell used public dollars to pay the legal bills of a campaign aide, also in relation to redistricting litigation. In that case, Howell wasted approximately $224,000 in defense of an aide who was employed by the House Republican Campaign Committee.

  • Governor McAuliffe Vetoes Bills Weakening Virginia’s Gun Safety Laws

    Today at an event in Alexandria, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed three pieces of legislation that would threaten public safety by weakening Virginia’s gun safety laws.

    The Governor vetoed Senate Bill 626 and House Bill 766, identical bills that would eliminate application and safety training requirements associated with concealed handgun permits for individuals who have successfully secured a protective order against another individual. The Governor issued the same veto statement below for both bills.

    Governor McAuliffe also vetoed House Bill 560, which would weaken Virginia law with respect to the brandishing of a weapon so that, in order to achieve a conviction, prosecutors must prove that an individual not only brandished a weapon, but also knew or reasonably should have known that his conduct induced fear in the mind of another person. The Governor’s full statement is below.

    Senate Bill 626 (and House Bill 766):

    April 7, 2016

    Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 626, which provides that for a period of 45 days after the issuance of a protective order, the person who has issued the order may lawfully carry a concealed handgun. This bill eliminates the application and training requirements associated with concealed handgun permits and allows petitioners to carry a concealed handgun immediately upon the issuance of any protective order.

    Domestic violence situations can be extremely volatile, and all too often result in serious injury or death. In fact, when firearms are present in a domestic violence situation, a woman is five times more likely to die. In 2014, Virginia experienced 112 family and intimate-partner-related homicides, 66 of which occurred with a firearm.

    At the end of February, I signed legislation, part of a bipartisan firearms agreement, that will remove firearms from dangerous domestic violence situations. That bill prohibits subjects of permanent protective orders from possessing firearms and requires them to sell or transfer their firearms within 24 hours. Senate Bill 626 encourages victims of domestic violence to introduce deadly weapons into an already dangerous situation, an approach that I believe could have significant negative public safety consequences.

    Prior to the conclusion of the 2016 legislative session, I proposed amendments to Senate Bill 626 that would allow judges to expedite the concealed handgun permit approval process for individuals who had already given serious consideration to the risks and responsibilities associated with concealing a handgun and completed all necessary training requirements. These amendments were rejected.

    Accordingly, I veto this bill.


    Terence R. McAuliffe

    House Bill 560:

    April 7, 2016

    Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 560, which would amend the law related to brandishing a firearm and provide that, in order for a person to be convicted under the amended statute, the person must know or reasonably should know that his conduct induces fear in the mind of another person.

    The Code of Virginia currently prohibits a person from pointing, holding, or brandishing a firearm in such a manner as to induce fear in the mind of another person. Virginia’s courts have interpreted this language to mean that it is not enough that someone inadvertently witnesses a person with a firearm—there must be additional evidence that the person with the weapon actually intended to induce fear in the mind of the witness.

    Making the change requested in this bill would create unintended consequences for prosecutors and law enforcement officers attempting to secure convictions for violators of this law. This proposed modification would unnecessarily burden our public safety officials and potentially create a defense for individuals who recklessly handle firearms.

    Pointing, holding, or brandishing a firearm in a manner that induces fear in the mind of another person is irresponsible and dangerous behavior and should be appropriately addressed within our criminal justice system. Because current law provides clear guidelines for our law enforcement personnel without creating unintended consequences that could lead to unsuccessful prosecutions, House Bill 560 is unnecessary.

    Accordingly, I veto this bill.


    Terence R. McAuliffe

  • Open letter from GMU faculty, staff “denounce[s] the renaming of our law school after Antonin Scalia.”

    April 7, 2016

    As faculty and staff of George Mason University, we denounce the renaming of our law school after Antonin Scalia. This renaming undermines our mission as a public university and tarnishes our reputation. We also recognize it as an affront to those in our community who have been the targets of Scalia’s racism, sexism, and homophobia.

    This multimillion dollar gift arrives at a moment of acute financial hardship at Mason, following years of declining state support. However, the values that Scalia affirmed from the bench do not reflect the values of our campus community. Further, the terms of the gift remain secret, and the renaming decision was made without regard for faculty, staff, and student input and consent.

    As a Supreme Court Justice, Scalia enacted direct harms to many in our student body, especially students of color, women, and LGBT students. To those students — and all students committed to realizing our university’s stated commitment to a diverse, accessible, and inclusive learning environment — we want to affirm publicly our commitment to fighting alongside them for a just world, beginning with a just university.

    [GMU faculty and staff – to sign letter, click here.]

    Signed (list in formation) –

    Craig Willse, Cultural Studies

    Bassam Haddad, School of Policy, Government & International Affairs

    Paul Gorski, School of Integrative Studies

    Jaime Lester, Higher Education Program

    Eden King, Psychology

    Johanna Bockman, Sociology and Anthropology

    Ric Chollar, LGBTQ Resources

    Matt Karush, History & Art History

    Cynthia Kierner, History

    Roger Lancaster, Cultural Studies

    Paul Smith, Cultural Studies

    Alison Landsberg, History and Art History

    Joan Bristol, History and Art History

    Kevin Rockmann, School of Business

    Sumaiya Hamdani, History and Art History

    Shelley Wong, Advanced Professional Teacher Development & International Education, College of Education & Human Development

    Jumana Kamal, Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education

    Jo-Marie Burt, School of Policy, Government & International Affairs

    Mariely Lopez-Santana, School of Policy, Government & International Affairs

    Jose Cortina, Psychology

    Steven Weinberger, Program in Linguistics, Dept. of English

    Dina Copelman, History and Cultural Studies

    Eric Anderson, English

    Paige Wolf, School of Business

    Lisa Eckenwler, Philosophy

    Giovanna Chesler, Film and Video Studies

    Claire Huschle, Arts Management Program

    Sue Wrbican, School of Art

    Mary Oberlies, University Libraries

    Michele Greet, History

    Bethany Letiecq, Human Development and Family Science

    Rachael Goodman, College of Education and Human Development

    Colleen Vesely, College of Education and Human Development

    Elizabeth DeMulder, College of Education and Human Development

    Joseph Williams, Counseling and Development

    Jesse Rabinowitz, Counseling and Development

    Tracey Bell, Arts Management Program

    Rebecca Diemer, School of Business Graduate Programs (and PhD student in Education)

    Jason Byrd, University Libraries

    Shaoxian Yu, INTO George Mason

    Maggie Edwards, Arts Management

    Viviana Maggioni, Civil, Environmental and Infrastructural Engineering

    Tyler Teagle, School of Music

    Nicole Springer, Visual and Performing Arts

    Denise Albanese, English and Cultural Studies

    • Quizzical

      They couldn’t get a single law school professor?