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What I’ll Remember Most About the 2011 Elections

At this morning, Virginia Democrats do not hold a single Virginia executive office, they're a small minority in the House of Delegates, and now they have (barring recount) lost control of the State Senate. Former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Peter Rousselot has written a devastating postmortem that I can't recommend enough and encourage you to read in full if you haven't already.

As for me, what I'll remember most about the 2011 election cycle is this ad from House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong trashing just about everything Democrats believe in. The leader of House Democrats - as chosen by his fellow House Democrats - distances himself from President Obama, a woman's right to choose, reasonable gun safety regulations, and limits on air pollution - all in one ad.

I understand the need to emphasize different issues and rely on different messaging in different parts of the state. But if you try to run away from the leader of your party and everything your party believes in, not only are you hurting your own team, voters don't buy it. A friend pointed me to this quote from Harry Truman:

I've seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don't want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.
Just as Harry predicted, Ward Armstrong lost anyway. And just as former Rep. Glenn Nye did last year, Armstrong managed to not just lose, but hurt the party he was supposed to be leading in the process, making Democrats look like a bunch of gutless phonies who'd throw a friend under the bus in a second if a consultant told them it might help their chances of getting re-elected.

Armstrong Makes It Official

Political musical chairs are continuing in southwest Virginia as we gear up for the November elections. Hoping to eliminate the House Democratic leader and also mess with the possibility of his running for statewide office, House Republicans eliminated Ward Armstrong's 10th District seat in their redistricting plan and created a new one to accommodate population growth in Loudoun County. So, Armstrong has officially announced that he will do what many have expected him to do. He's moving to Bassett in the 9th District and will run against Republican incumbent Charles Poindexter.

The majority of the new 9th is made up of residents of Franklin County, where Poindexter once served on the Board of Supervisors. However, the rest of the 9th includes Patrick and Henry counties, which Armstrong once represented and where he already has roots. He and his wife will move to Bassett into a house they already own.

This race is shaping up to be one that may well go down to the wire. No one should underestimate Armstrong or the fact that he is one of the few Virginia politicians with a potent consumer issue. He has been willing to take on American Electric Power, which has sought and gotten four rate hikes in central and southwest Virginia in the past four years, resulting in a 70 percent increase in rates since 2005. Plus, AEP just filed with the SCC for yet another 9.6% rate increase.

I've seen Ward Armstrong in action as a campaigner. He will put in the hard work needed to run in a new district, and he will make good use of the fact that he is familiar to many of the voters there. Poindexter will hardly be a pushover, but the Republicans left Armstrong little choice but to find another way to remain in the General Assembly.  

Armstrong made his announcement at the Ferrum Veneer Plant, where he worked during the summers as a high school and college student and where his father was once the plant manager.  

Ward Armstrong Slams Bob McDonnell’s Budget “tricks and gimmicks”

I just received the following from new DPVA communications director Brian Coy. Welcome to Brian, I look forward to him kicking Republican butt - and strongly advocating for Virginia Democrats - in coming months and years!
Armstrong: Virginia's Retirees Need McDonnell to Lead

Richmond, VA - Virginia House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong released the following statement today urging Governor Bob McDonnell to heed the Virginia Retirement System's warning that continuing to avoid payments to the system in order to balance the state budget will threaten the long-term security of Virginia employee pensions:

"Last year Governor McDonnell had the opportunity to introduce an honest budget that funded state government without borrowing or mortgaging the future. Instead he punted and balanced the budget with tricks and gimmicks such as underfunding the Virginia Retirement System and promising to make up the cost down the road.

"Last week, the costs of the Governor's failure to lead began to come to bear, as the VRS board of trustees warned that such stunts put Virginia in danger of being unable to honor the promise we make to our workers that their pensions will be fully funded and available when they need them.

"Just like families in Fairfax or Newport News can't balance their household budgets by refusing to pay their bills, the Governor cannot continue to balance the state budget by kicking the can down the road on our obligation to our retirees.

"I urge Governor McDonnell to take this VRS warning as the reality check it should be. He has three years to improve upon the legacy of this first year, but budgetary gimmicks, privatization schemes and continued inaction on major issues like transportation and education won't get him there. It's time for the Governor to step up and lead."

The DPVA Club

Former Senator Ken Stolle tells a tale that hints at Virginia Democrats' lack of savvy. It makes one seriously consider Thelma Drake's assessment that 2008 was simply the Democrats' turn. Insiders undeservedly expect deference from and take credit for grassroots efforts. Too many in DPVA circles are all about themselves.

Paul Lanteigne, who had his eyes on the position, approached Republican Stolle some years ago about making the Virginia Beach Sheriff a High Constable. A Sheriff who is also High Constable keeps the money collected during service of process. Other Sheriffs send that money on to State of Virginia. For Virginia Beach that amounts to almost $700,000 a year. Stolle never thought he would be able to get this initiative through the Senate because it was a presented bill and on scrutiny, he figured it would not pass due to the funding aspect. Stolle expected that he would be asked why he was carrying the bill and if his motive was challenged he was unwilling to be less than honest that it was about the money. Once the cat was out of the bag, he knew everyone would want a piece of the action and that would kill this and any future such initiative.

Frank Drew was the Virginia Beach Sheriff at the time. Stolle was the chairman of the Public Safety Subcommittee in the Courts and Justice Committee and as politics works, as a committee chairman carrying a bill, the Senate asks very few questions when a bill is presented. So he took the bill over to the House of Delegates and presented it to the Courts and Justice Committee. Kenny Melvin, a Democratic Delegate from Portsmouth, asked the question Stolle feared" "Ken, why do you want to make Frank Drew the High Constable of Virginia Beach?" Stolle thought, "Well, this is it," but just as he was about to explain, Delegate Ward Armstrong interrupted the proceedings sarcastically, "He wants to do it because Frank Drew has an ego as big as this damn building!" And Kenny Melvin pivoted off the witty jab with, "No need to say another thing, I forgot about Frank's ego." The bill passed out without further scrutiny. Later, upon the realization of the impact, Virginia Beach's Sheriff was made the last to be so designated.

Arlington Sun Gazette Stoops to Homophobic Joke (?)

Over at the right-wing real estate rag known as the Arlington Sun Gazette, editor Scott McCaffrey has added a bit of variety to his usual assaults on liberals, the "loopy left" the "environmentalist left," the "blogging crowd," Democrats, anyone who criticizes him, real newspapers (e.g., the Falls Church News-Press), etc. Now, he's stooped to a homophobic joke - presuming this is a joke - and an extremely juvenile one at that (think 7th grade)!

Well, ha ha ha and hardy har har, the thought of Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran sleeping together, isn't that funny? Wait, you didn't think this was funny? Maybe that's because this wasn't really meant as a joke, that perhaps Arlington Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey really fears that Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran might become homosexual lovers, and is horrified at the prospect? Yeah, it's completely nuts, but sadly, it's also just another day in Sun Gazette la-la land.

P.S. This is the same right wingnut who denies global warming, who endorsed Felix Macacawitz over Jim Webb for Senate in 2006, who also endorsed Bob McDonnell over Creigh Deeds in 2009, who also endorsed Bill Bolling over Jody Wagner in 2009, etc., etc.

But at least he seems to love Ward Armstrong (for his "moderate positions and leadership [that] makes the left-wing blogosphere types crazy", and also because his "politics are in the Creigh Deeds mode, a style that didn't help Democrats in 2009, but may be more effective come the next statewide race."). My god. {UPDATE: Actually, Creigh Deeds is a flaming liberal compared to Ward Armstrong, who is truly a "DINO"}

P.S. If you want to read a real newspaper about Arlington, click here. Also, definitely check out the superb Falls Church News-

Ward Armstrong Tells His Dog Joke at Arlington County JJ Dinner


Very funny, as you can see. Also, see more of Armstrong's speech below, including the beginning where he praises freshman Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington).

Ward Armstrong Blasts Cooch on Westboro Baptist “Church”


Armstrong argues that interrupting a funeral of a U.S. Marine isn't the kind of "speech" we should be allowing, and that Ken Cuccinelli should have joined the lawsuit in support of the Marine's dad.  Armstrong also notes that Cooch didn't hesitate to go after free speech on the UVA climate science issue, declaring, "I think the Attorney General picks and chooses his fights based on his own personal, political agenda."  I couldn't agree more.

P.S. Check out Cooch's Facebook page for some scathing comments from his (otherwise) supporters. Wow.

UPDATE: Click here to read Bob McDonnell's "profile in courage" on this issue. As Rosalind Helderman points out, McDonnell "disagrees with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's decision not to file an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case...Or maybe he agrees." Got that?

Who’s Positioned for Democratic State Runs in 2013?

I suppose it's never too soon to begin to speculate on exactly which Democrats might by getting a case of "Richmond Fever" for 2013. (Otherwise, we can only sit around and watch Bob McDonnell fiddle in the governor's mansion while Ken Cuccinelli marches his army of troglodytes to the edge of his flat earth in order to stage another foot-stamping anger fit with a lawsuit attached.)

It's hardly a secret that Terry McAuliffe is busy following in the footsteps of Mark Warner by working to bring jobs to areas of Virginia that need all the assistance they can get, in a scarcely disguised bid for a gubernatorial nomination. Recently,  McAuliffe announced that his green car company, Greentech Automotive, had purchased EuAuto Technology Ltd., a company that makes and distributes electric cars. Additionally, McAuliffe still has a bid alive to purchase the now-closed International Paper plant in Isle of Wight County and convert it to a biomass energy plant. Result? Jobs, jobs, jobs...and, if successful, a nomination.

Then, we can't ignore how Del. Ward Armstrong has been acting of late. He has visited three Democratic events in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, plus making himself seen at a couple of congressional district conventions. He's acting like an early gubernatorial candidate.

(I have to say something at this point. After 2009, I personally don't want to see the Virginia Democratic party nominate another rural (Henry County), anti-abortion, gun-toting, health reform criticizing guy for governor. I hope we learned something from last year. If not, then the DPVA is hopeless.)

Cranwell, McEachin, Armstrong Call On Cooch To Return Tainted $50,000

I just got off a conference call with Virginia Democratic leaders regarding Ken Cuccinelli's refusal to donate tainted contributions from the "questionable and potentially corrupt" U.S. Navy Veterans Association. To date, Governor McDonnell and Senator Ticer have returned donations from this "organization," while the Veterans Administration - at the request of Senator Webb - has pulled the group's page from its website.  The VA also says it "will conduct a review of the group as well as a review of procedures used to screen organizations before they are listed on the VA website."  Last but not least, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association is already being investigated in New Mexico, Missouri and Florida, "following an investigation by the St. Petersburg Times revealing that 84 of 85 national and state directors listed in the charity's tax filings and other records appear not to exist."

Apparently, none of that is sufficient evidence for Ken Cuccinelli - who launches investigations at the drop of a hat about climate change scientists and other things he doesn't like - to return a huge, $50,000 contribution he received from the U.S. Navy Veterans Association.  On the conference call a few minutes ago, DPVA Executive Director Dickie Cranwell said it is "difficult to understand" why Cuccinelli won't do the same thing as McDonnell and Ticer and donate the money to a reputable veterans organization. According to Cranwell, "it's time, period."

Sen. Donald McEachin added that there are "incredibly serious allegations" against this group, and that the AG should have a higher standard than waiting until a group has been committed of a crime. That may or may not happen, but in the meantime, this group is being investigated by three other states. At the minimum, McEachin believes, the AG should return the $50,000 and encourage the Office of Consumer Affairs to investigate.

House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong noted that Cuccinelli is "not constrained by petty consistency," being quite willing to launch an investigation of a former UVA climate scientist with whom he "disagrees" on the science.  Meanwhile, this supposed veterans organization is being investigated for fraud!  Where is Cuccinelli on that?!? Apparently, according to Ward Armstrong, Cuccinelli can spend money going after professors, but can't go after this group. Perhaps, Armstrong mused, there's a connection between the $50,000 contribution and the fact that Cuccinelli isn't investigatin?  There's certainly not the same "haste and zeal" in this case as in the climate scientist situation, that's for sure, even though there's - at the minimum - an "appearance of impropriety" here.

Finally, former Hampton Roads Veterans & Military Families for Obama leader Stephanie Marushia pointed out that the longer this goes on, the more it could hurt fundraising at legitimate veterans' organizations.  That's why Cuccinelli needs to "donate that money now" to a legitimate veterans' organization, and also have the AG's office investigate.  Right now, this is setting a bad example and demonstrating bad judgment.