Charniele Herring

Proposed Constitutional Amendments Killed Quickly In House Sub-Committee

In a kind odd of legislative twin-killing, the House Privileges and Elections Sub-Committee on Constitutional Amendments offed two proposed state constitutional amendments this morning. Governor Bob McDonnell's proposal to restore voting rights to certain felons, HJ 539, carried by Delegate Greg Habeeb (R-8, Salem), took the first hit, even with Ken Cuccinelli, making a rare Attorney General witness appearance before a sub-committee, in favor. The first hint that the resolution was going down, before a packed General Assembly Building Fourth Floor West Conference Room, with interested persons spilling well out into the hallway, was when the sub-committee rolled all proposed resolutions on the subject, including Delegate Habeeb's, into HJ 535, patroned by Democrat Delegate Charniele Herring of Alexandria — saving the large Republican majority from killing a Republican governor's legislation. ("Rolling" is a consolidation of similar bills into another existing bill to streamline a committee's meeting agenda.)

In this case, Delegate Herring's version became the resolution of record and, therefore, as the third ranking House Democrat, much more favorable to the sword. It died on a 6-1 vote to "pass by indefinitely" with one of the two sub-committee Democrats (Delegate Johnny Joannou of Portsmouth) voting with the GOP members. Sources indicate that many Republicans not only had serious policy questions about the content of the proposal, but took exception to a lack of notification by the governor — they heard about it for the first time Wednesday night during his State of the Commonwealth Address.

HJ 665, meant to repeal Virginia's Marriage Amendment, and patroned by Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44, Fairfax), met a similar fate, but for different reasons. On policy, the conservative sub-committee completely disagreed with Delegate Surovell's rationale, no amount of time for discussion would've mattered, and there was no need for parliamentary disguises. The people have spoken on this one and at least three-quarters of the states are in agreement — trying to portray maintaining the definition of traditional marriage as "extreme" is disingenuous at best. The sword fell swiftly via voice vote with only Democrat Algie Howell of Norfolk opposing the motion to pass by indefinitely.

Orwellian: Saving Babies Is An "Attack On Women's Health"

The pro-abortion forces in Virginia are nothing if not masters at hyperbole. That, or downright Orwellian. Today, they held a news conference at the General Assembly Building to reinforce their message of choice since their stunning defeat on the abortion center regulation bill: That limiting abortions, and thus saving the most innocent among us, is "an attack on women's health." Among attendees were a who's who of the General Assembly pro-abortion crowd: Senators Donald McEachin and Mary Margaret Whipple; and Delegates Patrick Hope, David Englin, Jennier McClellan, Scott Surovell, Adam Ebbin, Onzlee Ware, Vivian Watts and Charniele Herring — the so-called "Reproductive Health Caucus." They were joined not only by Planned Parenthood and NARAL, but by the ACLU and the League of Women's Voters, whose representative enthusiastically gave herself a shout-out when Delegate Herring failed to recognize her. What abortion "rights" has to do with registering women to vote is anyone's guess, but that moment was the most exciting thing at what had to be the most uneventful news conference in General Assembly history — nothing more than introductions, a statement by Delegate Herring, and a story by a woman whose situation was not relevant to the exchanges. Not even a question by one of the two or three members of the press who attended. Even the distributed prepared press statements were boring. Sorry, but no video, excerpted quotes, nor links worth citing. Even Planned Parenthood's e-mail alert left a lot to be desired. An indication that the tide is turning? We'll find out tomorrow when our electeds vote to sustain or reject two pro-life amendments passed down by Governor Bob McDonnell: One, to HB 2434, to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion in the new state health insurance exchanges mandated by the federal healthcare law; and another, a budget amendment, restoring abstinence education funding that former Governor Tim Kaine eliminated.

These votes promise to be very close in the Senate tomorrow during the "Veto Session." Please contact your senator Wednesday morning and ask him or her to vote for each.

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Meanwhile, here's more coverage on the health insurance exchange amendment, from the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot (here) and below, from WTVR-TV/CBS6 in Richmond. Both feature comments from Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb.

John Cook's Win Shows Anything's Possible . . . For Either Party

(Admin's note: This was posted under a different heading on March 12, but because of a technical glitch, we lost it. It is re-posted here in an edited form, but with basically the same content. Sorry for any confusion.) Early returns often are misleading, not to mention election results themselves so soon after a major campaign. However, there are some signs GOP candidates maybe running effective campaigns in Northern Virginia and elsewhere.

First, there was the skin-of-the-teeth, 16-vote-win by Democrat Charniele Herring over Republican Joe Murray to win the lock-stock Democrat 46th House of Delegates district seat in a January special election necessitated when Brian Moran resigned to run for governor full time. Not long after that, Democrat Sharon Bulova barely defeated Republican Patrick Herrity in a special election for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman.

Moral victories for Republicans, maybe, but then came an actual win: Last week,  Republican John Cook squeaked by Democrat Ilryong Moon in the Braddock district supervisor seat vacated by Bulova (see Washington Post here). It's a district that went 57 percent for Barack Obama. His win changes the Fairfax County Board from an 8-2 Democrat majority to a 7-3 majority. Cook's win shows Northern Virginia may still be competitive and just as Republicans may have taken central Virginia and Hampton Roads for granted in recent years, allowing Democrat candidates to gain significant vote totals there, perhaps Democrats have taken its base lightly as well.

Republican statewide candidates don't need to win Northern Virginia to win elections, but they must be competitive and not get blown out, as were George Allen and Jerry Kilgore. Holding Dem victories to small margins upstate will be the test of the GOP ticket this fall; restoring large margins the test for the Dems.

Nationally, the moribund House Republican Campaign Committee may finally win a special election of its own. One indicator that it was in trouble leading up to the 2006 and 2008 campaigns were its losses in special elections in districts that had been Republican for years, including the one held by former Speaker Dennis Hastert as well as one in Mississippi.

Now comes word the GOP may be favored to pick up the New York House seat vacated by former Representative Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. According to The Post's The Fix blog (click here), while the Democrats' House campaign kitty is more than $16 million in the red, the GOP has some money to spend. It's a district that typically votes Republican in presidential elections, but Gillibrand proved to be an effective campaigner. Pundits say victory here could create momentum for yet more fundraising, which could be directed here in Virginia, a win considered especially crucial if the national GOP has intentions of a full rebound.

Are The Tea Leaves Looking That Bad For The GOP?

Maybe not. If you haven't heard by now, the House didn't disappoint today with its traditional first day fireworks over matters that usually are nothing more than housekeeping. At issue was whether to seat a new delegate in what was an unusually close special election last night in the 46th district to replace Democrat Brian Moran, who resigned recently to run full time for governor. Unusually close because this district is all but two precincts in Alexandria and is one of the most reliably liberal districts in the commonwealth. This should have been a slam dunk for Democrat Charniele Herring over Republican Joe Murray, but she won by just 16 votes out of about 2,700. Until the automatic recount, House Republicans took the prudent measure, as we see in Congress every two years, of waiting until all is official and challenges exhausted.

(On a side note, what does this say about Moran's coattails, especially when Democrat gubernatorial rival Terry McAuliffe is promising to raise $75 million for the joint Dem statewide/House campaigns? Terry Mac's fundraising prowess combined with his lack of office to restrict what he raises during the G.A. is what spooked Moran to leave the House prematurely to begin with.)

This scarily narrow win in the People's Republic of Alexandria, combined with a special election in heavily African-American Richmond, where new mayor and former delegate Dwight Jones' handpicked successor Delores McQuinn won against a stealth write-in Republican candidate with only 63 percent of the vote, and a Republican blowout by Barry Knight (83 percent of the vote) in a Virginia Beach special to replace retired former delegate Terry Suit, where the Dems had hoped to at least run close, all point to a glimmer of hope that the House GOP has mobilized its grassroots.

We don't know that tea leaves can read deep into the soil, or if any of this pertains to anything come fall '09. But if ever a caucus needed a boost, even from a surprisingly close loss, this may have been it.