Chesterfield County

Republicans Will Field A Candidate In The 69th

Some have wondered if the now open 69th House seat, comprised mainly of South Richmond (and a precinct or two in Chesterfield County), now open because of long-time Democrat Frank Hall's resignation to accept an ABC judgeship, will have a Republican candidate this November (see Tertium Quids here, which also discusses the likely Democrat candidate). It is a majority-minority district, although Hall, who is white, has been able to hold the seat for some time. The likely new Democrat nominee will be black. But there are a few signs this part of Richmond is dissatisfied with the status quo. So, can a Republican — a black Republican — who's a successful professional, with a hard-working ethic, and ties to the community, connect with the electorate there for an open seat? Last night, in Alexandria, in fact, a GOP-backed independent, Alicia Hughes, who is black, as well as GOP nominee Frank Fannon IV, won city council seats in a shocking upsets of Democrat incumbents (see Peter Roff of Fox Forums, here). A significant issue was the Democrat majority (there have been no Republicans on Alexandria's City Council for years) raising property taxes without pause, even as home values decreased.

For weeks now, there has been an all-but-official black Republican interested in running for the 69th House District, but at his request we've kept it quiet until he made it official. However, today, with the release of an e-mail by the Richmond City unit chairman and the launch of a Web site, it's pretty much official that financial services professional Ernesto Sampson will give it a go.

It won't be easy by any means — some party regulars on both sides shy away from running candidates in districts dominated by the opposite party because they are afraid of generating turn out of marginal party-line voters which can hurt other candidates on the ticket. Will typical party-line voting hold sway this year, no matter the issues or candidates? 

It will be interesting, at the very least, to see if Sampson can make a compelling case in a strongly Democrat area, as Republicans have in Northern Virginia recently, including last night's stunners in equally urban and liberal Alexandria (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). It will be equally interesting to see if he can do it on a strongly innovative and conservative platform.

Regional Transportation Authorities: They're Still Alive!

Every year, a bill sneaks up on us and everybody else, that really takes the General Assembly by surprise. This year, perhaps more than others: There have been bills trying to expand the definition of blight (that we slowed down and got amended) and one still alive that would dismantle welfare reform (HB 1714). But one idea no one would have imagined would surface, espeially after the HB 3202 fiasco, was the idea of regional transportation authorities. There was talk of it in the greater Richmond area, but when suburban kingpin Henrico Country said it wasn't interested in joining, no one gave it a second thought. Nobody but Senator John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian), that is. 

(The admin's note: Contrary to what you may think after three successive posts mentioning his name, this is not pick on Senator Watkins Day. Pure coincidence that he has been at least partially involved in the previous two posts.)

Senator Watkins, it seems, still wants the City of Richmond and Chesterfield County to get together without Henrico, with the possibility the latter and other jurisdictions can join the party later. It's all in SB 1534, which passed the Senate yesterday 21-19. The two sides were as odd a mix as you'll ever see, with liberals such as Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) voting against (probably in the vein of, "If Northern Virginia can't get that extra taxing power, no one is.")

This new authority would, according to the senator's own newsletter, include:

". . . the authorization of a regional congestion relief fee, which is, in essence, a grantor's tax that can be authorized by the respective Board of Supervisors or City Council. The primary reason for this is to give the authority, if formed, a mechanism to pay for its initial development and planning."

That is to say, more taxes, especially on an industry (real estate that is in depression and making refinancing and new mortgages more expensive) and more bureaucracy, regulation and half-baked and costly transportation projects. So, keep your eyes open. If this can sneak up on Richmond-area citizens, it can sneak up on every region. As we all know, bad ideas in the General Assembly never go away. They just get repackaged into worse ones.