Democrats

PolitiFact Or PolitiBiased?

In the summer of 2012, the Republican Party of Virginia issued a scathing 86-page critique of PolitiFact alleging bias against Republicans and conservatives. This critique was made in the summer leading up to the election of Tim Kaine to the U.S. Senate. PolitiFact's legitimacy is directly tied to the perception that it is providing an unbiased fact-check of politicians. As you would expect, PolitiFact swiftly responded to the complaint:

The party takes issue with the fact that 26 of our last 36 rulings have concerned Republican candidates and elected officials. But Virginia is largely controlled by Republican politicians. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general belong to the party, as do eight of the 13 members of Virginia's congressional delegation, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Both houses of the General Assembly are run by Republicans. In addition, the GOP fielded four candidates in its primary for the U.S. Senate this spring and sponsored three debates between them. Democrats, in contrast, handed their nomination to an unopposed Tim Kaine.

Well, times are a changing. Virginia now is largely controlled by Democrats. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general belong to the Democrats. Pending the outcome of the 6th Senate District special election (currently in recount mode with Democrat Lynwood Lewis holding a 9-vote lead over Republican Wayne Coleman), Republicans may control only the House of Delegates. With the retirement of U.S. Representative Jim Moran, it seems that every Democrat in Northern Virginia has declared for his federal seat. Quite a different political environment from just eighteen months ago. It's time to put PolitiFact to the test and see how fairly they review and critique liberals and Democrats.

On Sunday, PolitiFact launched its "Macker-meter" to track whether Governor Terry McAuliffe keeps his campaign promises. PolitiFact is going to track 17 promises "the Macker" made on the campaign trail. Of course, they tracked 48 promises for former Governor Bob McDonnell. Don't worry, PolitiFact has an explanation for this discrepancy of what they will monitor:

McDonnell — a 17-year veteran of elective office when he ran for governor — put out more than a dozen nuanced policy papers during his campaign. We could not find the same level of detail from McAuliffe, a first-time elective office holder who was criticized during last year's campaign for being light on policy.

In other words,  Governor McAuliffe gets a pass because it is his first-time being elected to office. But he is not the political novice PolitiFact describes. They conveniently leave out his failed run for governor four years earlier and his decades of well publicized political experience.

PolitiFact also released its first promise check. Governor McAuliffe received a "promise kept" for signing an executive order putting restrictions on gifts, but because his executive order is only valid for one year, they will check back to see what happens next year. I may be mistaken, but I recall that promises Governor McDonnell didn't fully complete were given scores of "in the works" and PolitiFact checked back before determining if it was a promise kept. Double standard? Time will tell.

Regardless, this is great news for Governor McAuliffe. By failing to espouse specific, nuanced policy positions during the campaign, he will be lightly judged by PolitiFact. We'll leave the question of why the press corp did not call for the governor to task for failing to provide a detailed policy plan prior to the election for another day.

Welcome To Our (The Real) World, Big Labor: Even Unions Threaten Dems Over Obamacare!

You know a policy is horrible when even your staunchest ally threatens a revolt over it, but that's the case now with some major labor unions and Democrats over Obamacare. Welcome to our world — that is to say, the Real Word — Mr. Labor Union Boss. As it turns out, there are several problems with Obamacare union leaders are just now realizing, despite warnings for years. Nothing like an actual hit in the wallet — not liberal Utopian theory — to gobsmack you in the head and kick you in the rear simultaneously. First, union leaders are seeing the real possibility of up to 20 million of their members losing their employer provided health insurance plans.

Second, smaller companies, that partner with unions to provide health insurance already more expensive than traditional employer-only provided insurance, are seeing their premiums balloon because of Obamacare mandates on insurance policies. Unions fear these plans will have to be dropped and force employees into the infamous state exchanges. However, while Obamacare provides for subsidies to some to buy into a plan offered through an exchange, it does not provide such subsidies for union members. (In a case of be care for which you ask, maybe the unions should've read the bill. In a delightful irony, an institution of the left now complains of "unintended consequences.")

The third union concern is, ironically, survival. If members can access health insurance without the union, then why join? It seems the Obama administration has a knack for angering its friends as well as its "enemies."

As reported by the AP via Breitbart.com:

Some labor unions that enthusiastically backed President Barack Obama's health care overhaul are now frustrated and angry, fearful that it will jeopardize benefits for millions of their members.

Union leaders warn that unless the problem is fixed, there could be consequences for Democrats facing re-election next year.

"It makes an untruth out of what the president said — that if you like your insurance, you could keep it," said Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. "That is not going to be true for millions of workers now." ...

But Obama's Affordable Care Act has added to that cost — for the unions' and other plans — by requiring health plans to cover dependents up to age 26, eliminate annual or lifetime coverage limits and extend coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

"We're concerned that employers will be increasingly tempted to drop coverage through our plans and let our members fend for themselves on the health exchanges," said David Treanor, director of health care initiatives at the Operating Engineers union.

Workers seeking coverage in the state-based marketplaces, known as exchanges, can qualify for subsidies, determined by a sliding scale based on income. By contrast, the new law does not allow workers in the union plans to receive similar subsidies.

Bob Laszewski, a health care industry consultant, said the real fear among unions is that "a lot of these labor contracts are very expensive, and now employers are going to have an alternative to very expensive labor health benefits."

"If the workers can get benefits that are as good through Obamacare in the exchanges, then why do you need the union?" Laszewski said. "In my mind, what the unions are fearing is that workers for the first time can get very good health benefits for a subsidized cost someplace other than the employer."

Now, the chief of the firefighters union says "anxiety" over the law has transformed into "anger" that could spill into the 2014 elections. The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers last month called for "repeal or complete reform" of Obamacare.

The only thing worse than liberalism is incompetent liberalism. In its rush to ram through Obamacare, congressional liberals and the president didn't even look after their friends. No doubt, now, they will look to a fix that they know will be blocked by congressional conservatives and use that for political purposes to placate their union allies. Here's hoping (but not expecting) the unions, fooled once, won't get fooled again.

Media Seeks TFF's Opinion On President Obama's Political Coming-Out-Of-The-Closet

The unintended consequences of President Obama's coming out of the political closet to tell everyone what we already knew — that he supports homosexual marriage — we're in the news! Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb was interviewed by WRIC-TV (see below or click here), the Richmond Times-Dispatch (click here) and the Washington Post/AP (click here) about the president's declaration and its impact on the dynamics of the presidential campaign in Virginia, seen as a key swing/battleground state in this November's election, and WWBT-TV ran a statement TFF issued on its 11:00 newscast (click here). It reads:

President Obama is busy pandering to his dwindling base in an election year. It's the sign of a desperate candidate.

In the WRIC report, Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-74, Henrico), just can't contain his glee. He hasn't smiled so broadly or been this giddy since his law license was restored last week. Offering different perspectives are Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Victoria.

But if President Obama is being so courageous, as some on the left in these (and other) media reports are saying, why didn't he come out before the North Carolina vote Tuesday, where Tar Heels passed its Marriage Amendment by a 61-39 margin. (It also bans civil unions.) After all, he won North Carolina in 2008 and the Democrats will have their convention in Charlotte. Leading from behind, once again. Never was a man so brave where risk was so unapparent. No wonder he's so loved.

Also interviewed on WRIC is Governor Bob McDonnell, who has an interesting take. While he is continues to be for traditional marriage and supportive of Virginia's Marriage Amendment, he agreed with the president in one respect. He said marriage should be a state issue, not a federal one. Hmmm. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney thinks there should be a federal Marriage Amendment. Does this affect his Veepstakes candidacy?

Ahhhh. Good to see Delegate Joe Morrissey smile again. He didn't have much reason to during the General Assembly this winter.

Update: Still No Vote On Property Rights, Still Keep Calling Your Senators!

The Virginia Senate vote to protect property rights from the government's overwhelming power of eminent domain again was put off today. One reason given was a senator's absence due to attendance at a funeral, but no one doubts negotiations continue, especially within the Republican caucus, while not losing key Democrats. It's a tight balancing act. However, this delay affords grassroots activists another chance to keep the pressure on. If you have not, please contact your senator and urge him or her to vote for HJ 693, the protection of property rights from eminent domain (patroned by Delegate Johnny Joannou, D-79, Portsmouth). The best way to deny government's appetite for continued growth and limit its intrusiveness is to protect private property and ensure just compensation for the true and few public uses that require a property taking. The only way to do that is to secure our liberties in the state constitution.

Contact your senator by e-mail.

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Learn who your senator is.

Senate Rules Dispute Boils Over Into Rare Discharge Motion On Floor: Full Senate Finally On Record On Protecting Property From Eminent Domain

A bit of history was made — or at least attempted — Tuesday in the Senate. Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), expressing the frustration of an arbitrary exercise of Senate rules by majority Democrats, made a discharge motion — a parliamentary procedure to bring to the floor of a legislative body a bill that has been defeated or bottled up in committee. A discharge motion hasn't been attempted in the Senate in nearly two decades (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). It's considered desperate and an affront, especially in the "collegial" Senate, because it doesn't respect Senate procedure and the "committee process" (i.e., the opinion of your colleagues who have heard the patron, witness testimony and debate, and studied the legislation) — it's done with, so let it be — and slows down floor action. It's rare because those who attempt it often are ostracized by most, if not all, of their colleagues. Its required two-thirds majority vote also is difficult to achieve, so the risk-to-cost ratio isn't appealing.

However, it's on the books for a reason or it wouldn't be a rule — precisely when the committee process has degenerated into a, "the rules are what we say they are," selectively applied, moving target. Senate rules and tradition are that sub-committees take recommendation votes only, and that full committees hear every bill for a final vote. Last year, the Senate, in an unprecedented move, changed its rules after crossover to allow sub-committees (with as little as two votes) to kill House bills so as to save members from going on record on tough votes in full committee. Rule changes in midstream are almost unheard of, but even at that, Senate bills always have been given the courtesy of full committee hearings. Where's the "collegiality" in revoking that process? (While House rules allow for the killing of bills in sub-committee, it is in its rules, and they are applied equally, to all bills, throughout session.)

I got an inkling of the Senate mischief at this session's first meeting of the Privileges and Elections Committee. The chair, Senator Janet Howell (D-32, Reston), announced that no bill with a negative sub-committee vote would be brought to the full committee. Senator Obenshain asked if he heard correctly and, when told "yes," protested to no avail. But the discussion boiled over into a rules battle at a subsequent meeting (see Washington Post) when he tried to bring up bills and resolutions with negative sub-committee votes in full committee (see video below). Which brings us to Tuesday on the floor:

Senator Obenshain attempted to dislodge SJ 307, a proposed constitutional amendment to protect private property from government takings through eminent domain. It was defeated 4-3 in a Privileges and Elections sub-committee on an unrecorded party line vote (notice that omission here). Amazingly, only four unrecorded votes can thwart the will of the people in the Virginia Senate! A small forum in a cramped conference room on the third floor of the GAB is the venue for the debate and discussion on whether the commonwealth will protect one of its citizens' most cherished rights — the protection of private property from the oppressive government power of eminent domain.

But in a surprise move, after consulting with his caucus earlier that morning, Senator Obenshain got his full Senate vote on property rights during a marathon session to finish bills before crossover. He motioned "to suspend the rules" and bring SJ 307  directly to the floor. He was seconded by Senator Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg). The motion properly before the body failed to get a majority, much less two-thirds, on a strict party line vote, 22-18. If SJ 307 made it to the floor through the committee process, it most likely would pass. Unfortunately, some Democrats adhered to process over propriety. The good news is that the Senate finally, after several years, has a recorded vote on property rights and that the GOP caucus united on this rare motion.

There should be a rule about that: The Senate majority preaches collegiality . . . except when hearing and voting on its members' legislation. 

Special Election Set For 91st District House Seat

Governor Bob McDonnell today set March 8 as the date for the special election to fill the 91st district House of Delegates seat suddenly vacated last week when Delegate Tom Gear (R-Hampton) resigned for health reasons. Delegate Gear's multiple sclerosis is worsening and his wife and sister both have cancer (see Rosalind Helderman at the Washington Post's Virginia Politics blog). That date ensures that 91st district voters will not be represented in the House of Delegates this 46-day session. The earliest the election could have been set, by law, was 45 days after Delegate Gear's resignation.  We will miss Delegate Gear. Quick witted and always genial, his great sense of humor frequently was on display, especially in the small chat world of General Assembly Building elevators and waiting areas, and often timely to relieve certain stress over upcoming committee votes those elevators were taking us to. An unwavering conservative, he is a public servant committed to principle. We wish him and his loved ones well and the restoration of their health.

Of course,  just because he resigned doesn't mean he's gone inactive. There are three Republicans running to succeed him in a largely GOP district (no word on whether the Democrats will field a candidate) and he's already thrown his endorsement to Teresa Vanasse Schmidt, a day-care assistant director from Hampton, calling her "a rock-solid conservative. She's pro-life. She's big on the Second Amendment. And she doesn't believe in raising taxes" (see the Post). 

Also running are Hampton City Councilman Chris Stuart, who owns a security company, and attorney Chad Green, the second vice-chairman of the York County Republican Committee. Stuart today released a statement announcing that he is the first of the three to sign the Americans for Tax Reform "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" which states that a candidate will never vote for a tax increase.

Mark Warner's Confused

I happened across a fascinating statement by our self-described "radical centrist" U.S. Senator Mark Warner in a well-done weekend post-election analysis piece in the Roanoke Times. Here is the paragraph:

But Democrats struggled with their message this fall, especially when it came to the economy. [Senator Mark] Warner said that when he would tell audiences about middle class tax cuts and homebuyer tax credits pushed by Democrats, "you still get people looking at you askew." The party could not persuade voters that it had the country on the right track. (emphasis added)

Beside the fact that the Senator is parroting the Democrat talking points about "not getting our message out" (does anyone really buy that line anymore?), or the whole bizarre concept that Democrats actually think the country is on the "right track," I find Senator Warner's statement about tax cuts especially comical. I have a guess as to why no one would listen to our senior Senator on the subject — he lied about taxes the first time and Virginians remember.

Remember, then candidate for governor Mark Warner in 2001 swore up and down on the campaign trail that he had no intention of raising taxes — and then forced the largest tax hike in Virginia history through the legislature. Fast forward to 2010 and Warner is out there swearing up and down that Democrats really do want to cut taxes. And the Senator is perplexed as to why people looked at him "askew."

What's the line about people believing their own lies ... ?

Ad Of The Year?

This ad by Citizens Against Government Waste is getting rave reviews by people of all political stripes. It scored in the 90s among Republicans and around 75 among Democrats in a Dr. Frank Luntz focus group, the highest ever bipartisan approval he's ever seen for a political ad. It goes to show how massive, incomprehensible debt (in the multi trillions of dollars)scares everyone but the most left wing of the electorate — and rightly so. If all good humor must contain at least a grain of truth, then all credible looks into the future must have a seed of realism, which is why this ad soars — unlike the futuristic dud produced recently by the left wing pressure group MoveOn.org (starring a big name Hollywood actress, no less). It also may be a metaphor for this election.

It's no longer Halloween, but consider this our horror story for the ocassion. Released on October 20, already nearly 900,000 people have viewed it. Will it scare people across the country to the polls?

 Not so nutty Chinese professor. What would've seemed impossible a a few years ago will be on our door step shortly if we don't elect the leaders who will take corrective action now. 

Poll: Mid-Term Election Predictions: How Many House Seats Will Flip In Virginia?

All signs are pointing to a large Republican victory on November 2. But how large? Will Virginia play a role? It's prediction time. Tell us how many of Virginia's six seats held by Democrats will flip to the GOP column in this mid-term election. Then, please post your comments on the campaigns and which specific candidates you think will win. Will there be a surprising upset? Will the close elections break one way or the other? Will Morgan Griffith, Keith Fimian, Robert Hurt and Scott Rigell sweep? Will Patrick Murray or Chuck Smithpull shockers? Who will win the biggest and who will squeak by? Any recounts? Give us percentages and predictions of all types. We ask. You tell us.

Quote Of The Day, Columbus Day Edition

Earlier this morning, on MSNBC, anchor Chris Jansing asked liberal media mogul (owner of the New York Daily News and U.S. News & World Report), real estate billionaire, journalist and author Mort Zuckerman how he would spend the few million dollars remaining at the Democrats' disposal to help preserve its congressional majorities if he was the DNC chairman (who happens to be former governor Tim Kaine).

Snapped Zuckerman:

If I was the DNC chairman, I'd spend that money on finding a second career. 

zuckerman

Zuckerman to Kaine: Take the money, run and find a new line of work.

Representative Perriello's Announces His Summer Town Hall Schedule

FYI, for the good folks in the 5th Congressional District: U.S Representative Tom Perreillo has released his summer town hall schedule. As with last summer, it's extensive. So, if you are concerned about the issues of the day, and his voting record, you have every opportunity to hear him for yourself, and perhaps ask him questions. Representative Perriello's re-election campaign against Republican Virginia Senator Robert Hurt will be one of the most watched House races in the country this fall (it already has the attention of Sheryl Crow). An early poll, and many pundits, believe the congressman will have a hard go to earn another two years — he won the closest House race in the country in 2008 (700-plus votes) when the tides and stars both were aligned with the Democrats, and was the beneficiary of the Obama machine's large student and new voter registration and turnout. This year, he can't count on a repeat of that and, in a naturally conservative district (his Club For Growth voting record is decidedly liberal), there's a renewed energy  among grassroots conservative activists.  

Thursday, August 5

7:30–9:30 a.m., Charlotte County Board of Supervisors Meeting Room, 250 LeGrande Avenue, Suite A, Charlotte Court House

Saturday, August 7

11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., Carysbrook Performing Arts Center, 8880 James Madison Highway (Hwy 15), Fork Union

Monday, August 9

7:30–9:30 a.m., The Nelson Center, 8445 Thomas Nelson Highway, Lovingston

Tuesday, August 10

7:30–9:30 a.m., Scottsville Elementary School, 7868 Scottsville Road, Scottsville

Thursday, August 12

11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., Buckingham County Middle School, 1184 High School Road, Buckingham

Saturday, August 14

4:00–6:00 p.m., Swartz Gymnasium, Ferrum College, 445 Ferrum Mountain Road, Ferrum

Monday, August 16

7:30–9:30 a.m., Chatham Community Center, 115 South Main Street, Chatham

Tuesday, August 17

6:00–8:00 p.m., O.T. Bonner Middle School, 300 Apollo Avenue, Danville

Wednesday, August 18

6:00–8:00 p.m., Martinsville High School, 351 Commonwealth Boulevard East, Martinsville

Thursday, August 19

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Halifax High School, 1030 Mary Bethune Street, South Boston

Friday, August 20

7:30– 9:30 a.m., Ruckersville Fire Station, 50 Sassafras Lane, Ruckersville

Monday, August 30

11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., Saint Paul’s College, Chicago Building, Kirby Auditorium, 115 College Drive, Lawrenceville

Tuesday, August 31

6:00–8:00 p.m., Blackwell Hall, Longwood University, 201 High Street, Farmville

Wednesday, September 1

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Mecklenburg County School Board Meeting Room, 175 Mayfield Drive, Boydton

Thursday, September 2

7:30- 9:30 a.m., Kenbridge Community Center, 511 East 5th Avenue, Kenbridge

Friday, September 3

11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., Cumberland Community Center, 13 Community Center Drive, Cumberland

Tuesday, September 7

6:00-8:00 p.m., MLK Performing Arts Center, 1400 Melbourne Road, Charlottesville

Friday, September 10

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Campbell County Board of Supervisors Meeting Room, Haberer Building, Board Level, 47 Courthouse Lane, Rustburg

Monday, September 13

11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., Bedford County Board of Supervisors Meeting Room, County Administration Building, 122 East Main Street, Bedford

Dr. Bob Holsworth Interview, Part 1

Below is the first part of a two part interview with nationally known political scientist Dr. Bob Holsworth, a regular commentator on Virginia and national politics. His articles and commentary can be read in publications and on the Internet, and heard on television and radio. He is a frequent speaker to numerous organizations, heads a consultancy, and is the editor of the widely read blog, Virginia Tomorrow. Today, we talk about the current session of the General Assembly and touch on national politics. FamilyFoundationBlog.com: Dr. Holsworth, it's a great honor to have you answer some questions on our blog about the General Assembly and Virginia politics in general. So, thank you very much for participating in this interview. We greatly appreciate your valuable time and look forward to your insights and are big fans of your blog, Virginia Tomorrow. Are you ready for some questions?

Dr. Bob Holsworth: Thanks very much for the opportunity to be on your site.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Has anything surprised you about this session of the General Assembly? Has the Republican sweep and increased House of Delegates majority created a visible difference or is it too early to tell (i.e., waiting for the budget)?

Dr. Holsworth: Certainly, the Republican sweep in the House has made it even easier for the GOP to control the legislative outcomes in that chamber. But the Democratic control of the Senate can still pose substantial hurdles for the Governor and the House GOP. I was surprised that five Democrats in the Senate supported the Health Care Freedom legislation, symbolically repudiating former Governor Kaine and President Obama. All of these Democrats are in districts where the GOP could field competitive challengers and this tells you just how concerned Democrats have become about the impact of the national mood here in Virginia. At the same time, Senate Dems have summarily dismissed part of the McDonnell agenda such as dedicating royalties for off-shore drilling to transportation and changing the budget cycle. What will happen with the overall budget is still up in the air as Senate Dems actually disagree if they should present a budget that includes some of the tax increases in (former) Governor Kaine's recommended document or acknowledge the political reality that there will be no major tax increases and present a budget accordingly, even if it inconsistent with what they would really want to propose.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Governor Bob McDonnell ran on a jobs-creation platform and de-emphasized social issues. But social issues do play a role in the budget. Do you think he will go so far as to de-fund Planned Parenthood?

Dr. Holsworth: I think that you have phrased the question well. Some folks have said that McDonnell ran as a "moderate." My sense is that he ran as an economic conservative and gave less priority in the campaign to his social conservatism. I fully expect that McDonnell will sign almost all bills with a "social conservative" orientation that emerge from the legislative process. What's not entirely clear is how far his own proposals will move in this direction. He obviously made a symbolic change when he removed sexual orientation from the non-discrimination executive order with respect to state government workers. The question of whether he'll propose a budget amendment to de-fund panned parenthood will be seen by many of his supporters as a test of whether he will implement the values of social conservatism in the budget. If he does, there will be a substantial fight in the Senate and the media will surely portray it as a switch from the "moderation" of the campaign. If he doesn't, he'll disappoint a segment of his core supporters.

FamilyFoundationBlog: If Governor McDonnell proposes a host of "fees" instead of taxes to close the budget gap, how will that affect his support on the right? creation

Dr. Holsworth: If McDonnell is perceived as simply playing semantics with taxes, it will harm him not only with the right, but with many independents as well. He was very clear during the election about his belief that revenue increases should primarily come from economic growth and I would be very surprised if he has a post-election conversion to a different point of view, especially in this political environment.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Governor McDonnell is getting a lot of positive attention right now — giving the GOP response to the State of the Union, doing several national interviews, even one for Newt Gingrich's newsletter. Does he runs the risk of raising his own expectations?

Dr. Holsworth: I think of the smartest moves the new Governor made was to cancel his national interviews the day after his SOTU response. Virginians have made it clear that his first priority as Governor should be the Commonwealth and, in the long run, McDonnell's national stature will be most enhanced by having a strong approval rating in-state.

FamilyFoundationBlog: What chances do you give of real reforms this or next year in areas of budgeting and in recalculating SOQ spending?

Dr. Holsworth: The Senate has already rejected a key McDonnell proposal on changing the two year budget cycle. Recalculating SOQ spending has been an issue that many House Republicans have pointed to over the last few years as a reform necessary to rein in future budget increases. We've seen some willingness from both parties to look at items such as staffing ratios regarding non-instructional personnel. If there ever would be a time where the entire SOQ calculation would be readjusted, it would be in the kind of fiscal environment we have now. But polls show that schools remain extremely high on the public's priority list. In aggregate, school groups (teachers, superintendents, school boards, and principals) are extraordinarily well organized and very politically effective. Moreover, Virginia schools overall seem to perform extremely well — just this week, we ranked third in the nation in AP testing. I believe that the effort for major permanent structural changes in school funding will have substantial hurdles to overcome.

FamilyFoundationBlog: What are your thoughts on former Governor Doug Wilder calling for Tim Kaine's removal as Democrat National Committee chairman?

Dr. Holsworth: Former Governor Wilder noted that he had supported Tim Kaine for Vice-President, but did not feel that the DNC Chair was the best fit for his talents and skills. My guess is that there are a number of Democratic activists who are more comfortable with the sharp edges of a Howard Dean than the more cerebral approach to the position of Tim Kaine. The proof, of course, will be in the November pudding. Kaine will succeed if Democrats do far better than expected. But if November is a Democratic debacle, Kaine will be fingered for part of the blame.

Be sure to check back with us tomorrow afternoon for part two of our interview with Dr. Bob Holsworth as we look at next year's Congressional elections in Virginia, Senator Jim Webb's prospects in 2012, and the Tea Party movement.

New Gang Of Five In Virginia Senate?

Is there a new Senate "Gang of Five"? J. Scott Leake thinks so. Mr. Leake should know. He was a top insider to the leadership of the "moderate" Republicans who held sway during the years of GOP control of that chamber. The five were: now retired President Pro Tem John Chichester, then-Majority Leader Walter Stosch, then-senator and current Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle, and Senators Tommy Norment and William Wampler. Nothing happened in the Senate unless they decided it would. Now, in his General Assembly Grapevine for Bacon's Rebellion, Mr. Leake, who also is the director of government and public affairs at the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, writes that the Senate Democrat majority has a developed a "Gang of Five" of its own: President Pro Tem Charles Colgan, and Senators Roscoe Reynolds, John Miller (a freshman, no less), Phil Puckett and — be sure you're sitting for this — Creigh Deeds. Far from controlling the entire agenda, as the GOP gang did, this one appears to be an alliance certain for budget negotiations only, keeping the rest of their caucus from dragging them into electoral oblivion — Colgan and Miller are D's who represent very Republican areas, while Puckett and Reynolds represent rural and small town areas that easily could swing to the GOP, a fact that has each constantly looking over their shoulders. Deeds, Leake says, has a range of constituents which prompts an unpredictable populist streak.

Increasing the intrigue is the fact that many Senate Dems want to use the budget submitted by former Governor Tim Kaine as the basis for their proposal. But that budget includes reinstating the car tax. The senators above have constituents who would be hurt financially should the car tax be reinstated, an issue within the Democrat caucus. Senator Deeds, according to Leake, now is acutely aware of the repercussions of campaigning on a record of higher taxes.

All this dovetails into the rumors swirling around Capitol Square that other factions within the Senate Democrat caucus are making life dysfunctional for that group, namely Senate members of the Legislative Black Caucus who have their own budget demands. If there truly is all this discord within the majority, it may take more than a gang to sort things out. Or at least a heavily armed gang. Time will tell if this new gang has the clout, or the political arsenal, to whip their colleagues into line.

HWI In The Morning

The first committee meeting on one of our priority bills was this morning in the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. The bill in question is HB 393, which would put only the slightest regulations on the very unregulated abortion centers — an annual inspection, licensure and a requirement to have life saving equipment on premises, such as a  defibrillator. Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg) is the patron. Even the General Assembly Building has defibrillators. If they are good enough for lawmakers, they should be good enough for women undergoing a very serious invasive procedure. The plain fact is, abortion centers — not "clinics" mind you, because clinics are where you go to get well — fly under the regulatory radar. Even podiatry offices are more regulated than abortion centers. It's the most hypocritical exemption in Virginia.

So, this morning, the bill was due to come before the full committee, bypassing the sub-committee as is the chairman's want for bills that have been debated for several years. Everyone knows the arguments, it receives large bipartisan support (hate to break that to you liberals), and, in truth, is largely uncontroversial — except for the most adamant abortion-at-any-cost ideologue. The last time this bill came before HWI, in 2008, it passed 17-5, with four Democrats voting in favor, including House Democrat Leader Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville). But there was a problem on the way to the vote . . . Delegate Lionell Spruill (D-77, Chesapeake) objected to the bypassing of the sub-committee process, even though it went straight to full committee in 2008.

His reasoning? There are "four new members of this committee, Mr. Chairman, who have never heard this bill before." To which Delegate Spruill should know that three of them are for the bill. The chairman, Delegate Bobby Orrock (R-54, Caroline County), who replaced former Delegate Phil Hamilton, had the clerk explain the differences in the current bill from the 2008 version. Again, the fact is there are fewer proposed regulations in this bill than the 2008 version.

All this wasn't good enough for Delegate Spruill. So, Delegate Orrock acquiesced and held over the bill. He was to decide by tonight whether to send it to sub-committee or bring it back to full committee on Thursday, by which time, we hope Delegate Spruill will have had time to read the bill. Which is what he should have done in advance of the meeting. If, in fact, he is truly that concerned.

Merry Christmas To Liberals; Merry Christmas To Conservatives

An e-mail greeting for Christmas wishes or holiday hum-drum, depending on your political persuasion, that we couldn't resist passing on, from our friends Jim Hoeft and the gang at BearingDrift.com

Subject: Merry Christmas from your friends at Bearing Drift

To all our Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere.

Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To our Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Virginia News Stand: November 17, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations The Governor's Take

The education poll leads the news, but by now you know all about that. As for politics, Governor Tim Kaine is all about the long knives, now, criticizing Creigh Deeds for his campaign, as if the DNC chairman had no say so in it. I would write that it's easy for him to complain, but what does he know? He wasn't in Virginia for the campaign (rim shot, please).

The bulk of the news is about the House of Delegates: The Appropriations Committee gets a budget briefing during its annual two-day Capitol retreat; recently defeated Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-93, Newport News) announced his resignation, effective Sunday; and each  caucus held it's leadership votes over the weekend. The Republican lineup remains the same while the Democrats seem to have a position for every member of its diminished number.

In education news, about 10 teachers at a Henrico County high school are complaining about a guest speaker who advocates abstinence. Yeah. Hate speech. Speaking of communication and culture, a real blow to the Washington, D.C., media community: The homosexual advocacy publication Washington Blade is closing its doors. 

News:

Poll: Virginians like public schools but would like more nonpublic options (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Democrat Deeds ran without his base, Kaine says (Washington Post)

House committee to hear state budget forecast (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Va. House caucuses choose leaders (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Phil Hamilton resigns from House of Delegates (The Daily Press)

Freeman High abstinence-only speaker draws fire (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Health care-sharing ministries: Paying their fair share (Roanoke Times)

Gay weekly Washington Blade closes (Washington Post)

Washington Blade closes; new paper for gays planned (Washington Times)

Education Study Provides More Ammunition For Much Needed Reform

Here are more telling details from the education choice polling data and study of which we were a party and released yesterday: Paul DiPerna, research director for The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, wrote in his study that the research indicates:

a major disconnect between Virginia's schooling preferences and actual school enrollments. ... As in other states where we have surveyed, the implication of these results is that Virginia does not have a sufficient school choice system in place to match parents' schooling preferences. (See the entire report here.)

The survey polled 1,203 likely voters and was conducted from October 1-4. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.8 percent points. (See today's Richmond Times-Dispatch for coverage of yesterday's study release news conference.) The results illustrate the vast support in Virginia for a program of income tax credits for donations to scholarship foundations that, in turn, provide funds to qualifying students to attend a school of their choice instead of an assigned public school.

Of course, common sense and public opinion never guarantee a thing, and this issue is living proof — for years the General Assembly has refused to pass legislation to enable such foundations to fully unleash their potential to provide more students better education options. But the results of this study will be a much needed resupply of ammunition that we and several partner organizations will use this coming session and beyond. For example:

» 65 percent of Virginians support tax-credit scholarships, while only 22 percent oppose.

» 57 percent of Virginians favor school vouchers, while only 35 percent oppose.

Even when broken down by party affiliation, Virginians strongly support tax-credit scholarships and vouchers:

» 64 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of independents support tax-credit scholarships.

» 53 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of independents support school vouchers.

» 81 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of independents support special needs school vouchers.

Additionally, the favor-oppose margins are large among the parties:

» On tax-credit scholarships, it's +43 among Democrats, +46 among Republicans and +44 among independents.

» On school vouchers, it's +15 among Democrats, +39 among Republicans and +22 among independents.

» On special needs school vouchers, it's +67 among Democrats, +64 among Republicans and +60 among independents.

Education reform will be an issue to watch this session. With school choice a major issue in the recent campaign and a new philosophy at the helm of state government, sound ideas, such as those Virginians overwhelmingly support in this study, may have their best chance in years to get a much needed foothold in Virginia's education system.

New State Poll: Virginians Overwhelmingly Favor Education Choice

We are part of a wide-ranging coalition of organizations that earlier today released results of a statewide poll and a study on education choice in Virginia. Among our release partners are School Choice Virginia, the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of AmericaVerizon Virginia, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, The Lexington Institute, the Virginia Council for Private Education and Markel Corporation. From corporations to think tanks to religious organizations and minority advocacy groups — all agree: Virginia needs vastly more options in education that it currently provides.     The poll was conducted in October by Braun Research, Inc., and an accompanying study was authored by Paul DiPerna of The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. While it shows that while Virginians support public schools, it also shows they overwhelmingly support education freedom and choice, something clearly lacking in the commonwealth right now. (For example, Virginia only has four charter schools.)

Survey highlights include:

» Broad support among Democrats, Republicans and Independents for tax-credit scholarship programs and school vouchers.

» 64 percent of Democrats support for tax-credit scholarships.

» 53 percent support school vouchers.

» They are more likely to favor, rather than oppose, these policies by +43 percentage points and +15 percentage points, respectively.

Also, these stats are sure to blow away the educrats:

» While the survey found that 62 percent of Virginians believe the public school system is "good" or "excellent," when given the choice between sending their child to a public school or an alternative (private, charter or homeschooling) 54 percent said they would choose the alternative.

» Among parents whose children attend Virginia public schools, 40 percent would keep their children there while 39 percent would choose an alternative. (Currently, 90 percent of Virginia’s school children attend public schools.)

Poor educrat monopolists! No one wants to be entrapped by their product. When will government learn that people want choice. Choice is natural and instinctive. It breeds competition and produces better products and services. So when given a choice, people prefer choice to that which is state-run. See the complete survey and study here.

Virginia News Stand: November 11, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations "Stylistic" Election Coverage

The Communications Department didn't come up with much from conventional news sources today, but I dug around and found, in of all places, in-depth election coverage and post mortems from Richmond's too-old-to-be-hip-anymore weekly freebie, Style Weekly, which now delves into the business of the serious. It's done a decent job, too. Of particular interest are the hat-tips to Republicans by Democrat guru-strategist Paul Goldman and the whining of Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Equality Virginia's lobbyist. University of Richmond Professor Daniel Palazzolo harangues Governor Tim Kaine and Scott Bass gets about half of it right. It's funny when liberals try to manipulate conservative mandates by telling us what they want the results to mean is fact, and then fratricidally turn on themselves (a sure sign that their interpretation of the results is a disingenuous attempt to water down the victory).

Elsewhere, Republican Ron Villanueva was declared the winner in the closest House of Delegates race, but it's only one step toward resolution, and will go on still longer, for sure. Attorney General Bill Mims is doing what all former attorneys general do (especially those who fill out a term of an elected one), and that is sign on with a big bucks power law law firm, while Senator Edd Houck (D-17, Spottsylvania) makes the news for the second day on the trot, describing a dour picture of state funding to localities. Nationally, the Washington Post reports that pro-abortion activists are trying to muzzle the free speech rights of pro-life clinics and information centers.

News:

Misaligned: How Virginia Democrats overestimated the power of Obama and underestimated the importance of independent voters. (Style Weekly)

Villanueva declared winner in 21st District race (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Houck paints dire budget picture to city and Spotsy (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

Attorney General to join Hunton and Williams (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Kaine Takes a Hike (Style Weekly)

National News:

Disclaimer proposed for anti-abortion clinics (Washington Post)

Analysis:

McDonnell, Picture Perfect (Paul Goldman/Style Weekly)

Presumptive Politics (Paul Goldman/Style Weekly)

McDonnell's Power Surge (Scott Bass/Style Weekly)

Democratic Downers (Margaret Edds/Style Weekly)

Commentary:

Shilling For Bob (Claire Guthrie Gastañaga/Style Weekly)

Losing Legacy (Daniel Palazzolo/Style Weekly)

Editorial Comics:

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Glenn Foden/Townhall.com)

"A Year Later . . ." (Scott Stantis/Townhall.com)

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Virginia News Stand: November 10, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations Houck Not Going Anywhere

The hot rumor going around was that Senator Edd Houck (D-17, Spottsylvania) would accept a job in the new McDonnell administration, thus opening up a potential re-take of the Senate by Republicans by winning that seat in a special election. Democrats hold a one seat majority in the chamber, but a tie would flip it back to the GOP because of the re-election of Lt. Governor Bill Bolling. However, Senator Houck has dampened that speculation in today's Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

In other news, Senator Robert Hurt (R-19, Chatham) has hired Chris LaCivita as his consultant in the crowded 5th Congressional District Republican nomination campaign. LaCivita, formerly a consultant to former Governor George Allen, is most noted for running the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, and is fresh off Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli's landslide victory. Those who hire LaCivita mean to win. Elsewhere, a Democrat big gun is brought in for the recount in the 21st House of Delegates district election (where Republican Ron Villanueva defeated incumbent Democrat Bobby Mathieson); the effect of the Liberty University student vote is looked at in the 23rd district campaign (where Republican Scott Garrett defeated incumbent Democrat Shannon Valentine); and Public Opinion Strategies offers insights into the Obama affect in the Virginia campaign. But mainly, we're happy to bring back editorial comics to the News Stand.  

News:

Houck: No plan to leave (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

McDonnell disagrees with study on trimming tax breaks (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Falwell says he's 'surprised' by election results (Lynchburg News & Advance)

Counting in disputed 21st District race to resume at noon (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Al Gore's Attorney helps Mathieson (BearingDrift.com)

Hurt signs up LaCivita (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Population, inflation fuel 10-year budget growth in Va. (Washington Post)

Analysis:

Don't Tell Anyone, But Obama Hurt Deeds in Virginia (Public Opinion Strategies/TQIA Blog)

Commentary:

Are Republicans too giddy? (Julian E. Zelizer/CNN.com)

Editorial Comics:

"Wahtchya doing?" (Eric Allie/Townhall.com)

"DrainO" (Nate Beeler/Townhall.com)

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