The House General Laws Committee today welcomed Levar Stoney, the Secretary of the Commonwealth-designate, in what amounts to a confirmation hearing. Normally, these are non-events. But Mr. Stoney's background isn't ordinary. He is only 32 and already has carved out a name for himself as a highly partisan Democrat political operative. He previously served as the political and executive director of the Democrat Party of Virginia. He was Governor Terry McAuliffe's the deputy campaign director. In 2004, at age 23, he was part of John Kerry's Wisconsin campaign and was questioned by police in a major case of vandalism perpetuated by Democrats who slashed the tires of several Republican get-out-the-vote vans in Milwaukee. Although he apparently did not participate in the event or its planning, he was aware of it, and refused to cooperate. He told the police that his party and friends came first. Eventually, Mr. Stoney did testify and helped gain the convictions of the defendants.
Committee members, who were generally warm to Mr. Stoney, gently questioned him about his past and gave him the opportunity to set the record straight, offer a mea culpa, and pledge to put partisanship aside when he takes his oath of office to serve all Virginians — a seemingly conflicting concept for the cabinet officer whose primary duty is to find and screen the estimated 3,600 appointments the governor makes in his four years to boards and commissions. After the questions directed at his past, Delegate Luke Torian (D-52, Dumfries) asked him what he had learned over the few weeks preparing for the job. Mr. Stoney, motioning toward the Republican side of the dais, replied that he wants to be bipartisan. Sure enough, he has appointed two Republicans to serve under him, and said:
Driving to and visiting your offices to meet you, I've learned that you all are not that bad!
To which Committee Chairman Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) zinged:
That's not what that one and a half million dollars in mailers you sent out said . . . Delegate Yost, did his mailers say you 'weren't that bad'"?
Delegate Joseph Yost (R-12, Pearisburg) was the victim of a particularly horrible attack mailer that brought up his wife's miscarriage. Neither state Democrats, his opponent or the McAuliffe campaign, which funded a large part of House Democrat attack pieces, never apologized.
In the end, it was a cautious love fest, with Republicans willing to give the new governor his appointee, although no vote was taken. It does prove one thing. Memories don't have to be long to be effective. House Rs, as welcoming as they were to Mr. Stoney, were not going to let him get away with boiler plate and platitudes. While most cabinet appointees have built a career of expertise and accomplishment, and are expected to live up to their reputations in government, delegates and senators will expect Mr. Stoney live down his.