U-S- Senator Jim Webb

A Shocking Day: Chief Justice Hassell's Untimely Death, Webb Won't Run For Re-election

I was in the Senate Finance Committee this morning watching, thankfully, two good bills, which may lead to some much needed tax reform, fly through. The committee agenda was short, normal right after "crossover," and only six bills were heard, all passing on unanimous voice votes. Can't be much simpler than that. At what should've been a quick bang of the gavel to dismiss, committee Chairman Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas) made the announcement, the first one in public as it turned out: Former Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leroy Hassell, Sr., died, unexpectedly, at age 55 (WTVR.com). He previously stepped aside as chief justice, but remained on the court.  Governor Bob McDonnell ordered that the flag of the commonwealth be flown at half-staff on all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds (WTVR.com). New Chief Justice Cynthia Kinser was scheduled to be sworn in officially this week. There is no word on the status of that ceremony at this point. She will be the first woman Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice.

(Updated 4:45 p.m.: The governor has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff until his burial on all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in Virginia. Additionally, Justice Hassell will lie in state in the Virginia State Capitol prior to burial. See his official statement honoring Justice Hassell)

Chief Justice Hassell was the first black person to serve in that position. He was a native Virginian, and proudly so. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli included this 2003 quote in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in his statement honoring Mr. Hassell:

I do not wish to serve, however, because I happen to be black. Rather, I desire to serve because I am a Virginian by birth who has a strong affection and love for the commonwealth and its people.

He will be missed. He was a man of great faith, intellect, warmth, stature and humility.

Later in the morning, a bombshell e-mail from a political consultant friend: U.S. Senator Jim Webb will not run for re-election in 2012 (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). Though not totally unexpected, the timing (through no fault of Senator Webb) was strange, so soon after the sad news about Justice Hassell. Mr. Webb had not actively engaged in fundraising and many thought from the beginning he would term limit himself, given the flukish nature of his election — and a possible Defense Secretary appointment in a potential Obama second term.

Now, the attention turns to who the Democrats will nominate. Early speculation ranges from everyone from former Governor Tim Kaine and Terry McAuliffe (if he can be pulled away from running for governor) to former Congressmen Rick Boucher and Tom Periello, to Krystal Ball, who unsuccessfully challenged Republican Rob Wittman in the first district last year.

Virginia News Stand: December 10, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations Obamanomics Claims Victim — The ACLU's Largest Donor

Governor Tim Kaine's expansion of state employee health insurance benefits to same-sex and other unmarried couples and announcements by Governor-elect Bob McDonnell  dominate the news. Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb is quoted in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot article on the former. As for McDonnell, he reiterated vows to balance the budget as well as to reject tax increases. He also named two cabinet secretaries: Bob Sledd, former head Performance Food Group CEO, a Fortune 500 company before taken private, will be Secretary of Commerce; and long time McDonnell aide Janet Polarek will be Secretary of the Commonwealth. He also fulfilled a campaign promise by formally announcing that Lt. Governor Bill Bolling will head up all job creation efforts. If you thought he couldn't attend certain meetings before. ...

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Jim Webb (contact) says he's not yet decided on how he will vote on health care "reform" (although thousands have asked him to vote "no"). The Tea Party movement has a message for Republican first district U.S. Rep. Rob Whittman. Nationally, the Washington Post has a feature on the Tea Party movement and whether it will split the GOP. Surely, wishful, but not of the question, thinking. But liberals are not without their divisions, either: The ACLU's top donor (to the tune of $19 million a year), David Gelbaum,  has stopped cold his donations to that organization, as well as to the Sierra Club and other liberal groups. Guess Obamanomics affects rich liberals, too.

News:

*Log Cabin Republicans back Va. benefits change (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

McDonnell questions Kaine benefits plan (Washington Times)

McDonnell vows not to raise taxes (Washington Times)

McDonnell vows balanced budget (Roanoke Times)

Lt. Gov. Bolling to be named to jobs creation post (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell to announce Bolling, Sledd to head economic team (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Undecided on health-care vote, says Webb (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Push is on to force lawmakers to reveal government income (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Tea Party group chides Wittman (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

National:

For conservatives, a political surge (Washington Post)

ACLU loses donor, one-fourth of yearly contributions (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch)