Archive for the ‘Virginia politics’ Category

More politics

Monday, June 9th, 2008

We’ve been receiving a torrent of mailings and autodialed calls about tomorrow’s primary for the open 11th Congressional district seat.  I’m going to vote for Byrne.  I think the mailings (from Women Vote, not Byrne) calling him a war profiteer were pretty over top, but I do find it a little queasy-making that he works for a defense contractor in "community relations" while chairing the Fairfax Board of Supervisors.  And fundamentally, the only criticisms I’ve heard about Byrd are that she’s "divisive" (e.g. has opinions) and is "shrill" (e.g. has opinions and is female).

There’s been lots of talk about Jim Webb as a possible running mate for Obama.  I’m not nearly as opposed to him as Kathy G.  While he’s said some incredibly stupid things about women in the past, from listening to him during both his Senate race and as Senator I believe that he’s truly learned since then (and not just gotten PC drummed into him).  And he’s been consistently out there on the economic justice issues I care about.  But he’s a dreadful campaigner — he won in 2006 because it was a tidal Democratic year and because George Allen couldn’t keep his foot out of his mouth, not because of his own campaigning.  And I’m not at all confident that the Dems could keep his seat if he vacated it.  (Well, unless the Republicans keep nominating the likes of Jim Gilmore.)

I can’t say I’m particularly enthusiastic about Tim Kaine as a running mate either.  He’s a nice guy and a solid governor, but I don’t really think he brings the evangelical vote with him, and he’s not someone I particularly associate with changing the way Washington works.

Here’s my wild and crazy VP suggestion:  Coleen Rowley.

Who’s your VP suggestion?

11th Congressional District Primary

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

While the presidential primary grinds its way to a conclusion, things are heating up here in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District Primary.  Tom Davis isn’t running for re-election, and the district is widely believed to have high potential to swing Democratic.  Leslie Byrne and Gerry Connolly are slugging it out, with the primary coming up on June 10th.  We’ve gotten something in the mail pretty much every day this week, with people coming door to door as well.  (And this is a hilly neighborhood — the canvassers looked like they hadn’t quite realized what they were signing up for.)

The campaigns have released competing poll results, each claiming that they’re way ahead of their opponent.  I don’t know what the truth is, but I can say that in the campaign literature I’ve received, Byrne’s name and face are clear on the outside, while you have to open up Connolly’s to see who it’s from.  That makes me think she’s got the advantage. 

Payday loans and strange bedfellows

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

For those of you who don’t live in Virginia, the key piece of background information here is that the Virginia House of Delegates is generally controlled by the lunatic right.  These are people who aren’t sure that contraception should be legal, who would rather see all of Northern Virginia permanently frozen into gridlock than raise taxes to build roads, who think that preschool for poor kids is a socialist plot.  The Senate is usually more reasonable, even before the Democrats took back control in the last election.

So, I’m more than a little bit shocked to find myself supporting the payday lending reform bill adopted by the House of Delegates, rather than the sham reform being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw.  It’s not a perfect bill –while it theoretically imposes a 36 percent cap on interest rates, it allows for fees to be charged on top of that, which drives the real cost of lending far higher.  But it would be a good start, and would help prevent people from getting caught into an endless cycle of taking out another loan to pay off the first one. 

By contrast, the folks who have been fighting payday loans — including the AARP, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, Voices for Virginia Children, and the Virginia Poverty Law Center — say that the Senate bill could be worse than nothing.  It’s hard not to conclude that campaign contributions are driving policy

As previously discussed here, there’s a real need for low-cost small dollar loans for people without great credit.  Even usurious rates can be worthwhile if the choice is losing your job when your car breaks down.  I’m not sure what the best solution is.  But a study from North Carolina – which banned payday loans a couple of years ago — shows that low-income people aren’t reporting hardship as a result of the ban.

Last time I posted about banking, reader Dave S. posted this link for the Predatory Lending Association.  I assume that anyone who spends a minute on that site will figure out that it’s a parody put up by the opponents of payday lending.  By contrast, I’m not sure that it’s immediately clear that the folks who were advertising on CNN during the coverage of the Potomac Primary results, with the URL "" is the payday lending industry.

Fairfax school board

Monday, November 5th, 2007

It occurred to me earlier today that tomorrow is election day and I still hadn’t figured out who I was voting for in the school board election.  There are 8 people running for the 3 at-large seats, and I didn’t have a good sense for the issues or the personalities.  It’s a non-partisan election, but the parties do endorse candidates.

So I started looking at the endorsements.

The Post endorsed Moon, Braunlich, and Cooper.
The teacher’s union endorsed Hone, Hunt, and Moon.
The Connection newspapers endorsed Cooper, Hone, Moon, Hunt, and Braunlich.
SLEEP (which wants Jr High and High Schools to start later) endorsed Hunt, Hone and Moon.
Fairfax Democrats endorsed Moon, Hone and Raney
Stop Redistricting endorsed Braunlich, Hunt, and Raney.

After reading the endorsements and looking at some of the websites, I think I’ve made my choices — Moon, Hone, and Cooper.

I haven’t figured out why the Dems endorsed Raney — his website just sounds like he’s drunk the management consulting kool-aid (everything is couched in terms of the "business case).  I seriously considered Hunt, as I do think it’s important for the board to be more than an echo chamber for the schools administration, but just couldn’t get past his letter to all the principals recommending ex-gay videos.

And I don’t really know all the issues around redistricting, but it seems like a mistake to take it off the table as an option.  Yes, redistricting can be traumatic.  But boundary lines weren’t handed down to Moses on tablets.  I’m almost certainly biased from our experience at D’s old school, but my perception of anti-redistricting advocates is that they’re trying to keep what they have, and tough luck to anyone else.

Good news, bad news on SCHIP

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

The good news is that the House passed the SCHIP reauthorization bill.  The bad news is that the 265-159 vote margin is not going to be enough to override a veto.  Congress will presumably include SCHIP in the continuing resolution that it will need to pass by September 1, and it will continue at current levels until at least sometime next year, probably until 2009.  That’s going to mean real cuts in some states.

Here’s the roll call.  What immediately jumped out at me is that my representative, Tom Davis, is one of the Republicans who voted against the original House bill but for the compromise bill.  I had been wondering about that after getting his response to my email plea for SCHIP last week, which said, in part:

3162 was not SCHIP.  It was an excessive expansion of a good program, an expansion that could undermine
the program’s effectiveness and a backdoor effort to move toward government run health care….   

the wide range of problems with this legislation I voted against it when it came before me in the House.
It passed, however, by a vote of 225-204.  The Senate passed a narrower expansion of the SCHIP program.
I am hopeful that as we proceed to a conference we will return to the core principles established in
the original SCHIP."

I assume that Davis is going to run for the Senate seat that John Warner is vacating.  I think this vote will hurt him in the Republican primary, but help him in the general election if he gets nominated.  Or maybe I’m being too cynical — many Republican voters support health care for kids too.

Added: I heard this afternoon that there’s been another recall of Thomas trains for lead-based paint.  Unlike the first go-around, we do have some of the affected pieces, and will send them in for an exchange.  But I still wish that the American public was half as outraged about SCHIP as it is about lead in toys.  Nick Anderson got it right a month ago.

Get Women Elected Now!

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

I spent this evening at a meeting for GWEN — Get Women Elected Now.  It’s a local group with the goal of supporting progressive female candidates in Northern Virginia.  It’s obviously somewhat inspired by EMILY’s List, but aiming to build personal connections as well as raise money.  One of the founders is Libby Garvey, and she’s very clearly thinking about the gendered paths to political involvement that I wrote about two years ago when she wrote for delegate.

It was quite an interesting group of people, including several current and former elected officials.  Two men, the rest women.  I’d guess that most of the people there were in their 50s or older, although there were a few younger members.  Garvey mentioned that someone had emailed her asking about child care at the meeting (which was not provided).  There was clearly a hunger for ways to be involved that didn’t involve writing checks, and that were more substantive than stuffing envelopes or making calls.

I volunteered to update their website for them.  As T said when I told him, "of course you did."

Contraception still legal in Virginia

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

I’m happy to report that contraception is still legal in the commonwealth of Virginia, in spite of Bob Marshall’s efforts to the contrary.

  • And Not Larry Sabato discusses the political ramifications of the Democrats’ move to force a roll call vote on the bill.

Given how close this bill came to passing, sorry Bitch, but I’m not laughing.

Please vote

Monday, November 6th, 2006

Please vote.  Please please please.

I’ve got a little bubble of hope that’s been trying to come out, and I keep pushing it down because I don’t want to be too disappointed.  I can still feel what it tasted like in 2000 when the initial Gore lead disappeared somewhere around midnight, and the sick feeling in my stomach in 1994 as the size of the Republican win became clear.  I’ve been obsessively checking the Post website and Not Larry Sabato, even though neither has anything particularly interesting to say at this point.  While individual polls point in different directions, they’re all within the margin of error.

I’m going to head to bed soon, because I’m getting up early to volunteer at one of the local polling places.  I’m actually volunteering for the Commonwealth Coalition, rather than Webb, because I really don’t think that anyone is going to show up at the polls not knowing who they’re voting for in the Senate race, but I actually think that handing people the full text of Ballot Question 1 might sway some votes.  And then I’m going to vote myself, and then head into work, and then come home and obsess.  If you’re in the area and want to come obsess with me, you’re invited.

I think it’s going to be a long night.  If the Dems lose most of the close Senate races in the East, it could be over early, but otherwise we’re all going to be waiting for the Montana results to come in.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more races were close enought to require a recount.  (The Post suggests that Missouri is the most likely state to have problems.)  So we may not know Wednesday morning who is in control of the Senate.

Hey, Bill Clinton just called me.  Well, sort of.

How about everyone posting tomorrow after they’ve voted and saying what the lines were like, etc?

Liveblogging (almost) the debate

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Webb and Allen are debating tonight.  I’m watching with about a 20 minute delay, because at 8 pm I was putting the kids to bed.  But I’m blogging as I watch, so it’s almost liveblogging.

Opening statements:

Allen: Trying to associate Webb with Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and liberal national Democrats.  He’ll raise your taxes.

Webb: How you’re doing depends on where you stand — 2/3 of Americans think we’re heading in the wrong direction.   Republicans claim Iraq is a front in the global war on terrorism, but aren’t willing to risk their family members.   Have great hospitals, but 15 percent of Americans are uninsured.


Allen: Trying to associate himself with Secretary Baker and Senator Warner (who is very popular in Virginia).  Want to bring troops home, but in victory.  "We’re liberators, not occupiers."

Webb: Agrees with Baker — needs to be a diplomatic solution, US needs to state that we have no desire for long-term bases in Iraq.  Can attack terrorism in Iraq from troops that are based outside of the country.  Need creative leadership.


Allen: "Baseless allegations."  Look at my record in Congress.  "I don’t recall using that world."  lists his endorsements.

[Allen is doing a much better job of looking at the cameras.  Webb keeps looking at the moderator, and when he’s not look at him, he seems to be casting his eyes down — at notes? at the live audience?]

Webb: Been talked to death.  "bullying" of a staffer.  Lists his diverse endorsements.

Women in the military:

Webb: Article was 27 years ago.  Look at my record as Secretary of the Navy — opened up positions for women.  Look at my campaign staff — lots of women leaders.  Very comfortable with the current US military position on women in combat.  Raises Allen’s record of opposing women at VMI.

Allen: Webb has written stuff more recently 1997-1998.  Allen is proud of his record as Governor.

Secrecy in Government:

Allen: More information should be online.  Should be more sunlight on the spending process.  More scrutiny of taxpayers money — no more bridges to no where.  Should be a line item veto.

Webb: Number of classified items has skyrocketed.  Sign of the weakness of Congress and a one-party system.

Marriage Amendment

Webb: I oppose it, and will vote against it.  I’m a Christian, and believe marriage is a union between man and a woman, but government isn’t going to take sacrament away.  Second paragraph goes too far, takes away rights from couples.

Allen: Support it and will vote yes.  Marriage is fundamental to society.


Allen: Nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.  Shouldn’t reward illegal behavior.  Opposes amnesty, supports fence.  Voted against Senate bill.

Webb: Oppose both House and Senate bills.  This Administration has failed to address illegal immigration — talk about it, but haven’t done anything.  Shelters for day laborers remove the burden from local businesses.

Debt/international security.

Webb:  I have been talking about China for 19 years.  China is developing a strategic relationship with Moslem world.  Have allowed them to devalue their currency.

Allen: Taxpayers Bill of Rights.  Balanced Budget, line item veto, supermajority for spending faster than the rate of inflation.

Fossil fuel

Allen: Biodiesel is great.  US needs to reduce dependence on foreign fuels.  But can’t be piped, needs to be trucked.  Need more plants.

Webb: Allen’s energy plan is to give tax breaks to oil companies.  We need government incentives — solar, biodiesel, nuclear.

Affirmative Action

Webb: Designed to remedy the evils of slavery.  But now expanded to every ethnic group — only white males are excluded.  Should be restricted to African Americans, who suffered from

Allen: American Indians have also been excluded — went back to energy question.

Allen to Webb: Tax Relief — you said we can’t afford war and tax cuts

Webb: Tremendous migration of wealth toward top 1 percent.  Huge deficits — need revenues.  Where is that going to come from?  Suggests closing loopholes in corporate taxes.  Can’t keep spending like this without increasing revenue.

Allen: Do you know how many Virginians benefit from tax cuts you oppose.

Webb: you allowed tuition tax credit to die.

Webb: How can you vote for Congressional pay raise and not for minimum wage?

Allen: needs to provide relief for small business — supported minimum wage [as part of trifecta that would have provided $10 million estate tax exemption, tax cuts]  Class warfare, Hillary Clinton.

Webb: You’ve never voted for a clean minimum wage increase.  I actually thought the estate tax cut proposal was reasonable.

Allen: Wiretapping/Habeas Corpus.

Webb: We all want security.  But with no oversight, don’t know who you’re listening to.  This Administration rejects any type of oversight, whether from Congress or Judiciary.  Need to make sure they’re not listening to Colin Powell or George Allen.

Allen: Don’t need detainees filing lawsuits asking for DVDs and high speed internet. 

Webb: Listen to McCain, Warner, need to make sure that whatever we’re doing is compliant with Geneva Convention — need to have the moral high ground.

Webb:  Asked about some islands off the coast of Taiwan.  Allen had no idea what he was talking about.  Neither did I.  Webb passed on his 30 seconds at the end.  I have no idea what he was trying to accomplish here.

Should Hastert resign?

Webb: How leadership handles these questions demands accountability.  Haven’t followed this in detail.

Allen: I find this behavior despicable.  I support a full investigation — anyone who is guilty should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, stripped of pensions.

Allen: Susan and I thank you.  Ideas, experience, track record matters.  Tax cuts, 9/11, not letting enemies clog our courts matters.   Hillary Clinton.

Webb: "how absurd some of the things George Allen has said."  Referendum on this administration.  Allen votes with Bush 97 percent of the time, 100 percent of the time on foreign affairs.  Opportunity to return to the Democratic party. Principal duty of elected officials should be to speak for those who have no voice. 

My reactions:

I have to say I think Allen did a better job with the debate.  Not on substance, but I think he looked more relaxed and stayed on message better.  Webb got bogged down in details and was a bit too reactive — got stuck saying "you’re mischaracterizing me" rather than "this is what I believe in."   He needs to be more aggressive on the tax cut issue — that spending eventually needs to be paid for, and that most Americans don’t want to saddle their children with debt.

See also my post Why liberals should be enthusiastic about Jim Webb, over at  I think you can read it without registering, although you need to register in order to comment.

Back online

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

Well, I can’t say I had any epiphanies while I was gone, but I think I benefited from taking a step back.  I enjoy blogging, but sometimes it just feels like another thing on the to-do list.  There have been some horrific stories in the news, and I can’t imagine what I could have said that would have been meaningful.

The details are a little up in the air, but I’ve been invited to post several times over the next month as one of a group of political bloggers at  Gather seems to be something of a cross between a social networking site and a set of community blogs.  I’ll let you know when things firm up.  In the meanwhile, tomorrow (e.g. Thursday), their front page poll question is going to be who do you think is going to win the Virginia Senate race, Allen or Webb.  At this point, I think it’s probably too close to call — Allen is still ahead in the last set of polls, but Webb has momentum and finally enough money to get on TV.