Virginia News & Events

The group for it is called Fair Maps VA.

The group against it is called Fair Districts VA.

Both say they’re working to end gerrymandering, and both say it’s the other guys who want to keep it around. They both use the same anti-gerrymandering talking points, like “Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia is officially against it. But two of its top figures, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, voted for it on their own ballots already. It passed out of a Democratic-controlled General Assembly this year, but Republican leaders and conservative groups are urging their voters to support it.

Against that confusing backdrop, it’s understandable that many Virginia voters, particularly Democrats who for years have heard their party leaders talk up the urgent need for redistricting reform, don’t know what to make of ballot question 1. It asks if the state should create a 16-member, bipartisan redistricting commission to redraw Virginia’s congressional and legislative maps every decade starting in 2021 as new census data comes in.

For years, those who wanted to see redistricting power taken away from the General Assembly pushed for an independent, non-partisan commission, envisioned as a group of citizens who would draw fairer lines than self-interested politicians looking to juice their party’s numbers or protect their own seats.

The proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this year doesn’t do that, giving half the commission seats to sitting legislators and half to citizens nominated by legislators and appointed by retired judges.

That’s one of the main shortcomings some Democratic lawmakers are highlighting to argue the plan wouldn’t really reform anything, instead allowing a smaller group of politicians and the politically connected to wield redistricting power. Rather than putting a flawed plan in the Constitution and maybe improving it in time for 2031, they say, it’s better to take the time to get it right.

“People across the board that think it ought to be a citizen-led process should all vote no on this,” said Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax. “The amendment moves us in a direction that cements legislator involvement.”

That argument has been maddening for amendment supporters. If those insisting they want true independence from the General Assembly get their wish and the amendment is defeated, supporters point out, the General Assembly keeps its constitutional power to draw maps. That means no independence for the 2021 process, but a general promise to do something for 2031.

“Gerrymandering is cemented into the system now. Who do you think controls this?” said Brian Cannon, executive director of redistricting reform group OneVirginia2021. “It’s a false understanding of the status quo at best.”

OneVirginia2021 Executive Director Brian Cannon speaks at a news conference on Feb. 12 in support of a constitutional amendment on redistricting reform. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

That point is reinforced by the state’s official text explaining the amendment to voters, which says a no vote “will leave the sole responsibility for drawing the districts with the General Assembly and the governor.” Opponents have quibbled with that explanation. But it’s legally required to be both neutral and factual, and the Supreme Court of Virginia refused to hear a challenge claiming it isn’t.

Some redistricting reformers say they’d like to see something similar to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, 14-member, all-citizen panel made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four people with no partisan affiliation. California’s application process is overseen by the state auditor, but partisan leaders have an opportunity to strike applicants they find objectionable.

Regardless of where legislators stand on how much independence from partisan players a good commission needs, there wasn’t enough support in the General Assembly to make a fully independent commission feasible for 2021.

The compromise plan that emerged was the product of a unique political moment, with control of the General Assembly up for grabs in 2019, when Republicans and Democrats weren’t sure which party was going to be in charge for the redistricting year.

Though some opponents have characterized the amendment as a scheme hatched by Republicans, the proposal for a commission with an equal number of legislators and citizens was introduced in early 2019 by Senate Democrats. That resolution became the amendment that passed a Republican-controlled legislature in 2019 and a Democratic-led one in 2020, despite the partisan power shift in between. Under Virginia’s system, it had to pass two years in a row before going to voters for a final up-or-down decision.

After passing with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2019 despite objections from about a dozen members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in the House, the amendment was almost blocked in 2020 as House Democrats abandoned it in droves. Nine House Democrats joined with 45 Republicans to pass it 54-46.

Democratic House members abandoned the proposed redistricting amendment in big numbers during a floor vote earlier this year. Just nine Democratic delegates joined with Republicans to pass it. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

If Democrats had chosen to scrap the amendment this year and start over, it would’ve killed any chance for constitutional changes in time for the 2021 process.

Several senior lawmakers said allowing some legislative role was critical to drafting something with broad, bipartisan support, the idea being that elected officials are more familiar with how redistricting works and the geography of the areas they represent.

“If you just had straight citizens, who’s to say how that’s going to turn out?” said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, who supports the amendment and called arguments against it “pure bullsh**t” during the 2020 regular legislative session. “We did not put a provision in the bill, which some of the legislators wanted, that incumbency would be taken into effect.”

Under Republican control, the Senate passed several redistricting reform plans that routinely failed in the House. That changed in 2019, after a federal court ruled 11 majority-minority districts drawn in the Republican-led, 2011 redistricting had been unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered. That ended with the court redrawing the maps for the 2019 elections, signaling that Republicans were in serious jeopardy of losing their majority.

In an interview, Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, the House speaker in 2019, said that seeing a court-appointed expert from California redraw his district and others changed his thinking on redistricting reform. But he still felt legislators should be involved.

“They know the process,” Cox said. “It’s almost like having a commission that deals with police reform, a citizen commission, and not having anyone who’s actually been in a squad car or ever done it.”

The amendment’s critics say the bipartisan history of gerrymandering shows why they’re pushing for a stronger break from how things have been done in the past.

“To me, if you drew a map that they threw out as unconstitutional against Black people, you maybe shouldn’t be invited back to that table,” said Del. Marcia Price, D-Newport News.

Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, speaks against the proposed redistricting amendment on the House floor in March. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

During the 2020 session, Price pushed for an alternative, non-binding commission that would have included more prominent protections for minority communities. But she was forced to amend her proposal to include seats for legislators, commenting at the time that she was told she “did not have the votes” for a commission that banned legislators.

Her bill ultimately failed to pass, but many of the House Democrats now saying they can only support a truly independent commission voted for it, even with the seats for legislators added.

Simon acknowledged that a fully independent commission was a tough sell.

“It was impossible in 2019 because Republicans don’t believe in it,” he said. “It became really difficult to do in 2020 because Democrats in the Senate were wedded to their commission they had come up with.”

Others see a simple explanation for why some House Democrats are reluctant to vote for something that would force them to give up their power: They see a chance to use their hard-won majority to draw maps in their interest just like Republicans did in 2011.

“Once you come to that conclusion, you have to come up with some reasons why you’re opposed,” said Cox.

Other arguments against the amendment have centered on the perceived lack of attention to diversity and racial representation, as well as the potential role for the conservative-leaning Supreme Court of Virginia. Critics have suggested that, since either party can deadlock the commission and send the map-drawing process to the Supreme Court, Republicans might choose to take their chances with judges appointed under Republican legislatures.

Supporters have dismissed those concerns as overblown, noting the Supreme Court has recently upheld Democratic positions on major issues like a gun ban at the state Capitol and Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 shutdown orders. They also point out that the new proposed process will be public, unlike current redistricting, in which lawmakers hash out district lines behind closed doors.

Some Democrats claim they’ve already solved partisan gerrymandering by passing redistricting criteria legislation that says the statewide maps cannot “unduly favor or disfavor any political party.” But alleged violations of that broad standard may be difficult to prove or disprove, and would most likely require a ruling from the state Supreme Court, which tends to defer to legislative authority where laws are vague or ill-defined.

The amendment has been endorsed by numerous newspaper editorial pages, civic organizations and national good-government groups, including the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of Virginia, Common Cause, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.

“This is the best the Democrats could do in Virginia,” David Daley, a gerrymandering expert and author of the book “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count,” said at a recent press event with redistricting reform supporters. “And if we’re going to have a process in Virginia in 2020 in which citizens have any seat at the table, this is the way to do it. If this does not happen, the Democrats will have complete control of the process.”

The amendment’s most prominent opponents include the Democratic Party of Virginia (which is officially urging Democrats to vote no on sample ballots and other literature), the Virginia conference of the NAACP and progressive advocacy groups like Progress Virginia and New Virginia Majority.

A recent poll conducted by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy found significant public support for the amendment, with 48 percent of voters in favor, 28 percent opposed and 24 percent undecided.

Though some party leaders have flipped their positions on redistricting reform, the poll suggested rank-and-file voters may not be getting the message. It found 64 percent of likely Democratic voters in favor of the amendment, and Republicans more likely to oppose it.

Still, support for the amendment was weaker than what prior polls on redistricting reform have shown.

“Virginians are learning that Amendment 1 is not independent, nor is it non-partisan,” Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, said in a statement released by anti-amendment group Fair Districts VA.

Amendment supporters are cautiously optimistic that it will pass. Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, a progressive, first-term lawmaker who was one of the nine House Democrats to vote for the amendment, said that’s what makes opposition a “safe play for progressives” who “get to say they were holding out for better without being on the hook if it fails.”

“If this amendment passes there will be nowhere to hide in the next round of reform,” Hudson said. “The only step forward will be full independence. Because that’s what’s hard about the politics right now. People who want more reform and people who want none can come together to oppose the amendment. But they can’t come together on an alternative.”

How to make your vote count in Virginia
Virginia Mercury, Graham MoomawOctober 5, 2020 (Medium)
A voting sign at Pemberton Elementary School in Henrico,, November 5, 2019. (Parker Michels-Boyce/ for the Virginia Mercury)

Voting in Virginia was already changing even before COVID-19 arrived.

The combination of a global pandemic and some major shifts in state election laws — ushered in after Democrats took control of the General Assembly — means that when Virginians cast their ballots this year, they can expect things to be a little different.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure your vote counts in November.

When is the election and what’s on the ballot?

The election is Nov. 3.

In addition to the main event — the matchup between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden — U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is facing off against Republican challenger Daniel Gade and all 11 of Virginia’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are on the ballot.

Voters will also be asked to weigh in on a statewide referendum to create a bipartisan redistricting commission that, if approved, would redraw the state’s political maps every 10 years using new U.S. census data. Another state referendum question proposes to create a motor vehicle tax exemption for disabled military veterans.

There are numerous other local races and issues on the ballot depending on where you live, including a special election for vacant House of Delegates seat in the Winchester area and casino referendums in several cities.

Absentee voting 

Early voting, which just got easier due to a change in state law that allows anyone to cast an absentee ballot without needing an excuse, began Sept. 18.

Officials are already seeing big spikes in absentee ballot requests as people seek safe alternatives allowing them to avoid any Election Day crowds, and asking voters to submit their ballot requests early to avoid any issues with a last-minute surge.

You can request an absentee ballot through the state’s online application system.  If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote, you can check your status here.

What are my options?

All polling places will be open on Election Day with social distancing protocols in place, so anyone who wants to go through the typical in-person voting process can do so. As usual, polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and anyone in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote. You can look up your polling place here.

If you choose to get an absentee ballot through the mail, there are multiple ways to return it.

You can mail it back using the provided envelope, which will include prepaid postage and a tracking code allowing you to keep tabs on your ballot through an online system called Ballot Scout.

Or you can take the ballot back yourself, dropping it off with an employee at your local election office or at one of the drop boxes the General Assembly recently approved.

If you don’t want to rely on the mail but still want to cast your ballot early, in-person absentee voting is going on now at your local elections office and satellite voting offices. You don’t have to fill out an application to cast an absentee ballot in person, you just have to verify your identity when you go.

There are some limitations on mail-in absentee ballots if it’s your first time voting in a particular locality and you registered to vote by mail. There are exemptions for people who might face particular difficulty voting in person, such as college students, military personnel and their spouses, the elderly and people with illnesses or disabilities. If it’s your first time voting in your city or county and you want to vote by mail, check with your local registrar to verify your eligibility.

What are the key deadlines?

The deadline to register to vote in November is Oct. 13.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot through the mail is Oct. 23.

The deadline to vote absentee in person is Oct. 31.

If I vote by mail, will my ballot arrive in time?

There can be complications if you wait until the last minute to mail your ballot back, and that’s a heightened concern for many this year due to slowdowns with the U.S. Postal Service.

If you want a mail-in ballot, the Postal Service recommends requesting one as early as possible and mailing it back before Election Day, preferably at least a week in advance.

In Virginia, election officials will count ballots that come in a few days after the polls close, as long as they’re postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots received after noon on Nov. 6 will not be counted. Ballots with a missing or illegible postmark will be counted as long as they come in before the deadline.

Do I still need an ID to vote?

A change to state law this year means photo IDs are no longer strictly required. But if you have one, you should still bring it to streamline the process. Anyone who doesn’t have an ID can get a regular ballot, but only after they sign a statement affirming they are who they say they are.

Anyone who doesn’t have an ID and refuses to sign the statement can cast a provisional ballot, which will be set aside until election officials can determine whether the person is or isn’t a valid voter.

Other changes to state law expanded the types of identification documents that will be accepted, allowing voters to use expired driver’s licenses, bank statements, utility bills and paychecks to verify their identity. College students will also be able to use any higher education ID, regardless of whether it includes a photo or was issued by a non-Virginia school.

A complete list of acceptable IDs is available here.

(Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Three million dollars for public outreach. Nearly $2.5 million for refrigerators and thermometers. And more than $71 million for mass vaccination clinics, where hundreds of thousands of Virginians could be immunized against COVID-19.

Virginia’s plan, released to the Mercury Friday, shows the size and scale of a public health campaign designed to protect millions against a historic virus. The plan was submitted to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for review this week and remains “a living document as more information is understood, more vaccines are introduced, and any other considerations develop,” wrote Joseph Hilbert, the Virginia Department of Health’s deputy commissioner for governmental and regulatory affairs, in a Friday email.

But the plan also underscores many of the factors that health workers will contend with when it comes to distributing any future vaccine. While VDH is preparing for a potential Nov. 1 release — a date requested by the Trump administration after the president suggested a vaccine could be ready as early as this month — there’s “no absolute guarantee” of when any safe and effective immunization will be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Christy Gray, the director of the department’s division of immunization.

Federal health officials have called a release before Election Day “very unlikely.”

What’s clear is that vaccination will be incremental and unprecedented compared to any previous disease outbreaks within the last decade. Virginia developed pandemic influenza planning more than a decade ago during the H1N1 swine flu outbreak — plans that have informed some of the state’s current coronavirus procedures.

But those mass vaccination efforts were still significantly different than what’s required for the COVID-19 pandemic — a potentially deadly virus that places certain types of people, including the elderly and infirm and those with other health conditions, most at risk. Virginia’s plans call for health experts to consider infection control measures at immunization sites, raising the possibility of drive-through clinics or events at large indoor venues that leave room for social distancing.

There are also significant outstanding questions about the vaccine itself, including how many doses will initially be available. While the federal government will determine how much of the vaccine is distributed to Virginia, according to the state’s planning document, health officials are planning a phased approach under the assumption that only limited amounts will be available when it’s first released.

The initial planning scenario tasks state officials with developing priority groups for the first distribution. Under the state’s plan, those include residents at long-term care facilities — which in Virginia account for nearly 50 percent of the state’s total COVID-19 deaths, according to VDH data — as well as health care workers and “people who play a key role in keeping essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace.”

Those positions have yet to be determined, but could include first responders, teachers and childcare providers, according to the state’s planning document. Priority consideration will also be given to other high-risk groups, including Virginians aged 65 or older, people of color — who have also been disproportionately affected by the virus — and people living in congregate living facilities such as prisons, homeless shelters, or even college campuses.

“In the event that Virginia’s allocation during Phase 1 is insufficient to vaccinate all those included in the initial populations of focus, it is important for the Virginia Unified Command to identify and estimate the subset groups within these initial populations of focus to determine who will receive the first available doses of COVID-19 vaccine,” the plan reads.

More than 20 different divisions and agencies have a role in the 60-page document, including the Virginia Department of Education and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, which are expected to coordinate with local health departments on immunizing students and employees at K-12 schools and college campuses.

The plan calls for nearly $121 million in total spending for vaccination efforts, including more than $3.3 million for supplemental supplies such as Band-Aids, syringes and needles. The state anticipates paying nearly $40 million for a pharmacy benefits administrator to manage claims for un- and underinsured patients and distribute payments to pharmacies and other community providers for administering vaccines.

The vaccine itself will be supplied to the state free of charge, but the CDC says that administrative costs will likely be shouldered by state and local governments. Providers must vaccinate patients regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

VDH will distribute money to local health departments to assist with mass vaccination, according to the plan. But it’s still not entirely clear how the state will fund the effort. Virginia Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne recently said that roughly $700 million in remaining federal CARES Act money could go toward the state’s immunization campaign.

Gray said another complication could be the dosages for any future immunization. Many of the vaccines currently under trial will require two doses, “separated by 21 or 28 days,” according to the plan.

“Those vaccines are not interchangeable with each other, so that’s another consideration that wasn’t necessarily the case during any previous disease outbreaks,” she added. In other words, if patients receive an initial dose of a vaccine from a certain pharmaceutical company, their doctor, pharmacist or local health department will need to follow up with them to make sure they receive a second dose of the same vaccine within a certain timeframe.

It’s an effort that requires massive coordination and also the involvement of doctors across Virginia. The state’s planning document encourages patients to be immunized at their “medical home” whenever possible, and describes the early recruitment of doctors as one of the most important early factors in mass vaccination.

Earlier this month, Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver sent a letter to providers asking them to register with the state if they planned on distributing a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Sandy Chung, a Northern Virginia-based pediatrician and president of the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said most primary care physicians already have experience in giving out vaccinations to large number of patients, but the state is likely hoping to recruit nontraditional providers such as school systems or large employers.

“I think that’s what they’re trying to assess — which health care providers are able to do this or willing to do this,” she added. “They need to know who’s ready.”

House of Delegates members walk past the south portico around at the end of the veto session at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, VA Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The House members were meeting outside in a tent instead of the House Chamber in order to practice social distancing due to the COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/POOL, Bob Brown)

In the wee hours of an unseasonably balmy, humid Sunday in mid-March, legislative staff on the ninth and 10th floors of Capitol Square’s decrepit, old General Assembly Building had opened their windows wide to mitigate the swelter from unrelenting, clanking steam radiators. Beyond exhaustion from a week of late nights, many hours of work lay ahead for them.

Those top floors were rarefied real estate, home to the most powerful committees in state government — those with the final say over how the state spends tens of billions of dollars — and the expert staffs who did the heavy lifting. And on this last long night, days behind schedule and hours past the 2010 legislature’s scheduled final adjournment, a dozen delegates and senators cloistered behind closed doors, bickering and dickering over the fine print of what would be the $77 billion state government spending blueprint through June 2012.

It’s known as the budget conference, an innocuous-sounding insider term that means little or nothing to ordinary Virginians. But the agreement that rival House and Senate members sealed with a handshake around 2 a.m. on that warm, late-winter Sunday — and at the conclusion of budget conferences every year — was highly consequential to their daily lives from the taxes they pay to funding for their kids’ schools and everything in between. It’s no less true in the current special session as House and Senate budget negotiators try to square differing versions of a pandemic-ravaged proposed budget of $137 billion, 77 percent larger than that budget adopted 10 years earlier.

No other piece of legislation holds as much sway as state budget bills, which not only form the 24-month financial framework for the commonwealth but also supersedes other state law. That such critical legislating is done at the last minute in sometimes chaotic, often contentious late-night sessions well out of public view by sleep-starved people amid the intermingled odors of cold pizza and burned coffee did not — and should not — inspire confidence.

Nobody has seen the budget conference process from more different perspectives than Bill Leighty, an immensely accomplished senior state government veteran who cut his teeth in the 1980s with a seven-year stint on the Senate Finance Committee staff. From there, Leighty would direct the sprawling Virginia Retirement System before serving as chief of staff to two successive governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

“What makes them (budget conferences) so powerful is that what they agree on and put in the conference report goes directly to the floor and can only be voted up or down — no amendments,” said Leighty, now retired and an adviser to the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. “And, because they’re presented so late, everyone is loath to send it back to conference for a redo.”

How late? In 2010, the committee staffs had only 15 hours that Sunday to write the budget conferees’ agreement into its final form and have printed copies on all 140 legislators’ desks for that up-or-down floor vote, leaving them barely enough time to go home, change clothes and return to Capitol Square. The House and Senate convened at 5 p.m., agreed to the conferees’ work and adjourned sine die before 6.

That’s the lawmaking equivalent of driving down a twisting, one-lane mountain road on a moonless night with one working headlight and brakes that didn’t pass inspection. Yet somehow, mainly through the exacting work of highly professional staffs fighting off sleep with energy drinks and raw adrenalin, it has never jumped the guardrails and tumbled into the abyss.

Budget conferences don’t always bust their deadlines, and it’s not as though there aren’t weighty issues at play when they do. In 2010, like this year, the state was in the grips of a monstrous economic collapse that ravaged the official revenue estimates on which the budget is built. Both years forced significant cuts in state operating outlays.

In 2004, during a battle over reforms Warner proposed to fix what he called a structural imbalance in the state budget (Republicans labeled it a tax increase, and they weren’t wrong), the House and Senate deferred passage of a budget to an April special session. In the end, Warner got most of what he wanted from a GOP House and Senate through the budget bill.

Leighty recalls that budget battle as significant because of its use of the “repealer clause,” a provision in the budget that trumps statutory law. He said he authored dozens of them over his years on the Finance Committee and said the clauses can be spotted in any budget bill by looking for sections that begin with the words “Notwithstanding any other provision of law… .”

“We put all the tax changes in the (2004) budget bill so that it overrode tax law,” he said.

Opacity and even occasional sleight-of-hand is an old tradition of budget conferences. Reporters and their voice on Capitol Square — the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association — have stormed and huffed about it many times over the decades (including two years when this writer was its president) to no avail.

Over the decades, conferees have gone to bizarre, almost zany lengths to shield the byzantine proceedings from public view. In his years as a cub Finance Committee staffer, Leighty was assigned by the committee chairman, the late Sen. Ed Willey, to walk conspicuously past the cramped press filing room in the musty bowels of the Capitol with a boxload of budget documents and calculators, luring reporters in the opposite direction of where the conferees would actually meet.

“Ed Willey had one hard-and-fast rule: that the conference committee had to meet in a public building. So we picked some wonderful places: the Science Museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the budget offices, the Old Finance Building,” he said.

In one such cat-and-mouse adventure in the 1980s, the conferees had covertly gathered in an empty room in the then-mothballed Old Finance Building (since renovated to its former splendor and renamed the Oliver Hill Building) that sits just down the hill from the Capitol and nextdoor to the Executive Mansion. The tactic worked, Leighty recalled, until Joe Gatins, a sharp-eyed reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, spotted a single room with lights blazing in a darkened, derelict building.

“He went through the system of tunnels that connect the buildings on Capitol Square and popped up right in the middle of the conference committee,” Leighty said with a chuckle. “When he did, they scattered.”

What does the public miss in those closed cabals? It’s hard to say.

We know the items that are in conflict between the House and Senate budget bills, we know there is argument — sometimes loud enough to penetrate the closed doors — and we know there is compromise. The biggest disputes were not partisan but between House and Senate members battling over conflicting provisions in their rival budget bills. Their final resolution on those disagreements was usually pretty clear when it was over.

This week, that process starts anew, but possibly with a wrinkle. It’s not clear whether the budget conferees will gather socially distanced in person (doubtful considering that floor sessions have been conducted virtually) or via Zoom conference. And if it’s the latter, will the press (and public) be able to watch?

That’s a prospect that would have been unimaginable when Joe Gatins was sleuthing for stealthy conferees.

US election swing states: Virginia is for… Democrats?
New Statesman, Emily TamkinJuly 23, 2020 (Long)

The story of how the former Confederacy capital turned blue is one of demographic shifts, a Democratic political machine and Donald Trump.

The story of how Virginia went blue in presidential years is one of demographic shifts, a Democratic political machine and Trump. It’s the story of how a state’s voting patterns can change – and how politicians know all too well that they can change back again.

“Virginia is a blue state”, said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.

Virginia’s economy is, compared to elsewhere in the country, “recession resistant. That makes it an appealing place for people to move when they’re thinking about their futures,” Farnsworth explained. People move from all over the country – and indeed all over the world – to live and work in Virginia.

Here are the new laws that take effect July 1
Channel 6 Richmond, Jake BurnsJune 30, 2020 (Short)

After controlling both chambers of the state legislature and the executive mansion for the first time in a generation, hundreds of new laws passed by the Democratic controlled Virginia General Assembly and signed by Governor Ralph Northam (D) take effect July 1.

Northam signed more than 1,200 bills that cleared the General Assembly during the 2020 session.

Many of those bills are duplicates, commending resolutions, or technical tweaks to existing law. Although many Virginians might not see or know the direct impact, several bills will directly impact daily life and discussion in Virginia.

“We’re excited about what’s going to happen and what will become law at midnight,” said Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond). “We are putting Virginia on the right side of history. Although, we may be getting on the right side of history a little late for some things.”

Kaine predicts win in effort to rename bases that honor Confederates
Virginia Mercury, Allison Stevens July 13, 2020 (Medium)

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is preparing for battle with President Donald Trump over renaming military facilities that honor Confederates — and he’s expecting to win.

In an interview with the Mercury, Kaine said he believes the GOP-controlled Senate would override a possible presidential veto of a defense policy bill that would begin a process to rename the facilities. Doing so would require support from two-thirds of those voting.

Republicans hold 53 seats — or 53% — in the U.S. Senate. Democrats hold 233 seats — about 54% — in the U.S. House.

“I think we need to put it on his desk,” Kaine said. “If he were to veto this bill, I think we would override it.”

If the bill becomes law, it would be a major victory for the movement for racial justice and equality, which has intensified in recent months.

Suburban voters like Schmiegelow represent an existential challenge for Virginia Republicans, who haven’t won a statewide election since 2009. They’ve lost control of the executive mansion, the state legislature, and a majority of the state’s congressional seats.

The latest blow came last week when almost 1,300 bills passed by the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly went into effect. Republican laws on everything from abortion to voter ID were wiped off the book.

Part of the problem for Virginia Republicans is the president, according to Shaun Kenney, the former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.

“The suburbs just do not react well to Donald Trump in the White House,” Kenney said. “There’s just no way of getting around that.”

Ralph Northam gives coronavirus update
PBS NewsHourJune 18, 2020 (53:30)
A Message from Governor Northam on Juneteenth
Governor Ralph NorthamJune 19, 2020 (02:20)

Covid-19 and VA Governance

To understand the mind of a teacher, those of us who do other things for a living must attempt some mental gymnastics.

Let’s imagine a professional passion so acute that when the coronavirus shuttered classrooms, they pivoted with little warning or rehearsal to digitally link dozens of children from home and continue daily instruction remotely.

Close your eyes and comprehend a devotion to students so strong that you spend your personal money to supplement classroom supplies as eclectic as sanitizing wipes and Elmer’s glue, crepe paper and whiteboard markers.

Now, as days start shortening and summer bends toward autumn and a new academic calendar, imagine balancing your innate yearning for the classroom with a well-reasoned fear of a monstrously contagious, potentially deadly virus that medicine still can’t control and science doesn’t fully understand.

Finally, overlay that against the backdrop of political conflict and chaos that multiplies by the day.

Virginia prison system says active COVID-19 cases down to 22
Virginia Mercury, Ned OliverJuly 13, 2020 (Short)

The Virginia Department of Corrections says it’s down to 22 active cases of COVID-19 among inmates in the 40 prisons it operates around the state.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s secretary of public safety, Brian Moran, touted the figures Friday, which include six hospitalized prisoners and 16 still being held at various correctional facilities. He emphasized the latter number in a presentation to lawmakers.

“We have 16, let me repeat, 16 active cases in all of our correctional facilities,” he said during a joint meeting of the Senate’s judiciary and social services committees. “That’s out of 28,000 inmates, 40 correctional facilities. Sixteen — one six — active cases.”

Virginia is refusing to release information on COVID-19 outbreaks at poultry processing plants on the grounds of privacy concerns, despite a June decision to provide such data for long-term care facilities.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Mercury in June after Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration began releasing facility-specific data for nursing homes, the Virginia Department of Health said it would not provide the same information for poultry processing plants “in order to ensure that VDH is able to preserve the anonymity of individuals whose medical records have been examined during the investigation of COVID-19.”

“VDH is considering how to make the information you have requested available at the health district and/or regional level,” wrote VDH Deputy Commissioner for Governmental and Regulatory Affairs Joseph Hilbert in an email.

Neither a followup request to Hilbert nor an inquiry to the governor’s office about the justification for releasing such information for nursing homes but not poultry plants were answered.

Dr. Sterling Ransone is a family physician in Deltaville and current member of Virginia’s testing task force, a workgroup assembled in late April to boost the state’s once-sluggish COVID-19 test rates.

Twice now, in teleconferences, he’s heard what he described as “proclamations” from state officials on the number of days Virginia has gone without reported shortages of personal protective equipment.

“Quite honestly, that really concerns me,” Ransone said. “And each time, I’ve had to speak up, because the reason they’re not getting reported shortages of PPE is because we have been asked to reuse disposable equipment.”

Ransone has two N95 respirator masks, disinfected through one of the state’s Battelle decontamination systems, that he rotates throughout the week. At his office, surgical masks are reused unless they’re dirty or wet. Disposable gowns are gingerly removed and saved for future use.

Within a week after Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Henrico reopened its doors to new admissions, the nursing home accepted a handful of what medical director Dr. Jim Wright referred to as “unknowns” — residents who had been transferred from the hospital without being tested for COVID-19.

The facility, which had just weathered one of the deadliest nursing home outbreaks in the country, had established its own strict testing program for patients in response. When the newly admitted residents were tested onsite, one came back positive. Luckily, Wright said, Canterbury already had a separate quarantine unit set up for new arrivals. But he still described the positive result as a “pretty tense time” for the facility, which lost a total of 51 residents to the disease.

“I am very hesitant now to accept any patient who has not had at least one test,” he added. “You just want to know what’s coming through your door.”

A little more than a month after Gov. Ralph Northam implemented a statewide mask mandate, the Virginia Department of Health has fielded more than 3,000 complaints related to the order.

Follow-up, though, has been almost universally limited to “outreach and assistance,” according to VDH and more than a dozen local health districts that fall under the department’s jurisdiction. The agency has not pursued misdemeanor charges for violations or pulled a permit for any of the businesses it regulates. “Local health districts may have provided written or given verbal warnings, which we would characterize as education,” spokeswoman Marian Hunter wrote in a Tuesday email.

Multiple districts told the Mercury that there had been few occasions of businesses refusing to comply with the order. But many said that fielding and responding to the complaints have become a significant task for local health departments, which have fielded anywhere from “10 to 15-ish” complaints, in the case of Richmond-Henrico, to “close to 100 business-related Executive Order compliance complaints” in the Central Virginia Health District where most revolve around a lack of face coverings or inadequate social distancing, according to the district’s director, Dr. Kerry Gateley.

Virginia Politics & onAir Hub

Virginia onAir is US onAir’s model of a curated state Hub. Over the past two years, George Mason University alumni, faculty, students, and staff through their GMU onAir chapter have led the development and testing of this Hub.

Virginia is located in the Southern region of the USA with Richmond as its capital. The Virginia General Assembly has 40 Senate members and 100 House of Delegate members. Ralph Northam is the current governor.  Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are its senators.

To view Virginia’s current political leaders, select the feature image or the post title above. To view leaders by position, select the three dots in the post title.

Select this link to view all US House members in a slide show.

>  Select this link to view all US House members in a map format (only in big screens).

 

My VA Ballot

Election Day is Tuesday November 3, 2020

Select the image at left to learn who you can vote for and print our your sample ballot.

This November there are no elections for state offices and only a few local offices. Tuesday November 2, 2021 is election day for Virginia Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, 40 state senators, 100 state delegates and city and county candidates

For more information on registering, voting, and the redistricting amendment, go to the Voting in Virginia post.

 

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US House District 2 – VA 2020

Scott Taylor vs. Elaine Luria Debate, 10/30/18
13News NowOctober 30, 2018 (51:54)
Rep. Elaine Luria presses top Navy officials
13News NowOctober 23, 2019 (15:45)

Adapted from the Washington Post:

The GOP primary to decide who will challenge Rep. Elaine Luria (D) in the military heavy 2nd District was won by Scott Taylor. Taylor, a former congressman, who lost the Virginia Beach seat to Luria in the 2018 blue wave, defeated two Republican opponents, paving the way for a rematch in November.

An uptick in anti-Trump sentiment, and a scandal over fraudulent signatures that his campaign collected to help a potential spoiler candidate get on the ballot, sunk Taylor’s campaign against Luria two years ago, analysts say.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report considers the general election a toss-up.

US House District 5 – VA 2020

A practicing physician, Cameron Webb returned to Charlottesville where he treats patients as a general internist, teaches students and serves as the Director of Health Policy and Equity at UVA’s School of Medicine.  Cameron is running for Congress to serve his community at this critical time. In Washington, he will be a fierce advocate to ensure opportunities for health and success for all Virginians.

Bob Good is running for Congress to bring the conservative principles of financial stewardship and respect for hard working taxpayers back to Washington. President Trump’s policies have delivered a growing, vibrant economy and we must ensure that our representatives back his agenda.

 

US House District 11 – VA 2020

Congressman Gerry Connolly is a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations. In this role, he is responsible for shaping government-wide policy for a broad range of issues, including federal workforce and federal agency oversight, federal procurement and information policy, national drug policy, regulatory reform, the United States Postal Service, the United States Census Bureau, and the District of Columbia. He also serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Using his extensive background in foreign policy, including as a senior staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has become a leading voice on foreign assistance reform, war powers, embassy security, and democracy promotion abroad.

Manga Anantatmula is a candidate for US Congress: VA District 11. Manga loves God, Family, & USA.
Accomplished professional. Wife of a professor. Proud military mom of USN LCDR.

 

 

David Bulova

Current Position: State Delegate since 2007
Affiliation: Democrat

David Bulova was first elected to the General Assembly in November 2005.  He currently serves on the General Laws, Education, and Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources committees.

David is passionate about community service. He is currently on the Board of Trustees of Brain Injury Services, which provides support to survivors of brain injuries and their families, the Board of the City of Fairfax Band, and the Board of Advisors for the William and Mary Public Policy Program.

Featured video: This interview was conducted by Tim O’Shea in David Bulova’s Fairfax City office in July, 2019. Original interview recording has not been edited in any way.

Chap Petersen

Current Position: State Senator since 2008
Affiliation: Democrat

Chap has been an attorney in private practice since 1994, successfully representing thousands of local people and businesses. In 2011, his peers selected him as one of thirty “Leaders of the Law” in Virginia.  His law firm, Chap Petersen & Associates, PLC, is located in downtown Fairfax, near the historic Fairfax County courthouse.

Chap began his career in politics by serving on the Fairfax City Council (1998-2002) and as a member in the Virginia House of Delegates (2002-2006).

Virginia onAir News 2Virginia News & Events

The group for it is called Fair Maps VA.

The group against it is called Fair Districts VA.

Both say they’re working to end gerrymandering, and both say it’s the other guys who want to keep it around. They both use the same anti-gerrymandering talking points, like “Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia is officially against it. But two of its top figures, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, voted for it on their own ballots already. It passed out of a Democratic-controlled General Assembly this year, but Republican leaders and conservative groups are urging their voters to support it.

Against that confusing backdrop, it’s understandable that many Virginia voters, particularly Democrats who for years have heard their party leaders talk up the urgent need for redistricting reform, don’t know what to make of ballot question 1. It asks if the state should create a 16-member, bipartisan redistricting commission to redraw Virginia’s congressional and legislative maps every decade starting in 2021 as new census data comes in.

For years, those who wanted to see redistricting power taken away from the General Assembly pushed for an independent, non-partisan commission, envisioned as a group of citizens who would draw fairer lines than self-interested politicians looking to juice their party’s numbers or protect their own seats.

The proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this year doesn’t do that, giving half the commission seats to sitting legislators and half to citizens nominated by legislators and appointed by retired judges.

That’s one of the main shortcomings some Democratic lawmakers are highlighting to argue the plan wouldn’t really reform anything, instead allowing a smaller group of politicians and the politically connected to wield redistricting power. Rather than putting a flawed plan in the Constitution and maybe improving it in time for 2031, they say, it’s better to take the time to get it right.

“People across the board that think it ought to be a citizen-led process should all vote no on this,” said Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax. “The amendment moves us in a direction that cements legislator involvement.”

That argument has been maddening for amendment supporters. If those insisting they want true independence from the General Assembly get their wish and the amendment is defeated, supporters point out, the General Assembly keeps its constitutional power to draw maps. That means no independence for the 2021 process, but a general promise to do something for 2031.

“Gerrymandering is cemented into the system now. Who do you think controls this?” said Brian Cannon, executive director of redistricting reform group OneVirginia2021. “It’s a false understanding of the status quo at best.”

OneVirginia2021 Executive Director Brian Cannon speaks at a news conference on Feb. 12 in support of a constitutional amendment on redistricting reform. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

That point is reinforced by the state’s official text explaining the amendment to voters, which says a no vote “will leave the sole responsibility for drawing the districts with the General Assembly and the governor.” Opponents have quibbled with that explanation. But it’s legally required to be both neutral and factual, and the Supreme Court of Virginia refused to hear a challenge claiming it isn’t.

Some redistricting reformers say they’d like to see something similar to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, 14-member, all-citizen panel made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four people with no partisan affiliation. California’s application process is overseen by the state auditor, but partisan leaders have an opportunity to strike applicants they find objectionable.

Regardless of where legislators stand on how much independence from partisan players a good commission needs, there wasn’t enough support in the General Assembly to make a fully independent commission feasible for 2021.

The compromise plan that emerged was the product of a unique political moment, with control of the General Assembly up for grabs in 2019, when Republicans and Democrats weren’t sure which party was going to be in charge for the redistricting year.

Though some opponents have characterized the amendment as a scheme hatched by Republicans, the proposal for a commission with an equal number of legislators and citizens was introduced in early 2019 by Senate Democrats. That resolution became the amendment that passed a Republican-controlled legislature in 2019 and a Democratic-led one in 2020, despite the partisan power shift in between. Under Virginia’s system, it had to pass two years in a row before going to voters for a final up-or-down decision.

After passing with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2019 despite objections from about a dozen members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in the House, the amendment was almost blocked in 2020 as House Democrats abandoned it in droves. Nine House Democrats joined with 45 Republicans to pass it 54-46.

Democratic House members abandoned the proposed redistricting amendment in big numbers during a floor vote earlier this year. Just nine Democratic delegates joined with Republicans to pass it. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

If Democrats had chosen to scrap the amendment this year and start over, it would’ve killed any chance for constitutional changes in time for the 2021 process.

Several senior lawmakers said allowing some legislative role was critical to drafting something with broad, bipartisan support, the idea being that elected officials are more familiar with how redistricting works and the geography of the areas they represent.

“If you just had straight citizens, who’s to say how that’s going to turn out?” said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, who supports the amendment and called arguments against it “pure bullsh**t” during the 2020 regular legislative session. “We did not put a provision in the bill, which some of the legislators wanted, that incumbency would be taken into effect.”

Under Republican control, the Senate passed several redistricting reform plans that routinely failed in the House. That changed in 2019, after a federal court ruled 11 majority-minority districts drawn in the Republican-led, 2011 redistricting had been unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered. That ended with the court redrawing the maps for the 2019 elections, signaling that Republicans were in serious jeopardy of losing their majority.

In an interview, Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, the House speaker in 2019, said that seeing a court-appointed expert from California redraw his district and others changed his thinking on redistricting reform. But he still felt legislators should be involved.

“They know the process,” Cox said. “It’s almost like having a commission that deals with police reform, a citizen commission, and not having anyone who’s actually been in a squad car or ever done it.”

The amendment’s critics say the bipartisan history of gerrymandering shows why they’re pushing for a stronger break from how things have been done in the past.

“To me, if you drew a map that they threw out as unconstitutional against Black people, you maybe shouldn’t be invited back to that table,” said Del. Marcia Price, D-Newport News.

Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, speaks against the proposed redistricting amendment on the House floor in March. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

During the 2020 session, Price pushed for an alternative, non-binding commission that would have included more prominent protections for minority communities. But she was forced to amend her proposal to include seats for legislators, commenting at the time that she was told she “did not have the votes” for a commission that banned legislators.

Her bill ultimately failed to pass, but many of the House Democrats now saying they can only support a truly independent commission voted for it, even with the seats for legislators added.

Simon acknowledged that a fully independent commission was a tough sell.

“It was impossible in 2019 because Republicans don’t believe in it,” he said. “It became really difficult to do in 2020 because Democrats in the Senate were wedded to their commission they had come up with.”

Others see a simple explanation for why some House Democrats are reluctant to vote for something that would force them to give up their power: They see a chance to use their hard-won majority to draw maps in their interest just like Republicans did in 2011.

“Once you come to that conclusion, you have to come up with some reasons why you’re opposed,” said Cox.

Other arguments against the amendment have centered on the perceived lack of attention to diversity and racial representation, as well as the potential role for the conservative-leaning Supreme Court of Virginia. Critics have suggested that, since either party can deadlock the commission and send the map-drawing process to the Supreme Court, Republicans might choose to take their chances with judges appointed under Republican legislatures.

Supporters have dismissed those concerns as overblown, noting the Supreme Court has recently upheld Democratic positions on major issues like a gun ban at the state Capitol and Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 shutdown orders. They also point out that the new proposed process will be public, unlike current redistricting, in which lawmakers hash out district lines behind closed doors.

Some Democrats claim they’ve already solved partisan gerrymandering by passing redistricting criteria legislation that says the statewide maps cannot “unduly favor or disfavor any political party.” But alleged violations of that broad standard may be difficult to prove or disprove, and would most likely require a ruling from the state Supreme Court, which tends to defer to legislative authority where laws are vague or ill-defined.

The amendment has been endorsed by numerous newspaper editorial pages, civic organizations and national good-government groups, including the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of Virginia, Common Cause, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.

“This is the best the Democrats could do in Virginia,” David Daley, a gerrymandering expert and author of the book “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count,” said at a recent press event with redistricting reform supporters. “And if we’re going to have a process in Virginia in 2020 in which citizens have any seat at the table, this is the way to do it. If this does not happen, the Democrats will have complete control of the process.”

The amendment’s most prominent opponents include the Democratic Party of Virginia (which is officially urging Democrats to vote no on sample ballots and other literature), the Virginia conference of the NAACP and progressive advocacy groups like Progress Virginia and New Virginia Majority.

A recent poll conducted by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy found significant public support for the amendment, with 48 percent of voters in favor, 28 percent opposed and 24 percent undecided.

Though some party leaders have flipped their positions on redistricting reform, the poll suggested rank-and-file voters may not be getting the message. It found 64 percent of likely Democratic voters in favor of the amendment, and Republicans more likely to oppose it.

Still, support for the amendment was weaker than what prior polls on redistricting reform have shown.

“Virginians are learning that Amendment 1 is not independent, nor is it non-partisan,” Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, said in a statement released by anti-amendment group Fair Districts VA.

Amendment supporters are cautiously optimistic that it will pass. Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, a progressive, first-term lawmaker who was one of the nine House Democrats to vote for the amendment, said that’s what makes opposition a “safe play for progressives” who “get to say they were holding out for better without being on the hook if it fails.”

“If this amendment passes there will be nowhere to hide in the next round of reform,” Hudson said. “The only step forward will be full independence. Because that’s what’s hard about the politics right now. People who want more reform and people who want none can come together to oppose the amendment. But they can’t come together on an alternative.”

How to make your vote count in Virginia
Virginia Mercury, Graham MoomawOctober 5, 2020 (Medium)
A voting sign at Pemberton Elementary School in Henrico,, November 5, 2019. (Parker Michels-Boyce/ for the Virginia Mercury)

Voting in Virginia was already changing even before COVID-19 arrived.

The combination of a global pandemic and some major shifts in state election laws — ushered in after Democrats took control of the General Assembly — means that when Virginians cast their ballots this year, they can expect things to be a little different.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure your vote counts in November.

When is the election and what’s on the ballot?

The election is Nov. 3.

In addition to the main event — the matchup between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden — U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is facing off against Republican challenger Daniel Gade and all 11 of Virginia’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are on the ballot.

Voters will also be asked to weigh in on a statewide referendum to create a bipartisan redistricting commission that, if approved, would redraw the state’s political maps every 10 years using new U.S. census data. Another state referendum question proposes to create a motor vehicle tax exemption for disabled military veterans.

There are numerous other local races and issues on the ballot depending on where you live, including a special election for vacant House of Delegates seat in the Winchester area and casino referendums in several cities.

Absentee voting 

Early voting, which just got easier due to a change in state law that allows anyone to cast an absentee ballot without needing an excuse, began Sept. 18.

Officials are already seeing big spikes in absentee ballot requests as people seek safe alternatives allowing them to avoid any Election Day crowds, and asking voters to submit their ballot requests early to avoid any issues with a last-minute surge.

You can request an absentee ballot through the state’s online application system.  If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote, you can check your status here.

What are my options?

All polling places will be open on Election Day with social distancing protocols in place, so anyone who wants to go through the typical in-person voting process can do so. As usual, polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and anyone in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote. You can look up your polling place here.

If you choose to get an absentee ballot through the mail, there are multiple ways to return it.

You can mail it back using the provided envelope, which will include prepaid postage and a tracking code allowing you to keep tabs on your ballot through an online system called Ballot Scout.

Or you can take the ballot back yourself, dropping it off with an employee at your local election office or at one of the drop boxes the General Assembly recently approved.

If you don’t want to rely on the mail but still want to cast your ballot early, in-person absentee voting is going on now at your local elections office and satellite voting offices. You don’t have to fill out an application to cast an absentee ballot in person, you just have to verify your identity when you go.

There are some limitations on mail-in absentee ballots if it’s your first time voting in a particular locality and you registered to vote by mail. There are exemptions for people who might face particular difficulty voting in person, such as college students, military personnel and their spouses, the elderly and people with illnesses or disabilities. If it’s your first time voting in your city or county and you want to vote by mail, check with your local registrar to verify your eligibility.

What are the key deadlines?

The deadline to register to vote in November is Oct. 13.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot through the mail is Oct. 23.

The deadline to vote absentee in person is Oct. 31.

If I vote by mail, will my ballot arrive in time?

There can be complications if you wait until the last minute to mail your ballot back, and that’s a heightened concern for many this year due to slowdowns with the U.S. Postal Service.

If you want a mail-in ballot, the Postal Service recommends requesting one as early as possible and mailing it back before Election Day, preferably at least a week in advance.

In Virginia, election officials will count ballots that come in a few days after the polls close, as long as they’re postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots received after noon on Nov. 6 will not be counted. Ballots with a missing or illegible postmark will be counted as long as they come in before the deadline.

Do I still need an ID to vote?

A change to state law this year means photo IDs are no longer strictly required. But if you have one, you should still bring it to streamline the process. Anyone who doesn’t have an ID can get a regular ballot, but only after they sign a statement affirming they are who they say they are.

Anyone who doesn’t have an ID and refuses to sign the statement can cast a provisional ballot, which will be set aside until election officials can determine whether the person is or isn’t a valid voter.

Other changes to state law expanded the types of identification documents that will be accepted, allowing voters to use expired driver’s licenses, bank statements, utility bills and paychecks to verify their identity. College students will also be able to use any higher education ID, regardless of whether it includes a photo or was issued by a non-Virginia school.

A complete list of acceptable IDs is available here.

(Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Three million dollars for public outreach. Nearly $2.5 million for refrigerators and thermometers. And more than $71 million for mass vaccination clinics, where hundreds of thousands of Virginians could be immunized against COVID-19.

Virginia’s plan, released to the Mercury Friday, shows the size and scale of a public health campaign designed to protect millions against a historic virus. The plan was submitted to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for review this week and remains “a living document as more information is understood, more vaccines are introduced, and any other considerations develop,” wrote Joseph Hilbert, the Virginia Department of Health’s deputy commissioner for governmental and regulatory affairs, in a Friday email.

But the plan also underscores many of the factors that health workers will contend with when it comes to distributing any future vaccine. While VDH is preparing for a potential Nov. 1 release — a date requested by the Trump administration after the president suggested a vaccine could be ready as early as this month — there’s “no absolute guarantee” of when any safe and effective immunization will be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Christy Gray, the director of the department’s division of immunization.

Federal health officials have called a release before Election Day “very unlikely.”

What’s clear is that vaccination will be incremental and unprecedented compared to any previous disease outbreaks within the last decade. Virginia developed pandemic influenza planning more than a decade ago during the H1N1 swine flu outbreak — plans that have informed some of the state’s current coronavirus procedures.

But those mass vaccination efforts were still significantly different than what’s required for the COVID-19 pandemic — a potentially deadly virus that places certain types of people, including the elderly and infirm and those with other health conditions, most at risk. Virginia’s plans call for health experts to consider infection control measures at immunization sites, raising the possibility of drive-through clinics or events at large indoor venues that leave room for social distancing.

There are also significant outstanding questions about the vaccine itself, including how many doses will initially be available. While the federal government will determine how much of the vaccine is distributed to Virginia, according to the state’s planning document, health officials are planning a phased approach under the assumption that only limited amounts will be available when it’s first released.

The initial planning scenario tasks state officials with developing priority groups for the first distribution. Under the state’s plan, those include residents at long-term care facilities — which in Virginia account for nearly 50 percent of the state’s total COVID-19 deaths, according to VDH data — as well as health care workers and “people who play a key role in keeping essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace.”

Those positions have yet to be determined, but could include first responders, teachers and childcare providers, according to the state’s planning document. Priority consideration will also be given to other high-risk groups, including Virginians aged 65 or older, people of color — who have also been disproportionately affected by the virus — and people living in congregate living facilities such as prisons, homeless shelters, or even college campuses.

“In the event that Virginia’s allocation during Phase 1 is insufficient to vaccinate all those included in the initial populations of focus, it is important for the Virginia Unified Command to identify and estimate the subset groups within these initial populations of focus to determine who will receive the first available doses of COVID-19 vaccine,” the plan reads.

More than 20 different divisions and agencies have a role in the 60-page document, including the Virginia Department of Education and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, which are expected to coordinate with local health departments on immunizing students and employees at K-12 schools and college campuses.

The plan calls for nearly $121 million in total spending for vaccination efforts, including more than $3.3 million for supplemental supplies such as Band-Aids, syringes and needles. The state anticipates paying nearly $40 million for a pharmacy benefits administrator to manage claims for un- and underinsured patients and distribute payments to pharmacies and other community providers for administering vaccines.

The vaccine itself will be supplied to the state free of charge, but the CDC says that administrative costs will likely be shouldered by state and local governments. Providers must vaccinate patients regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

VDH will distribute money to local health departments to assist with mass vaccination, according to the plan. But it’s still not entirely clear how the state will fund the effort. Virginia Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne recently said that roughly $700 million in remaining federal CARES Act money could go toward the state’s immunization campaign.

Gray said another complication could be the dosages for any future immunization. Many of the vaccines currently under trial will require two doses, “separated by 21 or 28 days,” according to the plan.

“Those vaccines are not interchangeable with each other, so that’s another consideration that wasn’t necessarily the case during any previous disease outbreaks,” she added. In other words, if patients receive an initial dose of a vaccine from a certain pharmaceutical company, their doctor, pharmacist or local health department will need to follow up with them to make sure they receive a second dose of the same vaccine within a certain timeframe.

It’s an effort that requires massive coordination and also the involvement of doctors across Virginia. The state’s planning document encourages patients to be immunized at their “medical home” whenever possible, and describes the early recruitment of doctors as one of the most important early factors in mass vaccination.

Earlier this month, Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver sent a letter to providers asking them to register with the state if they planned on distributing a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Sandy Chung, a Northern Virginia-based pediatrician and president of the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said most primary care physicians already have experience in giving out vaccinations to large number of patients, but the state is likely hoping to recruit nontraditional providers such as school systems or large employers.

“I think that’s what they’re trying to assess — which health care providers are able to do this or willing to do this,” she added. “They need to know who’s ready.”

House of Delegates members walk past the south portico around at the end of the veto session at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, VA Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The House members were meeting outside in a tent instead of the House Chamber in order to practice social distancing due to the COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/POOL, Bob Brown)

In the wee hours of an unseasonably balmy, humid Sunday in mid-March, legislative staff on the ninth and 10th floors of Capitol Square’s decrepit, old General Assembly Building had opened their windows wide to mitigate the swelter from unrelenting, clanking steam radiators. Beyond exhaustion from a week of late nights, many hours of work lay ahead for them.

Those top floors were rarefied real estate, home to the most powerful committees in state government — those with the final say over how the state spends tens of billions of dollars — and the expert staffs who did the heavy lifting. And on this last long night, days behind schedule and hours past the 2010 legislature’s scheduled final adjournment, a dozen delegates and senators cloistered behind closed doors, bickering and dickering over the fine print of what would be the $77 billion state government spending blueprint through June 2012.

It’s known as the budget conference, an innocuous-sounding insider term that means little or nothing to ordinary Virginians. But the agreement that rival House and Senate members sealed with a handshake around 2 a.m. on that warm, late-winter Sunday — and at the conclusion of budget conferences every year — was highly consequential to their daily lives from the taxes they pay to funding for their kids’ schools and everything in between. It’s no less true in the current special session as House and Senate budget negotiators try to square differing versions of a pandemic-ravaged proposed budget of $137 billion, 77 percent larger than that budget adopted 10 years earlier.

No other piece of legislation holds as much sway as state budget bills, which not only form the 24-month financial framework for the commonwealth but also supersedes other state law. That such critical legislating is done at the last minute in sometimes chaotic, often contentious late-night sessions well out of public view by sleep-starved people amid the intermingled odors of cold pizza and burned coffee did not — and should not — inspire confidence.

Nobody has seen the budget conference process from more different perspectives than Bill Leighty, an immensely accomplished senior state government veteran who cut his teeth in the 1980s with a seven-year stint on the Senate Finance Committee staff. From there, Leighty would direct the sprawling Virginia Retirement System before serving as chief of staff to two successive governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

“What makes them (budget conferences) so powerful is that what they agree on and put in the conference report goes directly to the floor and can only be voted up or down — no amendments,” said Leighty, now retired and an adviser to the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. “And, because they’re presented so late, everyone is loath to send it back to conference for a redo.”

How late? In 2010, the committee staffs had only 15 hours that Sunday to write the budget conferees’ agreement into its final form and have printed copies on all 140 legislators’ desks for that up-or-down floor vote, leaving them barely enough time to go home, change clothes and return to Capitol Square. The House and Senate convened at 5 p.m., agreed to the conferees’ work and adjourned sine die before 6.

That’s the lawmaking equivalent of driving down a twisting, one-lane mountain road on a moonless night with one working headlight and brakes that didn’t pass inspection. Yet somehow, mainly through the exacting work of highly professional staffs fighting off sleep with energy drinks and raw adrenalin, it has never jumped the guardrails and tumbled into the abyss.

Budget conferences don’t always bust their deadlines, and it’s not as though there aren’t weighty issues at play when they do. In 2010, like this year, the state was in the grips of a monstrous economic collapse that ravaged the official revenue estimates on which the budget is built. Both years forced significant cuts in state operating outlays.

In 2004, during a battle over reforms Warner proposed to fix what he called a structural imbalance in the state budget (Republicans labeled it a tax increase, and they weren’t wrong), the House and Senate deferred passage of a budget to an April special session. In the end, Warner got most of what he wanted from a GOP House and Senate through the budget bill.

Leighty recalls that budget battle as significant because of its use of the “repealer clause,” a provision in the budget that trumps statutory law. He said he authored dozens of them over his years on the Finance Committee and said the clauses can be spotted in any budget bill by looking for sections that begin with the words “Notwithstanding any other provision of law… .”

“We put all the tax changes in the (2004) budget bill so that it overrode tax law,” he said.

Opacity and even occasional sleight-of-hand is an old tradition of budget conferences. Reporters and their voice on Capitol Square — the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association — have stormed and huffed about it many times over the decades (including two years when this writer was its president) to no avail.

Over the decades, conferees have gone to bizarre, almost zany lengths to shield the byzantine proceedings from public view. In his years as a cub Finance Committee staffer, Leighty was assigned by the committee chairman, the late Sen. Ed Willey, to walk conspicuously past the cramped press filing room in the musty bowels of the Capitol with a boxload of budget documents and calculators, luring reporters in the opposite direction of where the conferees would actually meet.

“Ed Willey had one hard-and-fast rule: that the conference committee had to meet in a public building. So we picked some wonderful places: the Science Museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the budget offices, the Old Finance Building,” he said.

In one such cat-and-mouse adventure in the 1980s, the conferees had covertly gathered in an empty room in the then-mothballed Old Finance Building (since renovated to its former splendor and renamed the Oliver Hill Building) that sits just down the hill from the Capitol and nextdoor to the Executive Mansion. The tactic worked, Leighty recalled, until Joe Gatins, a sharp-eyed reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, spotted a single room with lights blazing in a darkened, derelict building.

“He went through the system of tunnels that connect the buildings on Capitol Square and popped up right in the middle of the conference committee,” Leighty said with a chuckle. “When he did, they scattered.”

What does the public miss in those closed cabals? It’s hard to say.

We know the items that are in conflict between the House and Senate budget bills, we know there is argument — sometimes loud enough to penetrate the closed doors — and we know there is compromise. The biggest disputes were not partisan but between House and Senate members battling over conflicting provisions in their rival budget bills. Their final resolution on those disagreements was usually pretty clear when it was over.

This week, that process starts anew, but possibly with a wrinkle. It’s not clear whether the budget conferees will gather socially distanced in person (doubtful considering that floor sessions have been conducted virtually) or via Zoom conference. And if it’s the latter, will the press (and public) be able to watch?

That’s a prospect that would have been unimaginable when Joe Gatins was sleuthing for stealthy conferees.

US election swing states: Virginia is for… Democrats?
New Statesman, Emily TamkinJuly 23, 2020 (Long)

The story of how the former Confederacy capital turned blue is one of demographic shifts, a Democratic political machine and Donald Trump.

The story of how Virginia went blue in presidential years is one of demographic shifts, a Democratic political machine and Trump. It’s the story of how a state’s voting patterns can change – and how politicians know all too well that they can change back again.

“Virginia is a blue state”, said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.

Virginia’s economy is, compared to elsewhere in the country, “recession resistant. That makes it an appealing place for people to move when they’re thinking about their futures,” Farnsworth explained. People move from all over the country – and indeed all over the world – to live and work in Virginia.

Here are the new laws that take effect July 1
Channel 6 Richmond, Jake BurnsJune 30, 2020 (Short)

After controlling both chambers of the state legislature and the executive mansion for the first time in a generation, hundreds of new laws passed by the Democratic controlled Virginia General Assembly and signed by Governor Ralph Northam (D) take effect July 1.

Northam signed more than 1,200 bills that cleared the General Assembly during the 2020 session.

Many of those bills are duplicates, commending resolutions, or technical tweaks to existing law. Although many Virginians might not see or know the direct impact, several bills will directly impact daily life and discussion in Virginia.

“We’re excited about what’s going to happen and what will become law at midnight,” said Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond). “We are putting Virginia on the right side of history. Although, we may be getting on the right side of history a little late for some things.”

Kaine predicts win in effort to rename bases that honor Confederates
Virginia Mercury, Allison Stevens July 13, 2020 (Medium)

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is preparing for battle with President Donald Trump over renaming military facilities that honor Confederates — and he’s expecting to win.

In an interview with the Mercury, Kaine said he believes the GOP-controlled Senate would override a possible presidential veto of a defense policy bill that would begin a process to rename the facilities. Doing so would require support from two-thirds of those voting.

Republicans hold 53 seats — or 53% — in the U.S. Senate. Democrats hold 233 seats — about 54% — in the U.S. House.

“I think we need to put it on his desk,” Kaine said. “If he were to veto this bill, I think we would override it.”

If the bill becomes law, it would be a major victory for the movement for racial justice and equality, which has intensified in recent months.

Suburban voters like Schmiegelow represent an existential challenge for Virginia Republicans, who haven’t won a statewide election since 2009. They’ve lost control of the executive mansion, the state legislature, and a majority of the state’s congressional seats.

The latest blow came last week when almost 1,300 bills passed by the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly went into effect. Republican laws on everything from abortion to voter ID were wiped off the book.

Part of the problem for Virginia Republicans is the president, according to Shaun Kenney, the former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.

“The suburbs just do not react well to Donald Trump in the White House,” Kenney said. “There’s just no way of getting around that.”

Ralph Northam gives coronavirus update
PBS NewsHourJune 18, 2020 (53:30)
A Message from Governor Northam on Juneteenth
Governor Ralph NorthamJune 19, 2020 (02:20)

Top News

The group for it is called Fair Maps VA.

The group against it is called Fair Districts VA.

Both say they’re working to end gerrymandering, and both say it’s the other guys who want to keep it around. They both use the same anti-gerrymandering talking points, like “Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia is officially against it. But two of its top figures, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, voted for it on their own ballots already. It passed out of a Democratic-controlled General Assembly this year, but Republican leaders and conservative groups are urging their voters to support it.

Against that confusing backdrop, it’s understandable that many Virginia voters, particularly Democrats who for years have heard their party leaders talk up the urgent need for redistricting reform, don’t know what to make of ballot question 1. It asks if the state should create a 16-member, bipartisan redistricting commission to redraw Virginia’s congressional and legislative maps every decade starting in 2021 as new census data comes in.

For years, those who wanted to see redistricting power taken away from the General Assembly pushed for an independent, non-partisan commission, envisioned as a group of citizens who would draw fairer lines than self-interested politicians looking to juice their party’s numbers or protect their own seats.

The proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this year doesn’t do that, giving half the commission seats to sitting legislators and half to citizens nominated by legislators and appointed by retired judges.

That’s one of the main shortcomings some Democratic lawmakers are highlighting to argue the plan wouldn’t really reform anything, instead allowing a smaller group of politicians and the politically connected to wield redistricting power. Rather than putting a flawed plan in the Constitution and maybe improving it in time for 2031, they say, it’s better to take the time to get it right.

“People across the board that think it ought to be a citizen-led process should all vote no on this,” said Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax. “The amendment moves us in a direction that cements legislator involvement.”

That argument has been maddening for amendment supporters. If those insisting they want true independence from the General Assembly get their wish and the amendment is defeated, supporters point out, the General Assembly keeps its constitutional power to draw maps. That means no independence for the 2021 process, but a general promise to do something for 2031.

“Gerrymandering is cemented into the system now. Who do you think controls this?” said Brian Cannon, executive director of redistricting reform group OneVirginia2021. “It’s a false understanding of the status quo at best.”

OneVirginia2021 Executive Director Brian Cannon speaks at a news conference on Feb. 12 in support of a constitutional amendment on redistricting reform. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

That point is reinforced by the state’s official text explaining the amendment to voters, which says a no vote “will leave the sole responsibility for drawing the districts with the General Assembly and the governor.” Opponents have quibbled with that explanation. But it’s legally required to be both neutral and factual, and the Supreme Court of Virginia refused to hear a challenge claiming it isn’t.

Some redistricting reformers say they’d like to see something similar to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, 14-member, all-citizen panel made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four people with no partisan affiliation. California’s application process is overseen by the state auditor, but partisan leaders have an opportunity to strike applicants they find objectionable.

Regardless of where legislators stand on how much independence from partisan players a good commission needs, there wasn’t enough support in the General Assembly to make a fully independent commission feasible for 2021.

The compromise plan that emerged was the product of a unique political moment, with control of the General Assembly up for grabs in 2019, when Republicans and Democrats weren’t sure which party was going to be in charge for the redistricting year.

Though some opponents have characterized the amendment as a scheme hatched by Republicans, the proposal for a commission with an equal number of legislators and citizens was introduced in early 2019 by Senate Democrats. That resolution became the amendment that passed a Republican-controlled legislature in 2019 and a Democratic-led one in 2020, despite the partisan power shift in between. Under Virginia’s system, it had to pass two years in a row before going to voters for a final up-or-down decision.

After passing with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2019 despite objections from about a dozen members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in the House, the amendment was almost blocked in 2020 as House Democrats abandoned it in droves. Nine House Democrats joined with 45 Republicans to pass it 54-46.

Democratic House members abandoned the proposed redistricting amendment in big numbers during a floor vote earlier this year. Just nine Democratic delegates joined with Republicans to pass it. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

If Democrats had chosen to scrap the amendment this year and start over, it would’ve killed any chance for constitutional changes in time for the 2021 process.

Several senior lawmakers said allowing some legislative role was critical to drafting something with broad, bipartisan support, the idea being that elected officials are more familiar with how redistricting works and the geography of the areas they represent.

“If you just had straight citizens, who’s to say how that’s going to turn out?” said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, who supports the amendment and called arguments against it “pure bullsh**t” during the 2020 regular legislative session. “We did not put a provision in the bill, which some of the legislators wanted, that incumbency would be taken into effect.”

Under Republican control, the Senate passed several redistricting reform plans that routinely failed in the House. That changed in 2019, after a federal court ruled 11 majority-minority districts drawn in the Republican-led, 2011 redistricting had been unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered. That ended with the court redrawing the maps for the 2019 elections, signaling that Republicans were in serious jeopardy of losing their majority.

In an interview, Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, the House speaker in 2019, said that seeing a court-appointed expert from California redraw his district and others changed his thinking on redistricting reform. But he still felt legislators should be involved.

“They know the process,” Cox said. “It’s almost like having a commission that deals with police reform, a citizen commission, and not having anyone who’s actually been in a squad car or ever done it.”

The amendment’s critics say the bipartisan history of gerrymandering shows why they’re pushing for a stronger break from how things have been done in the past.

“To me, if you drew a map that they threw out as unconstitutional against Black people, you maybe shouldn’t be invited back to that table,” said Del. Marcia Price, D-Newport News.

Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, speaks against the proposed redistricting amendment on the House floor in March. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

During the 2020 session, Price pushed for an alternative, non-binding commission that would have included more prominent protections for minority communities. But she was forced to amend her proposal to include seats for legislators, commenting at the time that she was told she “did not have the votes” for a commission that banned legislators.

Her bill ultimately failed to pass, but many of the House Democrats now saying they can only support a truly independent commission voted for it, even with the seats for legislators added.

Simon acknowledged that a fully independent commission was a tough sell.

“It was impossible in 2019 because Republicans don’t believe in it,” he said. “It became really difficult to do in 2020 because Democrats in the Senate were wedded to their commission they had come up with.”

Others see a simple explanation for why some House Democrats are reluctant to vote for something that would force them to give up their power: They see a chance to use their hard-won majority to draw maps in their interest just like Republicans did in 2011.

“Once you come to that conclusion, you have to come up with some reasons why you’re opposed,” said Cox.

Other arguments against the amendment have centered on the perceived lack of attention to diversity and racial representation, as well as the potential role for the conservative-leaning Supreme Court of Virginia. Critics have suggested that, since either party can deadlock the commission and send the map-drawing process to the Supreme Court, Republicans might choose to take their chances with judges appointed under Republican legislatures.

Supporters have dismissed those concerns as overblown, noting the Supreme Court has recently upheld Democratic positions on major issues like a gun ban at the state Capitol and Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 shutdown orders. They also point out that the new proposed process will be public, unlike current redistricting, in which lawmakers hash out district lines behind closed doors.

Some Democrats claim they’ve already solved partisan gerrymandering by passing redistricting criteria legislation that says the statewide maps cannot “unduly favor or disfavor any political party.” But alleged violations of that broad standard may be difficult to prove or disprove, and would most likely require a ruling from the state Supreme Court, which tends to defer to legislative authority where laws are vague or ill-defined.

The amendment has been endorsed by numerous newspaper editorial pages, civic organizations and national good-government groups, including the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of Virginia, Common Cause, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.

“This is the best the Democrats could do in Virginia,” David Daley, a gerrymandering expert and author of the book “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count,” said at a recent press event with redistricting reform supporters. “And if we’re going to have a process in Virginia in 2020 in which citizens have any seat at the table, this is the way to do it. If this does not happen, the Democrats will have complete control of the process.”

The amendment’s most prominent opponents include the Democratic Party of Virginia (which is officially urging Democrats to vote no on sample ballots and other literature), the Virginia conference of the NAACP and progressive advocacy groups like Progress Virginia and New Virginia Majority.

A recent poll conducted by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy found significant public support for the amendment, with 48 percent of voters in favor, 28 percent opposed and 24 percent undecided.

Though some party leaders have flipped their positions on redistricting reform, the poll suggested rank-and-file voters may not be getting the message. It found 64 percent of likely Democratic voters in favor of the amendment, and Republicans more likely to oppose it.

Still, support for the amendment was weaker than what prior polls on redistricting reform have shown.

“Virginians are learning that Amendment 1 is not independent, nor is it non-partisan,” Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, said in a statement released by anti-amendment group Fair Districts VA.

Amendment supporters are cautiously optimistic that it will pass. Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, a progressive, first-term lawmaker who was one of the nine House Democrats to vote for the amendment, said that’s what makes opposition a “safe play for progressives” who “get to say they were holding out for better without being on the hook if it fails.”

“If this amendment passes there will be nowhere to hide in the next round of reform,” Hudson said. “The only step forward will be full independence. Because that’s what’s hard about the politics right now. People who want more reform and people who want none can come together to oppose the amendment. But they can’t come together on an alternative.”

How to make your vote count in Virginia
Virginia Mercury, Graham MoomawOctober 5, 2020 (Medium)
A voting sign at Pemberton Elementary School in Henrico,, November 5, 2019. (Parker Michels-Boyce/ for the Virginia Mercury)

Voting in Virginia was already changing even before COVID-19 arrived.

The combination of a global pandemic and some major shifts in state election laws — ushered in after Democrats took control of the General Assembly — means that when Virginians cast their ballots this year, they can expect things to be a little different.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure your vote counts in November.

When is the election and what’s on the ballot?

The election is Nov. 3.

In addition to the main event — the matchup between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden — U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is facing off against Republican challenger Daniel Gade and all 11 of Virginia’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are on the ballot.

Voters will also be asked to weigh in on a statewide referendum to create a bipartisan redistricting commission that, if approved, would redraw the state’s political maps every 10 years using new U.S. census data. Another state referendum question proposes to create a motor vehicle tax exemption for disabled military veterans.

There are numerous other local races and issues on the ballot depending on where you live, including a special election for vacant House of Delegates seat in the Winchester area and casino referendums in several cities.

Absentee voting 

Early voting, which just got easier due to a change in state law that allows anyone to cast an absentee ballot without needing an excuse, began Sept. 18.

Officials are already seeing big spikes in absentee ballot requests as people seek safe alternatives allowing them to avoid any Election Day crowds, and asking voters to submit their ballot requests early to avoid any issues with a last-minute surge.

You can request an absentee ballot through the state’s online application system.  If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote, you can check your status here.

What are my options?

All polling places will be open on Election Day with social distancing protocols in place, so anyone who wants to go through the typical in-person voting process can do so. As usual, polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and anyone in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote. You can look up your polling place here.

If you choose to get an absentee ballot through the mail, there are multiple ways to return it.

You can mail it back using the provided envelope, which will include prepaid postage and a tracking code allowing you to keep tabs on your ballot through an online system called Ballot Scout.

Or you can take the ballot back yourself, dropping it off with an employee at your local election office or at one of the drop boxes the General Assembly recently approved.

If you don’t want to rely on the mail but still want to cast your ballot early, in-person absentee voting is going on now at your local elections office and satellite voting offices. You don’t have to fill out an application to cast an absentee ballot in person, you just have to verify your identity when you go.

There are some limitations on mail-in absentee ballots if it’s your first time voting in a particular locality and you registered to vote by mail. There are exemptions for people who might face particular difficulty voting in person, such as college students, military personnel and their spouses, the elderly and people with illnesses or disabilities. If it’s your first time voting in your city or county and you want to vote by mail, check with your local registrar to verify your eligibility.

What are the key deadlines?

The deadline to register to vote in November is Oct. 13.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot through the mail is Oct. 23.

The deadline to vote absentee in person is Oct. 31.

If I vote by mail, will my ballot arrive in time?

There can be complications if you wait until the last minute to mail your ballot back, and that’s a heightened concern for many this year due to slowdowns with the U.S. Postal Service.

If you want a mail-in ballot, the Postal Service recommends requesting one as early as possible and mailing it back before Election Day, preferably at least a week in advance.

In Virginia, election officials will count ballots that come in a few days after the polls close, as long as they’re postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots received after noon on Nov. 6 will not be counted. Ballots with a missing or illegible postmark will be counted as long as they come in before the deadline.

Do I still need an ID to vote?

A change to state law this year means photo IDs are no longer strictly required. But if you have one, you should still bring it to streamline the process. Anyone who doesn’t have an ID can get a regular ballot, but only after they sign a statement affirming they are who they say they are.

Anyone who doesn’t have an ID and refuses to sign the statement can cast a provisional ballot, which will be set aside until election officials can determine whether the person is or isn’t a valid voter.

Other changes to state law expanded the types of identification documents that will be accepted, allowing voters to use expired driver’s licenses, bank statements, utility bills and paychecks to verify their identity. College students will also be able to use any higher education ID, regardless of whether it includes a photo or was issued by a non-Virginia school.

A complete list of acceptable IDs is available here.

(Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Three million dollars for public outreach. Nearly $2.5 million for refrigerators and thermometers. And more than $71 million for mass vaccination clinics, where hundreds of thousands of Virginians could be immunized against COVID-19.

Virginia’s plan, released to the Mercury Friday, shows the size and scale of a public health campaign designed to protect millions against a historic virus. The plan was submitted to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for review this week and remains “a living document as more information is understood, more vaccines are introduced, and any other considerations develop,” wrote Joseph Hilbert, the Virginia Department of Health’s deputy commissioner for governmental and regulatory affairs, in a Friday email.

But the plan also underscores many of the factors that health workers will contend with when it comes to distributing any future vaccine. While VDH is preparing for a potential Nov. 1 release — a date requested by the Trump administration after the president suggested a vaccine could be ready as early as this month — there’s “no absolute guarantee” of when any safe and effective immunization will be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Christy Gray, the director of the department’s division of immunization.

Federal health officials have called a release before Election Day “very unlikely.”

What’s clear is that vaccination will be incremental and unprecedented compared to any previous disease outbreaks within the last decade. Virginia developed pandemic influenza planning more than a decade ago during the H1N1 swine flu outbreak — plans that have informed some of the state’s current coronavirus procedures.

But those mass vaccination efforts were still significantly different than what’s required for the COVID-19 pandemic — a potentially deadly virus that places certain types of people, including the elderly and infirm and those with other health conditions, most at risk. Virginia’s plans call for health experts to consider infection control measures at immunization sites, raising the possibility of drive-through clinics or events at large indoor venues that leave room for social distancing.

There are also significant outstanding questions about the vaccine itself, including how many doses will initially be available. While the federal government will determine how much of the vaccine is distributed to Virginia, according to the state’s planning document, health officials are planning a phased approach under the assumption that only limited amounts will be available when it’s first released.

The initial planning scenario tasks state officials with developing priority groups for the first distribution. Under the state’s plan, those include residents at long-term care facilities — which in Virginia account for nearly 50 percent of the state’s total COVID-19 deaths, according to VDH data — as well as health care workers and “people who play a key role in keeping essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace.”

Those positions have yet to be determined, but could include first responders, teachers and childcare providers, according to the state’s planning document. Priority consideration will also be given to other high-risk groups, including Virginians aged 65 or older, people of color — who have also been disproportionately affected by the virus — and people living in congregate living facilities such as prisons, homeless shelters, or even college campuses.

“In the event that Virginia’s allocation during Phase 1 is insufficient to vaccinate all those included in the initial populations of focus, it is important for the Virginia Unified Command to identify and estimate the subset groups within these initial populations of focus to determine who will receive the first available doses of COVID-19 vaccine,” the plan reads.

More than 20 different divisions and agencies have a role in the 60-page document, including the Virginia Department of Education and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, which are expected to coordinate with local health departments on immunizing students and employees at K-12 schools and college campuses.

The plan calls for nearly $121 million in total spending for vaccination efforts, including more than $3.3 million for supplemental supplies such as Band-Aids, syringes and needles. The state anticipates paying nearly $40 million for a pharmacy benefits administrator to manage claims for un- and underinsured patients and distribute payments to pharmacies and other community providers for administering vaccines.

The vaccine itself will be supplied to the state free of charge, but the CDC says that administrative costs will likely be shouldered by state and local governments. Providers must vaccinate patients regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

VDH will distribute money to local health departments to assist with mass vaccination, according to the plan. But it’s still not entirely clear how the state will fund the effort. Virginia Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne recently said that roughly $700 million in remaining federal CARES Act money could go toward the state’s immunization campaign.

Gray said another complication could be the dosages for any future immunization. Many of the vaccines currently under trial will require two doses, “separated by 21 or 28 days,” according to the plan.

“Those vaccines are not interchangeable with each other, so that’s another consideration that wasn’t necessarily the case during any previous disease outbreaks,” she added. In other words, if patients receive an initial dose of a vaccine from a certain pharmaceutical company, their doctor, pharmacist or local health department will need to follow up with them to make sure they receive a second dose of the same vaccine within a certain timeframe.

It’s an effort that requires massive coordination and also the involvement of doctors across Virginia. The state’s planning document encourages patients to be immunized at their “medical home” whenever possible, and describes the early recruitment of doctors as one of the most important early factors in mass vaccination.

Earlier this month, Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver sent a letter to providers asking them to register with the state if they planned on distributing a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Sandy Chung, a Northern Virginia-based pediatrician and president of the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said most primary care physicians already have experience in giving out vaccinations to large number of patients, but the state is likely hoping to recruit nontraditional providers such as school systems or large employers.

“I think that’s what they’re trying to assess — which health care providers are able to do this or willing to do this,” she added. “They need to know who’s ready.”

House of Delegates members walk past the south portico around at the end of the veto session at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, VA Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The House members were meeting outside in a tent instead of the House Chamber in order to practice social distancing due to the COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/POOL, Bob Brown)

In the wee hours of an unseasonably balmy, humid Sunday in mid-March, legislative staff on the ninth and 10th floors of Capitol Square’s decrepit, old General Assembly Building had opened their windows wide to mitigate the swelter from unrelenting, clanking steam radiators. Beyond exhaustion from a week of late nights, many hours of work lay ahead for them.

Those top floors were rarefied real estate, home to the most powerful committees in state government — those with the final say over how the state spends tens of billions of dollars — and the expert staffs who did the heavy lifting. And on this last long night, days behind schedule and hours past the 2010 legislature’s scheduled final adjournment, a dozen delegates and senators cloistered behind closed doors, bickering and dickering over the fine print of what would be the $77 billion state government spending blueprint through June 2012.

It’s known as the budget conference, an innocuous-sounding insider term that means little or nothing to ordinary Virginians. But the agreement that rival House and Senate members sealed with a handshake around 2 a.m. on that warm, late-winter Sunday — and at the conclusion of budget conferences every year — was highly consequential to their daily lives from the taxes they pay to funding for their kids’ schools and everything in between. It’s no less true in the current special session as House and Senate budget negotiators try to square differing versions of a pandemic-ravaged proposed budget of $137 billion, 77 percent larger than that budget adopted 10 years earlier.

No other piece of legislation holds as much sway as state budget bills, which not only form the 24-month financial framework for the commonwealth but also supersedes other state law. That such critical legislating is done at the last minute in sometimes chaotic, often contentious late-night sessions well out of public view by sleep-starved people amid the intermingled odors of cold pizza and burned coffee did not — and should not — inspire confidence.

Nobody has seen the budget conference process from more different perspectives than Bill Leighty, an immensely accomplished senior state government veteran who cut his teeth in the 1980s with a seven-year stint on the Senate Finance Committee staff. From there, Leighty would direct the sprawling Virginia Retirement System before serving as chief of staff to two successive governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

“What makes them (budget conferences) so powerful is that what they agree on and put in the conference report goes directly to the floor and can only be voted up or down — no amendments,” said Leighty, now retired and an adviser to the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. “And, because they’re presented so late, everyone is loath to send it back to conference for a redo.”

How late? In 2010, the committee staffs had only 15 hours that Sunday to write the budget conferees’ agreement into its final form and have printed copies on all 140 legislators’ desks for that up-or-down floor vote, leaving them barely enough time to go home, change clothes and return to Capitol Square. The House and Senate convened at 5 p.m., agreed to the conferees’ work and adjourned sine die before 6.

That’s the lawmaking equivalent of driving down a twisting, one-lane mountain road on a moonless night with one working headlight and brakes that didn’t pass inspection. Yet somehow, mainly through the exacting work of highly professional staffs fighting off sleep with energy drinks and raw adrenalin, it has never jumped the guardrails and tumbled into the abyss.

Budget conferences don’t always bust their deadlines, and it’s not as though there aren’t weighty issues at play when they do. In 2010, like this year, the state was in the grips of a monstrous economic collapse that ravaged the official revenue estimates on which the budget is built. Both years forced significant cuts in state operating outlays.

In 2004, during a battle over reforms Warner proposed to fix what he called a structural imbalance in the state budget (Republicans labeled it a tax increase, and they weren’t wrong), the House and Senate deferred passage of a budget to an April special session. In the end, Warner got most of what he wanted from a GOP House and Senate through the budget bill.

Leighty recalls that budget battle as significant because of its use of the “repealer clause,” a provision in the budget that trumps statutory law. He said he authored dozens of them over his years on the Finance Committee and said the clauses can be spotted in any budget bill by looking for sections that begin with the words “Notwithstanding any other provision of law… .”

“We put all the tax changes in the (2004) budget bill so that it overrode tax law,” he said.

Opacity and even occasional sleight-of-hand is an old tradition of budget conferences. Reporters and their voice on Capitol Square — the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association — have stormed and huffed about it many times over the decades (including two years when this writer was its president) to no avail.

Over the decades, conferees have gone to bizarre, almost zany lengths to shield the byzantine proceedings from public view. In his years as a cub Finance Committee staffer, Leighty was assigned by the committee chairman, the late Sen. Ed Willey, to walk conspicuously past the cramped press filing room in the musty bowels of the Capitol with a boxload of budget documents and calculators, luring reporters in the opposite direction of where the conferees would actually meet.

“Ed Willey had one hard-and-fast rule: that the conference committee had to meet in a public building. So we picked some wonderful places: the Science Museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the budget offices, the Old Finance Building,” he said.

In one such cat-and-mouse adventure in the 1980s, the conferees had covertly gathered in an empty room in the then-mothballed Old Finance Building (since renovated to its former splendor and renamed the Oliver Hill Building) that sits just down the hill from the Capitol and nextdoor to the Executive Mansion. The tactic worked, Leighty recalled, until Joe Gatins, a sharp-eyed reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, spotted a single room with lights blazing in a darkened, derelict building.

“He went through the system of tunnels that connect the buildings on Capitol Square and popped up right in the middle of the conference committee,” Leighty said with a chuckle. “When he did, they scattered.”

What does the public miss in those closed cabals? It’s hard to say.

We know the items that are in conflict between the House and Senate budget bills, we know there is argument — sometimes loud enough to penetrate the closed doors — and we know there is compromise. The biggest disputes were not partisan but between House and Senate members battling over conflicting provisions in their rival budget bills. Their final resolution on those disagreements was usually pretty clear when it was over.

This week, that process starts anew, but possibly with a wrinkle. It’s not clear whether the budget conferees will gather socially distanced in person (doubtful considering that floor sessions have been conducted virtually) or via Zoom conference. And if it’s the latter, will the press (and public) be able to watch?

That’s a prospect that would have been unimaginable when Joe Gatins was sleuthing for stealthy conferees.

US election swing states: Virginia is for… Democrats?
New Statesman, Emily TamkinJuly 23, 2020 (Long)

The story of how the former Confederacy capital turned blue is one of demographic shifts, a Democratic political machine and Donald Trump.

The story of how Virginia went blue in presidential years is one of demographic shifts, a Democratic political machine and Trump. It’s the story of how a state’s voting patterns can change – and how politicians know all too well that they can change back again.

“Virginia is a blue state”, said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.

Virginia’s economy is, compared to elsewhere in the country, “recession resistant. That makes it an appealing place for people to move when they’re thinking about their futures,” Farnsworth explained. People move from all over the country – and indeed all over the world – to live and work in Virginia.

Here are the new laws that take effect July 1
Channel 6 Richmond, Jake BurnsJune 30, 2020 (Short)

After controlling both chambers of the state legislature and the executive mansion for the first time in a generation, hundreds of new laws passed by the Democratic controlled Virginia General Assembly and signed by Governor Ralph Northam (D) take effect July 1.

Northam signed more than 1,200 bills that cleared the General Assembly during the 2020 session.

Many of those bills are duplicates, commending resolutions, or technical tweaks to existing law. Although many Virginians might not see or know the direct impact, several bills will directly impact daily life and discussion in Virginia.

“We’re excited about what’s going to happen and what will become law at midnight,” said Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond). “We are putting Virginia on the right side of history. Although, we may be getting on the right side of history a little late for some things.”

Kaine predicts win in effort to rename bases that honor Confederates
Virginia Mercury, Allison Stevens July 13, 2020 (Medium)

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is preparing for battle with President Donald Trump over renaming military facilities that honor Confederates — and he’s expecting to win.

In an interview with the Mercury, Kaine said he believes the GOP-controlled Senate would override a possible presidential veto of a defense policy bill that would begin a process to rename the facilities. Doing so would require support from two-thirds of those voting.

Republicans hold 53 seats — or 53% — in the U.S. Senate. Democrats hold 233 seats — about 54% — in the U.S. House.

“I think we need to put it on his desk,” Kaine said. “If he were to veto this bill, I think we would override it.”

If the bill becomes law, it would be a major victory for the movement for racial justice and equality, which has intensified in recent months.

Suburban voters like Schmiegelow represent an existential challenge for Virginia Republicans, who haven’t won a statewide election since 2009. They’ve lost control of the executive mansion, the state legislature, and a majority of the state’s congressional seats.

The latest blow came last week when almost 1,300 bills passed by the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly went into effect. Republican laws on everything from abortion to voter ID were wiped off the book.

Part of the problem for Virginia Republicans is the president, according to Shaun Kenney, the former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.

“The suburbs just do not react well to Donald Trump in the White House,” Kenney said. “There’s just no way of getting around that.”

Ralph Northam gives coronavirus update
PBS NewsHourJune 18, 2020 (53:30)
A Message from Governor Northam on Juneteenth
Governor Ralph NorthamJune 19, 2020 (02:20)
X
Covid-19 and VA GovernanceCovid-19 and VA Governance

To understand the mind of a teacher, those of us who do other things for a living must attempt some mental gymnastics.

Let’s imagine a professional passion so acute that when the coronavirus shuttered classrooms, they pivoted with little warning or rehearsal to digitally link dozens of children from home and continue daily instruction remotely.

Close your eyes and comprehend a devotion to students so strong that you spend your personal money to supplement classroom supplies as eclectic as sanitizing wipes and Elmer’s glue, crepe paper and whiteboard markers.

Now, as days start shortening and summer bends toward autumn and a new academic calendar, imagine balancing your innate yearning for the classroom with a well-reasoned fear of a monstrously contagious, potentially deadly virus that medicine still can’t control and science doesn’t fully understand.

Finally, overlay that against the backdrop of political conflict and chaos that multiplies by the day.

Virginia prison system says active COVID-19 cases down to 22
Virginia Mercury, Ned OliverJuly 13, 2020 (Short)

The Virginia Department of Corrections says it’s down to 22 active cases of COVID-19 among inmates in the 40 prisons it operates around the state.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s secretary of public safety, Brian Moran, touted the figures Friday, which include six hospitalized prisoners and 16 still being held at various correctional facilities. He emphasized the latter number in a presentation to lawmakers.

“We have 16, let me repeat, 16 active cases in all of our correctional facilities,” he said during a joint meeting of the Senate’s judiciary and social services committees. “That’s out of 28,000 inmates, 40 correctional facilities. Sixteen — one six — active cases.”

Virginia is refusing to release information on COVID-19 outbreaks at poultry processing plants on the grounds of privacy concerns, despite a June decision to provide such data for long-term care facilities.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Mercury in June after Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration began releasing facility-specific data for nursing homes, the Virginia Department of Health said it would not provide the same information for poultry processing plants “in order to ensure that VDH is able to preserve the anonymity of individuals whose medical records have been examined during the investigation of COVID-19.”

“VDH is considering how to make the information you have requested available at the health district and/or regional level,” wrote VDH Deputy Commissioner for Governmental and Regulatory Affairs Joseph Hilbert in an email.

Neither a followup request to Hilbert nor an inquiry to the governor’s office about the justification for releasing such information for nursing homes but not poultry plants were answered.

Dr. Sterling Ransone is a family physician in Deltaville and current member of Virginia’s testing task force, a workgroup assembled in late April to boost the state’s once-sluggish COVID-19 test rates.

Twice now, in teleconferences, he’s heard what he described as “proclamations” from state officials on the number of days Virginia has gone without reported shortages of personal protective equipment.

“Quite honestly, that really concerns me,” Ransone said. “And each time, I’ve had to speak up, because the reason they’re not getting reported shortages of PPE is because we have been asked to reuse disposable equipment.”

Ransone has two N95 respirator masks, disinfected through one of the state’s Battelle decontamination systems, that he rotates throughout the week. At his office, surgical masks are reused unless they’re dirty or wet. Disposable gowns are gingerly removed and saved for future use.

Within a week after Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Henrico reopened its doors to new admissions, the nursing home accepted a handful of what medical director Dr. Jim Wright referred to as “unknowns” — residents who had been transferred from the hospital without being tested for COVID-19.

The facility, which had just weathered one of the deadliest nursing home outbreaks in the country, had established its own strict testing program for patients in response. When the newly admitted residents were tested onsite, one came back positive. Luckily, Wright said, Canterbury already had a separate quarantine unit set up for new arrivals. But he still described the positive result as a “pretty tense time” for the facility, which lost a total of 51 residents to the disease.

“I am very hesitant now to accept any patient who has not had at least one test,” he added. “You just want to know what’s coming through your door.”

A little more than a month after Gov. Ralph Northam implemented a statewide mask mandate, the Virginia Department of Health has fielded more than 3,000 complaints related to the order.

Follow-up, though, has been almost universally limited to “outreach and assistance,” according to VDH and more than a dozen local health districts that fall under the department’s jurisdiction. The agency has not pursued misdemeanor charges for violations or pulled a permit for any of the businesses it regulates. “Local health districts may have provided written or given verbal warnings, which we would characterize as education,” spokeswoman Marian Hunter wrote in a Tuesday email.

Multiple districts told the Mercury that there had been few occasions of businesses refusing to comply with the order. But many said that fielding and responding to the complaints have become a significant task for local health departments, which have fielded anywhere from “10 to 15-ish” complaints, in the case of Richmond-Henrico, to “close to 100 business-related Executive Order compliance complaints” in the Central Virginia Health District where most revolve around a lack of face coverings or inadequate social distancing, according to the district’s director, Dr. Kerry Gateley.

Top News

To understand the mind of a teacher, those of us who do other things for a living must attempt some mental gymnastics.

Let’s imagine a professional passion so acute that when the coronavirus shuttered classrooms, they pivoted with little warning or rehearsal to digitally link dozens of children from home and continue daily instruction remotely.

Close your eyes and comprehend a devotion to students so strong that you spend your personal money to supplement classroom supplies as eclectic as sanitizing wipes and Elmer’s glue, crepe paper and whiteboard markers.

Now, as days start shortening and summer bends toward autumn and a new academic calendar, imagine balancing your innate yearning for the classroom with a well-reasoned fear of a monstrously contagious, potentially deadly virus that medicine still can’t control and science doesn’t fully understand.

Finally, overlay that against the backdrop of political conflict and chaos that multiplies by the day.

Virginia prison system says active COVID-19 cases down to 22
Virginia Mercury, Ned OliverJuly 13, 2020 (Short)

The Virginia Department of Corrections says it’s down to 22 active cases of COVID-19 among inmates in the 40 prisons it operates around the state.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s secretary of public safety, Brian Moran, touted the figures Friday, which include six hospitalized prisoners and 16 still being held at various correctional facilities. He emphasized the latter number in a presentation to lawmakers.

“We have 16, let me repeat, 16 active cases in all of our correctional facilities,” he said during a joint meeting of the Senate’s judiciary and social services committees. “That’s out of 28,000 inmates, 40 correctional facilities. Sixteen — one six — active cases.”

Virginia is refusing to release information on COVID-19 outbreaks at poultry processing plants on the grounds of privacy concerns, despite a June decision to provide such data for long-term care facilities.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Mercury in June after Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration began releasing facility-specific data for nursing homes, the Virginia Department of Health said it would not provide the same information for poultry processing plants “in order to ensure that VDH is able to preserve the anonymity of individuals whose medical records have been examined during the investigation of COVID-19.”

“VDH is considering how to make the information you have requested available at the health district and/or regional level,” wrote VDH Deputy Commissioner for Governmental and Regulatory Affairs Joseph Hilbert in an email.

Neither a followup request to Hilbert nor an inquiry to the governor’s office about the justification for releasing such information for nursing homes but not poultry plants were answered.

Dr. Sterling Ransone is a family physician in Deltaville and current member of Virginia’s testing task force, a workgroup assembled in late April to boost the state’s once-sluggish COVID-19 test rates.

Twice now, in teleconferences, he’s heard what he described as “proclamations” from state officials on the number of days Virginia has gone without reported shortages of personal protective equipment.

“Quite honestly, that really concerns me,” Ransone said. “And each time, I’ve had to speak up, because the reason they’re not getting reported shortages of PPE is because we have been asked to reuse disposable equipment.”

Ransone has two N95 respirator masks, disinfected through one of the state’s Battelle decontamination systems, that he rotates throughout the week. At his office, surgical masks are reused unless they’re dirty or wet. Disposable gowns are gingerly removed and saved for future use.

Within a week after Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Henrico reopened its doors to new admissions, the nursing home accepted a handful of what medical director Dr. Jim Wright referred to as “unknowns” — residents who had been transferred from the hospital without being tested for COVID-19.

The facility, which had just weathered one of the deadliest nursing home outbreaks in the country, had established its own strict testing program for patients in response. When the newly admitted residents were tested onsite, one came back positive. Luckily, Wright said, Canterbury already had a separate quarantine unit set up for new arrivals. But he still described the positive result as a “pretty tense time” for the facility, which lost a total of 51 residents to the disease.

“I am very hesitant now to accept any patient who has not had at least one test,” he added. “You just want to know what’s coming through your door.”

A little more than a month after Gov. Ralph Northam implemented a statewide mask mandate, the Virginia Department of Health has fielded more than 3,000 complaints related to the order.

Follow-up, though, has been almost universally limited to “outreach and assistance,” according to VDH and more than a dozen local health districts that fall under the department’s jurisdiction. The agency has not pursued misdemeanor charges for violations or pulled a permit for any of the businesses it regulates. “Local health districts may have provided written or given verbal warnings, which we would characterize as education,” spokeswoman Marian Hunter wrote in a Tuesday email.

Multiple districts told the Mercury that there had been few occasions of businesses refusing to comply with the order. But many said that fielding and responding to the complaints have become a significant task for local health departments, which have fielded anywhere from “10 to 15-ish” complaints, in the case of Richmond-Henrico, to “close to 100 business-related Executive Order compliance complaints” in the Central Virginia Health District where most revolve around a lack of face coverings or inadequate social distancing, according to the district’s director, Dr. Kerry Gateley.

X
Auto Draft 23My VA Ballot

Election Day is Tuesday November 3, 2020

Select the image at left to learn who you can vote for and print our your sample ballot.

This November there are no elections for state offices and only a few local offices. Tuesday November 2, 2021 is election day for Virginia Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, 40 state senators, 100 state delegates and city and county candidates

For more information on registering, voting, and the redistricting amendment, go to the Voting in Virginia post.

 

Only available for onAir members. It’s free to join. Go here to become a member.

Summary

Election Day is Tuesday November 3, 2020

Select the image at left to learn who you can vote for and print our your sample ballot.

This November there are no elections for state offices and only a few local offices. Tuesday November 2, 2021 is election day for Virginia Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, 40 state senators, 100 state delegates and city and county candidates

For more information on registering, voting, and the redistricting amendment, go to the Voting in Virginia post.

 

Only available for onAir members. It’s free to join. Go here to become a member.

Presidential Election

Joe Biden (D)

Howard Hunter (G)

Jo Jorgensen (L)

Donald Trump (R)

US Senate Election

Daniel Gade (R)

Mary Knapp (I)

Aldous Mina (I)

Mark Warner (D)

US House representative

Enter your address to determine what US House District you are in and who you can vote for.

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US House District 2 - 2020US House District 2 – VA 2020

Adapted from the Washington Post:

The GOP primary to decide who will challenge Rep. Elaine Luria (D) in the military heavy 2nd District was won by Scott Taylor. Taylor, a former congressman, who lost the Virginia Beach seat to Luria in the 2018 blue wave, defeated two Republican opponents, paving the way for a rematch in November.

An uptick in anti-Trump sentiment, and a scandal over fraudulent signatures that his campaign collected to help a potential spoiler candidate get on the ballot, sunk Taylor’s campaign against Luria two years ago, analysts say.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report considers the general election a toss-up.

Scott Taylor vs. Elaine Luria Debate, 10/30/18
13News NowOctober 30, 2018 (51:54)
Rep. Elaine Luria presses top Navy officials
13News NowOctober 23, 2019 (15:45)

Top News

Scott Taylor vs. Elaine Luria Debate, 10/30/18
13News NowOctober 30, 2018 (51:54)
Rep. Elaine Luria presses top Navy officials
13News NowOctober 23, 2019 (15:45)

Summary

Adapted from the Washington Post:

The GOP primary to decide who will challenge Rep. Elaine Luria (D) in the military heavy 2nd District was won by Scott Taylor. Taylor, a former congressman, who lost the Virginia Beach seat to Luria in the 2018 blue wave, defeated two Republican opponents, paving the way for a rematch in November.

An uptick in anti-Trump sentiment, and a scandal over fraudulent signatures that his campaign collected to help a potential spoiler candidate get on the ballot, sunk Taylor’s campaign against Luria two years ago, analysts say.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report considers the general election a toss-up.

Elaine Luria

Current Position: US Representative since 2019
Affiliation: Democrat
Candidate: 2020 US Representative

“Today, too many Americans are working hard and getting less. That’s because politicians in Washington aren’t looking out for them. That’s why I am running for Congress.

The core values of Security, Equality, and Prosperity will serve as my compass in representing the 2nd District.”

For more information, go to the Elaine Luria post

Scott Taylor

Current Position: Security consultant
Affiliation: Republican
Candidate: 2020 US Representative for US House District 2
Former Position(s): US Representative for US House District 2 from 2017 – 2019

Scott was sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia’s 2nd district in January of 2017 and became the first freshman member from Virginia to ever be appointed to the Appropriations Committee for a full term. His legislative accomplishments included a law to bring accountability at the most senior levels to the department of Department of Veterans Affairs and the Ashanti Alert Act, a national alert for missing adults. He was instrumental in securing hundreds of millions of dollars for his district and state for military construction and infrastructure projects. further, his appropriations amendments helping to protect military base access roads from flooding and/or sea level rise and his amendment to allow inter-agency cooperation on public-private partnerships at rural military installations were signed into law.

For more information, go to the Scott Taylor post.

Issues

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US House District 4 – 2020 1US House District 5 – VA 2020

A practicing physician, Cameron Webb returned to Charlottesville where he treats patients as a general internist, teaches students and serves as the Director of Health Policy and Equity at UVA’s School of Medicine.  Cameron is running for Congress to serve his community at this critical time. In Washington, he will be a fierce advocate to ensure opportunities for health and success for all Virginians.

Bob Good is running for Congress to bring the conservative principles of financial stewardship and respect for hard working taxpayers back to Washington. President Trump’s policies have delivered a growing, vibrant economy and we must ensure that our representatives back his agenda.

 

Summary

A practicing physician, Cameron Webb returned to Charlottesville where he treats patients as a general internist, teaches students and serves as the Director of Health Policy and Equity at UVA’s School of Medicine.  Cameron is running for Congress to serve his community at this critical time. In Washington, he will be a fierce advocate to ensure opportunities for health and success for all Virginians.

Bob Good is running for Congress to bring the conservative principles of financial stewardship and respect for hard working taxpayers back to Washington. President Trump’s policies have delivered a growing, vibrant economy and we must ensure that our representatives back his agenda.

 

Cameron Webb

Current Position: Physician and professor
Affiliation: Democrat
Candidate: 2020 US Representative for US House District 4

For more information, go to Cameron Webb’s post.

Bob Good

Current Position: Campbell County Board of Supervisors since 2016
Affiliation: Republican
Candidate: 2020 US Representative for US House District 5

For more information, go to Bob Good’s post.

Issues

Governance

Cameron Webb 

N/A

Bob Good 

Trimming Government Spending

Reduced non-essential spending and grew net revenue by $5 million over three years without raising taxes

Civil Rights

Cameron Webb 

N/A

Bob Good 

Defending the 2nd Amendment

Made Campbell County one of the first 2nd Amendment Sanctuaries in Virginia [3]

Economy

Cameron Webb 

Affordable Housing

Among the social factors that impact health, I have seen few with as strong and as direct an impact as housing. Too often, I see how poor-quality housing is connected to increased rates of chronic disease, injury and poor mental health. Too often, I see how unaffordable housing destroys a family’s ability to meet all of the other critical needs that they have. For many of my patients, concerns about keeping up with doctor appointments or medications are often overshadowed by the pressure of making their next rent payment or finding safe and stable housing.
Thing is, access to fair and affordable housing is a necessity for folks to have opportunities for success. Beyond enabling them to meet their healthcare needs, it connects people to opportunity through access to good schools, jobs and transit—all of which are the foundation for a healthy, productive life.
Throughout the 5th Congressional District, people talk to me about challenges in housing. From the lack of affordable housing in Charlottesville to the aging housing stock and excess inventory in Danville, these issues are real—and they’re having a serious impact on communities.
In Congress, I will make it a priority to address these concerns. I support refundable tax credits to rent-burdened individuals, so that nobody is left to spend too much of their income on their rent payments. Also, to address the gaps in homeownership we should target tax subsidies toward lower-income, first-time homeowners, not to mention lower-income renters. With smart tax credits and thoughtful incentives, we can help families by making it easier to cover the bills and get or stay in a home that works for them.
 
Additionally, we need strong policies that put an end to the exclusionary zoning that maintains the legacy of redlining. We must incentivize the construction of affordable housing units to address our severe affordable housing shortage. We need to support and strengthen fair housing rules. We need to live—and govern—with the belief that everyone deserves access to a safe, affordable home.
Still, one of the great travesties in our society is how many people live each day without any place at all to call home. We have to do better. Homelessness doesn’t always look like people sleeping in the streets—especially for children and families—and that invisible reality has led to a focus on solutions that don’t fully address the range of issues at hand. We can fully address our homelessness crisis through supportive housing, rapid rehousing, more funding for case management, mental health services, crisis response systems and yes, affordable housing.
These challenges are large and they look different in different parts of our district. We need dynamic solutions that can be implemented all over and create fair opportunities for everyone.

Jobs & The Economy

The public health crisis we are living in has devastated our economy and devastated the financial well-being of too many families. Long before COVID-19, though, our communities were facing significant challenges in the economy. And while President Trump and his administration spent a lot of time over the past few years praising jobs reports, the reality is that there are vast inequities that continue to define the U.S. economy. We deserve an economy that works for everyone regardless of race, economic background or zip code. 
While working in the White House for President Obama on his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, I got a unique perspective on how opportunities for good jobs are critical to shaping broader life outcomes for individuals. Over the past decade, layoffs and the closing of large factories and plants across the district has had a big impact on local economies. For our future, though, I believe the keys to creating and maintaining jobs here in VA-05 are building rural broadband infrastructure, encouraging entrepreneurship, allowing small businesses to grow and investing in a clean economy.
Bob Good 

Fighting for Lower Taxes

Never voted for a tax increase – led the fight against the 2019 meals tax and real estate tax hikes [1] & [2]

Education

Cameron Webb 

Strengthening Education

My mom has worked as a public school teacher for over 30 years. Through her experiences, I know how important it is for schools to be able to attract and retain dedicated education professionals who can help equip our students with the tools they need. Through my mom, I learned that no kid succeeds in their education without having critical dynamics around them that can support that success.
Thoughtful and comprehensive approaches to education will make a world of difference for our students. I know that from my time working on education policy in the Obama White House as part of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative. From MBK, I saw firsthand how we need both the resources and the will to address factors within students, classrooms, schools, homes, families, communities and society at-large that cause the widespread achievement gaps among rural, minority and economically disadvantaged students.
Every kid across Central and Southside Virginia deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential through their education. That’s every…single…kid—from Fauquier down to Danville. So whether they want to go to college or career school—if they want to go to community college or apprenticeship—I want to help make sure that there is a true path for them to their goals.
We need thoughtful and equitable—and long overdue—updates to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to make that goal a reality. We need to improve our standardized testing paradigms so that school districts are able to reliably assess and respond to their students’ needs. We need to incorporate planning for educational equity and standardized reporting to close achievement gaps. We must close the digital divide through ensuring access to broadband internet and necessary electronic devices to deliver on the promise of educational equity.
Here in VA-05—when it comes to higher education—just under 30 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher. For many of those individuals, the costs incurred to obtain that degree can limit their opportunities for success today. We need to modernize the Higher Education Act to support opportunities for many more in our district. We must streamline the FAFSA process so that it works for more people, maximize the value of the Federal Pell Grant program, and leverage loan forgiveness programs to make school more affordable.
Finally, I support efforts to make community colleges and public colleges/universities tuition-free for lower-income individuals. We should also extend this support to other post-secondary opportunities—like career school, technical education, and apprenticeships—so that we’re truly unlocking the potential for everyone’s future success.
Bob Good 

Supporting Homeschoolers

Advocated for the “Tebow Law” permitting homeschool children to participate in athletics & extra-curricular activities

Environment

Cameron Webb 

Protecting the Environment

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing our nation and our planet. Four years ago, the Paris climate agreement went into effect because the science was clear that global warming of 2°C above pre-industrial levels would be incredibly damaging to live on this planet. Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report showing us how critical it is that we in fact limit global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C. With thousands of scientists weighing in from over 40 countries, the weight of the evidence is clear—we must make massive and unprecedented changes to global energy infrastructure to limit global warming to the goal of 1.5°C.
Without decisive and appropriate action, there’s so much at stake. We risk droughts and precipitation deficits, rising sea levels and species loss and extinction. There are climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth. Unsurprisingly, the populations at highest risk are disadvantaged populations. From the proposed compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Union Hill to the proposed Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility in Cumberland, the threats to the environment—and to environmental justice—here in VA-05 come from so many different angles.
But climate change isn’t just a threat to the health of our planet—it’s also a threat to the health of our communities across Virginia every day. My colleagues and I see this each and every day in the hospital, as tick-borne illnesses like Lyme Disease spread farther and faster, the allergy season gets longer and worse, and rates of asthma among children continue to rise.
Staying at or below a temperature rise of 1.5°C requires slashing global greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. Meeting this goal demands significant shifts in our approach to transportation; in energy, land, and building infrastructure; and in industrial systems. It means reducing our current coal consumption by one-third. It also demands a vast scale-up of emerging technologies, such as those that remove carbon dioxide directly from the air. And while it will be extremely challenging to reach that goal, we absolutely must try. Every extra bit of warming makes a difference. We cannot let our kids and grandchildren pay the price for these decisions.
I will protect the health of our planet the same way I work to protect the health of my patients—by following the science and making evidenced-based decisions. This will not only improve the health of our environment, but also the health of our 21st century economy.
In Congress, I will work to ensure the same ambitious action that we’ve seen here in Virginia to transition to a clean energy economy as soon as possible—and certainly no later than mid-century. I will work to establish a clean energy standard that urgently requires 100% of U.S. electricity from clean and renewable sources. I will invest in programs to eliminate carbon emissions in agriculture and land use through reforming economic support programs for farms to meet climate goals. Finally, I will help make sure that we can keep the jobs created by a 100% clean energy future right here in Virginia.
Bob Good 
N/A

Health Care

Cameron Webb

Covid-19 Pandemic

My perspective on our current coronavirus pandemic comes from the frontlines, caring for COVID-19 patients in the hospital. It is my duty as a doctor, first and foremost, to face this challenge with an emphasis on service, diligence, and following the emerging science. Still, this experience has made even more clear the importance of having experts in the room in our highest levels of government. Times like these help illustrate why it would be helpful to have a doctor in the House.
Patients walk into hospitals sick, scared and alone. My colleagues around the country show up for work each day ready to serve, but worried about resources and support. Every day, my wife, Leigh-Ann—an emergency room doctor—and I talk about how we will keep our kids safe after coming home from caring for our community in this pandemic.
Our current leaders have failed. Both in their preparation for this crisis and in the execution of their response to it.
 
This virus has laid bare inequities our society has faced for decades. Many students in rural areas lack the access to broadband internet to allow them to continue learning online while schools are closed. Tens of thousands of residents of this district who were already food insecure face an even bigger challenge as the suddenly increased demand has lines for food banks stretching endlessly. Issues with housing affordability for individuals and families make it harder to physically isolate for some who are most at-risk for the most severe health outcomes in this pandemic. Poor air quality—more common in low-income and minorities communities due to environmental injustice—has been correlated to more deaths from COVID.
Add to those challenges the unique dynamics of this pandemic and its economic crisis. How many of our most “essential” workers are the least paid, most at risk for the virus, and sometimes do not even have health insurance. How recently laid off employees are forced to navigate a complex and overrun unemployment system, rather than having access to paid leave that could keep them employed. How some workers have no choice but to go to work sick—even now—because they are not given sick leave, they have bills to pay, and they don’t qualify for any of the current economic stimulus programs. Or how small businesses are unable to get relief from the Payment Protection Program while large corporations are able to take advantage of loopholes and close relationships to big banks.
We must address the immediate health crisis, put in place wrap-around support systems that keep our communities housed and fed, and listen to the guidance of public health experts to re-open gradually when it is safe. This economic crisis we’re facing is not a typical recession. Instead, the threat of the virus required that authorities essentially shut down large swaths of the economy. As we neutralize that threat, we must keep households and small businesses afloat so that we have an economy to restart on the other side of this crisis.

OUR COLLECTIVE RECOVERY

Our collective recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic should include the following:
  • 1. Enable people to make safe decisions by ensuring that nobody has to choose between going to work sick or paying their bills.
  • 2. Make sure our healthcare system is prepared for ongoing infections and the inevitable second wave.
  • 3. Plan for maintaining business continuity and employment relationships until it is safe for people to resume normal participation in the economy.

Bob Good 

N/A

Infrastructure

Cameron Webb 

Infrastructure

Among the biggest barriers to the development of thriving local economies in Virginia’s 5th District are deficiencies in the local infrastructure. Just as is the case across the Commonwealth, our district is home to aging highways, roads and bridges, old and crumbling school facilities, and aging drinking water, wastewater, and irrigation systems. Investing in the repair of Virginia’s infrastructure is not only the right thing to do because it is the lifeblood of the district’s businesses and families, but also because this work creates jobs across the district.
From my in-laws in Appomattox to my patients across the district, I know that one of our most critical infrastructure needs is rural broadband access. The lack of broadband access and resulting digital divide has a significant impact on driving inequities in education, healthcare, job availability and growth potential for local businesses. In fact, no one in the modern economy can survive without it. I will support ongoing and coordinated efforts in the Virginia delegation to get the necessary funding for broadband internet access through USDA’s ReConnect program, and fight to make sure we can deliver on this critical infrastructure.
Finally, I am committed to ensuring significant investment in historically marginalized communities as a means to redress historical injustices. From increased resources for transportation planning to investments in rebuilding and reconnecting historically underserved areas, I hope to make sure that all of our communities in VA-05 are connected to opportunity.
Bob Good 
N/A

Immigration

Cameron Webb 

N/A

Bob Good 

Strong on Immigration

Opposed creating “sanctuary cities” for illegal aliens [4]

Safety

Cameron Webb 

Reforming Criminal Justice

The most basic tenet of our criminal justice system is supposed to be “equal justice under law.” Our Pledge of Allegiance even speaks to our nation’s promise of “justice for all.” But our epidemic of mass incarceration and the disproportionality experienced by communities of color regarding criminal justice highlights the dire need of reform at every step: policing, prosecution, adjudication, sentencing and corrections.
The FIRST STEP Act of 2018 laid a critical foundation for the necessary reform. It gave judges more latitude in imposing mandatory minimum sentences, increased programming to reduce recidivism, and expanded opportunities for inmate placement into residential reentry centers or home confinement. As a bipartisan effort to move toward reform in criminal justice, it was truly an important first step—but only that.
 
Building upon the FIRST STEP Act, additional sentencing and prison reform is necessary to truly press toward justice. I support further reducing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and eliminating the discrepancy between crack and powder cocaine sentences. I support continuing oversight and improvement regarding prison conditions, healthcare access and rehabilitative offerings. Finally, I am in favor of phasing out detention centers and private prisons—certainly for federal prisoners.
In Congress, I will work to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline which results in marginalized youth constituencies being over-disciplined resulting in higher drop-out rates and more justice involvement. I will work to end our system of cash bail that places those in poverty at the highest risk of remaining in contact with the criminal justice system. I will support efforts to decriminalize mental health crises and to legalize marijuana. These are the tools that have been used to create our system of mass incarceration, and I intend to fight to disassemble them.
Finally, It is critical that we legislate reforms to help ensure a positive path forward for reentering citizens. I will support a federal “ban-the-box” law that would update the hiring practices of federal agencies and contractors. I will work for the removal of barriers for formerly incarcerated to fully reintegrate into society, including eliminating restrictions on housing, occupational licensing and formally reversing the federal ineligibility for food stamps for individuals with drug-related felonies. I support restoring the voting rights for citizens with past criminal convictions. I firmly believe that once people have paid their debt to society through incarceration, they should not continue paying it for the rest of their lives.
Bob Good 
N/A

 

X
US House District 11 – 2020US House District 11 – VA 2020

Congressman Gerry Connolly is a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations. In this role, he is responsible for shaping government-wide policy for a broad range of issues, including federal workforce and federal agency oversight, federal procurement and information policy, national drug policy, regulatory reform, the United States Postal Service, the United States Census Bureau, and the District of Columbia. He also serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Using his extensive background in foreign policy, including as a senior staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has become a leading voice on foreign assistance reform, war powers, embassy security, and democracy promotion abroad.

Manga Anantatmula is a candidate for US Congress: VA District 11. Manga loves God, Family, & USA.
Accomplished professional. Wife of a professor. Proud military mom of USN LCDR.

 

 

Summary

Congressman Gerry Connolly is a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations. In this role, he is responsible for shaping government-wide policy for a broad range of issues, including federal workforce and federal agency oversight, federal procurement and information policy, national drug policy, regulatory reform, the United States Postal Service, the United States Census Bureau, and the District of Columbia. He also serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Using his extensive background in foreign policy, including as a senior staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has become a leading voice on foreign assistance reform, war powers, embassy security, and democracy promotion abroad.

Manga Anantatmula is a candidate for US Congress: VA District 11. Manga loves God, Family, & USA.
Accomplished professional. Wife of a professor. Proud military mom of USN LCDR.

 

 

Gerry Connolly

Current Position: US Representative for US House District 11 since 2009
Affiliation: Democrat
Candidate: 2020 US Representative for US House District 11
Former Position(s): Board of Supervisors – Fairfax County from 1995 – 2007

Congressman Connolly is serving his sixth term in Congress. He previously served for 14 years on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, including as Chairman (2003-2009) and Providence District Supervisor (1995-2003). As Chairman of the ten-member board, Congressman Connolly balanced a budget of $4.5 billion and managed a county that, based on its size at the time, would have made it the nation’s thirteenth largest city, twelfth largest school district, and sixth largest office market. He served as Chairman of the County’s Legislative Committee and Vice-Chair of the Economic Advisory Committee.

Congressman Connolly also served as Chairman of the Board of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC), Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), and a member of the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) where he was chairman. He also chaired the region’s Emergency Preparedness Taskforce, and represented Fairfax County on the Board of the Virginia Association of Counties (VaCo) where he also served as president.

For more information, go to Gerry Connolly’s post.

Manga Anantatmula

Current Position: Professional
Affiliation: Republican
Candidate: 2020 US Representative for US House District 11

For more information, go to Manga Anantatmula’s post.

ISSUES

Civil Rights

Gerry Connolly 

Equality

Congressman Connolly has been a lifelong supporter of equal rights for the LGBT community. Discrimination is anathema to our American values and violates our Constitution. No one should be treated differently because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For his record, the Human Rights Campaign has recognized Congressman Connolly’s with a 100% rating for a fourth consecutive term.

He is an original cosponsor of the Equality Act, which would explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation in employment, public education, housing, public accommodations, credit, jury service, and federally funded programs. He condemned the Trump Administration’s unconstitutional efforts to ban transgender servicemembers from the military. He welcomed the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision that marriage equality is now the law of the land. He also supported the designation within the State Department of a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.

Manga Anantatmula 

N/A

Governance

Gerry Connolly

Good Government

As a senior member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, Congressman Connolly firmly believes that vigorous oversight of the Executive Branch is among the most serious responsibilities mandated to Congress by the Constitution.

The importance of congressional oversight is constant, and should be blind to the partisan affiliation of each administration. However, Congressman Connolly recognizes the uniquely urgent need for full-throated investigation into the unprecedented challenges presented by the current administration. From the beginning, he has led the effort to examine the administration’s growing list of ethically and legally questionable decisions. From day one, Congressman Connolly has raised questions about this administration’s abrupt decision to abandon plans for a new FBI headquarters, securing an Inspector General’s investigation into the matter. He has demanded investigations and subpoenas relating to the possible conflicts of interest presented by the president and his family’s ongoing business ties, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s misuse of his office and taxpayer dollars, and the White House’s adjudication of security clearances. Congressman Connolly is determined to hold this Administration accountable.

From the White House to your local post office, Congressman Connolly knows that Virginians demand and deserve a federal government that is efficient, ethical, and accountable for its actions.

Manga Anantatmula 

N/A

Economy

Gerry Connolly 

With a professional background in the private sector and more than a decade of service in local government, Congressman Connolly’s top priority has always been delivering results for the Northern Virginia economy. Congressman Connolly has helped develop our region into an economic engine for the Commonwealth by championing the growth of the technology and government contracting industries, fighting the dangerous and indiscriminate cuts of sequestration, and protecting the health of a productive federal workforce. Northern Virginia is now home to numerous Fortune 500 companies and has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Congressman Connolly wants every family in Northern Virginia to have an opportunity to share in the prosperity of our region.

As a leader of the pro-business New Democrat Coalition, Congressman Connolly has encouraged investments in three major pillars of a healthy American economy – education, infrastructure, and research and development. He has supported more federal assistance for local school systems, advanced new ways to invest in mega transportation projects, and advocated for the permanent extension of the Research & Development Tax Credit. These initiatives help unleash innovation, reduce poverty, and strengthen the American middle class – the backbone of our national economy.

Manga Anantatmula 

Reducing taxes for Small Businesses is essential as the country’s 80% of the economy lies in the prosperity of small businesses. Given the serious nature of COVID-19 pandemic, I personally support the President’s initiatives to assist small businesses and individuals to address business disruption. There’s a need to protect small businesses during this pandemic. With COVID-19 and an impact on the budget deficit, balancing the budget is a priority.

The only way that we can ever balance the budget is to grow the economy, bring back manufacturing for self-reliance, and reduce dependency on China and restrain government expenditures such as duplication of government programs.

Education

Gerry Connolly 

Congressman Connolly knows that the success of Northern Virginia’s economy is directly tied to the achievement of students in our local classrooms and college campuses. As a parent, Congressman Connolly believes that investing in quality early childhood education, public education, and college access programs will spur innovation and set our young people on a path for lifelong success.

During his tenure as Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, he helped increase funding for local schools by more than 30%. Congressman Connolly enjoys visiting local classrooms, meeting with student robotics teams, and talking to education professionals to see the creative ways in which our schools are engaging our students in the learning process.

For Northern Virginia families looking toward a college education for their kids, tuition costs can be daunting. Congressman Connolly knows that improving college affordability and reducing the burden of student loan debt are essential components to strengthening our higher education system. Nearly two-thirds of jobs in the United States require post-high school education or training, and we must eliminate insurmountable cost barriers to higher education for middle class families if we want the U.S. to maintain its competitive edge.

Manga Anantatmula

The Importance of Reopening Our Schools

The elected Politicians in VA 11 are playing political football with our children. They are shutting down schools for political reasons and it has nothing to do with COVID.

Let’s be truthful. There are a lot of politics behind our schools’ being shut down and the parents’ concern about their children’s safety in the wake of COVID-19. The importance of social, emotional, behavioral well-being and academic achievement are well-known. And of great significance, the lack of in-person education disproportionately harms low-income, those children with disabilities, and minority children. These students rely on school-supported resources like food programs, special education services, counseling, and after-school programs. And, if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms, and death rates among school-aged children are much lower than those of college-age students and adults.

Evidence to date shows that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children. Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19. To put this in perspective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths. However, children with certain medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Add to this, International studies suggest COVID-19 transmission among children in schools is very low. That is, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, is quite low, if proper precautions are followed. A few reports show children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members, but a greater amount of data from both virus and antibody testing, suggest children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community, but that other factors may be in play. The available evidence points to the fact that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students when appropriate safety measures are implemented.

Parents who work and require their children to attend school are also hurt by school closures. These parents cannot afford private schools or tutors and see school closures as a desperate situation. Many jobs cannot be accomplished in a virtual environment, putting the parents and the children in a terrible dilemma: Do we go without buying food, or do I leave my child alone in the house while I work?

Schools are an important part of community life. They provide a safe, supportive learning environment, critical support services, employ teachers and staff, and importantly, allow parents, guardians, and caregivers to work. School closure disrupts all of this. Reopening schools — while taking precautions to protect students, teachers, staff, and families — invest in our children.

Maintaining a healthy school/work environment includes the following:

  • Reduce the risk of COVID-19 by having teachers, staff, and students stay home when sick or if they have been in close contact with a person with COVID-19. Monitor COVID-19 transmission rates in the immediate community and in the communities in which students, teachers, and staff live. Work collaboratively with local health officials to determine if temporary school closure is necessary.
  • Install engineering controls, including modifying work areas using physical barriers, incorporating required accessibility requirements, and improving ventilation, where feasible.
  • Establish administrative controls and safe work practices for all staff to follow, which include appropriate cleaning and disinfection practices and appropriate face-coverings policies.
  • Individuals who are sick should immediately go home or to a healthcare facility.

America is a free republic and we must continually work to keep our republic free. The majority of surveyed Fairfax County parents stated they wanted a reopening of our schools, even if it was only a partial reopening. But the elected officials in Fairfax County decided to keep them closed. I firmly stand with the parents and want schools reopened. Especially since last year’s closure was a complete disaster for all involved. So, let’s not do the same thing this year and expect a better result.

We need School Choice

When our society emerges from the Covid-19 crisis, our school systems will almost certainly operate in many different ways. The changes will depend on how different school systems confronted the pandemic and the length of their school’s closure.

A close example of school attendance is the audience at movie theaters. Most theaters are now closed and the studios are using streaming services to distribute movies. The longer the pandemic lasts, the more comfortable people are seeing first-run movies in their homes. There could be little incentive for people to return to the theater once the pandemic is over. A new business model emerges. We may be seeing a similar attitude towards education with distance learning. This is not to say that educational instruction will move entirely to distance learning, but a good number will most likely offer more distance learning opportunities when the pandemic final ends.

Distance learning is a new model for school systems to embrace and incorporate. Certainly, if distance learning was to catch on by a majority of families, the brick and mortar infrastructure would be greatly impacted. And there are a minority of families that rely on the current infrastructure to not only educate their children but for their very living. Many families, particularly lower-income, rely on public schools, the brick and mortar schools, to provide food, health care, and childcare. And not every child learns effectively with distance learning. Plus, there is the interaction between students with each other and their teachers. Distance learning isn’t likely to eliminate the traditional public-school system. And I don’t believe it should.

Education is about expanding options and choices, and this is where school choice comes into play. We need school choice. Simply put, communities, families and children are diverse, and our school systems need to reflect that diversity.

In a recent Gallup poll concerning the Covid-19 pandemic and school systems, 36 percent of parents wanted their children to receive fully in‐person education, 36 percent wanted an in‐person/distance hybrid, and 28 percent wanted the children to have only distance learning. Each model was preferred by essentially one‐third of parents.

What is school choice? School choice allows public education funds to follow students to the schools or services that best fit their needs—whether that’s to a public school, private school, charter school, home school or any other learning environment parents choose for their kids. The secret to children succeeding in school is letting the parents decide which school choice they deem appropriate for the children. Schools competing for students greatly increases not only the success of the school but that of the student also. Research consistently shows that school choice drastically increases academic success. Only about 40 percent of conventionally schooled students are proficient in reading and math. Why do we keep doing something that fails 60 percent of the time? Private schools, charter schools, and homeschooling offer an education customized to the student that public schools do not. Public school students are thrown into one-site-fits-all classes. We in the United States decide how to run our own country, and how to raise our own children. We do not need government officials doing it for us. School choice is a must for our families and our children.

 

Environment

Gerry Connolly 

As a co-Chairman of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Caucus, Congressman Connolly plays a leadership role in efforts to protect America’s environment and public health and push for investment in clean and renewable energy. In Congress, he helped pass the largest investment in clean energy in American history and supported legislation to reduce global carbon emissions. Recently, he has led efforts to oppose drilling off the coast of Virginia or in the Chesapeake Bay and introduced amendments to protect the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and to require oil companies to pay the full cost of oil spill cleanups. He will continue to steadfastly oppose efforts to repeal the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Antiquities Act, the Clean Power Plan, the Paris Climate Agreement and other important environmental legislation.

Congressman Connolly has worked with colleagues from around the region to fight President Trump’s proposal to eliminate Chesapeake Bay Restoration funding and supports comprehensive legislation to restore the Bay.  He has also opposed efforts to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by a third. He has also been a leader in expanding federal conservation efforts, including supporting the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and fully funding our National Park System. In addition, Congressman Connolly has continued his efforts to establish powerful voluntary tax incentives to complete America’s 11 National Scenic Trails.

Locally, he has worked with community stakeholders to complete missing segments of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, and open Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge to the public. These efforts complement his efforts as a local government official, where he led the effort to build the 41-mile-long Connolly Cross County Trail and helped protect 10% of Fairfax County as county-owned parkland. He helped design and implement the county’s first comprehensive environmental plan which subsequently won a national award. Congressman Connolly was recently recognized as the “Protector of Potomac” by the Riverkeeper Network for his efforts on strengthening federal coal ash regulations.

Manga Anantatmula 

N/A

Health Care

Gerry Connolly 

Congressman Connolly believes health care should be a right for all Americans. He is committed to expanding access and improving the quality of care for all his constituents. In order to advance this critical priority, Congressman Connolly will fight to defend the Federal Employee Health Benefits program (FEHBP), protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and guard against misguided efforts to weaken, privatize, or overhaul our nation’s most successful health care programs in history, Medicare and Medicaid.

He strongly opposes partisan efforts to repeal the ACA. As a result of this landmark legislation, Virginia’s uninsured rate has decreased by 31 percent since 2010, providing 327,000 Virginians access to health care coverage they would otherwise have been unable to obtain or afford. In addition to expanding coverage, the ACA protects nearly 3 million Virginians who, prior to the ACA’s elimination of punitive annual and lifetime limits, lived under the threat of having their inadequate health insurance cut off if they got too sick. Insurance companies can no longer indiscriminately deny an individual coverage due to a pre-existing condition, and thanks to reforms that allow children to stay on their parent’s health plan until the age of 26, nearly 59,000 young adults have health care coverage. The ACA also mandates coverage of many important services including mental health screenings, and free preventive care coverage, such as flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms.

Unfortunately, Republican efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care, including the elimination of the individual mandate, cutting the Open Enrollment period in half, discontinuing much of the advertisement and outreach activities to boost ACA enrollment, and rescinding cost sharing reductions payments have resulted in higher premiums and fewer choices for Virginians.

Congressman Connolly believes there are improvements to the Affordable Care Act that can and should be adopted, but sabotaging and repealing the law is not the answer. He supports extending the risk-mitigation program that promotes market certainty and ensures insurance companies continue to participate in the marketplaces and finding new ways to encourage younger Americans to join the marketplaces.

Congressman Connolly been a strong supporter of Medicaid expansion in Virginia, which will provide health coverage for more than 400,000 Virginians, and was pleased to see the Governor sign it into law. He also fought for the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers more than 200,000 children in the Commonwealth.

Since coming to Congress, he has championed greater investment in scientific and biomedical research that will lead to new breakthroughs in medicine and treatments. Each year, he has advocated for robust funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and helped pass the 21st Century Cures Act, which would help unleash research and development.

Congressman Connolly is also fighting to make prescription drugs more affordable, including closing the Medicare prescription drug donut hole and holding companies accountable for indefensible skyrocketing drug costs. As a senior member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Congressman Connolly is supporting investigations into egregious price-gouging by pharmaceutical companies and supports reforms that will help lower prescription drug prices through greater competition and common-sense consumer protection safeguards.

Finally, he steadfastly opposes partisan efforts to insert the government between women and their doctors, and he has stood up to those in Congress who have attacked organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which provide vital health services to millions of Americans of all genders, races, and ages.

Manga Anantatmula 

N/A

Immigration

Gerry Connolly 

Congressman Connolly believes Congress must be a partner in solving our immigration challenge. He has fought for bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship, keep families together, and secure our borders. Congressman Connolly supports a pragmatic and results-oriented approach to border security, not an ill-conceived and unrealistic border wall.

He is a strong supporter of the DREAM Act and programs like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Northern Virginia is home to many talented DREAMers and TPS holders and Congressman Connolly has seen firsthand how much they contribute to the success of our community. Attacks on these programs threaten to break up millions of immigrant families and deprive the United States of an entire generation of future leaders.

Congressman Connolly firmly believes that America’s doors must remain open to those fleeing injury, violence, or persecution. He led the fight in Northern Virginia against President Trump’s illegal and immoral refugee ban and supports increasing the number of refugees resettled in our country.

Manga Anantatmula 

I will support and fight for legal immigration who believe in our system and contribute to our economy.

Bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform is needed now, more so than ever! Let’s stop the “band-aid” fixes on little issues and reform the entire system to address our legitimate requirements for legal immigration, close the porous borders, and stop favoring special interest groups.

President Trump has made a comprehensive immigration reform proposal which Congress has not worked on. I support that legislation and would work on a bipartisan basis to fix this broken system.

As a legal immigrant to the United States and as a naturalized citizen, I am fully aware of the complexities of this broken system.

Legal immigration must be based on the needs of the country, and merit.

However, we have to accept the fact we have millions of illegal immigrants. We should address this influx, build the wall, and enforce the law.

The United States must adapt an immigration system that serves its national interest. To restore the rule of law and secure our borders, President Trump is committed to constructing a border wall and ensuring the swift removal of unlawful entrants. To protect American workers, the President supports ending chain migration, eliminating the Visa Lottery, and moving the country to a merit-based entry system. And I support all these measures.

Infrastructure

Gerry Connolly 

Transportation

Congressman Connolly understands that reducing traffic congestion is critical to our quality of life in Northern Virginia. As a former county government executive, Congressman Connolly led major infrastructure investments, including the extension of Metro’s Silver Line to Dulles Airport – a $5.6 billion rail project, and pursued transformative Public Private Partnerships to add capacity to our regional transportation network. In Congress, he is fighting to fund new transportation projects and fast-track projects already underway.

Transportation investments have the potential to realize enormous returns on taxpayer dollars. It was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who signed the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956, and our nation continues to benefit from the legacy of that investment to this day, more than 60 years later. It would be difficult to calculate what the return on investment has been for the Interstate Highway System – a massive investment entirely financed with federal funds – but we know that, to this day, it enables enormous economic activity and touches our lives on a daily basis.

Congressman Connolly has helped lead the effort to conduct Congressional oversight of safety and accountability at Metro. He sees a system in crisis and in desperate need of a wholesale culture change. Congressman Connolly understands that failure of Metro is not an option. It is too important to our regional mobility. He helped lead the effort to establish the new Metrorail Safety Commission. He is the author of Metro reform legislation that is supported by Members of Congress from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. And he is leading the fight to preserve the annual $150 million federal investment in Metro necessary to replace aging rail cars and make other needed safety and infrastructure improvements. We need Metro to be a safe and reliable transit backbone for the national capital region.

Manga Anantatmula 

N/A

Safety

Gerry Connolly 

Gun Safety

Congressman Connolly has been a strong supporter of common-sense gun safety legislation and believes that upholding the 2nd Amendment does not have to come at the expense of public safety. In Congress, he is an original cosponsor of the Assault Weapons Ban. He supports limits on large-capacity ammunition magazines, expanding background checks, closing the gun-show loophole, and preventing suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms. He also supports a repeal of the federal restrictions that prevent local law enforcement officials from accessing criminal gun trace information that is necessary to conduct gun crime investigations and dismantle illegal gun trafficking networks.

Following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Congressman Connolly met with the Parkland students and joined Northern Virginia students at the March for Our Lives. He supports the federal ban on bump stocks and voted for funding that permits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct gun violence research. These are incremental steps in the right direction, and he will continue to push for sensible gun safety measures.

Criminal Justice Reform

Congressman Connolly is a member of a bipartisan group of lawmakers committed to addressing the complex challenges facing our nation’s dysfunctional criminal justice system. He supports strategies that reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and decrease corrections costs for state and local governments. He also supports permitting courts to reduce or amend mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent defendants.

As Chairman of Fairfax County, he has seen firsthand the value of modernizing criminal justice initiatives and remains a strong advocate of innovative reform programs, such as Veterans Treatment Courts. These courts provide eligible veterans with an alternative to jail, promote community collaboration, and can connect veterans with the programs and benefits they have earned. Fairfax County established the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first such program, known as the Veterans Treatment Docket

Manga Anantatmula

Defending Law and Order in Your Community

Across our great nation, there are protests calling for the removal and defunding of police. And I’ll be the first to admit that not all cops are good in their treatment of citizens, particularly our Black-American citizens. As an Indian-American, I do not want my child hurt by the police and I do not want your children harmed. It is the duty of all elected officials to demand that our police forces protect all of us equally and uphold our rights under the Constitution and existing laws.

The police play a critical role in the society. Without their protection, you and I would be at the mercy of other citizens and some of them may have an opportunity to harm us. The police are there when children are in danger. They are there when a mother delivers a baby early at home. They are there in spousal abuse cases. They are there a thousand times when needed in your community.

As your elected representative, I will work with our local authorities to ensure the police force in VA11 are there for you when you need them. I will work to remove any in law enforcement that do not treat all citizens fairly according to existing laws. It is your right to be protected by the police, not be fearful of the police. Fortunately, VA11 has a wonderful police force that respects our laws and treats our citizens very fairly.

We must also remember that in our community not everyone is a good person. There are some who are criminal and would harm you, your children, and businesses in your community. We should not and cannot allow such people to go about freely and commit crimes. The police must be given the authority needed to stop them. Do you want criminals running about in your neighborhood and community that would harm you and your family with no one in authority to apprehend them?

And I intend to go further. I will work to reform the criminal justice system. With over 2.2 Million people in overcrowded jails and prisons, many coming from poor and minority backgrounds, our criminal justice system needs a thorough going over. We can and must overhaul the current status quo to ensure fairness to all citizens that are incarcerated. Join me and vote for me to protect you, your family, and your community.

Gangs and Sanctuary Policies

Stop NOVA from becoming a Sanctuary place for Gangs (MS13) and Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a crime of abuse and violence against adults and children in our nation. The exact number of human trafficking victims is unknown because these crimes are done in secret and hidden from the public. The U.S. Department of Justice defines human trafficking as a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex. human trafficking is one of the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprises being done by gangs. Victims of trafficking are coerced and intimidated into silence to keep the risk of detection at a minimum and profitability at a maximum. Gangs use the Internet to lure youth and adults into commercial sexual exploitation. Between 1990 and 2010, reports indicate there were more than 200 cases of gangs involved with human trafficking. Gangs move victims between cities and states to avoid capture or notice by police or the public.

Human trafficking is modern slavery. A 2013 study identified 459 children as sex trafficking victims in Oregon. The average age of the victims was 15 and a half. The youngest child was eight. One in six already had given birth to her own child. African Americans were overrepresented. And about one-fifth came from families with a history of sexual exploitation. But the statistic that most alarmed police was this one: nearly half had a connection to a gang. Local law enforcement agencies often are the first to come into contact with this covert crime. As first responders, law enforcement agencies play a critical role in identifying and responding to human trafficking cases. With victims being moved between cities and states it is essential that collaboration between law enforcement (Federal, State, and local), prosecutors and victim service providers is ongoing and effective.

There is a movement across our country for elected officials to advocate and enact sanctuary city policies on the basis that sanctuaries are good for the communities that adopt them as they make them safer by increasing trust between illegal aliens and the police. Sanctuary cities also make it VERY SAFE for gangs to engage in human trafficking. How? Our elected officials enact laws forbidding state and local law enforcement from sharing vital information about criminal gang activity with federal law enforcement agencies. And local and state law enforcement agencies do not have the money, people, or resources to combat the share number of gangs and victims that come into a city once sanctuary status is declared. This puts your family and especially your children at great risk! Join me and vote for me to protect you, your family, and your community from gangs and human trafficking.

A Strong National Security

National Security is one of the more pressing issues facing America. International terrorism, in its many forms, is a grave threat to our country. Additionally, the international policies of Iran, Russia, China, and the Middle East are a major threat to the well-being of the U.S. I support an aggressive approach in our war on global terrorism and other countries with unfavorable political policies toward the United States.

Our military strength is the cornerstone of our National Security. With a strong military, our nation is safe and it reassures our allies thereby enhancing world peace and prosperity. If elected I will support investments in the safety, security, and reliability of our nuclear deterrent, investments in our special operations forces, and will support the training and equipping the security forces of friendly nations. I will fight for a stronger and freer America by supporting the military readiness of our troops, congressional oversight of the Pentagon, its policies, and its programs, and defense reforms in areas, such as military health care, military justice, and the military acquisition system.

To keep our Homeland safe, we must make our national security a top priority and provide our military forces the capability to monitor evolving threats throughout the World.

 

Veterans

Gerry Connolly 

Congressman Connolly is proud to represent more than 80,000 veterans and their families. He has fought to make sure our veterans have quality health care, better pay, and access to services throughout their lives. In recognition of his efforts, Our Military Kids, an organization dedicated to helping military children, awarded him the “Friend of Military Kids” award for his work on behalf of military families. In addition, Congressman Connolly has consistently received a perfect score from the Military Officers Association of America.

Since coming to Congress, he has fought for more reliable funding for veteran health care, new investments in treating traumatic brain injuries sustained by our service members, and improved assistance for homeless veterans. He has helped advance legislation to limit increases to TRICARE premiums, provide free postal benefits for troops in combat zones, provide disability compensation for PTSD, allow military retirees to pay their health care premiums with pre-tax dollars, expand the eligibility for concurrent receipt of military retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation, and provide education and respite care support services for family caregivers. Congressman Connolly has introduced legislation that would ensure the immediate payment of military death benefits to survivors of fallen servicemembers when federal spending authority lapses and expand the transferability of education assistance to veterans’ dependents.

Congressman Connolly believes that we have a sacred obligation to ensure that the men and women who sacrifice so much to defend our freedoms receive the services and benefits that they have earned. That starts with a functional and well-run VA. Congressman Connolly has supported efforts to improve management accountability at the VA, reduce VA backlogs, and help veterans access care at private facilities when they are unable to do so at VA centers in a timely manner. Any veteran who finds him or herself in need of assistance should know that Congressman Connolly’s door is always open.

Manga Anantatmula 

I will introduce bills that build a system that will solve our veterans issues, lead a worry free life when they return home from service to our dear Nation.

We must strive to build communities that truly serve, support, and protect our veterans from the very first moment they return to civilian life.

– President Donald J. Trump

SERVING, SUPPORTING, AND PROTECTING OUR VETERANS is my priority to support the American veterans who courageously protected our country. PROVIDING QUALITY CARE to improve healthcare for veterans and end the tragedy of veteran suicide.

HONORING OUR HEROES AT HOME to ensure that our veterans receive the resources they need to return to civilian life with dignity and security.Veteran issues namely substance abuse and depression, dementia and other mental and physical needs of the elderly need to be addressed. As one of the formidable contenders in the forthcoming VA 11 elections, I would like to say ‘Manga for veterans’ if chosen as a US Representative.

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David Bulova

Current Position: State Delegate since 2007
Affiliation: Democrat

David Bulova was first elected to the General Assembly in November 2005.  He currently serves on the General Laws, Education, and Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources committees.

David is passionate about community service. He is currently on the Board of Trustees of Brain Injury Services, which provides support to survivors of brain injuries and their families, the Board of the City of Fairfax Band, and the Board of Advisors for the William and Mary Public Policy Program.

Featured video: This interview was conducted by Tim O’Shea in David Bulova’s Fairfax City office in July, 2019. Original interview recording has not been edited in any way.

Summary

Current Position: State Delegate since 2007
Affiliation: Democrat

David Bulova was first elected to the General Assembly in November 2005.  He currently serves on the General Laws, Education, and Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources committees.

David is passionate about community service. He is currently on the Board of Trustees of Brain Injury Services, which provides support to survivors of brain injuries and their families, the Board of the City of Fairfax Band, and the Board of Advisors for the William and Mary Public Policy Program.

Featured video: This interview was conducted by Tim O’Shea in David Bulova’s Fairfax City office in July, 2019. Original interview recording has not been edited in any way.

About

David Bulova 3

Source: Campaign page

David Bulova and his family live in the Middleridge community of Fairfax.  David and his wife Gretchen met while attending Robinson Secondary and have been married for 23 years.  They have three wonderful children, Alex, Josette, and Grayson.  David and Gretchen are proud of their hometown.  They want to raise their children to have the same opportunities and with the same community-focused values they had growing up here.

Both David and Gretchen grew up in Fairfax. David received a BA from the College of William and Mary, a Master’s in Public Administration and Policy from Virginia Tech, and is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership at the University of Virginia.

Professionally, David is a Project Manager at Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure, Inc. and works to help governments and industry comply with state and federal environmental regulations.

David was first elected to the General Assembly in November 2005.  He currently serves on the General Laws, Education, and Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources committees.  He is a member of the State Water Commission, Chesapeake Bay Commission, Housing Commission, the Joint Commission on Health Care, and the Virginia War Memorial Board.  He serves as Governor McAuliffe’s appointee to the Legislative Advisory Council to the Southern Region Education Board and the Legislative Advisory Board to the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, and was Governor Kaine’s appointee to the Commission on Climate Change.  From 2003 to 2005, David was an elected representative on the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District Board.

David is passionate about community service. He is currently on the Board of Trustees of Brain Injury Services, which provides support to survivors of brain injuries and their families, the Board of the City of Fairfax Band, and the Board of Advisors for the William and Mary Public Policy Program. His is also an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Centreville-Chantilly. Other community service includes: former coach with Fairfax Little League and Burke Athletic Club soccer; former member and treasurer of the Rotary Club of Annandale (1999-2002); former member of the Fairfax County Tree Commission (2004-2005); and, former Governor’s appointee to the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board.

Experience

Work Experience

  • Project Manager/Environmental Planner
    Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure, Inc.
    2004 to present
  • Board of Directors
    Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District
    2006 to present

Education

  • B.A., Government
    The College of William and Mary
    1991 to present
  • M.P.A.
    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
    1996 to present

Awards

  • Citation of Merit for Outstanding Citizen Service, Fairfax Federation of Citizen Associations (2002)
  • Watershed Connections Award and Legislator of the Year (2005)
  • Friends of Trees Award, Fairfax County Tree Commission (2008)
  • Legislator of the Year, Virginia Professional Firefighters (2009)
  • Legislative Achievement Award, Virginia Emergency Management Association (2010)
  • Legislator of the Year, American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia (2011)
  • Brownson Award, Virginia Association of Museums (2014)
  • Legislator of the Year, Commissioners of the Revenue Association of Virginia (2015)
  • Michael S. Harris Award, American Association of University Professors (2015)
  • Industrial Strength Leadership Award, Virginia Manufacturing Association (2017)
  • Excellence in Workforce Development Award, Virginia Chamber of Commerce (2017)

Personal

Birth Year: 1969
Place of Birth: Fairfax, VA
Gender: Male
Race(s): Caucasian
Religion: Roman Catholic
Spouse: Gretchen Marie Reimer
Children: Alex, Josette, and Grayson

Membership & Affiliation

  • St. Mary’s of Sorrows Catholic Church
  • Brain Injury Services (board of trustees)
  • Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board (former member)
  • Rotary of Centreville (honorary member)
  • City of Fairfax Band (board member)
  • William and Mary Public Policy Program (board of advisors)
  • Sorensen Institute Political Leaders Program

Contact

Legislative Assistant: Rama Van Pelt
Administrative Assistant During Session: Mary Ann Christian

Email:

Offices

Richmond Office
Pocahontas Building
900 E. Main St,
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Phone: (804) 698-1037

District Office
9900 Main St. Plaza 102
Fairfax, VA 22031
Phone: (703) 310-6752

Web

Government Page, Campaign Site, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube

Politics

Source: Government

Elected State/Local Office: Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (board of directors, 2004-06)

Recent Elections

2019 State DelegateArray

David L. Bulova (D)14,27991.89%
Write-In (Write-in)1,2608.11%
TOTAL15,539

2017 State DelegateArray

David L. Bulova (D)18,87793.53%
Write In (Write-in)1,3056.47%
TOTAL20,182

2015 State DelegateArray

David L. Bulova (D)7,06557.3%
Sang Hyun Yi (R)5,24942.6%
Write In (Write-in)9.1%
TOTAL12,323

2013 State DelegateArray

David L. Bulova (D)11,52660.9%
Patrice Marie Winter (R)7,35338.9%
Write In (Write-in)39.2%
TOTAL18,918

2011 State DelegateArray

David L. Bulova (D)7,02159.5%
Brian William Schoeneman (R)4,75240.3%
Write In (Write-in)19.2%
TOTAL11,792

2009 State DelegateArray

David L. Bulova (D)12,20967.6%
Christopher Francis DeCarlo ()4,47124.7%
Anna M. Choi ()1,2456.9%
Write In (Write-in)1470.8%
TOTAL18,072

2007 State DelegateArray

David L. Bulova (D)13,64798.1%
Write In (Write-in)2691.9%
TOTAL13,916

Source: Virginia Legislative Information System

Finances

David Bulova has run in 7 races for public office, winning 7 of them. The candidate has raised a total of $1,537,598.

Source: Follow the Money

Committees

Committees

Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources
General Laws
Education

Subcommittees

Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources – Subcommittee #3
Education – Subcommittee #1
General Laws – Subcommittee #2

Appointments

Agricultural Best Management Practices
Chesapeake Bay Commission
Health Care, Joint Commission on
House Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources
House Education
House General Laws
Standards of Learning Innovation Committee
Virginia Housing Commission
War Memorial Board, Virginia
Water Commission, State

Voting Record

See: Vote Smart

New Legislation

Source: Virginia Legislative Information System

Issues

As your voice in the Virginia House of Delegates, I believe it is important for you to know where I stand on the issues affecting our community.  Even more, I believe that action speaks louder than words.  Please see below for my priorities and the legislation that I have introduced or supported to turn these priorities into reality.

Governance

Ethics Reform/Open and Accountable Government

In 2015, I introduced aggressive legislation (HB1667) on ethics reform, including a hard cap of $100 per year on all gifts.  My bill was rolled into HB2070, which was signed by the Governor.  While I will continue to press for stronger legislation, this effort moves Virginia in the right direction.

As your voice in Richmond, I am accountable to you for my votes and strive to make government more open and accessible.  Open and accountable government starts right here at home.  Each year I hold a town hall meeting during session, mail constituents a Report from Richmond to summarize issues tackled by the General Assembly, conduct a Constituent Survey, and host a series of “informal office hours” where residents can stop by to chat and provide feedback on community issues.  Each spring I also send a letter to all community/civic association presidents offering to speak at meetings and attend community events.

Finally, I believe that voters should choose their representatives – not the other way around.  Our current system of redistricting results in too many non-competitive districts that are drawn for political purposes.  I have supported numerous efforts to establish a non-partisan Virginia Advisory Redistricting Commission.  While these measures failed, I will continue to be a strong advocate for this very important electoral reform.

Fiscal Responsibility

The General Assembly has an obligation to use your tax dollars wisely and efficiently.  Virginia has a AAA bond rating because of our reputation for fiscal responsibility.  It is critical for Virginia to continue this tradition.  I am proud that Virginia’s Constitution requires a balanced budget and that the General Assembly has worked together in a bi-partisan manner to do this in a fiscally responsible manner.

As a member of the House of Delegates, I have supported several initiatives to streamline the delivery of services.  In 2010, I spearheaded successful legislation (HB208) that eliminated a half-dozen outdated or redundant school reporting requirements to ensure that funding goes where it belongs — in our classrooms.  In 2011, I voted for successful legislation that established the state-wide Office of the Inspector General (HB2076) to investigate allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse.  In 2012, I supported and was appointed to the conference committee for HB1295, which eliminated several outdated mandates on local government and regional government entities.  Also in 2012, I sponsored successful legislation (HB1164) that eliminated redundant review of many local road projects — a practice that had resulted in significant delays of much needed local improvements.

Civil Rights

Identity Theft

As our community relies more and more on electronically stored data, the opportunity for personal information to reach the wrong hands also increases.  Identity theft can have a devastating impact on both individuals and families, and Virginia must vigorously pursue and prosecute anyone who steals or misuses personal information.

That is why I spearheaded amendments to the Personal Information Privacy Act to curtail the practice of drivers license swiping by retailers (HB1072).  I also worked with the Secretary of Technology to introduce HB390 the “Compromised Data Disclosure Act” during the 2008 General Assembly Session.  My bill was ultimately rolled into HB1469, which was signed by the Governor.  As a result, any time personal information is accessed by an unauthorized person, the keeper of the information, whether business or government, must notify the individual and the Office of the Attorney General that a breach has occurred.  I was also proud to support legislation to allow any consumer to freeze access to his or her credit report (HB 1311) to ensure that the information cannot be accessed without the consumer’s explicit authorization.

Finally, I introduced successful legislation in 2010 (HB 210) to strengthen Virginia’s extortion statute and to close a dangerous loop-hole that would have allowed someone to threaten to sell personal information for financial gain.

While I am pleased with the progress we have made to protect our citizens from identity theft, much work remains to be done.  Sensitive personal information can still be obtained all too easily, including from publicly available land records and legal proceedings.  Protecting our citizens from identity theft will continue to be one of my top priorities.

Consumer Protection

We are all consumers and deserve to be protected from unscrupulous and predatory business practices.  Bad businesses also make it harder for good businesses to compete.  As former chairman of the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission, I have introduced a number of bills aimed at enhancing consumer protection in Virginia.  In 2012, I introduced legislation (HB429) to provide consumers with more tools to prevent the practice of “cramming” on telephone bills.  Cramming is the practice of placing misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill without authorization. Often, these are small charges with generic names in the hope that they won’t be noticed.  Since introduction, federal regulations were passed that achieved the goals of my proposed legislation.  In 2014, I introduced successful legislation (HB1072, the Personal Information Privacy Act) to make it illegal for a business to scan a driver’s license and to keep the information for marketing or other purposes not related to the immediate transaction.  Currently, I am working to better regulate predatory car title lenders and introduced HB1620 at the request of the Governor.

Economy

While there are signs of improvement, much more needs to be done to reduce unemployment and spark economic growth.  This requires investing in our transportation infrastructure and education, fostering an environment that rewards creativity and innovation, and reducing regulatory burdens to starting and running a business.  In particular, Virginia needs to increase investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and our community college system.  We also need to reform and streamline our tax system while ensuring that sufficient revenue is generated at the state and local levels to provide needed services.  I was a co-patron of the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Act (HB834) and supported the formation of the Virginia International Trade Corporation (HB858).  In 2017, I was proud to receive the Excellence in Education and Workforce Development Award from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce for my efforts in career and technical education.

Education

As the proud parent of three children who attend Fairfax County Public Schools, I know first hand the importance of quality public education.  As a member of the Education Reform Subcommittee, I have worked closely on efforts to reform our Standards of Learning and was a co-patron of legislation creating the Standards of Learning Reform Committee.  I was proud to accept the Virginia Education Association’s “Solid as a Rock for Public Education Award” for my efforts on the House Education Committee in 2017.  Over the years, I have introduced successful legislation to promote career and technical education opportunities (HB1552) and strengthen the process for dealing with teachers accused of sexually assaulting a student.  I have also co-sponsored legislation (HB 1871) to enhance efforts to fight bullying in our schools.

As your delegate, my priorities include:

  • Keep class size low in order to maximize the ability of teachers to provide individualized attention to students.
  • Retain and recruit highly qualified teachers and support staff.
  • Provide students with modern educational facilities that maximize the use of technology.
  • Promote parental involvement in our schools as a key component to learning.
  • Continually look for opportunities to streamline operations and assess the effectiveness of existing programs.
  • Revise the State’s Composite Index so that our schools get a fair share of funding.  Fairfax County currently received only 32% of its base-funding from the State, while the City of Fairfax only receives 20%.

Environment

Energy

Whether you are concerned about the impacts of climate change or the threat to national security posed by our dependence on foreign energy sources, sustainable energy is one of our nation’s greatest challenges.  In 2015, I introduced legislation to create a Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority (HB1725) and was chief co-patron of the final adopted legislation (HB2267).  This initiative will ensure that Virginia can take advantage of growth in this industry by unleashing the power of small businesses that are on the forefront of this technology.  In 2011, I introduced successful legislation that will position Virginia to be a leader in the area of electric plug-in vehicles by eliminating regulatory hurdles that would stifle entrepreneurialism (HB2105).  In 2009, I also successfully passed HB1994 to increase Virginia’s renewable energy goal to 15% by the year 2025.

I will continue to work hard to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while keeping energy affordable.  My priorities include:

  • Invest in clean, renewable sources of energy.  Virginia has enormous potential to be a leader in renewable energy.  This is good for the environment and our economy.  I support: harnessing our tremendous off-shore wind resources; providing incentives for the production of biofuels that do not compete with our food supply; increasing our investment in research at our universities; and, other innovative approaches, such as harvesting methane from landfills and agricultural operations.
  • Empower residents to conserve energy.  This is win-win for the environment and the consumer.  I support: expanding smart meters so that consumers have better information about their energy consumption; exploring public-private partnerships to retrofit existing buildings; assisting low income families with weatherization; and, providing tax incentives to encourage investment in solar and wind power.
  • Encourage more efficient cars and reduce our reliance on the automobile.  Automobiles account for more than a third of our greenhouse gas emissions.  Nationally, we must continue to increase fuel efficiency standards.  Here in Virginia, we need to encourage land use patterns that promote walking and biking and take advantage of public transit.

Environment

Virginia is blessed with an abundance of natural resources.  As an environmental planner by profession, I consider it a special responsibility to fight for the environment in the General Assembly.  I am proud to have been designated as a Legislative “Hero” or “Leader” by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters for the past ten years.

As your delegate, I have successfully spearheaded legislation to:

  • better coordinate drinking water supply planning and permitting (HB1158);
  • require the leak-plagues Pickett Road Tank Farm in the City of Fairfax to bring their above ground storage tanks into conformance with modern industry standards (HB2103);
  • strengthen solid waste planning in Virginia (HB421);
  • better protect our Potomac River water supply during drought conditions (HB2487); and,
  • increase the penalties that local governments can use against developers that violate our water quality regulations (HB 392).

I also successfully fought for new legislation to help local governments in Northern Virginia preserve mature trees during development (HB1437).  Mature trees not only increase property values and beautify our neighborhoods, they also help to clean the air.  In recognition of this achievement, I was proud to accept the 2008 Fairfax County Friends of Trees Award.

Land Use and Growth

No amount of transportation funding can overcome poor land use planning and growth that exceeds our capacity to serve it with public infrastructure.  My priorities are to strengthen the ability of our local governments to manage growth responsibility and to strengthen regional coordination of land use planning.  In 2013, I introduced successful legislation (HB 2326) that provides our regional planning agency, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, with the authority to develop a regional strategic plan to help better coordinate growth and regional service delivery.

Health Care

Today, approximately one million Virginians lack health insurance, which means that our emergency rooms provide the primary source of health care for many of these individuals. As a result, the financial burden of this care is shifted mainly to those with private insurance in the form of higher premiums.  Under the federal health care law, Virginia has the option of expanding Medicaid coverage to those with income under 133% of the federal poverty level, which represents more than 300,000 people. For the first three years of the program, the federal government will pay 100% of the cost. The federal share will then be slowly reduced to 90%. This is expected to save Virginia significant money by making the system more efficient and ensuring that more people get preventative health care.  This is one of the reasons why expansion is supported by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.  In 2014, I supported a bi-partisan plan to put Virginia on a path for Medicaid expansion and make sure that Virginia doesn’t leave $5 million per day on the table that could go to the improving the health of our citizens.

As a member of the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Health Care, I have worked closely with Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel on a wide range of health care and mental health issues.  These include:

  • Mental health reform.  In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, the General Assembly made important reforms to our mental health laws and increased the resources available to courts and case managers.  We need to continue to refine these reforms and ensure that funding is not cut to these critical services.
  • Autism spectrum disorder.  I co-patroned the successful effort to require health insurers to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder.  The benefits of early intervention are enormous, not only to the child, but also in terms of the long-term cost savings to the state.  No family should be put in the position of having to decide if they can afford appropriate treatment.
  • Smoking in restaurants ban.  As a member of the General Laws Committee, I helped to pass the landmark legislation in 2009 that protects both the health of customers and workers by significantly limiting smoking in restaurants.

Infrastructure

Transportation

Traffic congestion threatens our economy and our quality of life.  As the parent of three children, I know the frustration of being late for that important recital or evening sports practice.  I have consistently supported common-sense measures to provide much needed transportation funding for the Northern Virginia region.  In 2013, I supported the comprehensive transportation package that passed the General Assembly on a bi-partisan basis.  This package resulted in substantial new revenue that is going toward our region’s most pressing and aggravating problems.  In 2016, I introduced several pieces of legislation regarding the Governor’s plan to toll I-66 inside and outside of the Beltway. I successfully passed HB407 to ensure that HOV-2 could not be converted to HOV-3 for the purpose of tolling. I was also part of a group of legislators that brokered a deal to widen I-66 inside the Beltway from the Dulles Connector to Ballston.

In addition, I will continue to advocate for changes in the way that transportation funding is distributed to make it more equitable for Northern Virginia.  I spearheaded efforts to change the transportation maintenance formula  (HBs 389, 6011, 1993, 1491, and 477) and in 2013 co-patroned legislation to provide Northern Virginia with more representation on the Commonwealth Transportation Board (HB864).  Getting our fair share will continue to be one of my top priorities.

Additional priorities include:

  • Increase our investment in transportation technology, including telework, “smart highways,” and better synchronization of our traffic lights.
  • Help get people out of their cars by making strategic investments in bike paths and walking trails.
  • Expand Metro to Centreville and beyond and adequately fund both Metro and the Virginia Railway Express.

Social Security

Veterans

Supporting Veterans

As the son and grandson of veterans, I am thankful for the sacrifices our veterans make to protect our freedoms.  In 2015, I was a proud co-patron of successful legislation authorizing a Northern Virginia Veterans Care Center (HB1276).  I have been proud to support Virginia’s Wounded Warriors Program as both a member of the House of Delegates and as a Board Member of Brain Injury Services, Inc.  During the 2011 session, I had the honor to serve as chief co-patron of successful legislation (HB1691) designed to help veterans who have fallen on tough times.  Based on successful programs in New York and Pennsylvania, the legislation allows local courts to establish special dockets for veterans and active military service members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury and run into trouble with the law.  According to a 2008 RAND Corporation study, nearly 20 percent of our service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Many more suffer from traumatic brain injury – both diagnosed and undiagnosed.  Fewer than half of these individuals actually seek treatment for PTSD or depression.  Unfortunately, while trying to recover, some of these veterans fall into drug and alcohol abuse or commit minor crimes and end up in the criminal justice system.  It is during these trying times that our veterans need our assistance the most.  The premise behind HB1691 is to provide alternatives to incarceration when possible and to ensure that judges are aware of the rehabilitative programs offered by state and federal agencies as well as local veterans organizations.  I was proud to work with the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations, which represents over two dozen veteran service organizations in Virginia, on this effort.

Affordable Housing

All Virginians deserve safe, decent, affordable housing. To achieve that goal, I have supported increased funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, a flexible loan and grant resource that addresses a range of local housing needs from homelessness to homeownership.  I also passed legislation to provide the City of Fairfax additional authority to negotiate with developers to provide affordable housing (HB1471).  Finally, I support ensuring adequate funding to provide permanent and supportive homes for individuals with serious mental illness and other disabilities.

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Chap PetersenChap Petersen

Current Position: State Senator since 2008
Affiliation: Democrat

Chap has been an attorney in private practice since 1994, successfully representing thousands of local people and businesses. In 2011, his peers selected him as one of thirty “Leaders of the Law” in Virginia.  His law firm, Chap Petersen & Associates, PLC, is located in downtown Fairfax, near the historic Fairfax County courthouse.

Chap began his career in politics by serving on the Fairfax City Council (1998-2002) and as a member in the Virginia House of Delegates (2002-2006).

Summary

Current Position: State Senator since 2008
Affiliation: Democrat

Chap has been an attorney in private practice since 1994, successfully representing thousands of local people and businesses. In 2011, his peers selected him as one of thirty “Leaders of the Law” in Virginia.  His law firm, Chap Petersen & Associates, PLC, is located in downtown Fairfax, near the historic Fairfax County courthouse.

Chap began his career in politics by serving on the Fairfax City Council (1998-2002) and as a member in the Virginia House of Delegates (2002-2006).

About

Chap Petersen 3

Source: Campaign page

John Chapman “Chap” Petersen represents central and western Fairfax in the Virginia State Senate. He grew up and lives in Fairfax City. His family has a long history in Fairfax.

Chap is a graduate of Fairfax High School (1986), Williams College (1990) and the University of Virginia Law School (1994).

Chap has been an attorney in private practice since 1994, successfully representing thousands of local people and businesses. In 2011, his peers selected him as one of thirty “Leaders of the Law” in Virginia.  His law firm, Chap Petersen & Associates, PLC, is located in downtown Fairfax, near the historic Fairfax County courthouse.

Chap began his career in politics by serving on the Fairfax City Council (1998-2002) and as a member in the Virginia House of Delegates (2002-2006).

In 2007, the voters of the 34th Senate District elected Chap as their State Senator. As a Democratic challenger, he defeated the incumbent Jeannemarie Devolites Davis in one of the most expensive legislative races in Virginia history. In doing so, he walked the entire district and wore out several pairs of shoes.

With his historic win, Chap earned the distinction of defeating an incumbent for a seat in both the Virginia House (2001) and Virginia Senate (2007). He is the only member of the legislature to hold that distinction.

In 2011, after redistricting, voters of the “new” 34th Senate District re-elected Chap with 60% of the vote.  He was re-elected again in 2015. The district stretches from Annandale to Centreville and includes the Town of Vienna and City of Fairfax.

Chap is a student of Virginia history, authoring his college thesis on economics and politics in antebellum Virginia. He enjoys traveling the Commonwealth with his family.

Chap’s other love is competitive sports and the outdoors. He is a long-time member of the Northern Virginia Rugby Football Club “Old Boys.”  He has completed the Marine Corps Marathon three times and the Richmond Marathon twice. 

Experience

Work Experience

Education

  • BA Economics
    William College
    1990 to present
  • Juris Doctor
    UVA School of Law
    1994 to present

Awards

  • President’s Award, Fairfax County Bar Association (2017)
  • Leader in the Law, Virginia Lawyers Weekly (2011)
  • Man of the Year, Korean Association of Washington, D.C. (2008)

Personal

Chap is married to Sharon Kim Petersen, who was born in Daegu, South Korea and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Chap and Sharon have four children.

The Petersens live in Fairfax City and attend Truro Church, where Chap was baptized in 1968 and where he is active in youth education and the choir.

Membership & Affiliation

  • Truro Church

Contact

Legislative Assistant: Kathy Neilson

Email:

Offices

Capitol Office
Pocahontas Building
Room No: E517
Senate of Virginia
P. O. Box 396
Richmond, VA 23218
Phone: (804) 698-7534
Fax: (804) 698-7651

District Office
P.O. Box 1066
Fairfax, VA 22038
Phone: (703) 349-3361
Fax: (800) 635-9417

Web

Government Page, Government Page, Twitter, Facebook

Politics

Source: Wikipedia

Petersen served on the Fairfax city council 1998–2001. He was elected to two terms in the House of Delegates, both times (2001 and 2003) defeating his predecessor, Republican Jack Rust.

In 2005, Petersen ran for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. He was defeated in the Democratic primary, finishing third with 22% of the vote in a four-way race, behind State Senator Leslie L. Byrne and State Delegate Viola Baskerville, but ahead of State Senator Phil Puckett.

In 2006, Petersen was a senior advisor to Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb, who defeated incumbent Republican Senator George Allen.

2007 State Senate election

Petersen announced his candidacy for the 34th district seat in the State Senate, Wednesday, January 3, 2007. He defeated incumbent Republican Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis, wife of Congressman Thomas M. Davis, in the November 2007 election, taking 55% of the vote. The district had been the most Democratic state senate district held by a Republican

Recent Elections

2019 State SenatorArray

J. C. “Chap” Petersen (D)44,05891.21%
Write-In (Write-in)4,2488.79%
TOTAL48,306

2015 State SenatorArray

Chap Petersen (D)27,69093.6%
Write in (Write-in)1,8816.4%
TOTAL29,571

2011 State SenatorArray

Chap Petersen (D)23,66259.7%
Gerarda Marie Culipher (R)15,93340.2%
Write in (Write-in)25.1%
TOTAL39,620

2007 State SenatorArray

Chap Petersen (D)25,51355.3%
Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R)20,49044.4%
Write in (Write-in)102.2%
TOTAL46,105

Source: Virginia Legislative Information System

Finances

Source: Follow the Money

Committees

Committees

Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources
Courts of Justice
Education and Health

Subcommittees

Intergovernmental Cooperation, Virginia Commission on
Civic Education, Commission on

Voting Record

See: Vote Smart

New Legislation

Source: Virginia Legislative Information System

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