VA Leaders – General Assembly in 2020

He’s not officially on the comeback trail yet, but it wasn’t hard to see the message former Gov. Terry McAuliffe was sending last week.

He announced his PAC had raised $1.7 million in two months, an astounding sum for someone who’s been out of office for two-and-a-half years and technically isn’t running for anything. His donor list included senior Democratic lawmakers, including several members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

The release suggested that, even out of office, McAuliffe played a key role in turning Virginia blue last year as one of the top donors to the Democratic Party of Virginia. After Democrats won control of the General Assembly despite their three top elected leaders being hobbled by scandals, they started passing legislation this year that was unthinkable in the GOP-held legislature of McAuliffe’s era.

The statement from McAuliffe’s Common Good

On June 23, Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-HD31; Prince William County, Fauquier County) announced that she is “exploring a run to become the first woman and first Hispanic person to serve as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, with a potential Labor Day launch.”  Guzman pointed out that she “came to the United States from Peru as a single mom, looking for a better future for her oldest daughter” and “was elected in 2017 to become the first Hispanic female immigrant to join the 400 year old Virginia General Assembly.” Also note that in January 2018, Guzman delivered the response in Spanish to Trump’s State of the Union address, slamming Trump “for replacing ‘equality’ with ‘intolerance’ and ‘mutual respect’ with ‘racism.’”  Yesterday, I had the chance to chat with Del. Guzman for about an hour. It was a wide-ranging, interesting, lively conversation; see below for highlights. Thanks to Del. Guzman for her time, and good luck out on the (virtual/socially distanced) campaign trail!

We started off talking about schools and COVID-19. Guzman talked about the challenge of figuring out how kids can learn online, that kids definitely benefit from interacting with other kids at least once a week, but “I know teachers worry, and I cannot blame them or shame them for worrying about their own safety as well.” Guzman added that teachers “not being included in conversations about reopening is wrong and I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
Whatever is offered, “the teachers should have a voice…parents in the community should have a voice, and so should the [school] administration…If we sit down together, we could come up with a solution, but just having a one-sided decision is wrong….An honest dialogue, that’s what we need…where everybody has a voice.”

Courts around Virginia began working their way through a backlog of more than 12,000 eviction cases last week as a statewide moratorium expired, with many judges apparently declining a last-minute request from Gov. Ralph Northam to continue the stay at the local level.

“It’s a total patchwork,” said Christie Marra, the director of housing advocacy at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, which has asked Northam to use his executive authority to intervene more decisively. She said the current approach of leaving the decision to local courts is “absolutely not working.”

Meanwhile landlord groups said they were pleased that judges had resumed hearing the cases. “I think the worry with any moratorium is you start to cross a point where a moratorium starts to become an unconstitutional taking,” said Patrick McCloud, executive director of the Virginia Apartment Management Association. He said most tenants are continuing to pay rent, which he credited to federal unemployment and stimulus programs. “Rent collections are not terribly far off from where they would be absent a pandemic.”

How Virginia plans to let people ban themselves from buying guns
Virginia Mercury, Graham Moomaw , July 6, 2020 (Short)

It was Frederick Vars’s own experience with bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts that first got him interested in the idea of letting people ban themselves from buying guns.

To him, the idea of a voluntary do-not-sell list as a preemptive option for people worried about what they might do in darker moments of irrationality seemed like common sense. But would anyone use it?

To answer that question, Vars, a law professor at the University of Alabama, and a team of researchers surveyed 200 psychiatric patients. That 2016 study, published in the peer-reviewed journal of the American Association of Suicidology, found that 46 percent of respondents said they would sign up for a do-not-sell list.

“That was a moment where for me it went from kind of an academic idea into realizing that if you could get a lot of people signing up you really have a chance to save a lot of lives,” Vars said in an interview.

In Virginia, it’s not just an idea anymore.

U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, the only Republican victor in Virginia’s four competitive congressional races in 2018, was just ousted by conservative constituents upset he officiated a gay wedding. Riggleman claims he was railroaded, suggesting the party’s highly unusual drive-through convention may have been tainted by voting fraud.

State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, who has built a substantial social media following and remains the only declared Republican candidate for governor in 2021, recently said the party keeps losing because of “spineless eunuchs” within the GOP ranks. That came after she said Confederate statues represent “white history,” a sentiment her erstwhile colleagues in the Senate Republican Caucus condemned as “idiotic, inappropriate and inflammatory.”

If any Virginia Republicans thought 2020 was going to be the year of the center-right rebrand many believe can break their losing streak, it’s off to a shaky start.

An extraordinary reconvened session
Virginia Mercury, April 23, 2020 (Medium)

Lawmakers delay minimum wage, maintain election schedule in extraordinary session

Protesters in cars honked endlessly as they circled the Capitol. The Speaker of the House collapsed on the dais as she led a floor session. A lawmaker cast votes from a Plexiglas enclosure.

The typically sleepy reconvened session of the Virginia General Assembly on Thursday fully reflected the bizarre world into which we’ve all been thrust by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If anyone in this room is going to die from the virus if they get it, it’s me,” said Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, who worked from the transparent enclosure constructed by Senate staff. He said he was still recovering from open heart surgery and a bout of pneumonia.


Ralph Northam

Current Position: Governor since 2018
Affiliation: Democrat
Former Position(s): Lt. Governor from 2014 – 2018; State Senator from 2008 – 2014

Governor Ralph Northam addresses the Virginia House of Delegates, January 20, 2020. 

“Governor Northam approaches public service with the same passion he brought to his military and medical service. He is committed to working with leaders from both parties to build a Virginia that works better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live.”

Featured video: Annual address to Virginia senators, delegates and supreme court justices on Jan. 8, 2020 in the Richmond State Capitol building. Content from the original Virginia House of Delegates recording has not been edited in any way.

Source: Government page

Justin Fairfax

Current Position: Lt. Governor since 2018
Affiliation: Democrat

Justin Farifax has been recognized as one of the top young attorneys in the nation and a rising star in American politics. He is a prominent and highly successful lawyer, political figure, philanthropist, and a proud husband, father, and community leader.

In 2013, at the age of 34, Justin was awarded the National Bar Association’s “Nation’s Best Advocates Award,” which recognizes 40 top attorneys nationwide under the age of 40. He most recently served as a top commercial and white-collar criminal litigator in the Northern Virginia office of the prestigious law firm, Venable, LLP, which he departed in January 2018 to focus on his duties as Lieutenant Governor during his first General Assembly session.

Mark Herring

Current Position: Attorney General since 2014
Affiliation: Democrat
Former Position(s): State Senator from 2007 – 2013

As Attorney General, Mark has assembled an elite team of prosecutors to crack down on heroin dealers, violent gang members, gun runners, human traffickers, and those who attempt to exploit our children online.

He is helping survivors of sexual assault pursue justice by eliminating a three-decade-old backlog of more than 2,000 untested rape kits to find and prosecute criminals.

He has made communities safer by cracking down on illegal guns and promoting commonsense gun safety laws, like universal background checks, that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals. And he has worked to improve relations between police departments and the communities they serve with innovative training and recruiting initiatives

Current Position: State Senator since 1980
Affiliation: Democrat

Dick Saslaw proudly serves Virginia’s 35th Senate District and as Democratic Leader in the Senate of Virginia. His distinguished public service has brought about real, positive results for families in Northern Virginia.

Throughout his tenure in the General Assembly, Dick has fought for investments in public K-12 and higher education, fought to improve the social safety net, maintain Virginia’s business-friendly climate, and find solutions for Northern Virginia’s transportation problems. In Richmond, he has distinguished himself for his ability to work across the aisle to get results.

Louise Lucas

Current Position: State Senator since 1992
Affiliation: Democrat

Louise Lucas is a Portsmouth native and product of the Portsmouth Public School System. She is President/CEO of Lucas Lodge, Lucas Transportation, Portsmouth Day Support Program and Southside Direct Care Provider organizations operating in The Lucas Professional Center located in Portsmouth.

Senator Lucas served in the position of Congressional Liaison for Sponsored Program at Old Dominion University from 1992 – 1994. She also served as Assistant Professor, Department of Academic Affairs and Special Assistant to the Vice President for University Advancement at Norfolk State University from 1994 – 1998.

Current Position: State Senator since 1992
Affiliation: Republican

Tommy Norment maintains an active role in the community. He is a member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s Board of Directors. He is on the Hampton Roads Board of Directors of TowneBank and he chairs the Williamsburg Board of TowneBank. Tommy is also a member of the Williamsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the James City County Ruritan Club.

Professionally, Tommy is an attorney with Kaufman and Canoles, P.C., and a professor at the College of William and Mary.

Current Position: State Delegate
Affiliation: Democrat

Eileen Filler-Corn has served in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing the 41st District, since 2010. The 41st District, located in Fairfax County, includes Burke and parts of Fairfax, Fairfax Station and West Springfield. Eileen has over two decades of experience in both the public and private sectors, working across party lines to make a difference in the lives of all Virginians. She currently is the 56th Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Previously, Eileen served in the Administrations of Governor Mark Warner and Governor Tim Kaine, advising on state and federal relations. For over 25 years, Eileen and her husband Bob have lived in Fairfax County, Virginia, along with their children, Jeremy and Alana.

Current Position: State Delegate since 2009
Affiliation: Democrat

Charniele has lived in Northern Virginia area for over 30 years, most of them in the West End of Alexandria.  Charniele has a rich history of community involvement as a volunteer, a member of Rotary, and a past Chair of the West End Business Association. She has served on the Alexandria Commission for Women, including Chairing the organization.

She was also appointed by Governor Tim Kaine to the state’s Council on the Status of Women. She presently serves on the Board of the Parent Teacher Leadership Institute of Alexandria and as a Trustee of Hopkins House—advocating for strong pre-k education.

Todd Gilbert

Current Position: State Delegate since 2006
Affiliation: Republican
Former Position(s): Prosecutor from 1997 – 2006

Delegate Gilbert is a member of the Courts of Justice Committee, the Rules Committee, and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the House General Laws Committee. He also serves on the Virginia State Crime Commission, which helps to study and direct polices on public safety throughout Virginia and he is the Chairman of the House Criminal Law Subcommittee.

Prior to his election to the House of Delegates, Delegate Gilbert began his career as a full-time prosecutor. His first job was with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Lynchburg, where he was a member of the Violent Crime Prosecution Team.

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