Archive: Sandhya Somashekhar

Posted at 7:00 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Some early exit poll data

Washington Post polling director Jon Cohen got an early snapshot of the electorate in New Jersey and Virginia this evening from exit polls, and here's what he passed on that we can report:

Economy and jobs top the issue lists in both Virginia and New Jersey (but not as overwhelmingly as it did in 2008), with property taxes a close No. 2 in New Jersey and health care in a distant second place in Virginia.

In the early numbers, younger (under 30) voters make up a smaller share of the electorate this year than they did last November. The percentage of African Americans among all Virginia voters is down a bit at this stage compared with a year ago, but in New Jersey it's currently up from the last go-round. (However, the proportions in Virginia are similar to the 2006 Senate race and the 1997 race for governor).

Majorities in both states say President Obama was not a factor in their choice for governor. Obama is running above 50 percent approval in both states.

More than eight in 10 voters say they made up their minds about how to vote at least a week ago.

Most in Virginia say McDonnell's graduate school thesis had no effect on their vote.

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Posted at 7:07 PM ET, 10/29/2009

Shannon highlights endorsements in new ad

Steve Shannon, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, unveiled a new ad today designed to highlight endorsements he has received from newspapers, law enforcement groups and other nonpartisan organizations.

Take a look:

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Posted at 5:00 PM ET, 10/24/2009

Anne Holton gets out the vote in Alexandria

Perhaps it was the intermittent rain today, but only about a dozen Democratic activists showed up this afternoon at Ben Brenman park in Fairfax County for a plea by First Lady of Virginia Anne Holton for volunteers to get out the vote for gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds and the entire Democratic ticket.

Delegates Charniele Herring and Dave Englin and Alexandria Vice Mayor Kerry Donley joined Holton by the big gazebo at the park, which sits on a former Army base south of Alexandria, for what was billed as a rally but ended up a more subdued affair. The group enjoyed a brief respite from the windy, wet weather on a day when volunteers for virtually every candidate on the ballot in Virginia would be out knocking on doors.

Holton told the gathered volunteers that it was imperative that they motivate the masses who turned out last fall to elect President Obama. More than 500,000 new voters registered last year, with most of those newcomers likely drawn into politics by the history-making race.

Republicans, she said, "are counting on those new voters not turning up," she said. "If the Democratic core voters turn out, and they will, if all the new voters turn out, then we will win."

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Posted at 11:55 AM ET, 10/23/2009

McDonnell grilled on health care

Republican Robert F. McDonnell today held a brief town hall meeting at the Manassas offices of Micron Technology Inc., which employs about 1,600 people in Virginia. The Idaho-based semiconductor microchip manufacturer's political action committee has contributed at least $10,000 to McDonnell over the years and its CEO, Steve Appleton, delivered a warm introduction before McDonnell's remarks.

That's not to say McDonnell was handed softball questions. More than 100 employees gathered in a large conference room to hear McDonnell speak, among them Charles McClure, an electrician who delivered the hardball of the day: How, he asked, will you ensure that Virginians receive the same quality of health insurance you do as a public employee?

McDonnell was typically on message, though clearly less comfortable on this issue than the topics he has been talking about regularly on the trail, such as job creation and energy independence.

"Anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of Virginians don't have a bona fide insurance policy, and there are a lot of reasons for it. Some are illegal immigrants, some don't have insurance by choice, some have legitimate preexisting conditions and don't qualify," he said. "My opinion is that overall, people are generally satisfied with the doctor-patient relationship under our current system."

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Posted at 12:28 PM ET, 10/21/2009

Obama in Norfolk for Deeds next week

We told you we'd let you know when we had more details about President Obama's Oct. 27 foray into Virginia to campaign with Democratic gubernatorial hopeful R. Creigh Deeds.

Here you go: A "Rally for Virginia" featuring Obama and Deeds will take place at the Ted Constant Convocation Center at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. The Deeds folks say further information will be available in the coming days.

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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 10/21/2009

GOP supporter defects from Deeds camp

Former Roanoke state Sen. Brandon Bell, who had been among some prominent Republican supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds earlier this year, announced Wednesday that he changed his mind and now supporters Republican Robert F. McDonnell, the McDonnell campaign announced today.

"I've watched this campaign unfold since both candidates secured their respective nominations," Bell said in a statement issued by the McDonnell folks. "In the four months since that time, Bob McDonnell has impressed me with his campaign, and his determined focus on rolling out specific policy proposals for Virginia's future."

Two steadfast Republican supporters of Deeds, former state senator Russ Potts of Winchester and former delegate Jim Dillard of Fairfax, are on the road in Northern Virginia today talking up his education plan. Mike Gehrke of the Deeds campaign today simply said, "We're still proud of the support we have from Republicans who know Bob McDonnell and have served with him."

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Posted at 10:22 AM ET, 10/21/2009

Deeds releases ad featuring Obama

If there was any doubt that R. Creigh Deeds has President Obama in a bear hug in the final two weeks of the gubernatorial campaign, it should be erased today.

The Democratic hopeful has just released an ad called "Fired Up," which features the president at his inspirational best, calling on supporters to throw their support behind Deeds as a continuation of his history-making campaign last year. As we've reported before, Deeds lags Republican Robert F. McDonnell in the polls and must whip up the Democratic base in the two weeks left before the election.

"Last year, Virginia, you helped lead a movement of Americans who believed that their voices could make a difference," Obama says in the ad. "I need every one of you to get fired up once again so that we can go towards the future, with Creigh Deeds leading the great Commonwealth of Virginia."

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Posted at 2:49 PM ET, 10/20/2009

The Kitchen Table: Disenchanted Obama voter, revisited

In August, we brought you the story of Chris Ann Cleland, a real estate agent from Prince William County whose buyer's remorse over voting for President Obama last fall was coloring her view of the Virginia governor's race. Obama was not the change agent he promised to be, Cleland said. "I feel like I've been punked."

The quote so resonated that it got picked up by New York Times columnist Frank Rich and scored Cleland an interview on Fox News. But two months later, we wondered what she had finally decided about the governor's race.

Well, she settled on Democrat R. Creigh Deeds. The reason, she said, came down to two words: liquor stores.

A few weeks ago, Cleland was so busy with her work and so tired of what she perceived as politics as usual that she thought she might not even vote in the election this year. But then she learned that Republican gubernatorial nominee Robert F. McDonnell had proposed privatizing state liquor stores to collect $500 million for road improvements, an idea that suggested a transformation of her community from tranquil to "trashy."

"While his plan may be thought out very well, I'll take my chances with the other guy, Deeds, because I don't want to feel like I live in Maryland or D.C.," she told us in a phone interview. "I like the way Virginia handles the liquor stores."

And how does she feel about Obama these days?

"I feel worse about him now," she said, citing what she viewed as his failure to adequately push for a public health care option and his deferential attitude toward misbehaving banks. "He just seems to be very self-interested and just continuing a run of bad choices, in my opinion."

The video we shot of Cleland back in August is below.

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Posted at 2:40 PM ET, 10/19/2009

Shannon links Cuccinelli to Hamilton in new ad

Steve Shannon, the Democrat running for attorney general, released a new ad today titled "Cronies," in which he ties his opponent, Republican Ken Cuccinelli, to embattled Del. Phil Hamilton (R-Newport News).

Cuccinelli was the only statewide candidate this year not to ask Hamilton to resign after it was revealed that Hamilton sought a job at Old Dominion University while also trying to get state money for the school. In August, Cuccinelli said he believed that the voters should decide Hamilton's fate.

"The circumstances that Delegate Phil Hamilton is involved in are disappointing,'' he said at the time. "My understanding of those circumstances suggest that it is in an issue between Del. Hamilton and voters in his district. The issue is now on the table in that race and will be part of the decision voters in that district make as they consider who will represent them in the state house over the next two years."

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Posted at 7:31 AM ET, 10/16/2009

First Click - Virginia

Happy Friday Virginia! Here's what's happening around the state in politics.

More evidence today that Republican Robert F. McDonnell has the advantage with less than three weeks left in the race for governor. As of Oct. 1, McDonnell had $4.5 million in the bank, $1.8 million more than his opponent Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, and in September had about 6,400 donors compared with Deeds's 3,800. Lots more information on the recent reports from all the Nov. election candidates -- and on all things campaign finance -- available from our friends at the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.

Deeds comes to Northern Virginia today, where Organizing for America, the Democratic group that grew out of President Obama's historic campaign, launches a major canvassing push this weekend. While there's still no word on a second campaign visit by Obama to the state, Obama's opponent from last fall, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), headlines a veterans rally for McDonnell in Virginia Beach tomorrow.

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Posted at 7:40 AM ET, 10/15/2009

First Click - Virginia

Good morning Virginia! Here's what's happening on this rainy fall day in state politics.

Today is the deadline for candidates in November's election to submit their campaign finance reports for September, offering the latest snapshot of the state of the fast-approaching race. Our friends at the Virginia Public Access Project are expected to post the information on their Web site by 6 p.m., and executive director David Poole joined with the Post's Amy Gardner yesterday to answer reader questions about campaign finance.

President Obama came to Virginia yesterday -- but not for Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds, giving fodder to the chattering classes who have been wondering aloud about whether Obama has given up on the Democratic nominee. The questioning intensified yesterday when news broke that Obama has committed to a campaign stop for the other Democrat running for governor this year, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

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Posted at 4:42 PM ET, 10/14/2009

VaTech Families Target Albo

Relatives of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre have been among the most vocal proponents of a change to state law that would close the state's so-called gun show "loophole," which permits private gun show vendors to sell to customers without first conducting a background check.

Now, some of those same family members are campaigning against a member of the House of Delegates whom they say betrayed them in that fight: Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax).

Funny thing is, Albo says he agrees with the familes that the law should be changed and even voted that way as chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission. But some of the Tech families believe Albo is paying lip service to his more liberal Northern Virginia constituents while obstructing the families' efforts behind the scenes to appease pro-gun Republicans.

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Posted at 7:28 AM ET, 10/14/2009

First Click - Virginia

Good morning, Virginia, here's what's happening in politics around the state today.

Today's big news in state politics comes not from the Virginia governor's race but from the latest chapter in the Virginia Information Technologies Agency fiasco. A state audit released yesterday shows that the bungled $2 billion contract with Northrup Grumman to upgrade computer systems could end up costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars if canceled.

The news did prompt some response from the two men running for governor, with Democrat R. Creigh Deeds blaming Republican Robert F. McDonnell, who was attorney general at the time, and McDonnell's spokesman blaming Democratic leaders.

The Virginia governor's race continues to get national scrutiny for what the outcome might say about President Obama's presidency. Earlier this week it was the New York Times; last night it was the Newshour on PBS, whose Judy Woodruff moderated Monday's gubernatorial debate in Roanoke. While it's still uncertain if Obama will campaign for Deeds in Virginia a second time, Organizing for America, the political organizing group that grew out of his campaign, has been making robo-calls around the state, according to Huffington Post.

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Posted at 4:30 PM ET, 10/13/2009

Pr. William Delegate Lashes Out Over Opponent's Mailer

You know Election Day is approaching when things get this ugly. Late last week, Republican House of Delegates candidate Rich Anderson sent out a mailer to voters that dropped a bombshell about his opponent, Del. Paul Nichols (D-Prince William). Nichols, it said, had been arrested in North Carolina in 2006 for assaulting a police officer, and it implied that Nichols may have been intoxicated at the time.

Problem is, the mailer failed to note that a judge dropped the charges against Nichols, who has said it was the police officer who got aggressive with him when he came to the aid of a friend who had been pulled over. The mailer, which called Nichols "A Different Kind of 'Slugger,'" also included excerpts of a police report that displayed Nichols's Social Security number. In addition, a judge in September of this year granted Nichols's request that the documents be expunged.

Anderson's campaign has defended the mailer, saying voters deserved to know that the arrest occurred. But on a campaign stop in Occoquan yesterday, Nichols accused his opponent of overstepping the bounds of acceptable behavior and said he was contemplating legal action against the Republican.

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Posted at 11:04 AM ET, 10/13/2009

Wagner Rips Bolling's Attendance in Second TV Ad

Jody Wagner, the Democratic challenger running for lieutenant governor, unveiled her second television ad of the fall this morning and it's a negative one.

The 30-second spot called "Work," which is airing in Richmond, Charlottesville and Norfolk and on cable in Northern Virginia, follows a line of attack Wagner has been pursuing about Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's (R) attendance record on the boards and commissions to which he has been appointed. It also points out Bolling's second job in the private sector as an insurance industry executive, and concludes: "Virginia has full-time challenges. We can't afford a lieutenant governor like Bill Bolling, who's never there."

Full script after the jump.

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Posted at 7:11 AM ET, 10/13/2009

First Click - Virginia

Good morning Virginia! Here's what's happening in politics around the state today.

Just about every Virginia publication has a story about last night's bitter debate between gubernatorial candidates R. Creigh Deeds (D) and Robert F. McDonnell (R), who covered the same wide range of issues that have dominated the race, including transportation, education and the economy. Deeds's performance -- he accused McDonnell of "lying" then acknowledged the language might have been too harsh to reporters later -- will likely do little to appease critics who have said the Democratic nominee has been too negative. More on that from Politico and Talking Points Memo.

Deeds, who is behind in the polls, embarks on his second day of his "Hope and Opportunity Tour" of rural Virginia. McDonnell heads back to Northern Virginia for a Vienna rally with businesswoman Sheila Johnson, whose mocking of Deeds' speaking style apparently did not damage her standing with McDonnell's campaign. (And you can add Rush Limbaugh to the list of folks who have similarly attacked Deeds.)

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Posted at 6:45 PM ET, 10/12/2009

Kaine Stumps for House Candidates, Calls Nobel 'Great Thing for Our Country'

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) paid a visit to Northern Virginia today in the hopes that his appeal among suburban voters might rub off on four fellow Democrats running for the House of Delegates: Incumbents Paul Nichols (Prince William) and Chuck Caputo (Fairfax/Loudoun), and newcomers John Bell (Loudoun/Prince William) and Mark Keam (Fairfax).

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If you'll recall, Kaine won the 2005 gubernatorial race in part by emphasizing the issues that mattered to suburbanites: traffic, development and education. He became the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate in two decades to win Loudoun and Prince William counties, and he still enjoys a 71 percent approval rate in Northern Virginia, according to a recent Washington Post poll -- despite Republican efforts to paint him as a part-time governor because of his second job as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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Posted at 7:21 AM ET, 10/12/2009

First Click - Virginia - UPDATED

Good morning Virginia! Twenty-two days before Election Day, but who's counting. Here's what's happening in politics around the state today.

After a brutal week of discouraging poll numbers and questions about his electability, Democrat R. Creigh Deeds will try to make good on his reputation as a strong finisher and turn the race for governor around in its waning weeks. In the face of criticism over what voters perceive as his negative focus, Deeds launched a positive ad yesterday focused on education. And he will have an important opportunity to make his case to Virginians tonight in Richmond, when he faces off against Republican Robert F. McDonnell in the men's first prime time televised debate.

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Posted at 6:34 PM ET, 10/10/2009

The Kitchen Table: Americans for Prosperity

Today, we told you about how Republicans are more energized about the governor's race this year than Democrats, in part because of disillusionment with Democratic leadership in Washington. Well, "disillusioned" is an understatement for the deep concern felt by many of the folks who attended the "Defending the American Dream Summit" in Crystal City last Saturday, sponsored by the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

The controversial group has played a prominent role at the some of the tense "Tea Party" and health care reform protests around the country, and has been among those loudly asserting that current events in Washington are leading the nation on a path to socialism.

AFP receives most of its funding from a foundation run by two brothers who control an oil-and-gas conglomerate in Kansas. A frequent target of liberal critics, AFP leaders insist that their efforts aren't mere industry-funded "astroturfing," saying that their bus tours around the country are getting an overwhelming turnout from local residents.

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Posted at 4:28 PM ET, 10/ 8/2009

Biden: Virginia Governor's Race "Winnable" for Deeds

Vice President Joe Biden appeared at a fundraiser for R. Creigh Deeds today and simply gushed about the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, whose possibly strained relationship with the White House has been the talk of Virginia politicos of late. He said Deeds could yet win his race against Robert F. McDonnell (R) despite the gloomy poll numbers.

"I hope to God you understand this race is winnable," Biden said toward the end of his remarks. "I was told another good friend of mine running for governor in another state, they declared him dead two weeks ago. He is now ahead. We are going to win that race." He was referring to New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D), who is in a tight race with Republican Chris Christie.

Speaking to a group of about 70 Deeds contributors at the elegant, riverside home of a Fairfax County backer, Biden -- who met Deeds once before at a campaign event for the gubernatorial hopeful in Richmond -- said he believed him to be a sincere and trustworthy man. He said he would come out to Virginia to campaign for him again, repeatedly if necessary, before Election Day.

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Posted at 9:21 AM ET, 10/ 8/2009

Volunteer Effort Revs Up

That call you got last night just as you were settling down to dinner? There's a good chance it came from a volunteer for one of your hardworking candidates, rallying support with less than a month to go before Election Day.

We know, because we watched some of these dedicated volunteers make those very calls when we dropped by unannounced at a couple of campaign offices yesterday evening.

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The first stop was around 5:30 at the Fairfax County GOP headquarters, a homey office suite off Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax abuzz with staffers and volunteers, among them about a dozen high school students making phone calls for community service credit.

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About an hour later we showed up at the Democrats' coordinated campaign headquarters, which took up the entire fourth floor of a mid-rise office building in McLean.

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Posted at 11:18 PM ET, 10/ 4/2009

'Fairfax's Own' Pays Homage

Bob McDonnell's visit to a Fairfax County GOP breakfast pep rally yesterday was a homecoming of sorts. The Burke Fire Department hall was surrounded with those familiar "Fairfax's Own" signs, and the more than 300 activists getting pumped over coffee and pancakes were more than happy to claim him as their own.

But the visit also offered an acknowledgement of the role the county has played this year in reviving Republican hopes after a morale-crushing few years in the once-red state.

McDonnell, who leads Democrat R. Creigh Deeds in the polls, gave a particular shout-out to Fairfax supervisors Pat Herrity and John Cook, whose better-than-expected performances in a couple of elections (along with the success of Republican Frank Fannon and GOP-endorsed independent Alicia Hughes in Alexandria and a close House of Delegates special election in Arlington) helped create momentum for Virginia Republicans this year. ""Pat Herrity and John Cook, the leaders of the revolution," McDonnell said to thunderous applause.

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Posted at 12:24 PM ET, 09/30/2009

Excerpts: Post Reporters Take Questions on Governor's Race

Washington Post staff writers Amy Gardner and Sandhya Somashekhar were online Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss Virginia politics and the Race to Richmond.

See some of their answers to readers' questions below, or read the full transcript.

Aldie, Va.: When the Post broke the thesis story, did you detect a shift in Deeds's focus on issues? Aside from social concerns, what issues does Deeds talk about the most on the campaign trail?

Amy Gardner: Hello, and thanks for the question. There's no question that Deeds's campaign strategy shifted pretty significantly after the story of the thesis broke on Aug. 30. Certainly his campaign was planning to focus on Bob McDonnell's record of conservatism, particularly on such social issues as abortion and covenant marriage. But since then it's been pretty much a blitz about McDonnell's thesis and the votes he's taken in the General Assembly that have matched some of the ideas laid out in it.

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Posted at 11:31 AM ET, 09/29/2009

Kaine Says He Was Unaware of Paterson Discussions

On what was otherwise a fairly sedate episode of WTOP's monthly "Ask the Governor" segment featuring Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), Mark Plotkin broke in at the last minute to ask Kaine the hardball question of the hour: What did you know about the White House's attempt to persuade New York Gov. David Paterson (D) not to run for his seat next year?

Not much, Kaine responded -- though he declined to say whether he supports President Obama's position that Paterson should bow out.

By way of background, The New York Times recently reported that President Obama had asked the beleaguered Paterson not to seek a full first term next year, an unusual intervention into state affairs by a president. Plotkin's question was aimed at Kaine because of Kaine's second job as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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Posted at 4:34 PM ET, 09/25/2009

Ad Watch: 'Transportation Contrast'

Republican candidate for governor Robert F. McDonnell took a page from his opponent in a recent television ad, quoting extensively from the Washington Post to promote his transportation plan. It's called "Transportation Contrast."

Script:

"The Washington Post says Creigh Deeds has 'not even bothered to formulate' much of a transportation plan. On road funding, Deeds's approach is 'as politically expedient as it is irresponsible.' Deeds's 'approach to transportation funding is to sidestep the subject.' Bob McDonnell's transportation plan 'deserves credit for the extent and specificity of its proposals,' like selling state liquor stores to invest a half-billion dollars to widen I-66, improve I-95 and expand Metro to Dulles. 'I'm Bob McDonnell, candidate for governor, and my campaign sponsored this ad."

Images:

The ad features excerpts from a Washington Post editorial, floating alongside unflattering cutouts of Deeds. Ominous music turns more inspiring as the ad transitions to images of McDonnell chatting up Virginians and walking around with his family.

Analysis:

This ad has been airing in Northern Virginia, where traffic congestion is a perennial source of frustration and transportation ranks just behind the economy as the top issue of concern among voters. It draws exclusively on a July 29 editorial that is particularly critical of McDonnell -- though you wouldn't know it from the ad.

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Posted at 4:18 PM ET, 09/21/2009

Democrats' Press Call Goes Awry with Mudcat's Candor

Oops. This afternoon, what was billed as a press call to slam former congressman Tom Davis (R) for allegedly anti-rural remarks turned into an all-too-candid strategy session, courtesy of David "Mudcat" Saunders.

The longtime Democratic operative apparently wasn't told by party officials or the campaign of gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds (D) that it was in fact a press call, rather than an internal chat about strategy. So for several minutes, Saunders spoke rather colorfully and indelicately about his indignation over Davis' recent comments and about how they could be leveraged to help Deeds.

He noted that the remarks might better be spun as anti-working-person, rather than anti-rural, because "From what I've seen up in Northern Virginia, they don't give a damn if people talk s*** about us." And in trying to explain that the comments might also be offensive to those with rural roots who live in Northern Virginia, he said there are "more rednecks on Route 1 in Alexandria than the sixth district of Virginia."

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 09/20/2009

The Week in Review, the Week Ahead

LAST WEEK the governor's race came to Northern Virginia in a big way. R. Creigh Deeds (D) and Robert F. McDonnell (R) clashed at their second debate of the general election, sparring on a wide range of issues -- from health care to transportation -- in front of business leaders in Northern Virginia, and leaving the chattering classes with plenty to talk about afterward.

Pundits picked apart the response Deeds delivered when the moderator, David Gregory, asked him, "Are you an Obama Democrat?" Deeds replied that he was "A Creigh Deeds Democrat." Deeds's critics also reveled in the Democrat's misstep on taxes, when he said he would not raise them but immediately added that he would find new funding for transportation. And McDonnell continued to respond to questions about his graduate school thesis and how his views have changed since he wrote that working mothers and feminists were detrimental to the family.

THIS WEEK Deeds picks up some momentum, as recent polls -- including one today by The Washington Post -- show the Democrat gaining on McDonnell, especially among independent women. A small group though it may be, it could prove crucial in what is turning out to be a very close race. That could mean Deeds will continue this week to hammer on the thesis that has become McDonnell's biggest liability in the race.

Deeds begins the week in Richmond, celebrating Eid with members of the Muslim community today and meeting with Asian American supporters at a Vietnamese restaurant. He heads southwest to Bristol and Roanoke at week's end after a swing through Hampton Roads. McDonnell campaigns at the Redskins game today, where his wife, Maureen, will be reliving her days as a Redskins cheerleader as part of the Alumni halftime show. The rest of his week takes him to Richmond and Virginia Beach, among other places.

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Posted at 12:04 PM ET, 09/18/2009

Humane Society Endorses McDonnell, Shannon

The Humane Society's legislative arm has endorsed Republican Robert F. McDonnell for governor and Democrat Steve Shannon for attorney general, and had some sharp words for Shannon's opponent, Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

The animal welfare organization praised McDonnell and Shannon for supporting stiff penalties against animal fighting. The group singled out McDonnell for special praise, in part because of his stand opposing so-called "crush videos," which depict scantily clad women killing kittens, puppies and other small animals, sometimes using their high heels.

"Bob McDonnell included a crackdown on animal fighting as part of his anti-crime agenda, and he understands that the way we treat animals is a reflection of our basic attitudes and values in society," said Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, in the endorsement letter. "Virginians deserve a governor like Bob McDonnell who has demonstrated strong and consistent leadership in protecting animals from cruelty and abuse."

The group criticized Cuccinelli, however, saying the state senator "has often stood nearly alone in the Senate as an opponent of modest and mainstream animal protection reforms." For example, the group says, Cuccinelli was one of only two senators to vote against a stronger animal fighting law in 2007 and was one of only three to oppose restrictions on large-scale puppy mills a year later.

As you may recall, McDonnell was attorney general when two years ago, NFL quarterback Michael Vick was busted for a dogfighting operation outside of Newport News, where he lived at the time.

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Posted at 7:12 AM ET, 09/18/2009

First Click - Virginia

Happy Friday, Virginia, here's what's happening in state politics today.

The news offers political junkies two interesting indicators about the gubernatorial contest between R. Creigh Deeds (D) and Robert F. McDonnell (R). The two men sparred over a wide range of issues, from the economy to energy to gay adoptions, at a debate in Tysons Corner yesterday, which was tense from the very start.

Afterward, Deeds was asked by a scrum of reporters about an apparent contradiction in his position on raising taxes for transportation. The line of questioning provoked a snippy response to a female reporter, which was caught on tape. Bob McCartney was not impressed with Deeds' performance.

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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 09/18/2009

The Kitchen Table: The Reston Farmer's Market

So, we haven't actually taken you into someone's kitchen yet for "The Kitchen Table," our sorta-weekly feature bringing you the voices of Virginia's voters, but at least this one is food-related.

VIDEO | Virginia Voters Express Their Views on the Governor's Race

You know fall is coming when the early-season apples show up at the farmer's market and you can't buy a baguette there without someone trying to stuff your eco-friendly reusable bag with campaign literature -- particularly Democratic campaign literature.

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Posted at 12:29 PM ET, 09/17/2009

Fact Check: Jobs

In his closing statement during today's debate, Deeds said McDonnell "never wrote a bill to create a job." Afterward, a reporter asked McDonnell about this accusation.

Here's how he responded: "I carried the historic welfare reform bill in 1995. Do you know what that bill did? It put women to work. It created the transportation and health-care benefits and tax support so that women could go back to work, and then a year after that I introduced a tax credit bill to give businesses the ability to receive tax credits for hiring people."

Okay, so neither exactly created jobs. But the welfare bill did require people to work to get state welfare benefits. We wrote more on that bill and McDonnell's repeated references to it in this campaign.

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Posted at 8:13 AM ET, 09/17/2009

First Click -- Virginia

Good morning Virginia, here's what's happening in state politics today.

R. Creigh Deeds (D) and Robert F. McDonnell (R) face off today in a much-anticipated debate before Northern Virginia's business community, to be moderated by David Gregory of "Meet the Press." A lot is at stake today for both gubernatorial candidates, as McDonnell seeks to move beyond the thesis that has dominated headlines in recent weeks and Deeds aims to overcome the unfriendly atmosphere for Democrats nationally.

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Posted at 7:17 AM ET, 09/16/2009

First Click - Virginia

Good morning, Virginia, here's what's happening in politics around the state today.

The campaign finance numbers are in, and they're big. R. Creigh Deeds, the Democrat running for governor, raked in a record $3.48 million in July and August, about a half million dollars more than Republican Robert F. McDonnell. But McDonnell, who didn't have a primary challenge, has more money in the bank, $5.8 million, compared with Deeds's nearly $4.4 million.

It's a good news, bad news day for Deeds. According to a recent poll of registered voters, McDonnell's lead has slimmed to five percentage points (the poll was conducted by live interviewers, which is critical to meeting the Post's standards). But the Democrat is facing questions about seemingly contradictory responses he gave two groups about collective bargaining.

Both men are in Richmond today at a forum sponsored by Virginia FREE. Sorry, you weren't invited.

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Posted at 6:59 AM ET, 09/15/2009

First Click - Virginia

Good morning, Virginia, here's what's happening in state politics today.

Today is the deadline for candidates in November's election to file their summer campaign finance reports, including gubernatorial hopefuls R. Creigh Deeds (D) and Robert F. McDonnell (R). The reports will provide a valuable glimpse into the kind of support each man is attracting, as did yesterday's announcement that Deeds has been endorsed by the state firefighters and McDonnell got the nod from the NRA, which supported Deeds in their last match-up four years ago. Observers will also be on the lookout for evidence of the national groups that are expected to pour resources into one of the first big races since last year's history-making presidential election.

Both men attend a candidates forum at a Bar Association event in Norfolk today, offering a preview of Thursday's debate in Fairfax.

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 09/14/2009

First Click -- Virginia

OMG, did you hear what Kanye West said at the MTV video music awards? Kidding, here's what's happening in Virginia politics today.

The candidates for Virginia governor stump in separate parts of the state today, with Republican Robert F. McDonnell addressing attendees at a rural summit in Lynchburg and Democrat R. Creigh Deeds in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, where he is planning to announce what his campaign has billed as a "major endorsement." The ad wars took a sharp turn late last week, and the two men will clash in person at their second debate of the season Thursday in Fairfax.

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Posted at 1:24 PM ET, 09/11/2009

House Call: Landes 'Nazi' Comment Causes Stir

For this week's examination of the House of Delegates races, we pick up on the controversy stirred up by our blog post last week that quoted Del. Steve Landes (R) comparing White House actions to those of "the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany."

During a speech at a local GOP picnic, Landes said some supporters of Republican causes are "afraid their neighbors are going to tell on them. When you've got a White House that's keeping names of people that don't agree with them, that reminds me of what went on in the Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany." (A longer excerpt can be found after the jump.)

Landes's opponent, Greg Marrow (D), has called for Landes to apologize for his statement. On Friday, the Waynesboro News Virginian reports that Landes has no plans to do so and posts a full nine-minute video of his remarks from the Aug. 29 Augusta GOP picnic in Fishersville, Va.


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Posted at 4:27 PM ET, 09/ 9/2009

Dems Ask Opponents to Repudiate McDonnell Thesis; One Does

At least three Northern Virginia Democratic candidates for House of Delegates have asked their Republican opponents to condemn the views espoused by gubernatorial hopeful Bob McDonnell (R) in his much-discussed 1989 graduate school thesis.

It's unlikely that Greg Werkheiser and John Bell, who are respectively challenging Republican delegates Dave Albo and Bob Marshall, and Scott A. Surovell, who is up against Jay McConville (R) for the seat being vacated by Kris Amundson (D), actually expected a response. But one of them got one today.

Albo said in a phone interview that he did not know of Werkheiser's demand, but called the past assertion by McDonnell that working mothers are detrimental to the family "ridiculous."

"I think what Bob said [in the thesis] was ridiculous, but I know Bob McDonnell the legislator now and he's one of the best legislators who has ever served in Virginia," Albo said.

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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 09/ 4/2009

The Kitchen Table: Augusta GOP Afraid for Country

For this week's Kitchen Table, we dropped by a GOP picnic last Saturday in Augusta County, one of the state's most longstanding Republican strongholds. On a sunny afternoon interrupted by a brief spray of rain, over a lunch of barbecue and cole slaw, party activists in this Shenandoah Valley community expressed an overwhelming concern that their country and culture were being threatened by forces in Washington.

Featured speaker Patrick McSweeney, former state GOP chairman and founder of a new think tank called Restore the Founders' Vision, said his son was becoming so concerned with current affairs that he was considering moving to Costa Rica. Del. Steve Landes accused the White House of keeping tabs on Republicans, some of whom he said live in a climate of fear, and evoked the always-dicey Hitler comparison.

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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 08/27/2009

The Kitchen Table: Greenspring Village on the Governor's Race

This week's Kitchen Table takes us to Greenspring Village, a retirement community in Springfield and one of the most politically engaged communities in the state. Just about every candidate running for Fairfax County or statewide office makes at least one swing through this tree-lined 100-acre campus, and no wonder: turnout in last fall's election was 87 percent of its 1,945 registered voters (and just about everyone here is registered to vote).

So it's perhaps no surprise that Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D), a former chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors who knows these residents well, on Tuesday held a healthcare town hall meeting at Greenspring Village. (You can meet some of these residents in a video published on washingtonpost.com.)

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Posted at 6:00 PM ET, 08/24/2009

National HuckPAC Volunteers are Helping McDonnell

HuckPAC, the political action committee founded by former Arkansas governor, presidential hopeful and Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee, has taken an early and intense interest in Bob McDonnell's run for governor.

Huckabee himself has campaigned for McDonnell in Virginia. In the latest show of support, volunteers from across the country made nearly 11,000 phone calls to Virginia voters on Saturday as part of a phone-banking effort organized by the group, talking up the Republican candidate's pro-life record, his support of gun rights and his efforts to create jobs and spur the economy.

"One of the things we learned during our campaign is that we're not going to be able to do much by way of money," said Sarah Huckabee, executive director of the organization and daughter of the former governor. "But one of ... our strengths is our grass roots, our ability to get ordinary people to make extraordinary sacrifices and roll up their sleeves and get to work."

Expect to hear more from this group and others like it as the November election approaches. Organizers aim to have at least one more telephone outreach effort, and hope to bus activists into the state to knock on doors and volunteer.

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Posted at 6:45 AM ET, 08/21/2009

First Click - Virginia

Happy Friday, here's what's happening in Virginia politics today.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Creigh Deeds goes on the offensive, making an 11 a.m. speech in Northern Virginia, where some Democrats say they aren't fired up about his candidacy. He follows the address with his first television ad of the general election and immediately plunges back into rural Virginia with a weekend spin through Harrisonburg, Salem, Roanoke, Christiansburg, Bland, Tazewell and Bristol.

McDonnell, meanwhile, continues his RV tour of the state, making stops in Lynchburg, Appomattox and Harrisonburg today. At recent events he has sought to deflect Deeds' attacks on his record opposing abortion, accusing the state senator of being the one who is overly focused on the issue.

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Posted at 7:58 AM ET, 08/20/2009

First Click - Virginia

Good morning Virginia, here's what's happening in politics around the state today.

The big news was yesterday's special legislative session in Richmond. The General Assembly yesterday voted to change a law governing breath tests in drunk driving cases in a mad dash to accommodate a recent Supreme Court ruling that would have made prosecutions in those cases more difficult.

Lawmakers also received a grim update on the budget. Gov. Kaine announced a $1.5 billion shortfall that will require significant cuts, which he'll announce in early September. They also decided to compensate a Norfolk man wrongly convicted of rape with a $633,000 settlement.

With the special session over, both men vying for Virginia governor turn their attention back to the campaign. Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, a state senator, participated in yesterday's session. He tries to give a boost to his campaign by spending the day in the Democratic-leaning Washington suburbs, where he will make a major campaign speech tomorrow.

Republican Robert F. McDonnell, the former attorney general who stepped down to focus on the campaign, kept it low-key yesterday as well but began his day at 5:30 this morning meeting workers at the Newport News Shipyard.

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Posted at 6:07 AM ET, 08/19/2009

First Click - Virginia

Good morning Virginia, here's what's happening in politics around the state today.

While state lawmakers meet in Richmond today to address a recent Supreme Court ruling that could throw a wrench into many prosecutions, one big piece of news out of the special session will be the additional cuts Gov. Kaine is expected to propose to the budget.

Among the attendees will be state senator and gubernatorial hopeful Creigh Deeds (D) . He and GOP opponent Bob McDonnell each picked up a key endorsement yesterday, and today McDonnell spends the day in private meetings and visiting with businesses and law enforcement officials in Hampton Roads, a spokeswoman said this morning.

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Posted at 7:58 AM ET, 08/18/2009

First Click - Virginia

Good morning, here's what's happening in politics around the state.

Virginia lawmakers struggle with the reality that the piggy bank is empty for transportation. Gov. Kaine has decided to delay part of the HOT Lanes project, a decision that drew an instant rebuke from GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell.

The Post uses Virginia as a test case for the health care debate and finds broad skepticism.

State lawmakers have begun working on legislation to address a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that could make prosecuting criminals more difficult. The General Assembly meets tomorrow to consider the changes and will likely get some bad news about the state budget too, says the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star.

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Posted at 7:24 AM ET, 08/17/2009

First Click - Virginia

Happy Monday, here's what's happening in politics around the state today.

TOP STORIES:
Bob McDonnell starts his week with good news: A Washington Post poll conducted last week shows the GOP gubernatorial hopeful with a clear advantage among registered voters, though lots of respondents acknowledged they don't know much about either candidate and Democrat Creigh Deeds still has more than two months to gain some ground, as the RTD points out. National Journal's Charlie Cook, however, argues that a Deeds victory at this point would be a "true upset."

The Post's editorial board today weighs in on McDonnell's record on abortion, which Deeds spent last week highlighting. Despite Deeds' efforts to show that the former attorney general is too conservative, the Post poll showed that more registered voters view Deeds as too liberal.

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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 08/14/2009

The Kitchen Table: Interview With Pew's Scott Keeter

Keeter headshot.jpgFor this week's installment of "The Kitchen Table," a regular feature about Virginia voters, we asked Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center in Washington and one of the nation's prominent thinkers on the subject of voter behavior, some questions about what makes voters tick.

Keeter has authored and co-authored several books and papers, including "What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters," and "A New Engagement? Political Participation, Civic Life, and the Changing American Citizen." A Virginia resident, he has been a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University.

The Post: Why do some people vote and others don't?

Keeter: Even though most people realize that their individual vote will probably not be the deciding factor in an election, most people realize that collectively their votes matter in determining the outcome. Still, many people don't vote, especially in off-year elections that don't have the high level of mobilization that presidential years do. Those who do vote tend to be older, better-educated and more affluent. That's true even in presidential elections, but is especially true in state races. The people who vote in elections like the Virginia or New Jersey gubernatorial and legislative elections tend to be perennially engaged in politics and better-informed than the average voter.

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Posted at 10:19 AM ET, 08/13/2009

Issues That Matter to You

This Sunday, we begin a print feature called "Issues That Matter to You," in which we single out an issue of interest in this year's governor's race and do a short write-up on the positions of our esteemed candidates for governor.

Since that last word is "you," we'd like your thoughts on some subjects you want the candidates to chime in on. They can be as broad or as narrow as you'd like. Please leave your ideas in the comments area or e-mail me at sandhya@washpost.com.

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Posted at 11:47 AM ET, 08/ 7/2009

The Kitchen Table

Welcome to a new weekly feature on the Virginia politics blog called "The Kitchen Table," which we hope will bring you interesting and illuminating glimpses into the lives of those regular folks who probably don't read this blog but dutifully embrace their democratic responsibilities when called upon to do so. We're talking about voters.

Our first installment takes us to the McLean Hilton, where President Obama made his first public appearance with Creigh Deeds (D) yesterday in support of the latter's run for governor. Earlier this week we told you about how some people's anxiety over Obama's domestic agenda could influence their vote for governor this fall, to Republican Bob McDonnell's advantage.

But the 1,500 who showed up for yesterday's rally proved that Obama's blessing was still a major plus for a lot of voters. Some, like Bonnae Powers, 43, a human resources director from Fairfax, were drawn by a chance to see Obama in the flesh but looked forward to "the opportunity to learn more about one of the candidates for Virginia governor." Others were already won over by the state senator from Bath County. Still others said they'd be voting for Deeds because he's a Democrat -- and that's reason enough.

Apologies for the shaky video to follow. I'll get better at this, I promise!


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Posted at 2:28 PM ET, 07/20/2009

Potty Politics

And you thought rest stops were just a convenient place to break up a long road trip, use the facilities and grab a Mr. Pibb from the vending machine.

Rest areas have become a hot political issue after VDOT announced that it will be shuttering 18 of the roadside respites, beginning tonight, as a cost-saving measure. The decision has provoked criticism from those who say Virginia's tourism industry will suffer (you know, all those pamphlets). More importantly, they say, it will rob the highways of some of a safe space for a drowsy driver to take a break before getting back on the road.

No fewer than three politicians have sent out alerts to the media today demanding that the rest areas be kept open. Lieutenant Gov. Bill Bolling has suggested using paving money to keep the rest stops operating. Rep. Frank Wolf (R) sent a letter to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) "imploring" him to "reverse this terrible decision." Gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell went so far as to say that, if elected, he would reopen them within 90 days of assuming office.

"If the rest stops do close tomorrow, and remain dark in the months ahead, that will end when I am elected governor," he said in a statement.

When asked about the issue in a conference call this morning, McDonnell's Democratic opponent Sen. Creigh Deeds one-upped the former attorney general, saying he would reopen the rest areas within 60 days.

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Posted at 5:28 PM ET, 07/13/2009

Deeds Raises $3.4 Million

Creigh Deeds, who has spent much of his time since the June 9 primary raising money, announced today that he collected $3.4 million during the one-month fundraising period that ends June 30.

It's more than Tim Kaine and Mark Warner accumulated in a similar time period during their gubernatorial races, according to the announcement, which also touted the fact that 63 percent of the nearly $5 million Deeds has raised this year came from within Virginia.

GOP nominee Bob McDonnell's spokeswoman, Crystal Cameron, said the former attorney general's campaign would release his campaign finance numbers tomorrow. She also took a swing at Deeds for accepting support from unions.

"Creigh promised the unions that he would be a good partner, and it looks like his partners are paying him well," she said.

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Posted at 7:17 PM ET, 07/ 3/2009

Surovell Officially Nominated

Scott Surovell, the former chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, was formally named the party's nominee in the race for the 44th House of Delegates district today.

Surovell threw his name in the ring after Del. Kris Amundson (D) announced late last month that she would not run for reelection this year for financial reasons. Surovell now faces off against Republican Jay McConville and Independent Green Party candidate Glenda Gail Parker in the fall.

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Posted at 3:00 PM ET, 06/25/2009

Under the Wire

Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement today "applauding" Virginia for finalizing, with 12 days to spare, its list of transportation projects to be funded under the federal stimulus plan.

OK, every state probably got its own "way-to-go" letter (as evidenced by the link above, which will send you to a generic version of the Virginia letter that went out via e-mail). But Virginia's is a bit more significant, because as Anita Kumar reported last week, Virginia was the last state to submit its list of shovel-ready projects to the federal government. The deadline was June 29.

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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 06/25/2009

Rumors Untrue, Say Hudgins, Hyland

Cathy Hudgins and Gerry Hyland would like to set the record straight: neither is stepping down from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Rumors have been swirling that Hudgins got a job at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and would be resigning from the board. Completely false, Hudgins said Thursday.

"I have not gotten a job at HUD. I did not apply for a job at HUD. They have not offered me a job at HUD," said Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), adding that she plans to run for reelection when her third term expires in two years. "I'm having a good time doing what I do and I expect to be here a long time."

Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said earlier this week that he was rather taken aback to learn that a number of fellow Democrats have already announced their interest in running for his seat. He believes it has something to do with the fact that he is the board's longest-serving member, and that he was in a serious car accident last year. But the assumption that he will step down or not run for another term has been "somewhat hurtful," he said.

"It's a strange feeling to have so many folks lining up assuming that I will do that," he said. He said he has not yet decided if he will run for reelection in two years. "The decision I'll make will be based on if I'm healthy, if I still feel challenged and if I feel I can be as satisfied as I am now that I can help people."

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Posted at 12:49 PM ET, 06/24/2009

Amundsen to Retire, Surovell to Run

Del. Kristen J. Amundson (D-Fairfax) announced today she was retiring after ten years in the House. Amundson, who has her own communications firm, said she was stepping down at the end of her term this year for financial reasons.

"For most of these years, I have been able to put together enough freelance and consulting work to allow me to continue in public office," she wrote in a letter to constituents. "All that changed with the recession. Among the cutbacks that many businesses have made are the consulting services that made up the bulk of my income. Campaigning is a full time job. So I have made the difficult decision not to run for reelection to the House of Delegates."

Running for her eastern Fairfax County seat will be Fairfax County Democratic Committee Chairman Scott A. Surovell. Surovell, who is no stranger to this blog, said he will resign from his chairmanship tonight. "I think there's a lot going on in Richmond that I'd like to get fixed," said the longtime Mount Vernon resident.

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Posted at 3:08 PM ET, 06/11/2009

Fairfax Republicans Express Optimism

Not keen to be overshadowed by this week's dramatic, show-stealing Democratic primary, the Fairfax County Republican Committee issued a statement today praising what chairman Anthony Bedell called "the strongest top-to-bottom Republican ticket we have fielded in a very long time."

The party is fielding candidates in 15 out of the 16 House of Delegates seats in the county, compared with 6 out of 16 in 2007, the statement said. The county's Republicans have been energized by two strong showings in special elections in the Democratic-leaning county, including county Supervisor John Cook's win in the Braddock District in March, it continued.

They "proved that the GOP is still a viable party in Fairfax," the statement said.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: As Fairfax County Democratic Chairman Scott Surovell noted in a follow-up release today, there are 17, not 16, House districts in Fairfax County. Fifteen of those races are contested this year.

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Posted at 4:18 PM ET, 06/ 1/2009

The Party of No

For months, Democrats have been painting the GOP as "the party of no." Well, Republicans tried to turn the tables on their Democratic critics today with a whirlwind "Just Say Yes" tour of the state.

Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli -- who on Saturday won the GOP nomination for Attorney General -- touched down at Dulles International for a brief rally as part of the tour. In a private hangar at the airport, McDonnell rattled off a litany of policy positions ranging from education to energy, and led supporters in a chorus of, "Just say yes!"

"This is the positive, can-do, results-oriented, friendly, enthusiastic, conservative ticket that's going to support right to work and the rule of law, all the way to victory on Nov. 3," said McDonnell. "And we're going to be the party of yes to the reforms that we need."

UPDATE: The Democratic Party of Virginia released a statement late today by spokesman Jared Leopold calling the tour "a cynical attempt to mislead Virginians...Today's new advertising slogan is nothing more than shiny new packaging for the same failed product."

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Posted at 6:24 PM ET, 05/13/2009

Baldwin Says He Voted, Accuses Keam of Spreading Misinformation

Did Roy Baldwin vote in last year's historic race for president?

Yes, say Fairfax County elections officials and supporters of Baldwin (D), who is running for the House of Delegates in Virginia's 35th District. Rokey Suleman, the county's general registrar, says a clerical error led to a mistake in the public record that shows Baldwin turned in an unmarked absentee ballot last October.

"I am certain he voted in that election," said Suleman.

Meanwhile, Baldwin's supporters are accusing Mark Keam, one of his opponents for the Democratic nomination, of conducting a push-poll suggesting that Baldwin did not vote. A Keam spokeswoman today said the campaign would not comment on "internal information" such as polls.

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Posted at 11:53 AM ET, 05/ 6/2009

Springsteen Wins Close Vienna Race

Howard Springsteen edged out incumbent Dan Dellinger in last night's close election for Vienna Town Council, according to Fairfax County results.

Springsteen was ahead of Dellinger by a vote last night, but the results were too close to call because of a provisional ballot that could not be counted until this morning. The ballot was deemed valid, and it threw another vote to Springsteen, who declared victory this morning with a two-vote lead over Dellinger.

"I have a lot of respect for Dan Dellinger," Springsteen said today. "It shows every vote counts."

Springsteen, a New Jersey native with a dog named Boss, is not related to "the Boss."

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Posted at 9:04 PM ET, 05/ 5/2009

GOP Gains Seats in Alexandria

One Republican and an independent backed by the GOP won seats on the Alexandria City Council tonight. The six-member council has been the exclusive domain of Democrats since 2003.

Frank Fannon IV (R) and Alicia R. Hughes (I) succeeded even though the city went 72 percent for President Obama last year. It is just the latest Northern Virginia race in which Republicans outperformed expectations, giving hope to party leaders that they may yet take the governor's mansion in November despite two successive Democratic administrations.

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Posted at 7:54 PM ET, 05/ 5/2009

Vienna Election Cliffhanger

Incumbent George Lovelace and challenger Laurie DiRocco won two of the three seats up in today's Vienna town election, according to unofficial results from the Fairfax County Office of Elections.

One vote separates the third and fourth place candidates, incumbent Dan Dellinger and and challenger Howard Springsteen. Springsteen is ahead with 793 votes, but there was one provisional ballot cast, and Fairfax County officials will not determine its validity until tomorrow under Virginia law.

If it's a tie, the Board of Elections will flip a coin, draw a name out of a hat or otherwise determine the winner. Really.

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Posted at 9:53 AM ET, 04/ 7/2009

Anthony Bedell for RPV Chairman?

An effort is underway to draft Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, to run for head of the Republican Party of Virginia.

His is among many names being floated to replace Jeffrey M. Frederick, who was ousted over the weekend but who has said he may run for the post again.

Bedell was only elected to his Fairfax County position in December, after Jim Hyland stepped down. Since then, Northern Virginia Republicans have outperformed expectations in three special elections, including one that installed John Cook (R) in the Braddock District seat vacated by Sharon Bulova (D), who became chairman this year.

Some supporters have started a Facebook group called "Draft Anthony Bedell for RPV Chairman," and several GOP blogs have suggested his name. No word yet from Bedell about whether he is interested.

UPDATE: Bedell issued this statement Wednesday: "At this time, I am not a candidate for Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. It is my intention to fulfill my campaign pledge and serve out the remainder of my term as Chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee. I have obviously been flattered to be mentioned by so many as a possible candidate for Chairman of the RPV, but right now my time and energy is focused on the FCRC."

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Posted at 6:13 PM ET, 03/26/2009

Webb Introduces Criminal Justice Bill

Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) today introduced a bill that would create a bipartisan commission on criminal justice reform.

Webb has been an outspoken critic of the nation's drug laws and its approach toward incarceration, even though Virginia is considered a law-and-order state. In a statement on his Web site, he called the criminal justice system a "national disgrace."

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Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 03/25/2009

Dems Blast Cook Speech

Fairfax County Democratic Chairman Scott Surovell has written a scathing critique of the speech that John C. Cook (R) made last week when he was sworn in as the new Braddock District representative on the Board of Supervisors.

In his impassioned speech, Cook called it a "moral outrage" that illegal boarding houses exist in Fairfax County. In criticizing the county's efforts to buy affordable housing complexes, he invoked the notorious public housing project Cabrini Green, saying "we do not need to bring that kind of blight to the center of Fairfax County."

In his blog entry today, Surovell accuses Cook of "race-baiting" and "law and order demogoguery."

Today, Cook said his speech was optimistic and positive. "There was absolutely nothing racist about it and I would take great offense to that suggestion," he said.

See the speech here (about 10 minutes in) and Surovell's blog entry here.

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Posted at 4:21 PM ET, 03/11/2009

GOP Wins Fairfax Supervisor Seat

Republican John Cook narrowly defeated Democrat Ilryong Moon in the race to fill an open seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, according to unofficial returns counted today.

Moon has not conceded the race. Cook's 89-vote victory, from among more than 12,000 votes cast, falls outside the margin that would require the state to pay for a recount, elections officials said.

Cook's victory in Democratic-leaning Fairfax could be an important symbolic boost to Virginia Republicans heading into the 2009 races for governor and House of Delegates.

"I am honored to have been selected by my Braddock District neighbors to serve as their next supervisor," Cook said. "I look forward to bringing new and innovative ideas to the problems we face and bring fiscal responsibility to our county government."

The outcome comes after a day of drama as elections officials tried to extract vote totals from a touch-screen voting machine that malfunctioned. The outcome is a sign that Republicans have not completely lost potency in Northern Virginia, despite demographic changes that have worked to the advantage of a series of Democratic candidates.

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Posted at 8:53 AM ET, 01/31/2009

Weather No Excuse

The weather report calls for rain and snow Tuesday, when Fairfax County voters are scheduled to choose a new chairman of the Board of Supervisors. But elections officials want you to know that, under Virginia law, concern over inclement weather on Election Day is not a good enough reason to take advantage of early voting.

Confusion arose over the rules on Friday, when dozens of voters began calling and visiting the office of the Fairfax County registrar asking to vote early. Some, apparently, were motivated by a recorded "robo-call" from former congressman Tom Davis (R), a supporter of GOP candidate Pat Herrity. Davis' message told voters: "The current weather report is calling for snow on Election Day, February 3rd," and then gave the hours for early voting. (A full transcript of the message follows).

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Posted at 10:44 PM ET, 11/ 4/2008

Warner victory party

Here are scenes from Warner's victory party at the Hilton McClean in Tysons Corner. My colleague Sandhya Somashekhar sent this dispatch:

Warner took the stage around 10, three hours after the Washington Post called the election for the former governor and after triumphant speeches by Webb and Kaine. He was greeted with chants of "Warner, Warner" from the crowd. He sought in his remarks to stress bipartisanship and the diverse groups that supported him, from business groups to labor unions, and voters from urban and rural environments.

"Tonight, by a record margin, Virginians said they want their next U.S. senator to focus on results, not rhetoric. Virginians understand at this critical moment for our nation that we're not going to get our country back on track if we continue to look at our problems through the old ideas of red versus blue, left versus right...Tonight this campaign ends about 18 months after it began ... based on the premise that we could actually find common ground. So I am proud to stand before you as your new junior senator."

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Posted at 11:51 AM ET, 10/27/2008

Wolf Campaign Apologizes for Staffer who Struck Feder Worker

Rep. Frank R. Wolf's campaign is apologizing this morning for the actions of a congressional staffer, who apparently struck a campaign worker for opponent Judy Feder after a candidate's forum in Winchester Friday. The incident was caught on tape and posted on the blog www.raisingkaine.com last night by Feder's paid blogger, Lowell Feld.

According to both camps, the two Feder staffers, one carrying a video camera, approached Wolf and peppered him with questions. Dan Scandling, Wolf's campaign spokesman, said the two workers had been "circling" Wolf, his wife Carolyn and congressional staffer Ben Dutton, and asking aggressive questions in an attempt to provoke an angry response.


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Posted at 4:31 PM ET, 08/27/2008

Feder on TV

Judy Feder, the Democrat challenging Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R) in the 10th District this fall, has taken to the airwaves.

It first aired last night on cable during coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

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Posted at 2:18 PM ET, 07/30/2008

John McCain's Brother in Loudoun Tonight

Alexandria resident Joe McCain -- who according to Leesburg Town Councilman Ken Reid is "the spitting image of his brother," John McCain -- is scheduled to address Loudoun Republicans tonight.

Hmm, spitting image? You decide. Photos and a bit more information about the younger McCain here and here.

Joe McCain also was quoted in this story about Cindy McCain by The Washington Post's Libby Copeland.

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Posted at 3:26 PM ET, 07/10/2008

Obama, McCain Woo NoVa

Sen. Barack Obama outlined his plans to help struggling middle-income families and working mothers in a town hall meeting in Fairfax County this afternoon, in his second visit to the area since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
Later today, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee, also plans to reach out to Northern Virginia voters.
Standing amid the bleachers at Robinson Secondary School at about 1:30 p.m., Obama (Ill.) told a packed gymnasium that as president he would seek to expand paid family and medical leave and increase spending on childcare and preschool programs.

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Posted at 1:02 PM ET, 07/10/2008

Obama, McCain Targeting Virginia

Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are planning today to reach out to voters in Northern Virginia, with the Illinois Democrat in a town hall meeting in Fairfax this afternoon and the Arizona Republican in a telephone conference with independents and moderates this evening.

The events underscore the importance of Virginia in the fall election. Though the state has supported the Republican nominee for president for the past four decades, Democrats are optimistic that Obama can carry it this year in part because of a demographic shift in Northern Virginia.

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Posted at 4:05 PM ET, 06/23/2008

Supervisor: Sterling a 'Cesspool' Due to Illegal Immigration

Republican Eugene Delgaudio, the Loudoun County supervisor who represents Sterling Park, made some heated remarks about illegal immigration and its impact on his district during an appearance on the Kojo Nnamdi show's Politics Hour on WAMU 88.1 FM Friday.

When asked if some of the deteriorating living conditions in the area were a result of urbanization, Delgaudio had this to say.

"This is not urbanization. This is a cesspool. People are coming from outside of this culture and they are dumping their crap on the streets of our town. And our town is outraged that they don't get with the program."

Listen to the full discussion here. Delgaudio's interview takes place during the final 10 minutes of the show.

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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 04/30/2008

Speaker Wants To "Win Back" Loudoun

House Speaker William J. Howell made it clear yesterday that he is looking to Loudoun County to help Republicans keep control of the House of Delegates in the 2009 elections.

"I know this sounds self-serving, the presidential stuff is important, but next year we've got House of Delegates seats, and there's a couple that are representing Loudoun and parts of Loudoun County that I know we can win back," Howell told a meeting of the Loudoun County Republican Committee.

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Posted at 6:04 PM ET, 04/ 7/2008

Dem Leaders Urging Va. Superdelegates to Back Obama

A coalition of Democratic leaders from across Virginia are urging the state's superdelegates to endorse Barack Obama for president.

Obama overwhelmingly won the Virginia primary Feb. 12, taking 64 percent of the Democratic vote. But several of the state's superdelegates have endorsed Hillary Clinton and others, including U.S. Sen. Jim Webb and Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Richard Cranwell, have not endorsed either.

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Posted at 9:05 AM ET, 02/16/2008

Feder's Fat Wallet

Judy Feder, one of the Democratic challengers to U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) this year, has made CQ Politics' top 10 list of best-funded, opposite party challengers. She's ranked ninth in the cash-on-hand department.

Feder is known for her fund-raising abilities. In 2006, she amassed more than $1.5 million in her first match-up against the popular 14-term incumbent, who raised just over $1.7 million.

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Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 01/28/2008

Edwards Proposes "Gun Show Loophole" Compromise

Last week, bills that would have closed the so-called gun show "loophole" died in committee, in part with the help of Sen. John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke), who on Wednesday voted against advancing the bill to the floor of the Senate.

But today, Edwards -- whose district includes Virginia Tech -- tried to reopen the debate.

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Posted at 5:59 PM ET, 01/17/2008

Howell First Woman Conferee From Senate

Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) is set to become the first woman from the State Senate to become a budget conferee.

The conferees are the handful of lawmakers who duke it out at the end of each session to finish the budget. On Wednesday, Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William), chairman of the finance committee, and Del. William J. Howell (R-Stafford), speaker of the House of Delegates, took the unusual step of announcing the conferees, whose names typically are unveiled toward the end of the session.

The House, too, has a woman conferee, Beverly J. Sherwood (R-Frederick). But she won't be the first from that chamber. That was Dorothy McDiarmid (D-Arlington), who served in 1984.

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Posted at 5:30 PM ET, 01/16/2008

A Rough Road Ahead

Chaos reigned at today's meeting of the Senate Courts of Justice committee, which took the state legislature's first crack at killing the unpopular abusive-driver fees.

The panel struggled to combine 10 bills that essentially did the same thing-- repeal the fees. Senators argued along party lines over two issues: should the thousands of motorists who have already been assessed the fees get their money back, and should the committee attach an "emergency clause" to the bill so it takes effect as soon as the governor signs it?

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Posted at 3:53 PM ET, 01/ 8/2008

McDonnell Unveils Legislative Agenda

Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) unveiled his legislative priorities Tuesday, a day before the state's lawmakers get to work for this year's 60-day session in Richmond.

It came the same day former governor and U.S. senator George Allen announced he will not run for governor in 2009. Allen's announcement clears the field a bit for McDonnell, who could face Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling for the Republican nomination.

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Posted at 4:58 PM ET, 01/ 2/2008

Loudoun Chairman Likely To Get Powers Back

A former aide to Loudoun County Chairman Scott K. York said that York must be the happiest man in the country today.

That's because tomorrow York could become a powerful player in the region. At the first official meeting of the new Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, the board is likely to return to York a host of powers that were stripped from him from the previous board.

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Posted at 6:27 PM ET, 12/18/2007

Wolf Opponent Quitting Her Job

Judy Feder, the Democrat who ran unsuccessfully in 2006 against Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), is quitting her job to focus on her effort to challenge Wolf again next year.

Feder announced yesterday she was stepping down as dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute after nine years.

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Posted at 5:11 PM ET, 12/10/2007

Ex-Reporter Still On The Scene

A former reporter who went from news-breaker to news-maker earlier this year when he revealed the details of his purported off-the-record conversations with Loudoun's top prosecutor is still on the local political scene.

After quitting his job with the Loudoun County weekly Leesburg Today, Charlie Jackson volunteered for several Loudoun Democrats' campaigns, he said in an interview today. He also helped set up a press event in which the Democratic candidates for the Loudoun Board of Supervisors signed an oversized ethics pledge for the benefit of clicking cameras.

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Posted at 8:50 PM ET, 10/18/2007

Whose Fair Share?

A common gripe around Loudoun County these days has been the way Richmond divvies up the tax money generated by Northern Virginia, the state's "economic engine."

Only a fraction of every tax dollar generated in Northern Virginia comes back in the form of road improvements, school funding and similar benefits. Candidates keep demanding "our fair share" to pay for the county's badly needed schools and roads.

But two state delegates this week broke from the chorus.

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Posted at 4:03 PM ET, 10/ 3/2007

Feder's Fund-Raising Prowess

Judy Feder, a Democrat who raised more than $1.5 million in her race to unseat U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) last year, has already raised a whopping $335,000 for her rematch in November 2008, her campaign has announced.

It's an impressive sum for so early in the game, but it's obviously no guarantee. Feder, dean of Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute, lost solidly to Wolf last year.

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Posted at 2:43 PM ET, 09/27/2007

Schultz to Vogel: Return the Money

Jill Holtzman Vogel, the Republican candidate hoping to replace retiring Virginia Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. in the 27th District, is getting heat over her husband's lobbying activity in Washington.

According to the Northern Virginia Daily, Alex Vogel's firm has lobbied on behalf of the American Immigrant Lawyers Association, which last week announced it supports a bill that would allow provide a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.

Today, her Democratic opponent Karen Schultz called for her husband's firm to return the $63,000 it apparently got from the group to lobby for the bill.

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Posted at 1:38 PM ET, 09/21/2007

New Loudoun PAC

A new political action committee has launched in Loudoun, and it has a familiar target.

The Loudoun Coalition, which formed in August, "stands in opposition to five incumbent supervisors who are standing for reelection," according to a Thursday press release announcing the group's formation.

If you live in Loudoun, you can probably guess which five they are talking about -- Stephen J. Snow (Dulles), Mick Staton Jr. (Sugarland Run), Jim E. Clem (Leesburg), Eugene A. Delgaudio (Sterling) and Bruce E. Tulloch (Potomac), the board's pro-growth Republicans.

"Sounds like one more guy having fun attacking the Republicans," Staton said Friday.

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Posted at 6:21 PM ET, 09/18/2007

Fireball vs. Monopoly Man

The chairman's race in Loudoun County is heating up -- but not in the way you might think.

Three-term incumbent Scott K. York (I), who has been chairman for the past two terms, started off his campaign for reelection this fall not by attacking his opponent but by going after five of his fellow supervisors, all Republicans, whom he has dubbed "the gang of five."

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Posted at 4:27 PM ET, 09/13/2007

Another Civil War?

Movie director Ron Maxwell has been in Loudoun County stumping for at least two Republican candidates in this fall's elections: Greg Ahlemann, who aims to be the next sheriff of Loudoun County, and Jill Holtzman Vogel, who hopes to succeed retiring Virginia Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester).

Maxwell made the Civil War epics "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals," the latter of which Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter called "something of a Confederate Honor Restoration Project."

What the two candidates have in common is a very early commitment to cracking down on illegal immigration, a position that has become all the rage since Prince William County passed its much-publicized resolution this summer.

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Posted at 10:22 AM ET, 09/ 6/2007

About the Bloggers- Sandhya Somashekhar

Sandhya Somashekhar (pronounced Sahn-di-ya So-ma-shaker) has been working in the Loudoun County bureau of the Washington Post for the past year, where she has written on a variety of subjects including a high-voltage power line planned for rural Northern Virginia. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley. Last year, she was part of a team of former Berkeley students who won the George Polk award for radio reporting. Prior to graduate school, she spent three years covering education for a daily newspaper in suburban San Francisco. Despite her six-year stint in California, she is a local girl who grew up in Bel Air, Md.

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