Congressional Primary Recap
RTD's Jeff Schapiro recaps last week's Congressional primary contests and other state political news.
Reporter and columnist Jeff Schapiro joins us from the Richmond Times-Dispatch for analysis of Virginia political news.
Good morning, Jeff. TGIF!
Schapiro: Henry, good morning to you. I bet you’re singing the blues! Being up this early…
[Laughs] We have a lot to go over, so let’s get right to it. What’s your take on the congressional primaries earlier this week.
Schapiro: In the 2nd and 5th congressional districts, that’s east of here and southwest of here, respectively, the Republicans choosing Rigell and Hurt, respectively, for their congressional nominations. These are seats that are held by Democrats and the Republicans believe these are accidental pickups by the Democrats, Periello and Nye having won largely on the coattails of Barack Obama, who won’t be on the ballot this year. However, there are independent candidates actual and threatened in both of these districts and there are some concerns on the Republican side that this could scramble the calculus somewhat. Out of the 9th Congressional District where the Republican nomination was settled a long time ago that’s another one Virginia and the nation are watching. Rick Boucher, long time Democratic incumbent, taking on Morgan Griffith, the House minority leader. Doesn’t even live in the district but he’s having a good time pounding Boucher nonetheless on things such as cap and trade, a big issue out in coal country.
Sounds like the battle continues. Well, former Senator Allen is coming to Richmond Saturday, promoting his new book, What Washington Can Learn from the World of Sports. Is this an attempt to clean up his image?
Schapiro: Well, it would certainly look that way, George Allen still living down that “macaca” moment. I think it’s interesting that five years on, as everyone observed the anniversary of Youtube, in print, online and on the air, there were frequent references to that bit of video that went viral and helped bring down George Allen in 2006. He’s clearly looking for a rematch with Jim Webb. I think it’s safe to say Allen has first dibs on that nomination but hasn’t really made up his mind yet. I suspect a lot of what he does going forward has a lot to do with Barack Obama’s condition in this state. Remember, he won here in 2008. If the President is in really crummy shape in Virginia that might help George Allen against Jim Webb, but conversely, if the President is in fairly decent shape and is certainly likely to defend this state, that could work to Jim Webb’s advantage.
It does sound like an interesting book, though. Governor McDonnell is holding a soiree at the Homestead next week, meeting with contributors and bringing along most of the Cabinet and senior staff. What does this event tell you?
Schapiro: Yes, one of the more clever fellows here in town who follows politics wonders if the Governor is actually privatizing the Governor’s office. This is a retreat with the biggest contributors, basically the kitchen cabinet of the McDonnell administration and then some; a chance, perhaps, for the Governor to kind of get back to his roots, if you will. Talking to these advisors and donors about what he should keep in mind going forward and what he wants them to keep in mind going forward, keeping their checkbooks open for him and other Republican candidates. Big legislative election coming in 2011; Republicans clearly want to take back the State Senate and I suspect that, too, will be on the agenda at the Homestead. But also the, as you note, the Cabinet and the Governor’s senior staff will be present and one wonders what signal this sends, that those with the deepest pockets have special access to some of the most important people in state government.
Like they say, straight cash only. Of course, we’ve heard reports on the Virginia Supreme Court ruling on the Episcopal church dispute. Any political ramifications there?
Schapiro: Ah, yes. This is all about those three topics our mothers tell us we shouldn’t discuss: religion, sex and politics. Religion: of course, officials within the Episcopal church. Sex: the dispute of course over the ordination of an openly gay priest as a Bishop in New Hampshire. And politics: Bob McDonnell as Attorney General sided with these breakaway parishes. He is not the first Attorney General to do so. But he sided with the parishes and clearly this was intended as a way to spotlight his conservative bona fides with religious conservatives within the Republican party. But basically a loss for the Attorney General and now Governor.
Well, finally -- and we’ve got about a minute left here-- there are special House elections coming up in Chesterfield and Harrisonburg on Tuesday. Do you expect these seats to remain Republican?
Schapiro: As yes, these are Republican seats, these are districts that tend to vote Republican if you dug one up. The Harrisonburg seat is one that is being watched, perhaps a bit more closely, since the Democrats ran very well in the Presidential election up there, taking the Council seat, taking back City Council. These seats are open because the incumbents, Sam Nixon, Matt Lohr, have taken positions within the administration, Nixon running the computer agency, Lohr running the Ag department.
Well, Jeff, I really appreciate your remarkable insight and I’ll just mention that Senator Allen will be signing his books at a sports bar, appropriately enough. Listen, you have yourself a good weekend.
Schapiro: And you, Henry.
Take care. Jeff Schapiro reports to us from the Richmond Times Dispatch on political news.