Trump uses Virginia, a state he didn’t carry, as a backdrop for his proposed military buildup. On Thursday (3/2), Trump visits Newport News Shipbuilding, one of the state’s biggest manufacturers; among its biggest employers and one likely to prosper under Trump’s call for a 10 percent increase in the Pentagon budget.
Democratic congressman whose district includes shipyard, Bobby Scott, welcomes the proposed buildup as jobs-generator, but objects to financing Defense Department with cuts in human services.
The trip was likely overshadowed by the latest twist in the Russian election-hack: A.G. Sessions disqualifying himself from the federal criminal investigation. Virginia’s Warner is No. 2 on Senate Intel Committee, which is conducting its own investigation. He’s scolded the Republican chairman, Richard Burr of North Carolina, for potentially politicizing the investigation by – at the White House’s request – spinning reporters.
Republicans this week lose redistricting battles in a Virginia court and the U.S. Supreme Court. A circuit judge in Richmond refuses Republican request to forgo trial this month challenging about a dozen House and Senate districts. OneVirginia21, a redistricting reform group, says the districts violate the Virginia Constitution – that they are not compact and don’t reflect the shared community interests. The Supreme Court directed a trial court to reconsider its decision upholding 11 majority-black House districts. Democrats say they’re unfair to African-Americans, particularly in areas where – because of diverse populations – blacks are elected with multiracial support. Republicans confident they’ll prevail. McAuliffe attempts political points on hyper-political redistricting. Governor sends letter to Howell and Cox, urging Republicans to quit federal court fight over House redistricting plan and allow an independent panel to redraw the 11 disputed House seats, most of which are in the Richmond-Norfolk corridor. Republicans and their lawyers, in a conference call with reporters, say McAuliffe is guilty of gamesmanship; that it’s too soon to stop litigating. This is another reminder that Republicans are playing for time. If they can get through this election; if a Republican is elected governor and the GOP retains its majorities in the House and Senate in 2019, then they can draw a plan in the 2021 redistricting that perpetuates their legislative power for perhaps another decade. The Republicans are paying their private lawyers with public funds – at least $2.6 million, so far.
In something of a Trump effect, Democrats are queuing up to challenge Republican incumbents in the House of Delegates. Clearly, Democrats are hoping distaste for the president in Virginia translates to gains in the legislature. So far, at least 30 Republican-held seats are likely to be contested by Democrats. That’s about half the 66 that Republicans currently control. The GOP’s 2-to-1 majority is magnified by hyper-partisan gerrymandering. That, combined with low voter turnouts in off years, will likely protect the Republican majority.
But the GOP is taking no chances. It’s not talking about Trump, preferring to emphasize non-partisan themes such as pay raises for public employees.
A controversial Republican is retiring. Rick Morris – accused of domestic abuse – says he’s retiring to spend more time with his family. Since charges were filed last year, he had refused demands by Howell et. al to resign.