FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, CRAIG CARPER – Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch joins 88.9 WCVE’s Craig Carper for this week’s political analysis. Topics include a look at how Governor-elect Northam’s administration is shaping up, the potential final make-up of the state legislature, and the announcement of the Governor-elect’s advisory committee.
CC: Jeff, welcome. We have the pleasure of speaking every Friday, but I’d like to remind listeners that this Sunday night at 6:00 you can hear Jeff, as well as myself, Saraya Wintersmith, and Dr. Quentin Kidd, and Dr. Ravi Perry discussing the year in Virginia politics and the year ahead. That’s this Sunday at 6:00, so please tune in. Good morning, Jeff.
JS: Good morning. As if listeners and viewers don’t suffer through enough in our brief Friday morning visits.
CC: Right, don’t eat beforehand. (laughing)
JS: Or operate power tools.
CC: That’s right. So Jeff, we’re starting to get a look at what this newly elected Northam administration is going to look like.
JS: And there is something of a McAuliffe continuum here, and I don’t know that that’s at all surprising. Of course Virginia is the only state in the nation in which a governor is one term and done. That a Democrat has been elected to succeed a Democrat suggests, if you will, a second term for Terry McAuliffe. The new governor has named as his Chief of Staff, Clark Mercer, who’s been serving in that role to Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam. Suzette Denslow, who has been the Deputy Chief of Staff to Terry McAuliffe will continue in that role, and her portfolio will include engaging the legislature, a greatly changed legislature, for sure. An interesting twist - Rick Brown, who’s been involved in budgets and finance . . .
CC: He comes from the building, Rick Brown.
JS: Exactly, exactly . . . and has served governors Democratic and Republican, is finally getting to retire. He’s been talking about this for years. And as the new Secretary of Finance will be Aubrey Lane, current Secretary of Transportation. I suspect that a lot of people are going to look at that appointment and wonder, “Is there some type of game afoot here? Will Northam try to create an opportunity maybe to snatch a Virginia Beach senator by the name of Frank Wagner as Secretary of Transportation?” Knowing that having carried Virginia Beach, that Northam’s party probably stands a pretty good chance of snapping up that senate seat in a special election. As Dr. Kidd put it last night, this is something of a parlor game. And if it strikes one as wildly cynical, it is. It has been practiced by Democratic and Republican governors, so stay tuned. One other thing that we saw this week, the Governor-elect announced this vast advisory committee. And depending on how one defines the term “lobbyist,” there are anywhere from 20 to 28 people on this committee who are, shall we say, actively or regularly involved in the business of influencing government. I don’t know if that’s all that bad. These people are for the most part pretty experienced in public policy, albeit in the private sector, but it’s going to alarm. And if one bumps around the Democratic blogs this morning, one sees that it has already started to alarm, shall we say, the more progressive elements of the Democratic Party.
CC: Speaking of parlor games, we are all still guessing who is going to hold control of the House of Delegates when they gavel in on January 10, and it may be weeks before we know. There will be several recounts going on that will ultimately determine that.
JS: There are two seats that will decide control of the House, one down on the peninsula in Newport News, a Republican-held seat. There are about ten votes separating apparent winner, possible loser. The district that is generating the greatest interest, maybe there’s a hint of irony in this, is one anchored by Stafford County, the seat of the departing Speaker of the House, Republican Bill Howell. And the dispute up there is, and this is playing out not only before the local electoral board and the state electoral board, but in the courts, specifically the federal courts. Which ballots should be counted, and whether the correct ballots were used? And again, depending on the point in the news cycle, it seems there are about 55 votes right now that are greatly in dispute, and maybe 84 or 85 separating apparent winner and apparent loser.
CC: And briefly, Jeff, I understand that Dave Brat, it came to light in a RTD article, that Congressman Dave Brat has a paid staffer who’s taking on his Facebook critics.
JS: I guess troll for hire on the front page of this morning’s paper. Sarah James is her name. She’s originally from the Richmond area and now lives in Texas, and has been paid $150,000 by the Brat committee to basically push back to the grief that he gets online. Remember all those largely women voters who said they would get in his grill. This was following the Trump election, so I guess turnabout is fair play.
CC: Thanks to Jeff. We will catch up again next week, and please tune in Sunday to hear our political forum.
JS: Good holiday to you.
CC: You as well.