Political Analysis for Friday, April 26, 2019: Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include Terry McAuliffe staying out of the Presidential race in order to focus on Virginia, current problems facing Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, and a reported altercation between a Capitol police officer and state Senator Amanda Chase.
CC: From WCVE News in Richmond, I'm Craig Carper, and joining me now from the Richmond Times-Dispatch is political columnist and WCVE’s political analyst, Jeff Shapiro. Jeff, good morning and welcome back.
JS: Thank you, Craig. Good to hear your voice again.
CC: Great to have you. While you were out, former Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that he would not seek the Democratic nomination for president of the United States and would instead stay at home to help the Democratic Party rebuild in the wake of the three statewide scandals facing them at the moment. But this return is not without its risks, both for him and for the Party.
JS: No surprise that McAuliffe is not running for president. It may be a surprise, however, that he is not ruling out the possibility of running for governor again in 2021. You know Virginia has this one term and you're done rule, that means governors cannot seek consecutive terms, but this chaos within the Democratic Party attributed to these racial and sexual assaults controversies that have engulfed Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring has the grassroots clamoring for fresh faces two years hence. And there are plenty interested; some just consented to have their names mentioned. Many are African American - Jennifer McClellan, Ken Alexander, a former state senator and the mayor of Norfolk, Jay Jones, a delegate from Hampton roads, and Jeff Bourne, a delegate from here in the Richmond area. Now McAuliffe's flirtation rests on this assumption that an old face may still have appeal, but this is a chance for him to resort to character, if you will, put his money where his mouth is and raise a lot of cash and mobilize voters for Democrats in the November legislative elections. The thinking is there is a leadership void created by the Northam / Fairfax/ Herring calamities, but one wonders what would a do- over for McAuliffe mean and what would it mean for say someone like Levar Stoney, the mayor of Richmond? He's a McAuliffe protégé and has made no secret of his interest in the governorship. Could a McAuliffe gambit in 2021 throw off Stoney's timing or might it mean these guys are reunited as running mates?
CC: And of course Mayor Stoney has his own problems in his current job which may have implications for his future. That goes the same for Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax.
JS: Yes, both of these jefes have their hands full. Stoney is in the middle of this big fight with City Council. It's rooted in the mayor's proposal to increase the property tax as well as impose a tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Just to give you an idea how wild the turn this is taking, a majority on council, 6 of the 9 members, want the City Council to hire its own lawyer. The idea is the lawyer would advise it on what council can and cannot do in regard to the mayor's budget. It's this $757 million behemoth, and those options might include a lawsuit. Now this is not the first time since the city returned to direct election of a mayor in 2004 that a Richmond council has turned to an outside lawyer but it is clearly another sign that tensions between Stoney and City Council are escalating. And one reminder of just how bad things are, that chaotic meeting earlier this week on the proposed budget, Chris Hilbert, the City Council President was quoted as using the “c” word - crisis. As for Justin Fairfax, he is being told he is not welcome at a party thrown by his own Democratic Party. The state Party is refusing a $2,500 donation from the lieutenant governor for a table at the Party’s big fundraiser in June several days after the legislative primaries. The Democratic Party of Virginia says, and these are the Party's words, “It is not comfortable taking Fairfax’s money.” Of course he's been accused by two women of sexual assault. Fairfax denies these allegations, but this is a political problem that threatens to become a legal one for Fairfax if he's charged in the states where these supposed attacks occurred, that would be Massachusetts and North Carolina. Of course, getting the shaft from one’s own party is standard operating procedure these days. Democrats, largely in response to Trump's reported behavior toward minorities and women, are zero tolerance on matters of race and gender.
CC: And it's not quite road rage, but a Richmond legislator apparently has anger management issues.
JS: Oh, Amanda Chase, the Chesterfield senator is in big trouble over a reported dustup with a Capitol police officer. Chase wanted to park her Lexus close by the rear entrance to the General Assembly building, citing concerns about her personal security. One of the Capitol police officers refused to allow the Republican to put her ride there, and Graham Moomaw has a richly detailed story in the Times-Dispatch. It was in Thursday's paper, and in it he reports that the officer, in her own written accounts of this incident last month, said Chase directed foul, abusive language at her, and the officer also said that Chase used a turn of phrase that can only mean trouble for an elective official, “Do you know who I am?” There is this overlay of race as well. The officer is African-American. Chase suggested that the officer perceived her as invoking white privilege. Chase says this has all been blown out of proportion and that the Moomaw story, she said this on Facebook Thursday, is “A nice little hit piece.” There is political fallout. Clearly Chase's district, while still Republican, is in a suburban county, Chesterfield, that is changing, barely carried by Trump and narrowly carried by Ralph Northam. That has Amanda Chase walking a tight rope of sorts, despite her Tea Party roots. Now Chase, and there are two Democrats who want to take her on, wants to be seen as friendly to Democratic-leaning women. You know, she pushed that alternative to the Equal Rights Amendment, but still wants to look tough on those conservative issues. And that's why, for example, she was walking around with a gun on her hip, or so she said. That was during the legislative session. Though she said she did that because she'd been threatened over her resistance to the Equal Rights Amendment. And it was for reasons of personal security, as I said a moment ago, that she says she wanted to park near the General Assembly building.
CC: Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times- Dispatch. Jeff, we will catch up again next week.
JS: Have a great weekend.