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Political Analysis for Friday, February 15, 2019


Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Today's analysis focuses on the various problems surrounding Democratic leadership in Virginia.

CC: From WCVE News in Richmond, I'm Craig Carper, and I’m joined now by Richmond Times Dispatch columnist and WCVE’s political analyst, Jeff Shapiro. Good morning, Jeff.

JS: Hi there, Craig.

CC: Good to see you. We're now entering the third week of the triple scandals facing our top three statewide elected officials. This week Governor Ralph Northam emerged from his Capitol Square . . .

JS: Lock down.

CC: A bit.

JS: Let’s call it a lock down.

CC: Right, and we've had new developments in the, an additional allegation against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, as well.

JS: And then the attorney general, sort of the Brutus in this drama, has had to answer for his black face moment. Starting with Northam, the governor is now trying to look like a governor again. He met with the budget negotiators this week. It was interesting who didn't show up - Luke Torian, an African American Democrat from Prince William County, the likely Appropriations Chair in the event of a Democratic take back of the House. The governor emphasized his priorities, and surprise, surprise, these are priorities often emphasized by African American legislators - more money for impoverished schools, housing protections, that sort of thing. The other development that one wonders may ease the Northam reemergence, and that's that Amazon story out of New York, the retreat from New York City, an another opportunity maybe for the governor to change the subject from himself. This is likely going to mean more jobs in Northern Virginia where the other East Coast hub is supposed to be established by Amazon, though a lot of the local people are very nervous about a really big overrun. The other thing that we need to point out is that various attempts at damage control by the governor have been embarrassingly ineffective in his ability to mangle his facts, even in the spoon-fed interviews with the Washington Post and CBS News. You know, probably the biggest boner in that appearance on Face The Nation the governor describes the first Africans in Virginia in 1619, these are captives brought here involuntarily, as indentured servants. Of course, next week, the governor begins what is being described as his apology tour. The first stop will be at Virginia Union University, a historically black school here in Richmond. And very much on display one thinks will be the generational division among African Americans on this controversy. Older African Americans tend to be supportive of the governor, younger blacks less so and continuing to press for the governor's resignation.

CC: And Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is toughing it out. He's asking for an investigation by the General Assembly of allegations of sexual assault. This is after a sort of failed impeachment attempt or an impeachment attempt that never quite got off the ground this week.

JS: Now we have a second alleged #MeToo moment. The second, an accusation by a woman who claims that she was attacked by Fairfax as an undergraduate at Duke University where they were both students, Duke, of course, in North Carolina. The Republican Speaker, Kirk Cox, is not ruling out some sort of investigation. But as far as this impeachment call, initiated by a Democrat from Northern Virginia, Patrick Hope, it quickly ran out of steam. It is a, if you will, constitutional terra incognito. The Democrats didn't know much about what Hope had in mind, and the Republicans, just barely in the majority, aren't quite sure how to proceed.

CC: And a week, gosh, maybe a week or so after Herring alluded, or Attorney General Mark Herring announced that or revealed that he had worn blackface while dressed as a rapper as a UVA undergrad, he's laying low, hiding out.

JS: Yeah, and of course the consequences of all of this for his announced campaign for governor are clearly considerable. The attorney general, you know, jumped on the “Ralph Must Resign Bandwagon” and then had to acknowledge this kind of “oops” moment. Clearly the sequence of events exposed sort of the ruthlessness with which Herring jumped on that, if you will, band wagon, and now a maneuver that clearly backfired.

CC: We've got about a minute left, Jeff, but there is some legislating and lawmaking and deal making happening at the Capitol. Governor Ralph Northam has given a thumbs up on a nearly $1 billion give-back to Virginia taxpayers.

JS: And of course this is a measure of how little leverage the governor really has. This is a proposal that it seems to be far more generous to areas of the state where there aren't a lot of Republican voters. Nonetheless, the Republican's believe that this is a great issue on which to run. One would point out that of course the Trump tax cut, which in large part is fueling all of this additional cash that Republicans now want to give back to Virginians, that Trump tax cut did save the House of Representatives for the Republicans.

CC: Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times Dispatch. Jeff, we will catch up again next week.

JS: See you then.

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