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Political Analysis: A Hanover Hangover, Medicaid Expansion Surges and Northam Reemerges After Scandal

Craig Carper

Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include the struggle for the House of Delegates seat in Hanover, a surge in Medicaid enrollments after expansion and Governor Ralph Northam begins to emerge in the wake of a yearbook photo scandal.

CC: From WCVE News in Richmond, I'm Craig Carper. Joining me now from the Richmond Times-Dispatch is political columnist and WCVE’s political analyst, Jeff Shapiro. Good morning, Jeff.

JS: Good morning, Craig.

CC: Jeff, the Republican versus Republican fight over a House of Delegates seat anchored in Hanover County is a noisy reminder of the struggle within the GOP between the right and the far right.

JS: Yes, the hangover in Hanover makes the political standoff in Venezuela look orderly. Chris Peace, the incumbent is facing a challenge from Scott Wyatt. He's a member of the Board of Supervisors over there. What is uncertain at this point this morning is who's the nominee going to be? Wyatt claims that he has already been duly nominated in a convention. Chris Peace says he is anticipating being nominated tomorrow in a mini-primary, canvas is the term of art within the, within the party. There is this procedural fight that has been unfolding slowly in various corners of that district and, and beyond. It's a question of who is going to participate in this process and when are these decisions going to be made? It's true arcana and ultimately would have to be resolved by the state Republican Party and perhaps a court. Now the state courts have traditionally deferred to the parties in these nomination disputes, but that doesn't mean there won't be some intervention here. The Republicans are not alone when it comes to these nasty fights, these nasty internal fights. Up in Northern Virginia Dick Saslaw, the Senate Democratic Leader, he's in his first primary since the 1970s. He's facing two challengers, both of whom are clobbering him for being too cozy with Dominion Energy. So this is emblematic of a larger struggle within the Democratic Party of, you know, center left, far left. And of course in the case of the Peace House district, that is center right versus far right.

CC: And just a little over a year past the expansion of the state's Medicaid programs, signups are surging in Virginia's red countryside.

JS: You know, and this is a factor in that Peace race as well. He's getting a lot of heat for breaking ranks and supporting Medicaid expansion last year. Peace makes the point that if you look at some of the figures out of the rural areas of that district, that expansion is actually helping people. Ned Oliver over at the Virginia Mercury, former colleague at the Times-Dispatch reported the other day that the majority of people who've enrolled for healthcare since Virginia was fully brought under the umbrella of, of Obamacare, most of them live in territory carried by Donald Trump. Of course the president wanted to do away with Obamacare. This seems to confirm a lot of the research early in the debate in which expansion advocates said the highest numbers of people without health insurance outside of the Democratic cities would be in the Republican countryside.

CC: And Governor Ralph Northam is reemerging as a Democratic Party leader.

JS: Ah, but you had to go on Twitter to pick this one up. Over the holiday weekend he was down on the Peninsula. He appeared with about a half dozen Democratic legislative candidates. Pictures of, of that meeting and others have been moving all over social media. So it's a sign one would argue that even after this very inconclusive investigation into the blackface photo that had many demanding his resignation, Democrats are not running from him as many had predicted. And Northam doesn't seem to be running from his presumed responsibilities as the titular head of the Democratic Party. I think this came up in a debate you moderated . . .

CC: That’s right.

JS: . . . recently in this area. In Virginia Beach there's a three-way Democratic primary for an open Republican Senate seat and one of the candidates, a retired navy officer, says she stands with Northam, and she's challenging the presumed front-runner for that nomination, that delegate, a freshman delegate, Cheryl Turpin, to indicate whether she's prepared to do the same. And of course, the blackface scandal is something that the Republicans continue to emphasize, saying that the Democrats have only delivered embarrassments to Virginia, Republicans claiming they're delivering on issues such as tuition freezes at colleges and universities.

CC: And Virginia Democrats remain largely silent on presidential impeachment.

JS: Yeah, and that includes some of those Democratic newbies from Trump-friendly territory - Abigail Spanberger in this area, Elaine Luria down in Hampton Roads. The Democrats are really good at expressing, you know, outrage and dismay over what Trump has allegedly been doing and the fervor was renewed by Mueller’s remarks this week. But so far only one member of the congressional delegation, one Democratic member of the congressional delegation, Delegate Don Beyer has called for the president's impeachment. Of course, he's in a solidly blue district.

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

JS: Have a great weekend.

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