Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Political Analysis: Gun Control Special Session, Primary Day, and Potential Impeachment

WCVE Political Analysis

Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include aftershocks from last week's mass shooting in Virginia Beach, the upcoming primary election, and another Virginia legislator talks about impeachment of President Trump.


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 to see you, Craig.

CC: It's been a difficult week in Virginia. Following the mass shooting in Virginia Beach one week ago, there are policy and political aftershocks. Governor Ralph Northam has called the legislature back to Richmond, likely later this month to act on a half-dozen Democratic authored gun control bills that the GOP killed this winter.

JS: And the Republicans who control the legislature of Virginia, albeit barely, are balking somewhat at the governor's call for a special session, suggestions that the Democrat is politicizing the deaths of these 12 people. That's the filter, sadly, through which we have to consider these events. And one wonders, does someone like Ralph Northam and his Democratic Party, do they win by losing? Clearly there's going to be considerable Republican resistance to additional gun restrictions. Does this become an issue for the fall, particularly in competitive districts that are now held by Republicans? There are approximately 6 in the Senate, perhaps 15 in the House. And some of these seats are actually in Virginia Beach. But this tragedy, and of course this is the second mass shooting in Virginia since 2007, the big one being Virginia Tech, does this tragedy give Northam an opportunity to sort of change the subject from himself. Almost four months ago to the day the story began unfolding in Virginia Beach, of course the governor’s blackface calamity began unfolding. Some of the ideas that the governor has in mind for the legislature to consider:

· Doing away with bump stocks because they figured prominently, of course, in the Vegas shooting.

  • Silencers, they figured in this episode.

  • Also large capacity magazines. They were an element in the Virginia Tech story, as well as the Virginia Beach story.

  • Doing away with these or prohibiting these combat style weapons.

  • Restoring one of the few bipartisan gun restrictions around the one handgun a month law. That was the brainchild of a Democratic governor, Doug Wilder in ’93, and it was repealed by a Republican governor, Bob McDonnell in 2012.

  • Also universal background checks.

The Republicans are not interested in more gun laws. They are interested in more and tougher criminal penalties. And that includes something that the governor says he will resist, minimum mandatory prison terms. There’s a racial component to all of this, as I think we have discussed during the governor’s earlier difficulties. Guns generally are issues on which there are expected positions. Democrats are supposed to be in favor of gun control. Republicans are supposed to be in favor of gun rights. We have seen in Richmond that on this issue very often the parties are talking past each other. And of course gerrymandering institutionalizes this tendency.

CC: As you mentioned, all of this is happening in the midst of the legislative campaigns. Tuesday is primary day, approximately 35 Democratic and GOP legislative nomination contests will be held. We think about 10 or so of those are close.

JS: And the rule generally is within these Democratic primaries, they are center-left / far-left contests. The Republican primaries, they are center-right / far-right contests. One that we're watching closely up in the Valley, state Senator Emmett Hanger, a Republican who was instrumental in the implementation of Medicaid expansion after that long, long fight between the Republicans and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, he is facing a challenge from the right. Dick Saslaw, the Democratic minority leader in the senate is facing two opponents. His big problem seems to be his coziness with “corporate” of Virginia. One that we're watching, maybe if only out of curiosity, the Rosalind Dance - Joe Morrissey Senate Democratic primary. It is Joe being Joe. And Bob Thomas, who was the handpicked successor to Speaker Bill Howell outside of Fredericksburg in an increasingly blue district, he is also challenged from the right because of his support of Medicaid expansion.

CC: And we've got about a minute to go, but there's another Virginia Democrat in congress who is using the I-word, but calling or stopping short of flat out calling for impeachment.

JS: Yes, that is Jennifer Wexton, a former state senator from Loudoun County. She said at a town meeting in a fairly Republican stretch of her district, that impeachment is, as she put it, on the table. She hasn't gone so far as to actually call for the president's impeachment. Don Beyers, the only Virginia Democrat in congress who has flat out called for impeachment. This is clearly a recognition by Congresswoman Wexton of the continuing distaste, enduring distaste for Donald Trump in Virginia. And that drives parties in the behavior in both parties, in state and legislative elections, and we’re wondering, will it do so again this year? Of course, the Democrats picked up 15 seats in the House of Delegates in 2017, largely because of pushback to Trump. And one wonders if the aftershocks of the Mueller investigation and the continuing impeachment chatter will ripple through the elections. This year, we actually made a little bit more latitude on this, Abigail Spanberger here in the Richmond area and Elaine Luria down in Hampton Roads, fresh woman Democrats from Trump- carried districts.

CC: Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times- Dispatch. Jeff, until next time.

JS: Have a good weekend.

Related Stories