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New Laws, Wyatt Wins HD-97th Nom, And National Democratic Groups Focus On Virginia: Political Analysis For June 28, 2019

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Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include new laws going into effect, Scott Wyatt was declared the Republican nominee in House District 97, and the influence of national Democratic groups on Virginia's elections.

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. Hi, Jeff, how are you?

JS: Hey Craig, how are you?

CC: Doing well. We're three days off from a slew of new laws taking effect here in the Commonwealth. If Virginians are driving through a construction zone, they'd better put down their cell phones. Anything else that residents of the Commonwealth should be aware of?

JS: Oh, yes. Young smokers, young tobacco users are going to have to be a little bit older to do so legally, 21, under a law that the tobacco industry shepherded through the Virginia legislature.

CC: Right, and this week the governing body of the Virginia Republican Party in effect declared Scott Wyatt the party's nominee for a contested House seat anchored in Hanover County, held by incumbent Chris Peace who angered the conservative grassroots by supporting Medicaid expansion.

JS: Yeah, Chris Peace has not been having a good couple of weeks. What looked to be a likely nomination on his part, with a presto-chango adjustment in the nominating process this hasn't worked out. The Central Committee, that’s again the governing body of the party, certified, in effect certified Wyatt, the nominee. Now the Board of Elections, which controls the ballot, hasn't said anything yet. And so this has led some people to believe that maybe another shoe or two is going to drop. And of course, Chris Peace has not ruled out the possibility of taking this matter to court. This struggle between Wyatt and Peace is of course a reflection of a larger conflict within the Republican Party. We've been seeing it lurch even further right during the Trump era. Now, what Peace does, how he does it will be watched very closely. It's no secret he would like to remain active in politics. What he will do, we just don't know. I wonder if maybe he'll feel a little unencumbered by all of this. You know the legislature's coming back in a special session in response to the gun violence in Virginia Beach, perhaps not likely to do something about gun, gun restrictions, tightening them. Might, might Peace, who is forcefully pro-gun during this campaign, maybe be a little less so in this, in this session? We'll, we'll see.

CC: And National Democratic groups are throwing a lot of money at Virginia, substantially higher than usual, higher dollar amounts than usual to help the party take back the General Assembly in November.

JS: And these are not unfamiliar names, at least as non-Virginians. Tom Steyer, the green billionaire, has been active in Democratic politics on a continuing basis pretty much since the 2013 cycle. He is targeting eleven Republican-held seats that the Democrats think they can pick up in the House and the Senate. His target audience, millennials and Gen Xers, who combined make up a majority of voters in Virginia. Emily's List and Priorities USA, organizations big on electing women, are also spending some big money, about $600,000. Most of it's going to be going into digital advertising. Of course, the stakes this year could not be higher. The House and Senate elected this fall will decide legislative and congressional boundaries in the 2021 redistricting.

CC: And the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, issued a ruling in which the court says the judiciary has no role in deciding partisan gerrymandering. That may have come too late for Virginia Republicans, but it could help down range.

JS: Oh, wouldn't you have liked to have heard this if you were a House Republican leader? Of course, the federal courts threw out those Virginia boundaries, those Virginia House boundaries as racial gerrymandering. The Republicans argue that it was a partisan gerrymander, and that there really was no place for the courts in this matter, the courts having affirmed partisan gerrymanders as constitutional. I wonder if this might embolden, this new decision might embolden the Republicans in the House and Senate elections. Maybe there's a retreat afoot for nonpartisan independent redistricting, whatever one cares to call it. This might give Republicans a chance to perpetuate, if they could pull it off, perpetuate their majorities into the 2030’s.

CC: And just about a minute left. Ahead of the special legislative session on guns called by Governor Northam, two Virginia cities are debating control on firearms.

JS: And that includes Virginia Beach, the site of that mass shooting last month in which 12 people died. There are residents down there circulating petitions arguing that local government employees should be permitted to carry their firearms on the job. In the city of Richmond here, Mayor Stoney wants to ban guns at city buildings and parks. Of course, one of those parks is the site of an unsolved shooting of a little girl. This will fall through the General Assembly. The local governments do not have the power to enact these prohibitions. Of course, the pro-gun Republican majority in the legislature doesn't seem much interested, so we might, might not see much traction on this issue. Footnote: of course, the Northam administration has been holding these town hall type meetings around the state to kind of focus public attention on the gun problem. So too has the National Rifle Association, a big pro-gun group, it's holding a meeting in Virginia Beach on Monday.

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

JS: Have a red, white and blue holiday.

CC: That’s right.

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