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Special Session Flops, Wilder VCU Investigation Results, And Fairfax Produces Eyewitness: Political Analysis for July 12, 2019


Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE's Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include this week's failed special session on Gun Control, the results of VCU's investigation into former Governor L. Douglas Wilder over unwanted advances, and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax produces an eyewitness in his defense.

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. Hello, Jeff.

JS: Howdy, Dad.

CC: Yeah, we're expecting our second child and very excited. Thanks, Jeff. At the state capitol this week, Republicans shut down debate over post-Virginia Beach gun restrictions before it even began.

JS: Yes, and the Republicans are ducking votes in the House and Senate on proposals that were even popular with some Republicans. And one would argue that this seems to hand an issue to the Democrats for these important legislative elections. I think one can sum up what occurred on Tuesday this way - they came, they convened, they did nothing. And that was expected. Northam, Governor Northam had called legislators back to Richmond for this special session as a reaction and response to the mass killings in Virginia Beach, 12 of course. The Republicans immediately counter that this is nothing more than an attempt by the governor to divert attention from the blackface calamity in February. There were about 10 proposals pushed by the administration. Many of these had already been rejected by the Republicans who control the General Assembly. They included universal background checks, restoring one hand gun a month, banning military style firearms, bump stocks, silencers, confiscating weapons from high-risk individuals. This is the so-called “red flag” provision. There was a lot of talk, for about an hour and a half, and the legislature convened at noon on Tuesday. Most of what we heard was outrage expressed by Democrats. And then, voila, the Republicans announced that all bills are going to be sent to the State Crime Commission, that the legislature will reconvene perhaps in a lame duck session in November after the election, and then the Assembly adjourned. And there are several possible explanations for this. First, the Republicans are trying to protect vulnerable delegates and senators. That includes some here in the Richmond area. These are Republicans who are in a no-win situation. Do they irritate the anti-gun crowd or do they irritate the pro-gun crowd? So these are votes that Republicans need from both. Second, there was a chance that some of these bills, including legislation that would ban firearms in government office buildings, which the Virginia Beach slayings took place in a municipal building, that they might work their way onto the floor, might even pass, but in all likelihood they were going to be killed on one side or the other. Third, and perhaps this is the bottom line, the Republicans wanted to make clear that in their view, what Northam was doing was nothing more than a partisan stunt. Those were the speaker's words, Marvin, M. Kirkland. Cox, the M. by the way stands for Marvin. Republicans complained that they never had a say in whether this session could even be called, so they reacted with the partisan fervor. It’s somewhat Newtonian, I would argue. You know, for every action there is an equal reaction. And so the day after the session when the administration announced that Virginia was again the number one state in which to do business, this is the CNBC report card, the Republicans said this was their achievement and essentially their achievement alone.

CC: And an internal investigation at VCU shows that former governor L. Douglas Wilder, aged 88, kissed a 20 year old student without her consent.

JS: Ah, yes, making a pass allegedly at this young woman. This perceived #metoo moment is clearly causing considerable distress for the Democrat, and one would argue his enduring silence is perhaps a measure of that. The usually friendly editorial page of my newspaper is demanding that Wilder resign from VCU, he teaches at a school named for him, unless he can offer some explanation of what has occurred. And again, the past governor has remained silent. This is, this investigation and the, the immediate report on this investigation were made public just as Wilder's $150,000 a year contract with the school had been renewed. One wonders if Wilder were to leave the university, would he still be eligible for some sort of pay out? There are clearly strict regulations at VCU against this alleged behavior. But here's the bottom line, Wilder is a breakthrough figure as the nation's first elected black governor. His election was a statement against discrimination and harassment, and now Wilder is accused of it.

CC: And Justin Fairfax, the Lieutenant Governor, mired in a sexual assault scandal now says he has a witness, someone who was present when he allegedly raped a fellow Duke undergrad.

JS: And this just gets weirder and weirder and weirder. Fairfax says this witness will say that this encounter was consensual. It is another odd twist in a controversy that will likely sink Fairfax politically, if it hasn't already. The longer this goes on, the greater the likelihood the Democrats are going to toss him over, looking for other statewide prospects. And we've already seen others queuing up. That includes Jennifer McClellan, a state senator from here in Richmond, and Jennifer Carroll Foy, a delegate, a freshman delegate from Northern Virginia. The big mystery here is why didn't Fairfax when this scandal initially erupted say right away to prosecutors in North Carolina and Massachusetts, there is a second sexual assault allegation brewing up there, to immediately and fully investigate these charges? Instead, it is drip, drip, drip, with one damning detail after another.

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

JS: You as well.

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