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Fundraising, President Trump, and the Opioid Crisis: Political Analysis for Friday, July 19, 2019

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Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include fundraising for the upcoming primaries, President Trump's comments about four congresswoman of color and their impact on Virginia politics, and Virginia's involvement in the opioid crisis.

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: Hi there, Craig.

CC: Now the money primary Republicans who barely control the legislature are still ahead of Democrats in fundraising for the approaching House and Senate elections according to the nonprofit that tracks that, VPAP.

JS: Ah, yes, but the Democrats are closing fast. Overall fundraising, Democrats vs. Republicans in the House – Democrats $6.2 million, Republicans $6.4; in the Senate – Democrats $4.5 million, Republicans $4.9 million. The takeaway here is that both parties recognize the stakes in this election, especially with redistricting ahead, that is those elected this year will redraw the map in 2021. Of course that'll determine General Assembly power for the decade ahead. Democrats are super competitive in fundraising, in the money hunt, if you will, because of this narrowing gap between the parties. Republicans are up only two seats in each chamber. The lobbyists and the pressure groups, a traditional source of cash, sensing a shift in power are as generous with the “outs” as they are with the “ins”. And one should note that the stakes are perhaps a little higher this morning with Nick Freitas’s withdrawal as a candidate for reelection to the House. Freitas, a provocateur, a conservative provocateur of sorts, prospective congressional candidate and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate didn't get his paperwork in on time. This is not the first time this has happened. It is at least the third time. He's the second Republican. Democrats had a problem as well. But now the question is can the Republicans come up with a substitute candidate. As Graham Moomaw said in his story this morning at the Times-Dispatch, this is a self-inflicted wound for Republicans as they attempt to defend that majority, because right now the only official candidate up there in that Fauquier County-anchored district is a Democrat, and that area is as red as they come.

CC: Meanwhile, Trump's racist attack on four congresswomen of color is rippling through Virginia politics.

JS: And I would suggest that what Republicans aren't saying, their absolute silence is speaking volumes about the impact of Trump again. And this time in these “friends and neighbors” legislative elections, the Speaker had nothing to say about this tweet storm or the impact of race on these House elections, and that would include his own. Remember, the Speaker is in a new district, a court-redrawn district led by Democratic estimates is 52% blue. His opponent, Sheila Bynum-Coleman is African American, by the way. She raised more money than Cox did in this latest fund raising period, though the Speaker overall has four and five times the amount on hand as his opponent. So what is Cox doing in this difficult situation? He's talking about issues that have more practical appeal, than partisan appeal. That includes extending this tuition freeze that was put in place this year by the legislature, as well as calling for teacher salaries to be bumped up to the national average. By the way, this has been an objective, a goal, and talked about for over 35 years. And one should note that the Speaker is a retired high school government teacher in Chesterfield.

CC: Right. Some just released data shows a sad distinction for Virginia on opioid painkillers.

JS: Yes, two rural cities, Martinsville and Norton, are number two and number one, respectively, for the highest concentration of these painkillers in the countryside. That’s between 2006 and 2012. This is according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. These were numbers that were made public this week by the judge, the federal judge in Ohio who is going to be hearing that lawsuit against the drug industry over the opioid epidemic. The attorney general in Virginia, Mark Herring, is among those suing one of the big manufacturers, Purdue Pharma. Of course the allegation is that the manufacturer of OxyContin lied about the dangers of the product. And by the way, according to Herring, the company flooded Virginia with nearly 150 million pills and patches of OxyContin between 2008 and 2017. I think the important point here on this opioid epidemic is that with deaths continuing, particularly in the countryside, the problem tracks the economic collapse of rural Virginia.

CC: And all those gun bills are getting a closer look after all.

JS: Yes, but don't hold your breath. The State Crime Commission is going to be looking at them in August, actually holding a public hearing on the 20th. Remember the Republicans refused to act on any gun legislation at that special session called by the, the governor in response to the Virginia Beach mass slayings. All those bills before the Crime Commission are going to be heard primarily by the chairs of the, of the Commission. Rob Bell and Mark Obenshain, a delegate and senator, respectively, are among the most forceful advocates of gun rights. Bottom line, it doesn't appear that anything is going to happen when the Republicans say the legislature is supposed to return after the election for a lame duck session. What is clear here is that nothing in the way of substantive gun control will be put in place in Virginia until, and if, Democrats take back the legislature.

CC: And with just about 30 seconds left, Joe Morrissey, the bad boy of Richmond politics, will be writing laws again as a legislator, but not a lawyer legislator.

JS: Ah yes, the Supreme Court is refusing to reinstate Morrissey's law license. We have discussed many numbers of times the salacious details surrounding the legal action against Morrissey that has resulted in the loss of his license. But his election to the Senate of course seems assured, having defeated Rosalyn Dance. But this has Democrats very nervous. They're worried about Morrissey gamesmanship, perhaps aligning with the Republicans, perhaps using that to end up on the Courts Committee where there are non-lawyers who write laws. But I'm not sure there's ever been a disbarred lawyer writing laws.

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

JS: Have a cool weekend.

CC: Yes, we'll try.

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