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Democratic Delegate Draws Criticism For Fundraising During Shooting

Del. Levine speaking in Alexandria in 2014
Del. Levine speaking in Alexandria in 2014. (Photo: John Devine/Creative Commons)

Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) drew flak on social media on Wednesday for using a shooting in Philadelphia in a fundraising push that raised $400.

Six police officers were shot in an 8 hour standoff with Philadelphia police officers on Wednesday. As that shooting was unfolding, Levine took to Facebook to call for campaign contributions, updating the number of affected officers as the shooting continued.

“At least t̶h̶r̶e̶e̶ f̶i̶v̶e̶ six police officers shot so far,” Levine wrote. “I'd be willing to lay money that the shooter(s) is/are using the kinds of mass-killing military-style assault weapons that I am trying to ban in Virginia.”

The suspect carried a semi-automatic rifle and several handguns, according to the BBC.

Levine, a progressive radio host and TV pundit, went on to urge supporters to donate to his campaign fund, promising to deploy the dollars to help select Democrats.

“For every dollar donated today up to $10,000, I will give $2 from my campaign to a Democratic candidate who supports universal background checks and an assault weapons ban,” Levine wrote.

The post raised $400, according to Levine. The delegate said he'll chip in another $800 from his campaign fund to one or several Democratic candidates, whom he hasn't selected yet.

Levine’s Facebook post came in the wake of the Republican-led General Assembly’s vote to recess a July special session on gun violence until November 18.  GOP lawmakers argued the session, which was called by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam in the wake of a shooting in Virginia Beach, was hasty and politically suspect. 

Levine’s critics said he was capitalizing on a tragedy. A critical Tweet from Democratic political consultant Ben Tribbett drew likes from Democratic Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) and Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond), while conservatives and others piled on to Levine’s Facebook post.

Tribbett said in a phone interview that Levine was embarrassing the Democratic Party in Virginia, and urged Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn to condemn Levine’s post.

“He’s a showboat, and he continually tries to make everything about him, no matter how coarse or inappropriate,” Tribbett said. “If he was a congressman pulling these kinds of behaviors, Nancy Pelosi would call him out on the carpet publicly for it.”

Filler-Corn did not respond to a request for comment. 

In an interview on Thursday, Levine expressed no regrets for the post. He said passing new legislation required a new, Democratic majority, which in turn required money. 

“As I’m watching in horror at events as they occur, I’m thinking, damn it, we need to do something,” he said.

This story has been updated with fundraising totals provided by Del. Levine.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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