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The Anniversary of Slavery, Controversial Tweets, and Election Campaigning: Political Analysis | August 30, 2019

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Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of slavery in America,  the resignation of a government appointee over controversial tweets, and the upcoming elections in Virginia.

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 morning.

CC:  This week Virginia and the nation commemorated the 400th anniversary of what John Calhoun called the “peculiar institution of North American slavery,” which was born here on the Chesapeake Bay. And Governor Ralph Northam played a surprising role in the occasion, Jeff.

JS:  Of course we've discussed the arrival of the 20 and odd enslaved Africans at Old Point Comfort, near where Fort Monroe and Hampton stands.  The juxtaposition of that event with the meeting of the first General Assembly, that first foray into representative democracy in the New World.  And here we are four centuries later, still trying to reconcile those events, one in which liberty is extended to people, another in which it is stolen from them.  And that's where Ralph Northam comes in.  And because of that blackface calamity, he’s been spending many months, about six, clawing back, apologizing for that and placing a special emphasis on racial equity.  And at Fort Monroe where these, this observance occurred, Northam talked about his own journey on race, and what he'll be doing or what he would like to do to change how the story of race in Virginia is told.  That included an announcement of a commission to recommend ways to improve how Virginia teaches African American history.  When he mentioned that, his audience, and this was a surprise and I think it was clearly a surprise for, for Northam as well, rose in a standing ovation.   And that was the first of two that the governor received in a speech that was interrupted 19 times by applause.  And perhaps the reaction of the audience, and this is telling, this was a bipartisan multi-racial audience.  And there were a number of people there, including two United States senators, fellow Democrats, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, who were among those who had demanded Northam’s resignation back in February.  Is this a turning point for Northam?  We'll see.  Let's see what happens after the General Assembly election.  If the Democrats would take back the legislature, I suspect, all will be forgiven.

CC:  That's right.  A Northam political appointee this week quit after an uproar over her anti-Catholic tweets and other alarming statements on social media.

JS:  Ah, yes, and speaking of a troubling juxtaposition given what the governor had been doing over the weekend, his emphasis on diversity and ethnic, cultural, racial and religious harmony.  Gail Gordon Donagan is an activist, Democratic activist from Northern Virginia.  The governor named her to the Virginia Council on Women, and this is a board that's all about promoting tolerance and diversity.  But it was clear that Donagan would have to go after some of her intemperate remarks on Twitter.  The Catholic leadership at the state said it was a time for her to go.  There was not unanimity on this.  There were some influential people who were very disappointed in this forced resignation, among them her biggest promoter, Dick Saslaw, the Senate Minority Leader.  By the way, credit Patrick Wilson at the Times-Dispatch for smoking out this story.  There was another departure this week, one that has little to do with controversy, political or personal.  Dr. Jennifer Lee is leaving the state Medicaid Agency.  She was the governor's point person in carrying out the expansion of Medicaid.  And of course that was a hard fought victory for Northam his first year in office.

CC:  Jeff, my state senator was out door-knocking this past weekend.  We had a brief chat and, we'll be having the first of a steady stream of candidates coming in here for the upcoming legislative races in November.  But Virginia lawmakers and those seeking office aren't the only ones doing some politicking here in Virginia; presidential traffic is also picking up.

JS:  Joe Biden was through Richmond this week for a fundraiser.  We talked a bit last week about the establishment Democrat types who are supporting him.  Beto O’Rourke is back in Virginia today making stops in Charlottesville and two very red areas of the state, Wytheville and Bland County.  Of course, Charlottesville, the scene of that white nationalist violence two years ago.  And that's one of the pegs for the O'Rourke visit.  A part of his recalibrated candidacy is trying to call attention to the things that Trump has done, allegedly, that harm his own constituents, including those very, those in the very red areas of the state.  Kamala Harris, by the way, announced some endorsements today that will give a little help to Jennifer McClellan, I believe your state senator, putting out a fundraising email for this perspective statewide candidate, though among the endorsers this morning was not the senator from Richmond.

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

JS:  Have a good Labor Day.

CC:  You too.

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