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Superstar Election Support, Northam's Recovery, and Uncertainty Over Former Gov. Wilder: Political Analysis for Friday, October 25, 2019

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Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins VPM News Director for this week's political analysis. Topics include the massive national support for Virginia's General Assembly elections, Northam's recovery from his blackface scandal earlier this year, and update to the sexual harassment allegations against former Governor L. Douglas Wilder.

Phil Liles:  It's Friday, which means our VP of News, Director Craig Carper, as well as columnist Jeff Schapiro with the Richmond Times-Dispatch are in studio.  Good morning to both of you.

Craig Carper:  Good morning, Phil.

Jeff Schapiro:  Good morning.

Liles:  And to both of you - a vice-president, a former vice-president, a couple of prospective presidents, and a make-believe president are campaigning in Virginia for their parties for legislative candidates.  I just loved the make-believe president, and he was here knocking on doors.

Carper:  That's right.  Alec Baldwin, who portrays President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live was knocking doors for Amanda Pohl, who's running for State Senate.  Jeff, I have to say this is really some, some pretty serious firepower, serious firepower for state legislative races.  I've, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this.  Have you?

Schapiro:  And is it art imitating life or life imitating art?  One doesn't know, but all of this is about motivating voters, not convincing them to change their mind.  Maybe put more precisely, these visits are not about voter persuasion; they're about voter mobilization.  Baldwin was brought in by the liberal group People for the American Way.  He made several appearances around the state.  This is all about elevating profiles, generating excitement.  Now in that particular district, this is a Chesterfield district that President Trump, often lampooned by Mr. Baldwin, won by eight percentage points.  And the incumbent, despite some of her public relations challenges, is running as an unrepentant Trump Republican.  And that's probably safe down there.  One of the things that Baldwin did was show up, he said, with a pocket full of quarters, to help Senator Chase with, with her parking problems downtown.  We don't need to get into all of that now, but maybe that was a misstep on his part given some of the challenges he's had with his own behavior, as Doug Wilder might say, relative to parking, though in New York City.  Some of the other headliners - we're going to be seeing Mike Pence; the vice-president is coming in next weekend, next Saturday.  He's going to be down in Virginia Beach, one of the few safe places the vice president can probably campaign.  Virginia Beach, of course, was carried by Trump.   There are several seats down there, House and Senate, that the Democrats believe they are threatening to take.  That the vice-president is down there would certainly be a sign of some concern.  The former vice-president, Joe Biden, will be in Northern Virginia next Sunday, specifically the outer suburbs of Washington DC, those multi-hued outer suburbs where the new Virginians are an important vote.  We're going to see this weekend Kamala Harris helping Democrats with fundraising and voter mobilization in Northern Virginia.  Tom Steyer, the billionaire's going to be down in Virginia Beach by this weekend as well.

Carper:  And we're seeing another sign that Governor Ralph Northam is bouncing back from the blackface scandal, and for the most part, Democrats are backing him.

Schapiro:  This week the governor's PAC posted a digital ad.  It's Northam to camera, imploring people to vote for Democrats for the General Assembly, talking up his successes in league with Democrats and maybe even a few Republicans, specifically healthcare.  And also concern about unfinished business, if you will, specifically doing something about the gun problem in Virginia, certainly after the tragedy in Virginia Beach.  The governor, certainly the polling suggests this, is clawing his way back.  Democrats are happy with that, and even the Democrats who had implored him to give up his job because of that awful embarrassment back in February are now taking his money.  Some of them are very substantial contributions, well into five figures.  That's coming from a PAC, that governor's PAC that this past week reported about $430,000 in contributions.

Carper:  Right and you mentioned former Governor Doug Wilder.  He says he's been cleared of sexual harassment allegations this week.  VCU, his employer, says Wilder's remarks are premature.

Schapiro:  Never a day passes it seems in these parts without another display of Wilder political theater. On Thursday, the former governor wasted no time announcing that he had been cleared of these allegations of sexual harassment brought by a 20-something former aid and student.  The former governor saying that the allegations and hostile ruling had been overruled by an appeals board.  VCU is countering in effect, “not so fast.”  By the way, Sydney Black, the student, is standing by her allegations against Doug Wilder, who by the way is 88 years old. Wilder declaring his innocence.  Does VCU want to publicly risk contradicting him?  I think this is what's going through the governor's mind.  Of course, his name is on the front door of the university’s School of Public Policy.  Does VCU want to risk further tarnishing its name?  By the way, Wilder has recently re-upped as a professor of public policy, $150,000 a year.  Nice part-time sinecure for him.  That contract expires next year.  This is typical Wilder.  He is given to bullying his opponents, in this instance, the university administration.  There is something to be said for embarrassing others into accommodating him.  For example, Wilder sued the former head of the Wilder School as well as the president, Mike Rao, alleging they did nothing about racial and sexual discrimination.  And interestingly enough, the former governor withdrew that suit.

Carper:   That's right.  Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Jeff, we will catch up again next week.

Schapiro:  Great weekend to you.

Carper:  You as well.

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