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Halifax County churches hit by thieves during Sunday services

The Halifax County Sheriff’s Office is investigating several larcenies at places of worship throughout the county.

Fiber-to-the-home gains toehold in county

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative has completed the initial stage of fiber-to-the-home internet service in Halifax County with the deployment of roughly 5.5 miles of fiber optic cable in the Clays Mill…

Halifax trustees tap members to work with supervisors on facilities plan


Comets’ season ends

Fall to GW in regional opener





Aftermath / November 08, 2018
The day after the election is a day for post mortems (if I actually knew Latin I wouldn’t be bothering with this observation) so let’s begin with our lone contested local race in Halifax County: Dexter Gilliam won his bid for Halifax mayor, but it would be a shame to leave matters there without giving a shout-out to his opponent, Ronnie Duffey. Both gentleman had the gumption to run for town office, no small deed in this cynical and adrift era where Real Housewives of New Jersey is a thing, and for that they deserve our gratitude. It’s good to have a choice when you go into the polling station, even if the stakes are relatively small. (No offense to the Town of Halifax, it’s where I grew up, after all.)

The day before the election, Halifax Councilman Jack Dunavant had a Viewpoint letter in this newspaper endorsing Gilliam for mayor and urging Duffey to stay engaged in local politics, perhaps by running for Town Council at some point in the future. It’s a good thought. There are obvious limits to what anyone can achieve in local elective office, but that shouldn’t blind us to the importance of having a live-and-kicking hometown political scene and an element of choice when it comes to selecting the people who represent us. So congratulations to Dexter (a friend) and thank you, Ronnie, and may others follow your laudable example.

Moving on:

» The hot contest on the ballot in Halifax County was the race for the 5th District Congressional seat being relinquished by Republican incumbent Tom Garrett. Accidental candidate Denver Riggleman (no lie, he was selected by 37 people in a room after Garrett dropped out) vanquished Leslie Cockburn, the Democratic nominee, by about 6.5 percent in the 5th District, which covers a swath of Virginia that Mongol invaders would have a difficult time overcoming. (Technically, the district runs from the North Carolina state line all the way to the Loudoun County border.) This year’s outcome represents improvement for Democrats: Donald Trump carried the 5th District by 11 points in 2016, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie won by 9 points in 2017 even as he was getting smoked in the rest of Virginia by a reverse nine-point margin by now-governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat.

That’s the good news, I suppose. The bad news is that the 5th remains pretty much out of reach to Democrats without a candidate running on something other than the standard party line. As a candidate, Cockburn had positives and negatives, as any such candidate would: She’s an aspirational figure for many professional women of the sort who did as much as any constituency in pushing Democrats over the line in House races around the country (more on that in a bit). An accomplished journalist and documentary maker, Cockburn exudes intelligence and grit, and she proved herself to be a diligent campaigner. Alas, strengths and weaknesses are oftentimes two sides of the same coin, and “nationally recognized journalist” and the 5th District of Virginia are not natural fits. (It also didn’t help that Cockburn hails from the far northern end of the district, tiny Rappahannock County, and was susceptible to Republican attacks that she is more familiar with Georgetown, D.C., than George Washington High School, Danville.)

One way to judge the outcome in the 5th District is to look at what happened elsewhere in Virginia’s other hotly-contested congressional districts: Democrats mopped up around the state, flipping three of the four competitive seats going into Election Day. Each of the victors was a woman: Elaine Luria in the 2nd, Abigail Spanberger in the 7th and Jennifer Wexton in the 10th. Given this rousing performance, it may be tempting to believe Cockburn underwhelmed, but that would be wrong. She ran basically even in the 5th alongside Tim Kaine, probably the most popular elected official in the State of Virginia, who trounced Corey Stewart in the U.S. Senate race by 14 points. Kaine trailed Stewart in the 5th District by a lesser margin than Cockburn vs. Riggleman — just under 5 percent compared to Cockburn’s 6.5 point deficit — but the difference is almost entirely attributable to the presence of a Libertarian Party candidate in the Senate race, Matt Waters, who cut into Stewart’s vote total. It’s depressing to think that a white nationalist clown like Corey Stewart could win anywhere in Virginia, but there you have it.

Denver Riggleman now will become our next congressman and in all likelihood he’ll go to Capitol Hill to more or less vanish. During the campaign Riggleman pledged to join the Freedom Caucus (Garrett also was a member), and with the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives, there will be no more irrelevant entity on the national political scene than the group that Riggleman has chosen to align himself with. Someone ought to send our congressman a potted plant as a reminder that everyone hated the Freedom Caucus to begin with — former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner described them as idiots, vandals and other names I can’t print here — and Tuesday’s vote is a massive repudiation of the Freedom Caucus’s take-no-prisoners, extreme right-wing approach to governance. So you can just imagine how eager the new Democratic majority in Congress will be to bury this Tea Party contingent in their own festering pile.

Unlike the Senate, where the minority party retains some ability under the rules to affect policy, the Republican minority in the House will have little influence, and the Freedom Caucus will have the least influence of all. But who knows? Maybe Riggleman knew all along this would happen and decided to sign up for becoming Congress’s Mr. Irrelevant anyway. Here in the 5th District, it would be just our luck.

» It’s no shame in politics to lose an election, but there’s losing and then there’s losing — which is all you can say for the Virginia Republican Party in the aftermath of what happened Tuesday. With any negative election day outcome, the first task for a party is to assess how well it’s positioned for the future. Is there any silver lining to be found in the 2018 results for the Virginia GOP? The leader of the ticket, Stewart, is a joke, and might have even contributed to the party’s downballot losses (although I don’t think this is true — Stewart barely left an impression this campaign season, especially compared to you-know-who in the White House). Who’s still standing to pick up the thread for the Republican Party of Virginia when the next chance comes around?

Going into this year, I would have argued that the most appealing Republican officeholder in Virginia was 2nd District Congressman Scott Taylor, a handsome ex-Navy SEAL and superficially moderate figure, from a populous area of the state (Virginia Beach) with a bright future if he decided to run for statewide office (such as governor, say.) Now look at him: Not only did Taylor lose to Elaine Luria, he disgraced himself by overseeing a campaign that actively sought to subvert the electoral process by submitting phony candidate filing petitions and scheming to get a ticket-splitting, disgruntled (and indicted) Democrat into the race as a third-party spoiler. It remains to be seen if Taylor will be directly implicated in his campaign’s shenanigans, but what we do know about him is that he’s morphed from Virginia Republican golden boy to disgraced loser in a very short period of time. So who will the Republican Party of Virginia turn to in 2021 to run for governor? Bill Stanley, state senator from Franklin County (western Halifax is part of his district) who is itching for the chance to take his Slick Willie act to the campaign hustings in Northern Virginia? Good luck with that. How about Dave Brat, Tea Party dreamboat and loser in VA-7? Tell me another good one.

» To continue on the subject of table setting: Do Republicans really think it’s a good idea to build the party on a platform of scaremongering, blatant dishonesty and voter suppression? Each was amply in evidence this campaign. In the closing days of the election we saw the, no-kidding, President of the United States declare a national emergency over a dwindling band of desperate migrants moving on foot nearly a thousand miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, going so far as to deploy the military in response to this non-existent threat. And no one in the Republican Party so much as uttered a peep of protest about it. Meantime, Republicans flat-out lied about their efforts to strip away the Affordable Care Act’s protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, which was only the most egregious in a long series of distortions of their actual record in office. Also, too, in places like Florida and Georgia, GOP state officials actively sought to prevent minorities, the poor and young people from voting. In a country that had a healthier respect for citizens’ right to vote, figures like Brian Kemp — the apparent governor-elect of Georgia, who pulled every trick in the book as Georgia’s Secretary of State to keep minorities from casting ballots for his opponent, African-American Democrat Stacey Abrams — would be headed to jail, not to the governor’s mansion.

None of this is the behavior of a party confident in either its ideas or its future. Given the trouncing we saw Republicans take in House races, the fear is understandable. True, Republicans improved their position in the U.S. Senate, where the GOP majority is likely to net three or four extra seats. But with the Senate races, the map was brutal for Democrats (10 seats to defend in states won by Trump, most of them rural and lightly populated.) In the heat of the moment on Election Night, it seemed like Democrats pulled up short in key respects; it was especially discouraging to see Florida barely go Republican, and for rising stars like Abrams, Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Andrew Gillum in Florida to lose close races. On the bright side, however, the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania all snapped back to blue state form after Trump carried all three in 2016. Meantime, the traditionally conservative south and southwest states (Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Florida) produced close races and offered the promise of better days ahead for national Democrats. The Republican red wall of the south/southwest is looking a bit more wobbly than the Democratic blue wall of the north/midwest after Tuesday night, methinks.

» So what do Democrats do next? Taking the House is a huge victory — Democratic control of one house of Congress marks the end of the accountability-free phase of the Trump presidency. But while Democrats now are able to check Donald Trump’s worst excesses (and investigate the skeeziest parts of his presidency, with no lack of targets to choose from), it’s equally important for the party to show what it can and will do for ordinary citizens, if given the chance. Contrary to those who think the Democratic majority will only get suckered into a scorpions-in-a-bottle fight with Trump, I look for House Democrats to pass a raft of popular bills — stuff like establishing a Medicare buy-in option on the federal health insurance exchanges, gun safety bills, campaign finance reform, closing tax loopholes and other stuff that people actually like. Let Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans kill it all and own it all. Despite having majorities in all too many places, none of the Republican Party’s actual agenda is especially popular with voters. Even a bunch of red states passed Medicaid expansion through successful voter referendums on Tuesday. If ever there was a time for Democrats to highlight the contradictions, it’s now.

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