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Bad company / April 02, 2009
Somehow I get the feeling that the 2009 elections won’t be as fun as a barrel of monkeys. In the governor’s race on the Democratic side there’s a decent chance the party nominee will be Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and a notable Friend of Bill and Hillary. Nothing against the Clintons, but the last thing Virginia needs is for a big-money, Wall Street-lovin’ Democrat to take over the state party and call the shots in Richmond. Ugh. On the Republican side you’ve got the presumptive nominee, former Attorney General Robert McDonnell, who is slick, smart and smooth but also holds extreme views on social and economic issues that to my mind make him a poor choice for our next governor. My hope is that one of the other Democratic candidates in the gubernatorial race — State Senator Creigh Deeds, my first pick, or former Delegate Brian Moran, also a perfectly acceptable choice — will emerge as the Democratic nominee in the June 9 primary. But about that we shall simply have to see.

McAuliffe was in Danville a few days back to tout his “business plan” for Virginia when the question arose: What’s your position on uranium mining? The champion of moneybag wing of the Democratic Party punted, saying he would await the completion of a scientific study before taking a stance. Given what we know about the support among some Democrats for uranium mining, it’s hard to see how McAuliffe’s dodge amounts to much more than a tacit “yes” on the Coles Hill project. He isn’t alone. Tim Kaine has been awful on this issue — as bad as if not worse than any Republican — and if Democrats keep up this kow-towing to the Virginia Uranium, Inc., lobby this is one voice of support they’ll be losing.

I was happy to see Creigh Deeds last week express opposition to uranium mining, albeit not as harshly as some might like. The campaign issued a statement that “Senator Deeds has serious reservations about whether uranium can be mined in Virginia. He looks forward to reviewing the study, but he believes that our top priorities must be to ensure the protection of our water supply and the safety of all workers. He is not convinced that uranium mining can meet either of these requirements.” (starcityharbinger. com). It would be a lot at this early date to ask any statewide politician to dismiss the Pittsylvania project out of hand, but I like Deeds’ forthrightness much more than Auliffe’s slipperiness and it’s heartening to see the uranium issue getting the attention statewide that it deserves.


Here’s another reason why I’m not looking forward to politics this year: James Edmunds is running for House of Delegates. Don’t get me wrong. I think James is one of the nicest guys around, and should he win his race for the 60th District House seat Halifax County will benefit from a huge upgrade in the General Assembly. On a personal note, I coached James’ son in soccer and he’s a terrific kid, a testament to the caliber of the Edmunds household. Purely in terms of local politics, I admire Edmunds’ efforts to preserve the Halifax County Fair — with the caveat that the Board of Supervisors should do whatever it can to return the fair to private hands — and I appreciate that Edmunds was a key player in getting a road built to the King Village community, showing real leadership in his capacity as Halifax County supervisor.

That said, Edmunds kicked off his campaign last Friday with an almost unbelievably feeble introductory speech. The subtext was that James Edmunds is an honest, trustworthy person who therefore is the best choice to represent Halifax County in the General Assembly. The first half of that message is indisputably true, but as for the second half: um, not so fast. Edmunds did not have a single interesting or substantial thing to say about the issues facing Southside Virginia — certainly not topic #1, job creation — and you would no more know what he intended to do as delegate than if you had just landed in from the moon. Edmunds managed to talk in specifics terms about one issue — repeal of the estate tax on inherited wealth, i.e. the “death tax” — as if removing this burden on the 5-10 people in Halifax County who might actually exceed the current $3.5 million federal threshold for paying the tax is just the ticket for revitalizing the local economy. Shorter James Edmunds: The state needs to do more to help millionaire landowners like me!

I expect that as the campaign goes along Edmunds will step up his game. New and inexperienced candidates usually do. But one thing you can count on after Friday’s roll-out event is that Edmunds will not deviate one whit from the current Republican orthodoxy in the House of Delegates, given the apparent absence of any other basis for his campaign. It’s a little hard for me to believe someone would put up with all the grief of running for the legislature without the slightest notion of what he might want to accomplish upon getting there, but there you are.

There’s an unfortunate tendency in Halifax County to anoint leaders on the basis of who they are rather than what ideas they propose, and already you can see it happening in the House race. On the Democratic side Ted Bennett has said he’s running to fill the leadership void created by Clarke Hogan’s departure. Come again? How exactly does Hogan qualify as a leader in Bennett’s mind? Can we look forward to Bennett going to Richmond and cursing out his colleagues, too? (I suspect that Hogan knew as well as anyone that his supposedly vast influence in Richmond was in for a painful correction the longer he hung around. Regardless of whether or not Republicans hold onto power in the House of Delegates, Speaker of the House Bill Howell is widely expected to step down. Without his chief patron in charge, Hogan’s just a guy who has made plenty of enemies on both sides of the aisle).

And by the way: What kind of Democrat would co-host a fundraiser for a low-level GOP hack like Frank Ruff? (To be fair, it was Ted’s wife, Lessie, who was listed as event sponsor for a 2007 Ruff fundraiser). Can we have, just for once, a campaign where the insiders don’t try to arrange the outcome from the comfort of their smoke-filled rooms? Can attention be paid to what the candidates promise to do, and what we the people should desire that they do? I’m always happy to be proven wrong, but it’s hard to see where the issues count for much with the Halifax County candidates now in the House of Delegates race. Instead we’re supposed to make a choice based on the name we “trust.” No thanks.


Last Wednesday, a group of local veterans — Carroll Thackston, Roger Browne and Ted Daniel of South Boston and Thomas Loftus of Clarksville — traveled to Washington, DC to meet with General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The meeting was arranged by Fifth District Rep. Tom Perriello, who has made veterans’ issues one of his major priorities in Congress. Talking with a White House Cabinet Secretary is a pretty big deal, so our March 26 edition the next day included an article and picture of the local veterans with Perriello and Shinseki:

That photo appeared Thursday. The next day, it was the Gazette-Virginian’s turn to report the event. There’s only one problem: the ownership of the paper has expressly forbidden making any reference to Tom Perriello in print. Seriously. Hard to believe, I know, but the poor Gazette staff has been given its orders and that’s all there is to that. So lo and behold, the cropped version of the same photo appeared in the newspaper’s Friday edition:

Not since the days of the old Soviet Union has a newspaper gone to such lengths to scrub an out-of-favor official from the news, but the Izvestia-Virginian or Pravda-Virginian or whatever they’re calling themselves these days has truly broken new ground in their quest to never let readers know the name of their Congressional representative. In fact, that’s exactly how the newspaper refers to Perriello whenever he visits town: the standard reference is to “congressional representatives” doing this or that. I guess that means there’s at least one person out there who’s under the delusion we have multiple Congressional representatives, aside from Virgil Goode, of course,

Anyway, I mention all this not so much to shame the Izvestia-Virginian into changing their ways — please — but to kick off a new contest which we’ll call, for the lack of a better name, “Where In The World Is Tom Perriello?” The first person to sneak a reference to Perriello or any other prominent national Democrat into the Izvestia-Virginian wins a cup of coffee, my treat. David Conner, our Photoshop guru, was fast out of the gate with a slightly-altered photo that he e-mailed to the I-V for inclusion in their Glorious Homeplace & Workers Garden special section that ran this week:

Unfortunately David’s best efforts fell a tad short. But maybe you can succeed where others have failed. Remember, there’s a free cup of coffee waiting for the first person to put one over on the editors. The contest is open to all, unless your name is something like Wanda Perriello and you’re submitting an engagement notice to the newspaper announcing your upcoming nuptials to Barack Wazeka.

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