Thursday, September 24, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

September 24, 2020
Top of the News

Warner, Gade meet in first debate of Senate race

By ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and his Republican opponent Daniel Gade sparred over the dangers of the conoravirus, when to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court other topics Wednesday during their first debate in a little-noticed Senate race. Warner, a Democrat and former governor, is a the heavy favorite to win re-election for a third Senate term despite the fact that he almost lost six years ago.

Virginia prisoners request independent monitor as COVID-19 cases and deaths mount

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

Lawyers representing Virginia prisoners are asking the state to install an independent expert to evaluate the Department of Corrections' response to the coronavirus pandemic. The request comes as COVID-19 cases surge and the death toll rises amid an ongoing outbreak at Deerfield Correctional Center, which houses elderly and medically vulnerable inmates. As of Wednesday, the department reported 462 active infection among prisoners at the facility and 10 deaths — more than any other prison in the state.

Bill that would reform Virginia's jury trial sentencing system passes key House committee

By PETER DUJARDIN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

A key judicial committee has signed off on a bill to revamp Virginia's jury trial sentencing system. The legislation — allowing defendants to be sentenced by judges rather than the juries that just convicted them — passed the House Courts of Justice Committee Tuesday on an 11-9 vote. Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, said that was a key hurdle, given that a subcommittee of the same House committee killed off the same measure earlier this year.

Culpeper sheriff responds in video to his controversial BLM posts

By STAFF REPORT, Culpeper Star Exponent (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

In an approximate eight-minute video posted last weekend on Facebook, Culpeper County Scott Jenkins doubled down on previous online statements that Black Lives Matter is a violent organization attacking towns and cities everywhere. And the county's top elected Republican lawman warned that while Culpeper has stayed peaceful in these unprecedented times that things were going to get a whole lot worse as November approaches.

William & Mary student-athletes express frustration over the school's decision to cut 7 sports

By MARTY O'BRIEN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

William & Mary student-athletes are making their voices heard in large numbers in opposition to the school's decision to cut seven sports after the 2020-21 school year. More than 100 from the sports affected – men's and women's swimming, men's indoor and outdoor track, men's and women's gymnastics and volleyball – stood outside the William & Mary Alumni House on Wednesday in support of several dozen others inside who spoke to the school's Board of Visitors about their opposition.

King William residents bring improper tax collection to Board of Supervisors, sparking internal financial probe

By EMILY HOLTER, Tidewater Review

With 150-acres of land and several historic buildings to renovate on his property, King William resident Bob Hubbard knew he was in for a challenge. But when he realized his property assessment did not reflect its actual categorization, he didn't expect he'd have to wait six years to fix it. When he took the problem to the Commissioner of the Revenue's Office, he said he was told he missed an opportunity to appeal and as a result, would pay more in taxes on land that was estimated higher than its worth.

Witnesses aren't needed for absentee voting in Virginia. But the instructions sometimes say otherwise.

By PATRICIA SULLIVAN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Some Virginia voters who received absentee ballots by mail this week were left scratching their heads at the included instructions, which told them they didn't need witness signatures this year to make their ballots count — but, if they wanted their ballots to count, they needed witness signatures. Virginia voters do not have to have a witness signature on their absentee ballots this fall.

The Full Report
42 articles, 22 publications


From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our COVID-19 dashboard makes it easy to track the latest available data for tests performed, infections, deaths and hospital capacity. There's a filter for each city and county, plus an exclusive per-capita ZIP Code map. Updated each morning around 10:30 a.m.


In first debate, Warner and Gade air views on Supreme Court confirmation, COVID-19 and countering racism

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

In their first debate, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Republican challenger Daniel Gade found themselves at odds Wednesday night on the federal government's handling of the pandemic, health care and early voting. Recent polling shows Virginians leaning toward Warner, the former governor who has represented Virginia in the Senate since 2009.

Biden, Warner leading in latest Va. poll

By SYDNEY LAKE, Va Business Magazine

Democratic presidential challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden leads incumbent President Donald Trump by 5 points in Virginia, according to a poll released Thursday by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, the Democratic incumbent, is also ahead of Republican opponent Daniel Gade by 13 points among likely Virginia voters at 52% to 41%.

Early voting turnout hits record numbers in Virginia

By LAURA VOZZELLA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Record numbers of Virginians are voting early and requesting absentee ballots this year, as the coronavirus pandemic and newly loosened election laws reshape Old Dominion voting habits in a presidential year. Some 100,356 voters have cast ballots in person since early voting began Friday, while 884,032 have requested absentee ballots, state elections officials reported Wednesday.

Nearly a million Virginians have asked for ballots through mail or already voted in person

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Just over 100,000 Virginians have already cast ballots in person ahead of the Nov. 3 elections — about a third as many as were cast in 2016 — just five days into the early voting window. The Virginia Department of Elections confirmed Wednesday afternoon that 100,356 people had cast ballots in person since early voting began on Friday. In 2016 — before the state expanded its early voting window and stopped requiring an excuse — just under 353,000 people cast early ballots in person.

Electoral board expects record turnout this fall

By DON DEL ROSSO, Fauquier Now

The Fauquier Electoral Board vice chairman expects county voters to turn out in record-breaking numbers on Election Day. "I'm anticipating close to 80 percent will vote, which will be the best ever," said Bob Zwick, who has served eight years on the three-member board, which oversees all elections in the county. "We're normally in the low 70s for presidential elections."

It's legal to bring guns to polling places in five battleground states, a new study says

By REID J. EPSTEIN, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

Five battleground states in the presidential election have no laws prohibiting people from carrying guns into or near polling places, according to a study released Wednesday by two gun control organizations. The study by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, one of the country's oldest gun control organizations, and Guns Down America, a group on the fringe of the gun-control movement that advocates reducing the number of guns in circulation, examined polling place laws in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.


As regulators weigh rate hike for Appalachian Power, years of legislative intervention complicate task

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

On Friday, after nearly a week of hearings that involved thousands of pages of filings from parties ranging from Attorney General Mark Herring's office to the Virginia Poverty Law Center, Virginia regulators began deliberations about whether Appalachian Power should be able to raise its electric rates to increase its revenues by roughly $65 million. All over the country, public utility commissions are regularly charged with such decisions, trusted by state governments to strike the correct balance between the interests of utilities that must raise capital to build and maintain some of the nation's most fundamental infrastructure and the interests of the customers who pay the bills.

GO Virginia grants awarded to Region 2 projects

By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Nearly $1 million in state funds was awarded this week to projects aimed at growing the regional economy and helping it recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The GO Virginia state board on Tuesday approved three funding requests from the initiative's Region 2 Council, which represents a broad swath of Virginia that stretches from the Lynchburg area to the New River Valley and north to the Alleghany Highlands.


With COVID cramping campaigning, Warner running on his record

By TYLER HAMMEL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Mark R. Warner is by no means new to campaigning, but the incumbent U.S. senator said this election has been an adjustment. The Democrat is seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate but, like every candidate running for office, he has been forced to take a step back from typical door-to-door campaigning in a bid to reduce human contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

One Senator's Strategy for Containing Chinese Technological Dominance

By GREG IP, Wall Street Journal (Subscription Required)

When Mark Warner was in the telecommunications business in the 1980s and 1990s, he didn't think much about how U.S. rules and standards shaped the global use of technology—it was a given. "I never appreciated how much we set the standards on almost every technology and innovation, even if not invented in America," Mr. Warner said in an interview this week. "We flooded the zone with engineers. We had the best schools, we had most of the companies. It got built in as an assumed advantage, and we kind of got lazy about it." Today, as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he sees China's erosion of that technological advantage as an existential threat to American values at home and abroad.


Mountain Valley seeks to resume construction of pipeline

By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

After a winter hiatus in construction that stretched into the spring, summer and fall, builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say they are ready to return. In a letter filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late Tuesday, an attorney for the joint venture of energy companies requested that a stop-work order issued last Oct. 15 be lifted.

Amazon buys Pentagon City hotel, now has full control over superblock as vision for HQ2 expands

By JONATHAN CAPRIEL, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles) Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has purchased the Residence Inn by Marriott in Pentagon City with plans to demolish it and expand its second headquarters, the company tells the Washington Business Journal.

Blue Ridge Bank touts new Operations Center with new merger on the horizon

By RANDY ARRINGTON, Page Valley News

When Dorothy Welch first came to work at Blue Ridge Bank five years ago, there were about 75 employees and the company held assets of $269 million at the close of FY2015. In 2020, the Luray-based bank surpassed the $1 billion mark in assets and now employs nearly 375. Those assets are expected to grow to more than $2.5 billion next year, according to Welch, as yet another merger is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021. On Wednesday morning, Welch, Senior Vice President of Strategic Engagement, led a group of local officials through a tour of the bank's new Operations Center at 52 West Main Street.


Clemons Library closes for the second time in four days due to low mask compliance

By ZACH ROSENTHAL, Cavalier Daily

Clemons Library temporarily closed for two hours on Wednesday following low levels of mask compliance, marking the second time in four days this measure was taken. According to Elyse Girard, director of communications for the University library system, the level of face mask compliance was 87 percent and then 91 percent following multiple warnings. Despite the bump up in compliance, the library was closed. When Clemons was closed on Sunday, compliance was 75 percent.

U.S. Drops Case Against Chinese Scientist at UVA

By KATE O'KEEFFE AND ARUNA VISWANATHA, Wall Street Journal (Subscription Required)

Prosecutors abruptly moved to drop criminal charges against a visiting Chinese scientist at the University of Virginia who had been arrested last month on allegations of stealing trade secrets from his professor, after the university acknowledged the scientist was authorized to access some of the material. In a motion filed Sunday, the U.S. Attorney's office in Charlottesville, Va., asked the court to dismiss its case against Hu Haizhou, who works for a military-funded lab at Beihang University in Beijing and was researching underwater robotics, according to a previously filed FBI affidavit.

University of Richmond president to step down in 2022

By ERIC KOLENICH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

University of Richmond president Ronald A. Crutcher will resign in early 2022, the school said in a statement Wednesday. The university intends to have his replacement in office by July 1 of that year. Crutcher, 73, was named UR's 10th president in 2015, becoming the school's first Black president. Given the upheaval higher education has seen this year, Crutcher said he wanted to give UR ample time to find his successor.


Statewide COVID-19 cases increase by 580 from Tuesday

By STAFF REPORT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Health reported Wednesday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 142,590 — an increase of 580 from the 142,010 reported Tuesday. The 142,590 cases consist of 135,626 confirmed cases and 6,964 probable cases. There are 3,089 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 2,882 confirmed and 207 probable. That's an increase of 29 from the 3,060 reported Tuesday.

Ten inmates at Deerfield Correctional Center now dead from COVID-19

By FRANK GREEN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Ten inmates with COVID-19 at the Deerfield Correctional Center have now died. The rural Southside prison holds many elderly and otherwise vulnerable inmates. With 925 inmates, Deerfield has an assisted living unit and infirmary and holds many of the state prison system's elderly and medically impaired offenders. Many of the inmates at Deerfield sleep in dormitories, making social distancing difficult if not impossible.

Richmond-area schools surpass 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases among employees

Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

At least 106 public school employees have tested positive for COVID-19 across Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond since March, according to school officials. While all four districts are in week three of fall instruction, only Hanover County Public Schools brought students back into classrooms.


Hundreds of protesters march in Richmond after Ky. officers not charged in Breonna Taylor's death

By C. SUAREZ ROJAS AND TAMICA JEAN-CHARLES, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

In Richmond, after the announcement in Kentucky, a flyer promoting a "Justice for Breonna Taylor" protest in Monroe Park circulated on social media. On Twitter, the Richmond Police Department acknowledged that it was aware of the event Wednesday night. "Officers will be present to monitor the events & respond, if necessary," RPD wrote. "We will work to keep citizens & businesses safe while supporting the public's right to free speech."

Dozens of protesters in Norfolk call for justice after grand jury decides not to charge officers in Breonna Taylor's death

By JESSICA NOLTE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Dozens of activists called out Breonna Taylor's name Wednesday night before taking to the streets of Norfolk to call for justice. "The only thing we can do is continue to fight at this point because I'm telling you — don't be surprised when you wake up tomorrow or the next day and somebody is dead at the hands of the cops," Angie Day, an organizer from The Underground 1865, LLC, told the crowd as they stood in Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park.

Appeals court denies re-hearing in Gloucester transgender bathroom case; U.S. Supreme Court could be next

By PETER DUJARDIN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied the Gloucester School Board's request for a full rehearing in the long-running lawsuit filed by a transgender student. The next step could be the U.S. Supreme Court — where the case had once been destined before the high court sent it back to lower courts three years ago.

Appeals court rejects rehearing in transgender bathroom case

Associated Press

A federal appeals court on Wednesday denied a request for a full-court review of a ruling that a Virginia school board's transgender bathroom ban is unconstitutional. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond rejected a request from the Gloucester County School Board for a rehearing to review a ruling that the board's policy discriminated against Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who was barred from using the boys bathrooms at Gloucester High School.

Virginia lawmakers ask Trump for offshore drilling exemption

By JULIA RENTSCH, Salisbury Daily Times

A group of Democratic congressmembers from Virginia wrote to President Donald Trump this week requesting their state be granted a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development that, so far, as only been granted to states led by Republicans. . . . The document was signed by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, A. Donald McEachin, Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton, all D-VA.

Restrictions may be loosened even further for John Hinckley

By BEN FINLEY, Associated Press

The man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan may soon get the most freedom he's had since since the shooting outside a Washington hotel in 1981. A lawyer for John Hinckley Jr. is discussing a possible agreement with U.S. attorneys that would substantially reduce conditions imposed on him after his release from a Washington mental hospital in 2016, according to discussions at a federal court hearing on Wednesday.


Fairfax School Board Blasts Return-to-School Plan for Being Light on Numbers

By JO DEVOE, Reston Now

About 6,700 students could start trickling into Fairfax County Public Schools during October, according to a plan for limited in-person learning developed by the district. Although Board of Education members indicated they approve of bringing back students, prioritizing those who need extra support in school, they criticized the plan as Superintendent Scott Brabrand presented to them during a work session Tuesday evening.

Chesterfield supervisors approve $85 million in deferred maintenance

By JESS NOCERA, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors on Wednesday night approved borrowing at least $85 million toward deferred maintenance projects for both the school system and the county. The decision to pay for projects ranging from road and drainage fixes to school HVAC improvements came with no questions from the board or comments from the public.

Grand jury indicts former School Board candidate on charges related to alleged election fraud

By JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE, Princess Anne Independent News

A grand jury has indicted a former Virginia Beach School Board candidate on charges of alleged election fraud and filing a forged document. Justin Burns, a college student who in late August ended his candidacy in the at-large School Board race, is accused of making a false statement or entry in a report under a section of election law and representing a forged document as true, according to a copy of the Tuesday, Sept. 8, indictment filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court. The charges are felonies.

First students return for in-person classes in Virginia Beach

By PETER COUTU, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

About 1,200 special needs students in Virginia Beach returned for in-person classes Tuesday, with more set to go back to school in the next two weeks. Administrators said they prioritized returning students with disabilities as soon as possible because they are among those who most need in-person learning to succeed. These students will receive their special education and related services face-to-face with teachers.

Norfolk could launch new police oversight board this year. But how much power it will have is unclear

By JONATHAN EDWARDS, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Top city officials — including the city manager and police chief — want a citizen oversight commission that would have the power to investigate police officers' wrongdoing. The panel could also recommend more sweeping changes in how the police department hires recruits, trains officers and polices the city. But it's unclear how much power the commission would have and how much support the idea has among City Council members.

Albemarle County residents could qualify for COVID relief

By STAFF REPORT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Albemarle County residents feeling the harsh economic impacts of the pandemic could find assistance through an emergency program funded by the county and administered by the United Way of Greater Charlottesville. The funds are from federal CARES Act money for coronavirus relief allocated to the county by the state.

In-person teaching at William Fleming High School closes for two weeks after positive COVID-19 cases

By CLAIRE MITZEL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

In-person instruction at William Fleming High School has been shut down for two weeks "out of an abundance of caution" after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19, Roanoke City Public Schools announced Wednesday. Approximately 100 students are affected by the closure and will shift to virtual learning, according to spokesman Justin McLeod.

Fauquier County schools will offer some in-person learning beginning Nov. 9

By ROBIN EARL, Fauquier Times

Fauquier High School's cafeteria exploded with applause Wednesday night after the school board voted to commence on Nov. 9 a hybrid instruction model that will include some in-person teaching. Fauquier County schools opened Aug. 24 with an all-virtual learning model due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 40 or so people in the audience Wednesday, some wearing "Go for the Green" shirts proclaiming their desire for in-person instruction, seemed pleased with the proposed move away from 100% virtual learning.

Students back in schools 2 days a week in November


All students have the option of returning to Fauquier County Public Schools for some face-to-face instruction in November. The school board Wednesday night voted, 5-0, to approve a revised plan for "hybrid" instruction that will start Monday, Nov. 9.

Town of Remington residents choose new town seal

By ROBIN EARL, Fauquier Times

Remington's Town Council members revealed the town's new seal at their meeting Monday night. Vice Mayor Devada Allison said that his personal favorite, created by local graphic artist Alison Wargo, was the winning entry. "There was so much history in her design," said the vice mayor, "and I think it was the most upscale of the three." . . . The town seal, in place for decades, featured a small depiction of the battle flag used during the Civil War by the Army of Northern Virginia, which fought for the Confederacy.

Halifax Militia seeking official recognition by county

By MIRANDA BAINES, Gazette Virginian

An unofficial organization in Halifax County — the Halifax Militia — is seeking official recognition. The Halifax County Board of Supervisors discussed adopting a resolution formally recognizing the militia at its Sept. 8 meeting. The vote on the resolution was tabled. Mitzi Thompson, commander of the Halifax County Militia, told The Gazette in a follow-up interview that she would like for the militia to have official recognition from the county government.



Trump is wrong. NAFTA didn't 'devastate' the 5th District. Here's what did

Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

On Sunday, President Trump held a telephone call with 5th District Republicans to talk up congressional candidate Bob Good (and say the obligatory bad things about Democrat Cameron Webb). In the course of that conversation, Trump said: "The Fifth District was devastated by the NAFTA catastrophe that was supported by Biden, actually. I ended the NAFTA nightmare with the USMCA, and Bob and I will work closely to fight for your jobs in the 5th District."

Please tell McAuliffe: One term is enough

Free Lance-Star Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

ARTICLE V of the Virginia Constitution makes it clear that the governor "shall be ineligible to the same office for the term next succeeding that for which he was elected." This gubernatorial one-term limit, which has been in place since the adoption of Virginia's second constitution in 1830, makes the commonwealth unique among the 50 states.

Greater flexibility with Rebuild VA grants is welcome news

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The presence of COVID-19 has shaken expense reports for small businesses and nonprofits across Virginia. Retail establishments had to upgrade their cash register areas to include protective measures such as Plexiglas shields. Offices had to adjust ventilation systems and hand-washing stations to meet new federal and state safety standards. Restaurant spaces had to alter seating arrangements to comply with social distancing guidelines.


Schapiro: Opening VMI to women, opening up Va. politics

By JEFF E. SCHAPIRO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

The playing field is a bit more level for women because the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opened Virginia Military Institute's (VMI) parade grounds to them. In 1996, Ginsburg — a pioneer in women's rights well before she joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 as its second female justice — wrote the majority opinion in the 7-1 ruling that threw out the males-only admissions rule of the taxpayer-financed VMI.


LaRock and Braunlich: Unions protect 'bad cops'; Special session ignores reform opportunity

By DAVE LAROCK AND CHRISTIAN N. BRAUNLICH, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A very few bad cops make life really difficult for the brave and dedicated law enforcers who absolutely are essential to maintaining order and keeping us safe. Those few bad cops might wear the same uniforms but they are very different. So why is it so hard to discipline or fire a bad cop? The answer is simple: No matter how bad they are, most are protected by police unions and the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) the unions negotiate.

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