RICHMOND, Va. – Among the flurry of ethics reform bills being proposed throughout the Virginia General Assembly is Senate Bill 212, which would remove Freedom of Information Act exemptions for legislators and their aides.
The new FOIA bill, which is part of an ethics package authored by Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, would remove Delegate Tag Greason’s, R – Potomac Falls, House Bill 1639 less than a year after its approval.
HB1639 also is known as the 2013 General Assembly FOIA Exemption Act. The measure officially added legislative aides to the exemption list of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.
Currently, General Assembly members and legislatives aides are exempt from Virginia’s FOIA act, which means their working papers and written correspondence are unattainable for public viewing. Petersen said SB212 would increase accountability in the Virginia legislature.
“We need as much transparency as possible, and then people can make up their own minds,” Petersen said. “(FOIA) has an incredible influence on people because it makes you realize, ‘Hey I’m under scrutiny at all times.’”
House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, announced a bipartisan agreement pushing forward a plan for ethics reform. This proposed legislation come following a financial controversy surrounding former Republican Gov. Robert R. McDonnell.
“The (FOIA) exemption has been broadly interpreted, and it’s now used for everything,” said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. “Anything that narrows that scope and keeps things in check is a good thing.”
Delegate Luke E. Torian, D-Dumfries, patrons House Bill 689, which would require legislators and lobbyists to file financial disclosure reports semiannually rather than annually. Along with the rest of the ethics legislation, the bill’s stated goal is to prevent another controversy by aiming for more government transparency.
“We just simply want to let the citizens of the commonwealth know that we’re operating with a tremendous level of integrity,” said Torian, one of an increasingly large group of bipartisan House members involved in ethics reform.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe was sworn in as governor this past week, while McDonnell faces federal and state investigations regarding gifts received while in office. The Justice Department said in December a decision for or against indicting McDonnell could come as late as February.
Petersen said in the current culture there is a symbiotic relationship between donors and politicians.
“It may be that way in every government, but I think right now it’s more pronounced in Virginia because you have unlimited gifts, unlimited donations, and the transparency is minimal,” Petersen said. “It’s all self-reporting.”
WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Mark Gibson will run again for the 11th Congressional District that includes portions of Prince William and Fairfax counties.
An independent, this will be Gibson’s second run at unseating Democrat Gerry Connolly whose been in office since 2009.
More in a press release:
Mark Gibson, an independent candidate for Virginia’s 11th Congressional District (VA-11), began his ballot petition drive today, the first day permissible under Virginia law. Gibson finished the 2012 election with the most votes among non-major party candidates; he says voter encouragement and an underperforming Congress prompted him to run again.
“I received a lot of compliments and inspiration from voters after the last election,” Gibson said, “and the dissatisfaction with Congress and the major parties is at least equal to that of 2012. More and more voters identify themselves as independents. I hope to build on the attention independent voters gained in the last election.”
Gibson will need to collect 1,500 signatures from 11th District voters by early June.
Though the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) has not yet finalized its candidate information bulletins for 2014, all forms and rules from the 2012 election remain valid through July 1, 2012. In addition to presenting ballot petitions to SBE, Gibson will submit completed forms for his declaration of candidacy and certification of candidate qualification. Filings to the Federal Election Commission and U.S. House Committee on Ethics will follow along with the establishment of a principal campaign committee.
Gibson has lived in Fairfax County since 1997. He serves as CEO of an IT firm. He is a native of the Washington, D.C. area.
During the last campaign cycle, Gibson worked to get out the vote early by announcing his campaign in April 2012.
Voters will head to the polls again in November.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Jeanine Lawson will try again in Brentsville in 2015.
The Republican who ran against sitting District Supervisor Wally Covington during a GOP Primary Election in 2011 announced this morning she once again will seek election to that seat in 2015.
Covington won the Primary Election by five points in 2011, but this time Covington’s political aspirations aren’t so clear as many have publically hinted, including Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, that Covington would like an appointed judgeship at the Prince William County Courthouse.
Lawson lives with her husband in the Brentsville District and has two children, one of them she notes as a sophomore at Patriot High School. She says she has remained active in the Republican Party both locally and at the state level by participating in several campaigns since her Primary loss 18 months ago.
In an email to supporters titled ‘I’m in,” Lawson is quick to point out her concerns for the proposed Bi-County Parkway that would link Interstate 95 in Dumfries with Dulles Airport by way of the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
“This proposed road alignment raises a lot of concerns and I believe our state and local government should spend our taxpayer funds on more meaningful transportation solutions,” Lawson penned in her email.
Here is more what she stated in the email:
So why am I running again? Because I remain very committed to our community.
We learned from the 2010 census that PWC grew 43% from 2000-2010 with Brentsville District alone growing at 102%. Well, as we know, with all these new residents come serious demands to our infrastructure and that has lagged behind. Therefore our students attend schools well over capacity, sitting in traffic has become a way of life, and normal levels of service provided by local government are under achieved. Also, two-third of our workers commute outside the county to their jobs, and taxpayers continue to watch their property tax bills climb. We can do better!
Some of my vision for Prince William County and more specifically the Brentsville District includes:
* School Capacity and Class Size Reduction: We simply cannot build public schools fast enough to keep up with the growth. Currently, there are tens of thousands of additional homes approved to be built countywide. And to make matters worse, our class sizes are at the highest state allowed numbers. I am committed to working with Mr. Gil Trenum, (and honored to have his endorsement) Brentsville representative to the PWC School Board and his colleagues to bring resolution to this problem. Our kids and teachers deserve better!
* Attracting Business Growth: Clearly, we need to shift our focus to attracting business job growth which will also result in a healthier tax base. Right now, less than 20% of the county’s property tax revenue is from commercial and/or industrial property. It is the BOCS who is responsible for voting to rezone business property to residential property. This trend needs to stop. We need to do a better job of marketing our County’s assets to the business community. Virginia is known to be a very business-friendly state. We must take advantage of that, our location to our nation’s capital, and the high quality of our skilled work force. This is a trio of rare assets to many localities across the nation. We can do better because of these!
*Conservative Fiscal Policy: PWC has the highest tax rate in Virginia when you include the real estate tax rate and other levies. I expect all levels of government to be wise stewards of the people’s money. Property owners have watched their tax bills climb and the County’s five year plan calls for tax increases for each of the next five years. We can do better!
*Meaningful Transportation Solutions: As I stated earlier, I am committed to continue the fight against the infamous Bi-County Parkway. Property rights are under attack from VDOT’s over-reaching power grab, the historic Manassas Battlefield will forever be changed, local road closures will wreak havoc on our secondary roads, the Rural Crescent character and policy will be compromised and hundreds of millions of tax dollars will be wasted to serve one special interest group. We can do better!
Lawson joins another early announcer Republican Terrance Boulden who will seek the job of Woodbridge District Supervisor in 2015. Lawson also made a bid to supporters for donations as, at last count in June, she had $2,115 cash on hand.
NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – After two elections in 2009 and 2013, long-time Stafford resident Laura Sellers was sworn in on December 10, as one of the newest members of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors. Filling incumbent Ty Schieber’s seat in the Garrisonville district, Sellers has big plans for her time on the Board.
Graduating from North Stafford High School, Sellers earned her Sociology degree from North Carolina State University. In 2009, she had returned to Stafford County and chose to run against then Garrisonville District Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer.
Sellers recalled a conversation with her parents about how many Stafford races go uncontested, that sparked her interest in running for the Board seat.
“That’s crazy; why would we have any races that were uncontested? That’s really why I decided to run back in 2009. There should never be a race that is uncontested because it keeps an incumbent honest – so I learned the issues, really educated myself,” Sellers said.
While Sellers did not win the seat against Dudenhefer, she made a commitment to run again in 2013.
“When I lost in 2009, I said ‘I’m going to stay on top of the issues,’” she added.
It was the change to her game plan during the campaign that made the difference in helping her to win the seat during this year’s General Election on Nov. 5. She turned a historically red Republican magisterial district in Stafford County to Democrat blue.
“I was more strategic this time. I’m the former Chair of the Stafford Democratic Committee, so I had an understanding of where the Democrats sat. I volunteered on a lot more campaigns here locally in Stafford, and I had finished all of the coursework for my Master’s degree in Social Work, so I have a really good understanding of public policy,” Sellers said.
And while recent Virginia elections have shown trending for more Democratic support, with Obama’s Virginia wins in 2008 and 2012, and the recent gubernatorial race with the election of Terry McAuliffe, Sellers does not believe that this sweep of support for her party helped her during the campaign.
“It helped in knowing where Democrats sat, but Obama didn’t win Stafford. Locally, it’s just a very different race than at the national level.”
To Sellers, one key strategy she implemented during the campaign was working on her bipartisan interactions with voters, and looking at the common ground they shared, instead of their differences; something she worked on in her role at the Department of Defense, working with openly conservative colleagues.
“In social work, we say there’s a time called a ‘learning moment’ and there’s a moment when you just move on,” Sellers said.
Despite being new to the Board, Sellers plans to act as a strong advocated for the Garrisonville District, making it a priority for the district to have a strong voice.
“There are issues that need to be addressed in the district, like, our fire station – Station 14. We need a full fire station instead of a modular and a temporary building, which is planned for 2018; I would like to work with the Board and the County to find a way to move that up,” Sellers said.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Democrat Mark Herring won Prince William County after a recount of ballots cast in the county. The finding reaffirms the initial vote count completed following the statewide General Election on Nov. 5, but with some slight changes.
More in a press release from the Prince William County Office of Elections:
Prince William County’s Recount Officials completed the recount for the Commonwealth’s Attorney General’s race for all county precincts on Tuesday, December 17 at 3:30 p.m.
The only precinct that had a change was the absentee precinct. The county’s 77 regular precincts had no changes. The unofficial recount numbers are posted on the Office of Election home page. The final outcome is expected to be announced by the Richmond Recount Court by this Friday, December 20.
In a recount, Herring won more votes over his Republican opponent Mark Obenshain, 52,121 to 44,173, respectively.
On the first count in November, Herring won Prince William County by 52,109 votes to Obenshain’s 44,163.
Jurisdictions across the state have been ordered to recount the election ballots after the November results for the Attorney General’s race were too close to call. In late November, prior to the recount, the Washington Post declared Herring the winner of the race.
Obenshain won Stafford County with 56% of the vote in the November General Election. A recount was compelted in that county yesterday and we’re working on bringing you the results.
Herring won both Manassas and Manassas Park in the November General Election.
MANASSAS, Va. – Congressman Frank Wolf is calling it quits after 33 years in office.
The long-serving congressman, who represents portions of Prince William, Loudoun, and Fairfax counties, announced his decision not to seek reelection on Tuesday.
He released this statement:
“I have decided not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress in 2014. It has been an honor to serve the people of northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. I thank my constituents for giving me the privilege of representing them in Congress for 34 years.
“As a follower of Jesus, I am called to work for justice and reconciliation, and to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. I plan to focus my future work on human rights and religious freedom – both domestic and international – as well as matters of the culture and the American family. My passion for these issues has been influenced by the examples of President Ronald Reagan, former Congressmen Jack Kemp and Tony Hall, Chuck Colson, and the life of 18th century Member of Parliament William Wilberforce.
“I want to thank the many excellent former and current members of my staff who have helped me serve the people of the 10th District. I am also grateful to my wife, Carolyn, and my family, who have faithfully stood by me all these many years.”
Republicans now must decide who they will run to fill Wolf’s seat.
Last week, Fairfax County Supervisor Mark Foust announced he is running to represent the 10th District.
HAYMARKET, Va. – Mayor David Leake was censured this morning in an special meeting of the Haymarket Town Council.
The censure stems from Leake withholding the names of two town employees. It appears those employees could be in trouble, though town officials are mum on who they are or what they might have done.
“Absolutely, It’s a very serious situation,” Leake told Potomac Local News when asked of the severity of the situation regarding the employees.
Prior to the Town Council’s vote to censure Leake for withholding the names, a special committee comprised of Vice Mayor Jay Tobias and Councilman Steven Aitken was formed and was charged with investigating personnel issues involving the two town employees.
Leake said the committee is not qualified to conduct such an investigation, and added he’ll only release the names of the town employees to a third-party investigator brought in on the council of the town’s hired attorneys.
“Town council members handling the investigation…it’s out of their league and it’s out of their professionalism… it’s just not the right way to go,” said Leake.
Additionally, Leake said he is looking into overturning both motions made at today’s special town council meeting. The first: to create the investigative committee wtih Tobais and Aitken, and second: to reverse his censure. The Mayor said the town charter allows the mayor — who is not allowed to vote — to cast a veto by making his case in writing and presenting it within five days of the council’s vote.
Tobias made the motion Monday to censure Leake. When reached for comment, he said little about the investigation noting only that officials are looking into personnel maters, and added “it is certainly possible” the committee’s investigation could yield information on the good doings of the two town employees in question.
The censure comes after Mayor David Leake in October moved to censure and fine Tobias after he was charged with public intoxication at the town’s annual Haymarket Day.
WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Some of the Delegates from eastern Prince William County headed to Richmond next month for the annual General Assembly lawmaking session will take questions from voters next week.
More in a press release from Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William, Fauquier)
The General Assembly Delegation from Eastern Prince William County will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on Thursday, December 19th at 7PM at the Coles District Volunteer Fire Department- 13712 Dumfries Road, Manassas, Virginia 20112.
The evening will be an opportunity to hear directly from legislators about their priorities during the upcoming 2014 General Assembly Session and take questions from those in attendance.
For more information, contact Andrew Clark at 703-580-1294.
A Fairfax County Democrat is making a run for Congressman Frank Wolf’s seat in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District.
Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, representing the Dranesville District, has challenge and the Republican Wolf for a seat he has held since 1981.
More in a press release:
“Like so many Virginians, my life has been shaped by opportunities that were forged through hard work, but the reckless and irresponsible politics of Washington are holding Americans back from achieving our country’s promise of this opportunity,” said John Foust. “When Congressman Frank Wolf shutdown our nation’s government, it became clear just how out of touch Congressman Wolf’s dysfunctional agenda is with the values of Virginia families who want Congress to stop standing in the way of solutions at every turn. Whether it was balancing six budgets while still delivering quality services to residents or expanding full day kindergarten county?wide, in Fairfax I brought Republicans and Democrats together, worked hard, and got results – and it’s exactly this problem solving leadership that I’ll bring to Congress.”
Foust was elected to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2007 and unseated Republican Joan DuBois for the job. A once practicing attorney focused on construction law cases, Foust has since transitioned from his law practice and focused full time on his duties as a member of the Board of Supervisors.
He is married to his wife of 30 years, Dr. Marilyn Jerome for 30 years. They
have two sons, Matthew and Patrick, who both are recent college graduates.
Foust in a press release touts his work to improve traffic along Va. 7 and schools:
…as chairman of the Board’s Audit Committee, vice chairman of the Budget Committee and chairman of the County’s Economic Advisory Commission. He worked to expand full day kindergarten to the entire county and fund widening of Route 7 to ease congestion for commuters, amongst numerous other accomplishments.
Virginia’s 10th Congressional District spans western Prince William, western Fairfax County, and Loudoun County.
RICHMOND, Va. – Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday that he would push for greater transparency and ethics reforms in state government.
McAuliffe spoke to a roomful of journalists after a panel discussion on political journalism ethics and political finance and gift-disclosure organized by the Associated Press.
The Northern Virginia businessman said he “would be inclined” to “issue an executive order” to waive the fees currently charged to citizens and journalists requesting government documents under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Under the federal FOIA, federal officials can waive the often prohibitive costs of a public records request if it pertains directly to the public good, but the state does not.
“It’s the first I’ve been asked this question,” McAuliffe said. “I think it’s a great idea. I will take it back and talk to my transition team about it.”
He said he was not aware that Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act lacks a provision to allow fees to be waived if the FOIA request is in the public interest.
Echoing President Obama’s campaign slogans, McAuliffe said he would set a new standard of “transparent, accountable, state government that is beholden only to the taxpayers who fund it.” He added, “Virginians should never have to question who their leaders are putting first.”
The best way to ensure political transparency, McAuliffe said, is to issue an executive order limiting gifts to politicians to no more than $100, increasing penalties for violating current disclosure laws and eliminating conflicts of interest; however, McAuliffe did not offer details about how the order would achieve those ends.
McAuliffe, a Democrat, said his almost-daily talks with outgoing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell often extend into weekends, facilitating what he called “the smoothest transition ever” as he prepares to take office.
In spite of their talks, however, McAuliffe said he knew only as much as the newspapers have reported about the federal investigation of McDonnell’s relationship with a dietary-supplement manufacturer.
McAuliffe spoke to about 50 journalists at AP Day at the Capital. The event, held at the Richmond Times-Dispatch offices, was organized by Virginia AP Managing Editors, the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association and the Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Also speaking at the event was Republican Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas. He said not all secrecy is bad, citing the 1776 Constitutional Convention that took place behind closed doors without public oversight.
Marshall said people behave differently when they know they’re being watched, and limiting gifts to $100 would “force political activity underground.”
Marshall said a “no gifts” policy would lead to prosecutions for unreported golf tips, information and special discounts; for example, getting a car at half price because of a person’s status as a politician. Marshall said whether a politician received discounts is “not in the public interest.”
Gov.-Elect Terry McAuliffe has selected his Secretary of Transportation, who will replace current transportation chief and former Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton.
More in a press release:
Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe on Friday announced his selection of Aubrey Layne as Secretary of Transportation at the Norfolk International Terminal.
Layne, a resident of Virginia Beach, has been a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board since 2009. The selection of Layne as Secretary of Transportation signifies McAuliffe’s commitment to tackling the transportation challenges facing the Hampton Roads region and the entire Commonwealth, as well as his continued efforts to put together a bipartisan administration focused on working with members of both parties to strengthen Virginia’s economy.
“Aubrey’s experience in statewide transportation planning and in the private sector give him valuable perspective on the pivotal role that transportation planning, construction and maintenance play in creating an environment where businesses can locate and thrive,” said Governor-elect McAuliffe. “He will be a Secretary of Transportation for the entire Commonwealth, and together we will work to find bipartisan, statewide solutions to growing our economy, creating more jobs here, and improving the quality of life for all Virginians.”
Layne added, “The Governor-elect has made a more modern, efficient transportation system a principal goal of his administration, and I am ready to take on that challenge and hit the ground running to do what we need to do to improve our transportation infrastructure.”
Both Governor-elect McAuliffe and Secretary-designate Layne also commended Governor McDonnell and the bipartisan legislature for passing the transportation funding package earlier this year, noting that it was a major step forward in making the necessary improvements in Virginia’s transportation system.
Connaughton lives in Triangle and was appointed Virginia Secretary of Transportation by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell after he won the seat in 2009. Prior to serving in Richmond, Connaughton was elected to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in 1999 and again in 2003 where he served as its chairman until 2006.
For the first and only time during his tenure as secretary, Connaughton addressed a Virginia County Board of Supervisors in August when he told the Prince William Board a proposed Bi-County Parkway would be used to carry light cargo between Dulles International Airport and Interstate 95.
DALE CITY, Va. – Richard Anderson will keep his seat representing the 51st House District that encompasses much of Prince William County. But he says it comes at a high price: a loss of civility in Virginia politics that “dates back to Thomas Jefferson.”
The Republican beat out his challenger, Democrat Reed Heedleston, by eight points on Tuesday. He was first elected to the office in 2009 and ran unopposed in 2011.
This election cycle the Heddleston campaign and Virginia Democrats mailed several disparaging, and downright nasty mailers to area homes that depicted caricatures Anderson drinking while wearing a Hawaiian, as well cartoons of Anderson taking special interest money, and limiting access to women’s healthcare.
The fliers were false, said Anderson. And the attacks tried to tie him national issues like the recent government shutdown, driving the conversation way from local issues, he added.
Anderson’s harshest critics, including the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, have given him grief over not supporting the landmark transportation reform passed this year that will allocate nearly $1 billion in transportation funding. Anderson has long maintained the higher sales taxes in Northern Virginia in Hampton Roads that were apart of the package were not good for Virginia families during the current recession.
Upon his return to Richmond, Anderson says he still plans to work with Democrats to find solutions to the state’s problems but has been shaken by this campaign.
“Of anyone of the 100 members [of the Virginia House of Delegates], I have demonstrated an ability of reasoning with others and doing so in a civil way… but now I have reached across the aisle and this time, instead of bringing my hand back, I brought back a bloody nub,” said Anderson. “It will heal pretty damn fast, and lets just say when I go to Richmond they will be dealing with a renewed, fortified Airman who spent 30 years in uniform, one who will bring that skill set to ensure we don’t have the McAuliffe, Clinton, Washington- based scorched earth, smash mouth politics that comes into the political culture in Virginia.”
The 51st District encompasses much of Prince William County, making it a target for the Virginia Democratic Party.
Running unopposed in 2011 hurt Anderson’s name recognition during this election cycle, he said. Anderson and his fellow legislators will return to Richmond on Jan. 8.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Michael Futrell will hold his first political office come January.
He unseated Republican Incumbent Mark Dudenhefer on Tuesday night and will be come the next man to represent Virginia’s 2nd House District. Futrell beat his opponent with a narrow 1.4% win.
With a political district that straddles Prince William and Stafford counties, Futrell won his seat thanks to the 10 heavily democratic precincts in Prince William County were he garnered 66% of the vote. As he has in the past, challenger Mark Dudenhefer won the majority of the 11 heavily Republican districts in Stafford County which round out the second half of the district. But it was not enough to carry him to victory.
Futrell says he’ll make it a priority to reach out to those in Stafford who did not vote for him.
“I don’t think I would call it the biggest upset of the night but I do think it was a well-deserved win,” said Futrell. “We’ve seen the numbers, and now we need to go forward and represent the entire district.”
Futrell overcame a challenge early on in the campaign when the text of his website was found to mirror that of another elected Democrat in Charlottesville. Over the summer, Futrell came under fire after he admitted he had not filed his taxes during the previous three years for his non-profit organization Make The Future that mentors area children.
He added he was surprised that the campaign took a negative turn, and that he is now looking to put differences aside and focus on transportation, education, and issues involving military members and their families, he said.
Outgoing Dudenhefer was the first to be elected to serve the 2nd District after it was created in 2010 following Virginia’s decennial redistricting process. In statement Tuesday night, he said he would continue to serve the state.
“We focused on the issues and what was important to Stafford and Prince William. I have been honored to represent these fine people for two years, and appreciate all the support I received, not only these past few months campaigning, but also legislating Richmond,” stated Dudenhefer.
Prior to heading to Richmond in 2011, he served as the Chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.
This Michael Futrell first time seeking political office and he hopes to unseat Republican incumbent Mark Dudenhefer on Election Day.
Futrell, a Democrat, seeks to represent the Virginia’s 2nd House District which includes portions of eastern Prince William County to northern Stafford County. Dudenhefer was the first to represent the district when it was created in 2011 following the state’s decennial redistricting processes.
Futurell says his leadership within the local Democratic Party, his work on the non-profit he founded “Make the Future,” and his business experience as a pharmaceutical sales representative would make him a natural leader.
A key issues in the 2nd District is transportation. Both Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 run directly through the heart of the district, and many of its residents rely on these two roads to get them to work, school, and to play each day.
Futrell has called for the expansion of Metro rail from Springfield to Woodbridge, which would allow for more cars to be taken off area streets, he said. Sidewalks are another key to his transportation vision: the area needs more of them, he said.
He’s also eyeing more opportunities in public transportation to move more people around the entire district.
“There’s not one bus that runs between Prince William and Stafford County, and that is one thing I will look into – how to move more people between these two rapidly developing areas,” said Futrell.
Business and jobs
Much of his focus on transportation also says a lot about his policy on businesses. U.S. 1 must be improved in order to attract and sustain new businesses to the corridor.
While improvements are well underway and new shops are opening at places like Marumsco Plaza in Woodbridge, and U.S. 1 is being widened in two places in Woodbridge, he says business owners and community leaders need a stronger voice.
“We’ll invite business owners and community leaders to a newly created district council to hear from them, and to determine the jobs of the future and what development is needed here. We want include everyone to make sure we are bringing the development to the area,” he said.
When state legislators this year approved landmark transportation reform, with it came an planned expansion of Medicare in the state. Some conservatives, including Republican gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Ken Cuccienlli have called for cutting back the Medicaid expansion.
Distancing himself from his opponent, Futrell supports it.
“This is a law that has already been passed and its something that we are going to pay for, so why not expand it,” he said.
His opponent says Medicaid, and by extension the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) needs to be revamped, revised, and updated, and has called for a review of it before the program is expanded in the state.
Also following the legislative session this year, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell signed into law a measure that gives a letter grade to schools – A through F – to rate their performance. Futrell is not a fan of this grading system.
“If you give the school an overall failing grade, it doesn’t give them much encouragement to improve,” he said.
Futrell spend a year as a school teacher in Ohio before moving to Virginia to become a pharmaceutical sales rep.
RICHMOND, Va. – While Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli duke it out in the gubernatorial election, another race is being fought more quietly – one that could have a deciding effect on Virginia’s legislative system.
Democratic state Sen. Ralph Northam is facing Republican preacher E.W. Jackson in the race for lieutenant governor. But GOP officials may be smiling even if Jackson loses, as polls predict. That’s because Northam would have to give up his seat in the now-evenly-divided Virginia Senate – opening the door for Republicans to capture an outright majority in that chamber.
Northam holds a 16 percentage-point lead over Jackson, according to the Roanoke College Poll. The survey, released Wednesday, showed Northam at 48 percent and Jackson at 32 percent. (The remaining respondents were uncertain or did not answer. The poll had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.) Previous surveys by The Washington Post/Abt SRBI and Christopher Newport University also gave Northam double-digit margins.
If Northam wins on Tuesday, a special election would be called to fill the seat representing the 6th Senate District, which includes parts of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore.
Norman Leahy, author of the politically conservative blog “Bearing Drift,” said the potential vacancy in the Senate is something neither party should take lightly.
“I would hope that both parties have been thinking about this for a long time. They would be fools not to,” Leahy said. “If a Republican were to win Northam’s seat, which I think is possible, it would drastically change the way the General Assembly works up until 2015, when the next Senate election is held.”
In Virginia, the lieutenant governor presides over the 40-member Senate and casts tie-breaking votes in that chamber. Bill Bolling, the current lieutenant governor, has been able to capitalize on that role because of the 20-20 party split in the Senate.
If a Republican wins Northam’s seat, the numbers would tilt 21-19 in favor of the Republicans.
“Republicans in the past have used Bolling to help organize the Senate and cast votes in their favor. If that seat is taken by a Republican, they would have an outright majority, and the lieutenant governor would be nothing more than a figurehead role,” Leahy said.
He said a shift in the balance of power could upset McAullife’s ability to govern if he were to win.
“If he [McAuliffe] wins and the Senate goes Republican, we would have a Democratic governor with an all-conservative legislative body. It would be very hard for Terry to get things done,” Leahy said.
Northam isn’t the only statewide candidate potentially vacating a Senate seat. Both candidates for attorney general – Democrat Mark Herring and Republican Mark Obenshain – are state senators.
VCU political science professor John Aughenbaugh predicted there will be two Senate seats vacated.
“I think McAuliffe is going to win the governor’s race, Northam lieutenant governor and Obenshain attorney general. That would mean special elections would be held for both Northam and Obenshain,” Aughenbaugh said.
Obenshain has a slight lead in most polls, although the Roanoke College Poll put Herring ahead. If Obenshain wins and must vacate his Senate seat, it wouldn’t have dramatic political ramifications, Leahy said.
“Obenshain represents an area that is pretty conservative. I highly doubt that a Democrat would have the opportunity to win that seat,” he said.
When a Senate or House seat becomes vacant, the governor calls a special election. Leahy said those campaigns can pose a challenge for political parties and candidates.
“These elections happen in a very compressed amount of time. They take place during an absolutely terrible time for a political race – right around the holiday season,” Leahy said. “Running that race is going to be tough for either party, but I know the Republicans are going to put everything they’ve got into winning if Jackson loses.”
The 6th District seat that Northam holds has voted both Republican and Democratic. From 1941 to 2000, the seat was held by a Democrat. But from 2000 to 2008, Republican Nick Rerras represented the district.
While Leahy believes the seat is up for grabs by either party, Democratic Delegate Algie Howell disagreed. Howell has been a delegate since 2004, representing some of the same parts of Norfolk and Virginia Beach as Northam. He doubts a Republican will take the seat.
“Anything is a possibility; it depends on who runs and how strong the candidate is. The district he [Northam] is in leans Democrat, so I don’t see a chances of Republican winning as that great,” Howell said.
Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, also said he is optimistic a Democrat would win Northam’s seat.
“His district is a good Democratic district. I know at least two great candidates for that seat – Lynwood Lewis and Paula Miller,” Petersen said.
Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, Prince William, also said he is confident in the Democrats’ chances to retain the 6th Senate District seat.
“I don’t think Ralph would have ran for lieutenant governor if he thought there was a strong chance a Republican would take his seat,” Barker said.
What makes the lieutenant gubernatorial race so interesting, Leahy said, is Jackson’s rise to the position. He has never held elective office and came out of nowhere to win the Republican nomination over six other candidates at the party convention on May 18.
“At the convention, Jackson’s people showed up, and they stayed through all of the ballots and won. I don’t think anyone was as surprised as him when he won the nomination,” Leahy said.
“Now he has to run a campaign he has never run before. His only prior experience was getting just over 4 percent of the votes in the U.S. Senate race. He’s like the dog who caught the car. Now, what’s next?”
Before his nomination, Jackson was relatively unknown, but he has made a name for himself with comments like, “The idea Obama is a Christian is laughable.”
So how did Jackson win the nomination? Was it because of dedicated supporters, or was there something going on behind the scenes? Leahy said he believes ulterior motives could have factored into the nomination.
“I don’t think he was set up on purpose to lose to Northam to open up his Senate seat. I doubt the Republicans are that smart,” Leahy said. “What I do think could have happened was the other candidates were spiteful that Jackson won the early rounds of the convention and threw him their support with the mindset ‘If I can’t have this seat, no one can.’”
Ultimately, Leahy said it is hard to predict anything when it comes to special elections. Past voting patterns and the specific district can only tell so much.
“If you look at history, some trends seem to be true. They work until they stop working. With a Democrat in the White House, Virginians assume the next governor will be a Republican, but it may not happen,” Leahy said.
“It all comes down a party’s ability to get people out in a low-turnout election. It puts both parties to a test stand. A candidate stands as good a chance as anybody in those elections.”
BRISTOW, Va. – The end is in sight for Ken Cuccinelli and his race against Terry McAuliffe to become Virginia’s next governor.
He’s been out spent, and is lagging in the polls to his opponent by at least 12 points. But, during a campaign appearance with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday with just six days to go until the election, the conservative Republican says winning bellwether Prince William County and the rest of the state remains in his grasp.
“We are working the ground and working the other side like crazy in Prince William County… there’s a lot of work to be done here, a lot of voters to contact, and a real opportunity to win,” Cuccinelli told Potomac Local News.
Last year, President Barack Obama handily won Prince William County with 57% of the vote. When Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was elected in 2009, he turned the county red once again after Obama carried it in 2008.
By his own admission, it will be a close race for the Attorney General who brought Jindal back to Virginia following a similar appearance in Richmond following Cuccinelli’s nomination in May. Jindal, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016, called Cuccinelli a “principled leader.”
“In these times, I’m so tired of politicians who stick their finger in the wind to find out where they need to go. We’ve got a saying in Louisiana is when they see a crows marching on city hall they get in front of it and call it a parade,” said Jindal.
This was the second high-profile campaign event in Prince William in the past three days. McAuliffe brought in President Bill Clinton to stump for him on Sunday in Dale City.
The candidates in this governor’s have chosen to rally supporters on national issues and have shied away from state and local issues, such as transportation and education. Cuccienlli on Tuesday referenced the most recent failings of the Obama care website and users inability to access the website and sign up for healthcare coverage. As Attorney General, Cuccinelli sued the federal government following the passage of the law only to have the U.S. Supreme Court rule Obama care a tax.
A vote for Cuccienlli, he maintains, will be a message to Washington that citizens do not want to be forced to purchase to healthcare.
“If the government can tell you how to do this and what to buy then they can tell you to buy anything,” he said.
He went on to liken McAuliffe’s record to insider politics and big government in Washington, and continued by calling the Federal Government the “largest opponent in the world.”
Cuccinelli was first elected to the Virginia Senate in 2002 and remained there until 2010, when he took office as the state’s Attorney General following the election and inauguration of McDonnell. He now lives with his wife Teiro, five daughters and two sons, in Prince William County.
Patricia Ann Trimble has a long history in city government. She has seen how both the Commissioners and Treasurers offices work and feels that she can use this information to better operate the revenue office for the people of Manassas Park.
“I am a very down to Earth person and I believe that city officials are here for the citizens,” Patty told Potomac Local News.
As the Commissioner of Revenue, Trimble said she would like to eliminate the windshield decal that all residents are supposed to have on their cars. Trimble said that the taxpayers would save money for the postage of the decals, the printing of forms for the decals and creation of the decal stickers. Since the police department in Manassas Park can now stop people who are in arrears on tax payment, Trimble said the decals are no longer necessary.
“I would like to work on better hours for our citizens,” Trimble said. “We are here to make residential and business life easier not harder.”
Currently, Manassas Park city offices are closed from 1:30-3 p.m. to lower costs, however this makes it challenging for people working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to get city business accomplished. Trimble said she would like the office to stay open late at least one night a week and to make the Commissioner of Revenue’s office more accessible via the web, which would allow residents to make payments and do paperwork at home.
Voters will go to the polls Nov. 5.
DALE CITY, Va. – With nine days left until the statewide gubernatorial election, President Bill Clinton came to Dale City on Sunday to campaign for Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
McAuliffe, who has been running a vigorous campaign to become Virginia’s next governor, has a seven-point lead over his opponent Attorney General Ken Cucineilli. The event at VFW Post 1503 on Minnieville Road was used to keep campaign workers and canvassers energized.
“The big reason for the big political division in this country is that during the non-presidential years a whole different America shows up than in the presidential years. And those of who want the country to come together and move forward, and those of us who want Virginia to come together and move forward, have got to care as much about this election as you did about the election in 2012,” said Clinton.
Last November President Barack Obama handily won reelection with the help of Virginia voters who swept him back into office with 51% of the vote. In Prince William County, where today’s campaign rally was held, Obama beat Republican rival Mitt Romney with 57% of the vote.
MORE to the STORY>> Stafford’s first elected black leader featured on Clinton – McAuliffe stage
McAuliffe once again painted his opponent as a conservative ideologue who out of touch with mainstream voters. He touted more funding for the state’s community colleges, expanding Medicaid, more equal rights for gays, and he repeatedly tied Cuccinelli to the recent 16-day Federal Government shutdown brought on by GOP members of congress.
“The idea that a mom or dad should have to tell their children that they can’t work because of congressional dysfunction is a national disgrace,” said McAuliffe.
But McAuliffe may be having a tough time tying Cucineelli to the shutdown, as the latest Quinnipiac University Poll however states the shutdown “apparently has no impact on the governor’s race.”
Also appearing at the rally was Democrat Attorney General candidate Mark Herring who faces Republican Mark Obenshain. Also on the ballot will be Democrat Ralph Northam who is challenging Republican E.W. Jackson for the Lt. Govenor’s job.
All candidates will be voted upon separately as they are not running on party tickets.
Libertarian Robert Sarvis is also seeking the governorship and is polling at 10% among likely voters, according to the poll.
Cuccinelli will appear with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is scheduled to appear in Bristow at a campaign rally at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Jindal shared the stage with Cuccinelli in May during Virginia Republican’s nominating convention in Richmond.
Rep. Gerald E. “Gerry” Connolly (D-Fairfax, Prince William) said Prince William County will remain a “blue” county and will serve as a bellwether for the election.
“This is a democratic county, and we are going to Virginia the same thing we showed them last November,” said Connolly as he warmed up the crowd.
Carlos Castro, owner of Todos Supermarkets in Dumfries and Woodbridge, touted McAuliffe’s entrepreneurial roots as a salesman and venture capitalist. An immigrant from El Salvador to the U.S. in 1980, Castro said it was people like McAuliffe who helped him grow his business.
“It is exciting to know we will have an entrepreneur as a governor,” he said.
A total of 533 people came to Sunday’s rally, according to Prince William County Fire Marshal Paul Smiljanich. The meeting hall has a capacity of 750 people.
Voters will head to the polls Nov. 5.
On the stage behind President Bill Clinton and Virginia Gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe on Sunday sat Stafford County’s first black elected member of its Board of Supervisors.
Bob Woodson represented Stafford’s Griffis-Widewater Magisterial District until he stepped down from the board in 2012.
While he’s been seen at public functions, he’s remained largely out of the public spotlight. At the rally, Woodson said he’s not looking to make a return to public life but does want get more people involved in the electoral process at the local level.
“This is where the action is. The action is in the local level, not necessarily the presidential level. It’s the local level where you elect your legislator, where you elect your House of Delegates, or you elect your state senators. That’s what’s important,” said Woodson.
In his home county of Stafford, where Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 won the vote by 10 points, Woodson expects McAuliffe to have a good showing.
“I think he should carry the county, but whether he will or not remains to be seen,” said Woodson.
He added the northern portion of the Stafford County is made up of an electorate of more issue-oriented voters, and has fewer conservatives than neighborhoods located further south near Fredericksburg..
“They’re looking at the issues and what can you do help improve our community? What can you do help improve our transportation system? What can you do to help improve our parks and rec.?” said Woodson.
Woodson was elected in 2008 to serve Griffis-Widewater and chose not to seek reelection. His term ended on a sour note when two Republicans on the board refused to sign a proclamation honoring him.
Woodson was succeeded by Republican Jack Cavalier who ran as an independent candidate.
Woodbridge School Board Candidate, Williams Says 2013 November Election is About Bettering Schools, Not Competition
Loree Williams has been a resident of Woodbridge for over 30 years. She is running up against current incumbent Steve Keen for occupation of the Woodbridge seat on the Prince William County School Board. She says this election isn’t about competition; rather, it’s about bettering the schools.
“There are no enemies in this race,” she says. “Keen has served before and I think that he is a wonderful opponent and has done a great number of things for our county.”
Williams is a wife and mother with two sons, one who is currently attending a Prince William County school. She says this gives her the opportunity to offer a fresh perspective that is not currently being represented on the board.
“I served as a PTA president at my son’s elementary for two years and I also am currently serving on the PWC Gifted Advisory Board. When the position for school board came up, I felt like this was the next logical step for me to try to help our county’s students, parents and teachers,” she says. “Currently there is no one on the board that has young children and with the best interest in seeing our county’s schools grow and change to meet the needs of the students that are in the schools,” she says.
Williams says one of the biggest challenges facing schools is adapting to new technologies.
“Technology is becoming more and more imperative in our schools and education and most of the students are doing some type of online learning,” she says. Williams says it is important that students and teachers both have the technological capabilities they need in modern society.
Additionally, Williams says she will advocate smaller class sizes to allow for a better learning environment for students and teachers.
“I am fully aware of how much time it takes for our teachers, especially when they have 33 students in a class, that’s over 108 students they have to deal with in a day when it comes to grading papers and all the preparation they need for the class.” she says. “It would be to our advantage if we reduce our class sizes to alleviate some of that stress from the teachers and to provide more one-on-one attention for our students.”
Controversial Pool Proposal
An indoor aquatics facility could soon be coming to the 12th high school in Prince William County and has caused controversial opinions across the Woodbridge community. One of the first decisions the newly elected Woodbridge school board member will make is whether to authorize the school division to build the pool.
Prince William County Schools project that the pool’s cost will be $10.5 million to construct and $800,000 per year to operate, in which usage fees will cover about 70-100 percent of the operating fees. PWCS says that it will serve the entire community, providing aquatic instruction, lessons and space for private and high school swim teams.
Williams says the pool could be beneficial to educational instruction, however, she says it is important to be mindful of the budgetary and upkeep factors that come along with the proposal.
“Because our mission for PWCS is to provide a world class education for our students, I could see how having a pool inside one of our schools would be an added benefit to that, but the operation and maintenance (issues) are something we need to look deeper into and come up with some definite and final decisions,” says Williams.
The superintendent’s proposed budget for FY 2014-2015 will be presented this February, shortly after the school board member is elected. One of the biggest issues talked about at the board of supervisors level is how the budget can be managed properly to see that schools are funded and teachers are retained. Williams says that if she is elected she will work to form a budget committee to review the school division’s proposed budget.
“I do everything in my power to educate myself on all the issues pertaining to the schools, whether I’m elected to the board or not,” she says. “If I am elected, it would only be to my benefit to continue that habit. I can’t make an informed decision unless I, myself is informed.”
Virginia voters will go to the polls on Nov. 5 for the 2013 General Election.
Delegate Jackson Miller, Republican representing the 50th district (Manassas and Prince William County) has served the Virginia House of Delegates since 2006. This year he is running for reelection against Democrat Richard Cabellos. He will continue to center his campaign on public safety, criminal justice and business.
As a former police officer for 17 years, he is experienced with issues of criminal justice and public safety. He is responsible for sponsoring legislation that would protect victim and witnesses of crimes by requiring that the defense attorney not be able to publically disclose the personal information of the victim and witnesses. He said this exemption is only currently intact for gang crimes. His bill would include victims and witnesses of drug crimes and violent felonies.
“A lot of people assume that a violent felon who has been charged that they would not have access to the victim or witness’s information, but in fact they do,” he says. “Right now we only allow it for serious gang crimes. We should allow it for all crimes.”
Although these three areas are aligned with his professional level of expertise, Miller says he strives to represent all the issues important to his constituents. Having served as majority whip in the Virginia House of Delegates, he had the opportunity to influence legislation that he may not be a part of otherwise.
Miller says he has worked hard to help fund and prioritize education properly.
“I’m proud to say that because of my previous support of education in Virginia, that I got the endorsement of the Manassas Education Association and the Prince William Education Association,” he says. “I continue to work hard on the funding of schools and classroom sizes and that’s why I have the endorsement of teachers and that’s something I’m very proud of.”
Miller’s target-area when it comes to schools has to do with security. Last session he sponsored a bill with the focus of providing experienced security personnel in the schools.
“It’s a bill that would allow retired police officers under the Virginia Retired system to be hired by a school system full-time to be a school security guard,” he says. Currently, several retired police officers are able to get jobs as school security guards, but not on a fulltime basis. He says that this bill would help provide a safer school environment, especially if a critical incident were to occur.
“It’s much safer for the schools because a retired police officer knows and understands police procedures in a critical incident,” he says. “In many cases, the police officer goes to work in the jurisdiction he was (originally) a police officer so he almost instantly knows the officers and how they respond.”
Miller says he was not in favor of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s bipartisan transportation package because he feels it is detrimental to Prince William County. He says that in Northern Virginia’s Planning District 8, which includes Prince William County, Fairfax and Loudon counties, Miller says the region saw a 20 percent increase in sales tax and a 150 percent increase in the Grantor’s Tax, which is a tax on homes sold in the area.
“I simply couldn’t support bill that would have significant tax increases on my businesses and my constituents,” he says. “Prince William’s biggest competitors for business aren’t Fairfax and Loudon, our biggest competitors are Stafford and to a lesser degree, Faquier County, but those counties don’t have that tax increase.”
Miller says that it could be argued that the population in Fauquier and Stafford are gaining a huge increase at a higher rate than the Prince William County residents because they do not have to absorb the same tax increase.
“I simply cannot vote for the bill when we pay much more than our neighbors, yet they commute through the same region we do at a higher percentage than PWC residents.” Additionally, Miller fears the transportation package will ultimately be damaging to business development.
“I don’t disagree that it will benefit people in Prince William County, but still I don’t think it’s worth it at the cost of us not being able to attract jobs,” he says. “It’s a lot more difficult for Prince William to attract the huge high-tech companies that bring a lot of high paying jobs to Fairfax and Loudon counties.”
As a current realtor and real estate investor, Miller is oriented toward making Virginia more business-friendly.
“I drew a lot of pieces of legislation that were created to help businesses,” he says. “They (were created) to let businesses work more smoothly under the guidelines that the state government provides for them.”
He says creating regulations is not always bad for business and that his knowledge of different types of businesses helps with making regulatory legislative decisions.
“I’ve worked to help several types of business groups eliminate regulations that weren’t necessary and sometimes create regulations that the industry thinks is necessary,” he says.
Miller says that the Affordable Care Act, a federal comprehensive healthcare reform package that is set to be expanded in Virginia on Oct. 1, could be damaging to Virginia as a state. He worries that by accepting the healthcare expansion during a time when the federal economy is fragile, Virginia will later be expected to make significant budget cuts in order to continue to fund the program.
“It’s not good policy and has the ability to break the budget of the commonwealth of Virginia,” says Miller. “I think that expansion is way too risky for the future of the commonwealth and that it would be a direct threat to funding for education, funding for public safety and all the other services that are provided by (the state).”
Miller says his experience as a delegate and with the community help to give him an advantage as a candidate in the upcoming election. He says that he respects his opponent, Cabellos, as a respectable family man, however he doesn’t believe Cabellos has the pulse of the Prince William County and Manassas communities.
“Mr. Cabellos doesn’t know the district. He’s only lived here for a couple years. A vast majority of his political work is in the Arlington and Alexandria area and I believe he has the Arlington and Alexandria type of mentality,” he says. “I was a police officer for almost 12 years. I served on the Manassas city council for two years. I’ve been very involved in a variety of other organizations.”