New Leadership in Virginia—New Hope
Let’s hear it for the new leadership in Richmond—especially Governor Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring. Imagine Virginia leaders fighting for health care for 400,000 people and going to court fighting for cleaner water and air, and human equality under the law?! Just a few months ago, Virginia’s governor and Attorney General were little more than late night comedy fare, up to their ears in corruption scandal and opposing health care for the non-wealthy, cleaner air and water, and equality. But these two Democrats are trying to roll large boulders up a steep incline with broad support among a large majority of Virginians but precious little support from too many elected. Governor McAuliffe has succeeded in energizing a slim Senate majority of Democrats and a handful of moderate Republicans to back market-driven insurance reform which will take available federal tax dollars and extend basic health insurance to up to 400,000 Virginians now without any health care. This is a measure which is morally the right thing to do as well as being a big economic plus for Virginia. But, the Republicans who control the House of Delegates by a 2 to 1 margin vigorously oppose extending health care to the non-wealthy: 1) because they could care less about doing so and, 2) because doing so might be seen as a victory for President Obama—plain and simple. Attorney General Herring from neighboring Loudoun County represents a 180-degree change from tea bagger Ken Cuccinelli. Herring has filed a friend of the court brief supporting actions to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, a body of water vital to human health in the region and which provides a critical part of our healthy food supply. He has also reversed the former position of the Commonwealth in court by joining the opposition to Virginia’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. We can also expect AG Herring not to waste his time or our tax dollars harassing climate or other researchers in the Virginia academic community because he doesn’t agree with their research direction. He is using, and will use, the power of his office to work in our public interest. It is hard to find heroes in government in the Commonwealth of Virginia—not impossible, but awfully hard in this pay-to-play atmosphere. A recent example of what the legislature typically produces is the so-called ethics reform bill which was celebrated by the vast majority of the good ol’ boys and girls because it changed little in their free-wheeling gift taking and campaign finance environment. Another example is our plutocratic senior Senator from Virginia, Mark Warner who is awash in nearly $10 million in campaign contributions from the fattest of cats for his re-election campaign. Last week, he demanded that President Obama promptly approve the Keystone pipeline, an environmental nightmare dearly loved by big oil. In six years in the Senate, what has Warner accomplished? Other than backstabbing trade unions’ proposal to ease barriers to organizing, opposing the President’s cap and trade proposal which died in the Senate, and opposing a public option to add competition and lower costs in the Affordable Care Act, to name a few examples, I am hard pressed to think of anything. Let me know if I’ve overlooked something that would suggest voting for him would make sense in 2014. In a future column, we’ll look at alternatives to Senator Warner.