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Michael Lee Pope

Stories by Michael Lee

Week in Alexandria

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Demand Curve in Alexandria

Labor shortage and housing shortfall lead to affordability crisis.

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More Students, Few Dollars in Alexandria

Schools are bursting at the seams while trying to do more with less.

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High Interest, Big Money

Lenders of last resort in Alexandria try to buy influence in Richmond.

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250,000+ Eligible Latino Voters in Virginia

Arlandria is home to one of the largest Salvadoran communities in the country.

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Dismal Science

Construction permits are down and unemployment claims are up, raising red flags for economists.

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Living in the Dark

Could you survive without your iPhone? Do you have an evacuation kit? Are you really prepared for the worst?

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Virginia House Whip Faces Democratic Primary

Spain criticizes Lopez's work on immigration, relationship with governor, presence in community.

If Democrats seize control of the House this November, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) is poised to be in a leadership position helping to guide the agenda of a party that has not been in power since the 1990s. But that’s only if he makes it through the primary.

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Pay to Play or Legitimate Representation in Virginia?

Senator’s consulting business takes center stage in primary campaign.

Is two-term Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) a rising star, poised to become chairwoman of a Senate committee if Democrats seize control of the Senate? Or is she an opportunist capitalizing on insider influence for personal gain? That’s a question for voters this June in a primary that pits Favola against challenger Nicole Merlene, who says Favola’s consulting business is the embodiment of everything that’s wrong about Virginia politics.

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Virginia Senate Minority Leader Faces Two Primary Challengers

Dick Saslaw hasn’t had a primary challenge since the 1970s; now he has two.

The last time Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw had a primary opponent, Jimmy Carter was in the White House and the Bee Gees were at the top of the charts. This year, for the first time since 1979, Saslaw has primary opposition. Not just one opponent, but two.

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Green Late Deal in Alexandria

Broken promises and missed deadlines plague Eco-City Alexandria.

Alexandria adopted its Eco-City charter with great fanfare in 2008 along with a promise: The charter would be renewed in a decade. That deadline has now come and gone with no plans to update it. In 2009, members of the City Council approved an Eco-City action plan along with another promise: It would be renewed in five years. Once again, city officials breezed through that deadline.

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The Hidden History of Del Ray

Uncovering the secret past in the Town of Potomac.

Gambling. Corruption, Racism. Greed. These are all part of a little-known narrative from the Del Ray's long-ago past, a time when progressive leaders closed a corrupt racetrack and formed the Town of Potomac, only to see an unwanted attempt by Alexandria City Hall to steal the land in a controversial annexation.

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Boysko Wins Wexton Seat

Democrats enter the new year with a fresh victory and a full head of steam.

.Virginia’s 33rd state Senate District was once a solidly Republican seat, a place where conservative voters repeatedly rewarded Bill Mims for opposing same-sex marriage and championing homeschooling. But ever since Mims resigned to take a job in the McDonnell administration, the seat has been held by a succession of Democrats on their way to bigger and better things.

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Education Issues Take Center Stage

Constituents tell lawmakers to increase teacher pay; ERA, $15 minimum wage and more.

Teachers deserve a pay raise, and Virginia desperately needs to hire more school counselors. These were two of the most prevalent concerns voiced by constituents to members of the Fairfax County legislative delegation, the largest in the Virginia General Assembly.

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Democratic Insurgent Versus Republican Moderate

January special election to fill seat vacated by Jennifer Wexton features two familiar faces.

The first election of 2019 might end up being a harbinger of things to come for Republicans, who have seen their presence all but evaporate in Northern Virginia. It could also test the limits of the blue wave that washed over Virginia since Donald Trump was elected president.

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Democrats Seize Control of Northern Virginia

Region once had its own brand of Republicanism; now that seems almost extinct.

The loss of two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (D-10) means Republicans are down to one lone elected official in Northern Virginia, Del. Tim Hugo (R-40). The blue wave that started last year unseating Republicans like Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67) and Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) continued this year, when state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-10) was able to flip a seat that had been in Republican hands since a young military lawyer named Frank Wolf beat incumbent Democrat Joe Fisher back in 1980.

Senate Election is Blast from the Past

Kaine and Stewart both played key roles in 2016; now they’re at the top of the ballot this year.

Elections rarely get do-overs. Winners make victory speeches, and losers slink away to become consultants. But this year’s election for U.S. Senate features two key players in the 2016 presidential election that upended American politics.

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A New Era for Affordable Housing in Alexandria

City moves from rehabilitating old apartment buildings to developing new affordable units.

Alexandria is falling behind its affordable housing goal, creating or preserving about half of the units that were anticipated five years ago. But now that that restaurant diners will be chipping in an extra $5 million a year, city officials are poised to move forward with an aggressive new slate of affordable housing development. Gone are the days when city officials could get their hands on a few 1940s garden apartments here and there to rehabilitate. These days the thinking at City Hall is developing new units as part of a grand strategy to build their way out of an affordable housing crisis.

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Virginia Voters Choose Firebrand

Corey Stewart to lead Republican ticket this fall.

Conservative firebrand Corey Stewart was denied an opportunity to be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2013. And then he came within striking distance of being the party’s standard-bearer in the gubernatorial campaign last year. Now, finally, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors has secured a spot at the top of the ticket, bringing his brand of anti-immigrant, pro-Confederate Trumpism to the race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine.

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Wexton to Take on Comstock

Moderate state senator did not get pulled to the left in primary.

State Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33) made a name for herself in Northern Virginia as a tough-as-nails prosecutor, including one case that grabbed national headlines involving a woman who persuaded her boyfriend to kill her father with a samurai sword. During her campaign for the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, she never lost that sense of law-and-order grit, refusing to be pulled to the left as other candidates were calling for President Trump to be impeached.

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Blue Firefight in Virginia's 10th Congressional District

Six Democrats vying for Democratic nomination to face Barbara Comstock.

Democrats are so eager to take on two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10), some of them have actually moved to the district specifically to run against her.

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Down the Drain in Alexandria

State slashes funds to fix city’s combined sewer system.

Alexandria’s plan to fix its raw sewage problem may be going down the drain, at least this year. Leaders in the House and Senate money committees slashed $20 million out of the budget that was supposed to help the city fix its antiquated combined sewer system, which floods the Potomac River with raw sewage whenever there is as little as 0.03 inches of rain.

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Budget Brinkmanship in Virginia

Lawmakers poised to leave town without passing budget.

Budget showdowns are rare in Virginia, but not unprecedented. Back in 2004, Gov. Mark Warner clashed with Republicans over a sales tax increase. Then in 2014, Gov. Terry McAuliffe engaged in brinkmanship over expanding Medicaid. Now lawmakers are poised to end the session once again without passing a budget.

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Mixed Success on Menstrual Equity in Virginia

Increased availability behind bars, but no tax breaks during back-to-school week.

Several lawmakers from Northern Virginia arrived in Richmond this year hoping to push a cause known as menstrual equity — making sure that feminine hygiene products are affordable, safe and available. But success has been mixed.

Virginia Senate Might Torpedo Medicaid Expansion

Democrats still need to flip one more GOP senator to make it happen.

Usually it’s the state Senate that leads on progressive issues, and the House of Delegates kind of drags its feet. Not this year.

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Gun Debate on Lockdown in Virginia

Democrats unable to gain traction on reform, despite new numbers in House.

When lawmakers arrived in Richmond last month, Democrats were hopeful that they would be able to use their new numbers to gain some traction on the gun debate. Now that the session is half over and the nation is reeling from yet another mass shooting, very little of their agenda has been accomplished at the Capitol.

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View from Coffin Corner

Extreme position on House floor enjoys a storied history.

As a freshman delegate in 1978, Ken Plum was assigned a desk in the far corner on the Democratic side of the House of Delegates — seat 17. It wasn’t the best vantage point in the House because about a third of the Republican members were totally out of view. The senior members took the seats at the back of the chamber near the center, sticking Plum in the corner.

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Virginia Lawmakers Play Whack-A-Mole with Predatory Lenders

Senate panel takes action limiting one kind of high-interest loan, leaving loophole for another.

By this time next year, high-interest lenders may be prohibited from making consumer finance loans — at least ones they find profitable at 200 percent interest. So that loophole may be closed by the end of the General Assembly session. But it seems likely lawmakers will leave Richmond this year creating no restrictions on open-end lines of credit, raising concern among some that lawmakers are playing a game of whack-a-mole.

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Effort to Force Diversity at TJ School Fails

Lawmakers reject bill that would have required governor’s school to admit poor students.

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Naked Truth About Strip Searches at Traffic Stops

Northern Virginia Democrat advocates for strip searches to combat opioid crisis.

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Alexandria to Launch Airbnb Registry, Adding $200,000 in New Tax Revenue

Airbnb to collect the taxes and forward money to city.

For the last few months, city officials have been working behind the scenes to create a registration system for people who rent out their homes through Airbnb. Now they’ve created the online database, and they’re about to launch a campaign to let all the home-sharing businesses know it’s time to register with the city and start paying taxes.

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Northern Virginia Lawmakers Push for Menstrual Equity

General Assembly to consider bills providing feminine hygiene products in schools and prisons.

For one Alexandria woman who was booked into the Fairfax County jail a few years ago, the stress of the criminal justice system wasn't just about prosecution and detention. It was also about shame. Deputies confiscated her underwear because it wasn't white, the only color inmates are allowed to wear at the Fairfax jail. So she started worrying about what would happen when she started menstruating.

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From Medicaid to Broadband, Northern Virginia Lawmakers Prepare for Raucous Session

Democrats plan to use new numbers to accomplish wide-ranging agenda.

This year’s General Assembly will be like no other. For starters, members walking the halls of the Capitol will look different. The crop of freshman includes the first transgender woman to serve in the Virginia General Assembly, the first lesbian, the first Asian-American women and the first two Latinas. Gone are the 12 Republican members who were unseated, all white males. Also gone are the three members who got out before the bloodbath that flipped their seats from red to blue, also all white males. In their place is a diverse and young group of new members who are eager to make their mark on the commonwealth.

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Delaney Unseats LeMunyon

Former Republican defeats Republican who unseated Democrat Chuck Caputo in 2009.

Democrat Karrie Delaney unseated Republican incumbent Jim LeMunyon in the election last week, swamping him with a decisive victory in a wave election that saw 12 House GOP incumbents unseated across Virginia. Delaney, a former Republican, campaigned on a platform of expanding Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians who live in poverty or with disabilities.

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Kathy Tran Takes Open Seat

First-time candidate swamps Republican to take seat held by longtime Del. Dave Albo (R-42).

Virginia’s first Asian-American female delegate will be representing a part of Northern Virginia that has seen a radical transformation during the time since its incumbent took office more than two decades ago. Democrat Kathy Tran swamped Republican Lolita Mancheno-Smoak with a runaway victory, 61 percent to 39 percent. She ended up with 7,000 more votes than the Republican in the GOP-held seat. Mancheno-Smoak’s appeal was limited to two precincts with $5 million homes.

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Hugo Leads Tanner by Less Than One-Half Percent

Narrow margin in District 40 could result in a recount.

Del. Tim Hugo (R-40) was behind Donte Tanner (D) by 68 votes on Election night. Then, as canvassing continued at the elections offices the day after, Tanner was behind by 115 votes.

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Northern Virginia Leads Blue Wave

Democrats sweep statewide races and come close to taking over House of Delegates.

Democrats swept all three statewide seats this week and picked up so many seats in the House of Delegates that control of the chamber is now in doubt. Voters rejected Republican arguments about sanctuary cities and Confederate memorials, divisive issues that had moderate Republicans trying to win over the most extreme elements of President Donald Trump’s coalition.

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Following the Money from High-Interest Lenders to Virginia Lawmakers

Campaign cash helps undermine efforts to create consumer protections.

Recent years have seen increased scrutiny of high-interest lenders, businesses that offer a variety of loans at interest rates that often exceed 300 percent. Now campaign finance disclosures show the industry is spreading its influence across the political spectrum with about $800,000 in political contributions this election cycle according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.

On the Ballot

A look at statewide candidates and where they get their money.

Voters across Virginia will be headed to the polls Tuesday Nov. 7. Here’s a look at what’s on the ballot.

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Shifting Political Battlefield for Virginia General Assembly

Solid blue urban areas separated by political beltway from solid red exurbs.

Northern Virginia has more competitive seats than any other part of the commonwealth, a ring of districts that forms a beltway of sorts separating the inner solid blue in Arlington and Alexandria from the solid red in rural and exurban seats in Loudoun and Prince William. That puts Fairfax County squarely in the driver’s seat this November, when Democrats hope to pick up seats in an election that has balanced local issues like schools and roads with the ongoing reaction to President Donald Trump.

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LeMunyon Seat May Be Democrats' Best Chance of Taking Out GOP Incumbent

House District 67 is one of the most hotly contested races of the year.

On paper, the 67th House District seems like solidly blue territory. Democrat Hillary Clinton won it with almost 60 percent of the vote. But Republican Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67) has been in office for four terms, a time that this slice of Northern Virginia has been trending increasingly toward the Democratic Party. That puts this district in the spotlight as one of the most competitive House of Delegates races in Virginia, and it’s one reason supporters of Democrat Karrie Delaney say she's got a shot at ousting LeMunyon.

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Flu Shot Clinic Serves Double Duty as Disaster-Planning Scenario

Planning for the worst while helping city residents feel their best.

Alexandria is in the grip of a medical emergency. A mysterious strain of influenza is creating a deadly health crisis, and it doesn’t seem to be responding to the standard flu vaccine. Wait. Calm down. It’s just a disaster planning scenario.

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House District 40 Shows Republicans Still Competitive in Clinton Districts

Democratic newcomer Donte Tanner faces uphill climb against incumbent Tim Hugo.

Democrats are energized, and they’re targeting Republican-held House districts that Hillary Clinton won last year. But House District 40 shows what an uphill climb this year will be for them.

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Senators Meet with Leaders of Industry

In joint appearance, Warner and Kaine talk business in Northern Virginia.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner says Gov. Terry McAuliffe should pick one region of the commonwealth to compete for landing a second Amazon headquarters in Virginia instead of trying to cheerlead for three different areas simultaneously. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner says the federal government should be allowed to negotiate drug prices through Medicare to bring down the cost of prescriptions. These are some of the revelations that Warner and Kaine dropped on industry leaders this week at a meeting of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

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Pendulum Politics in Northern Virginia

House District 34 has swung to the left, the right and back again.

Northern Virginia’s wealthiest suburbs are also some of its most hotly contested battleground precincts, the House of Delegates district surrounding Great Falls that’s swung left and right and left again in recent years. What once was the home of legendary Republican Vince Callahan has become kind of jump ball after he announced his retirement a decade ago.

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