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Michael Lee Pope

Stories by Michael Lee

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.

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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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A Tale of Two Immigrants

Candidates hoping to replace Dave Albo are both living the American Dream.

One is from Ecuador. The other is from Vietnam. Both are successful professional women hoping to fill the seat vacated by retiring Del. Dave Albo (R-42). But only one will prevail in November, creating one of the fiercest political contests on the ballot in Northern Virginia this year.

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Rorschach Politics

Candidates for governor present inkblots on everything from the economy to Confederate statues.

The campaign for governor is a bit like a Rorschach test as the candidates close in on the final stretch toward Election Day. Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie are presenting a series of inkblots to voters about everything from the health of the economy to the value of Confederate statues.

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Fighting the System or Ineffective Leadership?

Republican Linda Schulz challenges incumbent Del. Jennifer Boysko.

Democratic incumbent Del. Jennifer Boysko (D-86) is a leading voice of the resistance to Republican leadership. But is she getting anything done in Richmond? Her Republican challenger doesn't think so.

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Challenging the Troublemaker

Leader of Democratic resistance challenged by independent who vows to be less antagonistic.

No member of the Democratic minority is as politically combative as Del. Marcus Simon (D-53). Simon’s independent challenger says he says he would take a less confrontational tone.

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Democratic-Endorsed School Board Candidate Wins

Keys-Gamarra overcomes Republican-advantage in low-turnout August.

Guardian ad litem and Fairfax County Planning Commission member Karen Keys-Gamarra swamped Republican Chris Grisafe and two other candidates in a special election this week, one that Democrats say is a sign of strength for their party heading into the fall.

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Moderate Republican Challenges Democratic Whip

First-time candidate challenges key figure in House Democratic caucus leadership.

Until this year, three-term Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) has never had a Republican opponent.

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Chamber Celebrates Tomorrow’s Alexandria

40 Under 40 feted by titans of industry at United Way headquarters in Old Town.

Low-Turnout High-Stakes Special Election for School Board

Countywide at-large seat to be determined by Aug. 29 special election; early voting is underway.

Special Election for School Board

Low-Turnout High-Stakes Special Election for School Board

Countywide at-large seat to be determined by Aug. 29 special election; early voting is underway.

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Supreme Court of Virginia Sides with Car-Title Lenders

TitleMax, LoanMax and Fast Auto Loans will be able to keep details about their business secret.

How many cars did TitleMax repossess last year? What was the average loan amount for LoanMax? How many judgments did Fast Auto Loans obtain against people who were so hard up for cash that they handed over the title to their automobiles? That’s all information that these companies handed over to state regulators last year. But according to a new ruling from the Supreme Court of Virginia, it’s also information that these companies can keep secret.

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Four-Term Incumbent LeMunyon to Face Former Republican

Karrie Delaney registered as a Republican after being appointed to local government in Florida.

Karrie Delaney knows a thing or two about Republican politics. Back in 2004, she was appointed as a Republican to the West Melbourne City Council in Florida. But she lost the election that year after she voted higher taxes. Now she’s running as a Democrat against four-term incumbent Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67).

Virginia Republicans Play Establishment Card

Close primary campaigns for governor and lieutenant governor send GOP candidates to November ballot.

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Virginia Democrats Play the Long Game

Voters choose candidates who have been planning their campaign for years rather than upstarts newly energized against Trump.

Albo Retirement Prompts Hotly Contested Virginia House Race

Democrat Kathy Tran to face Republican Lolita Mancheno-Smoak.

Three Republicans Running for Virginia Governor Offer Dueling Tax Plans

Cut taxes or raise taxes? GOP primary debate offers an unusual array of options.

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Democratic Candidates for Virginia Governor Run to the Left

Two candidates try to ignore moderate records and repackage themselves as hardcore progressives.

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Three Republicans Vie for Virginia Lieutenant Governor Nomination

Two state senators and a delegate hope to snag bid to preside over Senate sessions.

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Three Democrats Vying for Virginia Lieutenant Governor

Two former prosecutors and veteran political operative on ballot.

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Pioneering Change For Autism

University of Virginia seminar studies tension between “The Science & Lived Experience of Autism.”

Despite a recent surge in attention and research over the past decade about autism, controversy exists.

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Lawmaker Work Group to Examine Virginia Predatory Lending

Panel to investigate internet loans, car-title loans and open-end lines of credit.

The growing chorus of criticism about predatory lending in Virginia may not have prompted lawmakers to start passing laws to crack down on the industry. But it has accomplished one thing, formation of a work group.

In Session: Virginia Assembly Briefs

Robert Johnson of Woodbridge understands the mental health crisis from a personal perspective.

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