Virginia Supreme Court Dismisses Petition to Appeal in McAuliffe Signature Lawsuit

The Virginia Supreme Court refused a petition to appeal the dismissal of a lawsuit over the missing signature on Terry McAuliffe’s election paperwork. On Wednesday, attorney Peter Hansen argued in a writ panel that the Court should take up the appeal, saying that McAuliffe failed to file a valid declaration of candidacy, and that when the City of Richmond Circuit Court dismissed the case, it did so based on speculation.

“Unfortunately, the trial court effectually made up facts. There’s nothing in the evidence, nothing in the record that suggested that Mr. McAuliffe was present when he didn’t sign the declaration. There’s nothing in evidence that suggests he raised his hand as if taking an oath, and that’s what ‘sworn to under my hand’ means,” Hansen told the panel.

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Virginia’s Educational Policy Debates Rattle Isle of Wight County Public Schools

The Isle of Wight County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton has received multiple death threats, and two members of the school board have announced their departure within the past month. The board and district leaders have come under fire from some parents for decisions about masks, transgender policy, and library books — issues that are being debated in school board public comment periods across Virginia. Thornton told Wavy.com the district is introducing cultural awareness training for teachers this year as part of several equity initiatives.

“We’re not telling them what to believe. We’re sharing information for them to process,” Thornton said.

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Virginia Redistricting Commission Adjourns Indefinitely Without Completing Any Maps

Virginia may have seen the last of its Redistricting Commission. After multiple perfect ties split along party lines on votes held over the past months, the Commission reached consensus on Wednesday to adjourn until the two co-chairs decide to reconvene the commission. The commission’s one remaining  scheduled meeting on Monday and a public hearing for Friday are canceled. The co-chairs said they would reconvene the commission if two commissioners, one from each party, were able to jointly propose a way to redistrict Virginia’s congressional maps.

Co-chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) said, “That would give us kind of a better basis, so if Senator Barker finds someone that likes something also on the other side they can bring it to the co-chairs attention, and then we can call a meeting for us to all come and consider it. But I think the issue is that if we say that there is some place for consensus and that we can still keep working, but is that going to happen at another meeting just like this?”

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Monmouth Poll: Youngkin and McAuliffe Tied Among Registered Voters

Virginia’s gubernatorial race is a tie among registered voters, according to a new Monmouth University poll, which found that Republican Glenn Youngkin has made gains against Terry McAuliffe since the university’s September poll.

“Youngkin (46 percent) and McAuliffe (46 percent) hold identical levels of support among all registered voters. This marks a shift from prior Monmouth polls where the Democrat held a five-point lead (48 percent to 43 percent in September and 47 percent to 42 percent in August),” the poll’s press release states.

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COVID-19, Supply Chain Issues Slowing Virginia’s Economic Recovery

Virginia’s financial position continues to improve after COVID-19’s impacts in 2020, but the fast-paced recovery seen earlier in the year is slowing, Secretary of Finance Joe Flores told legislators in an update on Monday and Tuesday.

“The bottom line is that we’ve hit a few roadblocks in the past month or so with the resurgence of the virus, especially the Delta variant, and some supply chain issues. But you’re going to see from this report, as you mentioned Madam Chair, that the current revenue performance continues to just chug along. We’re doing actually very well, and it’s suggestive of a recovering economy,” Flores told the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

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Delegate Wendy Gooditis Facing Serious Challenge from Republican Newcomer Nick Clemente

Virginia House District 10 is one of Republicans’ best chances to flip a House seat in the election; Republicans hope to retake the majority by winning a net six seats. The district includes part of Loudoun County, where the local school board has become a battleground and a national bellweather for the GOP’s new messaging on education. Statewide politicians have made repeated stops in the area, and GOP challenger Nick Clemente and Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke) have together raised over $2 million, placing the district number one among the 100 House seats for fundraising, according to The Virginia Public Access Project.

“I think Gooditis is probably the second most likely Democrat to lose in the House,” CNalysis Executive Director Chaz Nuttycombe said. “I think Nick Clemente is definitely the strongest recruit that the GOP has going up against the Democrats.”

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Virginia Gubernatorial Race Still Close with Two Weeks to Go

Former President Obama is coming to Virginia to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, one of several Democratic heavyweights to stump for the once and would-be future governor. However, the de-facto leader of the Republican Party, former President Donald Trump, hasn’t made a stop in Virginia to support GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin. Since the nominating convention, Youngkin has pivoted away from Trump and hard-line Republicans and successfully pulled some independents away from McAuliffe, who is turning to souls-to-the-polls events and big names like Obama, first Lady Jill Biden, Stacey Abrams, and Vice President Kamala Harris to boost turnout among the Democratic faithful.

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With a Week Left, Virginia Redistricting Commission Far from Consensus on Congressional District Maps

With no quorum, the Virginia Redistricting Commission couldn’t take any votes in its Monday meeting, but the commissioners heard legal discussion of the definition of fairness, and heard public comment on a recent draft map of congressional district that combined Republican proposal for southwest Virginia with the Democratic proposal for northern Virginia. One of the commenters was Sam Shirazi — a member of the public who highlighted links between parts of the draft and maps submitted through public comment by former Virginia Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA-11).

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Trafalgar Poll Shows Tied Gubernatorial Race, Fox Poll Shows Widening McAuliffe Lead

A Fox News poll released Thursday found 51 percent support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and 46 percent support for GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin among likely voters. A Trafalgar Group poll released the same day found Youngkin and McAuliffe practically tied among likely voters, with 48.4 percent support for Youngkin, and 47.5 percent support for McAuliffe. Real Clear Politics’ (RCP) polling average still places McAuliffe slightly ahead by 2.2 points.

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Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate McAuliffe Endorses Richmond Casino Proposal

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has endorsed the ONE Casino + Resort proposal that Richmond voters are currently considering.

“I mean, think about what’s going to happen here in Richmond,” McAuliffe said in a Twitter video Thursday. “Construction: 3,000 jobs. 15,000 permanent jobs. $50 million in revenue that will help schools, hospitals, everything else. I’m so excited.”

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In Surprise Win for Recall Proponents, Loudoun School Board Member Beth Barts Announces Resignation

Loudoun County School Board Member Beth Barts announced her resignation, effective November 2, on Friday. Barts is facing a recall effort, and a judge recently declined to dismiss the recall petitions.

“This was not an easy decision, or a decision made in haste,” Barts wrote to the board and school officials. “After much thought and careful consideration, it is the right decision for me and my family.”

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Senator Stanley Representing Family Against Loudoun County Public Schools in Alleged Assault

Senator Bill Stanley’s (R-Franklin) legal practice is representing the Smith family in their lawsuit against Loudoun County Public Schools over the school’s failures in an alleged sexual assault.

“The facts are that a male student claiming to be ‘gender fluid’ was permitted to enter the girls’ bathroom on May 28 and sexually assault our daughter. Making matters worse, the school system repeatedly failed to protect her thereafter. Then, they concealed the sexual assault from the public while considering formalizing a bathroom access policy that would have – and now has – increased the likelihood of sexual assaults like these. As a result, our daughter and our family has suffered, and continue to suffer, from the very real consequences of a policy that endangers the safety of every student,” the victim’s parents said in a Thursday press release.

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Moving on to Congressional Maps, Virginia Redistricting Commission Still Haunted by Questions About Fairness

The Virginia Redistricting Commission has moved on to full consideration of the congressional map without making any decisions about the General Assembly maps and using a two-week extension period. In advance of a meeting Thursday, the co-chairs had asked the Republican map-drawing team to draft a proposal for the Republican-voting southwest region of Virginia, and the Democratic team to draw a proposal for Democratic-voting northern Virginia, while both map drawers roughly followed the existing court-drawn districts three and four. Those districts have the most significant minority voter populations, which require extra protection by law.

Debate over the preliminary proposals again focused how to protect minority voters, but by the end of the meeting, there seemed to be a shaky consensus to leave district three and four mostly intact, with support from both Democratic and Republican legal teams. The commission returned to the question of what fair maps are: do they reflect Virginia’s blue-leaning voter base, or do they give an even split to each party? How important is compactness versus regional identity?

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Virginia House District 66 Profile: With No Incumbent, Mike Cherry Must Keep Katie Sponsler from Flipping the District

Virginia Republicans only need to flip six seats to retake the majority in the House of Delegates, but to do that, they must protect a handful of vulnerable Republican districts like House District 66. Former Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) is retiring after assuming office in 199o, and the urban, suburban, and rural district leans Democratic. It’s one of a handful of seats that survived Trump-era Democratic waves in greater Richmond in 2017 and 2019. GOP candidate Mike Cherry is running against Democrat Katie Sponsler in a battle of turnout and name recognition.

“This is an open seat so for the first time in decades, voters have the opportunity to learn about and choose between two new candidates, without the weight of incumbency skewing the election,” Chesterfield County Democratic Committee Chair Sara Gaborik told The Virginia Star.

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Virginia Teacher Fired for Refusing to Wear Mask

The Chesterfield County School Board agreed to fire government and history teacher Stephen Roszell for insubordination after he declined to comply with a state-wide mask mandate for teachers. Roszell told The Virginia Star that he would have complied with a local mask mandate from his employer since Virginia is a right-to-work state. However, he sees Governor Ralph Northam’s public health order as an overreach of executive power. He’s also concerned about federal stimulus funds sent to school districts influencing their policy.

“I teach about federalism in history and government, and this is a direct payment essentially from the federal government through the Virginia Department of Education to [Local Education Agencies (LEA)],” Roszell said. “This money is coming directly from the federal government, and localities must follow all the CDC guidelines through 2023.”

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Former President Trump Calls In to Bannon-Headlined ‘Take Back Virginia’ Rally

Steve Bannon headlined a get-out-the-vote rally for the MAGA base in Henrico on Wednesday evening, where speakers included Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) and Arizona State House Representative Mark Finchem, who is using 2020 election audits in that state in his campaign for Arizona Secretary of State. But the biggest reaction from the crowd came when former President Donald Trump called in for about five minutes.

“Glenn Youngkin is a great gentleman,” Trump said. “You have a chance to get one of the most successful businessmen in the country, and he did it in a quiet professional way, in Glenn Youngkin. I hope — he and others by the way — but I hope Glenn gets in there  and he’ll straighten out Virginia, and he’ll lower taxes, all of the things that we want a governor to do, and I really believe that Virginia is very, very, winnable.”

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Virginia Court Denies Demurrer, Allows Sadler’s Skill Games Ban Lawsuit to Go Forward

A Greensville County Circuit Court judge declined to dismiss NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler’s lawsuit over Virginia’s recent skill games ban. In a hearing Tuesday, the court denied a demurrer from the Office of the Attorney General and ordered an expedited discovery process so that a hearing on an emergency injunction can be held in early December.

“We are grateful the Court was able to see through the Attorney General’s latest and last-ditch attempt to avoid a trial in this case,” said Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin), attorney for Sadler and Sadler Brothers Oil Company.  “Mr. Sadler’s lawsuit seeks to protect his constitutional rights and the rights of hundreds of Virginia’s small and family-owned businesses.  We’re looking forward to December 6, when we hope the injustice and inequity of the skill games ban will be seen by the Court for what it is.”

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Virginia Lawsuit to Force Multiple House of Delegates Elections in a Row Survives Challenge from the Attorney General

A lawsuit that could force House of Delegates candidates to run multiple years in a row had a win Tuesday. Paul Goldman’s lawsuit lists multiple Virginia officials and agencies as defendants, but the Office of the Attorney General argued that they were protected by sovereign immunity. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge David Novak ruled that while defendants including Governor Ralph Northam are protected, the lawsuit can proceed against the State Board of Elections and Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper.

“That’s fine with me because I’ve still got four defendants left, you only need one,” Goldman told The Virginia Star.

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After Legislative Map Failure, Virginia Redistricting Commission Has Airing of Grievances, Thinks About Congressional Maps

Tennessee Capitol building

The Virginia Redistricting Commission hasn’t made a formal decision, but it seems to be moving on after missing a Sunday deadline to complete General Assembly maps. In a virtual meeting Monday, commissioners couldn’t take any votes, but they heard preliminary presentations from the partisan legal teams about redistricting Virginia’s congressional maps. When Co-Chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) tried to wrap up the meeting with a summary of action items for a meeting later this week, Delegate Les Adams (R-Chatham) questioned Co-Chair Greta Harris (D) status on the commission, launching what Babichencko called an “airing of grievances” from frustrated commissioners.

On Friday, Harris and two other citizen members broke quorum, ending a fraught meeting. At the time, she said, “At this point I don’t feel as though all members on the commission are sincere in their willingness to compromise and to create fair maps for the Commonwealth of Virginia. And so at that point, if I can’t believe that the people I’m supposed to work with are true and sincere, regrettably, I am done. So thank you very much for the opportunity to serve, but I will remove myself from the commission at this point.”

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Gubernatorial Candidates Use Ads and Political Appearances to Boost Enthusiasm

Gubernatorial candidates Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe have launched competing ads. A McAuliffe ad links Youngkin’s calls for election integrity to Trump’s claims about the 2020 election, while the Youngkin ad fact-checks McAuliffe’s recitation of recent COVID-19 case numbers.

“On at least three separate days – September 28, September 29, and October 7 – McAuliffe claimed there had recently been 8,000 cases in Virginia, a gross inflation that amounts to nearly three to four times the actual number of cases,” a Youngkin press release explains.

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Virginia U.S. Rep Spanberger Co-Introduces Bill to Designate Systemically Important Critical Infrastructure

Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), John Katko (R-NY-24), and Andrew Garbarino (R-NY-02) co-introduced a bill directing the designation of systemically important critical infrastructure.

“Earlier this year, Central Virginia families and businesses felt the serious impacts of the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline. In our communities, we saw how critical infrastructure — such as the Colonial Pipeline — plays a fundamental role in our daily lives and in the day-to-day success of our regional economy,” Spanberger said in a Thursday press release.

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CNU/Wason Center Poll: Virginia GOP Statewide Candidates Making Gains Among Independents

Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe

A new Christopher Newport University Wason Center poll released Friday found GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin slightly behind Terry McAuliffe, 49 percent to 45 percent, which is nearly in line with the Real Clear Politics current polling average placing McAuliffe ahead by 3.5 percentage points. Liberation Party candidate Princess Blanding got one percent, with five percent undecided.

The poll also included the lieutenant governor’s race, which hasn’t seen as much polling, and found that Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) leads GOP candidate Winsome Sears 48 percent to 44 percent.

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Republican Party of Virginia Files IRS Complaint Against Nonprofit for Allegedly Intervening in Gubernatorial Election

The Republican Party of Virginia is filing a complaint with the IRS alleging that 501(c)(3) nonprofit Virginia Excels had violated tax law by engaging in “overt and unambiguous political campaign intervention” to support Terry McAuliffe.

“On September 7, 2021, only 10 days before early voting began, Virginia Excels issued a press release touting its new ‘report’ on eliminating the income tax. The ‘report’ appears to be one of the first statements the organization has ever issued on taxes,” an RPV press release states.

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Poised to Miss First Deadline, Virginia Redistricting Commission Collapses

The Virginia Redistricting Commission collapsed Friday afternoon while facing a Sunday deadline to complete final maps to present to the General Assembly. The commission failed to break through partisan deadlocks on which drafts to use as a starting point, the latest in weeks of perfect party-line splits in the habitually deadlocked commission. In despair, three citizen members walked out of the meeting breaking quorum and leaving questions about the future of the commission.

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Virginia House District 75 Profile: Otto Wachsmann Challenges Senior Delegate Roslyn Tyler

Virginia House of Delegates District 75 is one of the best chances for Republicans to flip a House seat. Delegate Roslyn Tyler (D-Sussex) is a 15-year incumbent, but she faces a repeat challenge from pharmacist Otto Wachsmann, Jr. who nearly beat her in 2019 with 48.89 percent of the vote. The district has been bleeding population in recent years, and the victory will likely depend on whether Roslyn Tyler can mobilize the significant minority presence and overcome dissatisfaction with the local economy. Republicans need to gain six seats in the House to retake the majority. Without Trump on the ballot, Republicans are hoping moderates are more likely to vote Republican, helping them flip some seats.

“If you had to ask me what is the most likely district in the House to flip to Republicans, I would say that one. I still say it’s a toss-up,” CNalysis Director Chaz Nuttycombe told The Virginia Star.

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Recall Effort Against Loudoun School Board Member Beth Barts Clears Initial Hurdles

Fight for Schools PAC had three minor wins in court this week in the effort to recall Loudoun County School Board Member Beth Barts. In a Tuesday hearing, the circuit court judge denied Barts’ motion to dismiss the recall petition, agreed to appoint a special prosecutor, and granted the PAC’s motion to intervene.

“Today was a very good day in court for Fight For Schools and a bad day for Beth Barts and her efforts to silence and criminalize parents in Loudoun County. Beth Barts tried to get all of the signatures that we have collected thrown out, the judge ruled against her and in our favor. The case will proceed,” Fight for Schools said on Facebook.

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Virginia Ranks Among Top States Most Prepared for Public Health Emergencies

Doctor with arms folded, holding stethescope

Virginia’s preparedness for public health emergencies ranks it among the top four in the U.S., according to the 2021 National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHSPI). The index looks at data from 64 sources across the public and private health sectors, creating an overview of health protections in place in each state; the national preparedness level is 6.8, but Virginia scored 7.4 out of ten.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a real-world stress test of the readiness of Virginia governmental, health care delivery, and emergency management systems to respond to a major public health threat. Throughout this time, Virginia’s hospitals, public health and emergency management agencies, and other public and private sector stakeholders have effectively navigated this unprecedented crisis while facing many pandemic-related challenges,” states a Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VVHHA) press release.

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Emerson College Poll Has Youngkin Down One Percent Against McAuliffe

A new Nexstar/Emerson College poll conducted at the beginning of October has GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin one point behind Democrat Terry McAuliffe, 48 percent to 49 percent. A Fox News poll conducted at the end of September found 48 percent support for McAuliffe and 44 percent support for Youngkin.

“The new poll by Emerson demonstrates clearly that all the momentum is on Glenn Youngkin’s side and he is poised to win this race in Virginia on November 2,” said The Virginia Star’s Publisher, radio talk show host John Fredricks.

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Virginia DMV Reopens Part-Time Walk-in Service

People at windows of DMV

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is now open to walk-in service three days a week, 16 months after first opening for appointment-only service following COVID-19 closures in Spring 2020. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday remain appointment-only, but the DMV now provides walk-in service Tuesday, Thursday, and for half days on Saturdays. Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) has been pushing for the DMV to reopen to walk-in service, but he isn’t satisfied with the DMV’s hybrid approach.

“I saw that they’re reopening for in-person again, three days a week, which, to me, I personally don’t understand that. I mean, we’ve required all our schools to be open five days a week for in-person instruction,” he told The Virginia Star

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Bipartisan Structure Threatens Success of Virginia Redistricting Commission

The Virginia Redistricting Commission is hearing public comment on its final draft General Assembly maps, which are due on Sunday October 10. But the Commission is still presenting two sets of maps, one Republican-proposed, and one Democrat-proposed, with no clear path to a consensus on one set of maps that can win with the necessary three-fourths approval from the bipartisan commission. After the hearings this week, the commission is scheduled for a Friday meeting, with an optional Saturday meeting.

“I’m at a loss as to how to go forward,” said Co-Chair Greta Harris on October 2, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

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Senator Kaine Votes Against Richmond Casino

Richmond voters are currently deciding if the ONE Casino +Resort proposal will be approved or not, and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) has said that he voted against the proposal.

“Senator Kaine voted on Monday, September 20. He voted against the casino proposal. He believes there are better ways to enhance economic development in Richmond,” Kaine’s office said in a statement.

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Republicans Competitive to Retake Virginia House of Delegates Majority

Republicans have a good chance to retake the majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates, powered by historically-Republican voters in swing districts who were alienated by former President Donald Trump. To win the majority, Republicans need to protect what they have and take six seats. They see opportunities in Northern Virginia, metro Richmond, Virginia Beach, and downstate Virginia.

“We feel that with the environment that’s going on right now, we’ve got great opportunities to pick up five to nine seats to take over,” Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Wise) told The Virginia Star. “That’s one thing you don’t have any control of, but the environment, you know, of Biden and just the overreach by a lot of the Democrats’ bills last year has really focused the independents back our way.”

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House Passes Virginia Rep. McEachin’s Bill to Study Creating a Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Area

The House of Representatives passed Congressman Don McEachin’s (D-VA-04) Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Act on Tuesday. If passed in the Senate, the bill will require the Secretary of the Interior to study potentially designating a Heritage Area in the region of the Great Dismal Swamp on the Virginia – North Carolina border.

“The Great Dismal Swamp is an incredibly important historical, archaeological, and environmental site for the Commonwealth,” McEachin said in a press release. “The Swamp was once a home and refuge to African American and Indigenous populations and enabled robust economic activity between the communities that called it home. Not only does it have immense cultural significance, the Swamp also plays a crucial role in our continued fight against the climate crisis.”

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Virginia Beach School Board Member Leading Recall Effort Against Six Other Members

Virginia Beach School Board Member Victoria Manning is one of the leaders of a group trying to recall six other school board members. Students First VA (SFVA) announced this week that it is collecting signature for the recalls, focusing on 2020-2021 virtual learning.

“We believe that students should always be first and that the goal of the school system, the goal of the board, the goal of the administration, the goal of the teachers should be to put those interests above all else. And we’re not convinced that’s been done around the state, but especially focused here in Virginia Beach,” SFVA President Tim Mack told The Virginia Star. “If you look both at the recall petition themselves as well as our website and other sources, you’ll see that the school board certainly had information to make a different decision than it did and decided to close schools against the wishes of parents, against the direction of local physicians, and healthcare providers, as well as the CDC. And we think that those decisions were not good for all the students in the school, in particular, those with special needs.”

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Virginia Redistricting Commission Frustrated by Partisan Deadlocks

The Virginia Redistricting Commission spent its Friday meeting discussing drafts of House maps, but got bogged down during consideration of greater Hampton Roads and Richmond-area maps. Although there is general agreement over much of the geographic areas considered, proposals from partisan map drawers differ in more populated areas, leaving the commission deadlocked and unable to move forward. While debating the Richmond-area maps, commissioners broke out into a frustrated discussion of the process. On Saturday, the commission is scheduled for a final meeting before presenting the proposed House and Senate maps for public consideration — the commission must finalize its House maps, including discussion of Northern Virginia, and finalize its Senate maps in that meeting. 

“I don’t know if I want to come back tomorrow, or stay the night. If we’re not going to get anywhere, I just don’t see — and I understand the desire to keep tweaking and working,” Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) said. “And what it seems to have devolved to is we’ve got Republican map makers and lawyers trying to minimize the number of Democratic districts they have to draw, and maximize the number of Republican districts they have to draw. and I could say the same thing here on both sides. I think we kind of have to pick.”

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Court Dismisses Lawsuit over McAuliffe Election Paperwork Signature

A Richmond judge dismissed a lawsuit over a missing signature on Terry McAuliffe’s election paperwork on Wednesday. Attorney Amina Matheny said she’s appealing the lawsuit to the Virginia Supreme Court.

“Our position was that the Department of Elections should not have accepted an unsigned declaration of candidacy,” Matheny said, “And the judge ruled that candidates do not have to sign the declaration of candidacy.”

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Another Election Analysis Firm Shifts Rating to Show a More Competitive Virginia Gubernatorial Race

Inside Elections updated their Virginia gubernatorial race rating Wednesday, shifting from Likely Democratic to Lean Democratic.

“Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has had a consistent advantage over Republican Glenn Youngkin in the commonwealth, but some Democratic strategists are concerned about President Joe Biden’s drag on the race and about the lack of urgency on the Democratic side,” Inside Elections’ Nathan Gonzales wrote. “The public polling points to a very competitive race. McAuliffe is ahead of Youngkin by three points in both the FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics polling averages, neither of which have changed much in the last six weeks.”

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Virginia Redistricting Commission Starts on State House Map

The Virginia Redistricting Commission turned to drafting a House of Delegates map Wednesday, after working on a Senate map Monday. The commission compared Republican and Democratic proposals in southwest Virginia, Southside, and part of Hampton Roads. As with the first look at Senate maps a week ago, the commissioners spent a significant time in southwest Virginia, and weren’t able to keep up with a schedule that would have allowed them to consider all of Hampton Roads or Eastern Virginia Wednesday.

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Loudoun County Teachers Speak Against Transgender Policy at Rally

child running with trans flag

Loudoun County teachers Tanner Cross, Monica Gill, and Kimberly Wright spoke at a rally before the Loudoun County School Board meeting Tuesday evening. They are suing the school district over its transgender policy 8040 that includes a requirement that teachers use students’ preferred pronouns. Previously, the lawsuit focused on Cross’ termination after he spoke out at a school board meeting; an injunction in that case forced the district to allow him to return to work.

“I cannot thank this community enough for you support and unwavering dedication to stand alongside me in the fight to speak freely in a continued effort to protect our students and our children from harmful ideologies,” Cross said at the rally. “Now, the battle turns to policy 8040 itself.”

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Virginia Amtrak Returns to Pre-Pandemic Service Levels in Virginia with New Route Extension into Downtown Richmond

The last of three Amtrak Virginia trains that were suspended due to the pandemic is open again, with a new extension to the Main Street Station in downtown Richmond. Governor Ralph Northam and rail officials announced the reopening and expansion of Northeast Regional Route 51 as part of Northam’s Transforming Rail in Virginia program. Northam held his press conference as the first train departed Main Street Station at 5:35 a.m. Monday.

“If you’ve ever been stuck on I-95, you know we can’t pave our way out of congestion,” Northam said.

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Virginia Employment Commission Delays Rollout of New Unemployment Insurance System

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is delaying the roll out of its new unemployment insurance system intended to help modernize user experience on its website and relieve strain on call centers until the beginning of November. On September 17 the VEC announced that its current system would go offline to allow for the upgrade starting September 29. But a new announcement states that the changeover will occur in late October through early November, the latest delay in a modernization project originally scheduled for completion in 2013.

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Third-Party Candidate Princess Blanding Interrupts McAuliffe, Youngkin Moderate-Focused Debate

In the last of only two gubernatorial debates GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe made their pitches to Virginia moderates on issues including vaccinations, abortion, qualified immunity, business climate, and Afghan refugees in the Commonwealth. But Liberation Party candidate Princess Blanding provided the most interesting moment of the debate by interrupting from the audience.

Moderators had asked McAuliffe about a statistic the Youngkin campaign cites showing that murder rates rose during McAuliffe’s first term. McAuliffe responded by citing his past investment in law enforcement and sheriffs. He also called for gun control.

“Terry, why am I not allowed on the stage? As governor I will defund the police,” Blanding said before being drowned out by moderators and producers cut away from the live feed.

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Redistricting: Draft Virginia Senate Map Highlights Different Definitions of ‘Fair’

Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia

A new working draft of a Virginia Senate redistricting map is highlighting the question of what creating a fair map means. The working map was hammered out on Saturday in a closed-door meeting between the Democratic and Republican co-chairs, Democratic and Republican legal teams, and Democratic and Republican map-drawers.

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Virginia’s Congressional Delegation Splits Along Party Lines in Vote to Legally Codify Abortion Rights

People marching for women's rights

Virginia’s congressional delegation split along party lines on a vote to legally codify providers’ right to provide abortions and patients’ right to receive abortions. The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 passed out of the House of Representatives Friday in a 218-211 vote with no Republicans voting for, and no Democrats voting against, although two Republicans and one Democrat did not vote. The bill now faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

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Watchdog Requests Ethics Investigation into Rep. Scott’s Financial Reporting of Stock Trades

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) alleges that Representative Bobby Scott (D-Virginia-03) may have failed to file periodic reports disclosing up to $60,000 in stock transactions. On Wednesday, the CLC filed a complaint with the House Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) requesting an investigation into possible violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.

“In 2019 and 2020, Rep. Scott appears to have purchased at least four assets with a total value ranging from approximately $4,004 to $60,000 without disclosing the transactions. While Rep. Scott disclosed the ownership of these assets on his annual financial disclosures, he did not file periodic transaction reports (‘PTRs’) for the transactions that resulted in the changes in his stock holdings, as required pursuant to the STOCK Act and House rules. An OCE investigation is necessary to determine whether his failure to file was a violation,” the complaint states.

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Virginia Spending Included in House Version of National Defense Authorization Act

The House of Representatives passed the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday, including an amendment protecting three Virginia-based guided missile cruisers from decommissioning.

“Countering China’s expansionist ambitions starts at sea,” Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA-01) said in a press release Friday.

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Cook Political Report: Virginia Gubernatorial Race Is a Toss Up

Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe

Glenn Youngkin’s tightrope walk between suburban moderates and hard-right Republicans seems to be paying off — on Friday the Cook Political Report (CPR) announced a rating shift in the gubernatorial contest from Lean Democratic to Toss Up. That matches with polling from a variety of sources that show an increasingly close race.

“We can no longer say this is a contest where the Democrat has the advantage. While many of the fundamentals favor [Terry] McAuliffe — and we expect he still has a slight edge — it’s Youngkin who seems to have the enthusiasm on his side,” CPR reported.

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Virginia Redistricting Commission Running Out of Time to Complete General Assembly Maps

Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia

The Virginia Redistricting Commission is scrambling to find more time to finalize General Assembly draft maps ahead of a series of public hearings on October 4-7. On Monday, the commission saw separate sets of draft maps proposed by the two partisan map-drawing teams. On Thursday, they saw a consensus of four Senate district maps from southwest Virginia where both teams’ proposed districts had more than 90 percent of the population in common. But Thursday’s meeting was largely occupied by debates over when to provide political data to map drawers, and about creating additional instructions about creating districts where minorities can control the vote.

As a result, with just three meetings currently scheduled before public hearings, the commission has only considered how to blend the two partisan proposals in the four easiest districts from the Senate, and has not considered how to handle the partisan House proposals.

“We need more time,” Co-chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) said. “I think we’re going to want more time if we’re going to go through and look at all these decisions.”

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The Virginia Citizens Defense League is Pressuring the Petersburg City Council over a New Gun Ban on City Property

The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) is calling for a pressure campaign on the members of the Petersburg City Council after the council approved a gun ban on city property similar to bans enacted in other localities.

“Petersburg slipped through local gun-control a few days ago and we (and almost everyone else, including the Petersburg police) just learned about it yesterday,” a VCDL alert said.

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Virginia State Corporation Commission Staff Report: Dominion Energy Should Pay Customers $312.4 Million Refund

As testimony in an ongoing review of Dominion Energy, a State Corporation Commission (SCC) staff report recommends a $312.4 million refund to the utility’s Virginia customers after finding that the utility’s earnings exceeded a regulatory threshold by $1.143 billion in 2017 through 2020.

“Staff’s analysis indicates the Company earned a 13.61 percent ROE [Return on Equity] during the 2017 through 2020 earnings test period. This is 441 basis points of earnings, or $1.143 billion of revenues, above the applicable fair combined ROE of 9.2 percent,” SCC Division of Utility Accounting and Finance Deputy Director Patrick Carr wrote in the report.

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