An Op-Ed from Jennifer McClellan, Northam endorses in LG race, Chase takes her campaign to Florida, the GOP SCC reverses course to allow people to vote early for religious reasons

The latest in Virginia politics


The Republican State Central Committee agrees to allow early voting in convention for religious reasons

The Republican State Central Committee (SCC) met Sunday night to reconsider changing a few of the rules for the upcoming nominating convention. 

The first change was to overturn a decision just a few days earlier when the SCC failed to approve an amendment to allow Orthodox Jewish people to vote on Friday, May 7, instead of Saturday, which is Sabbath. The amendment failed during a Thursday night meeting of the SCC, but after spending several hours in a closed executive session Sunday, the committee agreed to allow people to vote on Friday between 3 and 6 pm Friday night. 

The SCC also agreed to a new plan to transfer all of the ballots in the convention with armed guards to a central location, likely near Richmond, to begin counting the ballots by hand on the day after the convention. They are expecting to take multiple days to finish the counting process. 

The convention is taking place on May 8 to determine the Republican nominees to run for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.


Governor Northam endorses Del. Hala Ayala in the Democratic race for lieutenant governor

Delegate Hala Ayala’s campaign for Virginia Lieutenant Governor today announced the endorsement of Governor Ralph Northam, Speaker of the House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn, and House Majority Leader Charniele Herring.

“During my time as Governor, we have made extraordinary progress in our Commonwealth, from expanding Medicaid for 500,000 Virginians to passing critical criminal justice reforms,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “We need to continue building on that progress, and that’s why I am so excited to endorse Delegate Hala Ayala for Lieutenant Governor. Her leadership in the House Democratic majority has been central to these and so many other historic pieces of legislation that are improving the lives of Virginia families. I’ve seen firsthand her indispensable ability to bring people together to make progress, and I know Hala will continue the good work we’ve accomplished to move Virginia forward.”

“During her time in the House, Delegate Ayala has been a tireless advocate for Virginians of every background, and as a member of our Democratic Majority she helped lead the fight to enact long overdue criminal justice reforms, raise the minimum wage, and legalize marijuana,” said Speaker Filler-Corn. “Her leadership on these issues and commitment to serving every single member of our Commonwealth is why I am endorsing her campaign for Lt. Governor. If elected, Hala would be the first woman of color to serve in statewide office and first woman to serve as Lt. Governor, bringing historic representation to the highest levels of our state government. I could not be prouder to stand with Delegate Ayala during this campaign and look forward to working with her to build on our incredible progress in the years ahead.”

“I am so proud to support my friend and colleague Delegate Hala Ayala for Lieutenant Governor,” said Leader Herring. “I have known Hala for many years and I have watched her grow into a remarkable leader and advocate for justice. In the House of Delegates, Hala has been a central part of some of the biggest legislative wins our Democratic Majority has achieved. That is why I chose her to be Chief Deputy Whip, and she has served our caucus well. This year we were able to abolish the death penalty, legalize marijuana and pass many more progressive policies that help Virginians. I know Delegate Ayala will continue this work as Lieutenant Governor and I hope you will join me in supporting her.”


Op-Ed: Jennifer McClellan - Making Virginia Top in the Nation for Voting Rights

By Virginia state Senator Jennifer McClellan D-Richmond

This winter, while looking through my late father’s papers, I found a receipt I’d never seen before: It was the poll tax he paid in 1948 during Harry Truman’s election.

I already knew about my great-grandfather’s two literacy tests and how he had to find three white men to vouch for his character in order to overcome Jim Crow laws and vote in 1901 Alabama. And here I was, 120 years later holding evidence of the unjust system that my own father had to face in order to vote.

For many Virginians like me, we live only one generation removed from the era of poll taxes and literacy tests. So, when we see Donald Trump or his supporters in Georgia attempt to discount votes from Black and Brown communities, the wounds are still raw.

Since the 2020 presidential election, 47 states are pursuing more than 361 pieces of restrictive legislation, all aimed at making it harder for people to vote. Black women like Georgia Representative Park Cannon are still arrested for just knocking on the door of voter suppression, showing us how fragile the gains we’ve made really are.

Virginia has made extraordinary progress on expanding voting rights. In the last 5 years, Virginia has moved from being the second-hardest state to vote in in the country, to the 12th easiest.

I have been fighting to expand access to voting my entire adult life because I understand that voting is the most sacred act in our democracy. My first bill as a legislator expanded absentee and provisional voting, and since then I’ve ended prison gerrymandering in the Commonwealth and blocked Republican attempts to impose voting barriers like voter ID requirements.

One of the proudest achievements of my career came this year when Delegate Marcia Price and I led the passage of the Voting Rights Act of Virginia. Modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, Virginia will now protect voters in the Commonwealth from suppression, discrimination, and intimidation. Not only is this the first voting rights act in the South, but one of the strongest in the country.

We still have work to do to expand voting rights and ensure that Virginians never again experience what Georgians are facing right now. That is why today, I introduced my plan to expand upon the Voting Rights Act of Virginia and safeguard voting rights for generations to come. As Governor, I will lead a voting rights agenda that builds on our progress to make Virginia the number one state in the country for voter protections and access.

Under my plan, Virginia will become the sixth state in the country to implement an automatic vote-by-mail option. Last year, Virginians reaped the benefits of voting-by-mail and saw the largest number of Virginians vote in history. Under a McClellan administration, every Virginian voter will automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot and have the option to send their vote through the mail or return it to their polling location. This will increase voting accessibility, especially for older Virginians and Virginians with disabilities, and encourage more people to vote.

I will also implement a back-end, opt-out model for automatic voter registration, a much more efficient system that Oregon successfully implemented to register 94% of the people who interacted with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Following this cutting edge Oregon model will make it easier for more people to automatically register at the DMV.

Additionally, currently 40% of voting locations in Virginia are not accessible for individuals with disabilities. Through partnerships with the Board of Elections and disability advocacy groups, I will ensure that 100% of polling locations are compliant with the ADA and convenient for voters starting with directing a statewide accessibility audit through the Board of Elections to ensure that 100% of polling places are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As Governor, I will implement ranked-choice voting in Virginia multi-candidate elections. Shown to promote more representative elections and more positive campaigning, a ranked voting system would allow voters to choose from a list of candidates, ranking their preferences. Once implemented, Virginia would follow Maine—the first state to allow voters to choose their representatives by ranked choice vote.

I will also introduce a constitutional amendment to prevent racial gerrymandering and enshrine redistricting criteria to explicitly protect minority groups. This builds on a law that Del. Price and I passed in 2020. And I will champion the recently pending constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights for those who were formerly incarcerated, which I co-patroned, and work to end felony disenfranchisement altogether. A lifetime bar on civic engagement does nothing to benefit the goals of the justice system, and in fact it only hinders an individual's rehabilitative journey.

The growing threat to voting rights, both by state legislatures and a far-right Supreme Court, is one of the reasons I chose to run for Governor, and the reason I have made protecting these rights a central part of my campaign. With my plan to safeguard voting rights, we will not only acknowledge our Commonwealth’s painful history of disenfranchising Black and Brown voters but taking action to address its enduring legacies.

Congressman John Lewis reminded us that “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.” As we remember what previous generations have endured, we must work today to protect the right to vote for generations to come.

Jennifer McClellan is a Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia. She has served 15 years in the General Assembly, first as a Delegate and currently as a Senator.


Amanda Chase takes her gubernatorial campaign to Florida

Virginia state Senator Amanda Chase took her gubernatorial campaign to Florida on Saturday in an apparent attempt to lobby for an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. 

Chase attended an event at Mar-a-Lago, the luxury resort in Florida that is often a host to events for Trump, the property’s owner. 

“When I told the president I was running for governor in Virginia he smiled real big and said, ‘I’ve heard about you’ while giving me a fist bump,” Chase wrote on her personal Facebook page Saturday night. 

“He took my business card and put it in his pocket,” she continued. “We are meeting with his Chief of Staff next week.” 

Chase is vying for the Republican nomination to run for governor of Virginia this November. The party’s governing body chose to hold an unassembled nominating convention on May 8 to select their statewide candidates.

All of the deadlines for convention delegates to apply have passed by now, however, with the convention taking place in less than two weeks. 

“A Trump endorsement doesn’t actually change the state of the race very much,” said Richard Meagher, an associate professor of political science at Randolph Macon College. “The timing is less than ideal. The delegates for the convention have already been chosen.” 

While that is true, convention delegates will be using ranked-choice ballots instead of the typical convention method of voting in waves. This means the delegates list the candidates in order from favorite to least favorite and turn it all in at one time If none of the candidates receive over 50% of the vote once the top votes are counted, the second ballot choices where there might be a lot less certainty ahead of time could feel the impact of a last-minute endorsement from Trump. 

In addition to walking the line of supporting Trump while also not going too far and alienating the middle-of-the-road voters needed in November, candidates are also being attacked by shadow PACs for negative comments they made about Trump in the past.

“The fact that the candidates invoke Trump often suggests that his name still matters in the GOP,” Meagher said. 

Chase has never walked that line, however. The state senator often refers to herself as, “Trump in heels,” and she has unapologetically supported the former president to this day. She was removed from Facebook just like Trump for her comments about the Jan. 6 insurrectionists and the 2020 election results. She also spoke at a rally in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 prior to the Capitol building being stormed.  

With only two weeks until the convention, however, it is still unclear if the former president will actually get involved in this race. There is some question as to whether how much the former president’s endorsement would benefit a candidate in a commonwealth that voted in favor of Joe Biden by 10 points last year. 

“It’s true that the Republican Party, even in Virginia, is still Trump’s party,” Meagher said. “A Trump endorsement brings possible rewards, but also risks. It can help solidify chase’s base among Republican diehards who still love Trump. But it further cements her Image as an extreme candidate who can’t win the general election.”

Before attending the event at Mar-a-Lago, Chase met with retired General Michael Flynn — he served as Trump’s national security advisor for the first 22 days of his administration. He resigned after reports that he lied about conversations he had with a senior Russian diplomat. Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of lying to the F.B.I, but he was eventually pardoned by Trump.

Flynn filmed a video in support of Chase Saturday. “She is a leader, she is courageous she is tough, she is disciplined, she is savvy and she has got good god-given common sense,” Flynn said. 

In addition to Chase, former House Speaker Kirk Cox, venture capitalist Pete Snyder and former executive of The Carlyle Group Glenn Youngkin are competitive for the Republican nomination for governor.


Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidates have first debate - WUSA

by Nick Boykin

Four out of the seven Republicans running for governor in Virginia met Sunday in their first debate.

The candidates covered topics ranging from education to law enforcement to the economy. Each promised to turn back liberal Democratic policies and end a GOP losing streak. 

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Republican Attorney General Candidate and Chesterfield Supervisor Leslie Haley calls on Jack White to drop out of the Republican race

This statement comes after a report from a conservative blog that is run by John Fredericks, the conservative talking head. The article shows Jack White potentially gave $10K to Joe Biden last year.

“Jack White has been misrepresenting who he is and his record on the campaign trail. No true conservative would donate to Joe Biden four days before election day last November. We cannot trust his rhetoric. At the same time the Republican Party of Virginia is making delegates who have voted in Democratic primaries sign a pledge to support Republicans, we have an Attorney General candidate who gave the maximum amount, over $10,000, during last October, to Joe Biden while President Trump was campaigning hard to defend our country. I’m calling on Jack White to immediately drop out of the race for the Republican nomination.”


Virginia NAACP To Meet With Gov. Northam, Sec. Moran, and Col. Settle Monday

The Virginia NAACP announced that it will meet with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, and Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gary Settle this afternoon.

“The Virginia NAACP looks forward to a productive and fruitful conversation about the future of public safety in the Commonwealth,” said Robert N. Barnette, Jr., president of the Virginia NAACP.


After Trump, Richmond-area races could decide control of House of Delegates - Richmond Times-Dispatch

by Mel Leonor and Michael Martz

When Democrats began their takeover of the Virginia House of Delegates four years ago, two of the biggest surprises came in Richmond and its suburbs, where first-time candidates upset entrenched Republican incumbents, John O’Bannon and Manoli Loupassi, in the 73rd and 68th districts.

Democrats held both seats two years later, when they took majority control of the House in Virginia’s third successive wave election in response to the rightward turn of Republicans under President Donald Trump.

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Virginia still ranks last in nation for quickly resolving issues with unemployment insurance claims - Virginia Mercury

by Ned Oliver

Despite assurances that state officials were working to address long delays in processing unemployment claims, Virginia continues to rank last in the country in key performance metrics tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The federal data shows the situation has only gotten worse as the pandemic continued, even as businesses have begun reopening and new claims have dropped.

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