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General Assembly Review:
No Stones Thrown
By Stephen J. Rossie

Richmond – The atmosphere in House Room 2, in Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol, where House Democrats convene their caucus meeting each morning before the start of the floor session, was a stark contrast to the one in the very same room almost 13 months to the day. 180 degrees stark.

On that January day, as the 2018 session was on the brink of commencing with an unimaginable near majority — and almost outright majority had a couple of recounts gone their way — there were loud roars and cheers echoing throughout the venerable Temple To Democracy. The behind-closed-door caucus meetings are quiet, strategy-laden affairs for both parties in both chambers. Lobbyists bide their time until the meetings end so they can slide up to key members and get in one last push on particular issues.

Leading the raucous victory lap that day was Cheerleader-In-Chief Governor-elect Ralph Northam, on whose coattails many of the new 15 Democrat freshmen who flipped Republican seats won election. They may not have won control, but they now had a working majority to pass at least a few progressive policy agenda items, including the highest of government spending and control measures, Obamacare Medicaid expansion — which they did a few, overtime, contentious months later.

Oh, for those halcyon days. One year plus one month later, they were shell shocked by revelations that the Democrat governor wore blackface — as an adult — maybe not once, but twice. On this particular day, after absorbing not only the Northam tumult and what turned out to be the first of two sexual assault allegations against Democrat Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, came news that Democrat Attorney General Mark Herring once also donned blackface.

The entire, grand, empire building scheme was beginning to crumble from the very top. After entering House Room 2 in relatively good cheer, the lawmakers abandoned their meeting early as word seeped through the ether of our age’s digital capacity, and walked in groups, shielding each other from questions from media suddenly familiar with Capitol Square’s environs.

Meanwhile, Republicans with their slim majority, governed well, moving the legislative process along amidst the firestorms all while restraining from the easy potshots available to them, shots the other side impulsively takes during even contrived opportunities. Only one day late, a huge surplus budget, tax reform and key reforms in higher education and other areas is a pretty good record. It’s up to Northam now to sign on or reignite the partisanship he says he wants to end.

Now, the same Democrats who demanded Northam’s resignation, are begging him to re-engage. He ain’t going anywhere and they have no choice but to concoct some type of nauseating soup. Apologize profusely. More profusely. Let’s talk it out. Better yet, let’s adopt more policies and programs. Of course, it’s always about more spending. It’s easy when it’s not your money and convenient when it’s your blunder.

But to whom is Northam (and Herring, in this case) supposed to apologize? Virginians? That’s easy. That’s not face-to-face, it’s not personal. It doesn’t put one in the heat of the spotlight seeking a specific forgiveness. While the Left in Virginia has felt let down, the rest of Virginia has been embarrassed, and there’s a big difference — and not only on race, but abortion as well. Virginia now is known as the state with a doctor-governor who thinks it’s okay to kill an unwanted newborn.

Northam and the Left ran a despicable campaign in 2017 depicting their opponents as racists. But who shows up in blackface? Where has the specific apology to Ed Gillespie and Herring’s opponent, John Adams, been? If Northam truly wants to regain his credibility he needs to own up not to his friends, but to his opponents.

Stephen J. (Steve) Rossie is a Richmond-based public and government relations’ consultant. He has been a General Assembly lobbyist since 2006 and has written about Virginia government since 2007.


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