Think personality doesn’t matter in politics? Consider this object lesson, from the part-time William and Mary poli-sci and law school prof who just so happens to be Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment.
Talking to reporters Wednesday after a special session on the budget adjourned, Norment (as he is wont to do) mentioned his shared experience as a VMI Keydet with Gov. Ralph Northam. Though their time at the military college in Valley didn’t overlap, Virginia Military Institute is a school of unchanging tradition.
“I consider him a friend,” Norment said, adding that it was pleasant to be part of the team of senators and House of Delegates members who trudged up to the third floor of the Capitol to tell Northam that the General Assembly was organized and ready to get down to the business of the special session.
Northam wished them well and said he knew they had lots of hard work to do. “He didn’t lecture us,” Norment said.
Whether that was what former Gov. Terry McAuliffe intended in his forceful advocacy for Medicaid expansion, it felt like a lecture to Norment. McAuliffe’s style didn’t seem to encourage the kind of collaboration Norment said will be essential to close the gap between a House budget anchored on Medicaid expansion and the Senate Republican majority’s opposition to expansion.
In any event, Norment said, the two senators who have said they are open to Medicaid expansion don’t like the House proposal. The ideas state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, and state Sen. Frank Wager, R-Virginia Beach, have offered for an expansion contradict one another.
Still, surely there are no hard feelings for the former governor?
No, says Norment. He wishes the former governor all the best “as he speeds in his little green car down to Alabama.”
GreenTech Automotive, the Mississippi electric car company McAuliffe founded, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. McAuliffe severed ties with the firm in 2012, before his election as governor.
It’s not enough to have the right number of signatures on a petition to be listed on a ballot in Virginia — they have to be qualified voters in the relevant district.
So when election officials reviewed the petitions for candidates in the 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary, they found only two hopefuls — Norfolk business owner Elaine Luria and Virginia Beach teacher Karen Mallard — actually presented the names of 1,000 voters in the Eastern Shore to Williamsburg district.
They’ll be the only two on the ballot for the Democratic primary on June 12. Three others didn’t make it. One, Shaun Brown, who is under a federal indictment and charged with defrauding the government, didn’t submit signatures and said she will run as an independent.
Both Republican candidates, Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia Beach, and former James City County supervisor Mary Jones will be on the ballot, too.
No Democrat is seeking to challenge Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News, in the 3rd Congressional district, and so far, no Republican opponent has emerged.
In the 1st district, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, will have no primary challenger. Three Democrats: Vangie A. Williams, John B. Suddarth and Edwin Santana Jr. are seeing their party’s nomination.
Besides Taylor, the only other incumbent Virginia member of Congress facing a primary challenge is Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean. Shak Hill, who failed in his bid for the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Mark Warner in 2014, will be on the ballot in that Northern Virginia district. Six Democrats are seeking their party’s nod to challenge Comstock in a district that’s been trending Democratic.
Elsewhere, Republicans in the deep red 6th district are — with much controversy — planning a convention to pick their choice for a successor to retiring Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County. In a possible sign that nothing is certain in any election, four Democrats are on the primary ballot.
Muted reaction on Medicaid vote switches
One of the most conservative members of the House of Delegates, representing one of the most conservative districts in Hampton Roads, Del. Gordon Helsel, R-Poquoson, rethought his longstanding opposition to Medicaid expansion this year and voted for a House budget anchored on the idea of using federal Affordable Care Act money to cover more low-income Virginians.
Not really, Helsel said. He’s fielded some phone calls asking him to explain his change in view.
He received about 10 emails from people upset with him — until, that is, he called them back and explained his view: that the federal money could help plug a gap of several hundreds of millions of dollars in the state budget. I could also clear the way for more support for schools and mental health.
Talking it over with voters may not always convince them to agree with his change of view, Helsel said, but it is the kind of communication that is supposed to inform both legislator and constituent.
He prides himself on his accessibility to voters, and said he’s looking forward to what his fellow legislators have to say about their own conversations with voters.
Ress can be reached by telephone at 757-247-4535