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Protests Continue, Phase 3 Begins, and Republican Primary Results: Political Analysis for Friday, June 26, 2020

A cartoon image of Craig Carper and Jeff Schapiro with a microphone between them.

Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins VPM News Director Craig Carper for this week’s political analysis.  Topics include continued marches and police reform proposals, Phase 3 of coronavirus restrictions as of July 1, and the results of the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Craig Carper:  From VPM news in Richmond, I'm Craig Carper, and joining me now from the Richmond Times-Dispatch is political columnist and VPM’s political analyst, Jeff Schapiro.  Jeff, good morning.

Jeff Schapiro:  Good to see you, Craig.

Carper:  You as well.  This week we saw demonstrations over the death of George Floyd continue, especially in Richmond, as well as further confrontations with police.  At the same time, attention is turning to proposals to reign in law enforcement, and black legislators are the first to suggest reforms.

Schapiro:  Yes, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus this week rolled out its reform package.  It includes, among other things:

  • a ban on chokeholds, a consequence of the George Floyd killing,
  • the demilitarization of police,
  • declaring racism as a health crisis,
  • a ban on no-knock warrants, of course, that pegged to the shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville,
  • civilian police oversight; when I was growing up in New York, this was batted around and they were called Civilian Police Review Boards,
  • getting rid of cash bail, a problem particularly for lower income people, good numbers of whom are African American and people of color,
  • and legalizing marijuana.  Of course, the state had been taking steps towards decriminalization.  It is the Black Caucus’s position that it should be legalized outright.

What we have not heard, and maybe this is one of the missing pieces of all of these discussions on police reform - nothing yet from House Democrats, nothing yet from Senate Democrats.  We hear they are working on things.  The Republicans are promising proposals, though they have largely been focusing on what they're hearing from Democrats and labeling a lot of this as nothing more than defunding police, which is one of those tough terms to understand.  It doesn't mean cutting off police funding altogether and shutting down departments; it means helping oneself to dollars that the police are using that might be used elsewhere, say on social services.  One of the more interesting responses to all of this came from a former state trooper and former state senator, Bill Carrico, from out in southwest Virginia.  His name has been batted about for governor periodically.  He said in an interview this week that the Legislative Black Caucus, his words, “goes way too far” with some of these reforms.  Though he suggested that he and the Caucus are of one mind on, for example, greater use of police body cameras.  A lot of this is going to be addressed in August when the legislature returns to Richmond and could very well be addressed again in January when the legislature returns for its annual session.

Carper:  And this week, Virginia took another step toward easing COVID-19 restrictions on the economy, which was shut down in March when the pandemic hit.  Even with the move to Phase 3 of the dial-back, Jeff, some businesses are unhappy.

Schapiro:  And by Wednesday, this dial-back, this next step in the dial-back, forgive me for mixing my metaphors, will be in place.  This is Phase 3 and will include Northern Virginia and Richmond, which had been two weeks behind the state.  Among the new, gentler restrictions: social gatherings of up to 250 people will be permitted, restaurants for the most part will reopen, but with social distancing requirements in place, museums and zoos can open at 50% capacity, gyms at 75% capacity.  And among those not happy with this are those big theme parks, for example, King's Dominion and Busch Gardens.   They say they cannot make the math work.  In other words, I can't make any money with these Phase 3 restrictions, and so, they're going to tough it out.  Also, we are hearing from the Supreme Court of Virginia that the courts will now be free to resume hearings on possible evictions, people who are in arrears on their rent.  This is not going down well at the street level, where many of the demonstrators we've been seeing and hearing around the state have been saying that there should be essentially a rent freeze in place indefinitely.

Carper:  And Republicans have picked an army combat veteran of the Iraq War to oppose two-term Democrat Mark Warner for the U.S. Senate in a primary that points to continuing weakness for the GOP.

Schapiro:  Daniel Gade of Alexandria, an amputee, combat-wounded, also a professor at The American University, says he's going to be running on kitchen table issues.  I think that's one way of saying he'll probably be running from Donald Trump.  Gade won a three-way primary with about two-thirds of the vote.  The low, low, low turnout in that primary spotlights trouble for Republicans, again, this shrinking base, largely older white conservative males.  Overall turnout 5.4%, hasn't been that low since 2012, for a senate nomination that is.  Then it was 4.7%; that was when George Allen was nominated in his comeback bid.  He would of course lose to Tim Kaine, but that primary showed how weak George Allen was with the party’s most conservative voters.  So there really is a message in these primary results - hostility for Trump, which is part of the Republican party's problem here in Virginia, will clearly help Warner and big-time.  Higher turnout means that it's unlikely Warner, it being a presidential year, will repeat that close call he had in 2014 against Ed Gillespie.  In addition to high name recognition, Warner has a money advantage.  At least as of the morning after the primary, he had $8.5 million on hand.  Gade had only $105,000.

Carper:  Alright, thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Jeff, we will catch up again next week.