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A Monetary Advantage for Democrats and a Potential Preview of the 2020 General Assembly: Political Analysis for Friday, October 18, 2019

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Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins VPM News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include a monetary advantage for Democrats running for the General Assembly, and a look at what legislation could be on the table when the General Assembly reconvenes in 2020.

Phil Liles:  This is VPM News 88.9. and this week's commentary with VPM News Director Craig Carper, as well as the Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro, and good morning to both of you.  

Craig Carper:  Hi Phil.

Jeff Schapiro:  Good morning.

Liles:   You know with about two weeks until the Election Day, the money race suggests opportunity for the Democrats.

Carper:  That's right, Phil.  House and Senate candidates in both parties have raked in roughly $53 million, with more of that money going to Democrats in recent days.

Schapiro:  An indication perhaps that the smart or the smarter money is on a Democratic take-back, and we've talked about this before.  Republicans are nonetheless tapping the national sources that they complain are artificially enhancing the Democrats' fundraising totals.  And of course the Republicans are banking on this low, low, low turnout in these off, off, off year elections in these gerrymandered districts to hold their majority.  That said, in the House and the Senate Democratic candidates are pulling in the biggest harvest.  Wendy Gooditis, running for a second term in an outer DC suburb district, outer suburban DC district.  She is doing well.  Sheila Bynum-Coleman, taking on that big fish, Kirk Cox, the Speaker, also doing well.  Debra Rodman, who is giving up her House seat in Henrico after a single term and wants to take on or is taking on Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, collected $1 million in September.  That's more than anyone else.  Rodman and Dunnavant of course will be debating on your air tonight.

Carper:  That’s right.

Schapiro:  And there’s a rebroadcast of that on the radio Sunday.  Rounding out the Democrats is Cheryl Turpin in Virginia Beach, another single-term House Democrat giving up her seat to run for an open Senate seat in the Beach.  A point about the Republicans and those national sources on which they are drawing, that includes the Republican State Leadership Committee, $2 million from it.  A group used to be headed by Ed Gillespie, responsible for the Red State Project, taking over legislatures to draw gerrymandered congressional boundaries to take over the House, and they were successful.  In this finale, the most telling measure is cash on hand.  House Democrats have $9 million, Republicans a bit less than $7 million.  Over in the Senate, Republicans have nearly $5 million, Democrats just under $4.5 million, and the cash machine is still running.

Carper:  That's right.  Jeff, this week Virginia Republicans in Congress are finally breaking with President Trump.

Schapiro:  Ah yes, over the catastrophe in Turkey.  The four Republicans in the House delegation, Rob Wittman, Morgan Griffith, Denver Riggleman and Ben Cline joined the Democrats in supporting that resolution condemning the president.  I don't know that one should read to too much into this.  Foreign policy is probably one of the easier topics on which Republicans can break with the president.  To the Trump constituency concentrated in rural Virginia, diplomatic matters may not rate as highly as jobs, the economy, gun rights, the border.  And looking ahead to that impeachment vote in the House, the seven Democrats are likely to go along with it.  What about those four Republicans?  Unless there's some killer development that bleeds away support for the president in their districts, they will probably stick with Trump.

Carper:  That's right.  And maybe Virginia won't be cleaning up how it draws its legislative and congressional boundaries after all, after years of saying they wanted something different.

Schapiro:  Yeah, I think we've discussed this before, that the impulse for redistricting reform may fade depending on who's in charge in January.  Graham Moomaw, a former T-D guy now over at the Virginia Mercury, had an interesting story this week.  He's quoting lawmakers in both parties expressing doubts about the constitutional amendment that would depoliticize redistricting.  It's gone through once, so would have to go through a second time intact.  There are all sorts of, you know, complaints about it - that it might empower Republican judges, that it really doesn't prevent gerrymandering.  When it comes to constitutional amendments, that first vote is always easy.  The second one is tough because it means the politicians might have to live with the very real possibility that something untoward may be put in place, particularly something that diminishes their power.  That would include depoliticized redistricting.

Carper:  And just about 30 seconds, Jeff.  The state's revenue report looks rosy, but maybe not for much longer.

Schapiro:  Yes, the public and private sector is anticipating a downturn, if not an outright recession.  This could mean a lot for the Northam legacy budget which will be put together in December.  A legacy in that it is the only budget over which he will have total control, and it will be larded with his priorities.  If he needs the cash, where might he go?  One of the ideas that's being batted around very quietly is taking back that nearly a billion dollars a year that the state now turns over to localities in car tax reimbursements.

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

Schapiro:  Roger that.