Eventful year looming for politics in Virginia
November 29, 2008
By Drew Houff - The Winchester Star
Winchester — Virginia holds an election each fall, and next Nov. 3, voters will select a governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.
Also, all members of the House of Delegates must decide whether they want to run for another two-year term, because all 100 seats are up for grabs.
After what promises to be a particularly busy General Assembly session beginning Jan. 14, some delegates may not be too eager for a campaign.
Del. Beverly J. Sherwood, R-Frederick County, said recently that economic issues will remain paramount for the legislators, who will hold a 45-day session — referred to as a short session — and must trim spending from the fiscal year 2009 and FY 2010 budgets.
“We really do need to focus on what we need and where we are in the economy,” she said. “We also will have new figures around the opening of the session, and it will change our focus. We’re going to need to do more with less.”
Sherwood said the more-with-less theme also may affect legislation, as the lawmakers try to implement programs that could help to form regional alliances to solve problems around Virginia.
Delegates must remain responsive to the voters and their concerns because they are running for office every two years, she said.
Del. Clifford L. “Clay” Athey Jr., R-Front Royal, agreed that financial issues will be the chief concern of the 2009 legislative session.
The tight economy is also causing the loss of jobs, with companies struggling to balance budgets and make payments, he said. “Many people are not able pay mortgages on the house they have dreamed of. They also are finding being able to send their children to school or college very difficult.
“With Christmas coming up, many parents are finding what types of gifts they can afford to give their children.”
Athey said the General Assembly must make tough choices on ways to trim the state’s budget deficit, projected at $3.5 million to $4 million.
Such a deficit will require legislators to determine which programs are important, cutting away the rest, he said.
Athey said he opposes simply making across-the-board budget cuts, noting that the reductions should come from less-effective programs so that the state’s money buys the best programs for long-term benefits.
“I think it is clear that the management of our resources is important, and unlike the federal government, we cannot print money,” he said. “I do think that is a good thing.”
Athey and Sherwood did not say if they would run for re-election in 2009.
The area’s other delegate, Republican Joe T. May of Loudoun County, could not be reached for comment.
Sen. Jill H. Vogel, R-Warrenton, who is entering the second year of her four-year term and won’t be up for re-election until 2011, said another issue likely to be debated by the General Assembly is the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which, like the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority, will help to govern transportation funding for a portion of the state.
The Republican Party, which fared poorly in the Nov. 4 elections, seems to have one advantage going into the 2009 elections, as its nominees for governor and lieutenant governor already seem apparent: Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell is the likely choice to run for governor, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is in line to seek re-election.
The Democrats, in contrast, have three candidates aiming for a gubernatorial run in November: state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Charlottesville, Del. Brian Moran of Alexandria, and former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe.
Longwood University professor and political observer Brian Bates said Democrats will try to continue their progress from this year’s presidential election, when Virginians voted in a majority for a Democrat for the first time since 1964.
“Virginia Democrats will certainly try to build upon this year’s success, but tying their future to the national success of Barack Obama may prove a little challenging for several reasons,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Bates said the economy may remain poor, and Democrats will not have President Bush to blame for the bad news any longer.
Virginians tend to look for long-term solutions rather than simple ideas, he wrote, making it important for candidates to offer possibilities for a sound economic recovery.
“In the end, the party that is the first to figure out that Virginians want solutions, not partisan bickering, will be the party that prevails next November,” Bates wrote. “It may well be time for honest statesmanship to once again enter the political arena in Virginia.
“Neither party has done a very good job in the area of statesmanship in recent decades, but both have the potential and the talented people to do much better. The first to figure this out will probably hold sway over Virginia politics for a generation.”
— Contact Drew Houff at
Senator delivers (literally!)
November 27, 2008
By Drew Houff - The Winchester Star
WARRENTON — State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Warrenton, has likely become the first sitting member of the General Assembly to give birth.
She delivered Thomas Preston Bird Vogel by Caesarean section at 8:32 a.m. Wednesday at the Fauquier Hospital in Warrenton.
The baby — 20 inches tall and 7 pounds, 2 ounces — is named “Thomas” for a close family friend, the 38-year-old Vogel said by phone from her hospital room Wednesday.
The names “Preston” and “Bird” are in honor of the senator’s great-grandfather, Preston Michael Sigler Bird.
“I’m so excited and so relieved to have him,” Vogel said about three hours after the baby’s birth. “He is OK, and he is happy.”
Vogel said modern science made giving birth a much better experience for her and her child.
The senator, who must stay in the hospital for three nights because of the surgical procedure, said the newborn is doing fine.
“He’s perfectly normal, according to the Apgar test, which he passed with flying colors,” she said.
The Apgar score evaluates a newborn’s activity, muscle tone, pulse, grimace response, appearance, and respiration. It is usually given to a baby twice — once at a minute after birth and the second time five minutes after birth.
Vogel’s husband Alex Vogel helped with the birth. The senator said his stress level decreased sharply after the safe delivery.
“I’m excited,” Alex Vogel said in another telephone interview. “It’s a perfect Thanksgiving.”
The senator said she was told by Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Annandale, that she was the first sitting member of the Legislature to give birth.
Vogel has two children by birth — 5-year-old William Alexander Vogel and 3-year-old John “Jack” Benner Vogel — and two stepchildren, 8-year-old Alexander Nicholas Vogel Jr. and 10-year-old Peyton Elizabeth Vogel.
The stepchildren live in San Diego half of the year, but were in Warrenton for the birth of Thomas.
“I am relieved to have had him so easily,” Vogel said. “It was wonderful, and he is doing so well.”