Category Archives: Virginia

Gee, You Think Tom Davis Might Be a Little Bitter?

Tom Davis, in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“A convention restricts you to talk to 5,000 party activists where they ask you, ‘OK, now if you’re raped by an in-law and the mother’s life was in danger, you would allow an abortion? Oh, well, you’re not good enough for me.’ That’s what it comes down to. It’s ridiculous,” Davis told the paper.

If I were Tom Davis I’d be pretty bitter too. Davis would have had a very decent chance in the Senate race against Mark Warner. He could have at least held Warner’s margin down in Northern Virginia and would have run stronger in other parts of the state. But fortunately the GOP decided that value ideological purity above winning. Hence, Jim Gilmore or Bob Marshall. Larry Sabato is right.

“The Virginia Republican Party would rather be right than be president, senator or governor, and I mean ‘right’ in an ideological sense,” Sabato said.

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Bob Marshall Just Doesn’t Get It

VA Blogger over at Too Conservative has a really good post up that just devastates Bob Marshall’s position on trade. But he leaves out one other important point. Marshall’s blathering about how Value Added Taxes hurt American exporters is simply incoherent.

A VAT tax is essentially a tax on the value added to a product at each step of the manufacturing process. It’s a lot like a sales tax.

Here’s what Bob Marshall has to say:

As of January 2007, the U.S. traded with 137 countries which use a “Value Added Tax” or VAT on imports from the U.S. into their country, yet goods and services from foreign countries sold in the U.S. are not subject to VAT, resulting in unequal trade conditions which hurt U.S. based producers.

Countries with VAT taxes often rebate the VAT when their manufactures sell products to the U.S. in effect subsidizing most imports into the U.S. although U.S. exports to VAT countries are not eligible for VAT rebates.  In 2005, 94% of U.S. exports and imports were traded with VAT nations.  Foreign manufacturers trading in the U.S. received $239 Billion from their governments for VAT rebates on exports to the U.S.

In 2007, European Union nations imposed an average tariff of 4.4% plus 19.4% VAT equivalent tax for a total levy of 23.8% on products imported from the U.S.  Under present World Trade Organization rules, imports into the U.S. are charged an average tax of 1.3% with no VAT penalty.

Now, that sounds pretty unfair, right? But here’s the gigantic problem with Bob Marshall’s logic. Domestic companies in VAT countries have to pay the VAT too. So there while there is a “total levy of 23.8% on products imported from the US,” there is a 19.4% levy on products that are made domestically. The VAT does increase the cost of US goods in other countries, but not relative to any other goods made there. It’s the 4.4% tariff that increases the cost of US good relatively. And while the tariff should ideally be zero, it’s pretty small, especially compared to the problem Marshall makes it out to be.

Marshall’s complaint that other counties rebate or exempt the VAT on exports is similarly illogical. The US doesn’t have a VAT. We have a sales tax instead. Foreign goods aren’t exempt from the sales tax, just like US goods aren’t exempt from foreign VAT taxes. The fact that countries exempt exports from the VAT tax doesn’t give them an advantage in trade, it just levels the playing field. US companies don’t get charged a sales tax on exports. If foreign companies were charged the VAT on exports they would be taxed twice before they got to US consumers, both at home with the VAT and here with the sales tax.

In short, both US and foreign companies pay the VAT tax in foreign markets. Neither US nor foreign companies pay the VAT tax in the US market, but they both pay the same sales taxes. That’s not an unfair barrier to trade, thats a level playing field. To suggest otherwise just betrays Marshall’s ignorance of the issues.

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Bowerbank Getting Better

So, I spoke way too soon on Jon Bowerbank’s issues page and campaign website in general. His issues page is already significantly longer and his section on energy is really quite good. His bio page is significantly improved as well, mentioning his work on the Russell County Board of Supervisors and adding the interesting fact that his family immigrated to the US when he was 11.

Still, it will be good for Bowerbank to get some campaign experience before he has to go head to head against Bolling.

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Bowerbank is In

Jon Bowerbank has made it official. As I mentioned last week, he’s running for the Democratic Lieutenant Governor nomination to take on Bill Bolling next November.

Bowerbank has a website up, but it definitely isn’t ready for prime time yet, which seems odd for a guy who has locked up so much of the top Virginia Democratic web talent. His issues page is laughable at the moment, consisting entirely of:

Better Jobs
Jon will work to create better jobs. As a successful businessman, Jon knows that thriving communities are anchored by good paying jobs. As Lt. Governor, Jon will work with the business community to find ways to grow and expand jobs throughout the Commonwealth.

Education
Jon will work to improve our schools. Jon knows that a strong commitment to education creates opportunities for all of Virginia’s school children to reach their full potential. As such, Jon will work for stronger schools that give our kids the best chance to succeed.

Good Government
Jon will fight to make sure our government works for you. Jon understands and believes that state government has a responsibility to you as taxpayers to work efficiently and tirelessly and as such he will work to make sure that state government is accountable and efficient.

While all of that may be unobjectionable, it’s hardly anything like an agenda or campaign platform. I know he just got into the race, but if you’re going to put a website up, at least have it be credible.

One interesting thing thus far about Bowerbank is the extent to which he’s played down the fact that he already holds elected office in Virginia. His “About Jon” page is all about his business experience. Similarly, everything I’ve seen about him in the blogosphere describes him as nothing more than a businessman. However, Bowerbank was elected to a seat on the Russell County Board of Supervisors in 2007, running as an independent and defeating both a Democrat and a Republican.

The more I see about Bowerbank the more questions I have. Is this guy really ready to run the state if something happens to the Governor? He told the Roanoke times that “he easily could have won election to a district-level seat on the board of supervisors based on community reaction to the Honaker field. But he chose instead to test himself by running countywide.” If that’s his idea of a political test he’s nowhere near ready to take on Bill Bolling.

On the plus side he’s clearly willing to plow his own money into the race. The Post reported that he’s already put in $75,000 of his own cash to get off the ground. Clearly, however, Bowerbank would benefit greatly from a hotly contested primary if he is going to represent the Democrats next fall. I definitely hope Jody Wagner gets into the race to give Bowerbank a real opponent before he launches into a general election campaign.

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Virginia 2009

I know 2008 isn’t even half way over yet, but already the posturing for the 2009 Virginia General Election is heating up.

Governor

The GOP side of the equation is easy. Attorney General Bob McDonnell will be running. Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling had considered a run, but announced in March he was going to seek reelection instead. Nobody else is expected to challenge McDonnell. McDonnell will be an interesting candidate. He is from the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach area and has a strong base of support down there. He represented them in the House of Delegates, has military ties and graduated from Pat Robertson’s Regent University, which is based in the area. McDonnell doesn’t have a great profile elsewhere in the state. He won a real squeaker of an election in 2005, beating Creigh Deeds by 360 votes. He is extremely conservative, both on social issues, as one might expect from a Regent alumnus, but also fiscally, where he consistently voted against taxes and spending.

On the Democratic side things are a little different. There are two strong candidates running. The first is Deeds, who is a State Senator. He is based in Southwest Virginia, representing Roanoke. He is a conservative Democrat who is extremely strong on gun rights, even winning the endorsement of the NRA over McDonnell in 2005. He probably has the broadest appeal of the two, but given that he couldn’t capitalize on Tim Kaine’s 2005 win to put him over the top there are serious doubts about whether he could be the more seasoned and higher profile McDonnell in a rematch.

The other Democrat running for Governor is Brian Moran, the brother of Arlington Congressman Jim. Brian is based out of Alexandria, which could be a liability in a state wide race. Nonetheless, he has cultivated a moderate record and been friendly with groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Virginia Sheriffs Association and the Chamber of Commerce. He is perceived as a liberal by many in the state, perhaps due to his strong partisanship in his role as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Although Moran is likely the weaker of the two candidates statewide, he may have an advantage in the Democratic primary, where Northern Virginia has a larger voice.

Lieutenant Governor

Again, the GOP side of the ledger is easy. Bill Bolling is running unopposed for re-election. Bolling’s political base of support is Southwest Virginia, which he represented as a State Senator before winning the Lt. Governorship. He is a pretty doctrinaire conservative who won the biggest margin for the GOP in 2005. Bolling will be a formidable candidate for re-election, despite the fact that the nature of the job makes it that he hasn’t accomplished much of anything.

On the Democratic side things aren’t as clear. As per Too Conservative the other day, Jon Bowerbank, a Southwestern Virginia businessman is in the running. He’s unknown statewide and would have a tough time
getting his name ID up, but he could be a solid candidate. To begin with he appears to be the sort of culturally conservative Democrat who has succeeded in Virginia the last few election cycles. His firm is a natural gas and energy resources company, which could give him an advantage in going after what is sure to be a hot issue in 2009.

The other Democrat who is rumored to be interested in running is Jody Wagner, Tim Kaine’s Secretary of Finance. Wagner is based out of the Norfolk area and was a Congressional candidate in 2000. She was also Mark Warner’s State Treasurer. Wagner has a great record to run on, given that Virginia has consistently been name the best managed state in the Union under her watch, so she could be a very strong candidate. On the other hand, she could have trouble with the liberal blogs, given Bowerbank has already retained the services of Lowell from Raising Kaine and Ben from NLS obviously isn’t a huge fan of Wagner’s.

Attorney General

The Democratic side of the race is the easy one this time around, so I’ll start here. Delegate Steve Shannon of Fairfax is the only Democrat who seems to be looking at the race. Shannon, however, has definitely been eying it for a while and will be a formidable candidate. He is a former prosecutor and founded the Washington, D.C. AMBER Alert system, while he was still a private citizen. In the House he has been a consistently tough on crime legislator with a very moderate voting record.

The Republican side is much more up in the air. State Senator Ken Cuccinelli is the favorite. He’s the most conservative member of the Senate and is a darling of the state GOP. Despite his conservatism he’s the only Republican Senator left from Fairfax, though he only won his last election in 2007 by 92 votes over the incompetent Janet Oleszek. Cuccinelli would be a formidable candidate given his Northern Virginia base. If a Republican can hold down the margin of defeat in Fairfax it is almost impossible for him to lose statewide.

The second GOP candidate is former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee. Brownlee is based out of Southwest Virginia, which could be an advantage in the GOP primary, though Cuccinelli’s legendary status within the conservative wing of the party will negate much of that advantage. Brownlee is known as a conservative, law and order, tough on drugs prosecutor. He’s definitely running a very conservative campaign, “vowing to fight abortion, illegal immigration and drug trafficking,” according to the Washington Post. A nomination battle where Cuccinelli and Brownlee try to get to each other’s right could hurt their chances in November. If these two try to out crazy one another I’m not sure where it will stop. On the other hand, this thing could end up being completely uncompetitive, given that Brownlee didn’t even get a website up before he officially kicked off his campaign. That sort of incompetence won’t allow him to last long against a political master like Cuccinelli.

The dark horse in the GOP race is former Arlington School Board Chairman Dave Foster. Foster had a great reputation liberal Arlington, which is extremely tough for a Republican to do. Until he retired from the Board in 2007 he was the only elected Republican in the entire county. Were he to win the nomination it would be tough to see how he could lose, given his ability to win votes from liberal Northern Virginians. Whereas Cuccinelli has squeaked by, Foster won re-election by 8,000 votes out of less than 40,000 cast. He would be at a bit of a disadvantage in the primary, however, given that he has no record to speak of on the sorts of issues the Attorney General has to deal with, especially in comparison to Cuccinelli and Brownlee. In a contested GOP nomination fight he and Cuccinelli could easily end up splitting the Northern Virginia vote and allowing Brownlee to coast to the nomination.

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Traffic as a Voting Issue

You can really tell that Ezra Klein doesn’t live in Virginia. Here, traffic has been a voting issue for at least a decade now.

How long till traffic becomes a voting issue? Americans spend more time in it every year. They get heart attacks from it. And now, with gas prices well above $100 — and racing skyward still — how long till road rage, till driving, till a life spent in the car and a paycheck spent at the pump, become voting issues? Arguably, gas prices are already there. But no politicians has figured out how to do anything with that save promise lower gas prices. But we’re not going to lower gas prices. And discontent will only become more intense. Someday, some politician is going to figure out what to do with that, and my hunch in the word “transit” will be a big part of it.

Of course, part of the issue is the extent to which traffic is a federal voting issue. In Virginia and I’m sure lots of other states traffic and transit already are voting issues, but they don’t necessarily translate to the federal level. Even in Northern Virginia, as traffic clogged and pissed off a region as there is in the country, the only way transit has factored in as a federal voting issue is how well politicians like Tom Davis and Frank Wolf have been able to bring home the transit bacon. In terms of presidential level stuff, the things the federal government can do, like readjusting the formulae that given new roads the priority over mass transit, just aren’t that sexy.

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Virgil Goode Just Can’t Stop

Virgil Goode really is having a tough time recently. The other day he went on a bizarre rant against Muslims. Now, I see that he’s signed on to a bill that would outlaw in vitro fertilization.

H.R. 4157, which Representative Broun refers to as the Sanctity of Human Life Act, might more accurately be entitled the Zygote Political Enfranchisement Act or the Anti-Fertility Act. The legislation has been written by Congressman Broun in order to define a human egg created in the United States from the moment of fertilization, through its development into a fetus ready to be born, as a complete person with full legal rights and constitutional protections equal to that of any other American citizen.

Under Broun’s proposed law, this award of full legal protections to all fertilized eggs, even one created just one minute ago, would be given regardless of the ability of the fertilized egg to implant in a womb and grow to become a baby. H.R. 4157 states this very directly:

“the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”

A fertilized egg must be given all the legal protections of a person, irrespective of health, function or disability? That means that even if a fertilized egg or blastula (a tiny hollow ball of human cells post-fertilization) is somehow determined to have a terrible genetic disease, it would nonetheless have to be given full medical treatment in order to make sure that it survived to be born. If that treatment was not given, its parents could be criminally charged with child abuse or neglect.

Think about in vitro fertilization, and you’ll see how absurd this new law would be. The way that in vitro fertilization works is that many eggs are fertilized, and then sorted, so that healthy fertilized eggs are separated from the unhealthy ones. Under Paul Broun’s law, the unhealthy fertilized eggs would have to be implanted in a woman’s womb, just like the unhealthy ones. Remember that the law says that “health” and “function” are irrelevant. So, even “fertilized” eggs in which the nucleus of the sperm and egg somehow failed to unite to create a genetically coherent union would have to be implanted in a woman’s womb as if they were viable.

This is what Virgil Goode is offering? This is just a crazy as Bob Marshall’s plan a couple of years back to bar unmarried women from having in vitro fertilization treatments. It really is a miracle a guy this crazy could not only get elected to Congress, but continually get reelected.

Hat Tip: Democratic Central

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