Virginia: Warner Wins!

MSNBC:

Democratic former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner breezed to victory in his bid for the Senate on Tuesday, snagging a southern seat long held by Republicans and fueling expectations that Democrats would solidify their now-thin leadership grip over the chamber.

This bodes well for Obama, and suggests Virginia is has turned blue.

Virginia November 4th

Today Virginia Feels Blue:

As I write this I can hear beeps from cars passing Obama volunteers with signs.  The response has been enormously positive, with only a stray middle finger or scowl from an old McCain/Palin supporter to suggest they even exist.  When I went to vote, I saw about 8 Obama volunteers next to one McCain/Palin volunteer.  Since I went at lunch, there was no line (although we did have a bit of confusion about where in the library to vote, at one point I joked perhaps either the nonfiction or the large print aisles were the spot to be).

Read More.

VOTE!!!

Go Obama!  Don’t forget to vote, especially my fellow Virginian readers.  2008 is the year we turn this state blue!

Important Voting Tips from Emily

GoVote: Find out where to vote and what to bring.

How to Protect Your Vote:

Fight Racism in Dulles VA

Are any readers near Dulles Virginia?  Want to take a stand against racism and white supremacy?  This weekend cowards and haters are holding their meeting in Dulles, near the airport (via Pam):

I guess the Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport Hotel is hard up for bucks if it’s decided that hosting a conference for white supremacists is a good business move.

The three-star Herndon, Virginia hotel will welcome the benign-sounding American Renaissance Conference (no, I’m not linking)  Feb. 22-Feb. 24. Subtitled “In the Name of Our People,” attendees can gather for an extraordinary weekend on “racial-realist thought” (I guess the whole supremacy thing has fallen out of favor). Read about it and see some of the speakers after the jump.

Resistance and Solidarity plans to fight back:

Resistance and Solidarity, a DC-based collective, plans to show up at the conference.
Continue reading

Obama Taking Early Lead in Northern Virginia

With polls yet to close, Obama is commanding double digit leads at polls in Northern Virginia.

We’re also seeing Democratic turnout beating Republican turnout by a factor of 7 to 1 at some polling locations.

Hillary’s Paid Volunteers

This came in from Northern Virginia for Obama (emphasis mine):

Dear Obama Supporters,

I want to thank everyone who volunteered or participated in Obama campaign events this past year….especially the ones I hosted!

Regardless of the results tonight you have helped us win a David vs. Goliath battle in Arlington and the entire region, as faced with the local presence of the National Headquarters of our opponent, we showed that grassroots volunteers can overcome all odds to outsmart, outplay and outlast any challenge (for Survivor fans).

This was evident last night, when at the Ballston metro we faced an uphill battle of 6 Obama volunteers against a larger crowd of Hillary volunteers.

But this was still a great victory because one of our clever “Hope Mongers” was able to find out that her workers were imported from Bronx, NY at a cost of $7.00 an hour (minus travel and lodging costs I’m sure).

That’s right, 2-3 blocks from her headquarters she needed PAID workers.

So, a big victory tonight will mean a PR win, a delegate win and also a MONEY win for Barack Obama.

Reminds me of the Cellucci gubernatiorial campaign in Massachusetts.  They decided to hold a rally in my hometown, and couldn’t find enough supporters, so they brought in two busloads.  Coming home from work each day, its been Obama supporters I’ve seen out and about with literature and a ready smile.

Virginia: Election Eve

Tomorrow my fellow Virginians head to the polls. Obama is the deserved favorite, and Arlingtonians for Obama will be celebrating just blocks from Hillary Clinton’s national headquarters. A win for Obama tomorrow will provide a huge rush of positive momentum for the campaign.

In the meantime, Obama is creating what has been called a rock-star like effect in his travels:

That kind of turnout happens when you both embody and speak truth and hope. (US of Jamerica):

From the Nation’s endorsement of Senator Obama:

While his rhetoric about “unity” can be troubling, it also embodies a savvy strategy to redefine the center of American politics and build a coalition by reaching out to independent and Republican voters disgruntled and disgusted with what the Bush era has wrought. Most important, we feel his candidacy, in its demonstrated investment in organizing and grassroots activism as well as his personal appeal, represents the best chance to forge a new progressive majority.

I’m sure Senator Clinton can win a general election, but there’s a much greater chance of the election being very close, which would leave Senator Clinton with very little room to negotiate. Obama offers us the possibility of landing a knock out blow.
I think we should take it.

And he offers hope. Not only of a new progressive majority, nor a decisive victory in November. He’s raising an army of politically active and vocal Americans everywhere he goes. Like much of America, I’m incredibly excited for tomorrow.

Kaine Sets Sights on Abusive Driving Tax

About time!  Governor Kaine has called for an end to the Virginia Driving Fees (Virginia Pilot):

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine called for the repeal of new high penalties against abusive drivers and urged passage of reforms in education and mental health treatment during his State of the Commonwealth address to the General Assembly on Wednesday night.

A number of candidates who ran in the last cycle, including Chap Peterson, made the driving fees a campaign issue.  As the governor starts ratcheting up the already high public pressure to remove the fees, let’s watch the General Assembly and see who stands up against this hidden tax.

Virginia Turning Blue!

While I was able to help out last year, this year I couldn’t make it out.  So it was all the more heartening and exciting to see this development:

(The full text of an email from dempac):

Thanks to you, January will begin the first term of Dick Saslaw as Senate Majority Leader in the Virginia General Assembly.  Due to the hard work and perseverance of all of our Democratic volunteers, Virginia turned a bluer shade of purple on Tuesday.  Democrats made a gain of 4 seats in the State House, and a gain of 4 seats, for a controlling majority, in the State Senate.  We also made significant gains in local races – in Central and Southwest Virginia, and espcially in Hampton Roads, the Red Tide is ebbing.  A decade of Republican dominance in the Commonwealth has come to an end, and we have you, the volunteer, to credit.

Virginia’s future looks Blue, according to Party Chair Dick Cranwell:

    “This election represents a huge victory for progress.  It was a tremendous day, both for Virginia and the Democratic Party.

    There is a message in this campaign for Richmond.  Voters are sick and tired of obstructionism and rigid ideology.  They want leaders who will work with Governor Kaine to cut through political gridlock and deliver results.  In race after race, the people have spoken for change in the way the Assembly is run. They will not tolerate those who put politics ahead of progress.  They are looking for commonsense solutions and results on the challenges we face.

    Once again, Democrats have shown we know how to win in Virginia.  We have continued a trend that started with Mark Warner and moved through Tim Kaine and Jim Webb.  With 2007 behind us, we look forward to building on our success in 2008.”

We hope that DEMPAC has helped you make an impact in this election.  We intend to continue to promote volunteerism and grow our community in 2008.  Our work is far from over, and we have to keep fighting to make sure that Virginia keeps Moving Forward.  DEMPAC will be back and stronger than ever in 2008 to empower the volunteers of Virginia to make a difference!
Great work, volunteers! We look forward to serving you in ’08!

I’m so excited for the future of Virginia.  In particular I’d like to single out Chap Peterson.  You might remember him for his stance against the VA Driving fees when members of both parties in office were scrambling to defend their hidden tax.

We face a number of battles through elections and in the powerful stretch between where law is made.  Virginians just took a step forward, and we are still in a fighting stance, ready for anything.  The future looks wide open and bright.  The future looks Blue.

Virginia Get Out The Vote!

Tuesday is fast approaching my fellow Virginians.  We’ve got some serious firepower in our corner as we turn Virginia blue.

Check out the candidates and the countdown to progress tour.

And of course:  vote!

James O’Brien: Gay Baiting in Virginia

James O’Brien, with the help of the Republican Party of Virginia, is trying to use gay-hate to fight a strong Democratic opponent. (Via Pam Spaulding of Pandagon). O’Brien’s opponent, George Barker, is looking better and better:

It’s clear that the right wing is ratcheting up the homo-hate as Barker has received the endorsement of the Washington Post.

Republican Sen. James J. “Jay” O’Brien Jr. is an affable incumbent, but his scant command of policy and legislative issues has failed to impress. His Democratic rival, George L. Barker, a health-care planner, would make a far more able, detail-oriented and effective senator in this district straddling the Fairfax-Prince William line.

Barker also has strong support from educators (I’m sure O’Brien feels they are part of the Homosexual Agenda anyway).

No wonder the Republicans are so nervous. This isn’t the first time they’ve pulled such a dirty trick. In fact the Republican Party in Virginia has a real problem with running a clean election. I still remember getting their flyer warning me to watch out for “San Francisco and New York Liberals” (read “Gays and Jews”).

Raising Kane goes deeper:

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO GEORGE BARKER TO OUST THE HOMOPHOBIC IDIOT THAT WOULD SEND OUT THIS TRASH.

Update: The Virginia Partisans have responded and issued a challange

What is that challenge?

State Senate Candidate George Barker has come under attack in a vicious anti-gay mailer run by his opponent and paid for by the Republican Party of Virginia. If you want to get your blood boiling, YOU CAN SEE THE MAILER BY CLICKING HERE.

George Barker is one of Virginia Partisans’ endorsed candidates and is one of the key races in the effort to retake the state Senate from the Republicans. VP’s PAC has already donated more to Barker’s campaign than to any other candidate in our organization’s history. But we need to do more.

We need to make sure that this kind of homophobic attack backfires on candidates like Jay O’Brien who use them — and that George Barker wins in a landslide!

Here’s where you come in.

Indeed. Here is where we come in. Let’s bury this homophobic asshole, and toss in the practicality of gay-bating tactics along with his political career. Let’s help George Barker win.

George Barker’s ActBlue Page.

George Barker’s Campaign.

Volunteer.

VA Driving Fees VS the Courts

VA Driving Fee update!  The fees are being challenged in the courts.  Although the initial rounds went our way (inrich):

Judge Thomas O. Jones of Richmond General District Court became the second area judge to declare the state’s dangerous-driver fees law unconstitutional.

Jones called it a “no-brainer” that the law violates the U.S. Constitution because it imposes the fees, which are assessed upon conviction of certain traffic violations, on Virginia drivers but not those who are residents of other states.

The circuit court Judge for Henrico country has sided with misguided politicians who passed the law (WashPost):

 In a written opinion, Henrico County Circuit Court Judge L.A. Harris Jr. said he believes Virginia can exclude out-of-state motorists from the fees without unfairly targeting in-state motorists who have to pay them.

Here is the interesting part:

In today’s ruling overturning Yeats’ decision, Harris also noted how difficult it would be for Virginia to collect fees from an out-of-state motorists and cited past instances where states have set different charges for different groups of people.

I’d like to see these past instances.  VLW to the rescue with the pdf!

Essentially, Harris claims that a law that taxes residents of Philadelphia higher than non residents provides similar reasoning that can be extrapolated to the driver’s fees.  If we were just talking about a straight up tax, this would be a smart shot across the bow.  Instead it is a dud.  While the fees are in effect a tax, they are implemented as a punishment for a crime.  Hence the unequal protection gambit.

I’m not a lawyer, but I just don’t get the logic the State of Virginia and Judge Harris are applying here.  If a Maryland resident commits a crime in Virginia, they don’t get charged under Maryland law, do they?  For the fees to make the pretense of legitimacy, they’d have to be fines, and applied equally.  Even then, I’m certain there would be a strong case for violation of the 8th amendment under “not excessive fines imposed”.

But at the moment, there really is a fundamental problem with the inequality of the fees.  The fact that similar laws in “Michigan, Texas, New York and New Jersey” apply equally to residents and non residents may have no legal bearing on the case as Harris asserts.  But that is damn telling that every other state who has implemented these fees has imposed them equally.

We need to keep up the fight against these fees.  The pressure is starting to show (WashPost):

But the fees have since been vilified by an angry public (more than 170,000 people have signed an online petition to repeal them), denounced by lawmakers who once supported them and ruled unconstitutional by judges in two localities who said they violate equal protection rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. A Centreville man convicted of reckless driving filed a challenge to the fees in Arlington County General District Court on the same grounds.

Here is the largest petition online.  Sign it, contact your legislative representatives and local papers, and let’s keep up the momentum!

Let’s overturn the Virginia Driving Fees!

VA State Senate Candidate To Fight Driving Fees

Someone was bound to step up to the plate and fight back.  Chap Peterson, a Democrat running against Republican Jeannemarie Davis, is making the VA driving fees a campaign issue.

His campaign has posted an ad about this on youtube:

Chap is already a strong candidate on the issues.  This is just one more reason to support him.  The opposition is a bit nervous.  Let’s offer them a nice relaxing vacation package.

Take Action:

Here is his ActBlue page if you are able to donate.

There will also be a canvassing event tomorrow, July 21st.  You can find a list of future events here.

Fighting the VA Driving Fees

There is a growing chorus against the civil fees for traffic violations in Virginia. As noted before the bill’s author David Albo has an obvious conflict of interest:

What’s Delegate Albo’s day job? He’s a defense attorney whose firm specializes in traffic and DUI offenses.

So let me get this straight. With one hand, Delegate Albo is voting for higher traffic violation penalties and incentivizing defendants to fight charges, and with the other, Counselor Albo is bragging about the guy with the 0.33 BAC his firm got acquitted.

I love the smell of conflict of interest in the morning. Smells like… corruption and lack of accountability.

The attention being paid to Albo’s day job is not appreciated by the Delegate:

Critics say that Albo — a senior partner in the Springfield traffic law firm of Albo & Oblon — may see a significant bump in his business as motorists seek to protect their bank accounts from the hefty traffic fines.

“I take great offense to that,” Albo told the Alexandria Times, blaming the criticism on Democratic bloggers. “No moron in America is hiring Dave Albo for $1,200 to get them out of a $1,000 ticket.”

Damn those Democratic bloggers! Given that the total cost of a ticket can cost $3,550 and carry jail time, $1,200 might look pretty good. In reality, this is a great case for Democrats and Republicans to join together in opposing a tax implemented by a lawyer with a clear conflict of interest.

The bill itself may be unconstitutional:

On Wednesday, The Rutherford Institute, a non-profit organization headquartered in Charlottesville, sent a letter to the Virginia General Assembly which claimed the fees are unconstitutional under state law because they discriminate against Virginians and impose excessive fines.

The excessive fines part definitely applies (emphasis mine):

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The pressure is building on the lawmakers who imposed this mess of a law to backtrack:

Virginia Republican leaders, faced with growing opposition to the “abusive driver” fees that went into effect July 1, said Thursday that they will consider scrapping some of them when the General Assembly convenes in January.

That’s a long time to go with this bill in full force, and even then, lawmakers are only considering “scrapping some” of the fees. I don’t see why we should let them off the hook. Obviously caught in a bad miscalculation, the excuses coming in are pathetic:

“As a part-time legislature, we will make mistakes, and we will have to correct them,” said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), who wants to revisit which misdemeanors the fees cover.

Being a part time legislature shouldn’t influence the professionalism and integrity with which you approach the responsibility of representing your constituents. This mistake reveals a simple lack of respect for the voters who put them into office. A partial removal of these fines half a year after they have been in effect is quite literally too little too late.

In the next election cycle, this will be a bill to remember. In the meantime:

A coalition of anti-tax activists and advocates for the poor also has started an online petition drive calling for a special session. The group wants the General Assembly to eliminate all of the new fees, not just those for Class 3 or 4 misdemeanors. As of Thursday, more than 1,200 people had signed the petition. Another petition received more than 36,000 signatures.

The petition can be found here (via slug-lines).

(Note: After signing the petition at ipetitions, you will be asked for a donation. This is to support ipetitions, and is not related to the petition itself.)

UPDATE:  A much larger petition can be found here (Hat tip “however”).

Backlash Against the VA Driving Tax

The new civil fees(pdf) being imposed in Virginia have generated backlash.  Looking at the fees, the smallest fine listed is $250.  What many don’t realize is that is an annual fee.  The total cost would be $750.  Thats mandatory.  There is no room for a judge to reduce the cost of a ticket.

Another problem with this law is it creates an additional motivation to issue potentially discriminatory traffic tickets.  Forget to signal?  That’s now a cash cow for the state.  Have you checked your tires lately?

Starting today, driving on bald tires could cost you $900 under new Virginia driving laws created to pay for road improvements.

Police have been assigned the role of tax collectors for the state of Virginia, and residents are sounding off about it:

Mayor Susan P. Irving […] can’t abide that “civil remedial fees” that took effect Sunday apply only to Virginians, not the out-of-state motorists who throttle into her town.

On talk radio, blogs and in letters to the editor, Virginians like her are sounding off about a burden only they bear while nonresident bad drivers are exempt.

The NYTimes has more:

“They’re ridiculous,” said Aaron Quinn, a spokesman for the National Motorists Association, which claims about 6,000 members. The very legislation that created the penalties “says its purpose is to generate revenue,” Mr. Quinn said, adding: “It’s essentially a tax on drivers and has nothing to do with safety. There is no evidence that increasing fines increases safety.”

And the backlash is bipartisan against a bill written by a Republican, and signed into law by a Democrat.  Even the ultra-conservative washington times is on this:

But $1,050 for driving 20 mph over the speed limit is predatory, tax-and-spend government at its worst. For families in the middle or at the bottom of the economic ladder, this reaches 4 percent and 5 percent of annual take-home income. Government is supposed to serve the people, not fine and tax them toward the poor house for what amounts to ordinary behavior.

Some legislators like Terry Kilgore (R) are joining governor Kaine in taking another look at the bill:

Nonetheless, he admitted that since the public became aware of the fees, there’s been such an uproar that the General Assembly may have to revisit the law.

“We don’t want it to cast too wide a net,” he said.

The 1st District delegate said the law was the brainchild of Delegate Dave Albo, R-Fairfax, who based it on similar legislation in New Jersey and Texas.

The fees were adopted as part of the overall transportation funding package, he said, and during negotiations of the package nobody brought up the concerns that are now surfacing.

Kilgore said once the legislation was approved and signed, the Virginia Supreme Court compiled a list of offenses to which the law would apply and, “once I saw the list, I knew things need to be looked at again.”

But Kilgore fundamentally misrepresents the law and the surrounding discussion:

This list, he added, is also in part responsible for much of the misinformation being circulated.

In a letter he has drafted to constituents concerned about the fees, Kilgore said the basic premise of the transportation abuser fee is that Virginia’s most dangerous drivers should proportionately pay their share for safety improvements to roadways rather than placing the bulk of the burden on the general public. The possibility of being assessed these fees is meant to serve as a deterrent to unsafe driving since the fees are targeting habitual offenders and extremely reckless drivers.

How is the list of offenses helping spread misinformation?  You would think knowing the violations which trigger the mandatory fines would be informative.  Additionally, Kilgore is wrong to represent the fees as “a deterrent”.  If they are meant to be a state fundraiser, they are counting on violations.  This isn’t about safety.  Its about taxes.  As Todd Foster writes, this is about “Virginia legislators too spineless to raise the outdated gas tax to pay for highway maintenance”.

Nick wonders whether this is a fine or a fee, and DailyProgress.com answers:

Their chief complaints: The fees are outrageously high, and they apply only to Virginians – not to out-of-state drivers.

The “fines” are actually “fees” because they are administrative rather than judicial. They are not meant as less a punishment for wrongdoing but rather than as a revenue source for highways.

Nick’s assessment of the bill is right on:

I’ve long ago suspected that if government didn’t make as much money as they did off of traffic violations, that the 55 mph speed limit would have gone the way of the dodo long ago.  Almost nobody obeys it, and there is very little need to.  Cars are significantly safer today than 20 or 30 years ago, and not just in a crash.  Suspensions and steering improvements make 55 mph laughably slow.  No… this is selective taxation.  It’s like a reverse lottery ticket.  If you’re unlucky enough to get pulled over, then you get to pay for some highway.

But he’s made a really interesting catch with regard to the Bill’s Republican sponsor:

But who on Earth would come up with such an egregiously selective and arbitrary law?  The part of the story that few people seem to be catching onto is that the architect of this law is a Virginia state legislator who just happens to also own a law firm which specializes in… wait for it… defending people charged with traffic violations!

The self-described “chief architect” for this bill is Delegate David Albo. Albo boasts on his website that he’s worked for 20 months to bring this bill into law. What his website doesn’t mention is that when Albo isn’t legislating tough new laws aimed at Virginia‘s motorists, he’s representing those same motorists in court.

That’s right. Albo’s a lawyer. And not just any lawyer. The firm that bears his name specializes in traffic law, particularly in representing people charged with DWI and reckless driving. And yes, that’s the firm’s actual URL: virginiadui.com.

Isn’t that graft?  It appears as though the media is picking up on the potential problems(via Terminal Chaosity):

But the hefty penalties could be a bonanza for the politically connected law firms that chase down unpaid court fines.

The contracts are awarded by local commonwealth’s attorneys, who get campaign contributions from the lawyers they hire.

This bill is a mess, from start to finish.  But when you look at what went into passing this bill and the motivations of its sponsors, it really starts to stink.