Watch Mark Warner, Ed Gillespie meet for first Virginia Senate debate

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie met Saturday for their first debate, hosted by the Virginia Bar Association.

The 90-minute session, moderated by PBS NewsHour co-anchor Judy Woodruff, was broadcast live online from the Virginia Bar Association’s summer meeting at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

Warner, who is running for a second six-year term, has the early advantage in the polls, and fundraising. A Roanoke College survey released this week showed the Democrat with a 25-point lead over Gillespie. Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who was not invited to participate in the debate, polled at five percent.

In the money race, Warner hauled in $2.7 million in the quarter that ended June 30, leaving his campaign with nearly $9 million in the bank. Gillespie, meanwhile, raised $1.9 million in the quarter, giving him $3.1 million cash on hand.

Gillespie, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and past chairman of the Republican National Committee, gave the GOP a top recruit when he announced in January that he would challenge Warner, a popular former governor and co-founder of the company that became Nextel.

Warner’s campaign has stressed the Democrat’s bipartisan image, which includes work with Republicans on a “grand bargain” deficit reduction proposal. The strategy by the Gillespie campaign is to undercut Warner’s centrist message by characterizing the Democrat as a “blank check” for President Obama, including support for the health care law.

While Warner holds a commanding lead, he appears to be taking no chances, especially with 53 percent of Virginia voters in the Roanoke College poll disapproving of the president’s job performance. On Wednesday, he called on the Obama administration to ease health care regulations on employers or delay the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act for another year.

For the moment, the Virginia Senate race remains an uphill climb for Republicans. The GOP would either need Warner to stumble badly or for a wave to come the party’s way in the next four months in order to really put the seat in play.

The 2014 Midterms May Hinge on “The War on Women”

By Joshua Holland

gopwaronwomen[1]As a coherent and consistent political narrative, “the war on women” is relatively new. But the underlying tension between conservative religious beliefs and women’s access to reproductive health care — including legal abortion without overly burdensome regulation and insurance coverage for contraceptives — is not.

Nor is the gender-gap in American politics. In 2012, Barack Obama took advantage of a record 20-point gap between men and women, but similar gaps have been been apparent since the rise of the religious right as a force in American politics, as this chart by Nate Silver illustrates:

 

The Democratic advantage is most pronounced among younger, unmarried women (300± in Madison County alone).  Courting this voting bloc is a key strategy for Democratic candidates because, as The Washington Post noted in April, “Women make up a larger percentage of the electorate than men, [and] are disproportionately likely to go to the polls in midterm election years.”

Getting these voters to the polls will be crucially important for Democrats in this year’s midterms.

At a huge free medical clinic in Southwest Virginia, misery that shouldn’t exist

By By Petula Dvorak, The Washington Post

Rhonda Gibson tries to crack a smile with an ice pack on her face after she got a tooth pulled and was still feeling some pain. She's from Coeburn, Va. and has no dental insurance. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
Rhonda Gibson tries to crack a smile with an ice pack on her face after she got a tooth pulled and was still feeling some pain. She’s from Coeburn, Va. and has no dental insurance. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

A gravel parking lot deep in the green hills of Virginia coal country was packed to capacity by 4 a.m. Friday. More than 1,500 people with canes, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, bleeding gums, black lungs and other ills had come to the Wise County Fairgrounds, camping in tents, sleeping in pickup truck beds or scrunched up in their cars, hoping to see a doctor.

At midnight before the clinic opened, there were 1,204 people in line. And over the weekend, thousands more will come.

Like a third-world country, this is what health care looks like for many of the folks in this corner of southwest Virginia. And it will keep looking like this, thanks to state lawmakers who could have helped their most desperate constituents but instead blocked, bickered and weaseled until Virginia forfeited billions in Medicaid expansion funds. The result: More than 400,000 people who would have qualified for Medicaid coverage will continue to go uninsured.

This was hard for some of the people gathered here to stomach. They wish they could afford to go to a real doctor’s office to get their blood checked or their rashes examined rather than the cow stalls and tents of this free clinic. The Remote Area Medical clinic sets up here every year, with volunteers providing free dental, eye and medical care to those in need.

We think Ed Gillespie owes hard working Virginians an apology.

Letter to the Editor

Recently, Republican Senate nominee Ed Gillespie was a guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. In his appearance, Gillespie said that he doesn’t believe in a “federally mandated increase in the minimum wage”. For someone who is running to represent our interests in the Senate, Mr. Gillespie apparently doesn’t know how important that minimum wage is to thousands of Madisonians and millions of Virginians.

What Mr. Gillespie apparently fails to appreciate is that the minimum wage isn’t just for high school kids trying to earn an extra buck at a summer job – families all across the state rely on that minimum wage to put bread on the table, clothe their children and keep the lights on. No hardworking, full time wage earner should have to raise a family in poverty in this country.

As it currently stands, the minimum wage is worth $2 less than it was in 1968 when adjusted for inflation. For that reason – and because the minimum wage is no longer anywhere near a livable wage – there is wide bipartisan support for raising it. As a practical matter alone, a living wage helps reduce dependence on social services, boosts the economy, reduces crime and dramatically improves likely outcomes for children. It is the right thing to do.

This November, we will be supporting the man who is open to having a discussion about how and when to raise the minimum wage without unfairly impacting small business owners. We believe that man is Mark Warner.

Ren LeVally
Courthouse Mountain

Republican turns on party, blows up its crock of nonsense

Mario Diaz-Balart, Virginia Foxx
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart blames GOP leadership for immigration reform’s failure — and undermines Boehner’s lawsuit

It’s been painfully obvious for months now that the reason offered by House Republicans for why they couldn’t move forward on immigration reform was a crock of nonsense. When asked about the possibility of reforming the immigration system, Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the leadership would mournfully shake their heads and say they’d love to get something done on, but they just couldn’t trust President Obama to enforce whatever law they passed. Until that key element of trust could be restored, they said, no legislation would leave the House.

Everyone knew that was a load of crap; the reason Republicans wouldn’t move forward on immigration was that the caucus was terrified of the political blowback from conservatives, and not willing to hand the president a huge legislative victory. Those two obstacles couldn’t be overcome, and the Senate’s immigration reform bill, passed last summer with bipartisan support, slowly died.

The death of that bill has resulted, predictably, in everyone blaming the other side for the failure to get reform done. But yesterday Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, one of the GOP’s chief proponents for immigration reform, came out and blew some holes in the Republicans’ attempts to deflect blame and said plainly what needs to be said: Republicans killed immigration reform..

Was GOP control of the state Senate in Virginia ‘purchased’ with a quid pro quo?

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL BOARD

Quid Pro QuoTHE MORE circumstances emerge about the deal that flipped control of the Virginia state Senate to Republicans, the seamier it looks. And there’s plenty we still don’t know.

To recap: The Senate was under Democratic control until early June when Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a veteran Democrat from rural southwestern Virginia, suddenly resigned. At the same time, word leaked that a high-ranking job was arranged for Mr. Puckett at the state tobacco commission, which is under Republican control.

The resignation of Mr. Puckett, whose term in office ran until January 2016, left Republicans with a 20-to-19 edge in the upper chamber. Critically, by shifting the power balance in Richmond, Puckett’s resignation dashed Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) hopes of forging a legislative compromise to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and extend health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-income Virginians.

Now the FBI is looking into just how coupled they might have been. Virginians have a right to know, too. If it turns out that Mr. Puckett was essentially bribed to resign with the promise of a well-paying job — and shift control of the Senate to the GOP in the bargain — that could be a criminal matter.

Republicans denied suggestions that an unseemly quid pro quo had been arranged; so did Mr. Puckett, who quickly removed his name from consideration for the tobacco commission job. He said he was resigning for unspecified family reasons, as well as to clear the way for his daughter to be approved for a state judgeship; by tradition, the Senate does not approve judges who are related to sitting senators.

However, e-mails obtained last week by The Post suggested that the tobacco commission job, whose duties were to be left largely to Mr. Puckett to define, had been in the works for at least 10 days and possibly a good deal longer. The appearance of a conjunction between his resignation and the job offer was so obviously indecorous that the commission’s chief warned the body’s GOP chairman to “decouple” the announcements.