Turnover at a major D.C. government department is raising questions about local businesses, political contributions and influence in city politics.
D.C. voters elect a new council member in a special election. A special session in Maryland paves the way for higher taxes. Virginia lawmakers vote down a judicial nominee after a dispute broke out about his sexual orientation. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, Jr. President, Maryland Senate (D- Dist. 27, Calvert & Prince George's Counties)
- David Albo Member, Virginia House of Delegates (R-Springfield)
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
Politics Hour Extra
Maryland Senate President Mike Miller announced the formation of an 11-person commission that will look at bringing gambling to National Harbor in Prince George’s County. “It’s fabulous. It’s almost like Paris to people who visit it,” Miller said about the harbor. He said the commission will also consider adding table games to the state’s five casinos. Maryland residents will get to vote on the changes in a November referendum.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I am Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom, how is it going?
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, you know, it's actually payday, and it's a nice beautiful day. And I'm going to the Nats-Orioles game tomorrow night, Saturday, with my son Peyton. So I'd say it's a pretty good day, as long as my editors stay off my back this afternoon.
NNAMDIGood to hear that. It hasn't been a good week it would appear, at least not the last few days, for D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. There's a bill before the Congress that would ban all abortions in the District beyond the period of 20 weeks, except to save the life of a mother. And there was a hearing held on it yesterday.
NNAMDIAnd Eleanor Holmes Norton is the District's delegate, showed up to testify and was prohibited from speaking, was not extended the courtesy of being able to speak. She was invited to sit at the table with other members of Congress, but she -- I was about to say politely declined, but Eleanor doesn't politely decline. Eleanor was upset. And she declined.
SHERWOODWell, you know, in some ways, as a citizen of the city, I wish she had done her wild woman routine and gone, like, going through the temple...
SHERWOODBut, you know, she asked to appear, and she was -- then she was not allowed. She went anyway to the committee meeting, and then she was told she would not be allowed to testify. But she could sit there, but she could sit there like a, you know, like a doorknob, I guess, and not do anything. That's what she did, and then there was a press conference, people complaining that, once again, the Congress -- the House side, at least -- is trying to impose something on the city that is not required anywhere else in the country...
SHERWOOD...twenty year -- 20 week limit on abortions. Whether you like the issue or not, pro-choice or right-to-life issues, the issue is, even if you're going to pass this law and you -- why not let her speak on behalf of the people of the city?
NNAMDII was about to say...
SHERWOODShe's been the Congresswoman since 1991.
NNAMDIIt was -- was that a kind of, like, deliberate humiliation, just not letting her speak, even though...
NNAMDI...you know that you're going to pass the bill anyway?
SHERWOODIt's a basic disrespect for the city. And, again, it's not whether you're for or against an issue. It's whether or not you allow democracy to work. And the same is true on the gun law. You know, there's a congressman, Phil Gingsley (sic) from Georgia, the 11th District of Georgia, and he wants to pass an exception to the city's gun law that says all active members of the armed forces who carry guns -- it's, of course, their jobs -- can carry guns in the city.
SHERWOODWell, that's about 40,000 people around town who could be carrying guns, and it's a not an exemption that he wants for that any law -- any armed forces person can carry a gun anywhere where there might be a gun law. It's -- again, it's targeting the city without considering the people of the city.
NNAMDISpeaking of the people of the city, the people of one ward of the city, Ward 5, have a new representative on the council. He is Kenyan McDuffie. We spoke with him earlier this week. He is going to be replacing Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. on the council. And it looks like he might be in a position to really be able to broker a few things here given the fractured nature of the council.
SHERWOODWell, he had support from organized labor. He had support from the business community. He had support from some community activists. He had support from the -- some of the more active white voters who have been moving into Ward 5, which used to have just about less than 10 percent of, you know, white citizens, and now, it's up to 16, 17 percent. He ran a smart campaign.
SHERWOODAnd, you know, and he said he wanted to wash the stain away from Harry Thomas Jr. who, you know, will be going to prison soon for his stealing the money from government programs. This is a chance for the Ward 5 people to have a fresh start. He says he's going to give it to them.
NNAMDIOn from the District of Columbia to Maryland. Remember that on-again, off-again ambulance fee in Montgomery County? It's on again, the Montgomery County Council having approved the ambulance fee. And, of course, county executive Ike Leggett would be the first to point out that individuals are not likely to be paying this fee. Their insurance companies are likely to be paying it, so it's not likely to add to their personal expenses.
SHERWOODWell, that's true, and it did pass. And the county needs money, as every county (word?) does. But I did talk to Eric Bernard this morning who's from the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. He runs that organization. And they met last night. But they haven't decided yet, but they're weighing what he called all our options about whether or not to try to bring it back to a referendum.
SHERWOODHe says there are only minor changes and to reassure people that they won't be paying this fee out of pocket. But he also says this proposal directly contradicts what the voters had made a decision upon. He said that's kind of the most offensive thing about it, is that it was put forward before in one form. The voters rejected it. So why should they have to go do it again? So he said they will be making up their mind about what they're going to do to go forward.
NNAMDIAnd that's something that we will be following. It is, at this point, apparent that it is likely to happen. But since we're in Maryland, let's talk about what happened in the Maryland state legislature. Depending on who you're talking to, either Maryland has avoided some $500 million in cuts or it has raised taxes. Well, who we're talking to is the president of the Maryland Senate, Mike Miller. He's a Democrat whose district includes Prince George's and Calvert Counties. He joins us in studio. Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us.
SEN. THOMAS V. "MIKE" MILLER JR.We're honored to be here.
NNAMDIGood to see you in person rather than on the phone. How would you characterize what occurred in the legislature this past week?
JR.Very workman-like. You know, we've had, like most states, huge deficits, not as bad as New York or Florida or California. We've addressed it in different ways. We've made deep cuts, but the same time, we've also raised revenues. We had a $2 billion deficit. We told the governor to reduce it by half. Last year, we reduced it from $2 billion to $1 billion. This year, we told the governor, again, reduce that $1 billion deficit by at least half, and we've done that.
NNAMDIHow did we get here in the first place? Why did we have to have the special session?
JR.Well, because, back to the Glenn Denning administration, we -- when we committed to put massive amount of funding in the public education, K-12, Maryland is a very wealthy state, one of the wealthiest states in the Union. And we're ranked number one in terms of public education four years in a row on any -- in any criteria. And that's largely because of the resources we put into public education. And, as a consequence, we have to pay for that, that if you want the best, you're going to have to pay for it.
JR.And we've -- you know, the funny thing happened when we made that commitment, we elected a Republican governor, Bob Ulrich. He wasn't about to fund it, and we made cuts instead. For example, this year, during the Ulrich administration, a total of $600 million was put into K-12 school construction. We're one of only five states that puts money into school construction, and this year alone, we committed $350 million in school construction, public schools. We made a strong commitment to education. We're going to keep it.
SHERWOODThe counties squealed -- I think would be a fair word -- to having to pay more in the pension costs and other things.
JR.They are the ones that...
SHERWOODWhat do you explain...
JR.They're the ones who set the pension. Nobody can run a business like that. You know, you -- it cost a billion dollars. We have no funding source whatsoever. The counties, you know, set the salaries, and, indirectly, they set the pension cost, Social Security cost as well. And they expect the state to pick up the cost. And it's got to a tune of -- so it costs us now more than we spend for all of higher education.
JR.So what we're saying -- simply saying, we're one of only a few states that pick up the pension cost for the counties. What we're simply saying is those who set the fees, those who set the prices, those who set the salaries got to understand what they're doing. They're going to have to pay a portion of it.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number. We're talking with Mike Miller. He is the president of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat whose district includes Prince George's and Calvert Counties. And it is my understanding that that is not the phone number you're going to be calling today. I'll soon be giving you the number that you will be calling if you'd like to join the conversation with Mike Miller. It is 202-885-8857. That's the number you're calling today. 202-885-8857. Let's see if I can remember that.
NNAMDIMike Miller seems to remember everything. He doesn't even have notes in front of him, and he's here quoting figures. I'm having trouble remembering a phone number. 202-885-8857. The governor confirmed this week that he's going to call a special session to resolve whether the state's gambling program should be expanded to make way for a casino in Prince George's County. How do you see things moving forward from here?
JR.Well, I hope he does. Today, we're going to announce an 11-person commission, three members named by the Senate, three named by the House, and the five named by the governor. And the governor is going to name the chairman. And they're going to come back with facts and figures in terms of whether or not we need a sixth site and also whether we need expanded table games at the five sites we have correctly -- at the present time, currently. You go to Delaware, you go to West Virginia, you see nothing but Maryland tags in those sites.
JR.Well, Pennsylvania, but we're trying to keep our personal disposable income home. And one prized site is National Harbor. It's immediately adjacent to Washington, D.C., immediately adjacent to Alexandria. It's in Prince George's County. And what happened, Disney was going to come to that site, and they pulled up and gone to China. And so there's this huge beautiful site. Eighty percent of the people will come from outside the area. And we'll be able to keep our resources home. It's a great site, and we're -- we'll see if it works out.
SHERWOODWhat is the future of National Harbor if gambling doesn't come?
JR.It's fabulous. It's like -- almost like Paris to people who visit it, right on the banks of the Potomac River. It's a very historic area, just up the river from Mount Vernon, up the river from Fort Washington. It's a beautiful, beautiful site -- four-star restaurants, beautiful Gaylord Hotel. It's, you know, right on the water with taxis going back and forth Alexandria. You know, it was a tough time to build it and in this very tough recessionary period. But it's doing well. The shops are doing well. And this will only enhance the site and also enhance the state coffers if it's allowed to go into effect.
SHERWOODWill -- excuse me. Will state voters have to vote on this in the fall, in November?
JR.Yes. It will go into referendum, so the state voters will have an opportunity to say whether they want table games at five sites and/or not a sixth site in the -- located in Prince George's County.
SHERWOODDoes Prince George's County get a say so, I mean, other than the statewide vote?
JR.Constitutionally, they can't. We've tried to do that, but we're going to need 85 votes in the House of Delegates. We can get the number of votes in the Senate, but I'm not sure they're going to be able to get the votes to say constitutionally you could amend the Constitution itself to say Prince George's County-ians get a special vote on this. We'd like that very much. In fact, that was the Senate bill we passed out of the Senate, but they couldn't get 85 votes in the House to make that (word?).
NNAMDIWhat is your feeling about a casino in Prince George's County, casino gambling? 202-885-8857. Gov. O'Malley has been quoted as saying that you, President Miller, have a tremendous amount of patience for gambling issues. I interpret that to mean that you favor -- that you favor it.
JR.Well, you know, I favor low taxes. I favor -- I'm a historian. I know history. I study history. We're in the fifth cycle in gambling in the United States. You know, the first public schools in Montgomery County were built with gambling revenues. The basilica in Baltimore was built with gambling revenues. The canal from Washington to Cumberland was built with gambling revenues. You know, it's -- we're in a downhill side of the bell curve right now in terms of gambling revenues, and you need to take advantage of it. Times change, but people don't.
JR.They make the same mistakes over and over again. And we need to move forward, understand people's appetites, understand their habits. At the same time, keep Maryland disposable income in Maryland. Right now, we're building schools in Pennsylvania -- Delaware and West Virginia with Maryland tax dollars. We're lowering taxes in those three states with Maryland tax dollars. We need to keep those Maryland tax dollars home.
NNAMDIWell, there are plans afoot to build a new teaching hospital in Prince George's County. You said those plans will blow up without casino revenue. Is there any way you can untangle the hospital project?
JR.Well, it won't blow up. It's just there's no more ability to tax in Prince George's County. They have a piggyback tax. I love Prince George's County. My family goes back hundreds of years in Prince George's County. Prince George's County has a tax cap. It has a tax cap. It's maxed out in terms of its piggy back tax. We've given them a cellphone tax, a transfer tax, taxes that other counties don't even dream about. And so there's no more ability to go to the people.
JR.And so it -- somehow, you've got to come up with additional revenue, and the revenue would come from Prince George's County and the people through these gambling revenues. But, hopefully, it'll be coming from people from outside -- from Washington, Virginia and all over the United States. Conventioneers coming to Washington, D.C., the mayor of Washington, D.C., would be able to advertise it as an amenity to Washington, D.C., to bring people to Washington, D.C.
SHERWOODOh, I don't...
JR.Absolutely, yes. Absolutely, yes.
SHERWOODWell, well, yes. The whole reason it benefits from a big tourism…
SHERWOOD...and that's true. But, you know, Sharon Pratt Kelly, who was a mayor in the early '90s when we had the old convention center, she just broached the idea, you know, what we ought to do with the old convention center, 'cause we're building a new one, is build a casino like the one in London, upscale.
SHERWOODOf course, I thought, you know, hellfire and brimstone was not going to be enough to shut her down. Of course, it never happened because the Congress probably would never let a casino in the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODBut it would be a perfect place for one. And -- but we wouldn't get any -- the city. When I speak we -- I'm a citizen of the city. We wouldn't get any of the tax revenue except for the people who came into the city from there. And you guys would get a tremendous amount.
JR.Well, you have this huge hotel rate in Washington, D.C. You have a huge alcohol rate. You have huge benefits from conventioneers coming to Washington, D.C. And we'd just be an offshoot, an amenity to take two or three hours away from one -- while they're here in the great nation's capital, capital of the free world.
SHERWOODIt is a great region, so we ought to maybe work together on all of this.
JR.And we do.
SHERWOODCan we talk about the Preakness, or is that too...
NNAMDIPreakness time, yes.
SHERWOODYou say you can't go 'cause you have family obligations, but the Preakness...
SHERWOODKegasus will be there in the infield.
NNAMDIAll hail Kegasus, yes.
SHERWOODHow's the infield doing before we talk about the field itself?
JR.It's great. Well, they've cleaned it up a little bit because you got a court of kind of X-rated there for a while, but it's literally thousands and thousands and thousands of people in the infield. I don't go into the infield, but, you know, I see it from afar. This will be the first Preakness I've missed in about 20 years. It's only because of my niece's wedding. But it's a great event, I mean, a great venue.
JR.It's an economic advantage. It's historical, and it's just a very fun event. And you can see some wonderful people. I mean, I'd be sitting there on the finish line with the Vanderbilts, the Mellons, the Astors, all these different people who own these wonderful horses. Now, we got sheiks coming from far away with their horses to race and rooting them on at the finish line. It's a great, great family event.
SHERWOODDo you have a pick in the race?
NNAMDII was about to say pick a winner.
JR.I don't have a winner. I mean, Bafford, I've always liked his horses, and I like him as a trainer. And I think his horse will do well. But my personal favorite will -- going to be Kevin Plank. He's a University of Maryland graduate. He owns Under Armour, and he's got a horse running in this race. So if I would...
SHERWOODWhat's it called? Do you know?
JR.I forget the -- it deals with Auburn. It's something...
JR.Tiger Walk, but Auburn football team. But it -- Kevin Plank is -- donates huge amounts of money to University of Maryland. And he's a great guy, and he's the owner of Under Armour. And he's got a horse. And I'd be betting that horse to show.
NNAMDIWe have a challenge for you, Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODWell, I'll have another...
NNAMDIOur producer, Mike Martinez, says that if you pick the perfect trifecta here that he is going to grow a Tom Sherwood-style moustache from the 1980s. He has the picture, the photograph of the moustache, and he will grow it. So go ahead.
SHERWOODYou know what? He should stop putting that on Facebook or wherever the heck he's been putting it. I'm picking three arbitrary horses and because I like the names.
NNAMDIOK, Michael, take note.
SHERWOODAnd I'll have another. Daddy Nose Best, N-O-S-E, and Creative Cause.
NNAMDIDad -- so you've got Kegasus, Daddy Nose Best and Creative Cause.
NNAMDIYou don't have Kegasus at all?
SHERWOODI don't think Kegasus -- well, you know, maybe I'm too old to consider that. But it's all right. I do hope people have a great time, but reasonably behave.
NNAMDIWhat's up with up Daddy Nose Best? I bet you picked Daddy Nose Best 'cause you just like the name.
SHERWOODDo they still have the potty, you know, the port-a-potty race? Well, I guess, they've stopped that, right, the -- it's still on YouTube.
JR.They -- that and swimming down the urinals. I think they do both. I'm not sure.
NNAMDIMr. Senate President, you threw your weight behind what turned out to be the losing horse, so to speak, in the congressional primary in the state's 6th District, by some accounts. You helped to carve out that District, specifically to be more favorable for Rob Garagiola. What's the plan of attack for the party to win that seat from Roscoe Bartlett? And have you talked to John Delaney since he won the primary?
JR.Well, I have talked to John Delaney, but it was absolutely false that we carved it out for any one individual. The demographics -- we looked at the demographics when we carved out the seat. Historically, that had been a 6th District. I mean, I used to work for Mac Mathias in the early 1960s. He was a great friend. I drove for him. I campaigned for him, and that was his seat, Montgomery County, Frederick, all the way up north to Garrett County, and that we made it...
NNAMDILast of the moderates, but go ahead.
JR.Yeah, well, he was a great man.
NNAMDIOn of them.
JR.And we made the -- so we returned the 6th District to its former glories. And we hoped that a Democrat could win it. Rob Garagiola happened to be the favorite of a lot of democratic activists. And he lost. He was up against a very well-financed campaign, a gentleman who had raised $800,000 for Hillary Clinton's campaign. And, of course, Bill Clinton made robocalls on his behalf. It was -- he's done -- he did run a good campaign. And the governor recently endorsed him, and I'm certainly endorsed him. And we hope that Mr. Delaney wins the race.
SHERWOODWell, you guys, you know, it's a big election this year. If you have gambling on the ballot and -- on the new congressman, it may be something about immigration and the DREAM Act, and it just -- it seems like a huge ballot.
SHERWOODSame-sex marriage. I mean, it's just -- now -- and Obama, of course, you think -- I'm sure you think will win the state without any trouble. But what do you think about his endorsing of same-sex marriage? You are personally opposed to it, but you allowed it to come to a vote.
SHERWOODBut what do you think that's going to play in terms of how people will respond in the state of Maryland?
JR.I think -- I'm concerned for Obama 'cause -- only in a sense that I read a poll where it said that 40 percent of the people are more inclined to vote against him because of his expression on same-sex marriage, and only 20 percent more inclined to vote for him on same-sex marriage. So, in a way, I think it was positive that he came out and said what he believed. But in terms of his political future, I don't think it helped him.
JR.It certainly didn't help him in the state of North Carolina. You know, he needs to carry Virginia. He needs to carry Pennsylvania, and we'd like to see him carry North Carolina and Ohio. And I think both those states, which are in play, are going to be much more difficult for him to carry because of that expression.
SHERWOODBut not in Maryland?
JR.Now, Maryland, he's -- it's going to be a dicey issue whether it passes in Maryland. Although, the fact that we have a large number of African-American voters, it's going to help. And the fact that he's expressed for it, I think, it's going to help for a possible passage in Maryland. But I'm -- in the red states and the challenge states, I don't think it helps him at all.
NNAMDIWe got a caller on the line. Here is Brett, calling from Bethesda. Brett, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Brett, are you...
BRETTA long-time listener, first-time caller. Thanks, Sen. Miller, for being on today. I have a two-part question. Number one, a friend of mine is in the Maryland National Guard, and he -- he's -- apparently, he's the only guy in Maryland who has two combat infantry badges. He works full time for the Guard, and he was worried that these cuts that the General Assembly was considering might eliminate his job.
BRETTSo I wonder if you could, number one, tell me how this would effect any of the guys from the Guard. And, number two, I should say, I'm a former reporter. I used to work at the Gainesville Times, the Prince George's Sentinel, the Prince George's Journal. Last year, I was laid off from Politico, and, you know, I'm a combat veteran in Desert Storm myself. And I need a job. And I wondered what you can do to help me get a job.
NNAMDIWell, this is a unique approach to finding a job. We've never had a caller actually solicit employment before.
JR.Well, actually, we're protecting the Guard, and we're also protecting our veterans. You know, we provide free educations to those veterans who have served in Afghanistan, Iraq. We continue that free college education for them. We now identify veterans on your driver's license. If you're a veteran, on your driver's license, we now stamp that as a personal preference on your driver's license. Hopefully, if a cop is going to give you a ticket, he'll see that.
JR.But what's more important is that it'll help you get veteran services. So, at the same time, we're working to make certain that our veterans are finding employment. We've got a number of outreach programs. And I suggest you get on the state website and contact them and also contact my office at 301-858-3700, and we'll contact you back to let you know any potential job opportunities for veterans.
NNAMDIHow about the elimination of his friend's position with the National Guard? Can you explain that at all?
JR.Now, there's -- that's -- you know, when we came together in a special session, we provided the revenues to make certain that no cuts would -- those cuts, those doomsday cuts are not in effect. They will -- they would've affected public safety. They would -- public education, and they would've affected people in the National Guard as well as across the board. By the revenues we generated, those cuts are not going to take place.
NNAMDIComing together on the...
BRETTWell, I appreciate that. I mean, he was over there two tours in Iraq. You know, I was in Desert Storm, saw a little combat. I came home, you know, worked for years as a journalist. Last year, I got laid off, so, I mean, I have a lot of skills. I have a lot of experience, and I just been -- not been able to find a job in the last 10 months or so. I got, you know, two kids here and trying to send my daughter, who's an excellent student over at Walter Johnson High School, on the debate team, trying to send her to college. So anything you can do to help me out. I'm not asking for any special favors. I just...
JR.Call our lieutenant governor. He was a commander over in Iraq, a colonel in Iraq. He's a Harvard graduate, and he's in charge of veteran service. Call the state house, and we'll see if we could make it happen.
NNAMDIBrett, thank you very much for your call.
BRETTThank you very much.
NNAMDIReferring to the special session that you just successfully completed, how would you characterize your relationship, A, with the governor and, B, with the House Speaker Michael Busch?
JR.Excellent. You know, the session didn't end on time. It was very difficult, very contentious. Anytime you have to raise taxes, it's very difficult. You know, I was -- as a fiscal conservative, I was very concerned about the $500 million deficit that we're leaving in the out years. And so the Senate plan had everybody paying a little bit more, including -- so that everybody have some skin in the game. Basically, what we did was repealed the Glendening tax cut.
JR.The House, you know, was more in a spinning mode. They wanted to say we're only going to tax the wealthy, only going to tax certain persons over a certain level, and they didn't address the out years. And so we came together very late in agreement, and it was impossible to get it done by 12 o'clock. We moved on.
SHERWOODCan -- I want to go back just briefly to the 11 member commission that's being announced today. Is that -- can you just kind of -- what's that going to do? How long will it be in place? It sounds like it's going to have to have a very fairly fast agenda.
JR.Well, right now, we have Price Waterhouse looking at the numbers. For example, those people who have sites right now, they're saying if -- you know, if there's a late comer coming to the game, you know, you got to help us out a little bit in terms of the splits. Also, the splits that we put into law -- again, we're the only state in the union that has to decide gambling by referendum. Any change has got to be by referendum.
JR.The splits that we currently have in place in terms of how much goes to education, how much goes to the owners, the people who bid on the site in Baltimore find it's not working. I mean, they can build a butler building and put up machines there, but they can't have any amenities.
SHERWOODSo this commission will report back in, like, 30 days or a month. What's...
JR.Yes, yes, yes. Very quickly, they'll have public hearings. They'll have meetings, but they'll -- they'll recommend what the split should be between the owners and the state. They'll recommend whether we should have a sixth site. They'll recommend, you know, what's to happen to the Anne Arundel site and its proximity to the National Harbor site.
NNAMDIMike Miller, thank you so much for joining us.
JR.It's an honor.
SHERWOODCan we -- I just ask him one quick question before he goes, a national question?
NNAMDIMike Miller, stay for another few minutes...
SHERWOODI apologize. Very quickly.
NNAMDI...so that Tom Sherwood can you ask you another question.
SHERWOODYou're a prominent attorney.
SHERWOODYou're a prominent politician.
SHERWOODYou've got a look at the John Edwards' case in North Carolina...
SHERWOOD...and say, what the -- was he thinking? As somebody who knows North Carolina, who knows him, what's your personal reaction to this?
JR.I'm personally terribly disappointed. I didn't get out front for Hillary Clinton because, even though she was a great friend, her husband's a great friend, John Edwards had done fundraisers for me at Pamela Harriman's house in Georgetown. He was a great friend and a great leader. And he just terribly disappointed each and every one of us. I just can't imagine what he was thinking.
JR.I've got some opinions but certainly not fit for -- to air in the public. But both my wife and I are terribly disappointed. I -- and I also, as an attorney, I felt somehow he should have taken the stand. You know, he should have taken the stand and explained himself to the people. And he owes us all a public apology, not just in the press but on the witness stand, for his actions.
SHERWOODAll right. Thank you, sir.
NNAMDIMike Miller, he is the president of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat. His district includes Prince George's and Calvert Counties. Glad you could join us.
JR.Thank you. It's a privilege.
NNAMDIYou're listening to "The Politics Hour." Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. And one of the things we haven't had the opportunity to discuss this week, Tom, is the passing of the -- and I think it's pretty fair to say legendary in this town, Chuck Brown.
SHERWOODYes. You know, and I was glad to see the response to -- you know, there had been the rumors that he had died a few weeks ago, and people kind of scurried about. And then -- but he didn't die. I just -- I thought I'm anxious now to see -- I was talking to Marion Barry about this, and he says, you know, maybe the Verizon Center's the right place to have the goodbye, the funeral.
NNAMDIYeah. He feels it should be indoors.
SHERWOODIndoors because, obviously, 'cause you don't want it to be inclement weather at the RFK stadium or something like that, but I think there'll be maybe a couple of events to -- I only talked to him a couple of times when he was doing something for the D.C. lottery.
SHERWOODBut, you know, it's such a wide following. The gathering at the Howard Theater, spontaneous gathering there was pretty cool. I think it'd be nice to have a terrific send-off for him.
NNAMDIIt was good that they named that street near the Howard Theater after him in 2009 when he was still...
SHERWOODRight. The ceremonial renaming of the street, right.
NNAMDIYeah. He was still alive, and he was obviously very moved by that. But I suspect not only is there likely to be a large gathering remembering Chuck Brown but a whole lot of small gatherings over the course of the next few weeks, usually known as parties playing his music.
SHERWOODYeah. Well, you know, that would be the appropriate, well-behaved parties, no police officers involved, please.
SHERWOODBut I think that would be a nice way to wrap that up.
NNAMDIAnd, of course, we learned this week, of course, that Donna Summer passed also, who was -- for those of a certain generation, who was known as the Disco Queen but who brought a lot of people of a certain generation to the dance floor.
SHERWOODRight. As I tweeted out, she worked hard for the money.
NNAMDIShe certainly did in that particular song.
SHERWOODOne of her songs.
NNAMDIThat particular song, I thought, was very good. You're listening to "The Politics Hour."
SHERWOODYou know what it was about?
NNAMDIYes. I eventually read about it today that -- what it was about, that she had -- she was working in some place and went into a bathroom and saw one of the cleaning women just sitting there looking tired in the bathroom and got inspiration for that song.
SHERWOODThat was news to me because I had thought the song was about prostitutes.
SHERWOODI really did. I thought then how hard they worked for, you know, and I thought -- anyway, so it's news to learn that it was about a bathroom attendant.
NNAMDII did not realize that you thought it was about prostitutes. I just actually never knew what it was about. I just thought the lyrics was...
SHERWOODYou just like the music.
NNAMDII thought the lyrics were kind of feminist. And I thought that she was saying that I'm going to work hard for that money so that she...
SHERWOODSo that's your public policy, you know, stuff that drives me crazy.
NNAMDIHey, the Caps lost, and Dale Hunter is gone. What do you say about that?
SHERWOODWell, you know, it's -- and I haven't watched hockey since they lost in the seventh game. But, you know, I don't know what Caps are going to do. They (word?) built a fan base with these last exciting games, so I hope they get -- they said they're not in any hurry to find a new coach. I just hope they find somebody who can whip that team and to get to the gold Stanley Cup.
NNAMDIWell, you have been more closely following the Nationals who just got knocked out of first place by the Pirates.
SHERWOODWell, just the fact that they've been in first place is such great news. I mean, after the -- what is -- the seventh or eight year? Seventh year? Eighth year, I guess, of the Nats being in town, started in RFK. Again, I'm going to go Saturday night. They're playing the Orioles. The team has some real, real promise and starting to come together. I think it's a good thing.
NNAMDIDid you move there?
SHERWOODSixty percent -- there's some survey showed that 60 percent of the people come to the games are from Virginia, and that's a nice tax of some kind.
NNAMDIWe're expecting Dave Albo, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He's a Republican from Fairfax County making his way into the studio even as we speak, which is why Tom Sherwood and I are exchanging...
SHERWOODTalk about the Nats some more.
NNAMDI...in this -- no. Well, I was going to ask who moved to Southwest first, you or the Nats?
SHERWOODWell, the Nats -- well, the stadium was constructed, and then it opened up. I think I moved there in 2007, I think. I've been there 5 years. But I moved there, in part, because that was being developed, 'cause 4th and M Streets being developed, the waterfronts being developed. And I said to my son, you'll have a nice place to live in about 10 or 15 years.
NNAMDIYeah, but he doesn't live there now.
SHERWOODNo, of course not.
NNAMDIAnd know in 10 or 15 years, I guarantee that Tom Sherwood will still be there and still...
SHERWOODIt's a great -- it's, you know, it's good for the city. The whole riverfront -- Capitol riverfront from way up at Capitol Hill and Anacostia River all the way around to the Washington harbor -- not the harbor but the channel. Washington Channel is a terrific redevelopment project.
NNAMDIAnd Tom Sherwood and his bicycle.
SHERWOODThey'll be no casino there, though.
SHERWOODThe bicycle that -- you know, a lot of people, they set a record today, nearly 12,000 or so people.
NNAMDIToday is, in fact, Bike to Work Day. And there has been a significant debate -- and you as a bicycle rider should know something about this -- been a significant debate over exactly what people should wear when they're biking to work. And one regular biker said, wear the normal clothes that you wear because you're not going to necessarily sweat profusely on your way to work, unless you're wearing a suit.
SHERWOODWell, it's not so much about sweating. It's about whether or not any attire you have gets caught in the chain of your bicycle. You don't know where any kind of material that flaps in the breeze as you pedal along. You see -- actually see a lot of guys who have pants on, they wrap them around with bands. I'm not sure what they're called.
SHERWOODI'm sure there's some cute name for that. But it's important. I mean, there's a lot of cycling going on in this town. There are a lot of people worried that Mayor Vincent Gray and Terry Bellamy will not continue all the bike stuff that Mayor Fenty was well-known for and, in fact, he has.
NNAMDI...a part of the debate that I was looking at over bicycling is that it seems like an increasing number of people feel that they should look like they're participating in the -- in some major international bicycle race every time they seem to get on a bicycle. Yes.
SHERWOODYes, with the stripes and their bright colors. Well, good thing about the bright colors is you can see them. You may not want to look at all those colors, but, you know, apparently, they have some kind of -- again, it's like a secret handshake deal.
NNAMDIIt's Bike to Work Day, not the Tour de France.
SHERWOODWell, yeah, but, you know, people -- this is, you know, we're -- this is America. You know, people may ride bicycles, follow the law. And they may wear what they want, and they should be safe. And if they want to wear garish, outlandish color -- I've seen some of the shirts you wear to this program.
SHERWOODAnd they're pretty garish. Now, you know, if you were on a bike, people would see you for sure.
NNAMDIAs a friend of mine used to say, a friend of mine that your cameraman would know, fat boy used to say, if you can't do good, look good. So...
SHERWOODThat's right. Well, that's -- I think that's the motto for television.
NNAMDISo the whole purpose of getting dressed up on Bike to Work Day is so that you will look good. The Virginia House -- go ahead.
SHERWOODI was just going to wrap up the Bike Day thing grew a great more. I mean, when it first started a few years ago, there were very few people who did it. Now, there are weigh stations along the way, corporations are giving out free prizes and things to drink, and there are meet-up places. It's a good thing.
NNAMDIAnd the new member of the D.C. Council, Kenyan McDuffie, who was supported by a group of people who are now known in the city as progressives -- and nobody quite knows exactly what that means in political terms, but is generally assumed to mean people who favor more bike lanes, people who favor street cars, people who...
SHERWOODWell, there's some effort to -- I mean, there are some people who see the word progressive, and it's like liberal white people. I mean, it is disparaging of them as...
NNAMDIHow about liberal black people (unintelligible) ?
SHERWOODWell, I think we should be colorblind when it comes to progressive. Progressive means you want to improve things, make things different, change, you know, change the dynamic of what's occurring.
NNAMDII have never heard, however, a conservative who said, I am not progressive.
NNAMDIThe assumption tends to be that in order to carry the -- let's ask Dave Albo. He's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He's a Republican from Fairfax County.
SHERWOODHe's a progressive conservative.
NNAMDIAnd what is your -- Dave Albo, welcome. Thank you for joining us.
MR. DAVID ALBOThanks.
NNAMDIGood to see you. What is your understanding of the meaning of the term progressive when it's used in political terms?
ALBOWell, I mean, before it became the new catch phrase for the Liberal Party, I thought it meant forward looking.
NNAMDIAnd wouldn't you consider yourself a forward-looking elected official?
NNAMDISee, now the term has been coined, and it's on to...
SHERWOODAre you a progressive conservative?
SHERWOODHow do you characterize yourself? And thank you for coming in.
ALBOOh, my gosh. You know, at my level of politics, I'm just about trying to fill some potholes and get some kids in college, so try not to use the labels too much.
NNAMDIWell, he is also a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. We mentioned that earlier. The Virginia House slapped back about two dozen amendments offered by Gov. Bob McDonnell this week, rebuking the governor on issues running the gamut from state worker bonuses to funding for the D.C. Metro area's Airports Authority. How would you characterize what happened this week, and how do you think it's going to end up reflecting on the governor?
ALBOWell, I mean, the governor made a lot of amendments. This is my 19th year, so I've served with a bunch of governors, and, usually, they don't amend that much. So when he makes that many amendments, certainly a lot are going to be rejected. So I think that's kind of what happened.
NNAMDI202-885-8857 is the number to call if you'd like to join the conversation with David Albo. Some 23 amendments were rejected, but the government submitted over 70 amendments. Is that correct?
ALBOThat's correct. I mean, you might -- got to remember, the governor proposes the budget, and then the House and the Senate, we work, you know, for two or so months trying to come up what we think the proper priorities are. So when the governor comes back, every time he amends something, he is basically saying, I don't like what you did. So it's not uncommon to overturn a governor's amendments.
NNAMDIHow would you describe the governor's relationship with the general assembly right now, particularly with the House where Republicans have stronger numbers?
ALBOWell, I mean, he -- you know, he came from the House. I sat next to him for 16 years. We think he's a great man. We love him to death. I think he does a job, so his relationship in the House of Delegates is very strong. In the Senate, you have a 20-20 split, so I'm sure his popularity might not be as great there.
SHERWOODWould he be a good candidate with Romney?
ALBOOh, I think -- listen, I mean, Bob McDonnell, to me, is the kind of guy that you always wish would run for office, but they never seem to. He's just a super honest, very nice, very pleasant, really great guy. Politics wise, I mean, got to deliver either -- he had to deliver Virginia, and you have to deliver Florida. So it seems to me that that also come into play.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODI wanted to ask about Loudon County and Metrorail. It's such a big regional issue. It's an important for the state issue in terms of development. There are some people -- there were meetings last night. Others -- people who were saying Loudon County doesn't get enough out of this, that they would have to put up money, and then they would just be overwhelmed, maybe with development, could ruin the nature of the county.
SHERWOODOthers were saying Loudon County risks being left behind if it doesn't go forward with Metro. Where are you on that? And we're talking about extending the Metrorail behind Dulles.
ALBORight. Well, I'm 120 percent for extending Metrorail from its current place to Reston because that's a certainly employment center. The next half, which is going from Reston Town Center area to Dulles airport, you know, to me, I guess, see, if we have the money, it's a great idea. But everything is a choice. And we were talking about -- we had a controversy this year that the general assembly is going to give him $150 million. They wanted more. That's a hundred...
SHERWOODFor 100 extra million.
ALBOYeah, 150 extra million. Well, that's 150 (unintelligible) widened. So, you know, I've already made a commitment to build it under the current plan of how much money we plan on spending, and so I'm not too excited about giving them more. The Loudon people have an extra issue, which you didn't mention, is a lot of them will be using the Dulles toll road, which could cost them a lot of money. So it's very controversial out there. I certainly understand why.
SHERWOODAnd they have to resolve it by July, I think, now is the new deadline, July, to resolve it, whether Loudon's in or out. But you would vote out...
SHERWOOD...if you were a Loudon County supervisor?
ALBOOh, if I was a Loudon County supervisor? I'd want some assurance on what the tolls are going to be. Right now, they're kind of open-ended. And I want to know what the tolls are going to be because I don't think that I'm willing, if I'm a Loudoun supervisor, willing to subject my constituents to $6 each way, for example. I mean, I'm just making that number up. So I'd like to see the numbers.
NNAMDIIn the final analysis, are you in favor of Metrorail to Dulles?
ALBOSure. I'm in favor of it, but, you know, everything is a choice. I'm not in favor of spending more money than I've -- we've already planned on it. That's for sure.
NNAMDIThe House ended up in national headlines this week when it rejected a gay judicial nominee. It's my understanding that Tracy Thorne-Begland wrote a letter to you, as the chairman of the courts committee, vowing to be a neutral arbiter of the law. How did you vote, and what do you make of the results?
ALBOWell, I've got a forum. I actually was there, running the initial hearings where we qualify judges. Mr. Thorne-Begland has a great reputation in Richmond City, is a great prosecutor. You walk across the street and you talk to any lawyer or any judge, and they say that he is really good at his job. We had some questions about his activities in Don't Ask, Don't Tell back -- it was in the '90s.
ALBOSo what I did is I said, I want to see your discharge papers. Well, the United States Navy gave him an honorable discharge. And so if the Navy said it was honorable discharge, that's fine by me. I'm not going to go re-litigate that. So I decided to vote for him. Not to put words in the opposition's mouth, but I can tell you from the debates that there was two basic reasons why people enunciated on the House floor that they didn't want to vote for him.
ALBOOne was his activism on the gay issues. And the other one was the military people were quite upset with him going outside the chain of command and complaining about what was going on in the military. They didn't think that was proper.
SHERWOODHow much do you think that was -- that people just didn't want to validate a gay person, given all the issues about same-sex marriage, that they're just uncomfortable that this would be seen as a step forward or a step backward, depending on your point of view...
SHERWOOD…about more gay people having the rights...
ALBOYou know, no, I don't want to be in -- yeah.
NNAMDIWas there any talk of a gay agenda in the conversation?
ALBOOn the House floor, I don't think so. I'm trying to remember -- yeah...
SHERWOODNo, I mean, just in the conversational feel of it, that people are uncomfortable with the fact that he's, in fact, gay, period.
ALBOWell, I'm sure there are people that way, but, honestly, the veterans were the ones who had the biggest problem. They were, on the House floor, the most outspoken against him. And, again, I mean, just -- I like the guy. I think he's great, except that some people had different opinions.
NNAMDIWe're talking with David Albo. He's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, a Republican from Fairfax County. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers.
NNAMDIThere's been a lot of speculation about the governor's motives this year, whether he's saying in public that he wants the assembly to avoid divisive social issues just to keep distance and quietly cheering them on, whether he's trying to have it both ways. How do you see the governor's approach to social issues, having sat next to him for 16 years before slapping down his amendments?
ALBORight. Well, Bob is a...
ALBOWell, Bob is a conservative. I mean, our governor is a conservative. That's -- he's always been that way. I think that he is probably conservative on social issues. And I haven't seen any of his statements to be inconsistent. You've got to remember, though, that all of us, if the bills are filed, we have to deal with them. That's the way it goes. I can't -- we don't have a system like some states do where you never -- where it goes someplace and never has a hearing.
ALBOSo everything gets a hearing. And so, no matter -- and everybody who's elected can file whatever bill they want. So somebody files something, we have to deal with it.
SHERWOODMike Miller was just here from Maryland, talking about bringing gambling to National Harbor. And he said one of the reasons that would be a good place to be is because it's right across the river from Annapolis -- I mean, Alexandria, excuse me...
SHERWOOD...and that -- implication tens of thousands of people who are either from Virginia or visiting Virginia will come across the river to gamble. Do you think Virginia itself will ever move beyond just the lottery games you have and have casino gambling?
ALBOOh, no. No, no, no, no.
ALBONot in a million years.
NNAMDINo equivocation there.
ALBONot at all, yeah.
SHERWOODEven with the pressure from West Virginia, Maryland, all the surrounding states?
ALBOWe've had a lot of charities who've asked to be able to establish an expanded gambling past their normal bingo and pool tabs just for charity, and we've shot it down. That has about a 0.00 chance of ever passing in Virginia.
SHERWOODAnd what is the opposition? Is it moral or is it just the down side effects of gambling and indebtedness and...
SHERWOODOr is it just wrong to gamble like that?
ALBOI think it's -- I think in Virginia it's moral, I think, the downside of gambling. But, you know, we solve our budget problems by cutting the budget. I mean, there's two different governing philosophies. It depends, you know, if you agree with them. In Maryland, they want to maintain the same level of services, so they raise the income tax. They tax grocery bags. They establish or looking to establish casinos in -- but they can do a lot of things for people.
ALBOIn Virginia, we don't do that. We say government lives within its means. We're going to cut spending and not raise taxes. And there are two different governing philosophies right across the river from each other.
NNAMDIVirginia is a hotly contested state in the presidential sweepstakes. And women are a hotly contested voting bloc. You achieved a kind of Internet stardom earlier this year when you spoke...
NNAMDI...on the House floor about how your wife no longer wanted to have certain kind of relations with you because she was alarmed by the debate on a bill to require ultrasounds before abortion. What kind of position do you feel the Republican Party is in the state of Virginia now to win female voters?
ALBOWell, the problem we've got, seems to me, is that no one's really talking about the facts. And the image that we have is not good. I'm just being honest with you. The image is not good. If you look at the ultrasound bill, all it says is, prior to an abortion, an external ultrasound will be done, and the doctor has to ask the woman if she wants to see it. And she can say no. That is really all the bill does.
ALBOBut it got so blown out of proportion, and people were talking about things the bill didn't even do, which gets me back to your answer. I mean, I think we're going to have to get back to being able to explain to people the facts, what the bill is actually doing, the real issues. And we're having problems doing it because it's not interesting, I guess.
SHERWOODPart of -- one of the -- this was back in February when you made that joke. I presume your wife forgave you for making that joke.
NNAMDIYeah, he had some explaining to do.
ALBOShe thought it was funny.
SHERWOODWell, the concern, I think, people have that I talked to about it -- well, they said even if they could live with this option, external ultrasound and then an option, is that it's the attempt to -- by erosion, to get to totally pro-life position, that if you do this one year, then you do a little bit more the next year, you do a little bit more, and that the goal is not these individual bills but to get to abortion is illegal, and then hoping that the Supreme Court at some point will turn -- change. Is that what -- is that part of the deal, that the layout is that you want to erode the protections for abortion?
ALBOWell, I mean, there might be some people who have a long-term plan like that. This bill, to me -- I mean, I'm pretty clear when I run for office. I tell people I will never regulate birth control. I won't spend your taxpayer money on abortion. And I will give women information before they have an abortion. And this bill gave women information. It fulfilled my campaign promises. It was an easy vote for me.
ALBOI don't look at these things as some kind of long-term, you know, issue. You just look at the bill, and you vote the way you think. Now, there may be some people who are in that camp. You could have them on the show, and maybe they can explain it. I'm not one of them.
SHERWOODDo you think that Democrats will get traction -- I hear it quite a bit -- they use the phrase war on women, and they will use your bill for that.
ALBOWell, I mean, you know, this is the problem with politics. We had a press conference where we signed about 15 bills in a war on women abusers. And I got one tiny little paragraph in an Internet newspaper because it didn't have the word abortion on it. I mean, we are throwing child molesters in prison for life. We are taking wife-beaters and taking them off the streets.
ALBOWe are giving women extra protections from being sexually assaulted, and no one seems to care because it doesn't have the big issues in it. So, again, what we're going to have to do is go out and explain to people what we're doing for them so we can overcome the bad press.
NNAMDISpeaking of big issues, where do you think the president is most vulnerable in Virginia right now? What are the big issues that will cause him problems in the commonwealth?
ALBOWell, I think, at the end of the day, where the press headlines seem to be about big social issues -- at the end of the day, what people are concerned about is their jobs and how much money they're making. And we have a low unemployment rate in Fairfax, but I don't think any of us, including myself, are making anywhere near the money we made in 2007. And we're always looking around the corner to see whether we're going to have a job.
ALBOIn the end, I think that people are going to go vote the economy, and that's where, I think, our president is going to have a problem. I think Romney, obviously an accomplished business person, will be better on those issues.
SHERWOODAre you concerned at all -- I may have asked you this on the air before -- that should the Republicans win the House and the Senate and the presidency -- some people believe they will do -- that the cuts in the federal spending will severely affect the metropolitan Washington region, including your home county?
ALBOOh, Tom, we are so worried about that. I got to tell you, when the Afghanistan War winds down, all the buildings on the Dulles Corridor will be empty again, just like they were before 9/11.
ALBOWe are already trying to reinvent our economy. One of the things we're doing, I mean, my friends in Maryland, we're out there trying to steal your business. I mean, you just raised income taxes on people who make more than $100,000. We're saying, come on over to a place where you cannot be taxed to death and run your business. So we are out actively right now trying to reinvent our economy, and one of the things we're looking at is life sciences and biomedical research.
SHERWOODEven the mayor himself, Mayor Gray, in Washington said we need to diversify. You know, we're the seat of the government.
ALBOAbsolutely. Absolutely. It is a very scary prospect, and we are very concerned about it.
NNAMDIEarlier this month, the District of Columbia paid about $20,000 each to settle cases with motorists whose drunk-driving convictions were based on unreliable breathalyzer machines. In your day job as an attorney, you deal with a lot of theses kinds of cases. What do you make of the District's struggles with its breathalyzers? And what do you think the District needs to put in place to get a better system effective -- a more effective system?
ALBOWell, first of all, by coincidence, that happens to be my case on my regular job, so I don't want to talk about the case in and of itself.
NNAMDIOh, that specific case was yours also.
ALBOYeah, yeah. But the -- I'll talk about breathalyzer machines in general. We have -- in Virginia, we use an Intoxilyzer 5000. They are certified once every six months for accuracy. I think it's an important thing to make sure that, you know, evidence used in court is accurate. I mean, people deserve a fair trial. I've always said in my job as a legislator is my job is to give you a fair trial, and if you're found guilty, I'm going to crush you.
NNAMDIYou've got a friend running for governor of Virginia. Are you going to be supporting Tareq Salahi?
ALBOOh, Tareq Salahi? No. Tareq has no business running for governor, but he will still be my friend. But he has no business running for governor.
SHERWOODBefore we run out of time -- I asked Mike Miller this -- what's your reaction to the sort of John Edwards case down in North Carolina? As a lawyer, as a prominent person yourself, to see how he self imploded, what -- you've seen what's happened there. What's your reaction to it?
ALBOWell, I mean, what happens -- I've seen in my 19 years in the House of Delegates is people think they're important because they're elected to something, and they're not. The only reason they're important is because the people of Virginia have given them a seat at the table to try to run the state. And so the people who start thinking that they're important are the ones who get in trouble.
SHERWOODDo you think he'll be found guilty of the campaign violations?
ALBOI don't know because, you know, it really turns in a very interesting legal question about whether the $1 million was a campaign contribution or personal.
NNAMDIDave Albo, he's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, a Republican from Fairfax County. Thank you for joining us, hope you don't have to sleep on the couch anytime soon. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. Tom, always a pleasure.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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