Fred Carter, better known as Texas Fred the Zydeco Cowboy, was born and raised in Southeast Texas, where he became fascinated with zydeco and its origins. He shares the music he loves here in D.C. in the form of a local radio show, "The Trail Ride."
The Virginia General Assembly is a legislative body that proudly traces its history back to Patrick Henry, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. But that history is every bit as quirky as it is monumental. In recent years, Richmond has hosted debates over everything from “droopy drawers” to reproductive rights. Join us for a history lesson about one of the oldest and most colorful political bodies in America, and analysis about what lies ahead for it in the future.
- Quentin Kidd Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Government, Christopher Newport University
- Kristen Amundson Former Member, Virginia House of Delegates (D-44th District, Fairfax); Senior Vice President for External Relations, Education Sector
- Fredrick Kunkle Staff Writer, The Washington Post
- Russ Potts Former Virginia State Senator (R- 27th District, Winchester)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. When you walk through the halls of the Capitol Building in Richmond, you walk through American history in its entirety. The Commonwealth's General Assembly is the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, and it meets in a building designed by Thomas Jefferson himself.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut the history of politics in Richmond is every bit as crazy and quirky as it has long as it is long and distinguished. From its very first governor, Patrick Henry, to its current one, Bob McDonnell, the General Assembly has debated everything from desegregation of schools to the public nuisance of droopy drawers, well, often, in front of the most raucous audiences you'll ever see in a local government.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us this hour to explore what makes the General Assembly so unique and, well, so weird is Quentin Kidd. He is a political science professor, chair of the Department of Government and the director of Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. He's also the author of the book "The Rationale Southerner: Black Mobilization, Republican Growth and the Partisan Transformation of the American South." Quentin Kidd, good to see you again.
PROF. QUENTIN KIDDIt's good to be back with you.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Kristen Amundson. She is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates. Thank you so much for joining us.
MS. KRISTEN AMUNDSONGreat to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Fredrick Kunkle is a staff writer at The Washington Post. Freddie Kunkle, thank you for joining us.
MR. FREDRICK KUNKLEGreat to be here.
NNAMDIJoining us by phone is Russ Potts. He is a former member of the Virginia Senate. He also ran as an independent campaign -- he ran an independent campaign for governor of Virginia in 2005. Russ Potts, thank you for joining us.
MR. RUSS POTTSThank you. Good to talk to you again, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlways a pleasure, Russ. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. If you'd like to join the conversation, you can send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. Well, Freddie, Virginia is making a lot of national headlines in its politics these days.
NNAMDIIt's a battleground state in presidential elections. It will be hosting a gubernatorial race this year that the entire nation will likely be watching, but you wrote an article recently about how the Commonwealth is developing a reputation for both its exceptionalism and its exceptional weirdness. What were you getting at here?
KUNKLEThere were some very high-profile bills that got a lot of attention, especially among standup comics and the talk shows at night and "Saturday Night Live," and some of them -- and this is over the past few years -- dealt with things like a bill that would make sure that nobody could have a microchip implanted on their person, which was driven at least in part by some people who felt this could lead to having some sort of governmental device implanted by the forces of the Antichrist.
KUNKLEAnd there were other things like droopy drawers and so on. And then there were -- there was a very audacious move -- the stealth redistricting plan put forward this year to rewrite the election maps, and that also got a lot of attention in Virginia on some national comedy shows.
NNAMDIBut to what extent were you inspired to write this piece because of this particular session yesterday you were writing a piece about transportation, which is the third rail of Virginia politics, but this is a session that will be remembered for power plays on redistricting that you just mentioned and proposals to adopt an alternative currency.
KUNKLEYes. And yet we just got news my colleague Laura Vozzella just filed in, too, that, on the other hand, they seemed to have reached an agreement on a transportation plan, which has been something very elusive in Virginia at least since 2007. So, on the one hand, you have these -- for lack of a better word -- wacky bills that come up, and they get a lot of attention, including the coin bill, which was sponsored by Delegate Bob Marshall from Prince William County, which provoked laughter yesterday on the floor of the Senate as it went through.
KUNKLEIn fact, the person who had to sort of present it to the Senate was clearly uncomfortable and kind of joking about the fact that as committee chairman he was obligated to bring it up.
KUNKLEAnd yet the same time, we also -- one of my colleagues at The Post did a story that at bottom even underneath this bill about the monetary unit was some legitimate concern about United States monetary policy, and that there might even be some legitimacy of looking at what would happen should the currency become radically devalued because of recent expansion of the money supply by the Fed, by hackers and so on and so forth. It's just that it was framed in a way of, say, dealing with the Apocalypse, and I think that's what also got a lot of attention.
NNAMDIQuentin Kidd, there are not many states that can boast about having a history as long as Virginia where local government goes back farther than its first post-revolutionary governor, Patrick Henry. It goes all the way back to the House of Burgesses in Jamestown. How much of Virginia's modern political identity do you think is rooted in that history?
KIDDWell, I think most of it -- excuse me. I think most of it is -- but in reality, I think the -- what Freddie was writing about last week was really a clash of the old and the new, the old Virginia and the new Virginia. And the old Virginia was characterized by the Virginia way, sort of a polite politics and honor-oriented politics.
KIDDAnd it's easy for that kind of politics to exist in a state that is largely -- where power is largely homogenously held by one class of people. The plantation class prior to the Civil War and then the bird machine business-oriented class from, you know, the 1890s up to the mid-1960s. And I think what's going on in Virginia is we're learning how, as a state, to grapple with pluralities of power and plural sources of power.
KIDDAnd so I think you see a lot of this kind of stuff pop out in strange ways because there's no -- as long as our history is, there's no history of dealing with multiple power centers in places where power comes from that isn't just the single plantation class or the business-oriented class. I really think that's underneath it all. That's what's going on. We're trying to figure out how to do this when we have competing sources of power in the state.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Are you a Virginia voter? How would you describe the political culture in the Commonwealth? Do you think it's fair to call it both exceptional and exceptionally weird? 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Kris Amundson, things happen very fast in Richmond. The General Assembly meets for lightning-fast sessions where thousands of bills are introduced.
NNAMDIIt's a place of part-time citizen lawmakers who have day jobs as lawyers, farmers, educators, sports promoters. How much of the place's identity do you think comes from its adherence to the citizen legislature model? What do you think that contributes to the quirkiness of the place?
AMUNDSONI think that's actually a valid observation because we take great pride in being a citizen legislature. And it's said in almost the same hushed tones as Mr. Jefferson's manual, which is the extremely arcane set of rules and regulations by which the place operates. But, you know, there really is a long tradition of -- I would call it sophomoric humor, but it might be an insult to sophomores, actually...
AMUNDSON...to do that. For example, when we considered what my friend Bob Brink calls bird and beast bills, anything having to do with livestock, there's always a tendency if it has to do with dogs, everyone in the House will bark. And if it's chickens, they'll all cluck. And one time, after a series of those, they then considered a bill about semiconductors. And since it was silent, the speaker said I guess no one knows what sound a microchip makes.
AMUNDSONThat's a long and sort of rich tradition that enlivens that citizen legislature.
NNAMDIRuss Potts, when you were serving, how did you keep track of everything that was going on around you? It's not like you had a congressional staff of a couple of dozen people, and there are literally thousands of bills that move every session. Russ Potts, you there? How do you keep track?
POTTSYes, yes, I'm sorry. We had -- I had trouble hearing you. You are very much disadvantaged, and that you do not have enough staff to handle all the constituent request and the volume of mail and correspondence and phone calls. Unlike a congressional staff, you really are -- you're stretched to the absolute limit. Plus, you're in such a concise timeframe. You know, in the committee that I chaired, the Senate Education and Health, three out of every four bills in the General Assembly evolved around health issues or education issues.
POTTSAnd so we literally had the rocket docket, and on many instances, I'll have 60 bills that we have to deliberate in one-, three- or four-hour time period. So, you know, democracy moves very fast there. But I would like to point out a contrast between what Kris said -- and I enjoyed so much serving with Kris. The Senate was much more traditional in terms of civility and in terms of bipartisanship.
POTTSAnd only recently with this current Senate and recent Senate bodies have you seen the acrimony and the lack of working together, you know, for the common good. And I think there was a lot to be said for those many years. I mean you had statesmen like a John Chichester and -- or a Hunter Andrews who had such a vast knowledge of the Commonwealth, every nook and cranny of the Commonwealth that their leadership and their experiences and their life experiences had a lot to do with good government. And I think -- I really think we're -- we miss that right now.
NNAMDIKris Amundson, same question to you. How do you keep up?
AMUNDSONBoy, speed reading becomes your friend and the ability to read a bill very quickly on the floor also makes a huge difference. I will tell you that I paid great attention to the committee votes, and I would look at people on the committees and see people who I thought generally saw things the same way I did.
AMUNDSONAnd then if I didn't understand what the legislation did, I would very often go and say to, oh, Brian Moran, whose district was close to mine, and I'd say, Brian, talk to me about this bill. Why did you support it or why did you oppose it? You have to do that. And I will still say that in every single session, there were a few bills that I would vote for and then think at, you know, a day or so later, oh, my good Lord. What have I done?
NNAMDIBecause of this...
POTTSOh, absolutely, because rocket docket did give you pause to think, oh, wow, I may have cast a bad vote there because in many instances, you didn't have the time to deliberate that you should.
AMUNDSONThank God for the bicameral legislature in those days because if you really had made a dreadful vote, you could often go over to the other body and say to your colleagues, good God, save us from this, you know?
KIDDYou know, just as...
NNAMDIHere's Quentin Kidd.
KIDD...an example of the civility that Sen. Potts was referencing, there's a story about former Sen. Fred Quayle, who represented Suffolk, Southeast of Virginia, who introduced a bill to put a toll on the tunnel between Portsmouth and Norfolk. Without having read the bill, he introduced it for somebody else. And once it got it to the floor and several people said, are you sure this is -- you're willing to introduce this, he looked at it and said, oh, my gosh, no.
KIDDThat would kill me back at home. He was in the minority at the time, and the majority party, the Democrats said, OK, well, we'll let you just pull it because they weren't out for point scoring. They realized that everybody was working hard, and they had to do a lot with a little bit of time. And that was the kind of civility that I think Sen. Potts was referencing.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Go ahead, Sen. Potts.
POTTSAbsolutely. And Fred Quayle was a (word?) and a tremendous senator -- truly, I think one of the great senators in the past 50 years in the commonwealth of Virginia. Fred Quayle was my best friend in the Senate.
NNAMDIFreddy Kunkle, this year, some of the politics in Richmond have been more hardcore than quirky Republicans in the Senate. You mentioned push through a redistricting plan that widened their majority in that chamber on a day when a Democratic colleague had gone off to the inauguration festivities here in Washington. But in the end, William Howell, the Republican speaker of the House who has a very conservative reputation, ended up killing the plan in his chamber. What did Howell's action tell you about the modern political culture in Virginia?
KUNKLEI think two things. I think that's sort of acrimony and that extremism, which has been -- has been more noticeable. I think, first of all, you often hear it's fueled by things like redistricting, which has made the parties a little bit more extreme. People are more worried about challenges in a primary. And I think another thing actually in the background is that Virginia is really at this sort of a key moment, a kind of tipping point in its balance between rural, traditional power.
KUNKLEIt's still very regional in that way and the growing suburbanization, urbanization that's happening in Northern Virginia, that's happening in Hampton Roads. And these two cultures are probably more equally balanced than they've been in a long time. But I think that what Speaker Howell also represented was he's a very, I think, traditional conservative. He's not a warm and cuddly figure.
KUNKLEBut I think he's pragmatic. And I think he knew in the end that if he had allowed this to go forward, it probably would've mounted -- it probably would've triggered a court challenge. It might not have gotten past the Voting Rights Act. So it might have not stood, and it certainly would've held up any chance of a transportation deal, which is we're hearing today out of Richmond, they may actually be close to making. So I think in the end, he wanted something to happen.
NNAMDIDelegate Amundson, what did this say to you?
AMUNDSONWell, I think the only thing I would add to that is that my general observation about legislatures is that the real two parties are always the House and the Senate. And that is true whether they are controlled by one party or by opposite parties. And there's always a little bit of tension between the Senate and the House. And I think the speaker appropriately thought that the Senate had hijacked a House bill.
KIDDOh, I'm sorry.
POTTSI agree. This is Russ. I thought it was a shameful act. And I can tell you, had I been in the Senate of Virginia, I would never have voted in Sen. Marsh's absence. I thought that was a total lack of honor on the part of the body that I served in and particularly on the day that there was inauguration going on in Martin Luther King Day.
NNAMDIAnd Henry Marsh, of course, a long-time civil rights attorney.
KUNKLEAnd I said, shame on my former colleagues for allowing that to happen. And I would go farther to say that, had that been allowed to stand, I believe you would have had the most acrimonious environment from here on in the Senate because, I mean, there was extreme bad blood. And I'm still good friends with enough of the members there in both parties who have told me that, had that been allowed to stand, I think it would've done irreparable harm.
KIDDI was just going to say, you know, Freddy made a point about the balance, the urban-rural balance and keeping in -- keeping with sort of idea of linking the past with the present. I think that balance is -- that questions of a balance is really important. The reason Virginia has separate cities and counties, in fact, is that Thomas Jefferson didn't want the virtues of country living and country folk to be polluted by the ill virtues of the cities.
KIDDAnd so he didn't want cities and counties to be linked at all. So, you know, we can go as far back as Jefferson to see that importance of that separation of urban and rural values and urban and rural interest. And so I think the point about that, we're at that tipping point is really relevant here.
NNAMDIWhat pressure does Howell now face from within his own caucus? Conservative Republicans have accused him over the years of being too willing to cut deals. What do you say, Kris Amundson?
AMUNDSONWell, I think that he did take an action that he regarded as being in the best interest of the institution. But it make very welcome at some personal cost to him. Whether he has the votes to survive another election for speaker after the reconstitution in this election, you know, I couldn't tell you. I don't know that. I'm not a vote counter. I had enough trouble when I had to count votes for Democrats. But it certainly was at some cost to himself.
NNAMDIFreddy Kunkle -- go ahead, Russ Potts.
POTTSWell, I thought that Bill Howell did a very courageous thing. And I believe that he'll withstand the pressure of the extreme wing of my party. I mean, I agree for my party. You know, unfortunately, we've gone off the deep end. I've said many times, I didn't leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me.
POTTSAnd the greatest challenge that Speaker Howell has and reasonable men and women who serve in Richmond is to fight off the extremism of Ken Cuccinelli, who will be the nominee of my party who couldn't, very likely, be the most extreme governor, not only in the history of Virginia but in America and is totally out of the mainstream. So you talk about a challenge if you're a Republican in Virginia with Ken Cuccinelli at the top of the ticket. I don't envy the Bill Howells of the world or any other setting senator or delegate.
NNAMDIFreddy Kunkle, back to the House and the Senate for a second. How would you compare the House speaker with the Democratic leader in the Senate, Dick Saslaw, a guy who's got a reputation of his own for being, well, an operator? What do you think their personalities reveal about the nature of political survival in Richmond?
KUNKLEI think that, first of all, Sen. Saslaw is definitely a lot more open. They're both very witty guys, and Sen. Saslaw is very gregarious, I think, and sort of comfortable in his skin and prone to wisecracks. I think Speaker Howell is a little bit more retiring, a little bit more formal, except when he's up on the podium, and he has -- he does have a wicked wit. I just want to pick up on one thing too that Kris said and the tension between the two houses.
KUNKLEAnd also, I think the consequences that Howell will face in his own party that was on display when he's actually the sponsor of this transportation bill which is of enormous importance to the governor. And so it came through the Senate Finance Committee. And so he's the sponsor on the bill, but he'd sent a surrogate, Delegate Chris Jones, who's sort of the point man on that to go and explain that the latest bills was before the finance committee.
KUNKLEAnd there in this huge meeting room, it's packed with lobbyists and citizens and reporters, Sen. Norment wanted to know, where is the sponsor of this bill? Essentially, it was, bring me the head of Bill Howell. We want him in this committee. And Delegate Jones sort of, you know, his side, we wrote about this a little bit, he kind of looked up at the ceiling and there was a back and fourth that was very tense. And he said, this is a common thing, and he knows what was going on here. But they actually suspended.
KUNKLEThere was about a 10, 50 minute wait. We were wondering, is the speaker actually going to have to come and sort of, you know, face Sen. Norment, these two representatives of the two houses in this finance committee before this bill would get out of the committee. So it was an interesting moment. Theatrics.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we will be continuing with our winter membership campaign. But we will also be continuing with this conversation on Virginia politics. So if you've called 800-433-8850, stay on the line. We will get to your call. You can also shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about what takes place in the Virginia general assembly, both of a historical nature and sometimes of a more quirky and amusing nature. Our guests: Kristen Amundson is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates. She's a Democrat. She joins us in studio. Russ Potts is a former member of the Virginia Senate, Republican. He also ran as an independent for governor of Virginia in 2005. He joins us by phone.
NNAMDIFredrick Kunkle is a staff writer at The Washington Post. Freddy joins us in studio. Quentin Kidd is a political science professor, chair of the Department of Government and the director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. He's author of the book "The Rational Southerner: Black Mobilization, Republican Growth and the Partisan Transformation of the American South."
NNAMDIColor shines through on the legislative floor in Richmond no matter the tone of the bill lawmakers are discussing. Let's take a listen to comments made by Delegate Anne Crockett Stark last year about the rights of Virginians to defend themselves with lethal force against home intruders.
MS. ANNE CROCKETT STARKI had a little 82-year-old constituent in one of my counties. And at two o'clock one morning, she heard a window being broken out. She is sharpshooter.
MS. ANNE CROCKETT STARKShe brought -- takes her pistol out her drawer, and she catches the boy as he's coming in the window. So she grabs him up. She sticks the pistol under his chin. She said, do you want to eat breakfast with the devil?
MS. ANNE CROCKETT STARKThis is not funny. Stop. He ran. She, being a good shot, shot up in the air to scare him a little bit. She lives alone in the back of a funeral parlor which she and her husband had owned.
MS. ANNE CROCKETT STARKWait a minute. This is all true. Let me tell you the sad part of the story. He took her to court for shooting at him, and he won. We do need this bill, and I move the question.
NNAMDIVirginia General Assembly Delegate Anne Crockett Stark about the rights of Virginians to defend themselves. Kris Amundson, how would you describe the atmosphere on the floor during a typical debate in Richmond?
AMUNDSONWell, my friend Warren Armstrong used to say, legislating's easy and comedy is hard, and you heard a lot of that in that last clip. Anne Crockett-Stark is a former school teacher, and she's -- she doesn't speak a lot, but when she does, she does have a tendency to bring the sort of down-home story. But what you also heard was the cheering and the carrying on.
AMUNDSONThere is a sort of ruckus -- I think people who've watched the British House of Commons will see perhaps a direct descendant of the Virginia House of Delegates because there certainly is a great premium put on being able to entertain 99 other people while you're pressing your point.
NNAMDII confess to enjoying watching the British House of Commons. Sen. Potts, were you ever the target of either a white flag of surrender or the barnyard noises or calls coming from the rest of the room? Or was it different in the more dignified Senate?
POTTSI was a target more than once but never in that size in the Senate. I had a more sensible approach with a whole lot more decorum and I think made our citizens much more proud. I must say I take issue with a lot of the conduct that I saw on the -- in the House of Delegates, but they sure did have a lot of fun over there.
NNAMDIAnd, Freddy Kunkle, there's the case then of Bob Marshall, who critics have taken to calling Sideshow Bob because of the attention he attracts with the legislation he introduces on everything, from alternative currencies to abortion. How does someone like Bob Marshall affect the dynamics of doing daily business in Richmond?
KUNKLEWell, he certainly does make it entertaining. I mean, he is a gifted journalist. And he is also sometimes a thorn on the side of his own party. He is totally a free agent. And I would suggest, too, that even his harshest critics will often say that they respect his positions because he may like the spotlight a little bit, but he is driven by conviction and he will buck his own party. He will sometimes embarrass his own party for bottling up things that he thinks are important. And he really surprises you.
KUNKLEBut he does come up with these things that can be amusing, like the coin bill. On the other hand, one of the more interesting bills that we wrote about, I did a story about this session, he actually teamed up with Delegate Patrick Hope out of Arlington, who is a young delegate, very liberal. And the two of them sponsored a measure to try to get the state of Virginia to pay compensation to the victims of an infamous 1924 law, a eugenics law that required or allowed the sterilization of men and women who were deemed to be criminals, epileptics, mentally feeble and so on and so forth.
KUNKLEAnd this was part of a national movement, actually, that lead to 60,000 people who had been sterilized from California, the state of Indiana and so on and had actually inspired the Nazi Germany's program of eugenics also. And so Bob Marshall was out in front of that. I think it was actually, in some ways, not that much of a surprise because it really fit his belief that government sometimes can be too intrusive or can be a threat also.
NNAMDIBefore the session started, Quentin Kidd, Gov. Bob McDonnell urged the general assembly to stay focused on bread-and-butter issues and avoid stepping on partisan landmines. He's got a big legacy kind of bill moving through Richmond right now on transportation. How would you say the session has gone so far for Gov. McDonnell?
KIDDWell, if -- I guess if I were one of the staffers of the governor, I would be so ready for the session to be over because I'm sure that they're stressed out, as stressed out as they can be because I think the big fear when the redistricting bill happened is that people were -- is that the session was just going to be blown up at that point. And the governor's staff and his supporters saw any opportunity for legacy bill on transportation coming out of the session...
NNAMDIFlying out the window.
KIDD...flying out the window. And so they desperately tried to -- but, you know, in some ways, it's like herding cats, you know, it's not easy. And I think Gov. McDonnell saw this coming in 2012. When he gave his State of the State address in 2012, he asked Republicans, who had just taken over control of the general assembly by using the lieutenant governor to break ties, he asked them not to gloat and be too proud about their power. And he asked Democrats, who were now in the minority with 20 votes, not to be sore losers.
KIDDI think he saw the possibility of just things going haywire. And then in this session, he saw things going haywire with the redistricting bill. In the end, if he, you know, if what we -- if the news coming out of Richmond today is a deal has been struck, then he may be able -- and if that deal is what it looks like right now, which is the gas tax, as we know it, is gone, then that's certainly legacy-worthy for him, and he will have pulled a legacy-worthy transportation bill out of the fire.
NNAMDIRuss Potts, what kind of transportation bill would you have voted for if you were still in the Richmond Senate?
POTTSWell, in the first place, I'm really glad that the governor finally saw the light that the only way you fix roads is with money. I'm really glad. And it took him four years to get to that point, but I'm proud of him for finally coming to that realization. I certainly wouldn't support any kind of bill that did not include the gas tax component. But right now, we're so desperate in Virginia for some kind of road improvements that we'll take just about anything. After all, we've gone longer than any state in the union without addressing our road challenges.
POTTSAnd, as you know, we're the most congested metropolitan area in America, worse than D.C. now. What an accolade to win. And I do want to touch on something you all were saying earlier. You were talking about a lot of the radical legislation by Bob Marshall. Well, I can assure you, I served in the Senate for eight years with Ken Cuccinelli, and he was every bit as radical or more so than Bob Marshall. And there's not a dime's worth of difference between Bob Marshall and Ken Cuccinelli in terms of a radical, out-of-the-mainstream legislator.
NNAMDIWell, we have a caller who would like to object to that. But before I get to you, Ellen, allow me to go to Delegate Amundson to ask the same question I asked of Sen. Potts. What kind of transportation plan would you have voted for if you were still in Richmond?
AMUNDSONWell, I am concerned in this deal, if it is in fact a deal, about removing general fund money. I think that's something that I always fought hard to protect because that's the money that goes to the other big things that state government has to do, which are largely schools and public health. So that was always my biggest concern.
NNAMDIOn to Ellen and the challenge on Ken Cuccinelli. Ellen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELLENHi. Thank you for taking my call. Yes, I wanted to disagree with something that Sen. Potts said and then just affirm in his comparison of Bob Marshall and Ken Cuccinelli in what I think to be a negative manner. I don't think that Ken Cuccinelli is extreme. I think he's conservative. And there's a difference.
ELLENBut I also liked what the senator said about the party leaving him as opposed to him leaving the party, the Republican Party that is. In my youth, I was a Democrat, and I strongly feel that the Democratic Party had left me, leaving me no alternative but to go to the Republican Party. So just wanted to get it on the record that not all of us think Ken Cuccinelli is extreme. We think he's representing our views.
POTTSWell, just look at the record. He sued more people than any attorney general in all 50 states. And he sponsored the most extreme legislation, front and center, for anti-abortion legislation and, you know, and he's the darling of Grover Norquist and the no-tax pledge and...
NNAMDIEleanor, Sen. Potts...
POTTS...anybody that signs those no-tax pledges certainly shouldn't be the governor of Virginia.
NNAMDIEllen, Sen. Potts seems to be holding to his position. Quentin, what are you most curious about going into this year's gubernatorial election? Virginia has long voted the opposite direction of presidential elections during gubernatorial races. If that changes this year, what are going to be the factors responsible for it? And if the trend holds, what do you think will account for that?
KIDDWell, there's no scientific or rational basis for that trend. It's probably an anomaly of just sort of an anomaly. These guys are both characters. I mean, I think it was Jeff Shapiro, the Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist, who said the Republicans have nominated the only person that can't beat Terry McAuliffe, and the Democrats have nominated the only person who can't beat Ken Cuccinelli.
KIDDAnd I think that kind of describes the kind of gubernatorial race were going to have this year. I don't know that it's going to be a race to the bottom. It might end up being a race to the hilarious because they both, you know, they both have their -- they are both characters.
NNAMDIThey're going to both bring out a lot of opponents, right?
KIDDYeah. Well, they're going to bring out a lot of opponents. And I think there's going to be a lot of outside money that could make it a tough kind of negative race. But they're both characters, and so I'm really looking for the character to come out as we move into the election season.
NNAMDIWhat do you think, Freddy?
KUNKLEI couldn't agree more. I think that it's going to be a highly entertaining and fascinating race between the two. I would suggest to one other thing, just about what the comparison even between Bob Marshall and Ken Cuccinelli. The one thing, again, you sometimes hear even from Ken Cuccinelli's biggest critics is he doesn't hide from his positions. And I think his book, which he just put out recently as part of that, I think his views are, again, they're -- in my opinion, they're quintessentially Virginian to the extent that he is very suspicious of the federal government.
KUNKLEHe is very suspicious of centralized government, which you can go right back to the very first constitution of Virginia to see. So I think that's one interesting thing. And Terry McAuliffe certainly knows his way around political campaigns. And he has been, in a way, running pretty energetically since he lost in the primary by sort of positioning himself as the guy who's going to bring jobs and economic recovery to Virginia.
NNAMDIKris Amundson, as a Democrat, what do you think are the most important things Terry McAuliffe needs to do to flip the script on what happened to Creigh Deeds and Virginia Democrats in 2009?
AMUNDSONWell, I think the -- probably the single most important thing that he's going to have to do is get out into all of the parts of Virginia and listen to people. That's A. But B is to take very careful note of who voted last year and do whatever it takes to get those people motivated because our even year presidential electorate is now pretty blue. But our odd year House of Delegates gubernatorial electorate is still pretty red. And so the question is, how many of those people who voted last year can Terry get back to the polls in 2013? That's going to be the case.
NNAMDIRuss Potts, you once jumped into gubernatorial races as an independent candidate. I seem to remember being a panelist questioning you in one of those debates. If Bill Bolling decides to do the same thing, what advice would you give him? And is a Bill Bolling ticket one that you might consider supporting?
POTTSI would consider supporting him. And I, for sure, believe that there's a major distinction between the only two announced candidates now, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli. And that Cuccinelli's anti-public education. He's anti-higher education. And he has done virtually nothing, nothing in his political career that supports jobs, jobs, jobs.
POTTSMcAuliffe is by far more prepared and qualified to address the economy because he knows what it's like to make a payroll, and he knows what it's like to worry about missing one, as does Bolling. Cuccinelli has spent his whole life being obsessed with social issues and being the sidekick of Grover Norquist and the no tax increase...
NNAMDIWe're just about out of time. Russ Potts -- he could go for Bill Bolling, and it looks like he could go for Terry McAuliffe, too -- he is a former member of the Virginia Senate. He also ran as an independent for governor of Virginia in 2005. Kristen Amundson is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates. She's a Democrat. Fredrick Kunkle is a staff reporter at The Washington Post.
NNAMDIAnd Quentin Kidd is a political science professor and chair of the Department of Government, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. His book is called "The Rational Southerner: Black Mobilization, Republican Growth and the Partisan Transformation of the American South." Thank you all for joining us. And thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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