A 16-car derailment in Northeast D.C. reignites a debate over freight routes in well-populated areas.
Virginia’s governor moves to restore the voting rights of non-violent felons. Maryland’s lieutenant governor angles to form the first power ticket in next year’s gubernatorial race. And a longtime member of the D.C. Council prepares to officially launch a mayoral bid. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Larry Nordvig Executive Director, Richmond Tea Party
- Heather Mizeur Maryland House of Delegates (D-20th Dist) (former Member, Takoma Park Council, now represents Montgomery County)
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
Inside The Studio
There have been some talks about Maryland House Del. Heather Mizeur (D-20th District) running for governor. In this clip, she addresses a caller’s question regarding her qualifications.
Larry Nordvig, executive director of the Richmond Tea Party, talks about which Tea Party candidates would have qualified for the Republican ballot. He also discusses the philosophies of his party and what they stand for. In the second half of the clip, Nordvig talks about his thoughts on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation bill, which he says he does not support.
Politics Hour News Quiz
Test your knowledge of D.C., Virginia and Maryland headlines and happenings.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers, the one who tweeted out during the course of this past week where a member of the City Council who, whenever he appears on this show, appears reluctant to leave.
MR. KOJO NNAMDISo you would think he would want to make that announcement on this show. However, he did not. And so Tom Sherwood had to tweet out that Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans will be making his announcement as a candidate for mayor, where?
MR. TOM SHERWOODOn June 8 at Le Diplomate, as best I could say with my Southern accent. It's a 14th Street restaurant, nice outdoor patio area, expensive restaurant. Some people will think it's a little too upscale for a councilmember who wants to rally the people to his side. Escargot is on the menu. I know that.
MR. TOM SHERWOODAnd so that's enough for me being from the South. But in any event, he's going to do it, you know. He hasn't run for mayor since 1998 when he came in third with about 10 percent of the vote. He says he's the longest serving councilmember.
NNAMDIHe's been on the Council since 1991.
SHERWOODRight. I said, you know, a lot of people will think that's a positive, but some, you know, some do. And he certainly knows the city government. A lot of his friends even who are a little bit nervous about him running say he would be a good mayor. He understands the poor issues of the city in terms of things that need to be done. He understands business, certainly. And that he's been a big champion of the city's pro sports teams that wouldn't be here without Jack.
SHERWOODI don't know if that's a campaign. We'll have to see how that, you know, rallies people to his...
NNAMDII have debates with people constantly about whether he's well-known citywide or not. I say on the basis of the length of service he's had, on the basis of things like the Verizon Center that he was instrumental in bringing into his ward and into the city that he is well-known citywide. What say you?
SHERWOODI would say among voters, regular voters, yes, but among people who may vote, the likely voters, I don't think any of the councilmembers that includes Muriel Bowser and Tommy Wells from Ward 6 who have already announced for mayor. The polling shows that a lot of people simply don't know the councilmembers as well as those in the -- constantly talking about what they do or don't do. So Jack does have to -- just as the other two, they have to campaign outside of their wards.
NNAMDII tell you who is known citywide, and if I mention his name, he'll run.
SHERWOODYou know, as I said before, if I ever get into public office, my first legislative measure will be to put V.O.'s, Vincent Orange's, name on every ballot that comes down the pike. That way, he won't have to worry about running. He could just start campaigning.
NNAMDIHe is known citywide at least.
SHERWOODBut he hasn't said he's going to run yet...
SHERWOOD...but, you know, a crowded field invites other people.
NNAMDIWho likes crowd. Speaking of crowds, there seem to be a lot of crowds driving down K Street Northwest at rapid speeds or going through traffic lights because one camera on K Street Northwest has brought in more than $8 million into the District of Columbia's coffers during the course of the current fiscal year.
NNAMDIThere was a camera on New York Avenue that used to come in first, but apparently, that has been surpassed by the camera on state -- K Street. But we have to say that the District of Columbia government said, "This is not about the revenue. This is not about the money. This is about controlling traffic. The money means nothing to us."
SHERWOODYou know, I hear the skepticism in your voice. I hear the derision, the...
SHERWOODWell, let me say this, that's -- The Post story -- I was irritated by The Post story. I think there's a story there about how the city is doing camera money, but to say that the city is getting a windfall from that one camera, let me just for perspective...
SHERWOOD...because I was irritated the way...
NNAMDIThat's why you're here.
SHERWOOD...other people play this story. On that K Street, the 2,200 block or whatever it is, the cameras there, about 32,000 cars, vehicles go through there each day. The camera gives out about 300 tickets. Now, just math-wise, I think that's maybe 1 percent of the cars. The amount of money the city gets from ticket revenue is one-half of 1 percent of the city's entire budget.
SHERWOODAnd The Post story also didn't point out that since the city has been using speed cameras because citizens who live there, there's a hospital over there, there are senior citizens, there are families with children, they don't want those commuters rushing to get up onto the freeway going over into Virginia or in coming back. Since 2001, fatalities on the streets of the city from vehicular accidents has dropped 76 percent in part, Chief Lanier says, because we have speed cameras. Now, I can go on, but I think the point is made. There's...
NNAMDIMayor Sherwood has spoken.
SHERWOODSo, yes, you know, if -- I don't know that 25 miles an hour is the right speed limit for that tunnel. I think probably it sounds low. But if you move it up to 30 or 35, then you can only write a ticket for someone going 45, and then you're getting up close to 50. So, anyway, that's the issue. It's more than just the city taking in money. It's not raking in money. It's not squeezing people unfairly. No one says the cameras don't operate correctly. And as Chief Lanier always says, you can't get a ticket if you're not speeding.
NNAMDIAnd it's just that to the average person...
SHERWOODI wasn't ready for that question, you know?
NNAMDII noticed, yeah. I noticed you weren't ready for it. It's just that to the average person, $8 million does seem like a lot of money. But moving on...
NNAMDI...from the District of Columbia to Maryland. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown who had announced that he is running for governor in 2014 this month apparently plans to name Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate this coming Monday according to people familiar with his plans according to the report from The Washington Post. He's obviously trying to get a leg up on his potential challengers. And even as I wonder what our next guest will have to say about that, I'm wondering what you have to say about it at this point.
SHERWOODWell, Anthony Brown is doing something smart. He's trying to solidify the support he'll have. Ken Ulman, who has made a name for himself -- the youngest executive in the state -- and has had a pretty good reputation, was actively considering running for governor himself. He's made the political calculation. It's only the fact that it hasn't been formally announced. It is true -- it's not a question of whether it's going to happen -- that he wasn't going to run for governor, and he's decided to join forces with Anthony Brown.
SHERWOODAnd that'll be announced Monday. There's a lot of speed-up in the gubernatorial race in Maryland right now.
NNAMDINone of the other potential Democratic candidates has yet announced that he or she will be running for governor. But who knows what may happen in the studio today? Because joining us is Heather Mizeur. She is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She's a Democrat who is also contemplating, mulling over a campaign for governor in next year's race. Delegate Mizeur, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
MS. HEATHER MIZEURYou, too, Kojo. Thanks for having me, Tom.
NNAMDII seem to recall that you were a Democratic super delegate during the 2008 presidential primary, a person wooed by both the Clinton and Obama campaigns, vying for your support at that time. Now you find yourself getting ready to make the case to Maryland Democrats that you are the person that they support -- that they should support in next year's gubernatorial race. What are you telling them, and what gives you the confidence to be considering this run?
MIZEURI've been talking in neighbors -- neighborhoods and in living rooms all across the state to a lot of enthusiastic supporters that are encouraged about a message from a candidate that has a record of accomplishment on a range of social justice, progressive issues, putting our values into action, but also bringing to the table good, common-sense private sector job creation experience as a small business owner and knowing what it's like to create jobs and meet payroll and bringing to the office of governor a willingness to build a budget around what our priorities are, be innovative about our job creation and economic development tools and being willing to take risks.
MIZEURI'm looking at systemic changes in the system. I'm a candidate that if I get in this race, it won't be to play it safe for four years in order to get re-elected. It's going to be about going in and making big changes on a range of issues that I think are important for helping Maryland live up to her full vibrant potential.
NNAMDIWell, what's left to think about? Why not announce your candidacy right now, right here?
MIZEURI appreciate that, Kojo, very much, and I love making news with you. We won't be making that news today. We're finalizing -- there's a lot of preparation that goes into making a decision like this. You don't jump in just because there's an enthusiasm gap for the other candidates and people are encouraging you to do it.
MIZEURYou've got to do your due diligence to make sure that there's a pathway to victory and that you can win this and that people are excited about your campaign and willing to step up and do what is necessary to run a winning race. And right now, all the indications are that we've got that momentum going in our direction, and I'll be making a final decision later this summer.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call if you'd like to join the conversation with Delegate Heather Mizeur and Tom Sherwood. You can also send email to email@example.com or send us a tweet, @kojoshow.
SHERWOODGov. O'Malley's kind of taking a victory lap around the state, announcing -- or not announcing, but praising all the things he's done. He's done -- I presume he think he's been a good governor. But when you say big changes on a range of issues, just give me one where the state is falling down that you think you can be aggressive, not worry about re-election, just one, maybe your top issue if you are to be governor, what that would be other than the good civics list that we just heard.
MIZEURWell, a range of top issues have to be related to economic development and job creation. I hope we'll have a chance to talk about that today. But specific to your question about where are you a risk taker, where would you not be concerned about where the politics play, and that's criminal justice reform. I think that the problems in our system are not episodic, but systemic. And the problem that we saw in Baltimore with the Baltimore City...
NNAMDIAt the Baltimore City Detention Center, where there were several guards there who have been charged or indicted, involved in cooperating with gang members who were in prison, the most...
SHERWOODWho are running the prison.
NNAMDIWho, it would appear, were running the prison, the most notorious of which having to be one gang member who had five children with four guards who were supposed to be guarding him.
SHERWOODTalk about fringe benefits, but meaning -- anyway, what criminal justice reform? What would that be?
MIZEURBut -- yes, thank you. It's not just about going inside the prisons, which we need to do. There is a problem with the school-to-prison pipeline that our system is creating right now, where we're not investing enough on the front end of affirmative opportunities for our youth to make sure that they can be successful instead of readying a jail for them.
MIZEURI fought very hard with colleagues in Baltimore to reject building a new youth city jail in Baltimore because it was going to be 120 beds for about 40 youth, and we know that when you build it, you fill it. And we should instead be investing resources in affirmative opportunities for after-school programs, job training. There are problems and biases that exist in the system leading into the system.
MIZEURAnd then there's the corruption that is existing inside the system, which I think we could collaborate with a range of proven programs with a variety of nonprofits that are doing amazing work in the state. Community Mediation Maryland, the Friend of a Friend Program for the American Friend Services Committee and Power Inside are just three examples of amazing mediation, job training and collaboration initiatives within the system.
NNAMDIBut why did you think that what you did was risky?
MIZEURWell, because, first of all -- and...
NNAMDIAnd what was the risk?
MIZEUROK. So just to finish the thought on the criminal justice system...
MIZEUR…'cause there's also a back-end issue related to re-entry that you have to address. There's this whole narrative, this whole arc. And there's also a problem related to due process and expungement of records. There's a gentleman in Maryland named Leslie Vass, who spent 10 years in jail for a crime that he didn't commit. And it's 25 years later, and he still hasn't been able to get his record expunged.
MIZEURAnd so when he got falsely accused a few years ago of a crime, he was held without bail because of his previous record that he already had been exonerated for. But he spent a year in prison waiting for the opportunity to go to trial and have his record expunged. This is not the kind of Maryland that we can be building to live up to her full potential.
MIZEURAnd the risk here, Kojo, is that prisoners don't vote, right? So politicians usually don't cater to improving a system for people who can't return the favor with their votes or with their campaign contributions. This isn't about that. This is about rebuilding our communities and our sense of justice and taking on tough issues that really matter.
SHERWOODI'm trying to see this is a campaign issue on the campaign trail saying we've got to reform our judicial system, the criminals, the people who are put in prison for whatever crimes. I presume you're not talking about the most violent criminals and all that. But people who stand a chance at rehabilitation that, first, you tried to prevent people from going to prison by doing education, job training and all those things. And then you try to rehab the people who, in fact, been in prison assuming they're not -- right?
MIZEURIt's one component part of a larger system that we have to address. We talk about our schools being the number one in the nation, and they are. We're proud of that. But we also have to recognize that we have some of the worst schools in the nation as well, and we have to tap into that.
MIZEURAnd that we have not adequately addressed the achievement gap that exist inside our schools between girls versus boys, between children whose families have money and children who are getting free and reduced price meals, between our children of color and our white children. There are huge achievement gaps that exist in our education system, and all of these pieces come together to build a community that we want to make sure...
SHERWOODDo you like what -- excuse me -- do you like what Prince George's County is trying to do? I mean, it's having trouble attracting now a candidate for superintendent, given the state enrollment, the school board's enrollment, the county executive's enrollment -- I mean, involvement. I keep saying enrollment, involvement. It's, you know, it's a donkey on a hippopotamus construction. Do you like what's happening in Prince George's County trying to -- if you were governor?
MIZEURI definitely applaud County Executive Baker for addressing a critical problem in Prince George's County. Their -- the enrollment in that county has dropped by 1,300 students per year every year for the last decade. And they're doing yeoman's work in trying to address what has been termed the middle-class flight for the school system there. And 60 percent of the children in Prince George's County schools qualify for free and reduced priced meals. And there are a range of challenges that have to be addressed.
MIZEURAnd I think the jury is still out on whether or not the right approach is the shift in oversight into the county executive's purview and adding the new people in. I think more than anything, it's important that we attract and retain some of the best administrators across the -- from across the country. And we're going to be looking to fill a spot in Prince George's County and in Baltimore City, and we're stepping up to try to show how Maryland invest in our schools.
MIZEURWe just did $1 billion investment in this legislative session into the crumbling schools in Baltimore City. I'm vice chair of education and economic development for the Appropriations Committee. And as so, I spend a lot of time touring the schools across the state. And when I was in Baltimore three years ago, my jaw dropped at what I saw.
MIZEURThe kids can't drink out of the water fountains because of the lead poisoning there. Their toilets don't flush, or they don't have doors on the stalls. More importantly, the temperature is just out of control. It's always too hot or too cold, not an environment for children to learn in. I've been...
SHERWOODIsn't that local education a local county matter, though? Their state -- the county superintendent, county executives, the county superintendents -- are you suggesting the state take over the school system?
MIZEURNo, no, no, no. I said, one of the ways that we are additionally able to attract some top-notch talent from around the country and applying for these important posts in Prince George's County and Baltimore City is to show the willingness that we have at the state and local level to work together to improve our investment of resources in our flagging -- lagging school construction needs and trying to do our best to maintain our top in the nation school status. But we've got to dig down deeper to address those achievement gaps.
NNAMDIA lot of people on the phone want to talk to you who want to discuss economic priorities. In case you're just joining us, our guest is Heather Mizeur. She is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, a Democrat, who is contemplating a campaign for governor in next year's race. We will go to Gabriel in Washington, D.C. Gabriel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GABRIELGood afternoon, Kojo. A big fan of the show. Delegate Heather Mizeur, good afternoon to you as well. You know, my concern for the 2014 gubernatorial election is economic progress. And, you know, I do government affairs, and I recently came across the 2013 state business tax index that was recently released. And it, in a sense, ranks Maryland in the bottom 10 states, 41st, to be exact, as far as the business climate.
GABRIELAnd, Delegate Mizeur, there is, you know, there is a persistent feeling as I'm sure you're well aware across Maryland that we are not doing enough to be economically competitive. My question to you is, what will you do to ensure that Maryland creates jobs and then improves its business climate more importantly?
MIZEURThank you so much, Gabrielle. I have a quite a few thought about that. I'll narrow it to two for this program. First of all, I reject the conversation that typically happens when we start talking about economic needs that pits winners and losers against each other. There's a theory that in Annapolis that we cannot raise minimum wage for our workers and require paid sick days and have a thriving small business economy.
MIZEURAnd I think that that is a false comparison that what we can do is level the playing field so that our small businesses have an equal advantage. Right now in Maryland, the tax code is geared towards giving a special advantage to some corporate titans in the state that shelter their earnings in other states and don't pay any taxes in Maryland.
MIZEURIf we made the rules fair and have them just pay their fair share, we could collect from one to two -- 100 to $200 million a year. There are varying estimates on how much money we could then generate if we put it into a small business reserve fund into tax credits for small businesses. Small business owners are the backbones of our economy. They are the job creators in our economy.
MIZEURAnd you put money in their hands and they're investing it back into the economy, into their workforce, and there's more we can do to help our small businesses. For larger companies and across the board in business for the business climate, I think that there's more we can do to take on regulatory reform because businesses cry out for certainty above all else, even above and beyond economic indicators. They want to know how to operate their business. What are the rules of engagement in our state?
MIZEURAnd a couple of years ago, I started asking questions on why we weren't attracting some green industry jobs like composting facilities in our state. And I found out it was because our rules and regulations were so convoluted and complicated and overlapped three different state agencies. But the businesses were bypassing Maryland for Delaware and Pennsylvania instead.
MIZEURAnd so we brought together 50 stakeholders over a course of a year to untangle that regulatory mess, change the laws, make it clear on how they operate. And a new report coming -- that came out two weeks ago suggested as many as 1,400 new composting business jobs are going to be created in Maryland as a result of that initiative.
NNAMDIGabrielle, thanks you very much for your call. We go now to Jeanne in Annapolis, Md. Jeanne, your turn.
JEANNEOh, thanks for taking my call, Kojo, and I don't know exactly to word this. But I'm curious about your bio and how you sort of ended up in Maryland. It seems to me in politics, even in my little local town, people are into politics to be in politics, and they're professional politicians. And I hear you saying we and us in Maryland and things like that.
JEANNEBut when I look at your bio, you've kind of worked all over the place in a lot of political ways. What makes you different than someone who's just here to be a politician and not here to care about somebody like me who has lived in Maryland, grew up in Maryland, went to University of Maryland and cares deeply about the state and our future?
NNAMDIWell, Jean, allow me to add to that for Delegate Mizeur a part of an email we got from Gwen in Cheverly. "But when I looked at your bio, it struck me as very thin for someone aspiring to be governor. You no doubt represent your constituents in Takoma Park very well, but I saw nothing that makes you stand out from other Washington area local officials from what I se in terms of your experience, education and training.
NNAMDII want a woman to be governor of Maryland, but I would not vote for you because I do not think you are qualified compared to others in the race. Have I overlooked something about you?"
MIZEURWell, those -- Jeanne and Gwen kind of -- you mentioned those together. I will try to answer them each separately. For Gwen, I'm very proud of the record I have put together in the last seven years in the general assembly and for a couple of years before that in my City Council service.
MIZEURIn Takoma Park, yes. I have a lot of accomplishment that I'm very proud of that I think give you a road map of how I would govern in the state, whether it is expanding health care coverage for more children. When I came into office, there were 100,000 children who were eligible but not covered in health insurance, and it was because we had a message of, well, we have to settle.
MIZEURThere are always going to be some children who are uninsured in the state. And it's not so. With a very simple solution of putting a checkbox on Maryland's tax forms, we now have families report whether or not their children have health insurance. And that gives us information that is key to knowing, how much money does a family earn?
MIZEURAnd are the children are uninsured? And so we're doing rapid outreach and enrollment off of our tax forms to get these children covered. As a result, 50,000 of those children have health insurance over the last two years, and the federal government has given us $80 million in performance bonus grants to reward us for our innovation. And...
NNAMDIBut both Jean ad Gwen seem to be implying, if not saying outright, is that they'd like to know a little bit more about your history in Maryland, how long what you been there, what have you done there besides being a political operative.
MIZEURWell, I have lived in Maryland. I didn't grow up here. And thankfully, Maryland is a state that is kind to people who have backgrounds from other places. I grew up in rural Illinois. I am a fifth-generation farming family. My father was a welder at a factory and spent 32 years as a united auto worker in that factory. And I am a Marylander by choice, though.
MIZEURI came here and fell in love with this state and have a home in Montgomery County in Takoma Park where I have represented Takoma Park and Silver Spring area in the general assembly for the last seven years. And I also own a farm over on Maryland's eastern shore, a 34-acre organic herb farm, and spent a lot of time over there on the eastern shore. I love this state. I have been elected by its statewide members as a Democratic national committeewoman since 2005.
MIZEURI ran Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign for the state. And as I worked in every corner of the state on fracking and making sure out in Western Maryland that unregulated fracking doesn't come in to our state and harm our environment and our public health in the local economy out there without us doing strict safety studies first...
NNAMDIOK. Only because we're running out of time, I'm interrupting you. Jeanne, is that good enough for you?
JEANNEYou know, a quick follow-up would be...
NNAMDINo, Jeanne. We don't have time for a quick follow-up because Tom Sherwood has a quick follow-up.
SHERWOODHow do you - this is a classic American question: how do you earn money?
MIZEURHow do I earn money?
SHERWOODI mean, how do you support -- yes, I mean...
MIZEURWell, at this...
SHERWOODI'm a TV reporter, and I come to this show.
NNAMDIThat's how he earns his money.
SHERWOODI disclose it.
MIZEURAt this stage, I am mostly earning my salary as a legislator, which is around $43,000 a year salary. And...
SHERWOODAnd is the farm a commercial enterprise?
SHERWOODYou like it to be.
MIZEURSomeday. But farmers typically don't make a lot of money. I have, in the past, supplemented my income with a private-sector health policy consulting work that I had been ratcheting down because I'm spending so much time talking to people about our ideas for the future of Maryland.
SHERWOODYou would be the first...
NNAMDIJeanne, thank you for your call.
SHERWOODYou would be the first woman. You would be the first LGBT person to be governor. You're running on issues not...
NNAMDIYou'd also be the first from Montgomery County.
SHERWOODAnd first from Montgomery County. And those are all ancillary parts of your campaign. But Doug Gansler is preparing to run, says he'll make a decision or an announcement this fall. Why would you be a better candidate, a Democratic candidate for governor than Doug Gansler? If I can jump ahead to the race as if you are already in it.
MIZEURI think this goes back to maybe what Jeanne was wanting to have a follow-up question on, which she was like, you know, what makes you not just like every other typical politician? And, Jeanne, it's because I'm willing to jump in against all the odds because of what I believe in. And that I'm willing to wake up every day to fight to work for you. And without regard to the special interest in Annapolis and the power structure that exists, I have a record of standing up and fighting for what I believe in and working hard every day to address the problems...
SHERWOODBetter than Doug Gansler? Better -- you're going to talk to...
MIZEURI'm not here -- I'm not running a campaign against anyone. I'm here, and if I get in this race, it will be about why I would be a better governor. There are a range of issues that there are differences of opinion on between me and the other candidates. I am -- I was a huge supporter of repealing the death penalty, I supported our gas tax for transportation infrastructure investments. I supported our wind energy bills. And those -- and in...
NNAMDIHow about this one issue, quickly, that Zach wants to know about at the University of Maryland. Zach, what's your issue? Zach, are you there?
ZACHAfternoon, Kojo. Hi.
NNAMDIYou only have about 30 seconds, Zach. Go ahead. Tell us what's your issue is.
ZACHI'll get right to the point. Ma'am, where is your stand on entitlement funding specifically with regards to disability, retirement and regulation therein? And what is your stand on the legalization of marijuana in the same vein as Colorado and Washington in the economic benefits?
NNAMDIYou only have about a minute to respond, I'm afraid.
MIZEUROn entitlements, right?
SHERWOODLet's do marijuana first. That's easy.
MIZEURI supported medical marijuana legislation that passed in Maryland this year. We did it somewhat more conservatively than other states because it's tied to academic medical centers. And I think that hopefully, over time, we will liberalize that a little bit more for anyone who needs palliative care that plant medicine can provide.
MIZEUROn entitlement reform, on disability issues and Medicaid, I am very much in support of strengthening these programs that exist in the state. But I think that we have an opportunity for big savings in our state through long-term care reform. Most people don't realize when they start to age that Medicare doesn't provide their nursing home and assisted living care cost, that it's something that's either going to have to come out of their own pocket.
MIZEUROr they're going to have to spend all their money until they become poor to qualify for state coverage. I have reform initiative. I will be rolling out that will show significant savings in that regard that we can use then to invest in areas that we have been underfunding in the state like funding for developmental disability services.
NNAMDIIn other words, Zach, it won't be the top priority to legalize marijuana in the same way as the states of Colorado and Washington have done. Heather Mizeur, she is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She's a Democrat who was also contemplating a campaign for governor in next year's race. Even as you continue to contemplate and mull, good luck to you.
MIZEURThank you so much, Kojo.
SHERWOODSummer starts in 21 days. You're still driving your Chevy Volt?
MIZEURWe've gotten 15,000 miles on that in about six months from going to every corner of the state.
SHERWOODExcuse me for a...
NNAMDIHe just thinks he knows so much. How is Chester?
MIZEUROh, look at you, Kojo. Chester is great. Thank you very much.
NNAMDIChester's her dog.
MIZEURHe's very happy playing fetch on the farm on a regular basis.
NNAMDIThank you very much for joining us, Delegate Mizeur. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom Sherwood, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Gov. Robert McDonnell said earlier this week he's waiving the waiting period and automatically restoring the voting rights of non-violent felons who have completed their sentences and satisfied certain conditions.
NNAMDIStanding at his side as he was making that announcement, and this is not insignificant, is -- was NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous who called the governor's action a courageous step. Republican governors in other states have certainly not been apparently much interested in doing this because I suspect they think that too many of those votes will go for Democrats, but not Gov. McDonnell.
SHERWOODWell, and Gov. McDonnell said it was a matter of heart and fairness to him. But, you know, it is remarkable when Rev. Al Sharpton of MSNBC says, I've been very critical of Virginia Gov. Rob McDonnell, but today, I'm commending him. Governor, way to go. So I'm thinking, you know, it will affect thousands upon thousands of people who formerly incarcerated will be able to vote.
SHERWOODThe deal is now you have to apply. Each one has to apply, and the governor has to -- now you won't have to apply. Once you meet the conditions of your sentence, then you automatically will be reviewed to make sure that you can vote. It's a big deal.
NNAMDIAnd by way of that, we are turning our attention to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and our next guest who is Larry Nordvig. He is the executive director of the Richmond Tea Party. He joins us in studio. Larry Nordvig, thank you for joining us.
MR. LARRY NORDVIGHi, Kojo. Good to see you in person.
NNAMDISome of you may remember that Larry Nordvig joined us by telephone when we were discussing the IRS and the problems that conservative organizations, especially organizations that seem to be affiliated with the Tea Party, were having with the IRS. But then, you joined us by phone. You now join us in studio. You may begin by giving our listeners because people in Washington, D.C., and in the state of Maryland may not be as familiar with the Tea Party as people in the Commonwealth of Virginia. So can you explain a little bit how the Tea Party of Richmond is organized?
NORDVIGOK. The Richmond Tea Party began -- basically, our birth year, if you will, was '09. It was truly a grassroots movement. There were a lot of people who were upset with -- pretty much the financial situation of the country was its genesis. We are the TEA, Tea Party, Taxed Enough Already. What you have is a collection of people from various political backgrounds. We are nonpartisan, we have libertarians, we have Constitution party members, we have, obviously, Republicans. And actually, a local Tea Party unit on the other side of town has supported Democrat before for election.
NNAMDIPeople are still getting their heads around what happened at the Virginia Republican Convention a couple of weeks ago where one E.W. Jackson surprised a lot of people and made headlines by winning the nomination for lieutenant governor. How did the results of that convention square with your expectations and those of your colleagues in the Richmond Tea Party?
NORDVIGWell, that's a big question. It was a surprise, frankly. I don't think the Richmond Tea Party in particular had E.W. Jackson as our number one choice. I will say, however, he is a strong favorite among Tea Party people. You know, E.W. Jackson -- what really took me by surprise personally at the convention when I was there was the fact that coming in the door were all these E.W. Jackson red baseball caps and busloads of people with, you know, his name on the side coming on. He obviously did a great job of whipping up true grassroots support.
SHERWOODHe gave a stem-winder. I think it's a phrase, a southern phrase. He gave a stem-winder which people really loved. But Ken Cuccinelli -- other than the fly -- the traditional fly around immediately after the convention, there's been kind of a quiet period. I don't know if the candidates are getting ready for the fall campaign or what, but there's been very little news.
SHERWOODAnd Ken Cuccinelli has made it clear. He says, I'm running my own race. He says, I'm focusing on jobs and the economy. These social issues about which Mr. Jackson is well-known are not going to be the defining moment of my campaign. I'm running to be the governor for economic reasons. Do you think Mr. Jackson -- he calls himself bishop. I think he's a bishop in his own church.
NORDVIGBishop E.W. Jackson.
SHERWOODOK. I want to be respectful to him.
NNAMDIHe is a bishop, yes.
SHERWOODDo you believe that he can organize his campaign so that he can be in sync with the gubernatorial candidate? Or do you think it will be into this kind of rough edge where Cuccinelli will distance himself from Mr. Jackson because he's focusing on social issues? You know, the media love to ask about the social issues because it's the hot-button issue.
NORDVIGRight. I think that's a great question. And we're going to see that unfold between now and November, frankly.
NORDVIGI do think there's going to be friction, to be honest with you. And, you know, one thing you need to know about me is I am not a straight-ticket Republican kind of guy. I did not vote Republican in the last election. So I think I have a certain objectivity here. That being said, you know, there's two ways to approach politics basically.
NORDVIGWhen you're campaigning, you can go after the middle third first and then try to prop up your base, or you can ensure that you got your base firmly behind you and then go after the middle. And I think they're doing -- each one is doing the opposite thing. I think candidate Cuccinelli -- or I should said Atty. Gen. Cuccinelli I guess -- he is definitely going toward the middle third right now by talking about...
SHERWOODHe's doing what Bob McDonnell did.
NORDVIGExactly, a proven formula for success. And, you know, to be honest, the Tea Party, we focus on fiscal responsibility. It's one of our key things. So we're very interested in the job, in the market and the economy whereas Bishop Jackson seems to be using his somewhat bully pulpit to advance other causes. He is a very strong Christian. I've spoken with him personally about his faith, and these are things that I think mean a lot of to him. And he wants to get these things out, which is obviously going to strengthen the base but may be troubling when you're going for the middle.
NNAMDILarry Nordvig is the executive director of the Richmond Tea Party. He joins us in studio. If you'd like to join the conversation, if you have questions or comments for him, call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow.
SHERWOODLet's round out to Republican ticket. Mark Obenshain, son of, who is it, Richard -- it's -- I always say his name wrong -- who died in plane crash in the '70s, would have been the leader of the Republican Party for whoever knows how long. He's a conservative. What is the view of the Tea Party of him? He seems to kind of fit what your philosophies would be, but you tell me that.
NORDVIGYeah. I think you're right. But I also think Rob Bell, who was the other competitor for the AG slot, he would have done nicely, too, frankly, as far as the Tea Party is concerned. I'm speaking representing the Tea Party. You know, we stand for three things. We stand for constitutionally limited government. We stand for fiscal responsibility. And we stand for virtue and accountability in our representatives and fellow citizens, frankly.
NORDVIGSo those three things, I think Rob Bell did a good job of carrying that message around and almost did it, frankly. And Mark Obenshain, very similar. I think he hit the issues that meant -- that resonated with the Tea Party. I think he hit those issues just a little bit harder in public, and that carried him over the top.
NNAMDIIt seems like the only candidate in the race at that convention for lieutenant governor who, in the end, never really stood a chance with convention voters was Jeannemarie Devolites Davis. She was eliminated in the first ballot. Why, in your view, was she so unpalatable to party activists and convention goers in this race?
NORDVIGI think Davis was perceived as being anti-Second Amendment, and that hurt her big time with people who are very conservative. Not all Tea Party people are that conservative on the Second Amendment issue. In fact, that really isn't one of our planks that we concern ourselves with. There are other people that deal with that.
NORDVIGBut I think that's the answer to your question, is -- Second Amendment was definitely something that was a huge hurdle for her that have to get over. And then there were other governing issues in her past, being state senator in that maybe her governing record was not what the Tea Party would look for. I never thought she'd get past the first ballot, frankly.
SHERWOODDid you -- did the Tea Party of Richmond, did you support Gov. McDonnell's compromise transportation plan? Was that economically viable? You're grimacing.
NORDVIGYes, I am. I'm glad you got a TV camera in here.
SHERWOODI think I know the answer to that.
NORDVIGYou know, frankly, the Tea Party is very, very down on that transportation bill. In fact, I don't even call it that anymore. I call it a tax bill. We're talking about something where over half of it doesn't even go for transportation. This is a classic case. If you stick education or transportation on a bill, you know, who can argue with that? It's for the children, or it's for better roads. Well, you know, this is a pig with -- they're trying to put lipstick on, and -- but it's still a pig.
NORDVIGThe transportation end of that bill has no lockbox on it. There's no guarantee a penny of this is going to be spent for transportation. So the Tea Party hates it, to be honest with you. You know, there's three kinds of politicians to us. There's red coats, turncoats and patriots. And I'm afraid Gov. McDonnell's dangerously close to being perceived as a turncoat by the Tea Party.
SHERWOODWell, on that subject, you say that you are the third -- you said, fiscal government, a constitutional government, in virtuous political leaders...
SHERWOOD...and citizens. What does virtue mean in terms of that at the risk of opening up to E.W. Jackson conversation again?
NORDVIGRight. Well, you know, John Adams said that "our Constitution was only made for a moral and religious people," and it is completely wrong for any other. And that's a paraphrase there toward the end. But, you know, so I'm not exactly thumping the Bible here. But in this country, the Judeo-Christian ethic was definitely part of our culture.
NORDVIGAnd it added a certain morality, a level playing field, what's right, what's wrong, what's fair, what's not. I think America's lost that. And I think we're starting to see the fruit of that. So, you know, in relation to politics, when the Tea Party -- we have a lot of people who still believe in, I guess, what you consider biblical values. When they see a politician really not playing by those rules, it upsets all our folks.
SHERWOODCan you be virtuous without being, say, a Christian?
NORDVIGYes. And I think the Founding Fathers were clear on that. As a matter of fact, Thomas Jefferson, I believe, put his hand on a Quran when he was sworn in as president just to show, you know, freedom of religion is one of the things we hold dear in the First Amendment, and we fully support that. But I guess my point is we have almost no moral compass anymore. And that does affect people's opinion.
NNAMDIBut often, if the moral compass tends to be guided by religion, it can sometimes come into conflict with secular government. When you talk about the philosophical differences that some Tea Party members might have with the Republican Party, some people would describe themselves as libertarian in the Tea Party. Is that how you would describe yourself?
NORDVIGYep. Well, I would say, you know, myself, personally, I am a Christian. There are certain things that I believe that would affect who I would vote for perhaps. So it directly impacts secular politics, if you will. I don't -- I do not think that a theocratic state or anything is what the Founding Fathers had in mind. So that's not the direction I'm going in. There are libertarians in the Richmond Tea Party specifically.
NNAMDIWell, how would a libertarian and you resolve the issue of abortion in Virginia? Because Republicans have proposed and implemented restrictive policies that many say are designed to curtail access. Is that position consistent with a small government philosophy, with a philosophy that says, we don't like the government intruding in people's business?
NORDVIGYeah, I see what you mean. You know, a libertarian would say, if someone chooses to have an abortion that they should be free to do so. Somebody like me would say, well, I tend to agree with the position that the government shouldn't put their nose in where it doesn't belong, but the declaration specifically says that we are entitled to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I myself think that that which is in the woman's womb is a baby. And so you would be depriving that citizen of life. So really, it can -- you can cross over between your religious beliefs and the "secular government."
NNAMDIAnd that's where you would differ, say, with the Cato Institute.
NORDVIGRight. Well, I would, you know, here's what it is, too, is the Richmond Tea Party and most Tea Parties, we do not officially endorse candidates. And in fact, by our 501 (c)(4) that we're in the spotlight for for the IRS scandal, I definitely would not, at this point, endorse a candidate. I would never do anything to jeopardize that. But, that being said, we give information about the candidates to our people, and we let them make their own choice.
SHERWOODIf I may go back to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, where does that fit in the same-sex marriage debate? We're waiting for the Supreme Court to have a ruling in June on this. But advocates of same-sex marriage say, my right would not diminish your rights, but -- whereas the Tea Party is you understand it with the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for same-sex couples who want to marry.
NORDVIGWell, you know, now...
SHERWOODShould the government just get out of that business?
NORDVIGYou know, a libertarian would answer, yes, the government should get out of that business. Somebody may be more conservative would say, no, this depends on what the definition of marriage is. In other words, is there such a thing as homosexual marriage? If there's not, then, you know, the government is already involved with marriage. It already gives licenses. It gives certain privileges in the tax code, et cetera, et cetera. So I think it's naive...
SHERWOODWhich is the basis of one of the Supreme Court cases...
NORDVIGMm hmm. Right. It's a little naive to say that the government is not involved. But, you know, so we have to agree to consensus as to what is the definition of marriage. That's very important. And then based on that, you know, equal rights under the law comes into play.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Ryan in Bethesda, Md. Ryan, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
RYANHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. And my question for your guest is -- especially to some of his comments he's made about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, these strikes me as always being so patriotic. And if they're worried about the economy, I'm just wondering, you know, I live right outside of D.C.
RYANAnd overwhelmingly on 270, 495, every car that I see that has that yellow sticker that says, don't thread on me, they -- I'd say 80 to 90 percent of them are foreign cars. And I wonder, why is it that they have a problem contributing to the economy in this country if they have a problem with the economy in this country?
NNAMDITea Party supports economic nationalism?
NORDVIGWe, you know, one of the planks that -- we have actually five principles. I boiled them down to three. But one of them is free markets. And there is a little bit of libertarianism coming in here. You know, frankly, we like as much hands off from the marketplace as possible. And if that means the Japanese are building a better car, you know, and consumers are buying it, then maybe America better get busy building a better car than the Japanese.
SHERWOODKind of what Ford has done.
NORDVIGAnd don't forget we're selling American cars overseas, too.
SHERWOODIs this a chance for you to say something about Terry McAuliffe's cars?
NORDVIGIt's a chance but...
SHERWOODNo, but many -- most -- maybe -- is this right, I think most vehicles are an amalgam of many different parts made in different places are brought together and manufactured.
NORDVIGRight. Right. I passed...
SHERWOODWhere in the world -- I mean, look, Smithfield Foods, what do you think about that? A Chinese company wanting to buy Smithfield Food, I think that's one of the biggest stories in our region.
NORDVIGOh, my goodness, I think so, too. And, you know, all I can say to that is ouch. I love Smithfield Ham, you know, in Virginia.
SHERWOODThat's right. You got to eat it.
NORDVIGWe actually visit Smithfield, and we eat it fresh down there. There is nothing better. And, you know, I don't know. I had a daydream about eating Smithfield ham and biscuit with chopsticks.
NNAMDIHow did we get down this track?
NORDVIGI don't know.
SHERWOODBecause we're talking about economic liberty.
NNAMDIHe is talking about daydreams about eating Smithfield ham.
SHERWOODWell, have you ever had it?
NORDVIGRescue us, Kojo.
SHERWOODIt's very good.
NNAMDIBrian, thank you very much for your call. We got a tweet from Jason asking whether the Tea Party protested or whether you protested government spending during the Bush presidency or only Democrats were doing that.
NNAMDIWell, I know that the bailouts were part of the reason -- the Bush bailouts were part of the reason the Tea Party came into existence within that.
NORDVIGRight. We don't care whether somebody is wearing an elephant or a Democrat donkey on their lapel. To be honest, Republicans and the Tea Party -- let's back up -- establishment Republicans, which, I guess, the key phrase there would be rhinos -- and Tea Party do not get along. And right now, there is a battle within the Republican Party from Tea Party supporters versus those who like the old ways.
NORDVIGSo, you know, to put the Tea Party as a, oh, they're just an arm of the Republican Party would be completely false, very opposite. I think the Tea Party is extremely frustrated with the way the Republicans have handled things. You know, that being said, there's lot of things that Democrats do that we also think are wrong. And I'm thinking mostly fiscally here when I say that. So, you know, whether it's President Bush, President Obama, it does not matter. If they're going to be irresponsible in their fiscal spending, we're against that.
SHERWOODAre you growing in terms of members? Michele -- 'cause I know that Michele Bachmann just announced she is not going to run for another term. And she is going to do something else. But how is the Tea Party doing in Virginia 'cause you got this huge vote mass in Northern Virginia? Tom Davis clearly says the Democrats have almost 250,000 vote margin in Northern Virginia on issues.
NNAMDIAnd he also says politics is a game of addition, not subtraction.
NORDVIGHmm. Pretty much.
SHERWOODSo -- but you got to grow enough to offset that kind of -- but you...
SHERWOOD...but keeping an economic battle going is one way rather than social issues, right?
NORDVIGRight. I think, you know, like I said, we tend to stay away from the social issues where other people do that, you know? If you want to go to Family Foundation or something, you can do that. And when you come to the Richmond Tea Party and -- well, let me directly answer your question. We are growing in two ways.
NORDVIGOne way is Richmond Tea Party in Virginia, in particular, is adding members. In fact, I just got an email last night from our membership coordinator. And she said we are getting four people in one day yesterday. And she said we're getting volunteers at an unprecedented rate.
SHERWOODAnd Richmond is a metropolitan area, not just the city of Richmond, 100,000 people, right?
NORDVIGCorrect. Yeah. We're talking...
SHERWOODChesterfield County, Henrico, all those places.
NORDVIG1.2 million people, and then, you know, nationally, we are trying to -- oh, I guess the word would be unity -- we're trying for unity with other Tea Party groups from coast to coast. And...
SHERWOODWhen's your next convention? Are you going to have a gathering?
NORDVIGWell, I don't want to give away too much of a playbook here. The IRS scandal has done a lot to galvanize the Tea Party, and we got some plans. And, you know, we dropped a lawsuit, et cetera, so...
NNAMDII got one more issue I'd like you to do address, the voluntary national education standard known as Common Core. Virginia is one of the four states that has not adopted. Many Republicans and people on the left resist the idea of education standards being set at the federal level. Where do you stand on the Common Core?
NORDVIGI am very much against Common Core. I think it's very dangerous. If you are a Democrat, picture your worst nightmare, a Republican president handing down what he wants taught to your children. If you're a Republican, picture your worst nightmare, a Democrat president handing down what's going to be taught to your children.
NNAMDISo you don't think Republicans and Democrats can agree on reading and math?
NORDVIGI think they can agree on reading and math. But I think the Common Core is bringing in other things, philosophy, if you will, and that's why it's so dangerous. And I also think, you know, if you get back to the Constitution, we, the people, have only delegated 18 enumerated powers to the federal government. Education is not one of them. The Department of Education is relatively new in our nation's history. We got along great without it. And I think, frankly, they ought to turn the lights on and give it back to the states and local.
SHERWOODAnd we have -- we want the Congress to do a little more math rather than talking about math.
NORDVIGThere you go.
NNAMDIYou're now speaking on behalf of the Richmond Tea Party?
SHERWOODI'm speaking on behalf of Americans who wanted a well-run Congress, which will be the first in our history.
NNAMDILarry Nordvig is the executive director of the Richmond Tea Party. He is dreaming about Smithfield hams. Tom Sherwood...
SHERWOODSo am I.
NNAMDI...is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspaper, who his also dreaming about Smithfield hams, but they won't be admitting him to the Richmond Tea Party anytime soon. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Thank you all for listening.
Most Recent Shows
A year after a massive cyber-breach compromised the databases of the Office of Personnel Management, Kojo talks with OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert about her agency and key issues facing the federal workforce.
Where does Washington restaurant food really come from? Kojo explores how the phrase "farm to table" is used and discusses whether it should be retired altogether.
In light of two separate proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 in the District, Kojo explores what the wage increase would mean for tipped workers – particularly those in the restaurant industry.