Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker joins the broadcast to explore the challenges in his jurisdiction - and those throughout the D.C. region.
Virginia candidates sprint to the finish with an election looming next week. A long-anticipated debate about redrawing school boundaries begins in the District. And “beach week” photos throw Maryland’s gubernatorial race into the national spotlight. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- E.W. Jackson Republican Candidate, Lieutenant Governor, Virginia
- Vincent Gray Mayor, District of Columbia (D)
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
Mayor Vincent Gray Proclaims ‘Kojo Nnamdi Day’
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray issued a proclamation declaring Nov. 1, 2013, as Kojo Nnamdi Day in the District of Columbia. The announcement celebrates Kojo’s 15 years broadcasting on WAMU 88.5.
Gray hailed Kojo, “on behalf of 632,000 people in the District of Columbia, many, many of whom — and I mean this quite seriously — admire you greatly and appreciate what you do and have done for so many years.”
The proclamation states: “Kojo Nnamdi has been a fixture on radio and television in the District of Columbia for four decades and has set a standard for conversations about important political and economic issues in this city.”
Kojo has been a major influence on the D.C. community, with insightful and provocative dialogue. For 15 years, he has been bringing the world to Washington through his own unique perspective on The Kojo Nnamdi Show and The Politics Hour.
Weekly News Quiz
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 NBC4 Reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. He joins us in studio wearing blue jeans. Why?
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, I hate to say this, but I'm on vacation, again.
NNAMDIYou're on vacation, again?
SHERWOODYes. I've had another stay-cation in Washington. I went to Hirshhorn.
NNAMDII demand to see this man's contract. (laugh) That's what I want to know.
SHERWOODThe Hirshhorn has a great destruction exhibit on the second floor. And I went to the yoga exhibit at the Sackler.
NNAMDII don’t just demand to see this man's contract. I want this man's contract. (laugh) I want his contract, but congratulations. You've been doing this for a long time and so you deserve whatever vacations you have. It's my understanding that one Bruce DePuyt, of News Channel 8, has been doing what he's been doing for quite a while, too. Twenty years it seems.
SHERWOODYou know, 20 years. I think this is the day he said -- I think in his Facebook, Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8, 20 years. He says 20 years ago today, I think it was, he walked into News Channel 8 and he's been a mainstay for that station. You know, he used to be, when he covered Maryland politics, the best reporter in Maryland, no matter who it was, the Baltimore Sun, the Post, and just congratulations to Bruce. He's a very good interviewer and a hard-working guy.
NNAMDISo Bruce is like Hamil Harris. He's a walk-on. You know Hamil Harris of The Washington Post. He's a walk-on at Florida State University and managed to make that football team, which he's been celebrating way too much recently, Hamil. (laugh)
SHERWOODYes, I know.
NNAMDIBut Bruce is a walk-on.
SHERWOODYes. And it's nice that you mentioned Hamil, who's another unsung reporter in town who knows a lot of things.
NNAMDIWithout a shadow of a doubt. But, of course, this is "The Politics Hour," so you're expecting us to discuss politics. Later in the broadcast we'll be joined by Mayor Vincent Gray of the District of Columbia. And before that we expect to be joined by E.W. Jackson. He is the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. As you know, that election is on Tuesday of next week, and we'll be talking about that in a second. But, Tom, I wanted to talk about D.C. first.
NNAMDIThe Washington Monument is losing its pretty lights this weekend, which means that you have to get your electricity turned back on again, because I know that's what you've been using to light your home (laugh) for the past several…
SHERWOODWell, it does light up the near Southwest, you know, Mark -- they're having a little technical difficulty here.
NNAMDIOh, I thought that was just the whistling sound coming out of my -- whatever.
SHERWOODI don't know what that was, but we'll let that go from -- well, Mark Segraves from Channel 4 was up. And he actually -- he and his camera person went up to the top of the monument.
SHERWOODAnd showed some really cool pictures up there. And the main thing you do is you don't look down when you're that high up. But, you know, it's been really cool, sitting up on the roof you can -- other people drive by at night. It's been a really delightful scaffolding while they repair, but it's going to take three months to take the scaffolding down.
NNAMDIBut a lot of people love it the way it is (laugh) and would like to see it remain that way. This is the second time in our experience this has happened.
SHERWOODYes. A decade ago Michael Graves, the designer I think, did the first one. But, you know, it needs to be taken down. The new stones are in place. It's going to be several more months before they get all the repairs done, but Carol Johnson from the Park Service was telling people that next spring they hope to have people back inside to go up to the top.
NNAMDIAnd last week on this broadcast we were able to have a conversation with the lieutenant governor candidate for the Democratic primary in Maryland, Delegate Jolene Ivey. And she expressed a desire to get past the incident of her running mate, gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler being at the party in Delaware where there was apparently alcohol.
NNAMDIThey were hoping to move onto the issues. Well, what was a photograph last week became a video this week showing what was more of what was going on at the party, which suggested even more that it was an alcohol-fueled party. But Doug Gansler said it merely validates what I said. I stopped in there for a minute to talk to my son and I left. This should go away.
SHERWOODYes. I saw the video, even though I've been on vacation. I saw it. (laugh) And it just shows Doug Gansler looking -- okay. He's walking in a walkway from the front door. Just a few seconds of him and then there's the rest of teenagers dancing and partying. I mean it's not shocking to me that there are guys with their shirts off at a beach party. And it looks like a teenage party. And, yes, there apparently was alcohol there, but it didn't make anything worse about Doug Gansler. He said he was sorry he didn't do more as a parent. And he's moved on from that. But this will linger on and then if this race gets close with Mr. Brown…
NNAMDIThat's what you said last week when I was trying to say that…
SHERWOODIt's going to be back.
NNAMDI…it's going to go away. You said it may go away, but if the race gets close it's probably going to come back in one form or another, either campaign literature or something.
SHERWOODIf there are negative ads, there'll be a picture of Doug Gansler on his cell phone. He says reading a message, other people -- looks like he's taking a picture, but it doesn't matter. I think both Doug Gansler and Jolene Ivey are very strong politicians. They're just starting out on this campaign. I think the race will get much more serious. They just have, I think, mishandled the answers to this at the start.
NNAMDIWell, on to the Commonwealth of Virginia where we'll be heading because we're expecting E.W. Jackson, the lieutenant governor candidate Republican to join us shortly. But the Virginia Supreme Court has overturned a jury verdict in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by parents of two students who were killed in the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre. The Washington Post reporting a unanimous decision on Thursday saying that there was no duty for the Commonwealth to warn students about the potential for criminal acts by student gunman Seung Hui Cho after he shot two students in a dormitory.
NNAMDIThe circuit court ruled last year that the state was negligent in the deaths of Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson. Now, the jury panel had awarded them over four million, that was greatly reduced to $100,000 per family, but the Supreme Court said, look, you can't hold the state responsible for this, which means that a lot of other people who were probably contemplating lawsuits may not be filing them.
SHERWOODWell, most of the family members and parents who went to a settlement with the school and agreed not to sue, these two parents -- the parents of these two unfortunate victims, did in fact sue. And they, as you said, they got a $4 million verdict, which the judge reduced to 100,000. And now the Supreme Court has ruled that in a third-party crime, that the Virginia State and the State of Virginia did not do the crime. It was a third-party crime. And I read the Supreme Court ruling and it says that based on the limited information available, there was no duty for the Virginia State, the college, to know anything about this.
SHERWOODAnd, in fact, it noted that the police department initially thought it was another suspect, a boyfriend of one of the victims. And there was a search for him. He turned out not to be involved at all. So it was a tough ruling for the parents of the children, but most of the lawyers I've talked to think it's the right ruling.
NNAMDIAnd maybe lays the matter to rest, at least for the time being. Onto the…
SHERWOODBut, you know, a lot of people don't know this. The school was fined $27,500 by the state -- by the federal education department, Arne Duncan fined because it didn't take action to protect the students. But the school has not paid that fine either and is thinking about challenging that.
NNAMDIOnto the upcoming election this Tuesday. The Virginia gubernatorial race and other races in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It seems that the only close race that we might be looking at -- the only really close race we might be looking at might be in the race for attorney general, where Democrat Ralph Northern -- I'm sorry. Where the two Marks (laugh) Mark Herring, who is the Democrat and Mark Obenshain, who's the Republican. Both of them state senators. The latest poll apparently shows a slight (unintelligible) but that's within the margin of error for Republican Senator Mark Obenshain.
SHERWOODIf you look at all the polling, this is the only statewide race that appears to be close. But there was one poll that showed Ken Cuccinelli, gubernatorial candidate for the Republicans…
SHERWOOD…closer to McAuliffe than all the other polling, but the trend line has been bad for Ken Cuccinelli. But in the attorney general's race, Mark Obenshain has a record in the state. He has a family history in the state with his father. So he has not been so far identified with the more extreme Tea Party aspects of the state, even though there are some votes he's made in the legislature. So that race has been much more gentile, much more Virginia-like, much more Commonwealth of Virginia-like than the other two races.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. If you would like to offer your opinion on what's likely to happen in any of these Virginia races, give us a call. How have the television commercials influenced you? The preponderance of them seem to be coming from the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, but in the last few days I've been seeing more TV ads by the Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli. Or if you want to comment on any of the other races, 800-433-8850. You mentioned earlier that the polls apparently show maybe a 7 percentage point different between Democrat McAuliffe and Republican Cuccinelli that seems to have been closing in recent days.
NNAMDICuccinelli seemed to have been concentrating more of his time on money, on rallying his base in the Commonwealth of Virginia, just taking to the airwaves again -- certainly in this region -- over the past few days to, I guess, try to pick up some support in northern Virginia, but I don't think he expects that’s where the majority of his support will be coming from.
SHERWOODNo. I think he's done what you would do. He wants to make sure the base comes out. In a non-presidential election year the drop-off in people who vote is significant. It's expecting that the turnout will be somewhere in the 40 to 50 percent, maybe just under 50 percent. So he wants to make sure that the advocates, the people who have backed him so strongly and emotionally get out to vote and anybody he can drag along with them.
SHERWOODThe same is true on the McAuliffe side. I mean, they're very -- you know, for months now they've been more than cautiously optimistic. And Bill Clinton came in and Hillary Clinton came in and this weekend President Obama's going to make an appearance.
SHERWOODAnd I have to say, Tom Davis, the former Republican congressman from northern Virginia, who's pretty good at analysis on these things, has said it's all this stuff about the government shutdown really hurt the Republicans, but the Obamacare travails makes it seem less likely that Obama will have that big of an influence when he does his one stop for McAuliffe this weekend.
NNAMDIThe travails having to do with the unfolding of the Affordable Care Act, seeming to give some traction to Republicans, not only in the commonwealth, but maybe around the country. You cannot discuss this gubernatorial race without mentioning Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis, who is polling as high as 10 percent, which I guess is significant for a third-party candidate in this race. On the one hand it shows a certain level of disillusionment, if you will, with the major party candidates. On the other hand, it may indicate that Mr. Sarvis himself has been running a pretty good campaign.
SHERWOODWell, he has run a pretty good campaign for someone who's been underfunded and left out of the debates and been an afterthought mostly in the political campaign of most people. But the question always is when you have an independent like this, who polls 10 percent of the vote is whether those…
NNAMDIWho's he pulling it from?
SHERWOODWell, yes. If I'm a person who's been for Sarvis because I don’t like the other two candidates, but then I go to the polls and I think, well, you know, I want my vote to count. I ought to decide between the two major candidates. You could see slippage from him, although there's no indication of that yet. And the person will decided, well, I think I'm going to vote for Cuccinelli or McAuliffe because I don't want to waste my vote on Sarvis. On the other hand, he's been a consistent 8 to 10 percent in that range now for several months. So we'll see what happens on Tuesday.
NNAMDIIt's really important what happens on Tuesday because if you go back to the late 1980s or early 1990s when the first black governor of Virginia was running for office, Douglas Wilder, he was much farther ahead in the polls…
SHERWOODAt some point 15, 18 percent ahead.
NNAMDI…in the polls, and the race, when they were finished counting the votes, turned out to be a lot closer than it was initially. So…
SHERWOODYeah, what was it? A half a percent? I mean, he barely won.
SHERWOODAnd that's the question here. There's tremendous negative dislike for -- you can't say negative dislike. There's tremendous dislike for both major party candidates. That means some people might just stay home. I'm not going to go vote. If someone, I've forgotten which analyst said it on TOP Radio, tell me what the weather is and I'll tell you what the turnout's going to be. (laugh) If it's bad weather, a lot of people just won't bother.
NNAMDIThat's true. In the race of the candidate who will be talking with us shortly, E.W. Jackson, it would appear that in the polls so far, he is the one who's going to have the most to make up because Democrat Ralph Northam, according to this latest poll has increased his lead of E.W. Jackson. He's leading 51 percent to 35 percent. E.W. Jackson's going to have to do a lot of work to bring out a base that can close that kind of gap.
SHERWOODYeah, I’m looking forward to talking to him. I have a couple of questions about what the expectations are. You know, he came in essentially as an outsider to the Republican Party. He went big and emotional appearance at the state convention, but the overall party apparatus in the state has not been that warm to him, at least not publicly. And I want to ask him about that, as he goes into election day. You know, there is a tremendous female voter gap in the governor's race.
SHERWOODIt's like 15 or 16 percent tilted towards the McAuliffe women who'll be voting. I don't know what it is in the lieutenant governor's race, but it's probably similar. And so I'm just very anxious to see what he has to say about how he's been treated, both around the state by the media and by his own Republican Party.
NNAMDIHave you been following any of the races in Virginia? Do you have any comments or opinions you'd like to share with us? 800-433-8850's the number to call. You can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The elections are this Tuesday. I should tell you that from 7:00 to 9:00 on Tuesday night, both Tom Sherwood and I will be here looking at results and analyzing those results between 7:00 and 9:00. So that's something we will hopefully want to tune in for. This is "The Politics Hour."
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. And joining us now by phone is E.W. Jackson. He is the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia in that election that is coming up next week. E.W. Jackson, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. E.W. JACKSONThank you for having me.
NNAMDIThis is a critical job in Virginia right now, the Virginia Senate is split 20/20 between Republicans and Democrats. The next lieutenant governor could be called on to cast a tie-breaking vote on any number of important issues. Voters still have a few days to make up their minds before Tuesday and you've been saying this week that what people have heard in mainstream media from your opponent about things you have said in the past about social issues or religious minorities, that these things are not true. So in the spirit of fairness, if you don't think this campaign is about things you may or may not have said in the past, what do you think it should be about?
JACKSONOh, I think it ought to be about jobs. I think every Virginian who wants to work should be able to find gainful employment and to support themselves and their family. I come from a dad who had a sixth-grade education, worked as a welder for 33 years in a shipyard, took care of me as a single parent because he had a job.
JACKSONI want that for every Virginian. I think it ought to be about education because I'm a product of a decent education. I grew up in a foster home. I was, frankly, living a pretty rough life on the streets of Chester, Pa., but because my dad encouraged me to study, to get an education and a quality education was available to me, I ended up graduating from Harvard Law school.
JACKSONI want every young kid, black, white, Hispanic, whatever their background, to have a quality education. And then thirdly, I want to make sure that these young kids all across the commonwealth, who are dying on our streets every week as a result of violence, understand that they have an alternative, that there's a better way to live. I want to provide some leadership and an example to them, someone who has sort of been a part of that kind of life, that they don't have to live that way, that there's something better that awaits them. So those are just some of the things I think we ought to be talking about.
NNAMDIAnd I don't think anybody would disagree with anything you've just said, especially in the area of education. The first issue listed on your website is promoting parental choice in education. There are a lot of people who live in northern Virginia, Fairfax County, who feel that Virginia's public schools are a crown jewel, one of the biggest reasons they decided to live here. What assurances can you offer them that whatever you do to promote choice or offer resources to home schooling families will not come at the expense of traditional public schools?
JACKSONWell, look, first of all, see, I think that the issue should never be what happens to public schools. Although I am a product of public schools, my wife teaches in the public schools, we respect the public schools and understand their importance. But I think the key, the focus, the priority has got to be the children. And the system must be malleable to meet their needs, not have them sort of responsible as place holders so that we keep the system where we think it ought to be. So I think we've got our priorities reversed there.
JACKSONBut, look, where parental choice in education has been tried, the doomsday scenarios about public schools have not come to pass. And you have to remember this, too, the schools that are going to be impacted most by parental choice are the schools in which parents do not believe their children are getting a quality education.
JACKSONShould those parents just be stuck in Petersburg, in Norfolk, in Port Smith, in other places around the commonwealth simply because, well, we have fine public schools in one place. I think those fine public schools can go on and continue to operate as fine public schools, but we've got to give parents who are trapped in schools that aren't giving their children an education the same options that middle and upper income people have.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number. Our guest is E.W. Jackson, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. Here is Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODReverend, thank you very much for being on the show today. I know you've got a hectic schedule between now and Tuesday. Education is a county, city, local issue, most often the case. What could you do or would you want to do as lieutenant governor to make a difference in education in the state?
JACKSONWell, I'll tell you one thing that I'll say quickly is we've got to, again, reemphasize its importance. When I grew up -- my wife and I grew up in public schools. And we remember our parents telling us all the time, you've got to get an education. Education is the key to your future. And, you know, if you wanted a war with my dad, for example, you stopped studying, stopped going to school, you were going to have some serious trouble.
JACKSONMy wife was raised the same way. I want to reemphasize that. Second thing is that we've got to stop teaching the SOLs. I think we've got to start teaching children the basics. Test them, yes, to measure their progress, but not end up -- which is what has been suggested to me by many teachers -- teaching toward the tests.
SHERWOODExcuse me, sir. But as lieutenant governor, where you preside over the Senate, which is split 15/15, what would you do? Do you have a proposal for legislation you'd want to see introduced? I think everybody says children first, that the children ought to be considered first, but what concrete thing would you like to do to change the education policy in Virginia?
JACKSONWell, the biggest thing I thought was implied at what I said before, but the biggest thing is I propose a Constitutional amendment to give parents choice over where their children are educated. That's bit and sweeping. The second thing is, yeah, I think we do need some legislation that alters the way we deal with the SOLs.
JACKSONExactly what that legislation would look like is not entirely clear because you would have to bring teachers in because I'm big on believing that politicians all too often act like they have the answers when the answers come best from the people who are dealing with those situations. So you'd have to pull teachers together and ask them, what is going to enable them to do their job in a better way.
SHERWOODMany parents are not even capable of making those kinds of informed choices. You have a professional educational establishment in the State of Virginia which tends to know what students need. Are you saying the parents can overrule the educators?
JACKSONI think parents have the final authority in their children's lives, absolutely. And let me tell you something, the Achievable Dream School in Newport News only accepts children who come from parents whose income is below the poverty line, and they get complete buy-in and participation by those parents because those parents are concerned about their children's education. Sure, there might be some who would not because of any number of social reasons and maybe there's drug addiction -- who knows what the problem is. But I think overwhelmingly when you empower parents to make those choices they rise to the occasion.
NNAMDISome people have a hard time believing you when you say that you're not running to be a bishop of Virginia or a minister of Virginia, that you're running to be governor of Virginia. What would you say to those who have concerns about your ability to separate what you might say in your ministry to what you plan to do as lieutenant governor? Or put another way, how do your religious beliefs affect your approach to public policy?
JACKSONWell, I would put the issue back on those who say that and say it's fundamentally un-American because we don't have religious tests in our country. And we don’t disqualify people because of what they believe on a Sunday morning or a Friday evening. If we did than John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, who was the adjutant to George Washington, later went on to serve in Congress, would never have done that because he was a minister first. Nor would his brother, who was a minister, have become the first speaker of the House.
JACKSONWe have a long history in our country of being able to separate our Constitutional duties from our duties in the private religious sphere. I practiced law for 15 years. I never once walked into a courtroom to defend a client, opened up my Bible and preached a sermon. So I think it's almost insulting, frankly, to a Harvard Law school graduate who understand the Constitution to suggest I don't know how to separate the two.
SHERWOODWell, abortion is often cast as a religious issue and that it's against God's will to have an abortion, no matter what the circumstances. How does that factor in?
JACKSONWell, look, I don't even think you need to go there. I think science is really making the case for us. We know now that children, at about 20 weeks, are feeling pain. We know they're capable of living outside of their mother's womb and detached from the umbilical cord shortly thereafter or around that time. So, look, it is clear to us that there is a moral question with the regard to lives of unborn children no matter which way you come at that because every one of us started there. And I believe what we've got to do is continue to persuade people. And I think science, as much as religion, is helping us do that.
NNAMDIWell, what would you say to the person who feels it's hypocritical to advocate for the absence of government interference in health care on one end of the platform and to advocate on the other end for government interference in what a woman does with her body? For instance, the first proposed transvaginal ultrasound that was revised to an abdominal ultrasound for any woman who seeks an abortion in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
JACKSONWell, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, foolish consistency is the hob goblin of little minds. Look, everybody, everybody believes that lines must be drawn. We just don't always agree on where they should be drawn. I don't believe that government should be completely done away with. I don't hate government. I just believe that we should be skeptical about it. The founding fathers said that the essential rights we have are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I do believe government has a responsibility to protect life and to protect liberty and to protect one's right to pursue happiness, which you can't do if you're not alive, obviously.
JACKSONSo I think that, you know, we just need to continue to have the discussion on this question. And I think as we do, more and more people -- and that's been shown over the last 30, 40 years, more and more people have come to accept the sacredness and the importance preserving life. And almost nobody in the culture would say if a baby in a mother's womb is eight months, 29 days, it's okay to stick a needle into the uterus and kill the baby or fill it with saline solution and kill it. Nobody would say that.
NNAMDIYou seem to argue that science seems to be on your side in this case. Do you accept the science of climate change or global warming?
JACKSONWell, I'll tell you what, I think that's an issue that continues to be debated. But here's what I can tell you I don't accept, I don't accept that the hysteria over climate change is a reason to be putting people out of coal jobs in southwest Virginia, is a reason to be dictating to people what they do on their private property on the theory that unless the government has complete control over this we're going to destroy the planet.
JACKSONI mean, I think this is more politics and more effort to control people than it is anything else. And that should be a profound concern to all of us because when government uses some policy that is hotly debated for the purpose of controlling people, their businesses, their property, their lives, I think we all ought to be skeptical of both the science and the motives behind it.
SHERWOODI want to ask you about -- I know your position on same-sex marriage. I think that's fairly clear. You're opposed to it. But I'd like to ask you more in terms of science recognizing gay and lesbian people as regular human beings. Do you support workplace discrimination rules to ban workplace discrimination against gay and lesbian people, transgender people? It's a national effort right now.
JACKSONWell, I would put it this way, I think that every human being, every Virginian has the right to work, has the right to live, has the right to be able to find housing, that the government must obviously provide housing, but ought to be able to find housing and find a place to live. These are fundamental things that every single human being in my view is entitled to. There should be no discrimination against people for those purposes. Here is what I have a problem with, I think that there has been an attempt to try to equate homosexuality with being black or being an American of African descent.
JACKSONAnd you cannot equate the two because one is an immutable outward characteristic, which allows discrimination upon the mere visual inspection of a person, seeing them. The other is a matter of behavior. And where behavior is involved, then people have to make judgments about how they feel about that behavior, what they think the nature of that behavior and its impact is on themselves and their families. And so it gets to be a lot more complicated than saying, well, I’m not renting an apartment to you because you're black. Well, what's that got to do with anything. It has…
SHERWOODBut what does being a gay person have to do with that?
JACKSONLook, it depends upon the circumstance, doesn't it? I mean, if you've got a two-family home and somebody wants to rent to you and you happen to be a Christian who believes -- or Muslim who believes that homosexuality is not right or good, then the question is should government force you to rent to that person or not.
JACKSONIf you own a bakery, as happened out in Seattle, and you bake cakes for people and some -- a couple comes in, says, look, we're a homosexual couple, we're getting married, we want you to bake a wedding cake for us. See, that's behavior. Now, do you force that bakery, as happened in Seattle, do you force them, you know, you've got to bake this cake for this gay couple. We don't care what you think.
JACKSONOr do you allow them the freedom to say, you know, look, I'll bake a birthday cake for you, I'll bake any other kind of cake, but my own convictions prevent me from doing what you've asked me to do. See, that's very different than a black person walking into the bakery and saying will you bake me a cake and the person says, no. I'm not going to bake you a cake because you're black.
SHERWOODOkay. That's a long -- let me ask you about your campaign. I've watched the campaign fairly closely over the last few months. When your surprise and strong victory at the convention, but it appears to me that Ken Cuccinelli, the candidate for governor, has distanced himself from you, as has the attorney general candidate.
SHERWOODI was talking to someone in Virginia the other day who said they felt like when the election comes on Tuesday -- and I know you hope to win and expect to win and would like to win, but that should you lose that you will be able to turn to the state party and say you did not get the support from the state party or from the national party Republicans that you were entitled to or should have had in order to win. If you by chance lose on Tuesday, will you find that the state party has not supported you?
JACKSONWell, first of all, I'm not going to lose on Tuesday. I’m going to win.
SHERWOODI knew you were going to say that. That's why I tried to preempt that at the beginning. (laugh)
JACKSONOkay. But look, first of all, with regard to my running mates, we all have our own campaigns, our own staff, our own strategy with elections. And that's just the way it works. And I don't know about the distancing from this one, from that one, some people I've heard argue that I should distance myself from Ken because of all the problems he's got, that his problems are worse than mine.
JACKSONSo, you know, I don't pay any attention to all of that stuff. Look, I am running a grassroots campaign. I won the nomination with grassroots people. They have stuck by me. The numbers of them have expanded. And I believe that they're the ones who are going to take me to victory. And when I've won they are going to be the ones to whom I owe gratitude.
NNAMDIE.W. Jackson is the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. The election is on Tuesday of next week. E.W. Jackson, thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.
JACKSONThank you for having me.
NNAMDIThis is "The Politics Hour." Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. We're joined in studio now by Vincent Gray, the mayor of the District of Columbia. He is a Democrat. Mayor Gray, thank you for joining us. Welcome.
MAYOR VINCENT GRAYThank you. I just happened to be in the neighborhood. And I just wanted to stop in and see how you guys were doing.
SHERWOODWeren't you here just like three weeks ago? (laugh)
NNAMDIExcept that then he was on the phone.
GRAYI can't stay away. (laugh)
NNAMDI(unintelligible) walking by. When you did join us two weeks ago, Mayor Gray, you said you'd be making a decision about reelection in a matter of weeks. It's been two weeks. There have been reports you met recently with supporters who encouraged you to run. Are you any closer to saying whether or not you're ready to make a decision about running?
GRAYWell, I guess we are because the time is ticking away, right? But it won't be this day.
NNAMDII was about to say, this could be it, folks. Hold onto your hats. He might be making the announcement right now.
GRAYNo. Because I don't want to upstage a much more important event.
GRAYWhich is the celebration of your 15th anniversary at WAMU. And we want you to know how much we appreciate what you do every day. So much so -- so much so, sir, that we have a proclamation that we want to present to you that -- and I'm not going to read all the whereas' cause...
SHERWOODMercifully, it's pretty short.
NNAMDIYes 'cause these things have a lot of whereases.
GRAYYeah, but it shouldn't be short, not with all the accomplishments of this man, Tom.
SHERWOODNo. We're going to leave out the negative stuff, though.
GRAYBut you know what, Tom? Today has been proclaimed -- today is Nov. 1, 2013. And today has been proclaimed as Kojo Nnamdi Day in the District of Colombia.
SHERWOODNow -- by you.
SHERWOODBy the mayor of the District.
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) you need to get the credit for it.
GRAYOn behalf of 632,000 people in the District of Colombia, many, many of whom -- and I know -- and I mean this quite seriously -- admire you greatly and appreciate what you do and have done for so many years. I got a chance to read all about your history, too, Kojo.
SHERWOODNot all of it.
NNAMDIUh-oh. This may not be good. Mayor Gray, thank you for...
GRAYMay I present this to you?
NNAMDIThank you very much, and thanks to the citizens of the District of Colombia for this honor. And that means, of course, Tom Sherwood, the rest of the questioning will be left up to you because I'm leaving the room to go outside and boohoo for a while.
SHERWOODYou know, I think the last guest we had on this program brought you a gift, too.
NNAMDIThat was Jolene Ivey, lieutenant governor candidate for Maryland.
SHERWOODYes. She brought you a nice gift.
SHERWOODI think we're getting to a very bad system here. You're getting...
NNAMDIOne of the problems of being people like Tom Sherwood and myself is that when you have been covering these individuals for quite a while, a relationship develops between you and these individuals. And you get to know them as well as you've known colleagues with whom you've worked for a number of years, which makes the process of asking them difficult questions just that little bit more difficult. But that won't stop you, Tom Sherwood (unintelligible)...
SHERWOODWell, you know, it's not personal. It's business.
GRAYThat's the job that you guys have, too.
SHERWOODIt's not -- as Mayor Barry likes to say, it's not personal. It's power.
SHERWOODIn this case, it's not personal. It's business.
SHERWOODMr. Mayor, the -- back to the campaign next week, you've said that you don't have to rush into a campaign because if you'd make the decision to run, you can, as an incumbent, it's just simply easier to get the petition signatures and get on the ballot and start moving more quickly rather than starting, excuse me, a startup. The petition process begins next week. I think it's November the 8th.
GRAYIt begins, and it runs until January. Mm hmm.
SHERWOODIn Jan. 2, it has to be turned in, so we're basically looking at a couple of months now. Can you tell us what you're weigh -- and I've talked to some of the people who are closest to you, some of whom talk to you virtually every day, and they say that you believe you're innocent of all the scandal stuff that's been swirling around for a couple of years.
SHERWOODBut that -- it is...
SHERWOODAll right. But that you're -- that it has worn on you, and that even if you were to run and to win reelection -- and maybe this investigation will be continuing, maybe more of your friends might be thrown under the bus with the investigation, whatever -- that this might just be too much and that you might want to just walk away. But if you walk away, people will think you're guilty. So it sounds like you've got the kind of a real tough decision to make.
NNAMDIRock and a hard place.
GRAYNo. I think it was a tough decision all along. I think the first thing is -- and I think both of you know this -- I really love the job. And I think we are doing the things that we set out to do in the first place. And one of the things that I've said, Tom, is that I don't want to campaign to be about the last campaign, that it ought to be about the future of the city, you know, what we're going to do to continue to move the city forward.
GRAYWe put together what we call a rankings card. You may have seen that. Both of you may have seen it. And essentially what it talks about are the various accolades that have been accorded to the city, most of which have come in 2013 for the work that has been done. You know, it talks about the education systems in the city. It talks about us being the strongest economy in the nation.
GRAYAnd those are the things that ought to be talked about in the campaign. Those are the things that ought to be debated that those are -- you know, those who are candidates should be required to speak to what will they do. You know, it's -- being a councilmember, for example, is not an easy proposition, but it is very different than being the mayor. And those who would aspire to this position really should be required to speak to what they're going to do.
SHERWOODI think, Mr. Mayor, I could stipulate that -- not my personal opinion, but my professional opinion, having talked to any number of people in town -- that you have a very good record as mayor. I think even Jack Evans, even though he's campaigning against you, has said that publicly himself.
GRAYYeah. He said it again the other night, which I appreciate it.
SHERWOODSo I don't know who his campaign manager is, but I'd speak to…
SHERWOODBut I wrote in the column this week, I said, you know, you have two suits to wear. One's a bright shiny suit of a costume for Halloween that's all the good things, but the other one is a tattered suit where you're just constantly dogged by all this. And someone -- and I've written this -- that you've run a good race as mayor. But (unintelligible) but people want to know if you cheated at the starting line, either intentionally by your own actions or by your many friends who have pled guilty in court to cheating.
SHERWOODAnd I think in the Post editorial today, that was one of the questions. I mean, Vernon Hawk and Jeanne Clark Harris, others who you've known for decades, they cheated on your behalf. I mean, they've pled guilty in court. It's not a matter of opinion. So why did they think that they could cheat for you?
GRAYWell, I can't answer that, Tom. I have no idea what the answer to that question is, and that's probably a question you'd need to put to them. You know, and I've said to you, I've said to others, that I didn't do anything. And it's a very unfortunate that happened because I think we were running a very strong campaign in 2010. And I think we've proven over the last two years and 10 months that this was a good decision by the voters. The things that people wanted done are being done.
NNAMDIIf -- if and when you do decide to run, do you fear that at the beginning of launching a campaign that you have any obligation to offer an explanation for your understanding of what happened the last time around?
GRAYWell, you know, we've talked about that. I've talked about that in a number of different instances. And there may be questions I can't answer because I don't know the answer. But I've tried to be clear about the fact that I didn't do anything. And I'm not sure what else to say. I'm sure that, you know, the first 10 questions will lead to 10 more questions will lead to 10 more questions.
GRAYAnd, you know, when is somebody satisfied? One would hope that, to be honest with you, one would look at my life, how I've lived my life. I've worked in nonprofit organizations but for four years being the director of Human Services. My whole life has been devoted to public service.
SHERWOODAnd, again, Mr. Mayor, I think people will stipulate that. But it's -- let's just assume that Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney, brings no criminal charges against you or -- and because you haven't done anything. But that still leaves open the ethics office has to look at a campaign, your campaign, that was supported by a shadow campaign.
SHERWOODWhether you personally knew it or not, your own campaign from 2010 faces sounds to me like horrendous investigation -- an administrative investigation that could end up fining your campaign just like Tony Williams was fined in 2002, 2003 $250,000 'cause he had a bad petition process. If the ethics office finds that, you know, this shadow campaign operated under the auspices of your legitimate campaign, it looks to me like you could be fined, and you could just have more trouble just -- months and months of more trouble. It might be administrative if not criminal.
GRAYIt certainly could happen, Tom. But, you know, you talked about Tony Williams. Tony Williams, as far as I know, had absolutely nothing to do without -- about, you know, with getting the signature process, you know, that he was immersed in, I don't know, it was 2003...
SHERWOODIt was 2002 was the fake petitions in the...
GRAY(unintelligible) Yeah, he had nothing to do with that, and that happened, people out there working on his behalf. You know, I had a situation recently where I was talking to one of the current candidates. There were some signs up that I had questions about. And those questions were raised, and the individual said to me, I didn't know those signs were put up.
GRAYYou know, you run a campaign -- and I've been involved now in three campaigns, one for Ward 7 for the chair, which was citywide, and this one, which I was doing while I was a council chair at the same time running for mayor. And you can't possibly know, you know, many of the things going on in your campaign. You wish you could, but you didn't. And I certainly didn't.
NNAMDII was about to go to the phones, but go ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODI was just -- 'cause they -- you know, Jeffrey Thompson is the key person who's been identified, not officially, but as the person who funded the campaign. And you've acknowledged you met with him and that you got some money from him. People have said, but you were not aware that any of the checks were bogus or the money orders.
GRAYTom, you've asked me this question before.
NNAMDIAs have I.
GRAYI have indicated that, yes, he raised money for my campaign. There were envelopes that were given to me, and I took them immediately. Anybody who was involved that last day...
SHERWOODThe last day of the report...
GRAY...and gave them -- and turned them right in.
SHERWOODDid you have any suspicion at all that this was just too much money too fast from one person?
GRAYNo. I did not. I mean, this man has the track -- the reputation of being a prolific fundraiser. And let me say something again. He never asked me for anything, nothing, not one thing.
SHERWOODBut he was worried about his medical contract. He was afraid Fenty was going to take it away.
GRAYHe may have been. You know, there certainly was -- you know, there were interactions between him and the previous administration that were not positive. But that happens in a lot of campaigns. People support people's campaigns because they don't like the current administration, you know, for whatever their reasons may be. So there is absolutely nothing unusual about him.
SHERWOODOK. If I could just do one quick more -- do you -- are you confident, should you decide to run, that you will find a legitimate or a squeaky clean business person to be your campaign finance chairman, a strong campaign person who doesn't have any ties to the 2010 -- can you start clean on the 2014 campaign that doesn't mirror anything that happened in 2010?
GRAYWell, I think that would be important, Tom. And I think being able to have people who are, you know, immediately credible is a very important thing to do. And that's an issue that I certainly would be focused on, so I guess the short answer is yes.
NNAMDIDon your headphones, gentleman, because Chris in Washington, D.C. has something to say. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISHi. Thank you. Congratulations, Kojo.
NNAMDIThank you, Chris.
CHRISI just wanted to say -- I know the mayor is hesitant to, you know, rain -- or to bring anything or upstage your day, but just by saying that he didn't want to upstage your day, hasn't he -- announced that he is running for reelection?
NNAMDIYou talk about your inferences. I like that one, Chris.
NNAMDI'Cause the only reason he didn't announce today is because he didn't want to upstage me, right?
CHRISAnd that sounds like he's running.
NNAMDIWell, Mr. Mayor, (unintelligible).
GRAYI guess you're right about inferences and implications.
NNAMDIPeople can draw inferences from all kinds of things. Your administration is just -- well, there are a lot of Councilmembers. Tom mentioned Jack Evans. What concerns do you have about how the mayoral ambitions of Councilmembers are going to affect your ability to govern as mayor in the coming months, regardless of whether or not you decide to run again?
GRAYWell, that's not the first time it's happened in the city. We think -- we know we have an agenda that's on the table. We announced our legislative agenda for the next several months just a few months ago. And I actually think people will have to explain why they don't move forward on some of these things that they choose not to. We just had a, you know, an excellent hearing, I think, on the under grounding of wires.
GRAYWe've been working together in an unprecedented fashion with Pepco, with the people's council, with the public service commission. I don't know that these folks, you know, had ever been in the same room, all of them working on an issue like this. And this is something that's going to benefit the public. You know, people have been outraged, including me, about the power outages in the city.
GRAYAnd this will begin to solve those. For somebody who chooses not to move forward with this, I think they would have to explain why something this seemingly positive for the people of the city would not be moved on. You know, the rate increases, which start on an average of about a dollar and half, $2 a month, which is not much at all, they would be, you know, resident aid programs that would be available to folks and would get up over a period of years to -- the peak, I think, would be an average of $3 and something a month.
GRAYSo -- and I use that as an illustration of the things that we put on the table. I think everybody -- anybody who has a reason to not move forward with something should explain to people why they're not moving forward with it, why they're not working with it. If they have an issue that they think needs to be solved, then work with us on it. We'll try to solve it. But sustainability -- the other issues that we put on the table are very compelling issues to move the city forward. And everybody -- anybody wants to be the mayor ought to be committed to moving the city forward.
SHERWOODI want to ask you about the minimum wage battle that's coming, but I'd have to go back and ask you first, Did you read the Washington Post editorial this morning about questions to answer?
GRAYI actually haven't read the paper today.
NNAMDI(unintelligible) didn't know they mentioned Tom Sherwood's name.
SHERWOODBut (unintelligible) told you it was in there. (unintelligible)
GRAYWell, I haven't been in the office today. I've been out all day today, so I have not talked to my staff today.
SHERWOODYou know, in modern times, your office is wherever you are with all the things that you do.
NNAMDIWell, the editorial quoted Tom Sherwood extensively, and...
SHERWOODThey quoted a very important journalist in town. But let's move on to minimum wage 'cause...
GRAYThat -- were you quoted in there?
SHERWOODOh, yes, sir.
NNAMDIHe was quoted extensively in this.
GRAYOh, my goodness.
SHERWOODI'm surprised. I thought you would come in and frown at me or something. But apparently you'd have to look...
GRAYIf I had known that...
NNAMDIMinimum wage, you only have about three or four minutes left.
GRAY(unintelligible) friend that he was in there, I would have gone through it right away.
SHERWOODWell, you have plenty of time to read it later when you get to your car. Minimum wage, there are various proposals to raise it significantly, maybe as high as the highest minimum wage in the country. I know you want to review what it needs to be done, impact on the city workers and how it affects our competition with Maryland and Virginia. But where are you on the minimum wage?
SHERWOODYou were against the Wal-Mart -- targeting Wal-Mart. So where are you (unintelligible) ?
NNAMDIAnd what do you (unintelligible)...
GRAYBut I've announced I supported increasing the minimum wage.
SHERWOODDo you have a number in mind?
GRAYNo, I don't. And what I've said -- and we have an RFP out now that will be...
SHERWOODRFP, request for proposal.
GRAYRequest for proposal, that's right. We want somebody to work with us to put together the factors that should be considered in this, so it's not a rush to judgment. You know, right now, our minimum wage is $8.25, which is a dollar above the federal minimum. San Francisco and Santa Fe, N.M. both have raised their minimum wage to something around $10.50. I want to look at what they -- the rationale they used in order to get there.
GRAYBut I want a studied approach to this. You know, this is something that will have an impact for years. You know, whether we should just simply raise the wage to an amount now or we should phase it in over a period of time or index it -- indexing meaning that we would add a certain amount each year.
NNAMDII wanted to ask a broad question on education, but Debbie in Washington, D.C. has a much more specific question. So we'll start with that. Debbie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DEBBIEThank you. Mr. Mayor, the (unintelligible) residents want to know your rationale behind why DGS is trying to force the permit hours of 5 a.m. to 12 midnight for construction for a school when the immediate community has said throughout the whole process that that is unacceptable because it affects their quality of life...
NNAMDIWhat is unacceptable (unintelligible) ?
SHERWOODIt's endless construction to midnight.
NNAMDII was about to say, what are you objecting to, the construction hours or the construction itself?
DEBBIEThe construction hours, from 5 a.m. to 12, midnight.
NNAMDIMayor Gray, are you familiar with this?
GRAYYeah. I'm very familiar with it. In fact, we've been working with the councilmember on that, and we will continue to do that. And the purpose for this is fairly simply put, and that is it was an effort to try to finish the construction of the school so it would be open next school year. And that was really the sole purpose of it. It was an effort, frankly, not to impose a hardship on inconvenient on the residents. It was simply to try to create a convenience for the residents so that the Brookland school would be finished as soon as possible.
GRAYAnd we'll continue to work the councilmember and the residents to see what the best solution is, but if we roll back the hours at this stage, I think people need to understand that it will not open next school year. And I hope people who want the hours, you know, curtailed will also be mindful and accepting of the fact that it will make the construction period more (word?) .
SHERWOODIf you decide not to run, you'll be a lame duck for a year. How will you enforce your will on the budget and other things you want to get done in the remaining time?
GRAYI'll work hard at it, Tom.
NNAMDIVincent Gray is the mayor of the District of Colombia. He is a Democrat...
SHERWOODGive him a proclamation for that.
NNAMDIGiven the chance to ask you about the...
SHERWOODAnd the media should give out proclamations. Let's start that on the Kojo show...
GRAYI think so. And I should be your first (unintelligible)
SHERWOODWell, it's a very high standard. You may not make it.
NNAMDIMayor Gray, thank you so much for joining us.
GRAYThank you very much.
NNAMDIVincent Gray is mayor of the District of Colombia. He is a Democrat. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current newspaper. Tom, always a pleasure.
SHERWOODGoing back on vacation.
NNAMDIWe got an Elaine who couldn't stay on the line who called to say she's part of the silent majority who don't want to be on the air, and she never calls. But she listens every day and wishes me 15 more years. Thanks to you, Elaine, and thanks to all of you for the good wishes. And thanks especially to all of you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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