Amid Washington’s graduation season, we look at the craft of writing and delivering commencement speeches. What advice sticks — and what doesn’t?
Guest Host: Patrick Madden
Sen. Chris Van Hollen joins us to talk about the Democratic charge against the partial federal government shutdown. Then Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who is running for governor, talks about his run and what he thinks is at stake in Virginia’s 2019 legislative session.
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Mark Gunnery
PATRICK MADDENFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour, I'm Patrick Madden sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our Resident Analyst. He's a Contributing Writer with the City Paper. Tom, as always thank you for joining us.
TOM SHERWOODHappy to be back.
MADDENYou know, Tom, it's hard to talk about anything else right now except for the shutdown -- the partial government shutdown and just impact that it's having right now across the region in so many different ways. But, you know, first and for most for these workers that today are now not getting a paycheck.
SHERWOODYes. I think you can say the shutdown itself is indefensible no matter who you want to blame. Clearly President Trump said he would take the blame. I think that's where it goes. But these are people who are not only getting paid and suffering the consequences of that. But they're also not doing -- most of them are not even working. They're furloughed, which means they're not even able to do the work they do. The vital work they do for the federal government in so many different ways. It's a terrible situation. I just hope we'd figure out some way to end it soon.
MADDENRight. And, I mean, I spent yesterday talking with federal government employees at unemployment offices. I spoke with contractors.
SHERWOODYeah. That was a really good story you did. That was good.
MADDENThank you. And just, you know, hearing their personal stories, it's devastating.
SHERWOODYeah, I did a little story for the City Paper and this is a small thing maybe. But I went to a beauty salon in downtown Washington who has more than, you know, almost two dozen seats. And one of the persons I interviewed there, she said, you know, she normally -- her business is cut in half. And now going to a salon is not just an ego trip. It's people who do that for their professional reasons, men and women. And the lower income people who helped the stylists they're not getting tips. They're not getting paid. Carry-outs downtown, across the board and across the country, I think people sometimes forget 85 percent of the federal workers are scattered throughout the United States not just here in Washington.
MADDENAnd I think the one question that no one knows the answer to right now is how is this thing going to end? And hopefully our first guest is going to help give us some insight into this. We are joined on the phone with U.S. Senator from Maryland, Chris Van Hollen. Senator Van Hollen, thank you for joining us on The Politics Hour.
CHRIS VAN HOLLENPatrick, it's good to be with you and Tom.
SHERWOODGood. Senator, can I just ask you right away because you were out in Laurel, Maryland today with Mr. Ball, the Howard County Executive and Senator Cardin. You were meeting with federal workers at the Savage Library in Laurel. They had some sad stories. I didn't get to go, but someone said there was a Secret Service person there, who made the comment that Secret Service Agents will take a bullet for the president. But this president is not paying them.
HOLLENWell, that's right. Senator Cardin and I met with 16 federal employees this morning out in Howard County. And one federal service contractor, who just laid off 173 of his employees because as a federal contractor, he's not getting paid, but you're right, Tom. We heard from federal employees. And I think the first thing to emphasize was that they all said, "Let us go back to work and do our jobs for the American people, because when we're not providing those services or the health protections, the American people lose."
HOLLENAnd then we did hear about how this was really negatively impacting their own situation, many of them were one paycheck away from being able to meet a mortgage payment. And, of course, today is the first day where they will not get a paycheck. People actually got stubs showing zero. And you're right. There was someone from the federal law enforcement officers association, who pointed out that while some of the key law enforcement personnel like the Secret Service remain at work, because their essential employees that they are not getting paid for it like the Secret Service.
HOLLENHe also pointed out that a lot of the other folks in federal law enforcement, who provide the backup, DNA analysis and other sort of support for their efforts to track down fugitives or suspects, that they're not able to get that support. And that actually puts at risk the lives of the federal law enforcement officials, who are out there working every day now without pay.
MADDENSenator, can you just tell us what the latest is? What's happening right now on Capitol Hill? Is there any new developments that, you know, might somehow end this shutdown?
HOLLENWell, I'm glad you asked. I just came off of the floor of the United States Senate where I returned from this meeting with federal employees in Howard County, Maryland to talk about the increasingly harmful impact of the shutdown on people throughout the country and, of course, on the hundreds of thousands of federal employees, who are not getting paid.
HOLLENAnd the only reason we're in today, session is because Senator Kaine and others of us insisted that we shouldn't just be packing it up and going home, when we have it within our power here in the United States Senate to end this shutdown. And that is why yesterday, Senator Cardin and I took to the floor and we made two simple requests for what's called Unanimous Consent asking the Republican leader Mitch McConnell to bring up two bills that pass the House on their opening day and that we should pass here in the United States Senate.
HOLLENOne bill would open the eight of the nine departments that have nothing to do with Homeland Security. No reason to hold them hostage and the people who depend on their services and their employees hostage. That's crazy. And the kicker is that these are bills that the Senate on a bipartisan basis has already supported. So there's no justification for us not to vote yes.
HOLLENThe other bill I asked for a unanimous consent on was to do exactly what the Senate had done just before Christmas, open the Department of Homeland Security until February 8, current levels of funding. And then we can work to just figure out and negotiate the most effective way to provide border security. This has never been a question of whether we need secure borders. Of course, we do.
HOLLENThe question, is what's the smartest most cost-effective way to do it? And, unfortunately yesterday Senator McConnell blocked our ability to vote on something that he has supported in the past. And his reason was, "Well, the President of the United States doesn't want this." And were we're saying is -- and I'll just end with this here we are a separate co-equal branch of government. Let's do our job.
SHERWOODSenator Mitch McConnell, people know that he can wheel and deal as necessary in the legislative body. Why is it, do you think, that he is yielding so much to the president? Even at a press conference this week he stood by the president after their meeting and said, "We're all together on this." When you know, in fact, many a good number of Republican senators are privately saying they don't like what's happening neither. Why is Mitch McConnell standing so closely with President Trump on this? I know he's a Republican leader of the Senate, but it seems at odds of what he might normally do if he had his own way.
HOLLENWell, you know, that's right. I mean, Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly over the years that government shutdowns are really stupid. They're destructive. They hurt the country, and yet now he's essentially become an accomplice with President Trump to the shutdown, because he's refusing to hold this vote.
HOLLENAs you said, the good news is that day by day you have more and more Republican senators, who are agreeing with the position that Democrats have taken, which is stop holding all these federal departments hostage. Stop holding federal employees hostage. First open the government and then we can negotiate the issue of border security. I was just -- as I was leaving the Senate floor, Senator Murkowski was on the floor shortly after that. And she has made the point, Let's open the government first. So we need to keep the pressure because, you know, Senator McConnell should not, you know, be able to just say, Well, the Senate is not going to do its job.
HOLLENUnder the constitution, we're a separate branch of government, co-equal. Let's do our job, especially when the keys to opening the government are right at the Senate desk. These two bills are sitting there. We could bring them up at any moment.
MADDENAnd Senator, I want to go to one caller. This is Rob from Alexandria, who wants to ask you about, you know, why don't the Democrats just sort of meet the president half way. Rob, go ahead.
ROB (CALLER0Yeah. Hi. Senator, nice talking to you, sir. I live in Virginia, but I'm still a big fan of yours. So my question, as you all know, we have a partial border fence. You know, San Diego and Dallas and other places. They want to add to it. All I hear -- and I'm fundamentally Republican. But I have some Democratic leanings, but here is that Nancy and Chuck to say, No, no, no, is being to me just crazy. Why can't you guys say, Hey, look. You know, I've not going to give you 5.7. But we'll give you something. But negotiate instead of adamantly saying, No.
SHERWOODAnd maybe by the DACA bill that you guys have been wanting.
HOLLENWell, a couple of things. First of all, thank you for calling in. And I do want to emphasize that this disagreement has nothing to do with whether or not we want secure borders. We cannot have open borders. We need to have strong secure borders. And, in fact, as the caller suggests long before, you know, President Trump was elected, we have barriers, fences, walls, whatever you want to call them, along certain portions of the border where they're strategically located and where they're needed.
HOLLENAnd so there's no dispute about the need for that to be one piece of an overall strategy. But the fact of the matter is the president himself in his budget -- I'd be happy to come over and show it to you, asked for 1.6 billion this year. And then he turned it into this big political football wanting to build his 2,000 mile wall. And it's not, you know, it's not a question of two billion or five billion.
HOLLENThis will end up costing at least $30 billion, because that's what it costs to build a full wall. And then the president will come back every year and say, I'm going to shut down the government if you don't, you know, pay more for this 2,000 mile wall, which experts tell us is not the most effective way to provide border security. And which by the way, despite his efforts at revisionist history, the president said that Mexico was going to have to pay for it, not American taxpayers.
HOLLENSo we have been very clear. We support strong border security. The bill that passed the United States Appropriations Committee actually had the president's request in it. The original request and it's the president, who then keeps walking away from his own request. And most recently walked away from, you know, the commitment his vice president had made to Mitch McConnell that, you know, Let's keep the government open at least till February 8 while we negotiate these things.
HOLLENSo, you know, it's -- and Tom to your issue on DACA is, you know, last summer, you know, the president said he wanted a quote, Bill of Love. And he said to senators, Go work it out. And we had a bipartisan bill on that and the president totally pulled the rug out from under that effort even though we had a majority U.S. Senators for it. So we're dealing with somebody, who constantly changes his position. Walks out of meetings and then denies his own vice president and his own, you know, his own team the authority to negotiate. So it's just it's been tough.
MADDENAnd Senator Van Hollen, it sounds like, you know, your focused on, you know, putting the pressure on the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. And if, you know, the proposal you've talked about sort of, you know, sort of shutting down Senate business. But aren't there consequences if that happens?
HOLLENWell, we're not talking about shutting down Senate business. We're talking about keeping the Senate open. In fact, the reason we're open today on the floor is because Senate Democrats wanted to keep it open and not go home. We're saying, Let's keep it open, but let's say it our first order of business to reopen the part of government that's shutdown. So we're open. Let's just do what the House did and make it our very first order of business to reopen the government. And then we can go on and do the other business of the Senate.
HOLLENBut our first order of business as we're open, should be to open the whole government, restore services to the American people and make sure that we, you know, stop, you know, denying pay to federal workers whether they're -- who are working now or who have been locked out.
SHERWOODSenator, this is the number one issue. But in a short time here, I want to ask you about two other people. You served in the Virginia -- I mean, excuse me, the Maryland general assembly before you went to Congress and then for the House and the Senate. Senator Mike Miller, I want to give you a moment to talk about him, prostate cancer announced this week, and just your own personal thoughts about him.
HOLLENYou know, Mike Miller is a giant of Maryland politics. You know, he is the longest serving Senate President not just in Maryland. But I believe in the country. But it's not just his longevity. It's really the fact that he's made it an incredible mark on Maryland in a positive way during his years of service. He's always been somebody who can, you know, bring the State Senate together and, you know, lead the state forward on important issues over time whether it's been gun safety or trying to raise the state minimum wage.
HOLLENAnd now he's hurting, and, you know, my thoughts go out to him. I look forward to seeing him shortly down in the Senate. I saw him recently. He is a great historian, as you know.
HOLLENHis great historian of the state of Maryland and that's what I think is his anchor and gives him such good perspective on where we've been and where we need to go.
SHERWOODAnd he said he's going to power through the general assembly. That's good. I want to also ask you about Rod Rosenstein, a former U.S. attorney in Maryland appointed both by a Republican and Democratic president. The Deputy Attorney General has said he's going to be leaving the Justice Department. He has been the rock solid person on the Mueller investigation. What is your concern? What are your thoughts about Mr. Rosenstein possibly leaving -- or saying he's going to be leaving the Justice Department?
HOLLENI've very concerned about the integrity of the Mueller investigation and the need to protect the integrity of the overall Justice Department. The Justice Department should not be the political wing of the White House. The Justice Department has got to be the place where every American knows that they will get equal justice under the law. I was honored to speak at the confirmation hearing for Rod Rosenstein and recommend to our colleagues that they support him and I've been very pleased to have done that.
HOLLENHe has been the bulwark against undo political influence at the Justice Department, has protected the integrity of this non-partisan Mueller investigation. So this is alarming news. We're going to have to be very vigilant to make sure that the Mueller investigation is protected, but this certainly makes it more vulnerable.
MADDENAnd, Senator Van Hollen, before we let you go -- because it sounds like it is going to be a very busy day on Capitol Hill -- how do you think -- I mean, I'm just curious. How do you think this is going to end? If you were a betting man, I mean, how does this shutdown end?
HOLLENI do think it ends when a lot of our Republican Senate colleagues say, Enough is enough and they insist on a vote here in the United States Senate. Now people can say, Well, that doesn't matter, because the president is just going to veto it. But the reality is that changes the dynamics. If the president vetoes it, it comes back here.
HOLLENI would point out that, you know, one of those bills to reopen government has provisions that had a vote in the United States Senate previously of about 93 to 7, I believe it was, more than enough votes to override a presidential veto. Which is why when Mitch McConnell refuses to hold a vote he's just protecting the President of the United States and shielding his members from, you know, calls that they're going to get from, you know, right wing talk show hosts. But really it's going to be harder and harder for them to justify refusing to vote to open the government when they would be voting on things that they have supported within a period of weeks and months.
HOLLENSo meanwhile, you know, we can discuss the best way to provide what everyone agrees we need, which is a good border security. But I think there's a growing consensus even among -- from a growing number of Republican senators that we should first reopen the government, end this nonsense. Tomorrow we will mark really a shameful day, you know, in American history. We will have had the longest government shutdown in history. President Trump said he would be proud of a government shutdown, but nobody nobody should be proud of what's happening.
SHERWOODWell, we should point out in Maryland if we let you go, Republican Governor Hogan, who has a 77 percent approval rating, which you probably would be jealous of, he too thinks that what the president is doing is a terrible thing not only to the federal government, but to the country as a whole.
HOLLENLook, we have federal employees. One who went to the internet the other day to set up a Go Fund Me account to be able to make the monthly installment on her son's college payment. I talked to the head of Prince George's County Community College, Dr. Dukes, the other day. She said her phone was ringing off the hook from parents, who -- federal employees not getting paid who were not going to be able to meet the payments on their community college tuition.
HOLLENSo this has a snowballing effect. And it's hurting federal employees, federal employee contractors. I should mention something that is important. So Senator Cardin and I introduced a bill that did pass last night on the Senate. I think this is important for people to know. We do expect it to pass the House today. I hope. And then I think the president will sign it. And it would guarantee federal employees do get held harmless at the end of the day.
HOLLENIn other words, at the end of the day whenever the shutdown ends, they will not be left holding the hook and they will get paid. It obviously doesn't address the fact that people can't pay their bills that are coming due and now may become credit risks. But it is now I'm told actually passed the House of Representatives. So it's on its way to the White House, which will provide some certainty to federal employees. I'm glad we were able to get that done.
HOLLENIt doesn't help all the federal contractors. I've written a letter, in fact, just yesterday to the administration asking them to use their contract authority to also help hold those federal service employees like janitors in federal buildings, people, who, you know, help prep food service employees so that they're not left out in the cold as well. So that all just highlights the point that this is just a loser for the country when the people, who want to be at work can't provide those important services.
MADDENGreat. Again, thank you so much for joining us today. That's Senator Chris Van Hollen from Maryland updating us on the latest in the shutdown. Thanks again, Senator.
HOLLENAnd thank you.
MADDENAll right. So, Tom, again, it's been a busy week here in the region with the shutdown, but, of course, you know, a lot of other important developments too. I mean, I want to start with what's happening with the sports betting, which a big issue kind of around the region right now. But D.C. apparently is trying to become, you know, one of the first out of the gate to set up a sports betting operation. What can you tell us about the latest?
SHERWOODWell, you know, the Supreme Court ruled that you could sports betting on the state level. And D.C. has rushed to get it done. They're rushing so fast that they decided now that there's going to be public hearing on what the city might do. Jack Evans, told me that councilmember Financial Revenue Chairman, just told me moments ago that there will be a hearing on the 28th of this month to explore how the District of Columbia will do sports betting.
SHERWOODWhether it will be run by the D.C. Lottery and Intralot, which the contractor for the lottery or whether it will be farmed out to variety of companies, this is an issue and we'll talk to our next guest about this in Virginia whether or not Virginia will go forward with sports betting. In Maryland, there's a move to have sports betting. The Gonzalez poll this week says 85 percent of the people think it ought to be put to the voters for a test.
SHERWOODI'm not sure what's going to happen in Virginia, but I suspect our guest will be able to tell us more about it.
MADDENAnd then, of course, another issue in Virginia this week, Corey Stewart announced that he will no longer be in the political arena.
SHERWOODCorey Stewart, who's been in Prince William County for 15 years and has actually had some very good reputation as the leader of that county, had a terrible time running for the Senate this past year with his terrible campaign with associating with racist white supremacists and all of that. And I think Corey decided, well, whatever time he had it has passed.
SHERWOODAnd so, you know again, if you talk to people in that county about what he's going to be doing in the following year as he was not going to run for County Supervisor anymore. I think you're going to see that he's going to try to rebuild his reputation. I still don't understand why he went so far off the deep end.
MADDENAnd so let's stay in Virginia and welcome our next guest to the show. Mark Herring, he's the Attorney General of Virginia and also a candidate for Governor in Virginia, which will be really exciting to talk about. Attorney General Herring, thank you for joining The Politics Hour today.
MARK HERRINGWell, thanks for having me. It's great to be back. And, you know, unlike our federal counterparts, I'm here to say that the Virginia state government is open at work meeting the needs of the people. And I was listening to your show with Senator Van Hollen earlier and it is just irresponsible, indefensible that this is happening. Shenandoah National Park, you know, closed, it impacts so many people, federal workers, contractors trying to figure out how to make ends meet now without getting paid and it is rippling all through our economy.
SHERWOODAnd it's not just that they're not getting paid. They're not doing the vital work. And people love to just kind of make fun of the federal bureaucracy, but it does vital work.
HERRINGWell, important things like food safety inspections and corrections workers and so many other different ways that work is not getting done. And it's really something that is impacting huge amounts of people. I don't think any part of our country is going to be immune from the impact of this.
MADDENI'm Patrick Madden, a reporter here at WAMU filling in for Kojo Nnamdi. And, of course, Tom Sherwood is our Resident Analyst.
SHERWOODCan we go right back to Corey Stewart with our guest?
SHERWOODBecause there is a change, we all know that Virginia has been a purple state. But more recently it's turned Democratic. Corey -- I'd like to hear your thoughts about Corey Stewart. And also this week out in the 33rd State Senate District in Loudoun County, a seat that you once held before you became an Attorney General. The Democrat Jennifer Boysko, I think is how you pronounce her name, she won overwhelmingly against the Republican candidate.
SHERWOODWhat is your own feeling about this? And then we'll talk about your running for governor in a moment. But there seems to be a dramatic change in the state of Virginia.
HERRINGWell, I think, first of all Virginia Democrats have really been offering solutions for Virginians and delivering results. And Corey Stewart's campaign really I think was a drag on a lot of the Republicans around the state. And then we just -- I think we are --
SHERWOODThey ran away from him.
HERRINGThey did. And we elected three fantastic congresswomen now, Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger, and my own new Congresswoman, Jennifer Wexton.
SHERWOODWho had that Senate seat.
HERRINGThat's right. So you mentioned the 33rd Senate special election this past Tuesday. Let's just -- I think it's important to just take a step back about the historic nature of what was accomplished, not just with the three congresswomen, but in the 10th District, in particular, here in Northern Virginia, the modern 10th District came around, I think, in 1952, and in the 66 years since then, only six years has a seat been held by a Democrat.
HERRINGIt was when Joe Fisher was elected in 1974, then reelected in '76 and '78, and Frank Wolf was elected in 1980.
SHERWOODAnd he owned the seat forever.
HERRINGAnd 1980 was the first congressional election I was old enough to vote in. So, my entire adult life (laugh) we have been, you know, working at this. And Jennifer won with a solid win.
MADDENAnd then when you look at the numbers for Lowden County, the shift between this election cycle and previous, it's very dramatic. It was like almost a 10-point swing. And you talk to voters there, and it's -- that was a typically Republican stronghold, right?
HERRINGAnd then in the special election that was held just Tuesday, Jennifer Boysko won almost 70 percent, 70 to 30 by a 40-point swing. And so I think what that shows is, especially in Northern Virginia, these are areas that used to be GOP strongholds, suburban areas, ex-urban areas. Those used to be areas where Republicans were racking up wins. It's now completely turned upside -- you know, 180 degrees, and now it's really -- these are areas that Democrats are winning in solid wins, and I see that trend continuing.
MADDENAnd let's stay on politics. You've announced that you're running...
SHERWOODThis is the Politics Hour.
MADDEN(laugh) This is the Politics Hour.
SHERWOODThis is the Politics Hour.
MADDENYou've announced that you're running for governor, which...
SHERWOODHe announced he will be running for governor.
MADDEN...will be running for governor...
MADDEN...which isn't until 2021. I mean, why jump into this race so early?
HERRINGWell, first of all, it is the Politics Hour. That did make some news a little while ago. You know, the work I've been doing as attorney general, fighting for healthcare, equality, pushing back on the Trump administration and the Trump agenda, those are things that have been some of the most meaningful work I've done. It has made a real positive difference in the lives of Virginians. And, you know, I've done a lot of thinking about it. Four years ago people encouraged me to think about doing it then, which I did. I gave a lot of thought to it, and decided the best way I thought I could serve Virginians at that time would be to continue to serve as attorney general. And I said I would be running for re-election when that time came.
HERRINGAnd I did a lot of thinking about this, and I thought the best way I would be able to continue that work and serve Virginians would be as governor, when the time comes. You know, I've been a county supervisor, trying to get the best schools we possibly could for the area I represented, working on transportation solutions, both as a state senator and county supervisor in Northern Virginia and around the state, fighting for healthcare. All these things, I think, have really prepared me well for that.
HERRINGAnd so, I thought, you know, if that's the decision I've made after talking with a lot of people, talking with my family, I should just be open and transparent about it and let people know what my future plans would be, but, you know, that's still a ways off. There's a lot of work to be done. My team and I are really excited about a lot of the things that we're working on in the attorney general's office. We've got a very large, robust package of legislation to address the rise in hate crimes in Virginia. They are up over 50 -- almost 50 percent.
SHERWOODCan we get to that in a moment...
SHERWOOD...but I just want to wrap this up. I did see that you've already filed a financial disclosure report for a campaign for governor, but you will not start raising money till much farther down the road. Is that correct?
HERRINGWell, you know, we have leadership packs, and so that work is ongoing.
SHERWOODYeah, the commonwealth pack.
HERRINGRight, one commonwealth so...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) But immediately, every seat in the legislature is up this fall. You're going to be out campaigning in the state, too. There's just a couple of seats difference in the state senate, a couple of seats difference in the state house. And that's your immediate goal, I think, politically.
HERRINGOn the political side of the political front, next -- well, this coming year...
HERRING...I'll be out working as hard as I can. You know, right now, we've got the general assembly session. Folks are in there doing the people's business. When the session's over, it's a short session, 45-day session, then this fall, all 140 seats of the general assembly will be up. It is a very narrow, close margin between Republicans and Democrats. So, I'm going to be out working as hard as I can for our Democratic candidates to try to get to a majority in both chambers. And I think we've got a great opportunity to do that.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) I just -- politics -- every attorney general, virtually, has run for governor. Every lieutenant governor -- like Governor Northam -- has run for governor. Where are you and Justin Fairfax? He's the popular -- he was elected as lieutenant governor. He has a part-time job, you have a full-time job. How are you guys -- I mean, everyone thinks he's going to run for governor. He hasn't said it as clearly as you have. How does that affect your working together to help the commonwealth if you have to eye each other 24 hours a day?
HERRINGWell, you know, Justin and I campaigned together. Even after I won the primary back in 2013, he was out, you know, supporting me. In 2017, it was great to be on the ticket together. So, we are friends. We are going to continue to work together to make sure that we've got the best state in America to live, to work, to raise a family.
MADDENAnd then let me ask you a question that will likely come up when folks start talking about primaries and raising money. You've said, I believe, that you will not accept donations from Dominion, going forward. Is that correct?
HERRINGYeah, what I've said was, you know, public trust right now in government is at a low point. And we need to do everything we can as public officials to help build that trust. Perceptions change over time, and there's a perception that with state regulated-monopolies, that public officials need to show that the decisions we make are based on what's in the best interests of the people. And I wanted to make sure that people know that I'm in there fighting for them. And so I've just decided, you know, after the last election, when this term started, that I would not accept contributions -- campaign contributions from state-regulated monopolies. It's something that I think I can do to help build that trust back up for the people.
MADDENAnd, of course, Dominion is the very, you know, powerful public utility in Virginia. And, you know, Governor Northam has said he wants to go even further and he wants to limit how much you can donate, you know, limit if corporations can make direct contributions to individuals...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Ban. Ban direct--
MADDEN...as we saw during the trial of former Governor Bob McDonell. I mean, Virginia has some of the least-restrictive campaign finance laws in the country. I mean, how far would you go in terms of either limiting the size of donations or banning corporations from making donations to campaigns?
HERRINGYou know, I think this is -- we have reached the time now to really start talking about campaign finance reform in Virginia. I like the transparency that we currently have. Any contribution over $100 must be reported, and we've got a really good, transparent system. But there is too much money in campaigns and elections. I would like to find a way to try to limit that, but I also have seen areas where when there are limits put in, it seems like the money somehow finds its way into the campaigns, anyway. And then you lose some of the transparency.
HERRINGAnother issue that we'd have to think about is, you know, in some states where they have very low limits, it makes it very hard for candidates to get their message out, and it's starting to favor wealthy individuals so that they can self-fund their campaigns. But I think these are all questions that we need to start asking in Virginia, because we do need some real campaign finance reform.
SHERWOODThe governor has proposed that there be, for the first time ever, a limit on individual contributions. He says $10,000. It's $6,000 in Maryland. So, at least that's a starting point to change the slush fund of campaigns. It's just there's money everywhere in Virginia.
HERRINGIt is almost like the Wild West in terms of the amounts that come in. And if we can have this discussion, at least it's a starting point. We can talk about the transparency issues and make sure that we maintain that transparency. But the money really -- you know, I've seen it in some other places, where it comes in with independent expenditures, in other ways. And we really -- but I applaud the governor for bringing the measure forward and beginning the conversation.
SHERWOODI watched the black legislative caucus with your good friend Justin Fairfax leading the press conference this week. And they are supporting the governor on other bills that would allow no-excuse absentee voting. Right now, you have to have a blood test, virtually, to vote absentee, but it would be that you want to vote absentee, you vote absentee. Virginia's one of the few states that doesn't have early voting. Do you support that? And also, to get rid of all these identification issues, do you just go in and you register to vote...
SHERWOOD...do you support those, also?
HERRINGAbsolutely, and I have supported them, back when I was in the senate. The early voting is something that we need that will help not only make it more convenient for voters to cast their ballot, but also help reduce lines on election day. The other one, though, that is really important is getting rid of the photo ID requirement that the governor's brought forward. This is something that, you know, we need to make voting easier for people. It is a fundamental right to vote. We need to make it easier for people to vote, not throw obstacles in the way.
HERRINGAnd I remember talking to someone a couple of years ago, a Virginian. He was wheelchair-bound, so had some pretty severe disabilities. He doesn't have a driver's license, because he knows he's not going to be driving. And he explained, you know, people in his situation have to arrange for special transportation to get to DMV, get a special ID made in order to -- we should not make it hard like that. And I do find it also interesting that it seems to be one particular political party that is trying to erect those barriers to make it harder for people to vote. Democrats are the ones who are in there trying to make it easier to vote.
MADDENAnd let me just quickly give the number out there again. You can join us by calling 1-800-433-8850, or Tweet us @kojoshow. If you have a question for Attorney General Herring, now is your chance. Call in.
HERRINGAnd something else, while we're on the subject of voting rights, I was really proud to stand with our former Governor Terry McAuliffe in restoring the rights of over 150,000 Virginians. Had a little setback in the first court case, but we won the second one. I've talked to folks who've had their rights restored, and it means so much to them. I talked to one guy who said, you know, yeah, he made a mistake, has a prior conviction. It was 30 years he hadn't been able to vote, and then he was going to vote last year. And it finally made him feel like he was a full part of the community again.
HERRINGGovernor McAuliffe did 173,000, I think, but the problem is the governor did propose, and legislation was introduced in the general assembly this past week, to get rid of this -- there's only three states that automatically deny you the right to vote if you've been convicted of a felony. But it's already been killed in the legislature.
HERRINGYeah, and it's time, as I said. It's...
HERRING...the Republicans who are continually trying to erect barriers to people coming in to vote. Democrats are the ones who are in there saying let people express their voice through their ballots. You know, that's what we need to do.
MADDENAnd Attorney General Herring, this week the US Supreme Court declined a request to delay the process of drawing new house of delegates district boundaries. This is going to be a very important issue looking ahead. This request came from state Republicans who are contesting this effort. I mean -- and this is all about gerrymandering and how states are drawing up these boundaries. Where does this case go from here?
HERRINGWell, first of all, a three-judge panel had earlier ruled that 11 house of delegate districts were racially gerrymandered. And when that ruling came out -- and it was a thorough, detailed 90-some-page opinion outlining how it was done, and we should not have a racially gerrymandered district one day longer. So, we need new districts that are fair and legal. And what's going to happen next is that three-judge panel, now that the stay has been denied, will be taking a look at the report of someone who is selected to independently propose maps. They'll take a look at that, and ultimately approve some new maps, I would expect, probably in the next few weeks.
MADDEN(overlapping) But how do we do this? I mean, we've seen this in Maryland and all over. I mean, what is the best way to draw these maps so that folks don't get angry?
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Well, here's what the court's doing. There's a professor from the University of California, his name is Bernard Grofman, and he's a mathematics and political professor. And he's done a 130-page report about how to do this. It seems to me it's a fundamental responsibility of the state legislature to draw non-gerrymandered districts. And it just seems -- I wish the Democrats and Republicans could get together and simply do it.
HERRINGAnd it should be done that way, but we've also seen how other states have taken some different approaches. And I think it's time to take it out of the hands of the legislature. I think it's time to put it in the hands of some type of an independent commission. There are some other states that have done it. Iowa is one. I think Arizona recently did it by referendum. Now, we don't have referendum in Virginia, but they changed the process by referendum to have an independent commission. And I think it's time that Virginia take a look at that.
SHERWOODCan we talk about guns? This is always a great subject for our listeners. You have proposed a hate crimes legislation in this legislative session. And I was looking at the variety of things to allow the attorney general to prosecute hate crimes, to restrict paramilitary activity. I'm not sure exactly how you do that within the confines of political freedom. Monitor hate groups. I would hope that wouldn't get out of control, but also to allow localities to set standards for where guns are allowed. That's a real traumatic change for Virginia. The localities could decide whether guns could be in churches or groceries or…
HERRING(overlapping) Well, for preventive events. So, if there's a demonstration planned, the locality could make some decisions about whether to allow firearms or not, and prohibit them if they think it's needed for safety reasons.
SHERWOODIn the public square...
HERRINGAnd so, you know, I think it's important to set the context for this. We have seen a rise in hate crimes in Virginia and across the country. There was an almost 50 percent increase in hate crimes in Virginia from 2016 to 2017. Last year, there were 38 racially motivated assaults, 44 racially motivated acts of vandalism, 32 religiously motivated acts of vandalism. It is on the rise, and it is something that we cannot allow go unchecked. We've seen how this hate can be turned deadly with increasing frequency. We saw the mass shooting in Pittsburgh and an African American church in Charleston. Even in our own backyard in Charlottesville, in Virginia.
HERRINGAnd so I held a series of roundtables around the state to talk about the rise in hate crimes, so I could hear directly from those communities and individuals who were impacted by it. And there were a couple of things. First of all, I saw that, yes, Virginians do sense that there is an increase in hate. And for some minorities it's causing them to look over their shoulder or drive home a different way for fear they may be attacked. But I also saw a determination and a resilience to not let it take root and spread.
MADDENWhen I asked you a question from somebody who just Tweeted in, this is Laney, wants to know whether the attorney general would commute the sentences of all Virginians on death row if you were governor. Would you commute the sentences of all Virginians on death row, increase transparency in the death protocol or take any other actions to stop state executions in Virginia? Where do you fall on the death penalty?
HERRINGYou know, that's something that I would have to take a look at -- if I were in that situation, to look at it on a case-by-case basis. As attorney general, you know, we work to make sure that fair trials happen, and defend convictions. But, you know, that's something that I think we would have to take a look at on a case-by-case basis. I will say right now, though, we are working on a lot of things to do criminal justice reform. One of the things we've done is to call for reform of Virginia's cash bail system, which, you know, I think is increasing -- it is a factor in the increase in over-incarceration.
HERRINGWe've got a system now in Virginia that too often determines fairness and freedom based on wealth and means.
SHERWOODLike debtors prison, almost.
MADDENWell, especially with folks and the driving fines, I mean, people losing their licenses. There's a lot of ways, I think, that...
HERRINGSo, we are working with the administration on a proposal to address that, where too many people are losing their licenses because of a fine or...
MADDENI want to go to Doug in Silver Spring, Maryland who I think has a very interesting question for you.
DOUGGood afternoon. I read in the Post this morning that should President Trump unilaterally fund this wall through the military, that certainly there would be pushback by the states attorneys general to counteract that. What would be your plan, sir?
HERRINGWell, you know, it seems like this president takes us from one constitutional crisis to another, and this would push us in that direction.
MADDENWould you challenge the order from the attorney general's office?
HERRINGIt would be something that we would look at very closely to see if there were some legal avenues, and if Virginians were hurt by this...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) You'd have to see how he writes it, because just as he tried to ban people from coming into the country that's sloppily written and it took a couple years to figure out what the hell they were really trying to do. It could be here. You don't know exactly what this president is going to do.
HERRINGRight. But what I have shown over and over is that when this president crosses a constitutional or a legal line, and Virginians are hurt by it, then I will not hesitate to go to court. The Muslim ban, the first Muslim ban is one example. And I remember really, so vividly, in the courtroom at that hearing, where we were able to get the nation's first preliminary injunction to block it, the administration's lawyer stood up and said, well, if the president invokes national security, his actions are unreviewable, which I thought was a sweeping statement. Sure, the presidents always have a lot of discretion on national security, but to say across the board, unreviewable -- you know, we see autocrats in other countries claim executive powers or national security powers in order to do things that they want to try to accomplish with a program or a policy, but not in the United States of America.
MADDENAnd then Sean has a question. He's just emailed in about sports betting, which is something...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Oh good, that was my next subject.
MADDEN...we have talked about. Well, Tom, I'll let you -- you ask him, but we have a couple emails in about sports betting.
SHERWOODWell, we talked about it just as you were coming in. DC is rushing to try to do sports betting. There's the measure at the general assembly. How would it come about? One, do you support sports betting in Virginia? I think you would oppose college betting, but where are you on that? What is the process for it to be made law in Virginia? Would it be something the voters would have to approve?
HERRINGWell, this is something the Supreme Court has said that states ought to be allowed to decide for themselves. And I think there is so much of it already happening, anyway, with the internet and people engaging in sports betting and gambling with out-of-state or even overseas entities, that we need to take a look at how we best regular it in order to make sure that it's fair and legal. And so this is a matter that the general assembly will need to take up. And we're moving in that direction, anyway. You know, horseracing is going to be back. There are proposals for a couple of casinos...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Are you -- where are you on casinos? Southwest Bristol wants a casino, because they're broke.
HERRINGWell, yeah, and I think there are casinos in states all around Virginia. We're losing revenue, and I think it's time that we recognize that there are people -- there are Virginians who want to bet and, you know, we ought to take some steps forward to try to look at how we can do it in a way that is responsible and that we regulate it carefully to make sure it's done fairly and legally. And get the revenue for it--
HERRING--as opposed to sending it to other states.
SHERWOODThe ERA, Virginia made this session pass the ERA, will be the 38th state. Whether it has any legal effect or not, it seems to me the Republicans who have been saying that, well, it's not going to make any difference may not move it. But it just seems like such an easy thing to do, to acknowledge that women or should be fundamentally treated equal.
MADDENVirginia, I think, would be the 38th state?
HERRINGWould it be great if Virginia put us over the top, the 38th state to ratify it? I hope we do it--
MADDEN(overlapping) Even if nothing else happens.
HERRING--I hope we do it. We should've done it a long time ago. But I also issued an opinion about a year or so ago that said it might have, you know, an important effect, because Congress -- in the past -- has extended the time for ratification for other amendments. Congress could do that, as well. And so it's important that Virginia do this. There's no reason why anyone should be discriminated against on account of gender.
MADDENAnd I know we're running up against the hour, but I want to go to one more caller. This is Patrick in Prince William County, who wants to know -- we talked about the voter ID. Patrick, go ahead.
PATRICKYeah, so, first off, I just want to say that I'm fully in support of getting rid of the voter ID law, personally. When the conversation comes up amongst friends and family, the question that's always posed is, well, then, how would we confirm the identification of each voter? And, I mean, is that important?
HERRINGWell, there are ways that that can be done that have been done in the past. You could bring in a utility bill, something that shows that you are who you are. But the important thing is that people be allowed to vote, that they are not suppressed, and that we reduce barriers to voting. There are a lot of ways that we could do it. And this notion that there is somehow widespread voter fraud, that is ridiculous. That is not happening. There are not people showing up, purporting to be someone else who they're not. And there are ways that you could do it without having to require a special photo ID.
SHERWOODIt's astonishing to me that, you know, we want people to vote. I think we should have voting on Saturday, or something, so that people cannot have to take a day of work to go vote. And if you really want to make it easier for people to vote, even some states are allowing internet voting.
HERRINGAnd the early voting would allow for that, including some Saturday hours. So, there are ways that we can do this. Voters want it. It's more convenient for them, and there are no good reasons for us not to do it.
MADDENAnd I know we're running out of time, but what is the biggest issue, you think, that will come out of this general assembly?
HERRINGWell, you know, budget issues are always tough, and this--
SHERWOOD(overlapping) You've got more money than ever to spend this time around.
HERRING(laugh) Sometimes that makes it harder. But I think the governor has done a great job putting forward a budget that is both forward-thinking and fiscally responsible. There are a raise for teachers, investments in our future, so I think those -- you know, budget issues are going to be the focus of a lot of the general assembly's attention this year.
MADDENAll right. Well, thank you very much Attorney General--
SHERWOOD(overlapping) I've got more questions.
MADDEN--I know. (all talking at once) after the show. Thank you very much. Attorney General Mark Herring, joining us on the Politics Hour. Thank you very much.
HERRINGThanks for having me.
SHERWOODIt's like a speed date.
MADDENWell, Tom, thanks again for...
SHERWOODSorry for my voice still being weird.
MADDEN(overlapping) I think it came through loud and clear. It was very good. Again, today's Politics Hour was produced by Mark Gunnery. Coming up Monday, we'll continue our coverage of the partial federal government shutdown and discuss what it takes to actually join a gym. I will be listening to that. Plus, we'll talk about barriers to working out. So, tune in Monday at 12:00. I'm Patrick Madden, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Have a great weekend.
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