January 16, 2006
The Virginia General Assembly convened one week ago, and one of the first questions was what to do about Sen. Russ Potts, who has long identified himself as a Republican, but who ran as an independent candidate for governor last year. He didn't draw enough votes to have made a difference in the outcome, but it was a clear gesture of repudiation to the state party organization nonetheless. Earlier in the week, GOP conservatives tried to remove Potts as chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, on the grounds that he did not truly belong to a political party as required by Senate rules, but they were unable to muster a majority to do so. Just to make sure they could not do so again, "the Senate approved, 35-4, a new rule declaring that only the chamber could decide -- by a minimum of two-thirds, or 27 votes -- whether a member, indeed, has quit his or her political party." While they were at it, they eliminated one of the staff positions in the office of Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, a clear slap in the face to the man who has just taken office. See Richmond Times-Dispatch. "Commonwealth Conservative" blogger Chad Dotson identifies the three Republican senators who voted with the Democrats to keep Potts in his current chairmanship: Fred Quayle, John Chichester, Charles Hawkins.
To me, this is all too bizarre to comprehend. I am on record (see posts from Dec. 14, Dec. 9, and May 21, 2005) as viewing with strong distaste the epithet "RINO" (Republicans In Name Only), seeing that as unduly exclusionary of moderates within the party. Of course, I tend toward the moderate side in some areas, especially environmental and social issues, and I remain firmly committed to maintaining constructive dialogue not only within the Republican party but between the Republican and Democrat parties. I believe in building a strong majority that can govern effectively and carry out much-needed reforms of our statist, entitlement-plagued society. That being said, I must voice outrage at the Republican moderates in the Virginia Senate for undermining party cohesiveness. It is one thing to take a dissenting position on grounds of principle, but if people who go the next step and actively work against the party without being punished for it, then the party will be begin to crumble. After all, what in blazes is the point of being a party member if there is no discipline or sense of common purpose?
The inauguration of Tim Kaine as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia took place in Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia until 1780, because the Capitol building in Richmond is undergoing extensive repairs. The event was marred by steady, chilly rain, ruining the chance to showcase the historical charms of Colonial Williamsburg (), which has been hurt by a recent decline in tourism. Kaine maintained his upbeat, optimistic tone, making the ritualistic appeal to bipartisanship. Republicans could be forgiven for resisting such outreach, having been outmaneuvered and burned by Governor Warner on the tax hike two years ago, but what the heck: Let's give bipartisanship another try!
One of former Governor Mark Warner's last official acts was to grant voting rights to 3,414 convicted felons. This was several times more than any other recent governor, of either party. See Washington Times (via Steve Kijak.) It reminds one of former President Clinton's pardon of mega-swindler Marc Rich in the final days of his term.