Richard Martin Reporting

What’s the matter with Virginia?

The governor and his Legislature are dug in, engaged in ugly trench warfare. The most powerful member of its congressional delegation, an implacable foe of the president, was tossed out in a primary for being too wishy-washy. And a former governor and his wife go on trial on Monday on charges they used his office as an A.T.M., cashing in for goodies like a Rolex watch and designer clothes.

This state, which once took pride in the “Virginia Way,” a plain-vanilla politics of civility, consensus and relatively clean government, has become a setting of national political melodrama symbolized by the corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. They stand accused in federal court of accepting more than $165,000 in cash and gifts from a businessman who sought to use the first couple to promote his company.

This is entirely separate from the investigation of State Senator Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat, accused by critics of taking the equivalent of a bribe to give up his seat and give control of the Senate to Republicans.

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~ The New York Times

Jury selection starts Monday in the federal corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell, the first Virginia governor to be indicted for conduct in office.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, face multiple charges surrounding their dealings with Jonnie Williams, the owner of a dietary supplement company. Prosecutors say the couple solicited more than $160,000 in gifts, loans and other favors from Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s products.

Among the favors, according to the indictment, were luxury vacations, golf outings, a Rolex watch for the governor, designer clothing for his wife, catering for a McDonnell daughter’s wedding, use of Williams’ Ferrari sports car and loans to prop up the McDonnells’ foundering real estate investments.

The McDonnells are also accused of taking various steps to cover up their dealings with Williams, including falsifying loan documents. In addition, Maureen McDonnell is charged with obstructing the criminal investigation.

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

Ralph S. Northam read Noah’s electroencephalogram and sent the 7-year-old home from the hospital with a dose of powerful anti-seizure medication and instructions to return for more tests.

Northam’s work as a doctor is a far cry from his other day job, presiding over the Virginia Senate, where he welcomes visitors to Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol and enforces the chamber’s arcane rules.

Most Virginians don’t know that the lieutenant governor spends much of his time treating sick children as a pediatric neurologist. More to the point, most Virginians don’t know who the lieutenant governor is.

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~ The Washington Post

Virginia, the annual Kids Count survey shows, has increased its preschool and on-time graduation rates. Teen births are down. More children have health insurance. Fewer children and teens are dying, and fewer are using alcohol or other drugs.

Overall, Virginia’s children are better off than those in 41 other states, according to the extensive survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. North Carolina’s children did not fare as well, ranking 34th overall.

But the commonwealth’s kids are poorer than four years ago, when we were in the midst of the recession. Fifteen percent live in poverty - less than $23,000 for a family of four. In the past school year, 41 percent were in free or reduced-price lunch programs, up from 37 percent in 2009-10. At least one-third of children in public schools in all five South Hampton Roads cities qualified for reduced-price lunches.

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

If the creation of a statewide district to take over failing schools isn’t the answer - and a judge’s ruling and the state constitution say it’s not - the big question remains: What should be done to improve Virginia’s worst-performing schools?

Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Charles Poston ruled last month that the creation of a statewide school board for failing schools ran counter to local control as specified in the state constitution.

Last week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe made the prudent decision not to appeal Poston’s ruling.

That, for all intents and purposes, means the end of the Opportunity Educational Institution, a potential bureaucratic behemoth that had few champions after its proponent, Gov. Bob McDonnell, left office in January.

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

Our guess is if you looked in David Brat’s CD collection, you’d find a lot of greatest hits.

This thought popped into our mind as Brat recently visited Culpeper during his campaign for the 7th District Congressional seat in November.

Brat, who famously defeated incumbent and U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the June primary, was chatting with local businesses when a familiar tune started to flow from his lips.

"The small business guy is the heart and soul of the economy."

He soon followed that with, “something needs to be done with Obamacare.”

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~ Culpeper Star Exponent

Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.
George Halas

Bob McDonnell’s legacy as Virginia’s governor was in big trouble well before his corruption trial.

Events and egos — other people’s — conspired to disrupt if not destroy marquee components of a McDonnell record now overshadowed by the events and egos — his, wife Maureen’s and Jonnie Williams Sr.’s — that spawned a scandal known as Giftgate.

Acquittal in Richmond federal court — the trial begins Monday — may be vindication for McDonnell, who, along with his wife, is pleading not guilty. He’s been less fortunate in the court of public opinion. There, some of his most significant initiatives as chief executive have been charged, tried and convicted.

Whether it was transportation, privatization, education or ethics — an issue he addressed literally days before his indictment — McDonnell took steps that, he believed, would change the course of government.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

Three days after he severely injured his hamstring, the Nationals have yet to declare how long Ryan Zimmerman will be out this season. Manager Matt Williams indicated on Friday that Zimmerman was resting for an initial period of two weeks and added that the team didn’t have a grade of the strain yet.

On Saturday, General Manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals would check on Zimmerman when the team returns from their current roadtrip, which ends Wednesday in Miami.

“He’s with our [physical therapist] and he’s doing physical therapy at home right now,” Rizzo said. “We’ll check in when we get back from the roadtrip.”

Rizzo declined to say yet how long Zimmerman would be out. Zimmerman has been expected to receive further evaluation on his hamstring early next week by the team’s doctor.

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~ The Washington Post

Libertarian Robert Sarvis released a video response to today’s Virginia U.S. Senate candidates debate between Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie, saying, “I’ll leave it to the pundits and partisans to argue about who won today’s debate, but I can tell you who lost — the Virginia voters.”

Sarvis, who will be on the ballot with Warner and Gillespie in the November election, said in a statement announcing the video, “Most Virginians weren’t tuning in to a livestream of a debate taking place in another state, but those who were, and those who will read about it online or in tomorrow’s newspapers, aren’t coming away able to make an informed choice about who to support.”

“Both candidates offered little more than spin, prepared talking points, and personal attacks, without offering substantive discussion on vital issues like the $17 trillion national debt or tax and entitlement reform,” said Sarvis, who received 6.5% of the vote in last November’s Virginia gubernatorial election.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

The star witness is a flashy dietary supplement executive who boasted of friendships with Linsday Lohan and Paris Hilton. A manicurist, a party planner and a yet-to-be-named public official from another state also could take the stand.

In their much-anticipated federal corruption trial set to begin Monday, former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, will seek to win acquittal on multiple charges and restore their honor in the eyes of the law.

But during the anticipated five-week drama that will unfold in a Richmond courtroom, the McDonnells also will submit themselves to a potentially humiliating spectacle that will showcase an intimate view of their frayed marriage and odd personal relationships.

“It’s going to be ugly,” said L. Douglas Wilder, another former governor, who is friendly with McDonnell and has followed the case. “The more you read, the more sleaze develops. It’s not going to be nice for anyone.”

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~ The Washington Post

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Ed Gillespie, his Republican opponent in the fall election, wasted little time Saturday before labeling each other during a civil-but-aggressive debate.

After describing his rise as the son of working-class parents to financial success and a job in the White House, Gillespie said, “I fear we’re losing that kind of economic opportunity and upward mobility as a result of President Obama’s and Senator Warner’s job-killing policies. It’s the result of a government that has grown too big, squeezing Virginians between lost jobs and stagnant wages and higher prices for health care, energy and food.”

Warner, a former governor, defended his efforts to push for bipartisan agreement on budget and debt issues while noting that Gillespie “spent his entire career as a D.C. lobbyist and a partisan operative. He even went on TV and called himself a partisan warrior…. The last thing Washington needs is another ‘partisan warrior.’ “

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

The upcoming corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife is sure to have Virginia politicians riveted - with good reason.

For the state’s elected leaders, the courtroom drama that will begin unfolding Monday underlines a stark reality that has become increasingly apparent over the past five years:

The feds are watching you. Closely.

"What is very clear is that the federal investigators and the federal prosecutors are putting Virginia under a much closer microscope than we’ve ever seen," Richmond-based political analyst Bob Holsworth said last week.

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

Not every federal investigation of Virginia elected officials has resulted in criminal charges.

In 2012, a grand jury was empaneled to scrutinize state Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News, who co-sponsored a tax break for a Peninsula aviation company that subsequently put him on its payroll.

That investigation appears to have petered out.

"As far as I’m concerned, it’s all closed up," said Scott Terry, CEO of Williamsburg-based Tempus Jets, formerly Orion Air, the beneficiary of the tax break. "I haven’t heard a thing about it for two years. It was bogus in the first place."

Miller, who insisted all along that his hiring by Orion had nothing to do with the tax break, no longer works for the company.

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

Virginia Sen. Mark R. Warner and Republican rival Ed Gillespie debated for the first time on Saturday, bringing attention to a race that so far has existed under the radar. The big-name candidates took the opportunity to yet again introduce themselves to voters — and, more noticeably, point out their rival’s weaknesses.

The candidates discussed what they consider dysfunction in Washington, inside the Obama Administration and with the economy — plus questions about immigration, health care reform and foreign policy in Ukraine, the Middle East and China. Gillespie also said that he supports increasing access to contraception, including making some birth control pills available without a prescription.

An unusual quirk to the 90-minute debate: It was not held in Virginia, the state the candidates are fighting to represent in the U.S. Senate. Instead it was held just across the border in West Virginia at the Greenbrier, a luxury resort where the Virginia Bar Association, which hosted the debate, has its annual summer meeting.

Both candidates cast the other as an entrenched partisan: Gillespie criticized Warner, a former Virginia governor who is running for a second Senate term, of just following the Democratic party line instead of standing up for Virginians. He pointed out that Warner has voted with President Obama 97 percent of the time. Gillespie touted himself as an “independent voice,” a senator who would hold President Obama in check.

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~ The Washington Post