Richard Martin Reporting

Since word got out that Virginia Sen. Mark Warner called former state Sen. Phil Puckett’s son to discuss possible employment options for Puckett’s daughter, Martha Puckett Ketron, both Warner and his spokesman have stressed two points repeatedly: (1) Warner and Puckett have been friends for two decades, and (2) Warner never offered Ketron a job.

Warner has been “a close friend of Phil Puckett and his family for nearly 20 years,” said a spokesman to The Washington Post, which broke the story. Furthermore, the senator “never did offer any job to Mrs. Ketron.” In a debate three days later, Warner said, “I’ve been a friend” of Puckett “for nearly 20 years. … I reached out to his son to find out what was going on. … We brainstormed about possible opportunities for his sister. … Let me make clear: I did not offer her a job.”

A couple of days later, Warner again told the Lynchburg News-Advance, “I called a family friend of 20 years. But again the key point here is I didn’t offer anyone a job.”

Why is that the key point — and why does Warner keep harping on it?

Click on the headline to read the full story.

~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

The two candidates to replace retiring Rep. Frank R. Wolf in Virginia’s 10th District are readying their closing pitch to voters in one of the most expensive House races in the country.

Republican Barbara Comstock and Democrat John Foust have been locked in a tight race in which much of the recent attention has been on explosive charges leveled by the candidates and their allies.

Republicans have almost singularly directed their fire at Mr. Foust’s comments over the summer that he wasn’t sure whether Ms. Comstock, an attorney and former Justice Department official, ever had a real job. Republicans have called the remarks sexist and offensive to working mothers.

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~ The Washington Times

 

Senate candidate Ed Gillespie is behind in the polls and campaign cash with little more than two weeks before Election Day in Virginia.

But the former high-powered Washington political operative said he’s enjoying his underdog campaign and feels that momentum is in his favor.

The Republican Gillespie is trying to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, a popular former governor seeking a second term.

Gillespie said the media and pundits are missing what’s happening on the ground, and that people unhappy with President Barack Obama’s energy, health care and tax policies — and Warner’s support for them — will help Gillespie win in November.

~ The Virginian-Pilot

A Texas nurse has been infected with Ebola on American soil, after treating a Liberian man who died from the virus in Dallas Oct. 8. As the Center for Disease Control and other governmental agencies work to combat the spread of the outbreak, the Virginia Department of Health and the University Medical Center have become involved in preparing ways to prevent a potential domestic outbreaks.

Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever with symptoms including fatigue, headache, vomiting, and unexplained hemorrhages. On average, these symptoms present themselves eight to 10 days after exposure, which can either be direct or indirect. The disease is spread through bodily secretions.

“We have had a plan in place since this summer to safely care for potential Ebola patients while protecting the health of our team members and the public,” Medical Center spokesperson Eric Swensen said. “Our plan was tested in September, when we ruled out Ebola in a patient who came to the Medical Center.”

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~ The Cavalier Daily

 

The pounding beat of the boy band onstage at a recent Latino festival in Leesburg, Va., makes it hard to hear constituents who often don’t speak Republican Barbara J. Comstock’s language.

But Comstock is game. She turns to an air traffic controller who hopes the state delegate running for Congress would be as supportive of federal employees as retiring Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R). Comstock begins an enthusiastic assent, but the man cuts her off and asks about a quote from a recent debate in which Comstock suggested that if FedEx can track packages coming into the country, the United States should be able to track immigrants.

Comstock explains that he “didn’t hear the whole story” — and then her gaze turns to the woman next to him, who has started recording the encounter on her phone.

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~ The Washington Post

While the Giants and Royals get set to play the 2014 World Series, the Nationals and 27 other MLB teams are in the early stages of their offseason. Here is a look at some important dates to keep in mind while you wait the four long months before pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Viera, Florida.

Award season

Nov. 10 – Rookie of the Year awards announced
Nov. 11 – Manager of the Year awards announced
Nov. 12 – Cy Young awards announced
Nov. 13 – Most Valuable Player awards announced

When the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards will be revealed has not been announced yet. Usually the defensive awards are handed out in the final days of October, while Silver Sluggers are given a week into November.

The Nationals could see several players in the running for awards this season. The headliner would probably be Matt Williams, who has a solid chance to win NL Manager of the Year. He took a team that everyone knew was talented to 96 wins and an NL East division crown. But given all the injuries the Nats dealt with early in the season, Williams deserves a lot of credit for the job he did in 2014.

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~ Comcast SportsNet

 

Convinced that phones behind the wheel endanger everyone on the road, the legislator who championed a stronger anti-texting law for Virginia in 2013 wants to take them out of drivers’ hands altogether next year.

Del. Richard Anderson told a conference on distracted driving in September that he will introduce legislation to ban all use of handheld devices by motorists in the commonwealth, as 14 other states and Washington, D.C., have done. Phone calls by hands-free technology would remain legal.

Some will call it a “nanny state bill,” said Anderson, a Republican from Prince William County. His response: research says manipulating a phone while driving carries the same risk as driving while drunk.

“If we don’t pass a piece of legislation that’s like that, we may as well make it legal to drive down the road and have an open bottle of Jim Beam, sipping on it at the wheel, because they’re identical,” he told the crowd.

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

Nearly two years into his first term, Virginia’s junior senator, Timothy M. Kaine, has eased into his role as a leader on foreign relations and military affairs, a role that he did not necessarily seek when he ran for the office in 2012.

“When I was a candidate, I certainly talked about our military as a huge talent pool that we need to take advantage of as people transition into civilian life,” Kaine said in an interview Friday. He had returned from his most recent trip to the Middle East, which took him to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Qatar, followed by a short visit to India.

“I wasn’t aware that our committee assignments would take me so significantly into military and foreign policy issues. But I have been very, very excited to do that.”

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

An angry reader left a voice mail a few weeks ago. He scolded me for being “pro-alcohol.”

Please.

When it comes to booze, I’m pro-choice. Drink or don’t drink, I don’t care. Just stay out of the driver’s seat after you’ve imbibed. Beyond that, I don’t care what you put in your body.

I’ll probably be hearing from this irate guy again, though. We’re talking liquor today and Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s unilateral decision to raise prices at ABC stores in a feeble attempt to close a multiyear budget gap of $2.4 billion.

No doubt you heard. Faced with a multitude of money problems, McAuliffe announced last week that he’d be laying off hundreds of state workers and jacking up the price of Jack Daniels.

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

Gerrymandering dates to the founding. It takes its name from Elbridge Gerry, who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. He participated in the Constitutional Convention but did not sign the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights. An ardent Jeffersonian, he served as governor of Massachusetts. He superintended a redistricting that wits likened to a salamander. Despite his contributions to the nation’s birth he would be forgotten today if not for the gerrymanders that distort the nation’s politics. The founders made mistakes.

Although the split between Federalists and Democrat-Republicans occurred soon after the Constitution went into effect, gerrymandering began prior to the institutionalization of the two-party system. That system has gone through many changes — the Federalists became the Whigs, the Whigs became the Republicans (in the GOP permutation); Thomas Jefferson’s Republicans gave way to Andrew Jackson’s Democrats — and gerrymandering has become standard operating procedure for both major parties. Technology has enabled them to perfect the dirty craft.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

The academic performance recently outlined by the Virginia Standards of Learning Assessment is unacceptable. The number of arrests at our high schools is unacceptable. The disproportionate number of students living in poverty in certain geographical areas is unacceptable. The challenges are real and they have been for years.

In 2010, I was grateful when the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights began its compliance review to determine whether or not the Henrico County Public School system discriminates against minority students. At that time, I was not concerned with protecting the reputation of the establishment; instead, I was and remain more concerned with ensuring that families of Henrico receive quality services. While many wish for the end of state and federal testing mandates, I believe they are necessary.
If not for these tests, it would be tough to illustrate what many of us have long perceived as a challenge in appropriating resources across the county. I welcome any study or assessment that results in addressing the concerns that we share.

The 2013-2014 SOL results support the perception that Henrico has a challenge related to serving all children, and it confirms real issues that we have related to the impact of poverty. Over the years, schools have evolved to become a one-stop shop. Students attend school for roughly 30 hours per week, which is adequate for an overwhelming majority. Unfortunately that is not the case for those students facing challenges during out-of-school time.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

The dust is settling from Colonial Downs’ decision to relinquish its unlimited license to run the state’s only pari-mutuel wagering race course and shutter the track and betting sites Nov. 1 after 17 rocky years of operation.

What happens to the racetrack on 607 mostly green acres off Interstate 64 in New Kent County between Richmond and Williamsburg?

Jeffrey Jacobs, the chairman and CEO of Golden, Colo.-based Jacobs Entertainment Inc., which owns the track, said it’s doubtful Colonial Downs will reopen. But he also said he wants to hold onto it and see what happens.

“It’s his property; he can do what he wants with it,” said J. Sargeant “Sarge” Reynolds, chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

 

State officials won’t decide for weeks how much liquor prices will increase, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Wednesday that the state will help close a budget gap by laying off 565 employees, mostly by closing prisons, and by raising prices on distilled spirits.

"Over the next few weeks, ABC’s executive leadership team will make a final decision about the increase and its effective date," Kathleen Shaw, a spokeswoman for the department, wrote in an email.

Shaw said officials from the agency “will be seeking comment from its stakeholders, including vendors, suppliers and industry representatives, and working with them to accommodate their business needs.”

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

 

Virginia is taking additional steps to strengthen the level of preparedness for the Ebola virus by mobilizing a statewide unified command group, which will be responsible for coordinating resources and personnel, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Friday in a statement.

The group will be composed of officials from the governor’s office, Department of Health, Department of Emergency Management, State Police, Department of Social Services, Department of Transportation, Virginia National Guard, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and others.

"Ebola prevention is based on principles and approaches that we use every day," State Health Commissioner Marissa Levine said in the statement. "However, there are unique aspects of Ebola that require us to make sure our plans and processes are up to date for this new concern."

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~ Newport News Daily Press

 

Just over two weeks to go, and Republicans appear on course to make some of the key pickups they need to take charge of the Senate. But a lot can still happen, and Ebola’s a powerful distraction.

Does America think it’s ready for Ebola?

It’s certainly a target rich environment for the GOP. The number of voters who think the country is heading in the right direction remains below 30% where it’s been for most weeks over the past year.

Just 34% think America’s best days are still to come.

Consumer and investor confidence remain down.

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~ Rasmussen Reports™