The politics behind a Dragas reappointment at UVA

The question of whether or not Governor Bob McDonnell will reappoint UVA Rector Helen Dragas remains unanswered. And, even if the governor reappoints her, her status will be in flux because Rector Helen Dragas must be confirmed by the General Assembly.

Judging by the meeting of the Board of Visitors on Tuesday in the Rotunda, it would appear that the deal has been cut to reappoint her.

I could be wrong, but my educated guess is that Dragas did not have the votes to stop the reinstatement of President Sullivan and she cut a deal to be reappointed. In order to make that reappointment credible, a resolution in support of Rector Dragas was unanimously approved.

Makes sense. Easy to see. Right?

Governor McDonnell made two correct calls regarding what UVA Professor Dr. Larry Sabato described via Twitter as “the recent unpleasantness.”

First, the Governor rightly declared that he would not “meddle” in the governance of University boards. Second, the Governor gave a firm ultimatum that if a decision was not made by the Board on Tuesday, he would seek the resignation of the Board.

So, naturally, given the timing of the reappointment of Dragas, everyone thinks the matter will be over by Monday, right?

Guess again.

Dragas must be approved by a majority of both the House of Delegates and the Senate.

Does she have the votes, you ask? You assume that a vote on Helen Dragas would actually have to be taken.


The question is not whether Rector Dragas has a majority of the House and Senate on her side, the question is will she even appear on the resolution on which a vote is then taken.

Here’s where the whole thing gets really sticky for the Governor if he did make the deal to reappoint Dragas.

Governor McDonnell is coming into his last General Assembly session – ever. Following an exemplary career as a member of the House of Delegates and one term as Attorney General, McDonnell has 45 days left on his legislative calendar.

In order to be successful, he will need the support of both the House and the evenly divided Senate.

Normally, the House would be seen as an ally but recently deals regarding the Port of Virginia and the Washington Redskins have not been welcomed in the powerful House Appropriations Committee. In fact, tensions are quite high.

What does this have to do with the reappointment and confirmation of Helen Dragas to the UVA Board of Visitors? If McDonnell has a problem with members of the House Appropriations Committee, he’ll make the deals necessary with the delegates on Approps, right?

Well, they also happen to serve on House Privileges and Elections Committee which handles confirming appointments of the Governor. Delegates Lacey Putney, Chris Jones and Steve Landes all serve on Appropriations and Privileges & Elections. Not only do Putney, Jones and Landes serve on both committees, all three of them serve on the Budget Conference Committee.

Which delegates have been the most public in their displeasure with the Governor’s decisions regarding the Port and the Redskins? Putney, Jones and Landes.

Oh, so the Governor would reappoint Dragas and the House would not support her and her name just would not appear on the resolution? Yup.

Does the Governor know this? Yup.

Do the House guys know that the Governor knows this? Yup.

Does the Governor know that the House guys know that Governor knows this? Yup yup.

Well, does this mean that the Governor will or will not get Dragas reappointed?

Just tell us!!! Please!!!!



How much.

How much what?

How much McDonnell wants to invest in this reappointment – every investment has a point of diminishing returns. Ah, Return On Investment…ROI…

Well, what is the ROI on a Dragas reappointment?

It depends.

Political ROIs are different than business ROIs and much harder to determine.

Since Tuesday, ask yourself has Rector Dragas’ ROI gone up or down?


On what????

Who you’re asking and when.

This is politics, not business.

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