The Score: Senate Hopefuls, True Crime, Big Chicken, and Dead Center

Nick Freitas Corey Stewart EW Jackson UVAThis week’s episode of The Score features interviews with two of the three candidates who have qualified for the ballot in the June 12 GOP Senate primary in Virginia.

I spoke with Nick Freitas and Corey Stewart after this past week’s debate held on the Grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Those interviews are preceded by a look at how the debate came to be planned with Adam Kimelman, chairman of the UVA College Republicans. (I hope to have E.W. Jackson as a guest on The Score between now and the first week of June.)

At this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, I had the opportunity to meet and interview about a dozen authors about their books. Some topics were political, some were policy related, and some focused on food.

At one panel called “Criminal Injustice,” best-selling author John Grisham, who practically invented a new genre, the legal thriller, moderated a discussion that featured several writers whose topic is crime, punishment, and the administration of justice.

As it happens, Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding was in the audience and I took an opportunity to pull him aside and ask him what he thought about the panel. I also asked him about the case of Jens Soering, who has been serving two life sentences as punishment for a brutal double murder in Bedford back in 1985. As new evidence has come to light, various legal scholars and law enforcement officials have come to believe that Soering is innocent of that crime. Sheriff Harding is one of the advocates for Soering’s innocence.

The Score also talked about this subject with veteran journalist Bill Sizemore, who covered politics and other beats for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot for many years, has co-authored a book with Jens Soering called A Far, Far Better Thing: Did a Fatal Attraction Lead to a Wrongful Conviction?. That book has a foreword by actor Martin Sheen.

Another author on the “Criminal Injustice” panel was Radley Balko, who writes about police and law enforcement issues for The Washington Post. I spoke with him about his most recent book, The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist, which explores how bad forensic science leads to bad outcomes in criminal cases, including the conviction of innocent people. His co-author in this project was Tucker Carrington, a lawyer based in Mississippi. Balko’s previous books include Rise of the Warrior Cop and Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.

Science – this time the science of public health – was on the menu at another book festival panel discussion. Atlanta-based journalist Maryn McKenna, whose previous books have looked at topics like the Epidemic Intelligence Service and antibiotic-resistant bacteria (which she also discussed in a popular TED Talk, has written Big Chicken, which explores how adding antibiotics to the feed of poultry and other animals we eat since the 1940s has affected the health of people in the United States and around the world.

Finally, I spoke with former Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire about his new book, Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America and What We Can Do about It. He had just participated in a panel about American politics at Charlottesville’s city hall along with the Miller Center’s Nicole Hemmer and Irish journalist Caitriona Perry.

Altmire is a Democrat who served three terms in the House of Representatives, ending in 2013. During his tenure, National Journal ranked him as the least ideological Member of Congress – neither right nor left, but “dead center,” hence the title of his book. Altmire represented the district adjoining Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, which was won earlier this month in a special election by Democrat Conor Lamb over Republican Rick Saccone. That 18th district will no longer exist next year, however, and Lamb will run for Altmire’s old seat if he chooses to seek re-election.

I asked Altmire whether politically disengaged people — known as “low-information voters” — have an ethical obligation to abstain from voting. Let’s just say he and I disagree on this matter.

Next week on The Score, I’ll have some more interviews left over from the Virginia Festival of the Book as well as a few I collected in Washington this week and, perhaps, a surprise or two.

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