Leahy: Virginia Democrats Shouldn’t Skip Accountability Now

Let’s step back in time and look at a few instances of Virginia politicians and their approaches to accountability.

Our first stop is 2019.

After a mass shooting in Virginia Beach in May of that year, in which a dozen people were killed, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called a special session of the then-GOP-controlled General Assembly. His object: Get the worthies to debate and maybe even vote on a series of gun control measures.

There was no chance Republicans would vote for any Democratic legislation even remotely related to gun control, especially in an election year. But putting them on the spot was smart politics.

True to form, the GOP handled the politics very badly.

House Republicans, under the leadership of then-House Speaker and now gubernatorial candidate Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights), adjourned the  session after 90 minutes. Cox blithely said Northam had called the session prematurely, and Republicans punted the gun bills to the Virginia Crime Commission.

Democrats were livid, with then-House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (Fairfax) reportedly “almost shaking with anger,” and then-Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (Fairfax) promising “let me assure you, we are going to prevail, one way or another.”

The commission issued a brief report after the November elections saying it was the General Assembly’s job to decide what to do about gun laws.

In the end, Saslaw was right. Short-circuiting the special session exposed the GOP’s political weakness and institutional arrogance. It cost them dearly.

Fast forward to this week, and House and Senate Republicans are issuing calls for a special session to investigate the state’s scandal-plagued Parole Board.

The latest wrinkle in this nearly year-long story was the release of an audio tape of a meeting between the state’s inspector general Michael Westfall, Northam chief of staff Clark Mercer, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran and other staff members.

Continue reading at The Washington Post.

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