Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) is swearing off campaign contributions from Dominion Energy and calling on his fellow Democrats to do the same, becoming the latest in a line of state lawmakers to reject money from one of Virginia’s only regulated monopolies.
Hope announced at his annual pancake breakfast Saturday (Jan. 5) that he’ll now stop accepting campaign cash from the electric utility, according to a video posted by the Democratic blog Blue Virginia. Hope has accepted $9,500 from Dominion since he was first elected back in 2009, but decided to stop doing so as he gears up to run for a sixth term in office this fall.
“I’ve heard from a lot of my constituents that the perception that you’re taking money is influencing your vote, whether it’s true or not,” Hope told attendees. “I can’t give enough speeches to convince my constituents that I’m voting not because they gave me a check, but because it’s the right thing to do. And I’m tired of making that speech over and over.”
Hope added that “every single Democrat that’s running for office should make that commitment” to refuse Dominion dollars, and many around the state already have.
Dominion has long been one of the top political donors in the whole state, yet politicians of both parties have increasingly argued that members of the General Assembly shouldn’t accept money from a company they’re charged with regulating — just last year, lawmakers oversaw an extensive rewrite of the state’s regulatory authority over electric utilities like Dominion.
The activist group Activate Virginia brought a focus to the issue during the last round of state elections in 2017, eliciting a pledge from dozens of Democrats running for the House of Delegates to refuse the company’s money.
Some of Arlington’s legislative delegation also followed suit, including Dels. Mark Levine (D-45th District), Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) and Rip Sullivan (D-48th District). Lopez, like Hope, did previously accept Dominion contributions in the past, taking in about $4,500 since he was first elected in 2012.
The county’s three state senators, however, all still take thousands from Dominion. Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) has accepted $50,000 from the company over the course of her long career, while Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) has taken in $9,500 and Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District) has pulled in $12,500. Local Democratic activist Nicole Merlene even recently launched a primary challenge against Favola, calling for a ban on contributions from state-regulated utilities as part of her campaign.
But Hope sees a sea change coming in Virginia politics on the issue. Attorney General Mark Herring became one of the most senior Democrats in the state to refuse Dominion cash when he announced he wouldn’t accept any of the company’s money as he ramps up a campaign for governor for the 2021 cycle, and Hope “wholeheartedly” endorsed the former Loudoun state senator’s nascent bid to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam.
“I’m going to take the same commitment he made because I don’t want him to be the only one there making it,” Hope said, with Herring in attendance.
PREDICTION: there will never be another statewide Democratic candidate for office that accepts money from Dominion. https://t.co/kjjgYfJoAL
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) January 5, 2019
Northam himself rolled out a series of campaign finance reform proposals today (Monday), officially announcing his support for a ban on all corporate campaign contributions. Unlike 2017 primary rival Tom Perriello, Northam accepted nearly $73,000 in contributions from Dominion over the course of the gubernatorial campaign, but he pledged to push a ban on corporate cash once he was elected.
However, unless Democrats win an uphill battle in convincing the Republicans controlling both chambers of the General Assembly to embrace such a change, Northam plans to continue accepting such donations for his political action committee.
“Until we’re able to do that, I will continue to operate in the existing landscape,” Northam told reporters.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is warning that some voters are receiving calls falsely telling them their polling place has changed.
In a tweet this afternoon, VDEM said these calls are false, and that registered voters can confirm their polling place online.
— VDEM (@VDEM) November 7, 2017
The Arlington County elections office said it estimated turnout of 40 percent today at the polls, plus another 8 percent of registered voters voting absentee. That represents a slight slowdown from the noon estimate, when turnout was at about 31 percent at the polls.
Arlington County registrar Linda Lindberg told ARLnow earlier that the arrival of steady rain slowed turnout somewhat. But it still means Arlington is well on track to beat the final turnout of 49 percent in 2013, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Plus, a break in the steadier rain is expected as Northern Virginia residents start to leave work.
— NWS DC/Baltimore (@NWS_BaltWash) November 7, 2017
Earlier today, the candidates in today’s election hit the streets, making their final pitches to voters as they headed to the polls.
Greeting voters at Key School — catching up with old friends & new! pic.twitter.com/L9vnxMMfcl
— Libby Garvey (@libbygarvey) November 7, 2017
Gutshall also tweeted a photo alongside Arlington School Board Democratic endorsee Monique O’Grady, while fellow School Board candidate Alison Dough has rolled out yard signs made by her children to try and swing voters her way.
A few of my favorite signs hitting the roads today… art work courtesy of my children – even the baby added hand-art 💕
Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement was out in the Fairlington neighborhood near the Abingdon precinct this morning, sporting a rain jacket and an umbrella while she greeted voters and passed out flyers.
On social media, Independent County Board candidate Charles McCullough shared photos of him out meeting voters across the county.
— Charles McCullough (@VoteCMcCullough) November 7, 2017
And Attorney General Mark Herring visited Arlington this morning as his bid for re-election entered its final hours. Herring tweeted a photo of him meeting potential voters at Bob & Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike, also part of the 49th House District, where Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) has faced a challenge from Republican Adam Roosevelt.
— Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) November 7, 2017
Changes for Former Department Store? — The future of the former Kann’s department store on Fairfax Drive, which later became a law school and then became part of George Mason University, is being discussed by GMU and county officials. An earlier plan to raze the aging building and construct a new one fell through. [InsideNova]
Mentors Honored at County Board — A pair of “Connect with Kids Champions” were honored for their mentorship work with Arlington youth at Tuesday’s County Board meeting. [Arlington County]
Va. Joining Immigration Lawsuit — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced yesterday that Virginia plans to join a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration. “You’ve made Virginia proud today,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) in response to the announcement. [Virginian-Pilot, Twitter]
House Hunters Home for Sale — A townhouse in Nauck that was previously featured on the HGTV show “House Hunters” is back on the market. The home at 2553 Kenmore Court, in the Shirlington Crescent community, is listed at $824,900. The couple featured on the show, TV news producers Allison and David Gracey, bought the home in 2010 for $672,781, records show. [Zillow]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Major Traffic, Metro Woes — It was extremely slow going for commuters crossing the 14th Street Bridge this morning. Wet roads and a couple of crashes backed up traffic on I-395 and feeder routes for miles. Traffic issues were also reported on Columbia Pike, due to malfunctioning traffic signals at S. Queen Street. Meanwhile, a fire response at the L’Enfant Metro station and track issues on the Yellow Line bridge have resulted in speed restrictions and delays for Yellow Line riders. [Twitter, Twitter, Washington Post]
Waiting for Joaquin — Arlington County is keeping a close eye on Hurricane Joaquin, which some models are suggesting may have a big impact on the D.C. area. [Twitter]
Cristol Touts Endorsements — Following a snub by County Board member John Vihstadt, who endorsed her Democratic ticketmate Christian Dorsey and independent candidate Mike McMenamin, County Board candidate Katie Cristol is touting her own endorsements. “Twenty elected officials, comprising all of Arlington’s School Board, Constitutional Officers and Richmond delegation, and much of the County Board, today endorsed Katie Cristol’s campaign,” the campaign said in a press release Tuesday. [Katie Cristol]
Juror Qualification Process Begins — A random selection of Arlington and Falls Church residents are being mailed juror questionnaires, which will be used to qualify residents for jury duty in 2016. [Arlington County]
Attorney General Holds Arlington Newser — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced a new training initiative for police at a news conference in Arlington yesterday. The training is intended to help officers de-escalate dangerous situations, thus preventing the need to excessive use of force, while also recognizing potential biases they may bring to the job. Arlington County already conducts similar training. [NBC Washington]
The 5-4 ruling was almost immediately decried by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, but others in the county have enthusiastically endorsed the landmark decision.
Board member Jay Fisette, who in 1997 became the first openly gay elected official in Virginia, said he was overjoyed by today’s ruling.
“I had absolutely no idea that this day would come in my lifetime — let alone while I was still in office,” said Fisette. “The Court’s action validates the lives of millions of Americans, reinforces the value of equality to our nation, and puts us in step with the civilized free nations on the planet.”
Board member Libby Garvey echoed Fisette’s excitement about the Supreme Court decision, telling ARLnow that she was delighted by the news and had “been exchanging happy texts this morning with my sister and her wife and other family.”
In a statement today, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring called the vote “an extraordinary moment in our nation’s recognition that Americans cannot and will not be denied dignity, rights, and responsibilities, including those of marriage, simply because of who they love.”
“I am proud we put Virginia on the right side of history on this issue,” Herring said, referencing the fact that gay marriage has been legal in Virginia since 2014. Herring held a press conference about marriage equality outside the Arlington County courthouse this afternoon.
Don Beyer, member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Virginia’s 8th district, also issued a statement this morning in which he applauded the Supreme Court and called the nationwide guarantee of marriage equality a “watershed moment in American history.”
“Gay rights are human rights and today we have ensured that all Americans, regardless of their sexuality, have the right to share the rest of their lives with the person they love,” said Beyer. “I could not be prouder to stand with my LGBTQ constituents and celebrate this incredible moment.”
Several of the area’s gay pride groups have upcoming events where residents can celebrate. The Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance is hosting a Pride Month Social this Sunday evening from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant (555 23rd St S.), and NOVA Pride has a SCOTUS Ruling Happy Hour scheduled for Monday night at A-Town Bar & Grill (4100 Fairfax Drive) from 5-10 p.m.
Arlington officials cautioned that this ruling only deals with one aspect of discrimination against the LGBTQ community, however. According to Fisette, the next big LGBTQ issue facing the nation is employment discrimination, and though some local governments — like Arlington’s — prohibit hiring discrimination on the basis of sexual identity, many still don’t.
“In most states, including Virginia, it is legal to fire someone simply because they are gay,” said Fisette.
Delegate Patrick A. Hope of the Virginia General Assembly agreed with Fisette, saying “Tomorrow, we must continue our efforts to end LGBT discrimination in other areas, such as in workplace, with the goal to treat every American fairly and equally.”
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Following a surprise U.S. Supreme Court decision this morning, a same-sex couple became the first to legally receive a marriage license and get married in Arlington.
Arlington Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson quickly approved the couple’s application for a marriage license, and the women then took part in a wedding ceremony outside the Arlington County Courthouse.
“It’s wonderful to be able to stand here today and perform this ceremony,” said Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles, a minister at Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, who has been performing same-sex unions for more than 20 years. “The Commonwealth of Virginia agrees with us that every person has worth and dignity and that love matters no matter what your sexual orientation is. We all have the right to be married to the person we love.”
Newlyweds Erika Turner and Jennifer Melsop both are 26 years old and live in Centreville. They have been together for four years and planned on getting married in the District next year. They traveled to Arlington immediately upon learning of the court decision this morning because they heard an officiant may be available to perform a ceremony. They had no idea they were the first same-sex couple to request a marriage license in Arlington until they arrived.
“Not everyone in the United States has this opportunity,” said Turner, referencing the states where same-sex couples still cannot legally wed.
Ferguson noted some changes to the state-approved marriage application.
“Now, instead of saying ‘bride’ and ‘groom,’ it says ‘spouse’ and ‘spouse,'” Ferguson said. “When we got the word this morning, we were not prepared for this. But we’re doing our best to prepare now and welcome anybody that would like a marriage license to please come to Arlington. At this point, we can process it in the next 15 minutes or so. But if we get big crowds there could be a little bit of a wait.”
Ferguson explained that same-sex couples now will go through the same process to request marriage licenses as all other couples. They can go to the sixth floor of the county courthouse, pay $30, fill out an application, take an oath and then get married within the next 60 days. No appointments are necessary and applicants are attended to on a first-come, first-served basis. The Commonwealth also will recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring spent part of the afternoon in Arlington to speak about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriages in Virginia and four other states.
“This is the outcome that we have hoped for. It is the outcome we have fought for. And it is the outcome the Constitution requires,” said Herring to a crowd in front of the Arlington County Courthouse. “The rights and privileges of marriage, which are guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution, are now available to all loving, committed couples in Virginia.”
Herring explained that the court’s action would allow same-sex couples to adopt children, file joint tax returns, share employer benefits and make medical decisions for each other.
“Simply put, this ruling allows all Virginians to be full members of our society, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage,” he said. “A new day has dawned, and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution are shining through. All Virginians have a constitutional right to be treated fairly and to have loving, committed relationships recognized and respected, and to enjoy the blessings of married life. We should all be proud that our fellow Virginians helped lead us forward. This is a tremendous moment in Virginia history.”
Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette commended the court’s decision and the persistence of those who made it happen.
“In 1997, when I was the first openly gay elected official [in Virginia], I really never thought this would occur, even in my lifetime,” Fisette said. “But despite how fast this change is, it really has been the work of generations of people. I applaud the people who had the courage to be open and honest throughout this society and the people who were willing to listen and learn and love.”
Like several others in attendance, Fisette said this is a big step forward, but that Virginia still has work to do to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“There’s a lot more work to be done,” said state Senator Adam Ebbin, who was the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly. “It’s legal to be fired in Virginia because you were part of a same-sex wedding. It’s legal to be fired in Virginia for any reason related to sexual orientation.”
Ebbin said he will introduce legislation to help “clean up the code” in Virginia and eliminate all employment discrimination.
“It’s amazing how quickly Virginia is catching up with history. It’s exciting because of how far we’ve come but also because we were expecting this, just a little later rather than sooner,” he said. “I hope we’ll be able to move forward on other issues of equality too. I’m really happy for the couples this will benefit and their children, particularly.”
Del. Alfonso Lopez also wants to end workplace discrimination in Virginia.
“There’s a lot of things around the edges that we still need to address,” said Lopez. “We still have a lot of folks in the House of Delegates that are apoplectic about what’s happening today. Virginia’s changing and the country’s changing. This is going to be a more common occurrence all around the country.”
Arlington County Sheriff’s Office Director of Administration Major Susie Doyel and her wife, Betsey Wildhack, attended today’s event. They have been together for 25 years and just got married in the District in February because they didn’t think Virginia would legalize same-sex marriage.
“It’s hard to put in words. I keep saying, ‘Virginia? Really?’ I didn’t know Virginia would be one of the ones that would be out there almost leading this,” said Doyel. “We thought we may never in our lifetime be married in Virginia. To be equal now in Virginia’s eyes, the eyes of the law. It’s just incredible. It really is still hitting home what that truly means.”
The court decided not to review decisions that struck down gay marriage bans in Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana. The action immediately ends delays on same-sex marriages, which took effect in Virginia in August when the court issued a stay.
According to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who has supported reversing the state’s gay marriage ban, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to issue a mandate at 1:00 p.m. and same-sex marriages can begin at that time. Virginia also will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Herring, who will be speaking at a 12:30 p.m. news conference at the Arlington County Courthouse, issued the following statement.
A new day has dawned, and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution are shining through.
All Virginians have the constitutional right to be treated fairly and equally, to have loving, committed relationships recognized and respected, and to enjoy the blessings of married life. We should all be proud that our fellow Virginians helped lead us forward.
This is a tremendous moment in Virginia history. We will continue to fight discrimination wherever we find it, but today, we celebrate a moment when we move closer to fulfilling the promise of equality ignited centuries ago in Virginia, and so central to the American experience.
State Senator Adam Ebbin also took to Twitter, saying same-sex marriages in Virginia now are “imminent.”
SCOTUS declines to review marriage equality cases. Same-sex marriage now imminent in Virginia & at least 4 other states! #Equality
— Adam Ebbin (@AdamEbbin) October 6, 2014
Governor Terry McAuliffe issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court decision:
This is a historic and long overdue moment for our Commonwealth and our country. On issues ranging from recognizing same-sex marriages to extending health care benefits to same-sex spouses of state employees, Virginia is already well-prepared to implement this historic decision. Going forward we will act quickly to continue to bring all of our policies and practices into compliance so that we can give marriages between same-sex partners the full faith and credit they deserve.
I applaud all of the Virginians who gave so much time and effort in the fight for equality, and congratulate my friend Attorney General Mark Herring on this important victory for justice and equal treatment under the law.
Equality for all men and women regardless of their race, color, creed or sexual orientation is intrinsic to the values that make us Virginians, and now it is officially inscribed in our laws as well.
The Supreme Court did not offer an explanation for its decision and did not issue a ruling about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage nationwide.
Rep. Jim Moran addressed the court’s lack of a nationwide decision in a statement.
This is a momentous day for Virginia and for all who believe in equality under the law. This decision affirms the right of all people to pursue happiness, the most basic example of which is the ability to marry and share your life with the person you love.
Still, it is disappointing that the Court has delayed a final decision on a federal right to marriage equality. Legalized discrimination anywhere is wrong. The Court was right to affirmatively strike down DOMA a year ago, and now it is time to end the uncertainty so many couples are forced to live with and guarantee marriage equality throughout the country.
APS Still Looking for Teachers — Officials with Arlington Public Schools are still searching for teachers for the 2014-2015 school year, which is only about three weeks away. APS would like about 75 more new teachers in addition to the 225 it already hired. [InsideNova]
Att’y Gen. Asks Supreme Court to Hear Gay Marriage Case — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has, as expected, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s gay marriage case. Herring agrees with the gay marriage ban being struck down, but believes the Supreme Court should look at the case because it could set a nationwide precedent. Last month, Arlington County Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson told ARLnow.com he was waiting for guidance from Herring and would begin performing gay marriages as soon as he received word they would be valid. [Daily Press]
Cemetery to Change Dates on Monument — Arlington National Cemetery has agreed to change the date on a monument to a World War II bomber crew lost in 1944. The stone monument currently shows the year 1946 — which is the year the Army officially classified the crew members as dead — but the plane went missing in 1944. Family members of the crew have been trying to get the date changed for about 12 years. [Stars and Stripes]
Central Library to Loan Garden Tools — Residents soon will be able to borrow garden tools from Central Library. A start date hasn’t yet been set because the library is still gathering gently used tool donations and signing up volunteers to assist with the program. Those interested in helping out or donating tools can get more information online. [Arlington Public Library]