BY: MIKE VALERIO
It's the moment we've all been waiting for - the first results coming in from the U.S. Senate Race.
7:45PM - Results via http://www.vpap.org/
Expect results from South and Southwest Virgina first, followed by the larger cities with more complicated voting systems.
Sen. Warner aides are predicting the race will be called around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
In the hours before Republicans may retake the Senate, controlling both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner may be positioned to counter the national narrative, defending his seat from GOP momentum.
Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, just released his final Crystal Ball picks for U.S. Senate, keeping Virginia “likely blue” in a sea of red, along with several Democratic to Republican seat changes.
Even if Gillespie comes up short, a single digit difference between the two candidates could propel Gillespie into the national spotlight once again.
The former Republican National Committee chairman would have accomplished a tight race with a relatively few contributions coming from out-of-state groups, a situation that prompted Gillespie to lend his own campaign $435,000 in the final days of the race.
Right now, according to the Wason Center’s final statewide survey of likely voters before Election Day 2014, Warner leads Gillespie, 51% to 44%, with 3% undecided. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.4%.
It is unlikely either candidate will capture all undecided voters, and the Warner Campaign contends the numbers reveal the democrat has sealed his path to victory.
VOX was the only firm to show former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor struggling in the days before his historic loss to Randolph-Macon professor Dave Brat.
Depending on the final margin, Gillespie may signal to Virginia voters on Election Night that his fight has just begun, positioning him to run for governor in 2017.
Another area to watch is where exactly Warner wins, and can he hold on to some municipalities in the southern section of the Commonwealth?
Southwest Virginia was where Warner grew a substantial power base when he ran for governor in 2001. The Senator also prides himself on appealing to people across Virginia, from the Beltway to Buffalo Junction.
But maintaining a historic level of high popularity has not been easy, with widespread disapproval of President Obama across much of rural Virginia.
As Washington Post reporters Jenna Portnoy and Rachel Weiner note, voters in Southwestern Virginia have replaced all state Democratic lawmakers with Republicans in the six years since Warner won his 2008 U.S. Senate race.
The maps showing the Republican and Democratic breakdown of Warner’s 2008 race, followed by the 2012 U.S. Senate Race and 2013 Governor’s Race show dramatic differences from Warner’s first successful campaign for Senate.
2008 U.S. Senate Race, Blue: Warner, Red: Gilmore
Maps are courtesy of the Virginia Public Access Project, with their visualizations available here.
I will be covering the Warner campaign for NBC12 from Crystal City, beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Laura Geller will be live from the Gillespie Campaign in Springfield.
AND – If you need to know who will be on your ballot before you walk into the voting booth, we’re here to help. Visit this site from the Virginia Department of Elections, simply put in your information, hit “next”, and then scroll down to “My Ballot.”
After months on the campaign trail from Chesterfield to Culpeper, Republican Dave Brat and Democrat Jack Trammel returned to Randolph-Macon College Tuesday, days before one of the candidates will leave for a new career on Capitol Hill.
Both Brat and Trammell are Randolph-Macon professors, have played on the same intramural basketball team, and stood before an auditorium packed with current and former students during the campaign’s only debate.
“I’m hesitant to act out of fear,” said Trammell in the first response of the debate. “I think we’ve largely been responding correctly, but I do support targeted flight bans.”
Brat quickly contended federal authorities have not done enough.
With both candidates given two minute response times for each question, the debate quickly moved to Obamacare, as Trammell and Brat delivered some of their most heated responses.
“I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare immediately,” Brat said. “It’s disrupted healthcare for 250 million Americans… It hasn’t solved our E.R. problem, and the promise of being able to keep your doctor has not been true.”
Although Trammell supported the aim of the Affordable Care Act, he distanced himself from the president and said he would work to fix issues with the healthcare law.
“President Obama is not on the ballot in this district, I just wanted to make sure everybody knows that,” Trammell said. “We’ve helped out eight million Americans who never had insurance, the original intent of the law.”
“The immigrants we would legalize would help this country,” Trammell said. “But we need comprehensive reform.”
Brat countered that in order to keep America great, the rule of law should be preserved, and applied equally to children and families who illegally cross the southern border.
“If you have true compassion, let’s get the economies of Latin America going again,” Brat said. “I do not favor a pathway for 10 million people to illegally gain entry.”
Following immigration, the moderators posed a critical question - How will either candidate ensure that Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and Medicare Part D are still funded 15 years from now – without bankrupting the federal government?
“It's the number one issue I ran my campaign on,” Brat said. “Spending $127 trillion by 2030 and bankrupting the federal budget is the most pressing economic problem that our country faces, by far.”
Brat said his credentials as an economist would help him to solve the problem. But Trammell fired back, saying simply working across the aisle is the first step to getting anything done.
“We need a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill, to work together, to balance our annual budget, and we spread outwards from there,” Trammell said.
In the debate’s final moments, both candidates thanked Randolph-Macon for hosting the event, and fondly reflected on the college nestled in the “center of the universe,” as Ashland brands itself.
“I miss this place,” said Trammell. “But I hope I’m not coming back.”
It's a faceoff between the man who toppled Eric Cantor, and the man whose Virginia roots go back to the 1600s.
Dave Brat and Jack Trammell will debate tonight at 7:30, and if you live from the West End to Louisa, here's a closer look at who could be your next member of Congress.
It's one of the most high-profile races in the country. Brat and Trammell, both Randolph-Macon professors, are battling over who will replace Eric Cantor.
Brat is an economist who's worked with two Virginia governors, and the World Bank. Getting the country's checkbook balanced is his first priority. Asked about the challenge, Brat said in a recent interview, “Yeah, no, it's a huge… It's a $127 trillion challenge, right? It's huge, but the promise I made is to go to the people.”
And the people, across Richmond and nine counties, are also listening to Jack Trammell, whose ancestor arrived in Alexandria, back in 1671. A teacher for 25 years, Trammell's priorities focus on education and the economy.
But after his stepson Daniel was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, Trammell now also focuses on fixing the VA System.
“We were relieved that he was alive. But we were really terrified at the prospects of what this would mean for him and what we would have to go through to get him well again,” Trammell said.
Brat is a professor of ethics, and has a Masters in Divinity from Princeton. He says his faith plays a major role in forming fair policies from immigration to the economy.
In a 2011 paper, Brat wrote, “We need to synthesize Christianity and capitalism.” About that, Brat said, “What I'm trying to get at is the relationship between having moral foundations for our politics, moral foundations for our press, moral foundations for our economics.”
The foundations for education are also an issue. Trammell believes states should be in charge of student standards. “We should return some control to school districts and to states, so that if schools are going to struggle, they have the freedom to move the pieces on the board to try to address some of their issues,” he said.
Asked how the candidates would be different from Eric Cantor, Brat said, “I pledged to put in a fair or a flat tax, to end kind of the special treatment up on K Street, Wall Street, and to make the tax system much simpler for the individual out there watching, and to get our economy growing again.”
For both of them, they'll try to make a break from a “do-nothing” Congress.
“My job for 25 years has been to work with parents, to work with psychologists and instructors and professors,” Trammell said. “And we don't leave the room until we have something in place that's going to help that student."
After Ed Gillespie’s campaign canceled a week of advertisements on NBC12 Monday, spokesperson Paul Logan confirmed Gillespie will roll out a new political ad this coming Saturday.
The new order reached NBC12 today, an hour before Thursday’s 2 p.m. deadline. The new ad buy stretches for a week, beginning Oct. 18.
NBC12 has learned the new ad will target Sen. Mark Warner’s role in discussing possible jobs for Sen. Phillip P. Puckett’s daughter.
“We will have the resources to execute our plans in the final weeks,” Logan said in an interview Thursday.
Warner's campaign has more than $8 million on hand to spend in the final sprint to Election Day. Fundraising for Virginia’s senior senator has topped $16 million, with Gillespie totaling about $6 million since he announced his run for office in January.
The Associated Press reported Thursday Warner maintains a sizable advantage in television ad buys across Virginia, and in Washington, D.C.
The District is the eighth largest media market in the country, where ads can top more than $1 million a week during election season.
“We are focused on communicating Senator Warner's bipartisan record of lowering student debt, bringing jobs back from overseas and getting our country's balance sheet in order,” said campaign spokesman David Turner.
“Sen. Warner's message is resonating with voters as evidenced by the Senator's broad base of support all across Virginia.”
It was a debate complete with a challenge on stage, a shout-out to the Washington Nationals and vows to stay true to Virginia voters, as Sen. Mark Warner and Republican challenger Ed Gillespie made their cases to the candidates’ largest debate audience yet.
The hour-long broadcast moderated by Chuck Todd of NBC News featured both candidates at their best, with few, if any missteps from either side.
Todd’s first question focused on the U.S. Supreme Court’s surprise move to decline gay marriage petitions from five states, paving the way for same-sex marriage to become legal in Virginia.
“Are you comfortable (with the decision)?” Todd asked Gillespie. “Can you accept this decision by the Supreme Court not to act?”
“As a senator I believe it's the proper prerogative of the states to make these determinations," Gillespie responded. “And I do not support a federal marriage amendment or a federal policy in this regard.”
One of the biggest surprises of the night came when Warner asked Gillespie if they could both stop using outside money from super PACs, in order to combat unrestrained partisan politics.
“Do I get to spend $1.4 million on an outside group like you spent?” Gillespie responded. “I think we oughta make sure this is about campaigns between the two of us, not outside money,” Warner said.
Obamacare also took center stage, with Gillespie contending an estimated 250,000 Virginians are now at risk of losing their health insurance, because of new standards under the Affordable Care Act.
“You don't have to go far in the Commonwealth to find someone who has had their insurance canceled and lost their doctor as a result of Senator Warner's support for the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare,” Gillespie said.
During testimony before Virginia's Health Insurance Reform Commission, Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans, backed Warner’s statement. “It’s just an estimate of the worst case scenario, but I’ve seen no data on it,” Gray said in a September NBC12 interview.
Gillespie says he'll come out with his Healthcare Plan, fixing Obamacare Friday #VASenDebate— Mike Valerio (@MikeNBC12) October 7, 2014
Gillespie revealed he would be putting forth an alternative set of ideas concerning healthcare reform by the end of the week.
“Now the fact is that we can have reforms that address concerns about preexisting conditions, that make health care more affordable,” Gillespie said. “I'm gonna put forward a positive alternative, of my own, on Friday and talk about refundable tax credits, for example, and protections on preexisting conditions.”
Debate panelist Aaron Gilchrist, now of NBC4 Washington, asked why Virginian’s economy has lagged in several cities across the Commonwealth, in stark contrast to the debate’s location in affluent Fairfax County.
“One of the things I'm proud of is that Virginia has actually consistently done better than national averages on unemployment.” Warner answered. “I think one of my best days as governor was when we brought close to 700 high-tech jobs to Russell County in Southwest Virginia because we put the incentives and we put the package together.”
“Mark Warner just talked about his time very extensively as Governor Warner,” Gillespie said. “But Gov. Warner wouldn't recognize Sen. Warner today. Our unemployment rate has been climbing. Actually it's climbed 7/10 of a percentage point over the past four months.”
“I think it would be a healthy debate to have on the floor of the United States Senate,” Gillespie said. “And I believe it would send a much stronger signal to our potential allies and to our enemies that the United States is committed to this effort.”
Wrapping up the debate, Sen. Warner was given the last word. At the same time, the Washington Nationals were fighting to stay alive in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. “Go Nats!” Warner said, drawing laughs from the audience, after a tough fight on the field, and a tough fight on the debate stage.
One month ago, Gov. Bob McDonnell walked out of federal court, trying to regain his composure. A jury just convicted the former governor and his wife Maureen McDonnell of performing official acts in exchange for more than $177,000 in gifts and loans.
Now, a possible quid pro quo scandal could involve Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s chief of staff, Paul Reagan.
After the story first broke late Thursday in the Washington Post, Reagan said Friday he was "overzealous and acted with poor judgment," when he left a voicemail for State Sen. Philip P. Puckett, and seemed to promise a high-level job for Puckett's daughter.
In exchange, Reagan said the governor needed Puckett's help.
Puckett was thinking of resigning in late May, a move that would put Republicans in control of the General Assembly, and end McAuliffe's top priority to expand Medicaid.
But in a transcript of a voicemail obtained by the Post, Reagan said his office would help Puckett's daughter, if Puckett did not resign.
“We have a couple of big agencies here that we still need agency heads,” Reagan said in the voicemail. “We, we would basically do anything... We need you for the rest of your term and beyond.”
In context, Republicans are accused of trying to get Puckett to resign, at the exact same time. The FBI has been investigating whether Republican lawmakers improperly offered Puckett a position at the Virginia Tobacco Commission, a job Puckett ultimately declined after his Senate resignation.
Although Reagan's voicemail and its transcript are now in the open, NBC12 Legal Analyst Steven D. Benjamin said in an interview Friday that investigators still need to determine if there was an intent to influence Puckett.
“It clearly appears to us in the public that a job was offered, in exchange for what might have been an official act,” Benjamin said. “But what we don't know is whether that was met, what was intended. We don't know the surrounding circumstances.”
“The focus of the crime isn't that it's an express agreement, or that it's contained in an email or a text. The crime is, the manner in which someone is influenced.”
Reagan said Friday he left the message because of the fight to expand health care to around 400,000 uninsured Virginians, a fight ultimately defeated two weeks ago in the General Assembly.
“I certainly regret this and will always try to achieve the high standards demanded by Governor McAuliffe,” Reagan said.
Gov. McAuliffe stressed Friday Reagan never formally offered a position, and no further conversations about the topic ever occurred.
The discussion centered on Puckett and his daughter, Martha Puckett Ketron, because the Virginia Senate had been unable to appoint Ketron to a job she had long sought – a permanent position as a District Court judge. Senators are not allowed to appoint family members under the chamber’s anti-nepotism rules.
“Out of his concern that certain legislators were holding a qualified nominee hostage in order to force Phil Puckett from the Senate, Mr. Reagan acted on his own to inform the Senator that there were other available opportunities for which his daughter might apply,” McAuliffe said.
After 90 minutes of debate on a bill that would have expanded Medicaid in Virginia, the measure failed to reach a floor vote, killing the idea for the 2014 General Assembly special session.
The compromise proposed by Republican Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-Fairfax) would have allowed 400,000 needy Virginians to purchase private health insurance, using federal Medicaid funds.
But in a 64-33 vote, the House of Delegates refused to "engross" Rust's bill, meaning the bill never came to a full vote.
"The decision on this bill was made before we arrived in Richmond; the debate was mere window dressing," said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville). "The rejection of this legislation is further proof that this entire Medicaid special session was a charade."
In an interview Thursday, House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said the compromise bill relied on waivers that were unlikely to be approved, and had a series of problems that made its implementation difficult.
"I think going forward when we return in January, we will not be seeing any Republican bills related to Medicaid expansion," Cox said. "We are more concerned with Medicaid reform."
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has fought for Medicaid expansion since his time on the campaign trail, arguing that accepting federal funds will bring back tax dollars sent from Virginia to D.C.
Democratic lawmakers asserted that as money returned to the Commonwealth and 400,000 more Virginians received coverage through Medicaid, more healthcare jobs would be created at home.
"As I've always said, I'm the ultimate optimist," McAuliffe said at a news conference Thursday. "There are no arguments left why we should not close the coverage gap."
Earlier in the special session, both the Virginia House and Senate put on an unusual display of bipartisanship, overwhelmingly passing a measure to close the state's $882 million budget shortfall.
The measure passed the Senate 36-2, and the House 93-4.
But in order to balance the books and keep Virginia's financial picture stable over the next two years, lawmakers agreed to cut $192 million to state agencies, $90 million to higher education, and $60 million to local governments.
"Acting sooner rather than later to address the budget shortfall creates certainty for our economy, gives state agencies flexibility to cut spending while protecting the core functions of government, and ensures that Virginia will maintain its Triple-A bond rating," said House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford).
"This responsible action demonstrates clearly that while Richmond and Washington are separated by just 90 miles on a map, we are worlds apart when it comes to spending policy."
The McDonnell juror who could have changed history, Louis DeNitto, Jr., disobeyed the orders of a federal judge and discussed the case openly at a Richmond bar, a block from U.S. district court, NBC12 has learned.
According to sources with intimate knowledge of the court proceedings, DeNitto was staying at the Broad Street Marriott, and discussed the case at the hotel bar.
“He considered the McDonnells innocent and didn't mind saying it,” said a juror in an email Tuesday. “Judge Spencer was specific… Lying to the judge or discussing the case would cause severe consequences.”
“The next thing we know, those two marshals come in and asked [DeNitto] to come out,” Trujillo said in an interview Wednesday. “And he left, he just disappeared.”
After a meeting in Spencer’s chambers with the McDonnells and attorneys from both sides, DeNitto was excused. Gov. Bob McDonnell emerged from the meeting visibly upset.
“We have no further comment on the matter,” said Cullen Seltzer, DeNitto’s attorney Wednesday. Spencer’s office also declined to issue a comment.
DeNitto declined to reveal the reason why he was dismissed in an interview with the Washington Post, but said the decision to remove him was “completely unethical.”
The McDonnells will be sentenced Jan. 6 in Richmond federal court, and have signaled they plan to appeal after the sentencing.