Wednesday, July 30, 2008

News of the day

In a shocking and sad story, Fred Hutchens, 26, an aide on the staff of Senator Jim Webb, was found along Rt. 220 near Fincastle, dead from a single gunshot to the head. Hutchens had been a rising star in Virginia Democratic politics. A Botetourt County deputy found him, with a pistol underneath, his body. The Roanoke Times has the story
Linwood Holton's memoir has been released.
"He (Dumas Malone) said, 'Governor, be sure to write your memoirs. Otherwise, your perspective will never be known, that kept nudging me all through the years -- 'Holton, you've got to get this done.' "
Former Governor Linwood Holton, 84, has written his memoir of his life from coalfields to the statehouse. The father-in-law of current governor, Tim Kaine, made history with his 1969 election:
"My election as a Republican was, in itself, a culmination of efforts to create two-party democracy in Virginia, but little did I then realize what a wonderful panorama of opportunities would be presented during the next four years," Holton wrote of his 1969 election.
While Holton is credited with beginning the process of cleaning up the state's rivers and beginning the cabinet system in Virginia government, he believes his greatest contribution was setting the example and prodding Virginian to "turn its back on its discriminatory past and become a model of race relations." When the Holtons enrolled their children in a predominately black public school in Richmond, the photo of him walking his daughter to school made national news and set a powerful signal to all Virginians.
Holton was part of the old Mountain-Valley coalition of Republicans who were far more moderate and forward thinking than the conservative Byrd Democrats who controlled Virginia politics for decades. Holton, and others of the M-V coalition like John Dalton, moved the state into the future of race relations, environmental protection, and moving K-12 and higher education to new levels. But, on a fundamental level, Holton's election signaled the beginning of robust two-party competition. 
Somewhere along the way, things changed. While there are still conservative Democrats, the old segregationists and others living the past slowly found that party a hostile environment. Today's Virginia Democrats are a mixture of can-do centrists like Mark Warner and Jim Webb, moderate/conservatives, and progressives.
While there are still a few Republicans of the M-V mold (Emmett Hanger comes to mind), that party has been captured by the rigid, right wing, social and religious conservatives. A mixture of both groups enabled the GOP to capture the General Assembly and elect governors like George Allen and Jim Gilmore. But today, with the right wing in control the old M-V guys are aliens in their own party.
The fracturing of the GOP, while Democrats have united around forward looking centrists, has shifted the state's political dynamic since 2000. The election of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and governors, Jim Webb as U.S. Senator, and Democrats re-gaining control of the Virginia Senate signal the new rise of the Democratic brand in the commonwealth.
Because of this groundswell for Democrats, while the Republican continue to retreat into a far-right, do-nothing corner, Virginia is seriously in play for Barack Obama and will likely go for the Democratic candidate for the first time since 1964. Virginia will also be represented by a second Democratic senator, Mark Warner, which hasn't been the case since the early 70s. You can expect the Democrats to pick up a couple House seats as well.
The legacy of Linwood Holton lives on - today it is found in the Democratic Party.

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