Monday, November 09, 2009

Cuccinelli wins AG, city election analysis

Charlottesville, Va.—On Tuesday Nov. 3, an eminent domain reformer since before the 2005 Kelo case, State Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R- Fairfax) won election as Virginia’s Attorney General. Cuccinelli won 57% of the 1.9 million votes statewide but only 23% of 4.9 million voters.

The Democratic opponent was Steve Shannon. The seat was open because Bob McDonnell had resigned to campaign for governor. McDonnell was elected Attorney General 4 years ago by 360 votes against Creigh Deeds.

This time the winning margins were decisive. McDonnell won 59% of Tuesday’s vote and 23% of total voters, 344 thousand more votes than Deeds. McDonnell had a plan for the economy. Deeds had a plan to form a commission to come up with a plan. The only incumbent Bill Bolling won 56% against Democrat Jody Wagner.

The offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor are at-large at the state level. If the House of Delegates were at-large, all delegates would now be Republican because the statewide majority is Republican. At the local level, Charlottesville City Council remains one-party because of the at-large system, the majority of participating voters are of one-party.

In the city the margins for victory for Democratic statewide candidates were just as decisive. But the rest of the state outvoted Charlottesville.

Democratic Mayor Dave Norris was reelected with 6,300 votes, 63% of Tuesday’s voters, and 23% of total registered voters citywide. It’s hard to say how many people actually participated in the Council election. Fewer people vote as you go down the list. The results given from State Board of Elections and used in The Daily Progress coverage give percentage of total votes not voters. It appears as if 16 thousand people voted once in a 5-way race for Council. City turnout was 10,056 of the 27,516 possible.

Democratic Kristin Szakos received 5,083 votes, 51% of 10,056, and 19% of 27,516.

Independent Bob Fenwick had 3,293 votes, 33% of turnout, and 12% of potential voters. Fenwick campaigned to save McIntire Park from the Meadowcreek Parkway and YMCA facilities.

Independent Paul Long got 1,214 votes, 12% and 4%. Long spent his adult life in Philadelphia and advocated legalizing marijuana.

There were 382 write-ins. Presumably most went to Andrew Williams, who announced his campaign last winter but the Voter Registrar ruled he lacked enough signatures in June’s petition to qualify to be on the ballot. If all the write-ins were for Williams, that would be 4% and 1.5%, respectively. Williams is a student at Piedmont Virginia Community College and the only African-American in the race.

The city Republicans offered no candidate for a second Council election cycle. The last Republican candidate was Rob Schilling in May 2006, who lost a reelection bid with more votes than his 2002 win. Council elections moved to November in 2007 as a way to increase local turnout. And the percentages have increased some since 2004 when one-term Councilor Kendra Hamilton received 17%. While more people vote in November, they skip over the local offices and issues.

In September the city Republicans adopted a platform of issues. Previously they had only vision statements, nothing specific or actionable. Individual candidates had their own positions but the party stayed neutral and vague. The lack of positions gave rise to the notion that their only goal was to replace Democrats with Republicans and continue identical policies.

After 9 years of lobbying the party by a single person on a single issue, the platform addresses eminent domain. Blair Hawkins first approached the party a few days after his two speeches on eminent domain at City Council June 5, 2000. The Council meeting gained national attention because of the Sally Hemings/Thomas Jefferson debate and whether to name the 9th/10th Connector after Hemings. After the furor died down years later, the connector was named for Roosevelt Brown, NFL football star. Nobody at the Republican meeting had attended or watched the Council meeting on TV.

At the 2002 Republican mass meeting, where Schilling was nominated, Hawkins handed out business card flyers advertising the newly created “Healing Charlottesville" website (under reconstruction/ many links broken). The slogan on the card: Testing the First by talking about the Fifth Amendment.

In 2003 Hawkins campaigned for the Republican nomination for Mitch Van Yahres’ House of Delegates seat, which no one else was seeking. Hawkins addressed directly the local issues of urban renewal, public housing, redevelopment, eminent domain, due process, civil rights. “Convert public housing apartments to condominiums owned by the current residents.” (Timeline with documents.)

In 2005, with the Kelo case in New London Connecticut, the universe changed. No longer was Hawkins viewed as a fringe lunatic with radical ideas. The views espoused by Hawkins turned out, in fact, to be the highest laws in the nation.

Under new leadership in 2009, Charlottesville Republicans stand for something. And that something is the opposite of the Democrats on Council, who are strong supporters and proud participants of urban renewal. Republicans stand for due process and civil rights—in principle at least.

Charlottesville GOP Platform Sep. 10, 2009

• Homestead Program: We support a program for city-owned public housing stock that would be modeled loosely after the Homestead Act of 1862.

Eligible residents of public housing would be given the opportunity to occupy the city-owned units and demonstrate responsibility and self-reliance over a finite period of time. Upon fulfillment of certain predetermined criteria, they will be given clear title to their property.

Clear title to property would provide leverage for further economic advancement and would encourage, rather than discourage, the formation of nuclear families.

• Property Rights: Clear title to property is virtually meaningless when local governing bodies can use the power of eminent domain to take private property and pass it to another private person or entity solely to generate tax revenues.

Long-time minority residents of Charlottesville have experienced this extreme use of governmental power first-hand.

We support an amendment to the Constitution of Virginia that would restrict the power of government to take private property to those situations where the taking is truly for a public use.

Related Story: The Kelo case takes another turn.

Pfizer abandons site of infamous Kelo eminent domain taking
By: Timothy P. Carney
Examiner Columnist
11/09/09 1:47 PM EST

The private homes that New London, Conn., took away from Suzette Kelo and her neighbors have been torn down. Their former site is a wasteland of fields of weeds, a monument to the power of eminent domain.

But now Pfizer, the drug company whose neighboring research facility had been the original cause of the homes' seizure, has just announced that it is closing up shop in New London.

To lure those jobs to New London a decade ago, the local government promised to demolish the older residential neighborhood adjacent to the land Pfizer was buying for next-to-nothing. Suzette Kelo fought the taking to the Supreme Court, and lost. Five justices found this redevelopment met the constitutional hurdle of "public use."

The Hartford Courant reports:

Pfizer Inc. will shut down its massive New London research and development headquarters and transfer most of the 1,400 people working there to Groton, the pharmaceutical giant said Monday....

Pfizer is now deciding what to do with its giant New London offices, and will consider selling it, leasing it and other options, a company spokeswoman said.

Scott Bullock, Kelo's co-counsel in the case, told me: "This shows the folly of these redevelopment projects that use massive taxpayer subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain."