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Were Virginia's 'Girlie Men' Opportunistic or Courageous?

Three days ago, we compared the 17 GOP members of the Virginia House of Delegates who sided with Governor Mark Warner (D) to pass the largest tax increase in Virginia history to some Democratic members of California's General Assembly who are opposing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their reward is a healthy dose of campaign contributions as reported in both the Washington Post and the Lynchburg News & Advance. The Post called the 17 "moderates . . . who led a rebellion against their party leadership" and pointed out they were among the top fundraisers in a recent analysis of campaign fundraising. The News & Advance, on the other hand, referred to them as 'so-called renegades.

The News & Advance, however, quoted the executive director of one of the campaign contributors saying the legislators "showed a lot of courage." Was it courage, though, or were the legislators being opportunistic? In an op-ed in Sunday's Newport News Daily Press, Pat McSweeney, former chairman of the Republic Party of Virginia, writes that "circumstances suggest" two of the delegates "may have been more opportunistic than courageous," adding "What is particularly disturbing is that (Delegate Chris) Jones and (Delegate Preston) Bryant met privately with Gov. Mark Warner to plot the legislative maneuvers that led to the passage of the tax hike. The private meetings themselves may not raise a red flag, but what Jones and Bryant failed to pursue in those meetings certainly does."

Incidentally, the News & Advance documents in detail the support provided by one of the organizations, Associated General Contractors of Virginia, who lobbies the General Assembly. The AGC website even identifies the 16 GOP legislators who "sided with Democrats to pass a budget and end the (budget impasse." AGC added that "A 17th Delegate, Vince Callahan (McLean). voted for the original compromise budget in the House but later opposed the Senate-amended version."


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