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Michael Lee Pope

Stories by Michael Lee

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Virginia Senate Minority Leader Faces Two Primary Challengers

Dick Saslaw hasn’t had a primary challenge since the 1970s; now he has two.

The last time Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw had a primary opponent, Jimmy Carter was in the White House and the Bee Gees were at the top of the charts. This year, for the first time since 1979, Saslaw has primary opposition. Not just one opponent, but two.

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Green Late Deal in Alexandria

Broken promises and missed deadlines plague Eco-City Alexandria.

Alexandria adopted its Eco-City charter with great fanfare in 2008 along with a promise: The charter would be renewed in a decade. That deadline has now come and gone with no plans to update it. In 2009, members of the City Council approved an Eco-City action plan along with another promise: It would be renewed in five years. Once again, city officials breezed through that deadline.

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The Hidden History of Del Ray

Uncovering the secret past in the Town of Potomac.

Gambling. Corruption, Racism. Greed. These are all part of a little-known narrative from the Del Ray's long-ago past, a time when progressive leaders closed a corrupt racetrack and formed the Town of Potomac, only to see an unwanted attempt by Alexandria City Hall to steal the land in a controversial annexation.

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Boysko Wins Wexton Seat

Democrats enter the new year with a fresh victory and a full head of steam.

.Virginia’s 33rd state Senate District was once a solidly Republican seat, a place where conservative voters repeatedly rewarded Bill Mims for opposing same-sex marriage and championing homeschooling. But ever since Mims resigned to take a job in the McDonnell administration, the seat has been held by a succession of Democrats on their way to bigger and better things.

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Education Issues Take Center Stage

Constituents tell lawmakers to increase teacher pay; ERA, $15 minimum wage and more.

Teachers deserve a pay raise, and Virginia desperately needs to hire more school counselors. These were two of the most prevalent concerns voiced by constituents to members of the Fairfax County legislative delegation, the largest in the Virginia General Assembly.

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Democratic Insurgent Versus Republican Moderate

January special election to fill seat vacated by Jennifer Wexton features two familiar faces.

The first election of 2019 might end up being a harbinger of things to come for Republicans, who have seen their presence all but evaporate in Northern Virginia. It could also test the limits of the blue wave that washed over Virginia since Donald Trump was elected president.

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Democrats Seize Control of Northern Virginia

Region once had its own brand of Republicanism; now that seems almost extinct.

The loss of two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (D-10) means Republicans are down to one lone elected official in Northern Virginia, Del. Tim Hugo (R-40). The blue wave that started last year unseating Republicans like Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67) and Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) continued this year, when state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-10) was able to flip a seat that had been in Republican hands since a young military lawyer named Frank Wolf beat incumbent Democrat Joe Fisher back in 1980.

Senate Election is Blast from the Past

Kaine and Stewart both played key roles in 2016; now they’re at the top of the ballot this year.

Elections rarely get do-overs. Winners make victory speeches, and losers slink away to become consultants. But this year’s election for U.S. Senate features two key players in the 2016 presidential election that upended American politics.

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A New Era for Affordable Housing in Alexandria

City moves from rehabilitating old apartment buildings to developing new affordable units.

Alexandria is falling behind its affordable housing goal, creating or preserving about half of the units that were anticipated five years ago. But now that that restaurant diners will be chipping in an extra $5 million a year, city officials are poised to move forward with an aggressive new slate of affordable housing development. Gone are the days when city officials could get their hands on a few 1940s garden apartments here and there to rehabilitate. These days the thinking at City Hall is developing new units as part of a grand strategy to build their way out of an affordable housing crisis.

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Virginia Voters Choose Firebrand

Corey Stewart to lead Republican ticket this fall.

Conservative firebrand Corey Stewart was denied an opportunity to be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2013. And then he came within striking distance of being the party’s standard-bearer in the gubernatorial campaign last year. Now, finally, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors has secured a spot at the top of the ticket, bringing his brand of anti-immigrant, pro-Confederate Trumpism to the race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine.

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Down the Drain in Alexandria

State slashes funds to fix city’s combined sewer system.

Alexandria’s plan to fix its raw sewage problem may be going down the drain, at least this year. Leaders in the House and Senate money committees slashed $20 million out of the budget that was supposed to help the city fix its antiquated combined sewer system, which floods the Potomac River with raw sewage whenever there is as little as 0.03 inches of rain.

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Budget Brinkmanship in Virginia

Lawmakers poised to leave town without passing budget.

Budget showdowns are rare in Virginia, but not unprecedented. Back in 2004, Gov. Mark Warner clashed with Republicans over a sales tax increase. Then in 2014, Gov. Terry McAuliffe engaged in brinkmanship over expanding Medicaid. Now lawmakers are poised to end the session once again without passing a budget.

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Mixed Success on Menstrual Equity in Virginia

Increased availability behind bars, but no tax breaks during back-to-school week.

Several lawmakers from Northern Virginia arrived in Richmond this year hoping to push a cause known as menstrual equity — making sure that feminine hygiene products are affordable, safe and available. But success has been mixed.

Virginia Senate Might Torpedo Medicaid Expansion

Democrats still need to flip one more GOP senator to make it happen.

Usually it’s the state Senate that leads on progressive issues, and the House of Delegates kind of drags its feet. Not this year.

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Gun Debate on Lockdown in Virginia

Democrats unable to gain traction on reform, despite new numbers in House.

When lawmakers arrived in Richmond last month, Democrats were hopeful that they would be able to use their new numbers to gain some traction on the gun debate. Now that the session is half over and the nation is reeling from yet another mass shooting, very little of their agenda has been accomplished at the Capitol.

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View from Coffin Corner

Extreme position on House floor enjoys a storied history.

As a freshman delegate in 1978, Ken Plum was assigned a desk in the far corner on the Democratic side of the House of Delegates — seat 17. It wasn’t the best vantage point in the House because about a third of the Republican members were totally out of view. The senior members took the seats at the back of the chamber near the center, sticking Plum in the corner.

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Virginia Lawmakers Play Whack-A-Mole with Predatory Lenders

Senate panel takes action limiting one kind of high-interest loan, leaving loophole for another.

By this time next year, high-interest lenders may be prohibited from making consumer finance loans — at least ones they find profitable at 200 percent interest. So that loophole may be closed by the end of the General Assembly session. But it seems likely lawmakers will leave Richmond this year creating no restrictions on open-end lines of credit, raising concern among some that lawmakers are playing a game of whack-a-mole.

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Effort to Force Diversity at TJ School Fails

Lawmakers reject bill that would have required governor’s school to admit poor students.

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Naked Truth About Strip Searches at Traffic Stops

Northern Virginia Democrat advocates for strip searches to combat opioid crisis.

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Alexandria to Launch Airbnb Registry, Adding $200,000 in New Tax Revenue

Airbnb to collect the taxes and forward money to city.

For the last few months, city officials have been working behind the scenes to create a registration system for people who rent out their homes through Airbnb. Now they’ve created the online database, and they’re about to launch a campaign to let all the home-sharing businesses know it’s time to register with the city and start paying taxes.

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Northern Virginia Lawmakers Push for Menstrual Equity

General Assembly to consider bills providing feminine hygiene products in schools and prisons.

For one Alexandria woman who was booked into the Fairfax County jail a few years ago, the stress of the criminal justice system wasn't just about prosecution and detention. It was also about shame. Deputies confiscated her underwear because it wasn't white, the only color inmates are allowed to wear at the Fairfax jail. So she started worrying about what would happen when she started menstruating.

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From Medicaid to Broadband, Northern Virginia Lawmakers Prepare for Raucous Session

Democrats plan to use new numbers to accomplish wide-ranging agenda.

This year’s General Assembly will be like no other. For starters, members walking the halls of the Capitol will look different. The crop of freshman includes the first transgender woman to serve in the Virginia General Assembly, the first lesbian, the first Asian-American women and the first two Latinas. Gone are the 12 Republican members who were unseated, all white males. Also gone are the three members who got out before the bloodbath that flipped their seats from red to blue, also all white males. In their place is a diverse and young group of new members who are eager to make their mark on the commonwealth.

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Northern Virginia Leads Blue Wave

Democrats sweep statewide races and come close to taking over House of Delegates.

Democrats swept all three statewide seats this week and picked up so many seats in the House of Delegates that control of the chamber is now in doubt. Voters rejected Republican arguments about sanctuary cities and Confederate memorials, divisive issues that had moderate Republicans trying to win over the most extreme elements of President Donald Trump’s coalition.

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Following the Money from High-Interest Lenders to Virginia Lawmakers

Campaign cash helps undermine efforts to create consumer protections.

Recent years have seen increased scrutiny of high-interest lenders, businesses that offer a variety of loans at interest rates that often exceed 300 percent. Now campaign finance disclosures show the industry is spreading its influence across the political spectrum with about $800,000 in political contributions this election cycle according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.

On the Ballot

A look at statewide candidates and where they get their money.

Voters across Virginia will be headed to the polls Tuesday Nov. 7. Here’s a look at what’s on the ballot.

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Shifting Political Battlefield for Virginia General Assembly

Solid blue urban areas separated by political beltway from solid red exurbs.

Northern Virginia has more competitive seats than any other part of the commonwealth, a ring of districts that forms a beltway of sorts separating the inner solid blue in Arlington and Alexandria from the solid red in rural and exurban seats in Loudoun and Prince William. That puts Fairfax County squarely in the driver’s seat this November, when Democrats hope to pick up seats in an election that has balanced local issues like schools and roads with the ongoing reaction to President Donald Trump.

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Flu Shot Clinic Serves Double Duty as Disaster-Planning Scenario

Planning for the worst while helping city residents feel their best.

Alexandria is in the grip of a medical emergency. A mysterious strain of influenza is creating a deadly health crisis, and it doesn’t seem to be responding to the standard flu vaccine. Wait. Calm down. It’s just a disaster planning scenario.

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Senators Meet with Leaders of Industry

In joint appearance, Warner and Kaine talk business in Northern Virginia.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner says Gov. Terry McAuliffe should pick one region of the commonwealth to compete for landing a second Amazon headquarters in Virginia instead of trying to cheerlead for three different areas simultaneously. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner says the federal government should be allowed to negotiate drug prices through Medicare to bring down the cost of prescriptions. These are some of the revelations that Warner and Kaine dropped on industry leaders this week at a meeting of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

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Rorschach Politics

Candidates for governor present inkblots on everything from the economy to Confederate statues.

The campaign for governor is a bit like a Rorschach test as the candidates close in on the final stretch toward Election Day. Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie are presenting a series of inkblots to voters about everything from the health of the economy to the value of Confederate statues.

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Chamber Celebrates Tomorrow’s Alexandria

40 Under 40 feted by titans of industry at United Way headquarters in Old Town.

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Supreme Court of Virginia Sides with Car-Title Lenders

TitleMax, LoanMax and Fast Auto Loans will be able to keep details about their business secret.

How many cars did TitleMax repossess last year? What was the average loan amount for LoanMax? How many judgments did Fast Auto Loans obtain against people who were so hard up for cash that they handed over the title to their automobiles? That’s all information that these companies handed over to state regulators last year. But according to a new ruling from the Supreme Court of Virginia, it’s also information that these companies can keep secret.

Virginia Republicans Play Establishment Card

Close primary campaigns for governor and lieutenant governor send GOP candidates to November ballot.

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Virginia Democrats Play the Long Game

Voters choose candidates who have been planning their campaign for years rather than upstarts newly energized against Trump.

Albo Retirement Prompts Hotly Contested Virginia House Race

Democrat Kathy Tran to face Republican Lolita Mancheno-Smoak.

Three Republicans Running for Virginia Governor Offer Dueling Tax Plans

Cut taxes or raise taxes? GOP primary debate offers an unusual array of options.

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Democratic Candidates for Virginia Governor Run to the Left

Two candidates try to ignore moderate records and repackage themselves as hardcore progressives.

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Lawmaker Work Group to Examine Virginia Predatory Lending

Panel to investigate internet loans, car-title loans and open-end lines of credit.

The growing chorus of criticism about predatory lending in Virginia may not have prompted lawmakers to start passing laws to crack down on the industry. But it has accomplished one thing, formation of a work group.

In Session: Virginia Assembly Briefs

Robert Johnson of Woodbridge understands the mental health crisis from a personal perspective.

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Era of the Iron Fist: How Did Democrats Rule the House of Delegates?

Democrats complain about Republican heavy-handedness, but were they any better?

Democrats complain that Republicans are sidelining their bills without much consideration. But were Democrats any better when they had control of the House of Delegates?

In Session: Virginia General Assembly Briefs

Ghost of Carter Glass

Meet state Sen. Carter Glass of Lynchburg.

In Session: Virginia Assembly Briefs

The backlog of untested rape kits has received a lot of media attention in recent years, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been working to find ways to process all that evidence. But that’s not the only problem with rape kits. Many of them are them are simply thrown away.

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Angry Birds on the Road: Lawmakers Want to Crack Down on Screen Time

Texting while driving is already illegal, but what about Facebook and Twitter?

Lawmakers in Richmond are a bunch of angry birds, frustrated at existing law they believe does not solve the problem of drivers devoting their attention to their handheld screen instead of the road.

Angry Birds on the Road: Lawmakers to Crack Down on On-the-Road Screen Time

Texting while driving is already illegal, but what about all the other screen time?

Lawmakers in Richmond are a bunch of angry birds, frustrated at existing law they believe does not solve the problem of drivers devoting their attention to their handheld screen instead of the road.

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Victims of Tribe-For-Rent Scam to Get $15 Million Payout in Settlement Agreement

15,000 Virginia victims get $6 million worth of predatory loans absolved, $9 million in cash awards.

The commercial features images of teepees and a tribal drumbeat. The company billed itself as having ties to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. But Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says that was nothing more than a fraud, a scheme he calls rent-a-tribe.

In Session: Virginia Assembly Briefs

In Session: Virginia Assembly Briefs

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Bipartisan Agreement Forged in House Panel on Reducing Suspended Driver’s Licenses

Republicans work with Cabinet officials to craft changes to let more people keep drivers licenses.

After Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe called on lawmakers to find a way to restore driver's licenses to people charged with crimes that had nothing to do with driving, Republicans responded. Now both sides are crafting a compromise that could end up being a hallmark of the 2017 session.

In Session: Virginia Assembly Briefs

In Session: Virginia Assembly Briefs

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Party-Line Vote Protects Child Labor at Tobacco Farms in Virginia

Republican-led House panel kills effort to craft new protections for kids in unrecorded vote.

In an unrecorded party-line vote, House Republicans killed a bill that would have cracked down on child labor at tobacco farms in Virginia.

Ebbin Works Behind the Scenes to Cut a Deal on Sewer System

Accelerated timetable would bypass regulatory process in exchange for keeping state money.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) has been working behind the scenes with Sen. Richard Stuart (R-28) to cut a deal that would save state funding for Alexandria, which could be at risk if the city fails to clean up its sewer system by 2020.

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Senate Panel Kills Effort to Allow Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

Supporters say they’ll continue to press the issue, citing concerns over safety.

Undocumented immigrants in Virginia will not be getting a driver’s license anytime soon, although advocates for the idea say they will keep pressing lawmakers on the issue.

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