Thursday, March 23, 2017

Local Politics

Jerrold Jay Jones

Two representatives of Norfolk’s millennial generation have launched campaigns to run  for the  House of Delegates seat  being vacated by incumbent Del.  Daun Hester, who plans to join the race for Norfolk Treasurer Joe Dillard, Jr., the current President of the Norfolk Branch of the NAACP and Jerrauld Jay Jones, a lawyer, have  announced their intentions to run for the 89th House District seat.

With 22 precincts, the  district  is the only one which covers all of the city of Norfolk,  from the southside’s  Berkley section to Rosemont to the Larchmont community.

Both of  the men are in their late 20s and have not run for political office before. But both have organizational and family links to the  political culture and machinery  of Norfolk.

Over the past couple  of months, Jones and Dillard have been courting  the voters at churches, civic group meetings,  cultural events and  other venues where they could cultivate support.

One intriguing aspect of this race be watching to see if one will get the nod from the Black political network.

Jones is an undergraduate  of the College of William and Mary, with a double major in Government and History. He obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia and  began practicing law in Norfolk.

He was an associate with Goldman Sachs where he focused on risk management and rating advisory.

In 2002, he stepped down to accept an appointment by Governor Mark Warner to serve as the Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In his press release announcing his candidacy, Jones noted his grandfather, Hilary H. Jones, Jr., a lawyer,  is deemed an early  pioneer in the Hampton Roads Civil Rights Movement. He  became the first African-American appointed to the Norfolk School Board and subsequently the State Board of Education.

Both of Jones’ parents are longtime public servants and currently serve as judges in Norfolk. His father, Jerrauld C. Jones, served eight terms in the House of Delegates representing the 89th District.

Dillard, born in Richmond and a resident of Norfolk since age 6, is a member of both the Norfolk and Portsmouth Democratic parties. He holds a  Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Political Science from Norfolk State University and is currently enrolled in NSU’s  Graduate Program with the concentration in Urban Affairs.

He was appointed to the Norfolk Mayor’s Commission on Poverty Reduction;   Elizabeth River Tunnel Crossing; Community Advisory Board Norfolk Public Schools; and the  Eastside Community Development Corporation.

In 2014, Dillard became youngest NAACP Branch President in the nation, after serving briefly as the branch’s 2nd Vice President and Interim President.

At the State level, he is the Co-Chairman for the Virginia NAACP Resolutions Committee and  Region 7 National NAACP Credential Committee Member. He is a member of the Oakwood Civic League  in Norfolk.

The mostly Black  89th House District is one of the most economically diverse in the state.

It stretches from Berkley in the city’s  south end, eastward to Rosemont and Oakwood  and westward to include parts   of Norfolk’s Larchmont community.

When asked about  the major issues which will be addressed during the campaign leading up to the June 13 Primary,  improving Education, Economic Development and Public Safety were at the top of both candidates’ lists of priorities.

Both are interested in job growth and in criminal justice reform, and they support  reentry programs to  help ex-felons  re-acquire  their voting and other political rights after returning to their communities.

Dillard, the youngest Worshipful Master of his Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, is a member of Mount Gilead in Norview.

Jones, a member of the ODU Athletic Foundation Board, is a member of the Basilica of St. Mary in Norfolk.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Anthony Burfoot

Norfolk Treasurer Anthony Burfoot has been suspended from his duties without pay by order of Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Everett Martin. The  judge issued his 11-page decision based on a petition filed by Attorney Ron Batliner, a Norfolk lawyer.

Burfoot’s suspension began at 5 p.m. Monday  Feb. 20 and continues to April 21, three days after  he will be sentenced on six federal counts of corruption while a member of the Norfolk City Council.

The judge’s decision came two days after he had presided over a hearing on Feb. 14 on  the merits of Batliner’s petition.

Burfoot, who is appealing his convictions, could resume his duties if a court overturns the convictions.

His attorney Andrew  Sacks immediately filed an appeal of Martin’s order and asked for a  “Stay.”

The corruption charges against Burfoot were filed a year ago, and there were eight counts.   But after a month-long trial, a Norfolk federal court jury found him guilty on six in December.

Since then he has refused to resign.

The judge’s decision was met with applause by his critics, and with  some skepticism from Burfoot supporters who said the charges and the sentence were not justified.

Efforts by his opponents to push him from the Treasurer’s office have been ongoing and even the Norfolk City Council voted on a non-binding and symbolic resolution calling for his resignation. Burfoot is an independently elected official and not  under the panel’s supervision.

In his order, Martin wrote that if Burfoot were not suspended, the citizens of Norfolk would be continuing to pay his salary although he had been convicted of  “Crimes  of Dishonesty.”

The judge agreed with Batlinger’s position  that  Burfoot’s continued presence in the seat  and drawing a $164,000 salary would  further erode “the trust the residents of the city of Norfolk have that honest men and women administer their government.”

Batliner  filed his petition as a citizen  and not as a lawyer. He has announced that he will run against incumbent Norfolk Commonwealth Attorney Greg Underwood. He is currently working in the  Norfolk Office of the Commissioner of Revenue.

A special account is being set up to house Burfoot’s salary. If  he should win during the appeals process, it will be turned over to him.

Burfoot, who is being replaced by the chief deputy city treasurer, was elected the city’s first African-American Treasurer in 2013 after serving on the Norfolk City Council. Burfoot had served as Vice Mayor until he moved over to serve a dual role as Assistant City Treasurer before being elected City Treasurer.

Because most of Burfoot’s illegalities that led to his convictions occurred while he was on council and not Treasurer, he could stay in office until all of his appeals are exhausted in the state and federal courts.

However, Attorney Batliner used a state law which allows for the suspension of an official convicted of a felony.

Judge Martin said he could impose Burfoot’s suspension quickly because  the Virginia Code says officials convicted of felonies in a federal court can automatically forfeit their posts  or stay in office and exhaust all of their appeals in court, as Burfoot is doing.

Sacks called the decision “premature” because no federal judge has imposed sanctions nor sentenced Burfoot yet.

The leaders of the  Norfolk Citizens  Recall Committee (NCRC) which collected over 7,000 signatures early last year calling for Burfoot’s ouster via a city court, said they were pleased with the Martin decision.

Norfolk residents Bob Brown, Max Shapiro and John Wesley Hill are the  three members of the NCRC’s steering committee calling for Burfoot’s recall from office. The recall effort currently is on hold until May after Burfoot is sentenced in April.

Hill said the trio worked in coordination with Batliner who used  the strength of  Virginia Codes related to  misconduct and suspension   of officials: 24.2-231 and 24.2-236.

Hill said if Burfoot is sentenced on April 17 but is still free after April 21 when Judge Martin’s suspension order expires, his recall group will  go to court on May 7 to petition for the recall to be heard in Circuit Court.

But Hill and  his group hope that chapter in the Burfoot saga will not be  written.

The City Treasurer’s job is up for election this year and several people have thrown their hat into the  ring to succeed Burfoot, including current State Delegate Daun Hester.

“We are not surprised at the court’s decision,” said Hill, a former Norfolk Police officer and leader in the Norfolk NAACP. “We are just concerned that it was delayed. This should have taken place  last May.

But the special prosecutor said the laws were too vague and broad.

“Now that he (Burfoot) is suspended, I think the people of Norfolk will feel better because they have lost all respect and confidence in him. This was a step forward. But it was too long.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Last November voters  in Portsmouth denied then Mayor Kenneth Wright another term and replaced him with former city manager John Rowe. Many said they hoped an era of group cooperation and peace would arise, having witnessed an often rocky relationship among council members.

Recently,  the council held its first retreat as a body tasked to move the city forward under its new Portsmouth mayor and new and continuing council members.

But City Councilman  Mark Whitaker, a close ally of Wright’s, was not  ready to join  his colleagues in their team building moment.

Whitaker boycotted the retreat,  he  said, to symbolize his belief that Mayor Rowe lacks the “social-consciousness and credibility to lead or participate in providing  vision for the city.”

On February 3, Whitaker released a press statement outlining his reasons for boycotting the retreat. Whitaker listed nine specific reasons for his stand, mostly involving Rowe.

Whitaker highlighted his view that payments Rowe, the city’s former city manager, has received from the Virginia Retirement System are improper and  against state  law.

Further, he said, if the VRA does not recover at least $83,000 of the retirement funds paid to Rowe, the city would be liable.

He questioned Rowe’s role in facilitating the transaction involving the city’s payments of $7 million to the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority to retire the Holiday Inn loan.

Whitaker said  he does not support diversifying  the city’s police and fire personnel in a city which is majority African American.

Whitaker said  the mayor is not a proponent of the “Living Wage,” and he chided Rowe for orchestrating  a criminal investigation of members of the  Portsmouth School board investigated several years ago  for appropriating funds to  expand school  facilities for students.

“There are so many issues which the council under Mr. Rowe will not address,” Whitaker told a reporter for the New Journal and Guide.

“This is due to the ‘Whitelash’  which has taken place locally and nationally. Also, Black ignorance of the  social norm of White Supremacy.”

Whitaker said while the council is seeking to establish a more unified “group dynamic,” the panel’s ability to address many of the diversity,  education and economic fairness  issues facing the panel may be co-opted.

He pointed out that Jaymichael Mitchell, who was arrested for shoplifting $5 worth of goods, was detained in the  Regional Jail and latter was found dead in his cell.

He also mentioned William Chapman, who  was killed by a Portsmouth Police  officer for allegedly shoplifting $50 worth of goods  from a Walmart.

Whitaker said while these two young Black men died for petty crimes, Rowe is allowed to go free for various issues, including the VRS issue.

But during a telephone interview with the Guide on February 13, Rowe sought to counter Whitaker’s  assertions which he called “opinions and not facts.”

“The retirement that I receive is for my 30 years of earned service prior to becoming Deputy City Manager of Portsmouth and later as City Manager of Portsmouth,” Rowe said in a statement he supplied to the Guide on Feb. 13.  “Portsmouth did not contribute even one dollar to the retirement that I receive.”

Rowe continued by saying, “Both contracts were developed by the City and signed by all parties in good faith years ago. One contract is almost 12 years old and signed by the current City Manager (Patton) who was Deputy City Manager in 2005, and the second was provided to me nearly five years ago and signed by the former Mayor Kenny Wright in 2012.

“However, the matter is now between VRS and me to resolve,” said Rowe said.

Rowe also refutes Whitaker’s charge that he was involved in the City’s paying $7,000,000 to the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority for the retirement of the Holiday Inn loan because he was not working in Portsmouth.

“On January 8, 2008, while I was serving as Deputy City Manager of the City of Portsmouth, I told the then City Manager Ken Chandler that I would leave the City at the end of April 2008,” Rowe said.   “This was a public announcement, and the whole City knew that my last day with the City of Portsmouth was April 30, 2008.  I did not resign or leave ‘abruptly’ as alleged by Dr. Mark Whitaker.”

Six months  later,  he said the  Town Council of Windsor hired him as Interim Town Manager.

“The Town’s previous Manager was retiring the end of June 2008 after serving as the Town Manager for 12 years, and the Town Council hired me to be its Interim Town Manager,”  he continued.

“As Interim Town Manager, I was fully immersed in running the Windsor municipal operations, and I had no interactions with the City of Portsmouth. Consequently, I was not aware that Portsmouth had developed and signed this October 31, 2008 agreement with the Greater Portsmouth Development Corporation.”

Rowe submitted a document, dated  October 31, 2008  which was an “agreement, six full months after I left the City of Portsmouth, the then Portsmouth City Manager Ken Chandler signed this contract in which the City agreed to pay $7,000,000 to retire the loan on the Holiday Inn. The then City Attorney Tim Oaksman approved the form and legality of the agreement.”
Rowe said he was disappointed that Councilman Whitaker did not attend the retreat with  his colleagues.

He said the city has devised a four-point vision for its future, including creating a  poverty taskforce  to attack and end the problems “as best we can.”

Rowe said on education, council wants  to reverse the fact that only eight of the city’s 19 public schools are fully accredited  and wants to develop a community wide strategy to reverse that trend. He said that effort will begin Feb. 27 when the council will meet with the school board to approve its budget and outline  plans on its vision for the future in that area.

He said the plan calls for reform in the city’s  ordinance system from  its current “form system” which has been an impediment to recruiting and  retaining  job creating businesses in Portsmouth.

Rowe said that  in 2008 the city eliminated its Marketing and Tourism Department and the current council  will work to revive  it.

Rowe countered  Whitaker’s contention that he was not for diversity and civil and social justice and does not carry his concern for  the “issue on my sleeve.”

He pointed out when he was City Manager for Emporia/Greenville, he received a citation  from the local NAACP  in 2003 for “fighting for Freedom  and Justice for all.”

And from the city’s Oak Grove Baptist Church, he was cited for his “dutifulness  to justice and equality and use of  his “resourcefulness in development  and growth of Emporia/Greenville.”

Rowe said he had no knowledge of and was not involved in the Grand Jury Investigation of the city of Portsmouth School Board over allegations related to funding that “was not returned”   to the city.

Before last November’s elections, Blacks had a 4-3 majority on council, with Wright as Portsmouth mayor.

Now there are four White and three Black council members, including Portsmouth Mayor Rowe who may determine the deciding vote on the panel now if the voting is along racial lines.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

Lawmakers use the U.S. Census 10-year head counts to determine  the boundaries of local,  state and U.S. Congressional voting districts representing thousands of voters who elected them to office.

It’s called redistricting. But, some see the process as subject to gerrymandering because it is controlled by the state legislature, and the political party in control of the legislature has a political advantage.

In Virginia, since the mid-1990s the Republican Party has controlled  the redistricting process. Today the GOP owns a 66-34 majority in the House of Delegates and a slender one in the Senate 21-19.

This is typical across the South. The Republican party has invested funds and rhetoric into drawing borders for voting that have sought to make White Democrats extinct in the U.S. House, Senate  and state legislatures.

Currently there are 32 GOP-controlled state legislatures compared to 12 for Democrats and six which are split.

In Virginian, Republicans control seven of the 11 U.S. House Districts.

The GOP party lost one of the seats when a federal court redrew  the 4th Congressional District. A suit filed by Black voters claimed  it had been racially gerrymandered to give an advantage to White Republicans.

That suit allowed Democrat Donald McEachin to now represent the 4th District in the newly convened U.S. House of Representatives.

Unless state Democrats mount a successful run to reduce or overcome the GOP dominance in the 2017 and further elections, their rivals will control the process in 2021 and their erosion of power will increase.

But a counter campaign  which has considerable bi-partisan support is gathering steam to create a state non-partisan  commission to redistrict the political voting districts.

Recently, Hampton Roads Mayors Kenneth C. Alexander of Norfolk and Will Sessoms of Virginia Beach hosted a community forum entitled “Gerryrigged” at Virginia Wesleyan College with the redistricting advocacy group, OneVirginia2021, to demonstrate support for the campaign.

“I participated in the process that enabled legislators to help draw their own districts…(choosing)  who gets to vote for them,” said Mayor Alexander who is a former state Senator. “Even  with the best intentions, we were apt  to draw those lines for political benefit. I better understand this now so that’s why I’ve joined the movement.”

Brian Cannon is the Executive Director of OneVirginia2021.

“People want to know why the system is not serving them well  so far as ethics or issues,” said Cannon.  “Hopefully the legislators will see the growing support  for these reforms and take action to  create a fairer system.”

For the past two and half decades, proposals have been submitted during the Virginia General Assembly session to achieve that goal. But each time the legislation is aborted and not even given a potentially life-saving vote in either house of the legislature, Despite pressure being brought to bear by this new campaign during this legislative session, similar legislation may meet the same fate.

In 1992,  Democratic State Delegate Kenneth R. Plum of Reston, sponsored one of the first bills to take the process of redistricting out of the hands of his colleagues,
Instead, Plum’s and other bills sponsored by his colleagues promoting this idea have died in committee.

Delegate Plum hopes this will be the year that lawmakers will adopt his bill,  creating a non-partisan commission, a third group that is  not connected with either the Democrats or Republicans.

If successful, redistricting in 2021 will not be done to  ensure the incumbency of  Democratic or Republican lawmakers and thus giving one party control over the legislative future of the state.

“It’s had such strong support from both sides of the aisle over the years,” said Plum.

“People  from both parties thought it was a great idea to give the people more voice and not the politicians. But the bills never got  out of committee, died and most voters did not know about it.  Both parties, over the years, have  wanted to protect their legislative and Congressional seat majorities and they killed those bills.”

According to recent polls, over 70 percent of state voters want the redistricting process reformed.

When the Virginia State Legislature convened on January 11, 2017, two bills were entered calling for an independent Commission  to perform  the redistricting process sponsored by Democratic Delegates Plum and  Rip Sullivan of McLean.

As of last week, according to Plum and Democratic party operatives, the bills were still stuck in the GOP controlled House  Rules Committee.

A Democratic party  media spokesman said that the bills will come up for a vote on January 29.

Democrats and other supporters of the measure have been lobbying House Speaker William J. Howell to coax Republicans on the panel to send the bill to the floor for a vote.

A letter sent to House Democratic Leader Delegate David J. Toscano noted that after the last election cycle, Americans increasingly “believe our system is ‘rigged’” in favor of the powerful.

“Constituents want to know where we stand on re-districting reform and the only way they can find out is if we have a floor vote,” said Toscano. “A system that gives incumbent politicians the power to pick their own voters and draw political opponents out of districts is undemocratic and unacceptable. Voters should choose their elected leaders – but in Virginia, the opposite is true. Since both parties have been guilty of gerrymandering, both parties must fix it. I call upon Republican leadership to send these two amendments directly to the floor.”

Cannon said currently four states – Arizona, California, Hawaii and Idaho – have set up non-partisan and independent commissions. Eleven others have some form of third party apparatus  used to draw post census voting districts.

The size of the panels vary, among those four commissions from five in Idaho to 14 in California.

Cannon said none of the commissions are manned by  elected officials. State officials, such as the Secretary of State or director of the Department of Elections,  and  others from the two respective parties who hold no political office,  are chosen by the Governor and legislative leaders.

Cannon said in Virginia, supporters of such  a commission envision at least a five to seven-member panel.

Also, if the outcome of the panel’s work is deemed unfair or flawed, there will be an option for “vetoing”  it and seeking corrections via legislative or judicial revision.

Delegate Plum said supporters of redistricting reform  are optimistic that Republican party  leaders will heed to bipartisan pressure.

He said if the legislation is not adopted, then the courts may step in and force the hand of Republican party leaders.

In 1981, an election year, Virginia Democrats controlled the redistricting process.  They shut out Republicans and Blacks in the process until the federal court  and the Department of Justice ordered them to draw districts to increase the number of Blacks (12) and Republican seats in the House.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

Norfolk’s City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot could get at least 100 years in prison for activities related to his time as a city councilman and vice mayor.

But for now, Burfoot and his attorney Andrew Sacks will be waging an appeal from his  federal convictions, and Burfoot is back on the job as City Treasurer. The position is a state constitutional one, and state law says a convicted  official cannot be  pushed from  office until all appeals have “expired” or been used  before the respective courts.

On December 9, after only five hours of deliberations,  a jury found Burfoot guilty of six of the eight charges he was tried for in a federal court in Norfolk.

Federal prosecutors persuaded jurors during the five-week trial that Burfoot  sold his vote to developers  who sought  access to projects and other favors while he was serving on the  Norfolk City Council from 2002-2013,

In exchange Burfoot acquired over $400,000 in cash and other gifts, including cars and  materials to rehabilitate one of his homes.

While the  Burfoot trial did lay bare some very damning revelations about  his illicit activities while on council, the Black community’s reaction to the convictions has been mixed.

Facebook and casual conversations with  people once close to  Burfoot and those who only know him via the media, range from cold damnation and calls for him to step aside  to sympathy for a Black leader “scapegoated” by rivals via a vast conspiracy.

There have been some positive mentions of his efforts to revitalize parts of his ward while on council (Ward 3), especially, the Broadcreek community, his lobbying to build the Kroc Center to Norfolk, and the hiring of people from his community for city jobs.

“There  are a lot of questionable behaviors on his part, but why are the  White  developers who have been making millions  off the process not given the same attention and sanctions, “ said one Norfolk resident who agreed to talk on the  condition of anonymity. “I am sure there are others who the feds should  looking at, too.  I am believing that Burfoot is just a scapegoat to divert our attention.”

On the other hand, there are those who say the trial was an embarassing mark on the Black community’s leadership and abuse of powers  to enrich themselves when there are so many poor people they represent.

Another Black person took a different tact; he, too, did not want his name used for this article having known Mr. Burfoot for years.

“I don’t think race has anything to do with the outcome of this case,” the person said. “Burfoot was arrogant, careless and greedy. He claims he had to make a living. You do not do it this way, at the public trough. Most disturbing, he took advantage  of one of the few minority firms which was asking for his  help. He shook them down for thousands of dollars. It’s like something you see on the Sopranos (an HBO drama  about New Jersey mobsters)  not community service.”

Efforts have been renewed by the Norfolk  City Recall Committee  (NCRC) which has been seeking to remove Burfoot from his treasurer’s job. The process was delayed to allow the criminal trial to proceed.

John Wesley Hill, one of the NCRC leaders, said his group is  looking forward to January 6, when a Circuit Court session will convene to address the situation.

His group collected more than 7,000 signatures from Norfolk residents calling for  a recall trial to allow Burfoot to come before a judge to state why he should or should not be removed from office.

“There will either be a trial where he will  have to make his case to stay in office or a hearing to delay. We don’t know right now,” said Hill.

Hill said he and other members of the recall  committee have been lobbying state and local political officials to help build pressure on Burfoot to step aside.  Hill went before the Norfolk City Council meeting on December 13 to  explain the committee’s positions and to urge members to address the issue.

Two  Norfolk City Council members, Tommy Smiegel and Andria McClellan, had called earlier for Burfoot to resign and led colleagues in an 8-0 vote to do the same at the council meeting. But there is very little the Norfolk City Council can do to force Burfoot from office, since it has no constitutional control of his office.

“Burfoot has laid open the fact that corruption is ripe in this city. And people want something to be done about it,” said Hill.

At the heart  of the federal prosecutors’ case was Burfoot’s associations with three developers.

In exchange for his vote of support on various projects, it was revealed during the trial that  Burfoot received over $400,000 and bribes and other material gifts from developers  Dwight Etheridge, Tommy Arney and Ronnie Boone, Sr.

One of the most damning revelations involved $56,000 Burfoot deposited in a local bank which was not  from salary. Federal prosecutors  linked the cash to Tivest which was given to Burfoot over a three-year period allegedly to  help with the firm’s development  project.

By Lauren Victoria Burke
(NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Reality star billionaire Donald Trump won the presidency in shocking fashion, but African-American candidates also made history on November 8.

There will be a record number of African-Americans in Congress during the time Trump is in the White House. That number will rise from 48 to 52. There have never been more African-Americans elected to Congress in American history.

Kamala Harris of California will be the second African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. Former Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown will serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both Republicans in the House, Mia Love (R-Utah) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) won re-election, as did the only Black Republican in the Senate, Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

Lisa Blunt Rochester was elected to the U.S. House in Delaware. Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings will also serve in the House. Virginia State Senator Don McEachin was elected to the House in a newly configured seat in Virginia that covers Richmond.

Though there will be more African-American members serving in Congress, the dilemma they find themselves in is obvious: All but three are Democrats who will be serving in the minority in the House and Senate.

Being a member of the minority party in the House is one of the most powerless positions in Congress. It’s the majority that sets the agenda, the hearing schedules, the floor schedule and when the Congress will be in recess.

The Senate is different. The two African-American Democrats who will serve next year, Senator-elect Harris and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) could have some opportunities to influence the agenda moving forward. The Senate will be a narrower 52-48, and the rules allow for some disruption from members of the minority party.

But it won’t be easy. Currently members of the Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate are in a period stunned silence and are not even harping on the fact that Hillary Clinton won more votes than Trump and therefore no Trump has no real mandate.

The Democratic Party in recent years has not been anywhere as militant as the rightwing, who created the so-called Tea Party movement and the “alt-right” to deal with the growing influence of African-Americans and Latinos at the ballot box. Democrats in Congress are primed for a new set of younger leaders to take the place of those who are in their mid-70s and who have failed strategically to win over voters in a country where Democrats are in the majority.

That the Democrats had two candidates over the age of 68 running for the presidency as Republicans fielded a candidate in his mid-40s is a sign it’s time for younger and more dynamic leadership on the left side of the aisle. One of those young leaders could come out of the Congressional Black Caucus, who is soon to elect a new caucus chair.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African-American leadership. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

David Washington and Dr. William E. Ward of Chesapeake believe they know why Donald J. Trump pulled off one of the most stark presidential election upsets since 1948 when the nation mistakenly expected Thomas Dewey to beat Vice President Harry S. Truman.

Washington is the  President of the New Chesapeake Men for Progress and an alumnus of the  Obama campaign operation.

This cycle he was dispatched out West to help with the Clinton operation. There, and locally, he noticed that despite the resources of the Clinton team, it  failed to apply some of the  strategies the Obama  operation used.

“The Clinton team hired some of the high level technicians and analysts from the Obama team,” said Washington. “But they failed  to bring in the experts for the ground game.

Obama workers connected with the local preachers and other political operatives locally to support them in education and turn out efforts.  These people know who to talk to and where voters are that they needed to turn out.”

Dr. Ward, former Mayor of Chesapeake and retired Norfolk State University history dean,  said, “There was a silent majority out there and Trump tapped into  their anger, despair and frustration.

“It was also a reaction to Obama.  Hillary wanted to ride in on his coattails for another term. She could not distance herself from him (Obama), fearing that Blacks would reject her message.  But it did not translate into enough votes.”

On November 8, Republicans won not only keys to the  White House, but also captured the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

Among Democrats, there still is a disbelief, shock and anger, as protest marches have materialized about the country including the streets of Norfolk.

Polls had shown that Clinton would pull out, at best, a thin victory over Trump.

But despite  his unconventional and confrontational style of campaigning and his    denunciation of  Hispanics,  members of the military suffering  from PTSD,  and his misogynistic view of women, Trump  managed to secure 289 electoral votes and the Presidency.

As president, Trump is poised to fill the ninth slot on the U.S. Supreme  Court left blank deliberately by the GOP Senate leadership. His choices, to please his supporters, will push the high court rightward for several generations.

Most of the analysts who responded to questions from the Guide said Trump managed to tap into a vein of economic, social and racial insecurity among White voters of varying stripes who supported him at the polls.

Many of them may have voted for Obama in previous elections.  Many went undetected by    Democrats in their polling models, but the GOP message lured them to the polls from their suburban and rural homes.

The majority of the polls leading up to the election gave Clinton a slight edge.  The USC-Dornsife-Los Angeles Times poll said Trump would win.

◆◆◆

The Christopher Newport University (CNU) Wason Center poll, which centered only on Virginia,  gave Clinton a six-point advantage over Trump. The outcome was five percent and the  center’s analysts were elated.

Dr.  Rachel  Bitecofer, the Assistant Director of the Wason Center, located in Newport News, said many of the models that pollsters used were  designed to predict how various voter constituencies would turn out based on  party affiliation, income, race, gender and age grouping.

She said  the  models were based on  the ones used in 2012 when President Obama ran against Republican Nominee Mitt Romney. Then, she said, a heavy level of Black and young voters turned out for Barack Obama  from the urban centers which allowed him to win states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“The projected polls overweighed the young,  (the) African-American and (the) White educated vote,” said  Bitecofer. “This year, they did turn out at the same level as they did in 2012 for Obama.”

She continued, “But the White voters, which were not expected and were ‘underweighed’ by the pollsters, came out   for Trump. The  Democrats’   turnout operation could not counter the White rural and surburban vote with a large urban turnout.”

Bitecofer and other pollsters and political analysts are poring over the impact Green Party candidate Jill Stein played in Michigan, which was part of the blue wall Trump shattered..
“She got 50,000 votes in Michigan,” said Dr. Bitecofer.  “Much of that vote was in the northern rural areas. If  Clinton had  got  25,000 of them, we would not be talking about President-Elect Trump today.”

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Washington said Clinton relied too heavily on local people to get out the vote in their communities. “She did not  connect them with the operatives they brought in from the other parts of the country.

“Secondly,” he continued, “traditionally Republicans did not register voters and work to get them out. This time they did.  You saw the blue areas of the cities in Pennsylvania and Michigan, next to the red.  That red was suburban Whites, living just outside the cities.  They turned out for Trump.

“So it did not matter what the cities did … it was countered by what was happening outside of them and that is why we lost.”

Dr. Ward added, “Now we have to see how this portends for the future, and watch to see who he (Trump) selects for his cabinet. How will  this impact  the Obama Legacy, especially Obamacare and other achievements? Will there be a counter revolution two years due to Trump’s policies and actions?”

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The Guide talked to a number of  political activists  and academics to survey their opinions about why Trump won. 

Despite the  lack of a specific policy message which resonated with White working class men and women,  Trump was seen as an agent of change from the past eight years of Obama.

Also, he was also seen as the anti-establishment candidate willing  to stand up against the GOP “Old Guard”  which has failed to deliver on economic and social promises.

Dr. Russell Adams is the Political Science Professor Emeritus at Howard University. He said that the Democrats concentrated their political operation and message on the East and West coast where they thought their base of support existed..

In the election post-mortis, it was revealed that Clinton failed to devote resources to Michigan and did not set foot  in Wisconsin or other states in the Midwest  where Democrats one held sway.

“They forget that there are some 300 counties in this nation where there are no Black folks at all. There are  3,000 gated communities where Black folk need a pass to get in to  work,” said Adams. “There are 159 counties in Georgia and  Black folk only have a significant presence in two. These are called “sundown  locals.”  If you are Black, you’d better not be  in these places at sundown unless you are running.”

Dr. Adams continued, “The Democrats  forgot about those places, especially in the Midwest.

“The South is solidly Republican now and the party, after 50 years  has managed, finally,  to reverse Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr’s work. Millennials have not been able to connect  our nation’s history, current action and  future.  They   thought  the 2008 election meant an  end to racism. They are going to get a tutorial on why it  has not.”

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Geraldine Hunt  is a chairperson with the  Virginia Beach Democratic Party. She said  she was in command of a small cadre of student poll workers  in the city.

“I was  going to various precincts, and I did not see the turnout that I saw in 2012 or four years earlier,” said Hunt.  “It seems parts of the  Obama Coalition slept during this election, especially Black voters and millennials.

“Trump has created a new class of voters and they came out.  They did not care what he said,” said  Hunt.  “I was surprised at the percentage of woman (52% ) who supported him and even a portion of union voters.

When Trump talked about bringing back jobs and against migrants, that drove them to the poll.”

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rev-keith-jones

Rev. Dr. Keith Jones of the Shiloh Baptist Church was among a group of Norfolk clergy who wrote a statement  of support for the Clinton.

He  said despite Trump’s flaws as a  person and candidate, there were voters who felt his message addressed their fears.

“It seems that people will go where they  can find soothing for their pain,” said Dr. Jones.  “They felt left out economically  after seven years of  Obama they feel Trump represents something different…. as a person they found a message and a voice which  was familiar to them culturally.

“But I think those who supported Clinton in our community  have an opportunity  to do something positive, especially the Black church.”

Dr. Jones continued, “Trump was only exploiting fears and division which were already out there The church must now speak truth to power and unite us.”

By Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent
New Journal and Guide

PORTSMOUTH
Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth I. Wright was defeated in his bid for re-election by former city manager John Rowe. Wright had served as mayor for six years in Portsmouth, a black-majority port city in the center of the Hampton Roads metro-area. The news of Wright’s defeat dampened the mood of his supporters who gathered at a mid-city campaign headquarters which was shared with candidate Paul Battle, who came in fourth in a three-way race for city council.

Wright attributed his defeat to Rowe’s superior ground-game, PAC money, and ability to turn out his base of supporters at the polls. Wright said he did not know why his base did not turn out at the polls but promised to examine the issue in the upcoming days. Wright accepted full-responsibility for his defeat and urged the citizens of Portsmouth to get behind and support the new mayor. He insisted that this is not the end of his political career and said he would examine his options moving forward.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

Leaders of the two major political parties in Virginia,ncampaign operatives for rival campaigns  for various offices and state election officials are expecting a busy and hopefully tension-free election day on November 8. Election officials around the nation are seeing a steady and heavy flow of  people voting early in person where it is allowed and by  absentee, the only option Virginians have to casting their ballot early.

Nationally over 10 million-plus early votes have been cast, with various reporting indicating Democrats and Republicans are tied at 41 percent. In Virginia, days  before the November 8 election, there are no tensions between the two parties and advocates about issues related to voter identification laws  or other efforts by Republicans to lower Black and Hispanic voter participation, as in nearby North Carolina and other states.

Nevertheless, voters are encouraged to call their local Office of Elections to make sure their precinct has not been changed since the last General Election. Also, if you have not voted since the last Presidential election and have moved but not alerted the registrar of our move, you should also check to make  sure your name has not been purged from local voting rolls. Along with the Democratic and Republican party entrants,  the Libertarian, Green and Independent party tickets will be on the state ballot.

Races: 2nd, 3rd, 4th Congressional Districts

shaun-brown
Residents of Norfolk  and Virginia Beach  will be voting for the Second Congressional District candidates; Democrat Shaun Brown or  Republican Scott Taylor. Brown has been endorsed by the Virginia Beach Political Action Committee. Residents of Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth and parts of Chesapeake will vote for Third Congressional District race incumbent Democrat  Robert Scott or his  Republican challenger, Marty Williams. Voters in parts of Chesapeake and Suffolk will vote for the newly reconfigured Fourth Congressional District where Democratic State Senator Donald McEachin of Henrico County and  Republican  Michael  L. Wade are competing.

Races: Virginia House of Delegates and Virginia Senate Races

Voters in Chesapeake and Norfolk will vote in a special election to fill the Virginia Fifth District Senate seat formerly held by now Norfolk Mayor Kenneth C. Alexander. Delegate Lionell Spruill of Chesapeake is running unopposed for that seat. Former Chesapeake Councilman Cliff Hayes  is running unopposed as a Democrat for the 77th House Delegate seat Spruill is giving up. Portsmouth and Virginia Beach  shifted their mayor and council elections to November to generate a larger voter turnout.

Races: Portsmouth Council, School Board

In Portsmouth, incumbent Mayor Kenneth Wright is  seeking another term.  He has five challengers:  Shannon Glover,  H. Cliff Page, Jr., Barry R. Randall, John L. Rowe and James M. Sturdevant.

Portsmouth voters will select three members of city council from the 10 candidates who are running: incumbent Vice Mayor Elizabeth Psimas, James C. Bailey, Paul J. Battle, Leon J. Boone, Nathan J. Clark, Mark A. Geduldig-Yatrofsky, Lisa L. Lucas-Burke, S.C. Revell and Ray A. Smith.

There are five seats open on the Portsmouth school board.  Three current members have decided not to seek another term. But running along with the current Vice Chair Costella B. Williams, are incumbents Sarah Duncan Hinds, B. Keith Nance. Sr.,  and Ted J. Lamb against challengers JoaAnn T. Clarke,  Angelia N. Allen, LaKeesha S. Atkinson and De’Andre A. Barnes.

Races: Virginia Beach Council, School Board

The African-American Political Action Council, a non-partisan council of members of the Virginia Beach African-American grass-roots community for over 10 years, recently issued its Gold Ballot endorsements urging city voters to select the following candidates: Will Sessoms, Shaun Brown, Dr. Amelia Ross Hammond, Shannon Kane, Rosemary Wilson, Beverley Anderson, Frances Knight-Thompson, and Trenace Riggs.

It offered no endorsement in the Rose Hall ward. Other mayoral candidates on the ballot are George Furman II, Richard W. Kowalewitch and A.M. Weeks. Four seats are open among city council members, including the lone African-American on  the city’s governing panel, Dr. Amelia N. Ross-Hammond. Four school board seats are being contested in the  at-large Centerville Kempsville and Rose Hall  Districts. The AAPAC also urged Beach residents to vote “yes” on the referendum reading: “Should City Council of Virginia Beach  spend local funds to extend Light Rail from Norfolk to Town Center.”

Two State Votes For All Residents

There are two proposed changes to the Virginia Constitution that all residents will vote “yes or no” on. The first relates to employers and labor unions. The second relates to taxation of real property of the surviving spouse of any public officer killed in the line of duty and the spouse lives in the house and has not remarried.

Be Prepared: Voter ID Is Mandatory

Virginia law requires all voters to provide an acceptable form of photo identification when voting in person. All of the acceptable forms of photo ID can be used up to a year after the ID has expired.  These photo IDs include valid Virginia Driver’s License or Identification Card,  Valid Virginia DMV, Veteran’s ID Card and Valid U.S. Passport. Any other government-issued photo identification cards must be issued by the U.S. Government, the Commonwealth of Virginia, or a political subdivision of the Commonwealth.

Also allowed are Tribal IDs issued by one of 11 tribes recognized by Virginia; valid college or university student photo identification card for a school in  Virginia or public school or private school in Virginia displaying a photo; and an employee identification card with photograph. If you do not have one of the acceptable forms of photo I.D. listed above, contact a local voter registration office for a free photo identification card, which can be used for voting purposes only.

Voters without acceptable photo identification may be offered a Provisional Ballot to vote.  In order for the ballot to be counted, the voter is required to submit a copy of an approved form of photo identification to the local Electoral Board by noon on Friday following Election Day.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

Residents of Portsmouth are experiencing one of the most emotional and intense races for mayor and city council in decades. Six candidates, including the incumbent  Mayor Kenneth I. Wright are running for mayor. There are  only three seats   on the City Council this election year, but there are 10 people seeking to grab one of them including,  one incumbent, Elizabeth Psimas, who is the current Vice Mayor.

Questions facing the city’s public housing authority, its public schools, the level of public safety and economic development are key issues facing the voters and the candidates seeking to guide the city forward. Ongoing squabbles and back-biting  among council members and city officials have been played out in the mainstream media which may account for the large number of  contenders this fall.

Portsmouth currently is the largest majority Black city in Hampton Roads, giving the political and budgetary power from the traditional White power structure to African-Americans.
Mayor Wright says,  despite  the  hostilities driven by this reality, which he constantly reminds voters who support him, that he has a good chance to retain his seat.
Wright has been running a non-stop campaign for the past year, seeking to overcome the negative media reports and his critics.

The five contenders for Wright’s job are businessman Shannon Glover, H. Cliff Page,  Barry Randall, former city manager John L. Rowe. Jr.  and James Sturdevant. “I think we have a good chance to continue our good work of moving this city forward,” said Wright, in  his second term as mayor. “Meanwhile you have the majority media and others talking about  the negative. But I think  the voters, White and Black, will make the right decision to keep the city moving in the  right direction.”

During his campaigning, Wright has touted the city’s AAA bond rating, the bolstering of the city’s retirement fund, revitalization of the Mid-City business district, the $160 million dollar investment downtown, and new housing to attract young and educated families to the area. “I can go on and on, “ said Wright. “But all you hear is the noise from people who want to deny all of the good news which is coming out of Portsmouth and talk about all the noise generated by the media and people who want to return to the old way of doing business.”

Shannon Glover takes issue with the Mayor’s positive outlook on the city, claiming the high rate of poverty and the low performance of the public schools are troubling the city’s ability to attract new investment and residents. Hurricane Matthew recently caused extensive damage and flooding to the Swanson Homes housing complex which has become a source of unfavorable attention toward Portsmouth’s slow response for the mostly poor and Black residents of the community.

Glover  and Wright were the only two of the six candidates for mayor who responded to calls for interviews  with the Guide. “My candidacy is getting a lot of support from voters who believe there is a need for a breath of fresh air,”  said Glover, who runs an Employee Benefits Program. “I see a high rate of poverty and unemployment  and the need for employment at a living wage in Portsmouth.”

Glover said the “good old boys” who the Mayor says are being shut out of controlling the investments and fiscal life of the city “need to be allowed to come back and invest in our city and  help us grow.” Glover said efforts should be made to recruit jobs and investment in the city in shipbuilding and other high tech industries which foster employment and expand the city’s tax base.

He said young middle class families are fleeing the city because of  the public schools, public safety  issues and lack of job opportunities.
“We must  develop our city to bring these young families back to our schools and our neighborhoods to work and live,” said Glover.  “We are not growing as a city and we will not be able to compete  as a city until there is a change of leadership starting at the top.”

Race for Council

There are some old and new faces running for council this fall. One of them is Paul Battle, who has run for public office, including a race for council previously. Battle said although he has not been elected to political office, he has devoted many years to public service, working on the city’s Community Service Board,  and Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority (PRHA) where he helped write HOP VI grant which awarded $26 million for Portsmouth to build new housing. He also helped to author a Drugs Elimination Grant  which added 15 police positions to the city.

“I believe in direct community investment,” said Battle, who operates the Tranquility Manor which provides services for intellectually challenged adults and an entertainment company.
He  said he has  donated money to pay for choir robes and band uniforms for students at I.C. Norcom and supported local groups such as the  NAACP. “We must be proactive – this is why Truxton has a new recreation center and the Cavalier Manor Community Center is being rehabilitated,” said Battle. “But we need to do more, including  providing school supplies and support for children in K-6 grades to help us reduce the drop-out rate in the city.”

“I have invested a lot of my own resources into helping people of this city,” said Battle. “I would like to be on council so I could devote our energies toward improving the quality of life for the people of Portsmouth.” Lisa L. Lucas Burke wants to further her family’s political legacy in Portsmouth. She is the daughter of State Senator L. Louise Lucas, who was the first Black woman to sit on the Portsmouth City Council.

Lucas, a graduate  of Manor High School, has sat on the  Portsmouth Economic Development Authority   and is currently Executive Director and partner  at Lucas Professional Center.
“I have more experience than my mother when she started in 1984 and made history,” said Lucas. “I have my own political vision and style. But I want  the  best for Portsmouth and all of its residents.”

Lucas  said she addresses the same issues which other council candidates are espousing on the campaign trail, including frustration with the infighting on council, supporting  development of the city’s water front, luring more investment and jobs into the city to expand the city’s tax base. She also supports stronger spending for police and fire protection and she wants closer evaluations of expenditures for facilities like the Sports Hall of Fame and other city-supported projects.

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Mark A. Geduldig-Yatrofsky, like many others in Hampton Roads, is an import to the region due  to his service in the U.S. Navy. He has been a long time critic of city government, and he said there are three key issues he has been talking about to a variety of groups throughout the city. He wants to protect the city’s limited dollars by reducing  waste spending and making city projects such as the Renaissance Hotel “pay for themselves.”

He said he would expand the amount of time citizens are allowed to address issues before the city council, and he would promote council members being more respectful to people who do speak. He also wants to ensure that neighborhoods receive an equal share of city services regardless of the income of most of its inhabitants. “We have a great opportunity to change the course of  this city with our votes,” said Geduldig-Yatrofsky. “Politicians  have to be mindful of who votes for them and should try to conduct business on a more  citizens-centered  manner.”

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Nathan J.  Clark, a  State Marine Police Officer, came in fourth among the candidates who  were bidding for the three seats open several years ago. “I think that education, economic development and public safety are three issues which are related,” said Clark, who has worked for the Sheriff’s and Fire Department in his native Portsmouth. He is a proud alumnus of I.C. Norcom High School.

“I would like to create a liaison office which will allow a person starting a business to go to one office to check off each item they need to start a business.  Today it’s too confusing for people who want to invest in our community.” “City officials must be open to work in hand with current and potential business owners to increase development and growth in Portsmouth’s economic standing.”

Clark has received the endorsements of a number of diverse groups to include public safety police, sheriff’s and firefighter associations, as well as the Portsmouth Educational Association, the Hampton Roads Realtor Association and the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Steering Committee.

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Ray Smith was on council from 2004 to 2008.  He said that one of the issues prompting him to run for council again is the lack of cooperation and civility among the current  city leaders. “We worked  together and we got a lot of done,” said Smith.  “Our image has taken a tremendous hit because of all of the fighting.  I want to work with a council who will turn around the schools, fully fund alternative educational opportunities such as vocational education.”

“We were not perfect back  when I was on council,  but we did not bicker in the public,” said Smith.  “We were able to disagree but get things done for the city, such as bringing TCC to the city and WalMart and other development projects. We need more leadership and less fighting among city leaders.”

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Incumbent Elizabeth Psimas says she recalls those less turbulent days on council  when she and Smith sat on council together “Back then we disagreed with each other, but we got things done,” said Psimas, the lone woman on council for the past two years. “We did not embarrass the council nor were we rude to people who came forth to speak before  us about their needs.” “We have a $650 million dollar budget and after we pay all of our bills and account for payroll we have $100 million  to  work with,” said Psimas.  “We have to find a way to effectively use that for schools, public safety and investing in creating jobs in Portsmouth.  But we need to come together  to create a new vision for  this  city for all of its people.”

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James Bailey  says he is the political novice among the contenders for one of three council seats   He is a member of the city’s NAACP. “There are many issues, but I think I would like to be  a voice for the unheard in the city,” said Bailey.  “We need to put more resources into the neediest parts of the city not just the affluent neighborhoods.  We need to empower adults with job training and after school options for their children.”

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