1. Man Bites Dog or Ken Cuccinelli
Praises the EPA. It’s true. Virginia’s AG sent out a press release this week lauding the EPA for fining a homebuilder $925,000 for clean water violations. But don’t expect the sweet nothings to continue. The EPA’s at the heart of Cuccinelli’s concerns about federal overreach. In addition, the agency’s regulatory initiatives have many Virginia businesses on edge. Tensions between the AG and EPA are far more likely to escalate than dissipate.
2. Wait, Baby, Wait
That’s what the Obama administration told advocates of off-shore drilling in Virginia this week. The feds issued a 7 year moratorium on drilling along the east coast that will apply to Virginia. Democratic Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner joined Governor McDonnell in criticizing the decision. But it doesn’t appear that they’ll have much leverage in getting the decision revisited. In any case, the moratorium represents a blow to the Governor’s vision of Virginia as an east coast energy capital and his hope that royalties from drilling proceeds could be part of a long-term answer to Virginia’s transportation problems.
3. The Hot New Verb for 2011 Is….?
PRIMARY. As in , Tea Party candidates will PRIMARY the following Republican incumbents. At the moment, most GOP incumbents (with the standard exception of those in NOVA)aren’t too worried about potential Democratic opponents, but they are certainly anxious about being PRIMARIED by Tea Party affiliated challengers in their own ranks. PRIMARY has become a verb and it usually includes a threat to a Republican incumbent from the right.
For the last few months, the rumor in GOP circles was that Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke was leaning toward primarying long-time Republican Senator John Watkins. In a Washington Post interview this week, Radtke upped the ante, saying that she was raising her sights and was now reflecting on whether she wanted to muster a challenge for the GOP Senate nomination in 2012, even if it means on taking on George Allen. Fascinating stuff. If you attended the Tea Party convention, you saw that Radtke’s organizational talents were clearly impressive. In addition, the success of Tea Party affiliated candidates in 2010 GOP primaries means that her challenge would have to be taken very seriously. The Tea Party appears to be rejecting the practice of orderly nominations in which the GOP nominates the pre-selected “strongest” candidate in favor of a raucous, brawling process in which everyone, including a former Governor and Senator is fair game.
5. The Over the Hill Gang
This raucous, generational politics was on full display this week when Corey Stewart, chair of the Prince William Board of Supervisors and another individual considering running for the Senate nomination, attacked George Allen as a “medicore Senator” and implied that it was time to turn the page on Allen’s generation of Republican leaders. I’d mention one cautionary note for the Virginia GOP’s young guns. You might recall that Allen’s father coached a number of football teams where experienced, supposedly washed-up veterans- the over the hill gang- consistently defeated younger, quicker, and brasher upstarts. No one should think that Allen’s competitive fire has been extinguished just because he’s been around a lot longer.
6. Dominion Spirits?
Is there a third or a fourth way in the ABC debate between privatization and state control? I was sent a study this week conducted by J.P. Morgan that essentially examines what would be happen if ABC was converted into a single company as an entity resembling a regulated public utility. The major strength of the study is that it actually provides an in-depth market evaluation of what a single ABC company would be valued at in the open market, using the same methodology that the firm would use to estimate any company’s market value, large or small. The number is approximately $800 million. In many ways, this might be the best starting point for discussion: what should the state do with a “company” that has an open market value of $800 million? The question doesn’t settle what people might think is the best answer, but it may provide the most rational way for understanding the financial implications of the debate.
7. Students Go All In at George Mason High
The Washington Post reported this week that students at George Mason High in Falls Church can join a school sponsored poker club that will teach kids probability and statistics lessons as well as how to gamble responsibly. The club’s become part of a nationwide debate abut the potential value and harm of poker as a teaching tool. Anti-gambling advocates are incensed that the public schools might be involved in contributing to a genuine social problem. But Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson has formed the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society (yes, the name is correct and, yes, only a professor could have formulated it) grounded in the assumption that poker is a “powerful teaching tool” at the university and secondary school level. If you’ve watched the World Series of Poker, you’ll note that it has become a young person’s game. Moreover, most people would be stunned to know how much time young folks are spending in on-line poker rooms. As someone who has learned a few lessons at the poker table, I wouldn’t minimize what it can teach about the interface between psychology and economics. But I also think we probably haven’t heard the last about what its role should be in Virginia’s schools.