Hampton Roads / Local / Politics / Virginia

Quick hits: 11/18/24

QuickHitsNot much has changed around here – still swamped. But I’ve been keeping my eye on several stories:

The Sessoms saga. The Virginian-Pilot’s John Holland dropped a bombshell in his investigative report of votes made by Virginia Beach mayor Will Sessoms that appear to have benefited borrowers of his employer, TowneBank. In the wake of the story, the bank placed Sessoms on paid administrative leave, Sessoms gave up his board seats, and the commonwealth’s attorney announced a special prosecutor will look into the votes. The fallout also prompted two other mayors in the region – Norfolk’s Paul Fraim and Suffolk’s Linda Johnson – to resign from local TowneBank boards.

Anyone who has followed politics in Hampton Roads knows about the cozy relationships between elected officials and the money folks. Cozy doesn’t translate to illegal, though. But the appearance of conflict of interest cannot be ignored. Sessoms will ultimately need to decide what he wants to be: a bank president or mayor. I don’t see how he manages to hang on to both.

A primer on Virginia politics. Over at the Daily Press, writer Dave Ress is on the third installment – of eight – of his “The Virginia Way” series. For the casual observer of Virginia politics, I’ve no doubt this series is mind-blowing. Even folks who follow Virginia politics closely need to read these, if for no other reason than as a reminder of how far off the rails Virginia politics has fallen. I happened to have been in the state capitol for a meeting yesterday. As I walked past the statute of Thomas Jefferson and read his words inscribed above, I couldn’t help but wonder what he would have thought of things today.

Election results. Although it has been two weeks, the talk of the midterm elections hasn’t ceased. Post-mortems of the Virginia Senate contest – much closer than the polls indicated it would be – continue. Hardly anyone is talking about the Congressional races, though: thanks to gerrymandering, none of them were competitive. Will that change if the lines are redrawn in the wake of the 3rd CD being declared unconstitutional? Only time will tell. But it appears the decision will be appealed by Virginia’s Republican congressman (although with two of them no longer in Congress, it’s unclear who the appellants will actually be).

The other thing that came out of the elections is the voting machine debacle in Virginia Beach (and Newport News). Everyone was hot to trot on this on Election Day – and barely a whimper since. This is, to me, a bigger issue than the talking heads – always quick to move onto the next bright, shiny thing – are willing to give it. The integrity of the vote is at issue – and if that isn’t important, then I don’t know what is. Early next year, Virginia Beach will replace its machines. But they are still in use in other localities, including Norfolk. Back when I had more time, verifiable voting was an issue I followed closely. Nothing has changed in the interim – we still need – and the General Assembly should mandate – voting that leaves a paper trail.

Back to work 😦

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