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Southside legislators show support for McDonnell

Thursday, January 9, 2014

When Gov. Bob McDonnell apologized for a gift scandal during his State of the Commonwealth speech, “you could hear a pin drop,” according to Del. Danny Marshall.

Marshall, R-Danville, said he was surprised McDonnell brought up the issue. “You could tell it was weighing heavy on him,” Marshall added.

McDonnell asserted that he had broken no laws and given no one any special treatment, but he conceded this his actions left an “adverse public impression” and that he was “deeply sorry” for the pain he caused the state.

The governor is currently under federal and state investigation for accepting thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from former CEO Jonnie Williams of Star Scientific Inc., a dietary supplement maker. McDonnell has not been charged with any crime.

Unlike Marshall, three area legislators said they were not especially surprised that McDonnell brought up the issue during his last speech to legislators as governor.

“Bob McDonnell is not one to back away from issues. He confronts them. He was very forthright with us. He said, ‘I’m sorry.’ He was very humble, very humble,” said Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill.

Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill, said it “goes to his character” that McDonnell mentioned the issue in the speech.

“It speaks volumes of who he is as a man and who he is as governor. He takes issues head on and faces them, whether it is transportation, school reform, legislative or personal,” Stanley added.

“I found it to be a gutsy thing to say, and he deserves credit for that,” said Del. Les Adams, R-Chatham.

All the area legislators gave McDonnell high marks for his presentation before the House and Senate.

“It was an excellent speech. Its content summed up his administration and the accomplishments Virginia made during the toughest times since the 1920s and 1930s,” Poindexter said.

McDonnell accurately described Virginia’s successes on job growth, the economy, the budget surplus and other issues during his administration, Poindexter said.

He added that he does not see eye-to-eye with the governor on all issues. But he said their differences are matters of degree, not total disagreements.

For instance, Poindexter said he has concerns about the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons. He said McDonnell mentioned civil rights, which include the right to serve on a jury.

“I have a problem if someone is convicted and served time for a sex offense, for them to serve on a jury for a sexual abuse case,” Poindexter said. “It’s a matter of degree.”

Marshall said McDonnell “pushed pretty strong” for restoration of civil rights, adding that he supported the governor’s attempts to do so.

But any differences took a back seat to the sense of warmth toward McDonnell in the legislature, Poindexter said. He added that was evident with spectators, the press, Democrats, Republicans, independents and others.

“People recognize he’s done a tremendous job,” he added.

Stanley called the speech a well-deserved, well-earned “little bit of a victory lap” for the governor. And like any final State of the Commonwealth speech, it was bittersweet at times, he added.

Stanley said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the increases the governor is seeking and the achievements of his administration, including 1,000 adoptions of children in foster care.

Virginia has the lowest unemployment rate of any state on the southeastern seaboard, Stanley noted, attributing much of that to the growth policies McDonnell pushed and the General Assembly approved.

But “there’s still much to do,” Stanley said, specifically mentioning double-digit unemployment in this part of the state.

“The undercurrent is there is still work left to be done,” he added of McDonnell’s speech.

Adams said he was impressed with McDonnell’s speech, which was part of what Adams said was an exciting first day in the legislature. He was elected in November and sworn in Wednesday morning.

“I did enjoy his speech and was impressed by it. ... It was a remarkable experience,” Adams said.

“It is worth noting and commendable that with the Republican majority, there’s been a record number of budget surpluses. Any time a state is well-managed ... that’s what you want for your government,” he added.

Marshall said the speech did “a really good job recapping what he’s accomplished. I think if you look at where the state was when he came in, the economy was in pretty rough shape.

“The federal government was spending money like there’s no tomorrow,” but McDonnell deserves credit for balancing the state’s budget, Marshall said. “Virginia is in a good position to go forward,” he added.

Marshall added that he spoke with McDonnell on Wednesday and told him that “Virginia is better because of his services.”


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