He may have been elected Commonwealth's Attorney, Delegate, and State Senator in the Shenandoah Valley, but Creigh Deeds knows Virginia as well as any candidate for Governor in recent memory. Sen. Deeds passed through the Fredericksburg area many times over the years; first as House Democratic Caucus Chairman, then as the Democratic nominee for Attorney General. So when he spoke to the Stafford Co. Democrats earlier this month at their First Annual Jefferson/Jackson Dinner, he probably didn't need to stop for directions.
But not everything is about the next election.
After the dust had settled in Nov. 2007, Democrats had gained seats in the House of Delegates and regained a majority in the State Senate. But not everyone was celebrating. In a Stafford County School Board race, Patricia Mancini narrowly defeated Price Jett Jr. by only 55 votes. Jett, a write-in candidate, immediately filed a lawsuit. Jett didn't have a case, but he had powerful friends. Friends like House Speaker Bill Howell.
The Mancinis are not wealthy, Jett and Howell hired the most expensive lawyers they could find, and most local Democrats were focused on the specal election in the 1st CD. The term "buying the election" gets thrown around a lot....but, let's face it, that's EXACTLY what was happening here.
One Democrat that came through for the Mancinis, perhaps more than any other, wasn't some local elected official or one of Howell's colleagues in the House of Delegates. It was a Senator from Bath County:
December 19, 2007
Senator R. Creigh Deeds sent a letter to House Speaker William J. Howell today imploring him to withdraw his financial and political support for "a frivolous election contest lawsuit bankrolled with political contributions to your campaign." Deeds set a deadline of 4PM tomorrow, December 20, for Howell to notify him in writing that he has done so.
School board elections in Virginia are non-partisan.
On November 6, 2007, Patricia Mancini was elected by the majority of voters in the George Washington District to the Stafford County School Board. While she was the only qualified candidate on the ballot, Price Jett, Jr., mounted a last-minute write-in campaign and lost by 55 votes. As that margin was not within the state mandated one percent that would allow him to seek a recount, he is instead contesting that election in Stafford County Circuit Court.
Within two weeks, Speaker Howell paid $5,000 to the legal team of Mr. Jett from his campaign account, Howell for Delegate, for "Retainer for Stafford Co. election contest."
[See: Virginia Public Access Project, http://www.vpap.org/expends/detail.cfm?VendKey=ORH000200720&ComID=COM00050&CycleID=2007]
"I respectfully ask that you demand the return of your contribution to the legal team of Mr. Jett and so notify me in writing by 4PM tomorrow, December 20, 2007," Deeds wrote in his letter to Howell. "Should you decline to do so and continue your partisan interference in this matter, I see no choice but to come to the defense of Ms. Mancini. I will not allow you to overturn the results of a school board election by way of a frivolous election contest lawsuit bankrolled with political contributions to your campaign."
Later that month, a three judge panel dismissed the lawsuit and Sen. Deeds held a fundraiser to help Joe and Patricia Mancini pay off their legal bills (below).
Nothing stands in the way of progress in Virginia more than Speaker Howell and his Roadblock Republican buddies in the House. Killing the bi-partisan redistricting bill that Deeds unanimously passed in the Senate is just the latest example.
Creigh Deeds is the last person Bill Howell wants in the Executive Mansion for the next four years. My first choice for Governor? Creigh Deeds.
Cross-Posted at Fred2Blue