Team Coverage | Democrats raise the temperature on GOP unemployment block

Results, Not Roadblocks was the theme of the news event featuring Democratic Party candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates at the Virginia Employment Commission office in Harrisonburg Thursday afternoon. AFP editor Chris Graham was there and reports across the media platforms. The videos feature 15th District Democratic nominee John Lesinsky, 20th District Democratic nominee Erik Curren, 24th District Democratic nominee Jeff Price, 25th District Democratic candidates Greg Marrow and Jim Noel, and 26th District Democratic nominee Gene Hart. Watch the videos, and read Chris’ written report on the unemployment funding controversy and check out the day in photos. 


15th District Democrat John Lesinsky


25th District Democrat Greg Marrow


25th District Democrat Jim Noel


24th District Democrat Jeff Price


20th District Democrat Erik Curren


26th District Democrat Gene Hart


News: A day of dueling pressers

Virginia on Thursday was a maze of news conferences featuring Democrats assailing Republicans on the vote in the House of Delegates two weeks ago that blocked the receipt of federal stimulus monies that would have extended unemployment benefits to those working part-time and those enrolled in job-retraining programs, and Republicans fighting back playing their usual card regarding taxes.

One was up the road from my base of operations, up in Harrisonburg, and featured more Democrats than you used to think existed in these parts.

“These proud people that come to this building, they didn’t ask to become victims of this historic economic downturn. And they deserve all the economic assistance we can provide while they struggle to get back on their feet. The continuing harm done to Virginia’s struggling taxpaying families by Del. Lohr in lockstep with his party leadership must end,” said Gene Hart, the Democratic Party nominee in the 26th House District race, who we could call the host of the afternoon news conference in front of the Virginia Employment Commission office behind the Valley Mall.

Matt Lohr, the incumbent in the 26th and a Republican, joined his Republican colleagues in Richmond in what was largely a party-line vote to block the receipt of $125 million in stimulus monies in what was almost certainly a partisan moment, and not a good one, either, for the GOP.

With unemployment double what it was this time last year, and the job market still cooled by and large, the move that Democrats are characterizing as being aimed at President Barack Obama appears to be backfiring big-time on Republicans, who not to continue their cloistered silence on the matter held a news conference in Richmond today wherein House GOP leaders trotted out a few clearly misinformed business owners who repeated the talking point handed to them about how the receipt of the stimulus funds would somehow raise taxes on business in Virginia, when no such thing would actually be in the offing at all.

“I think it will be very difficult to find a compromise in this case, given that the federal government says you must enact a permanent change in Virginia law in order to accept these funds,” Chesterfield Republican Del. Sam Nixon said barefaced, repeating another nonsense talking point from the House GOP about the “permanent change” business that Republicans have been claiming would saddle Virginia taxpayers with some sort of major burden for centuries to come.

This wild assertion notwithstanding, the money from the stimulus package, which will now head to taxpayers in another state or states since Virginia has turned it down, would in truth be equivalent to what Virginia would pay out in increased unemployment benefits for 8-10 years, at which point a future General Assembly and governor could of course re-examine the need for the expansion to continue.

“I can appreciate it if my opponent may have ideological differences with President Obama and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I understand that politics as usual includes interests and sides that must be taken for political posturing. But personally, I am tired of politics as usual. To cover ideological differences with misconceptions while claiming to look out for businesses when the facts do not corroborate is disappointing,” said Jeff Price, the Democratic Party nominee in the 24th District, who will be challenging Republican Del. Ben Cline, another stimulus-denier, in November in the district stretching from southern Augusta down to Rockbridge and over the Blue Ridge into Amherst.

Price, Greg Marrow, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 25th District, and John Lesinski, the Democratic nominee in the 15th, all own and run their own small businesses, and can speak truth to the Republicans on their claims on how the unemployment program now in our rearview mirror would have cost Virginia business and Virginia taxpayers.

“We need to retrain our workers, and that was one of the intents of extending unemployment insurance,” said Lesinsky, who will be running against Republican incumbent Todd Gilbert in the 15th, which runs from Rockingham to Shenandoah and Page and over the Blue Ridge into Rappahannock. “It would have been a small part in helping get higher-paying jobs in Page County,” where unemployment has quadrupled from the 5 percent rate that was in place when Gilbert was elected in 2005 to near 20 percent today, “but my opponent showed absolutely no focus in not supporting this,” Lesinsky said.

“We’re putting party and partisan politics above the people, the people that elected these officials,” said Marrow, who is competing for the nomination in the 25th with Jim Noel, the winner to take on GOP incumbent Steve Landes in the general election. “We’re talking about unemployment rates that have almost doubled in the last year because of this economy. We’re talking about almost 300,000 Virginans who are out of jobs,” Marrow said.

“Every dollar invested in extending unemployment benefits creates $1.64 in new economic activity,” Noel said. “It’s time for our opponents to admit their mistake, go to Richmond and fix this problem.”

The backdrop of the VEC office was an uncomfortable one. It was busy throughout the afternoon, full of people, Erik Curren, the Democratic Party nominee in the 20th House District who is challenging Republican Chris Saxman in November, who “have to make difficult decisions.”

“They have to decide if they’re going to be able to fill their full prescription for lifesaving medications. They have to decide if they can save money on food for their kids. They have to decide how much gas can they afford to put in the tank this week. And they have to decide if they can find the money to make that mortgage payment so they don’t lose their family’s home,” Curren said.

“These hardworking families aren’t looking for a handout. They’re looking for a hand up. But what they got from the Republicans in the House of Delegates, including my opponent, Del. Chris Saxman, what these hardworking Virginia families got was the back of the hand. They were told to talk to the hand,” Curren said.


Photos: The day in pictures

Democratic Party of Virginia executive director Levar Stoney starts the news conference.

20th House District Democratic Party nominee Erik Curren signs a petition urging House Republicans to reconsider their vote on the stimulus unemployment monies.


– Videos, Story and Photos by Chris Graham

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