Happy Easter Sunday, Virginia.
It was another busy week in the Commonwealth, so we’ve got everything you need to know in our weekly news wrap-up.
There’s tragic news out of Sri Lanka this morning, where a series of Easter Day bombings at churches and hotels killed over 200, including some American citizens. The situation is still unfolding, but the U.S. Embassy is working to help Americans affected by the attacks.
5 Things that happened to this week…
- Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe will focus on Virginia instead of running for President — Virginia Democrats had cause for celebration this week, as former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe opted not to run for President in 2020 and said he’d instead focus on flipping control of the General Assembly this November. McAuliffe, a notorious fundraiser, will aim to fill the void left by the state’s top Democrats after they were embroiled in scandal earlier this year. Republicans hold razor-thin margins in both houses of the General Assembly, so Democrats hope McAuliffe’s involvement provides a boost as they seek to gain control of the House, the Senate, and the Governorship for the first time since 1993.
- Virginia Democrats close the fundraising gap — In other good news for the state’s Democrats, the party’s General Assembly candidates outraised Republicans according to first-quarter numbers released on Tuesday. Democratic candidates raised $2.4 million in the first quarter while Republican raised $1.7 million. In the Senate, Democrats outraised Republicans $1.9 million to $1.1 million. Among the strongest fundraisers for the Democrats were Daniel Helmer, who raised $162,216 for his race against Del. Tim Hugo (R-40), and Del. Debra H. Rodman (D-73), who raised $178,918 in her race to unseat Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12). Despite these strong numbers, Republicans maintain a significant cash on hand advantage in both houses, meaning Democrats still have work to do; work that former Gov. McAuliffe will no doubt be a part of.
- 12 years since Virginia Tech — This week marked the 12-year anniversary of the deadly Virginia Tech shootings, in which an armed gunman murdered 32 people and wounded 17 more before taking his own life. In the decade following the shooting, Virginia’s legislature, which has largely been controlled by Republicans, has actually passed more measures to preserve or expand gun rights than to reign them in, despite overwhelming public support for gun safety measures. In fact, in the last two years alone, the Republican-controlled General Assembly has rejected nearly 100 gun safety bills. Despite these setbacks, those associated with the Virginia Tech shooting continue to fight for tougher gun laws.
- Virginia one step closer to joining groundbreaking climate plan — On Friday, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board on Friday approved a climate plan to slash carbon pollution from Virginia’s power plants by 3% each year over the next decade. The plan also allows the state’s power plants to join nine other states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program that has cut power plant carbon pollution in half since 2009 in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The board’s vote does not mean Virginia’s involvement in the RGGI is guaranteed; that will depend on whether Gov. Ralph Northam vetoes a Republican-backed budget measure that would prevent Virginia from participating in the RGGI. Northam has until May 3 to decide and environmental groups are already calling on him to veto the measure.
- Mueller report released — After a nearly two year investigation, the Department of Justice released a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report on Thursday. While most Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) said the release of the report ought to end questions about the 2016 campaign and Trump’s possible obstruction of justice, congressional Democrats, including Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, called for Congress to see the full, unredacted report.