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Virginia Politics
Posted at 06:13 AM ET, 02/10/2012

Civility takes a recess at Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol

Nobody would call this a banner year for Republican-Democratic relations in Virginia, but state pols have pretty much duked it out the “Virginia way.”


State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) speaks to other senators during the start of the 2012 session of the Virginia Senate at the Capitol. (Steve Helber - AP)
The state GOP might, in snide news releases, call the Dems “sore losers.” Democrats might, at rallies and news conferences, decry Republican voter ID bills as the second coming of Jim Crow .

But face to face, while conducting official business, it’s “my good friend from James City,” and “The esteemed barrister from Henrico.” It may be paper thin, but there’s at least a veneer of civility in Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol.

Or there was, anyway, until Thursday.

That’s when Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), during a meeting of the Senate Education and Health Committee, decided she’d had it up to here with her good friends from across the aisle.

She stormed out of the meeting — but not before taking one page from her three-page proxy vote and slamming that on the table in front of the committee chairman, and throwing the second toward the committee clerk. (She apparently left the third, in less dramatic fashion, with the committee member she’d entrusted to cast her proxy.)

“She dropped her proxy off with me in a very forceful way,” confirmed Sen. Stephen H. Martin (R-Chesterfield), chairman of the committee. “There was a piece of paper that flew my way [on its way to the clerk]. It didn’t hit me.”

Lucas did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment.

Martin and others who attended the meeting said Lucas was ticked off by comments from Sen. Thomas A. Garrett (R-Louisa) during discussion of a bill that would make it easier to fire poorly performing teachers.

He’d said something along the lines of, “you people” who oppose the bill “don’t understand the Constitution,” Martin said. Garrett also did not return a call seeking comment.

Martin said that Garrett’s comment was not directed specifically at Lucas, but that she clearly took offense.

Lucas shot back that she didn’t appreciate being lectured by “a junior member of the committee.”

She was even less appreciative a little later, when Martin spoke up to say that everyone on the committee — junior or not — has a right to speak. He didn’t name Lucas, but she knew she’d been chastised.

That’s when Lucas stormed out, slamming and tossing papers along the way. Martin, who said he considers Lucas a friend, said that she returned at the end of the meeting.

“Tensions are a little high dealing with sensitive issues,” he said, “and hopefully people’s emotions will calm.”

By  |  06:13 AM ET, 02/10/2012

 
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