RICHMOND — On Tuesday, the Virginia Republicans who have grumbled about gubernatorial pay-for-play got the chance to grill an appointee described in one news report as a harbinger of Terry McAuliffe’s “reign of sleaze.”
It sounded like the setup for a knock-down, drag-out cage match. But Levar Stoney’s appearance before the House of Delegates General Laws Committee as nominee for secretary of the commonwealth, a powerful job responsible for filling political appointments in state government, was more like a friendly game of tennis.
Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), chairman of the panel, and others questioned Stoney about his decision to lie to the police about a 2004 incident in which Wisconsin Democratic operatives slashed their rivals’ tires. Stoney, who was working in Wisconsin at the time, at first told police that he knew nothing about the attack, which was not true.
In Richmond on Tuesday, Republican lawmakers appeared to accept his explanation that it was an isolated, youthful mistake.
“I was a scared 23-year-old,” Stoney told the committee. “Although I was not forthcoming initially, I was forthcoming and was one of the witnesses that testified against” the group in court, he said. Under questioning, Stoney said he would “definitely” look back on that experience in his new position and remember to put Virginia first, rather than his friends or political allies.
Stoney emphasized that he would continue to reach out to Republicans, whom he has visited frequently in the past two weeks. He said he has learned that “you guys are not half bad,” and promised that “I’ll be calling, I’ll be knocking, I’ll be writing.” He pointed out that he had hired former aides to Republicans and said he planned to keep a large chunk of the current staff in his office.
The secretary of the commonwealth is responsible for filling about 3,700 positions in the McAuliffe administration.
By the end of the hearing, Gilbert said the committee members “take you at your word” that any unethical, partisan behavior “is all in the past.”
Stoney told reporters after the hearing that he felt good about the discussion and was glad the tire-slashing controversy was behind him. As for that “reign of sleaze” headline, he said, “I laughed.”