D.C., Maryland and Virginia Politics

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Mark Plotkin
WTOP Political Commentator
Tuesday, November 13, 2007; 2:00 PM

WTOP political commentator Mark Plotkin was online Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. ET to take one last look at the Virginia election as voters are heading to the polls.

The transcript follows.

Archive: Mark Plotkin discussion transcripts

Plotkin joined WTOP after 10 years as a political analyst for WAMU radio. He has been active in D.C. and national politics since attending George Washington University in the late '60s.

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Washington: Hello Mark -- was that you at the National Gallery yesterday? Do you think the two latest incidents of fraud/mismanagement($20 million fraud at Tax and Revenue and D.C. Schools activity fund misdeeds) will worsen our case for a vote? I completely agree with you that good behavior is not a condition for democracy, but I am worried that Congress will look at these latest fiascoes and decide to tighten its grip over us further. What do you think the repercussions will be? Love the show and your insights!

washingtonpost.com: D.C.'s Corruption Affliction (Nov. 10)

Mark Plotkin: Yes you spotted me. I will have to disguise my appearance in the future at these public venues. Being a major peripheral figure is sometimes a great burden. Congress does seem to jump in to these incidents of corruption and other misdeeds and attempts to exercise excessive oversight. Tom Davis has already said (on the politics program on WTOP 103.5 FM) that he feels there should be a congressional investigation. Jack Evans, the council member from Ward 2 does not and I agree with him. The city is quite capable of investigating itself. This is not the first example of any jurisdiction behaving badly. Thank you for repeating my mantra that good behavior or good deportment is not a condition for democracy, it is an inalienable right that cannot be taken away. As for repercussions, I think those who don't like the District and want to see it suffer and fail will seize every opportunity to lambaste it. Thanks for the kind words and fan mail. You are obviously a very perceptive and thoughtful observer of the local scene.

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Arlington, Va.: Both the Maryland and Virginia Presidential primaries are being held on Feb. 12. I am not certain about the District. Do you think that the voters of any of these jurisdictions have any chance of actually affecting the outcome of the nomination fight? Is there much activity in any of these places to get out the vote yet?

Mark Plotkin: The District is on the same day and people are calling this day the "Beltway Primary" I did not coin that but you can use it. I would think that the candidates in both parties will certainly concentrate on the bigger states, Maryland and Virginia. The District once again will be left in the wake. Four years ago, the District made an attempt to be the first in the nation primary, even preceding New Hampshire. But, the D.C. Democratic State Committee wimped out and refused to sanction the primary and risk the delegates not being seated. In fact, they should have just done the opposite, they would have gotten gobs of publicity and our lack of voting rights could have been shouted to the entire world. There is nothing else to do at the convention (unfortunately) This issue could have been elevated but, that's four years ago. I can see a scenario where the super duper primary, the week before with all the mega states participating is inconclusive and thus no clear winner emerges. Then, the Feb. 12 primary would be all of a sudden significant and important.

I think Obama definitely would try to spend time in Washington because Mayor Fenty has endorsed him. Hillary Clinton has support here and she could decide to take Obama on here or concentrate in Maryland where Gov. O'Malley has endorsed her. Then, Virginia would be the battle ground, Larry Sabato the renowned political analyst told WTOP on election night that he felt Obama would do very well in Virginia and definitely had a chance to win the state in the General Election if he was the nominee. I sure hope, Feb. 5 does not signal the end of the season as I have said before, I'd like a convention that would be deadlocked or the winner surely would not be known beforehand. We need some suspense and excitement. As for the Republicans, I just don't have a feel but I think Giuliani would like to show he could win in a southern state and his recent endorsement by Pat Robertson who is from Virginia would be a perfect showcase for this. Mitt Romney has the endorsement of the former Republican party Chair John Kane and I know John is actively lining up support for him and raising money for him. Romney and Maryland are a good fit.

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Washington: Is Nat Gandhi in trouble?

Mark Plotkin: No. Nat Gandhi is widely respected by everybody and many people feel that our financial status is strong because of him. Wall Street thinks very highly of him and has demonstrated this by giving us high bond ratings. On Friday's Politics Program, Gandhi called in and told us that he had no plans at all to resign. Jack Evans the finance and revenue chairman of the D.C. Council gives him full support and Tom Davis who wants to conduct an investigation of the department himself said that losing Gandhi would be a disaster. Jim Graham the Ward 1 council member has voiced the same feeling. Gandhi feels very distraught that this has happened, they are continuing their investigation and there is more to come. I am sure Gandhi feels very betrayed by the actions of these employees. He did fire officials who were not implicated but must pay the price. This is the long way of saying that Gandhi is too valuable to lose and has demonstrated the great contributions he has made to the city.

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Atlanta: What do you think is the lowest percentage Hillary Clinton would get in Virginia next year if she were the Democratic nominee? Her husband got 45 percent in Virginia in 1996 and John Kerry got close to 46 percent in 2004. Would she really be a significant drag on Mark Warner in the U.S. Senate race?

Mark Plotkin: Larry Sabato went out of his way on election night when we talked to him on WTOP to say that Hillary would be more than a drag on the ticket, that she would lose badly and she was the one hope for the resurgence of the Virginia Republican Party. Clinton the second time around came very close to carrying the state. You know the last time this was done was by LBJ in 1964, in fact, I remember going to a Clinton rally in Arlington the weekend before the election. That's how close they thought they were. Even Kerry in the early numbers that came in was doing well in Virginia, but that faded. November is a long time off, things can change but I think everyone would agree that Hillary would not affect Mark Warner's Senate chances but it would be considered a major upset if she carried the state. I am not going to venture a percentage but if she was on the ballot now, I would presume about 42 percent or 43 percent.

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Taneytown, Md.: Do you believe the "tax-and-spend" Democrats in the Maryland legislature, as well as the governor, will reap the wrath of the voters in the next state elections for foisting new taxes on us? Please, look into your crystal ball, as you are top-notch about getting it right. Thanks.

Mark Plotkin: Thanks for the kind words, they are always appreciated. O'Malley was smart enough to prescribe the bad medicine for the tax payers in the first year of his term. Although, State Senate President, Mike Miller suggests that he do it even earlier. I bring this up because voters have short memories and he hopes -- as do members of the legislature -- that this bad medicine will be absorbed and by the time the election takes place, three years from now, the bad feelings either will have been forgotten or that he'll have phenomenal popularity ratings even though he pushed through a tax increase. Individual legislators will be punished if they live in certain areas for their vote to raise taxes. Look especially in Baltimore County, there, conservative Democrats have already voted against the Governor so as to protect their own political standing. The governor took a big gamble by calling this special session and the two legislative leaders (Busch and Miller) said don't call the session unless you have the votes for your package. He went ahead anyway and it looks like a package very similar to what he wanted or at least the money he wanted is going to be obtained. The slots referendum is going to go to the voters and they will decide, that leaves him off the hook. All in all, O'Malley looks pretty on this and defied the odds. The state is solidly Democratic and it will be difficult to change the political complexion anytime soon. For instance, Montgomery County had a Republican delegate, it now does not have one and Prince Georges County has none and nobody I know sees an early day when that would happen. So, you add Baltimore City and you have quite a bastion of Democratic votes that the rest of the state has to negate.

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Annandale, Va.: Great forum, as always, Mark. Did I miss it last week during your chat (I may have, because the Virginia elections took center stage, and rightfully so) but how 'bout those Middies and the great win over Notre Dame! I know Notre Dame is something like 1-8, but as John Feinstein said, the Domers get way better athletes. Anchors aweigh!

Mark Plotkin: Usually I get a question or comment from my loyal fan in South Bend, Indiana so I am pleased to respond to this comment. As you know, or maybe you don't ... I am a Navy season ticket holder and sit with all the Admirals and have done so for the last 15 years although I have no military experience or Navy connection. But, it is a great place to watch a football game and the true Naval Academy graduates have adopted me.

In response to your specific question, I listen to all the overtimes on the radio (3WT 107.7 FM/1500 AM) and I was thrilled with the result -- what a game! This past Saturday, you know they scored 72 points and North Texas scored 64 the highest college score in history. That game I surely would have liked to have been to. I must say that the Notre Dame victory was fabulous, first time in 44 years but most Navy people who I have talked to want to beat Army more than anything else, in fact, they won't admit it but they could lose every game but if they beat Army, it's a winning season.

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Arlington, Va.: Mark, Rep. Moran is hosting an event tonight at the George Washington Masonic memorial building in Alexandria, Va., on the run-up to a possible war with Iran. Will you or someone from The Post be there, to see if he says who is responsible for this, especially after he's said on more than one occasion now that the Jewish community led the charge for war with Iraq? Not that I'm advocating "gotcha" journalism, but I am curious to see who Moran pins the blame on for the increasingly bellicose stance the U.S. has with Iran.

Mark Plotkin: I don't work for The Post and the assignment editor does not clear his/her assignments with me but I would think that this surely rises to a news story. Jim Moran has a penchant of attracting news and news about himself. His controversial comments about the Jewish community and their role and influence in leading up to the Iraq war received enormous attention. If he should make the same kind of remarks about the Iran situation, he will undoubtedly get more attention which he does not seem to mind. There are people who think we are planning to go to war with Iran. I suggest you read David Ignatius's column today in The Post and the remarks of a former head of Israeli intelligence (Mossad). This individual takes a far different view than I presume Moran does. But, thank you for pointing this out and I am going to inform the WTOP news desk about this event.

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Washington: That was a pretty shocking series in The Post about the D.C. school system. Does this give Fenty and Rhee the ammo to steamroll anyone (like the unions or city council) who try to block radical reform?

Mark Plotkin: Steamroll is a very strong word. I think the Council is ready to give Fenty and Rhee the ammo they need. The one holding block seems to be the Chairman of the Council, Vince Gray who has not appeared at press conferences since Rhee took over and seems to be acting in a more independent fashion than the Mayor would like him to. I think there is a majority on the Council who will back the Mayor and Rhee. The other two detractors seem to be Marion Barry and maybe Carol Schwartz.

This Washington question gives me an opportunity to talk about something that happened this morning at the laying of the sod at the new Nationals Stadium. When I asked the mayor whether the sign (taxation without representation) would be appearing anywhere on or in the stadium. This sign was in the form of a license plate and it appeared prominently at RFK. The Mayor was less than enthusiastic about pushing this in the new stadium. I then asked Matthew Cutts, the Chair of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission about his feelings and he was even less enthusiastic. Then, I asked the President of the Nationals, Stan Kasten (even though we paid for the stadium) they have exclusive rights to approve all signage. Kasten bordered on being insulted and saying that I was the only one who brought up this issue and implied that only I was interested in this subject matter. The ultimate decision will be made by the Lerner family, I spoke to Ed Cohen -- a member of the family -- at length about how the family should embrace this idea because it is not political but it is a question of hometown pride and Ted Lerner the owner of the Nationals grew up in this city. I am not going to stop on this issue and I hope all of you reading this will join me and encourage the mayor and the Council and the Sports Commission to insist that the Lerners put up this "Taxation Without Representation" sign right on the Nationals Scoreboard. To remove or omit this sign on the new stadium is a giant step backward and a massive retreat from our position of full support. Cutts and especially the Mayor better start championing this cause. They are definitely going to hear from me ... and I hope from you. Time is of the essence, start now, before they start saying there is no room on the scoreboard. Mark Segraves, my colleague has already reported on this this afternoon in an excellent report. Don't let this issue slip by and hold the Lerners accountable.

I went a little overtime because I felt this issue was so important and I hope everybody reading this will share my passion on this. We have got to make this happen and I am going to continue to talk about it until we are successful.

Thanks again for your time, questions and comments. See you next week, same time, same place.

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