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Virginia Senate approves reappointment of Dragas as U-Va. rector

U-Va. Rector Helen Dragas, presides over the Board of Visitors meeting to vote on an interim president on June 19, 2012. (Norm Shafer/For The Washington Post)

The Virginia Senate voted 29 to 9 on Monday to confirm the reappointment of Helen E. Dragas to the University of Virginia’s governing board.

Dragas, who engineered a failed attempt to oust university President Teresa Sullivan last summer, still faces a vote in the House. The board selects the rector.

The U-Va. rector got Sullivan to resign in June, saying that the board wanted her out, only to see the popular president reinstated by the board 18 days later.

Ever since, Dragas has been the target of criticism from many faculty members, alumni and student groups.

The home builder and political donor has apologized for her missteps and enjoyed bipartisan support from some of the state’s most prominent politicians, including Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who reappointed her amid the controversy, and U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D).

All of the senators who voted against her confirmation to a second four-year term were Democrats.

Senators debated the matter for about 45 minutes.

Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) said that in his 22 years in the General Assembly, he had never voted against a gubernatorial appointment. But he said he was voting against Dragas because she had yet to provide “a satisfactory answer as to why things happened the way they did.”

But Sen. J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax), noting that he had attended U-Va.’s law school 20 years ago, said Dragas’s critics had been unfairly “demonizing” her.

He praised Dragas for reaching out to him and other senators to talk about the events of last summer.

“I found her very candid [about] admitting mistakes,” he said.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.



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