“This year was ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ in Richmond.”
That’s how state Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, kicked things off Saturday morning as the Culpeper County Republican Committee warmed up members and friends for this summer’s party primary.
He was describing Virginia Democratic leaders’ recent misfortunes—with viral news reports on youthful blackface incidents involving Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring and two women accusing Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sex assault—while the General Assembly was meeting in the state capital.
Despite the national political firestorm over those controversies, GOP members of the assembly got plenty done in busy winter session and prevented many “bad bills” from becoming law, Reeves said during the committee’s monthly breakfast.
“This year, Republicans led, and we will continue to lead,” he said.
Reeves and GOP Dels. Michael Webert and Nick Freitas headlined the GOP meeting held downtown at Grill 309, next to the former State Theatre.
The senator noted that both chambers of the assembly unanimously passed his Foster Care Omnibus Bill, a major overhaul of Virginia’s troubled foster care system.
“We have a real problem with foster care, with overreaching government taking kids out of great families, circumventing parental rights, and pulling them into the system,” Reeves said of the situation confronting legislators earlier this year. “It was just broken.”
Reeves’ reform responded to state auditors’ scathing report in December, which found that many of Virginia’s 5,300 children in foster care face risks to their health and safety. It will create more state oversight into local social services boards, increase staff to examine caseload problems, implement reviews for long-term care; and create a statewide director of foster-care health and safety.
Reeves noted that this year, Virginians again will be asked to vote on whether to amend the state Constitution to allow a property-tax exemption for a veteran or their surviving spouse if the veteran had a permanent and total disability related to their military service. Voters approved the measure last year, but it must pass twice to become law.
Culpeper County School Board member Marshall Keene, Culpeper Town Councilman Jon Russell, Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins and Tina Freitas—who is challenging state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon—also took part in Monday’s meeting.
Reeves recounted this winter’s raging abortion controversy, which erupted after a freshman delegate said her bill would allow third-trimester abortions for mental-health reasons up to the moment of birth.
“The nation’s eyes are on us,” Reeves thundered. “We can either stand and fight for life, or we can watch innocent children be murdered. The governor we have today would sign that bill.”
He praised Sen. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, for questioning Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, about her proposal to loosen rules on third-term abortion, which state law allows only if three doctors conclude a woman’s life or health is at severe risk. Tran’s bill would have allowed third-trimester abortion on the advice of one doctor who certified a pregnancy could “impair the mental or physical health of the woman.”
GOP legislators defeated Tran’s bill, and have said she and Gov. Ralph Northam endorse infanticide. Northam has said Republicans mischaracterized his statement on a radio program.
“I’m going to tell you we’re one vote away from becoming New York or California, like that,” Reeves said, snapping his fingers. “The candidates in this room are going to tell you: We stood up for life that day.”
“Yes!” audience members shouted, applauding.
The senator warned that if Democrats flip just a few seats this year, they will gain control over the legislature for the first time in decades. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and all 40 Senate seats are up for election in 2019.
Reeves said he and Freitas are visiting Washington to persuade party leaders to get more involved in the state’s 2019 elections.
“We’re trying to make the cats that run the show up north, in D.C., realize Virginia is the tip of the spear,” he said. “If we don’t hold Virginia and keep our [majority in] General Assembly in place, we become like New Jersey, California and all those liberal states, overnight.”
At future GOP meetings locally, Reeves said that Culpeper Republicans “have to double or triple the number of people in this room.” More than 100 people attended Saturday’s get-together.
Freitas, a former U.S. Special Forces officer, spoke passionately of how Republicans in this winter’s assembly turned back nearly all of Democrats’ gun-control proposals.
“If you wanted to buy more than one handgun a month, they wanted to make that illegal,” he said, citing many examples. “...When they say ‘common-sense gun control,’ they want to severely diminish your Second Amendment rights, for pretty much any and all reasons.”
As members of a key House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee, Freitas and Webert led many of the votes to kill the opposition’s gun-control bills, including a “red flag” anti-suicide measure endorsed by the Trump administration and passed by Maryland and 14 other states.
Culpeper Republicans’ next breakfast meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 20, featuring the theme “crime and justice,” with Sheriff Scott Jenkins and Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Walther as speakers.