The Washington Times - January 5, 2012, 08:42AM

The D.C. Council’s first legislative session of 2012 was overshadowed Wednesday by the conspicuous absence of Harry Thomas Jr., whose empty seat on the dais fueled speculation of an imminent plea deal on accusations that he spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on himself, reports Tom Howell Jr. of The Washington Times.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Wednesday he is seeking nearly $37 million in his biennial budget to lure businesses and jobs to the commonwealth, putting much of the focus on life sciences and biotechnology — sectors that are staples of the economy of neighboring Maryland, reports David Sherfinski of The Times.

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A Northwest Washington nightclub that was the site of a double stabbing was ordered closed indefinitely after officials concluded that employees of the club tried to hinder an investigation of the assault, reports Andrea Noble of The Times.

Maryland state Sen. David R. Brinkley threw down the gauntlet Wednesday, announcing his campaign for Congress and calling on expected Republican primary opponent Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett to “pass the baton.” While six Republicans are filed to challenge Mr. Bartlett, Mr. Brinkley is the first high-profile GOP candidate to say definitively that he will run regardless of whether the 10-term incumbent chooses to seek another term, reports David Hill of The Times.

Maryland state Sen. C. Anthony Muse is scheduled tonight to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Mr. Muse, Prince George’s Democrat, is scheduled to make the announcement in Upper Marlboro. He would take on Sen. Benjamin Cardin, the Democratic incumbent, in the primary. Mr. Muse has been a state senator since 2007, according to the Associated Press.

D.C. Council member Marion Barry, vowing to run an “enthusiastic, get-it-done campaign,” formally filed Wednesday afternoon to run for his third consecutive term from Ward 8. Mr. Barry, a Democrat who will turn 76 a month before the April 3 primary, said he’s seeking re-election to continue his “ministry of helping people,” according to The Washington Post.

Officials in charge of Virginia’s Dulles rail project said Wednesday they are planning to travel to Richmond to persuade Gov. Bob McDonnell to remove strings attached to the $150 million he promised to the rail project. Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, in part wants to make sure the second phase of the rail line doesn’t mandate union labor, which he says defies Virginia’s right-to-work laws, according to the Washington Examiner.

Virginia has a big Republican primary before the 2013 general election for governor. But Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, who faces Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling in the primary, seems already to have turned his attention to all-but-announced Democrat Terry McAuliffe, according to The Washington Post.