The governor has been locked in a battle for more than a year with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), the quasi-public entity overseeing construction of the $6 billion, 23-mile Dulles rail project.
The governor publicly opposed the regional authority’s plan to give preferences to contractors who include union-friendly agreements on the second phase of the project and threatened to withhold Virginia’s funding for the construction unless such agreements were removed.
Mr. McDonnell won the dispute June 6 when the authority's board voted to strike down the preferences. On June 14, the governor removed one of Virginia’s representatives on the board, Dennis L. Martire, vice president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, in part citing a conflict of interest between his union ties and his support of the labor agreements.
Mr. Martire immediately filed a lawsuit challenging the move, and the authority has petitioned the Fairfax County Circuit Court to determine whether the seat is rightfully held by Mr. Martire or McLean technology entrepreneur Caren Merrick, whose appointment Mr. McDonnell announced June 15.
More shocking was a 7-4 vote by the state Board of Health on June 15 to exempt existing abortion clinics from strict new construction standards, part of a package of reforms that the board crafted in response to legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2011 and signed by Mr. McDonnell. The majority of the members on the 15-member board are Mr. McDonnell’s appointees, and voted 12-1 in September to approve temporary regulations that accomplished much the same as the permanent ones.
“We’re a part-time legislature, and the state is run by bureaucrats,” he said. “He has no control once he appoints them. When they make a decision, the governor can only do something about it when it gets to his desk.”
The same day the Board of Health voted to alter the state’s abortion clinic regulations, the newly constituted Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee switched the GOP’s nominating process for the 2013 elections from a primary to a convention.
The move was engineered by recently elected members. Because GOP conventions tend to draw more conservative representatives, the move is expected to give an advantage to Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II in a race against Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, whom Mr. McDonnell supports. The governor had argued against the switch, saying the question had been asked and answered last year when the party voted to have a primary.
“Now, he looks forward to a robust and vigorous nominating process that strengthens and builds the Republican Party in the state,” McDonnell spokeswoman Taylor Thornley said.
The first vote was held too early for many, said Mark Lloyd, past chairman of the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots.
“The tea party folks were furious with that,” he said. “The perception of the tea party was that Republican establishment types were trying to ram the primary down our throats. That erased a whole pile of good will. It really did. This isn’t just a one-time thing that popped up. This has been brewing.”
House Republicans more openly criticized the governor June 18 for a recently announced deal that will give $6.4 million to the Redskins to keep their corporate headquarters in Loudoun County and move their summer training camp to Richmond. Mr. McDonnell’s office has defended the deal, saying the money was necessary with other offers from the District and Maryland on the table, and the state will get a return on the investment many times over in the way of tax income and economic activity.