- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 25, 2005

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who is weighing a run for president in 2008, plans to make another visit to New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party said Wednesday that Mr. Warner will speak Feb. 10 at its annual 100 Club Dinner in Manchester.

The announcement came the same day that the governor, who leaves office next month, insisted he had made no final commitment to run.

“If you’ve sat in on any of my family discussions, I can assure you, I’ve not made any decision,” Mr. Warner told the Associated Press.

Last month, Mr. Warner attracted more than 200 Democratic Party activists to a luncheon in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first presidential primary.

“Governor Warner sparked some real interest on his trip here last month, and we are very excited to have him back in the Granite State for the 100 Club Dinner,” said Kathy Sullivan, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

The popular Democrat has received more national attention after he helped Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to win the governorship.

In Virginia, governors cannot serve consecutive terms, and Mr. Warner has indicated his willingness to seek the office again in four years if he is not committed elsewhere.

Mr. Warner said he continued to consider how a run for president would affect his family.

“There’s serious family considerations with daughters 16, 14 and 11, and there’s also — independent of family — a personal gut check to say, ‘Are you ready to take on the challenge of running?’” he said.

But Mr. Warner continues to behave like a potential White House candidate.

He has created a federal political action committee, called Forward Together, which earlier this month raised more than $2.5 million at a fundraiser in McLean.

He also has hired Monica Dixon, a top adviser to Al Gore’s Democratic presidential campaign in 2000.

Appointed

Republican Bob McDonnell stepped into his role as newly elected Virginia attorney general last week by announcing his first appointment — naming state Sen. Bill Mims as chief deputy attorney general.

Mr. Mims, Loudoun Republican, will oversee a staff of about 280 and manage the day-to-day operations of the Office of the Attorney General. He replaces Bernard McNamee, who will return to private practice.

The senator will announce this week when he will leave the General Assembly.

He officially begins his new position on Jan. 14, when Mr. McDonnell is sworn in.

Mr. Mims, 48, is a Harrisonburg native and an alumnus of the College of William & Mary.

He is a practicing lawyer with the Leesburg firm of Mims, Atwill and Leigh.

A statewide recount last week of the state attorney general’s race upheld Mr. McDonnell’s win over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds. The margin of victory was 360 votes.

Legislation

The killing of a 14-year-old boy in Queen Anne’s County, Md., last year has moved a state lawmaker to suggest tougher penalties for people sentenced to life in prison.

Republican state Sen. Richard Colburn, who represents parts of four Eastern Shore counties, says he will file a bill to define a life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction as a minimum of 25 years in prison before parole eligibility.

The proposal comes after teenager Stephen Wade Ott Jr. was shot to death last year.

Joshua Cahall was sentenced to life in prison for the killing, but a retired judge wrote a letter to the Easton Star Democrat noting that life sentences are sometimes not that long.

“We are only fooling ourselves if we think a life sentence is what it says; it is more like 10 to 15 years, or less, if parole is granted. Judges cannot change this, but the Legislature can, and should,” Judge James O. Wise wrote in the letter.

Mr. Colburn said he drafted a bill after reading Judge Wise’s letter.

Picture this

Virginia traffic-safety advocates say the numbers don’t lie.

They’re calling on the General Assembly to reinstate the law that allowed seven Virginia localities to use cameras to enforce red-light running.

The program was used in Virginia Beach and six Northern Virginia communities.

The coalition includes representatives from AAA, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, Virginia Commonwealth University and several municipalities.

According to the Virginia Beach Police Department, red-light running violations at several intersections that had been equipped with the cameras have nearly doubled since July, when the law expired.

The group says the legislature ignored a 2004 study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council that directly credited the cameras in four Northern Virginia communities with reducing red-light running violations by 34 percent.

The study also showed an increase in rear-end crashes, but photo-red supporters said the cameras reduce broadside crashes, which cause more injuries and fatalities.

The coalition said that in 2003, red-light running in Virginia caused almost 5,000 crashes, resulting in at least 18 deaths and more than 3,500 injuries.

New gig

A former Virginia senator has been tapped to advise the president on U.S. intelligence efforts.

White House officials say Charles S. Robb will be appointed to a two-year term on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last week that Mr. Robb will be responsible for advising the president on the quality and adequacy of intelligence efforts and will contribute to the board’s highly classified reports.

The 66-year-old Democrat brings to the post experience as a former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and as former co-chairman of a commission that examined U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The former Virginia governor was defeated in 2000 for re-election to a third Senate term by Republican George Allen.

Holiday spirit

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has lots of friends, but taxpayers haven’t paid for him to send them holiday greeting cards.

According to Stateline.org, a Web site funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, sent out 40,000 cards this season — more than any other governor.

But unlike holiday mailings by past administrations, aides to the governor said the costs were covered with private dollars.

Mr. Ehrlich’s card features a picture of the governor, first lady Kendel Ehrlich and their sons sitting in front of a Christmas tree in the governor’s mansion.

Jobs on the horizon

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner last week said Wolseley, a distributor of plumbing and heating products, is investing $30 million to build a 220,000-square-foot headquarters in Newport News.

The new location eventually will add more than 400 jobs to the area.

Mr. Warner, a Democrat, also announced that Stihl Inc. will invest $78.4 million to expand its facility in Virginia Beach, creating 150 jobs.

The company makes the world’s largest-selling brand of chain saws and a full line of hand-held power tools.

The state competed successfully against Brazil, Germany and Switzerland for the project.

Forum plans

Virginia Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine will hold three more transportation forums after the holidays — right after the holidays.

The next town-hall meeting will be Jan. 2 in Lynchburg, followed by Fairfax on Jan. 3 and Virginia Beach Jan. 5.

The previous gatherings have been packed with the public, business and government leaders and representatives of organizations like environmental groups and developers.

They tell Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, what they see as their region’s worst transportation problems and some suggest possible solutions.

Mr. Kaine began holding the forums not long after his election last month.

Business change

Former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley plans to sell the antiques business her late husband founded 35 years ago in order to focus on marketing the Port of Baltimore and consulting on international trade and maritime issues.

Mrs. Bentley, 82, a Republican who represented Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District from 1985 to 1995, said she plans to divest Bentley’s Antiques Show Mart some time this spring, either through auction or buyout.

She has run the business since William Bentley, her husband of 44 years, died in 2003.

Mrs. Bentley is heading a committee organizing celebrations for the port’s 300th anniversary next year, continuing more than half a century of advocacy for the port.

Anniversary materials will include a book, a history and photos, Mrs. Bentley said.

Events will begin in March with a ceremony marking 50 years since the creation of the Maryland Port Authority — a forerunner of the Maryland Port Administration.

The main event celebrating the Port of Baltimore’s anniversary is scheduled for May 25.

Mrs. Bentley said F. Brooks Royster III, the current director of the port administration, is doing a “fine job.”

She helped recruit Mr. Royster after James White resigned in February following disputes with state transportation officials.

• This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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