- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

Wearing an apron and a smile, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner last week took his “Healthy Virginians” cause to the people — the little people — teaching first-graders how to make Mediterranean chicken and sweet-potato chips.

The Democratic governor joined “energy chef” Herb Mesa at his cooking school, Mise En Place in Richmond’s Shockoe Slip district.

Using the words “really cool” several times, Mr. Warner explained to the children that he thinks he can save taxpayers money if he can encourage people to eat nutritious food and exercise regularly.

Most of the children weren’t quite following when he said unhealthy people add to the state’s burden of health care costs, but they behaved and sat politely.

“More and more of our kids … don’t really eat very healthy,” Mr. Warner told the students from J.B. Watkins Elementary School.

The governor — who diced and sliced to help Mr. Mesa with the meal — said children should ignore junk food and instead opt for healthy snacks like his favorites: bananas, asparagus and corn on the cob.

The children told reporters that they had fun watching the governor cook and help out in the kitchen.

• One for the road

Democratic legislators in Virginia had some fun on Friday when the House debated a bill that would designate a stretch of road in Prince William County in honor of the late President Ronald Reagan.

Delegate Robert D. Hull, Fairfax County Democrat, proposed an amendment to the bill that would designate a portion of the Capital Beltway in Fairfax County after former President Bill Clinton.

Lawmakers laughed, and then the patron of the Reagan bill said he felt the amendment was not relevant.

“This has nothing to do with his area, and our president is deceased,” said Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, Prince William County Republican.

House Speaker William J. Howell laughed and ruled that the amendment was not relevant, effectively killing it.

“You probably need to get your own bill,” Mr. Howell, Stafford County Republican, told Mr. Hull.

After the antics, lawmakers gave preliminary endorsement to the bill, which is likely to pass the House on its final reading today. It will be sent to the Senate for consideration in coming weeks.

• Getting no respect

The District’s mayor got an earful on Friday from a group of women who live in a shelter for domestic-violence victims.

The women interrupted a press conference at which Mayor Anthony A. Williams was announcing the city’s new 10-year plan to end homelessness. But Phyllis Brown said they need the mayor’s help now.

The more than 20 women and children said they just got notice that they are being moved from a downtown shelter to one in Southeast. The relocation is supposed to happen this morning.

Miss Brown said they are being moved to a drug-infested area.

• In the race

Richmond lawyer Steve Baril formally began his campaign for the Republican nomination for attorney general last week by proposing the hiring of 100 new state troopers for deployment to crime “hot spots.”

Mr. Baril, 49, said the troopers would “root out violent crime and drug activity where it lives and breeds.”

He specifically mentioned gang activity in Northern Virginia, methamphetamine labs and other drug problems in southwestern Virginia and “the appalling murder rate” in Richmond.

Each additional trooper would cost the state about $100,000 per year, Mr. Baril said.

Mr. Baril is running against Delegate Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia Beach in the June 14 Republican primary. Mr. McDonnell declared his candidacy in November and said his top priority would be protecting Virginia from terrorist threats.

Mr. McDonnell, 50, is a former prosecutor who was elected to the House in 1991. Mr. Baril, son-in-law of the late Gov. John N. Dalton and former state Sen. Eddy Dalton Phillips, has never held elected office.

“I want to be the people’s lawyer, not just another professional politician,” Mr. Baril told a room full of family members and supporters.

Mr. McDonnell said his years in public office are a plus. He also noted that he spent 21 years in the Army and Army Reserve while Mr. Baril has not served in the military.

“I’ve got a much broader range of qualifications,” Mr. McDonnell said.

The incumbent, Republican Jerry W. Kilgore, resigned effective tomorrow to concentrate on his campaign for governor against Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat.

• All together now

Top Maryland Democratic Party elected officials have formed a committee to try to develop a unified voice for the party as it heads into the 2006 election against a growing Republican Party.

“I think it’s important that Maryland Democrats speak in one voice for one purpose,” Terry Lierman, the new state party chairman, said after a meeting of about a dozen elected officials last Monday.

“The purpose is to elect Democratic officials, inclusion and developing programs and passing programs that further making Maryland a better place to live,” he said.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said he welcomed the formation of the group to counter efforts by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and state Republican Party Chairman John Kane to increase the number of Republican elected officials.

• Vote exchange

Those fighting to get full voting rights for D.C. residents are facing a new Congress — and the same decades-old problem.

Members of Congress discussed political strategy at a voting rights summit last week, amid posters pointing out that Iraq will have full democracy before D.C. residents.

Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III hopes to get his fellow Republicans on board this session with a plan to give the District a vote in the House in exchange for adding a congressional seat in Utah.

Utah, a heavily Republican state, barely missed the opportunity to add a seat based on the most recent census.

Mr. Davis acknowledged that some Democrats and interest groups don’t like the trade, but asked for support anyway.

“This is a strategy. We need to build bridges … not attack people,” Mr. Davis said. “Politics is ultimately a game of addition, not subtraction.”

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, can vote in committee but not on the House floor. Mrs. Norton backed up Mr. Davis’ message of working together — even though she has not endorsed his bill. She plans to introduce one of her own that would give the District full voting representation.

“When there is an opening for the District of Columbia, I’m going to squeeze through that opening. I don’t care whose bill it is,” Mrs. Norton said.

• The bat bill

A bill that would recognize the Virginia big-eared bat as the official state bat swooped through the House of Delegates with no debate on Friday.

The House voted 87-8 to pass Delegate Jackie T. Stump’s bill and send it to the Senate.

Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus is the scientific name of the endangered species, which is found only in a few caves in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Mr. Stump, Buchanan Democrat, said recognition of the big-eared bat would help educate the public about Virginia’s caves and the positive environmental role played by the insect-eating flying mammals that inhabit them.

Virginia already has 16 official emblems, ranging from the state flag to the state fossil, Chesapecten jeffersonius. Efforts to expand the list have not always been warmly received.

In 1999, the General Assembly killed measures to designate Pamunkey soil as the official state soil and the Eastern box turtle as the state reptile.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire services reports.

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