Editorial: Why are Democrats so complacent about the parole board?
March 17, 2021
There’s one overriding reason why a Republican just might win the governorship this fall: The Virginia Parole Board.
Democrats are doing a very good job creating — and then ignoring — a scandal that has the potential to not just bring about a change in party in the governor’s mansion but also endanger the Democratic majority in the House of Delegates as well.
Let’s recap the particulars: Last summer it became known that the Virginia Parole Board — an agency under Democratic control, with Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea as one of its members — granted early release to Vincent Martin, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Richmond police officer in 1979. Northam’s own inspector general found that in the process the parole board violated both its own regulations and the law. This is what’s known in politics as “not good.”
In one case, the board chair — Bennett — told staffers not to notify a victim’s family that the killer had been denied parole in March 2020 because the board had changed its mind and was going to release him in April 2020. Never mind the details; the headline “Emails show former parole board chair turned off notifications to murder victim’s grandmother” is pretty damning.
Northam has called for an investigation, but Democrats are far too complacent about this for their own political good. The danger for them: Those suburban voters we talked about may be quite fine with all the social justice measures the Democratic-controlled General Assembly has passed — but may still not been too happy to hear about cop killers getting released early. Or a bunch of killers getting released early, and without the law being followed. Remember how George H.W. Bush used the case of Willie Horton with such devastating ease against Michael Dukakis back in 1988? Democrats here have just given Republicans nine Willie Hortons — the only difference being that these released killers haven’t killed anyone else. Yet. The right Republican — that is to say, not Amanda Chase, who is thoroughly unelectable on a statewide ticket — can use this to drive a shiv right into the heart of any Democratic candidate.
And get this: The former parole board chair is now a judge in Virginia Beach, which means every Democratic legislator who cast a pro forma vote for her is now vulnerable to an attack about the parole board. That may not be fair — they can argue they didn’t know these things when they voted for her — but politics is rarely fair. Democrats are doing very little to inoculate themselves against what’s coming, so they will have only themselves to blame when it does.
Read the entire piece here.