THE WEEKENDER: a round-up of opinion and commentary across Virginia

Virginia Mercury

Election Day is almost here. From mailers to TV spots, the mud is flying fast and furious, spurred by sky-high levels of campaign spending. It’s all a reminder of what’s at stake Tuesday: control of the Capitol.

Mercury columnist Bob Lewis, a veteran former AP statehouse reporter, explained in his first column for us why this year is different than Virginia’s usually sleepy off-off year elections. Mercury guest columnists, including Brian Chiglinsky, who predicted another health care election, and James Parrish, who highlighted the concerns of LGBT people in Virginia, also examined factors that could play a role in the races for all 140 General Assembly seats. The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Jeff Schapiro has a useful primer on what to look for on Tuesday .

Remembering Gov. Baliles: Several Virginia columnists and editorial boards eulogized former Gov. Gerald Baliles, who died last week of cancer at 79. He was “a progressive, but not of the sort that defines the word today,” The Winchester Star wrote. “He was, in his Democratic way of the 1980s, truly a progressive governor, one who moved the Old Dominion ahead rather than diminish it.”

The Times-Dispatch said he would be remembered as “one of the commonwealth’s most visionary leaders.” The RTD’s Schapiro takes a comprehensive look at his career here. And his former speechwriter, Gordon Morse, has some poignant thoughts about Baliles and being a governor in The Virginian-Pilot, drawing some parallels to Gov. Ralph Northam.

Halloween tricks and treats: The Roanoke Times got into the Halloween spirit with some delightfully wicked barbs for politicians of all stripes, including President Donald Trump (“Best not to wear a witch costume, either. We hear he has strong feelings about witch hunts) and Gov. Ralph Northam: “He’s handing out copies of his reading list on African-American history. He’ll also tell you that you need to go carbon-free by 2050; just pay no attention to the construction equipment out back for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He says he can’t do anything about that. We’re pretty sure you know which costumes not to wear here — or anywhere, for that matter. But definitely no Michael Jackson outfits.”

PFAS: The Pilot says there’s no excuse for continuing delays in cleaning up toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) long used in firefighting foams on military bases and on ships. “The men and women who volunteer for our military put their lives on the line to defend our country. They should not have to worry about endangering their health, and that of their families, simply by drinking water.”

Our divisions: Writing in The Roanoke Times, Mike Ellerbrock, a Catholic deacon and a faculty member at Virginia Tech, calls for an end to “our bitter divisiveness.” He writes: “A fractured people, we are dismembered. Will we let America’s better angels touch our mystic memory, re-membering the unified nation we once modeled to the world?” The Pilot called on all of us to do more to build bridges: “It means talking to the dyed-in-the-wool, unwavering Trump supporter or the far-left progressive Democrat and trying to understand their positions. It means consuming a diverse media diet, including those with whom you disagree, and trying to separate fact from fiction.”

‘Very wrong’: In a wrenching column for the RTD, the brother of a woman killed by Henrico Police in her own home during a welfare check says police have left many questions about the shooting unanswered.  “Four shots later, their ‘welfare check’ ended in the most tragic way possible — the death of the person they were supposed to be helping,” he wrote. “By definition, when a welfare check turns into a homicide, something has gone very wrong.”

Bob and jobs: Writing in the Pilot, former Gov. Bob McDonnell warns against fiddling with the state’s Right to Work law, which prohibits compulsory union membership as a condition of employment. “Alarmingly, many candidates for the General Assembly are advocating for the repeal of Virginia’s Right to Work statute, which would make the commonwealth a “forced union” state. It is a recipe for economic decline and a much less competitive Virginia,” he wrote.

The Free Lance-Star says predictions of the death of cars were wildly exaggerated and policymakers should adjust accordingly. “Most people still choose to drive, even in urban centers where mass transit and ride-sharing are ubiquitous. And in more suburban and rural areas, cars are still the number one mobility choice for the vast majority of Virginians, and will likely continue to be so for a long time to come.”

‘Long overdue’: The Pilot said Virginia’s Women’s Monument, unveiled last month matters “because whom we honor in public spaces says a lot about our values. That’s why we spend so much time arguing about Confederate monuments in Hampton Roads and across the state, and what, if any, place they should have in society.”

Letter of the week: Lester Gabriel of Stafford, writing to The Free Lance-Star, laments what he says is a rapid and seismic shift in debate on issues of religious freedom, transgender rights and immigration. “They are presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, and the consequence of leaving it is to be written out of polite society and labelled a racist or other pejorative of the day,” he wrote.