Delegate Mark Levine says a recent letter to a constituent has been taken out of context, and that his office is still helping 45th District residents deal with unemployment and other issues with state agencies.

In the June letter, Levine apologized to a constituent and said his recent election loss limited his ability to help with issues related to the Virginia Employment Commission.

“Unfortunately, due to my loss in the June 8, 2021 primary, our office will be unable to help you much,” Levine wrote. “Fortunately, your State Senator Adam Ebbin is in a strong position to help you.”

Levine continued, “I sincerely regret that our office will be unable to help you further. I’ve tried hard to reform the VEC, but the voters chose another representative to do future work on this.”

A portion of the note was tweeted out on Wednesday night by Ben Tribbett, the writer of the Not Larry Sabato blog. In the post, Tribbett noted that Levine is still in office until January, despite losing both the Democratic primary for the lieutenant governorship and his seat, which he lost to Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker.

Levine told ALXnow that he was working without staff when he wrote the letter, and that Ebbin, whose 30th Senate District includes the 45th House District, is better situated to help. He also said he worked with the constituent for a long time without getting a resulting answer from VEC.

Ebbin, who is also vice chair of the Commission on Virginia Employment Commission, said he was surprised to see the tweet.

“I think the VEC is equally responsive to legislators, but we try and help all our constituents, regardless of the agency and continue to do so,” Ebbin said. “I think that all legislators ought to be helpful in delivering constituent service. I’m happy to help any my constituents and his constituents happen to live in my district, so we’re not going to pass the buck. We’re just going to help people.”

Levine said VEC is a dysfunctional mess, and that he has since hired a staffer to help with constituent matters.

“This was while I was without staff to have people continue to get the help they need, and I was passing them to Adam,” Levine said. “I was simply telling constituents where they can get the most influence.”

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Morning Notes

New Virginia laws on marijuana, death penalty take effect today — ” Virginia lawmakers voted earlier this year to end executions, marking a dramatic change in direction for a state that has executed the most people in the nation’s history. Only two men remain on death row in Virginia. Their sentences will be commuted to life in prison without parole. The state will also legalize simple possession of marijuana, effective July 1, and allow adults to grow up to four marijuana plants per household.” [Patch]

Rare bird visits Huntley Meadows Park — “A Roseate Spoonbill, which the Audubon Society describes as “gorgeous at a distance and bizarre up close,” landed in Huntley Meadows this week, drawing hundreds of local nature photographers. The bird is far from its normal home in Florida, Louisiana, Texas and other parts of the far Southeastern United States. No one is sure why this spoonbill came so far north, but a recent tropical storm in the Southeast may have sent many birds flying for safer locales.” [Alexandria Living]

New lights installed at Armistead Boothe Park — “The existing pole lights at Armistead Boothe Park’s tennis and basketball court were removed and replaced with a modern energy savings LED lighting system. Work started in June 2021 and is anticipated to be completed in mid-July 2021. Take a moment and check them out!” [Twitter]

Fire Department says fireworks are illegal and unsafe — “Did you know it’s illegal to use or sell any fireworks, including sparklers, in the city limits of Alexandria? Nationwide, fireworks cause thousands of injuries and fires each year, and 36% of those injured are under 15 years old.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Scattered thunderstorms in the morning becoming more widespread in the afternoon. Storms may contain strong gusty winds. High 87F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%… Showers and thundershowers in the evening, then overcast overnight with occasional rain. Low 67F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Locally heavy rainfall possible.” [Weather.com]

New job: Temporary COVID POD flow staff — “Are you a hardworking individual who is eager to join our efforts to augment and expedite vaccinations in the community? Does your passion drive you to commit to a cause that could have a positive impact on many? If this is you, we invite you to apply to one of our temporary City of Alexandria Vaccination site opportunities.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Virginia extends ‘cocktails-to-go’ laws for another year — “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurants were shuttered, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) created a safe and secure way for restaurants to offer cocktails to go with a meal. The General Assembly has now continued this practice in statute for one year.” [Zebra]

Republican mayoral candidate Catchings announces she won’t get education endorsement — “I will not be receiving the endorsement from APACE – Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education. What matters most is that I receive the support from Alexandria parents and citizens for School Choice !!” [Twitter]

Alexandria Restaurant Week returning Aug. 20-29 — “For 10 days (including two weekends), diners can enjoy specials from 60+ restaurants throughout Alexandria including Old Town, Del Ray, Carlyle, Eisenhower and the West End. Participating restaurants will be offering special $49 in-person and/or to-go dinner for two and select restaurants will also be offering a $25 in-person and/or to-go dinner for one.” [Alexandria Living]

‘Queens On King Street’ is back — “After a hiatus of more than a year due to the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions, Alexandria’s Queens on King Street group will reconvene on Tuesday, July 13th at The Light Horse from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The occasion will also serve as the group’s five-year anniversary. In 2015, co-founders Timothy McCue, Nathan Sell, and Alex Rodriguez-Rozic created Queens on King Street to provide a space for LGBTQ+ individuals that live, work, or just love to visit Old Town Alexandria.” [Visit Alexandria]

VDOT seeking feedback on Little River Turnpike improvement plan — “Give input on a study assessing potential Rt 236 (Little River Tpk) improvements from I-495 in Annandale to I-395 in Alexandria! View a presentation and take our online survey (also available in Spanish and Korean) through 7/28.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Sunny skies (during the day). Hot. High near 95F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph… Clear skies (in the evening). Low around 75F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Manager — “Dolci Gelati is a small, customer-focused cafe and gelato shop in the heart of Old Town, Alexandria. We strive to serve the very best in innovative coffee drinks, gelatis, and various other pastries and desserts.” [Indeed]

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Months of campaigning came to a head last night as Mayor Justin Wilson and three City Council incumbents held onto their seats despite opposition and the three new members of the City Council were among those most closely aligned with the incumbents.

The city also had relatively high levels of voter turnout for a non-Presidential election year, with 23% of registered voters showing up to the polls.

The election isn’t over, however. While Alexandria voters tend to lean blue, City Council candidates will compete against Republican Darryl Nirenberg and Independent Florence King in November.

Mayor Justin Wilson will also face off against Republican Annetta Catchings, and for the 45th District, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is running against Republican J.D. Maddox.

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Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker prevailed in her quest Tuesday night for the Democratic nomination for Virginia’s 45th District, defeating incumbent Del. Mark Levine, who as of this writing was also down in his race for lieutenant governor.

“I’m honored to be the Democratic nominee for the 45th District,” Bennett-Parker said in a statement. “Thank you for your votes; I look forward to working with all of the Democratic nominees to win in November, and to representing all of HD-45 in Richmond.”

Bennett-Parker did not receive a call from Levine, who could not be reached for comment. As of 9 p.m., she led 7,186 votes to Levine’s 5,148 votes, with 21 of 26 precincts reporting.

“Special thanks to our incredible team of volunteers who made phone calls, knocked on doors, talked to your neighbors, and handed out campaign literature,” Bennett-Parker said. “This is a grassroots campaign, and I could not have done this without you.”

With 2,354 of 2,584 precincts reporting, Levine also received just 11.11% of the vote for lieutenant governor, falling way behind the leader in that race Del. Hala Ayala (D-51).

Bennett-Parker’s campaign manager Alice Visocchi said that her candidate’s lead was insurmountable.

“With 21 of 26 precincts reporting, we’re up 58.26% to Mark Levine’s 41.74%,” Visocchi said. “I think it’s done.”

A political newcomer going into her election as vice mayor three years ago, Bennett-Parker said she is running to improve the environment and help area families struggling with the pandemic. A Democrat, she is the first person to announce a run for the seat.

Bennett-Parker grew up in Alexandria and lives with her husband and grandmother in the city’s Rosemont neighborhood. She is also the co-director of the nonprofit Together We Bake. Bennett-Parker has not been an outspoken member of council, and is known for heavily researching topics before coming to decisions. A Fulbright Fellow, she has a Master’s degree in anthropology from the University of London and a history degree from Cornell University.

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this report

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An annual mailer from Del. Mark Levine to Democratic voters in the 45th District has his opponent, Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, raising concerns of an ethical breach of conduct.

Levine is running for lieutenant governor and his seat in the 45th District. The 17-page annual update is written on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead, and asks for support in the upcoming June 8 Democratic primary. The letter also includes his campaign websites markfordelegate.com and levineforvirginia.com, but not a disclaimer stating that it was paid for by his campaign.

“I’m deeply disappointed in Del. Levine, and his decision to use taxpayer resources to campaign for two offices,” Bennett-Parker said. “The voters of this district deserve better. They deserve a delegate committed to a high ethical standard, and they deserve a delegate focused solely on this community – not someone who views our district as a backup plan. I look forward to getting to work in Richmond to expand access to health care, build our economy back better for all, provide equitable educational opportunities for all students, and fight the impacts of climate change.”

In the letter, Levine mentions both races he’s running for and asks for support.

“Early voting in the Democratic primary began on April 23rd and Primary Election Day is June 8th,” Levine wrote in the letter. “As noted, I am running for Lieutenant Governor and will be on the Democratic primary ballot for both the Lieutenant Governor position and the 45th District Delegate nominations. I’d appreciate your support.”

Levine continues, “Thank you for believing in me and supporting me. I hope you are as pleased as I am about the results of the historic 2020 and 2021 legisla(tive) sessions, even if you didn’t agree with every vote I cast and even if you, like me, wish we had gone a bit farther. I know who my boss is. It’s you. And that’s why my team and I work so hard.”

The Virginia Department of Elections has not yet received any complaints concerning constituent mailers from Levine. The VDOE said that suspected campaign violations should be reported to local authorities and commonwealth attorneys, and that ethics violations should be reported to the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Council.

“It’s not a campaign mailer at all,” Levine told ALXnow. “It’s about my delegate work, it’s about my bills. If you want to read my 20 page letter from last year, it also mentions my website. My website has a lot of information on it. It’s got coronavirus information, and, yeah, it also has a donate button on it. I think every delegate mentioned their website, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t in their (annual constituent) letter.”

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th), who has endorsed Bennett-Parker, said that Levine’s mailer crosses an ethical boundary. He also said that he’s inquiring about a potential ethics breach with the legal counsel on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, a body on which he is a member.

“If it’s not illegal, it should be,” Ebbin said. “It just doesn’t look right. It doesn’t feel right to be putting on official state letterhead, a message that says that you’re on the ballot twice and that you’re appreciating people’s votes for two offices, you know, even though he put on that first page it says this is not a political mailer and then he says, You can vote for me twice and explains why he wants people to vote for him twice in the circumstances that came to be. That’s just not appropriate.

Delegates receive $750 for constituent postage every year, and Levine said that he paid for the mailing and that many delegates include their campaign websites in annual letters to constituents. The House Clerk has invoiced Levine for the mailer.

“No taxpayers paid for it and I sent it to the same number I sent last year,” he said. “A lot of people in the 45th.”

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Former Alexandria Delegate Richard R.G. Hobson passed away at his home on Sunday, May 23.

Hobson’s family announced his death on social media on Monday. He was 89 years old.

Mayor Justin Wilson thanked Hobson’s family and wished them condolences.

“Dick Hobson set the gold-standard for service to our community,” Wilson said. “Over decades of service to our City, he never lost his commitment to our community and our people. He was so knowledgeable on so many topics. I left every conversation with him learning several new things, and his laughter was infectious. His family and close friends are in my thoughts. Thanks for sharing him with Alexandria.”

A familiar face in Alexandria politics for decades, Hobson retired as Alexandria’s Delegate for the 21st District after two terms in 1979 and spent the next several decades as a land use attorney with McGuire Woods.

“I never intended to make a career out of the House of Delegates,” he told the Washington Post, emphasizing that “I’m not going away” and promised to continue work in local politics “in finding and encouraging persons of integrity and ability to seek and hold public office.”

Born on July 28, 1931, in Orange, New Jersey, Hobson and his family moved to Alexandria in 1936, according to a biography written in Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill’s website. He was in the first graduating class of Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, and then attended George Washington Middle School and Episcopal High School. Hobson graduated from Princeton University and then served for three years as an officer in the U.S. Navy before getting his law degree from Harvard Law School.

In 1959, he met his wife, Kathleen Stanton, and they were married the following year. In 1962, he and his wife moved back to Alexandria. His career credits included stints as chairs of the Virginia Bar Association, the 8th Congressional District Committee and the Alexandria Democratic Committee (ADC).

In 2014, the ADC awarded Hobson with its lifetime achievement award.

ADC Chair Clarence Tong said that Hobson was a very dedicated, well-respected and valued member of the ADC family.

“His service spanned for over five decades, including representing Alexandria as a Member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and serving as a precinct leader and long-time Chair of the Resolutions Committee,” Tong said. “We will greatly miss Dick and offer our condolences to Kay and the entire Hobson family.”

Hobson is survived by his wife, Kay, and his children Rich Hobson, Hartley Hobson Wensing, Lee Hobson and Kathleen Hobson Davis and their children. Details of funeral services have not been released.

Photo via Jack Powers/Facebook

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The race for the 45th District House of Delegates seat is a weird one.

Delegate Mark Levine announced in December that he would be running for Lieutenant Governor. A month later, Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker announced that she would be running for Levine’s delegate seat. The wrinkle in all of this, however, is that Levine is also running for reelection in the 45th district as a precaution in case he doesn’t win the fairly crowded Lieutenant Governor primary.

He’s not alone in this — running for two seats is legal in Virginia — but it leaves the 45th district in an awkward Schrödinger’s cat-type race where Bennett-Parker is simultaneously running and not running against Levine.

“It’s a weird situation,” Levine admitted. “I never expected this to happen. [But] it’s legal under Virginia law. I think I’ve been a good delegate and the people should re-elect me. If I win both, I’ll resign from the 45th district and there will be a special election.”

(The 45th District itself is a bit odd, encompassing some of the residential neighborhoods around Pentagon City to the north; Shirlington and Fairlington to the west; Del Ray, Potomac Yard and Old Town Alexandria in the center; and a narrow corner of Fairfax County to the south.)

While much of Levine’s campaign finance has been focused on the statewide race, in the 45th District Bennett-Parker has raised twice as much as Levine’s campaign for delegate.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Bennett-Parker has raised $106,434 to Levine’s $45,573 — though Levine has raised $705,284 in the lieutenant governor race. Bennett-Parker’s top donors include attorney and Democratic financier Sonjia Smith, Levine’s 2015 opponent Julie Jakopic, and Alexandria School Board member Veronica Nolan.

In the delegate race, Levine’s top donors include the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and the Northern Virginia Labor Federation.

Levine, a former radio talk show host, was elected in 2015 and campaigned for stricter gun control regulations and expanding healthcare access, among other progressive goals. Levine, like many Democrats in the state legislature, has found it easier to make good on those campaign promises after Democrats took the majority in 2019.

“This year, the predominant gun regulations have been my bills and in all state-owned buildings and offices and polling places,” Levine said. “Introduced 47 bills and passed half of them… and it wasn’t my bill on marijuana legalization that passed, but I led the way.”

Bennett-Parker, co-director of the nonprofit Together We Bake, was elected to the Alexandria City Council in 2019 and said her experience working in local government would bring a unique perspective to the state legislature.

“First, having served as Vice Mayor, I understand the nuance of the role that local government plays in people’s lives and how the state is often an impediment to localities in serving their residents,” Bennett-Parker said. “Currently there are only 18 Delegates out of 100 who have served in city or county government and none of them are from Northern Virginia. Obviously, we face different issues than other parts of the Commonwealth. I hear from constituents all the time who want the City Council to do things that we can’t do because we don’t have the authority.”

Bennett-Parker also noted that she would be the minority in a government body that is still 70% male.

“Women have for too long been held back by governmental policies and programs designed by men,” Bennett-Parker said.

Together We Bake is an Alexandria-based workforce training program that helps women exiting the criminal justice system, experiencing homelessness, recovering from abuse or addiction, or facing unemployment.

Bennett-Parker has been reluctant to criticize Levine openly, saying instead that she aims to focus on campaign goals.

“When I decided to run, this race looked like it would be an open seat, as Delegate Levine had announced he was running for Lieutenant Governor,” Bennett-Parker said. “I am focused solely on this district and serving its residents. I have delivered results for the 45th district as Vice Mayor and on regional bodies, and I will keep doing so in Richmond.”

Levine, in contrast, has no qualms about saying that he doesn’t think Bennett-Parker is the right candidate to replace him as the 45th District delegate.

“No, I don’t think so,” Levine said when asked if he thought Bennett-Parker would make a good replacement.

Levine said that part of his role as delegate has been taking an active role in community meetings and discussions, something he says he hasn’t seen from Bennett-Parker.

“I absolutely have not neglected my community,” Levine said. “We had a shooting in Old Town on Monday night. I was at a community meeting with Police Chief Michael Brown. [Bennett-Parker] wasn’t there. It was a room full of concerned constituents and she wasn’t there… I was out at a COVID memorial. I was there. [Mayor Justin] Wilson was there. [City Council member Mo] Seifeldein and [City Council member Canek] Aguirre were there. You know who wasn’t there? Elizabeth Bennet-Parker. I’m more active in the community every day and I don’t see her.”

Some of Levine’s peers have disagreed with his assessment, however, with Bennett-Parker winning endorsements from state Senator Adam Ebbin and former delegates Marian Van Landingham and Rob Krupicka, among others.

The issues

For both Levine and Bennett-Parker, expanding healthcare and combatting the effects of climate change are two of the major priorities ahead for the state legislature.

“In terms of fights ahead: healthcare is the big one,” Levine said. “We need affordable healthcare. I think healthcare needs to be more transparent and we need to make sure people aren’t being bankrupted by healthcare costs.”

Bennett-Parker said the state should take the momentum from expanding Medicaid and keep moving forward.

“Expanding access to affordable health care,” Bennett-Parker said, when asked about her top priorities. “Expanding Medicaid was an important step in the right direction, but we need to do more to make healthcare, including mental healthcare, more accessible and affordable for all Virginians. We also need to find a way to lower prescription drug prices, especially for seniors.”

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-31) was in Old Town Thursday to introduce “Women For McClellan”, an initiative to send more than 75 her female supporters around the state in the run up to the June 8 Democratic primary.

McLellan held the event outside fibre space in Old Town, although shop owner Danielle Romanetti could not participate. It was her second event outside the shop, which has gained attention since being visited by Vice President Kamala Harris and being featured on GMA3 and Lifetime.

“It is time that women, and especially Black women who have been the backbone of our party, who have been the backbone of economic opportunity, who have been the essential care workforce — it is time their needs and their perspectives are heard and met,” McClellan said. “Even in 2021, we still have to educate policymakers that sexual harassment and workplace harassment is real, and that women across Virginia face it every single day. It is time for that new perspective, and it is time for someone with that experience to solve those problems on day one.”

Romanetti said that McClellan is a hard-working legislator.

“Sen. McClellan has 15 years of experience as a legislator in Virginia and has shown that she is both thoughtful and hard working,” Romanetti told ALXnow after the event. “It is time that our state elects a woman to our highest office, and I’m proud to support her candidacy.”

While McClellan did not delve into specific policy positions, she was publicly endorsed Thursday by former Congresswoman Leslie Byrne and State Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33).

“There’s a saying in both politics and business,” Byrne said. “Just don’t tell me what you’re going to do. Show me what you’ve done… She has done so much over her life. She does for the Commonwealth what I hope every citizen would do. She works to make it better.”

McClellan currently trails in third place behind former Governor Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Jennifer Carrol Foy in fundraising. She’s the vice chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and spent 11 years in the House of Delegates before being elected in a special election to the Senate in 2017.

She also said that her new group of supporters will help “shatter the glass ceiling” that has kept women out of the governor’s mansion.

“When my grandparents and parents fought for the right to vote, for the right to be treated like other citizens, they taught me through their life experience growing up in the Depression as they did under the tyranny of Jim Crow, that at its best government is a force that helps some people, that solves their problems and makes the community better. But at its worst, it oppresses some to the benefit of others,” she said.

McClellan continued, “As we face the worst health pandemic in 100 years, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a reckoning with racial injustice, a growing loss in faith that Virginians have in government’s ability to understand and care about their problems, let alone solve them — we need a new perspective in the governor’s mansion. Virginia has the worst record of elected women to office. It’s time to change that. We’re going to change that.”

Courtesy photo

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Morning Notes

Volunteers Needed to Unload 40K Pounds of Food for Five Food Pantries — “Getting this food is a huge opportunity and we are excited to provide love and security to families in our neighborhood. Thank you for your help!” [Zebra]

Juvenile Robbed of Phone in West End — “The Alexandria Police Dept is investigating a robbery from a person in the 1400 blk of N. Beauregard St. A juvenile female had her cellphone stolen by a group of juvenile males. No injuries reported. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

Northam Gets Legislation Eliminating Death Penalty — “Abolition of the Death Penalty is on the Governor’s Desk. Thank you to everyone who has worked towards this moment. Virginia can start to lead the world again on human rights and justice.” [Twitter]

City Seeks Feedback on Community Policing Review Board — “Options for establishing an Independent Community Policing Review Board will be considered by Alexandria City Council on March 9.” [Patch]

Bill Reagan Named Living Legend of Alexandria — “Recently our Director, Bill Reagan, was announced as a 2020 Living Legend of Alexandria! Read more about how Bill started the Alexandria SBDC and his 25 years of unwavering service to the Alexandria small business community.” [Facebook]

Wonder Woman 1984 Drum Will Be Up Until the End of the Month — “The seven-foot drum prop from #WonderWoman1984 will be on display in Old Town until February 28.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Partly cloudy skies (during the day). High 63F. Winds SSW at 10 to 20 mph… Partly cloudy skies (in the evening). Low 38F. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Team Member at Barca Wine Bar and Pier — “We are seeking high volume , servers’, bartenders, hosts and support team members as we open Alexandria’s newest waterfront treasure.” [Indeed]

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