UVA bested Georgia Tech in a shootout on Saturday. Liberty came from behind to beat North Texas on the road after starting quarterback Malik Willis returned after an injury – but no such luck in Blacksburg where Virginia Tech lost again late in the game, this time to Syracuse:Football review: UVA, LU win – VT loses first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
We are running out of phone numbers that can use the 540 area code established about 25 years ago. The State Corporation Commission has approved the addition of the “826″ area code to the same region served by “540,” beginning on June 14th 2022. That also means that ALL residents in the 540 area code will be required to dial 10 digits – area code plus the phone number for all local calls starting May 14th, 2022. However 540 residents can starting dialing phone numbers with all ten digits next month on November 13th – if they want to get used to doing that.The post Ten digit phone calls on the way in the 540 area code region first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
The Bedford Welcome Center on Burks Hill Road will host an Informational Open House tonight led by the Virginia Department of Transportation – to offer details on a possible Amtrak passenger rail stop in the Town. More from WFIR’s Gene Marrano:Bedford Rail Station Study public meeting tonight first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
With eight days to go before election day, Virginia Tech Political Science Professor Bob Denton says it’s clear that the candidates for Virginia governor believe the race is as potentially close as polls increasingly suggest — as evidenced by their own actions. Most recent polls have shown a difference of less than 3%among likely Virginia voters, and a couple of them show a virtual tie. Denton says the very fact that Terry McAuliffe is calling on President Biden to campaign with him tomorrow is another sign that his camp is nervous, but he says if Democrats get a strong election day turnout, the GOP remains at a numbers disadvantage. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:All signs point to Youngkin, McAuliffe believing those tight polls first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
Elmwood on Ice is returning for sixth season of downtown outdoor ice skating, beginning November 24 and running through January 30. One new wrinkle this year – Downtown Roanoke’s pop-up Putt Putt course will also be set up at Elmwood Park and special combination mini-golf and ice skating passes will be available. You can also purchase Putt-Putt or ice skating-only passes. WFIR and other Wheeler Broadcasting stations are co-sponsors of Elmwood on Ice. Jamie Clark is with DRI:
The post Elmwood on Ice returns – along with Putt-Putt golf first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
From Roanoke County Police: On Sunday October 24, 2021, a Toyota Highlander SVU was traveling eastbound on McVitty Rd. in Roanoke County. The vehicle ran off the right side of the road and struck a tree. The driver was wearing a seat belt but was pronounced dead at the scene. Drugs and alcohol were not a factor in this crash. The investigation is ongoing, and no charges are pending.The post Police investigating fatal Roanoke County vehicle crash first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A struggle between a police officer and a murder suspect led to the officer’s gun being discharged in a Virginia Beach hospital stairwell.
The Virginian-Pilot reports it happened Friday at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
Virginia Beach police say no one was injured, and there was never an active shooter in the building.
In a statement released Saturday morning, police said an officer arrived at the hospital to take Matthew Christie into custody.
Christie, 38, is charged with first-degree murder and malicious assault of his 74-year-old mother, Linda Christie. She was found dead Oct. 16.
Police had responded to their home after a request to check on the welfare of the residents. At the time, Matthew Christie had serious injuries and was taken to Virginia Beach General.
On Friday, he fled from the arresting officer, who caught up to him in a stairwell. Officials said Christie attempted to disarm the officer, leading to his handgun discharging.
No one else was in the stairwell at the time and Christie was eventually restrained and taken into custody, police said. He’ll face additional charges from the incident.The post Police struggle with murder suspect leads to gun discharge first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Terry McAuliffe is a blur of handshakes, hugs, backslaps and smiles as he glides through the friendly crowd at Gethsemane Baptist Church seeking help from above.
For the former Virginia governor running again for his old job, it’s not necessarily God’s grace he’s after at this moment. He’s seeking assistance from another higher power a few hours north in Washington, where McAuliffe’s longtime friends in Congress are struggling to pass an infrastructure package that could help millions of Virginia residents — and his own campaign.
McAuliffe’s desperation to turn that legislation, with its billions of dollars for new roads and bridges, into a final pitch to voters is clear when he runs into Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and close political ally for more than a decade.
“Greatest member of Congress to ever serve! He’s our man!” McAuliffe proclaims with his arm around the 15-term congressman. “You gonna get me an infrastructure bill?”
Scott pauses for a few moments of awkward silence.
“Uhhh, it’ll be last minute,” he says not-so-confidently as McAuliffe moves to shake another hand.
Such high-touch bravado worked for McAuliffe in 2013, when he became the only Virginia candidate in 44 years to win the governor’s mansion when his party occupied the White House. But in the closing days of the 2021 election, the 64-year-old graying Democrat’s intensely personal brand of politics, one that leverages decades-old friendships, frenetic hands-on campaigning and unrestrained authenticity, is facing a more formidable test.
McAuliffe is locked in a close race with Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin in a state President Joe Biden carried by 10 points just last fall. Shifts in the state’s swelling suburbs to the north near Washington, D.C., and around Richmond have benefited Democrats in recent years — particularly when former President Donald Trump was in office. And while no Republican has won statewide here in more than a decade, Biden’s rough summer, dominated by the messy U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and a stalled domestic agenda, threatens to undermine McAuliffe’s apparent advantages.
Much like Biden, McAuliffe is in some ways a throwback to the politics of the past, when the Democratic Party’s leadership was dominated by older, white men who conducted business in smoke-filled rooms where the booze flowed freely. He developed his political playbook looking over the shoulders of Bill and Hillary Clinton, for whom he raised hundreds of millions of dollars as a chief political fundraiser in the 1990s and 2000s.
The Syracuse, New York, native wrote openly about his fundraising jaunts at casinos and golf courses with the political elite in the book “What a Party!” published years before he became governor.
More recently, however, the Democratic Party has become much more diverse, much less friendly to wealthy donors and much more sensitive to the behavior of its leaders. While McAuliffe is eager to talk about his accomplishments during his single term as governor, his gregarious personality can overshadow his policies during campaign swings.
He’s equally as enthusiastic meeting a 4-year-old preschool student as a four-term U.S. senator, constantly joking, asking questions, citing statistics, squeezing shoulders. One of his favorite quips: “I got as much energy today as the day I was born!”
Jake Rubenstein, who served as McAuliffe’s personal assistant during his 2013 campaign and his traveling chief of staff in 2021, said his boss is the same man he’s always been.
“His style has never changed,” he said. “He’s full go, all the time. He’s the campaign manager. He’s the chief of staff. He never stops working.”
McAuliffe proudly proclaims that he attends 10 to 15 political events each day, seven days a week. There have been few large rallies, however. Most of his gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic have been invitation-only, policy-focused events with small groups of local health officials, educators and faith leaders, among others. Closed-door fundraising events are a regular part of the schedule as well.
McAuliffe will draw bigger crowds when a collection of high-profile, longtime political allies visit the state on his behalf in the coming days, including former President Barack Obama and Biden. Bill and Hillary Clinton, who attended his first inauguration, have not been a visible part of the campaign, though they hosted two private fundraising events and Hillary Clinton signed three fundraising emails on McAuliffe’s behalf.
Democratic Del. Marcia Price, who is Black, acknowledged that some of her constituents are not excited about participating in the election but suggested the pandemic was to blame far more than McAuliffe’s appeal.
McAuliffe remains a dominant force in Virginia politics. He won every one of Virginia’s cities and localities, earning more votes than all his competitors combined in his party’s nominating contest this spring, which included three candidates of color.
Still, Price, who declined to endorse anyone in the primary, is ready for more diverse party leadership.
“I’m not voting on who in the entire world I want to be governor. I have two choices … and Terry is the best choice,” she said in an interview. “Is it time for diversity? Yes. Is it time for the party to really take a look at itself? Absolutely. But I can walk and chew gum at the same time. Terry’s got to be elected.”
McAuliffe’s appeal to African Americans, who represent 20% of the state’s population and a critical slice of the Democratic base, is central to his candidacy. His focus on racial equity also plays well among college-educated white people in the growing suburbs.
Almost every day on the trail, he highlights his decision as governor to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons — many of them Black. He also frequently reminds voters that in 2015 he ordered the removal of a state-sponsored license plate that featured the Confederate flag.
“That’s what they think of me. They don’t (think of) my age or the color of my skin — that’s not what they think of,” McAuliffe said in an interview.
When asked, he stopped short of saying that Virginia still has a problem with systemic racism.
“You still have to go and deal with issues that go back many years here in Virginia, but we’re in a different place from when I was governor,” McAuliffe said.
The former governor is also eager to promote his plans for moving past the pandemic, for education and for protecting women’s access to abortion, all of which he says are under attack by his Republican opponent. But McAuliffe may be most proud of his economic record while governor, which has drawn praise from some business-minded Republicans and independents.
As a businessman himself, McAuliffe led more than 30 trade and marketing missions to other countries to bring new business to the state. Unemployment fell from 5.7% to 3.3% while he was in office. In making the business deals, McAuliffe acknowledges that he worked long hours and sometimes enjoyed “a glass of wine.”
Robert Vaughn, who worked under Republicans and Democrats as a staffer and later the director of the House Appropriations Committee, described the former governor as a hard worker who surrounded himself with conscientious people and expected “good government.”
Vaughn, who occasionally attended business functions and social events at the governor’s mansion, said McAuliffe seemed to truly relish the job, including the chance to “press the flesh” and entertain.
McAuliffe kept quality liquor stocked for parties — and enjoyed good wine and scotch — but always emphasized that he paid for it himself, according to Vaughn. He said he once saw McAuliffe at a bar in the Shockoe Slip district, enjoying “the libations” and buying folks a round.
McAuliffe was blunt when asked if he thinks he should curtail the partying culture he’s known for.
“I have nothing to change,” he told The Associated Press.
“That’s how I recruited 1,100 companies to come to Virginia. But yeah, they would come over, and I would stay up till 1 (a.m.) talking. But I was always working for Virginia. I had business leaders, legislative leaders. These weren’t parties. These were working hard,” McAuliffe explained. “You bet I work hard. No one will ever outwork me. That’s how I got so much done.”
Aubrey Layne, who describes himself as an independent and served as McAuliffe’s secretary of transportation, said the former governor has both character and competence. He said he set high expectations for his staff, held them accountable and worked hard himself.
“He never slept,” Layne said.
Associated Press writer Sarah Rankin in Richmond contributed to this report.The post McAuliffe’s backslapping political brand put to test in 2021 first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Garrett Shrader rushed for three touchdowns and threw for two, including one to Damien Alford with 19 seconds left, to lift Syracuse to a 41-36 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The Orange (4-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) scored 14 points in the final 2:28 to snap a three-game losing streak. Shrader’s 45-yard scoring toss to Alford, who beat Virginia Tech’s Dorian Strong, was the difference.
“This is going to be one of those moments,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “I really see this as being one of those moments that starts the change. I can’t promise you it’s going to change in W’s and L’s, but I can tell you it’s going to change in everything else.”
Syracuse cut a 36-27 deficit to 36-34 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Shrader to Courtney Jackson with 2:28 remaining. The Orange’s defense then stopped the Hokies on the ensuing possession, leading to Shrader’s winning toss to Alford, who out jumped Strong at the 7 and ran it for the score.
“That was a catch I have to make,” Alford said.
“I didn’t see the play (he was hit as he was throwing),” Shrader said. “I just heard the stadium get kind of quiet. When you’re away, that typically means it’s a good thing.”
Shrader threw for 236 yards and rushed for 174, accounting for 410 of Syracuse’s 550 yards of total offense. Sean Tucker added 112 yards rushing and a score.
Malachi Thomas paced Virginia Tech (3-4, 1-2), which has lost three straight games, with 151 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The Hokies finished with season highs in total yards (437) and rushing yards (260).
“That’s a tough way to lose a ballgame,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “I’m very proud of our kids again. They keep putting forth incredible efforts on field, all the way till the end. I hurt for our players, just because of the effort, the exertion they put out there today to find a way to be up towards the end and fought all the way till the last play of the game trying to find a way to win it. We’ll have to get them rounded back together and be ready to go next week.”
Syracuse: The Orange finally won a close game after losing three straight by three points each. Shrader was magnificent the entire game, and between him and Tucker, the Orange have a potent offense. The defense came up with a big stop on the Hokies’ penultimate drive, leading to a huge road win for Babers.
Virginia Tech: This might be the game that leads to the end of the Fuente era at Virginia Tech. After Syracuse’s winning score, the Hokie faithful started chanting “Fire Fuente” and have seen enough after the Hokies lost their third straight game at home. The Hokies are in danger of a third losing season in the past four years.
“We ain’t going down that road, OK?” Fuente said when asked about his job status. “Everybody up and down that hallway (the coaches offices) is selling out to give these kids a chance to win, so I’m not worried about any of that. So we can’t be focused on things we can’t control. What we can control is our attitude and our effort. Our kids have been incredible with all of that. Our job now is to get them to do the exact same thing for next week.”
AN ASCENDING QB
Babers inserted Shrader, a sophomore, into the starting role five games ago, and Shrader continues to improve. Though completing just 53% of his passes on the season — he completed 16 of 34 against the Hokies — he’s only thrown two interceptions in his five starts. His 236 passing yards and three touchdown passes against Virginia Tech were career highs.
“The numbers don’t necessarily look great, but we did everything we needed to do to put ourselves in position to win,” Shrader said. “Defense stepped up big time … They got the ball back for us (with 1:04 left), and all we needed was a minute. I don’t think we had any timeouts, but that was more than enough time for us to go down and score.”
Syracuse: The Orange play at home Saturday against Boston College.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies play at Georgia Tech on Saturday.
__The post Shrader’s 5TDs leads Syracuse past Virginia Tech 41-36 first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — When Glenn Youngkin threw his hat and his cash into the Republican nominating contest for Virginia governor this year, he was a rich former private equity executive with no experience as a candidate, and few insider connections or public political views.
“Most party loyalists and insiders didn’t know much about him,” said Todd Gilbert, the state House minority leader, who initially endorsed a fellow lawmaker in the race.
Nearly nine months later, Gilbert and much of his party have come around.
Republicans from all factions of the GOP now say Youngkin may be the ideal candidate to reverse more than a decade of stinging losses in Democratic-leaning Virginia and show a path forward for a national party riddled with division after the turmoil of the Trump years.
A blank slate, Youngkin has scant public record to examine. He’s self-funded much of his bid. He’s proved to be a natural campaigner, deftly seizing on dissatisfaction with Richmond and Washington. In style, the genial, 54-year-old suburban dad who often opens meetings with prayer is nothing like former President Donald Trump, who galvanized a surge of Democratic resistance before losing the state last year by 10 percentage points.
But in substance, Democrats see an extremist with softer packaging. They have accused Youngkin of promoting democracy-eroding election fraud conspiracies. Youngkin has embraced Trump’s endorsement and kept up ties to far-right figures. He’s dodged when pressed for details on policies on abortion rights and gun control, and leaned into culture war fights over schools and pandemic precautions. Like many Republicans, he’s preferred interviews with right-leaning news organizations. His opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, calls Youngkin a “Trump wannabe.”
Youngkin’s chances may hinge on whether voters believe that characterization.
“How do we bring people together, as opposed to push them apart and separate them?” Youngkin said in a recent interview when asked about what inspired his run for office.
There’s little doubt his approach is working with Republicans. The former co-CEO of The Carlyle Group has poured millions of his own fortune into an energetic campaign that has peppered swaths of Virginia with red lawn signs and left Democrats, currently in full control of state government, increasingly nervous.
Less than two weeks out from an election whose results are likely to ripple far beyond Virginia, polls show a tight race.
But if Youngkin has trouble broadening his appeal in the state’s critical, swingy and moderate suburbs, it may stretch back to his fight for the GOP nomination. Then, he ran on “ election integrity ” and refused for months to say plainly whether President Joe Biden had been legitimately elected.
Brad Hobbs, a close friend who has helped the campaign fundraise, donated personally and traveled to campaign stops with Youngkin, said the candidate was just appeasing the base.
Youngkin told him “early on” in the nomination contest that Biden had legitimately won the election, Hobbs said. But Youngkin was facing “rabid” party activists who wanted to hear that the candidate shared their concerns about the election, said Hobbs, who described himself as a moderate who voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020.
“If he just dismissed it, no way he could have won the primary. I mean, just no way,” said Hobbs, who allowed that maybe things would have been different if Youngkin had more time to campaign. “Once you meet him, you really don’t care what he believes. You just go, ‘I want him to win.’”
Youngkin’s campaign declined comment about Hobbs’ remarks.
Now, as he courts independents and moderates, Youngkin talks about pumping the brakes on Democrats’ progressive drive in Richmond. But he largely campaigns on solidly conservative positions.
He opposes mask and vaccine mandates, rails against critical race theory and wants to expand Virginia’s limited charter schools. He pitches substantial tax cuts, promises to overhaul dysfunctional state agencies, opposes a major clean energy mandate passed two years ago and objects to abortion in most circumstances.
In his ads and campaign appearances, he emphasizes he’s a “homegrown” Virginian.
Born just outside Richmond, Youngkin’s mother, his “hero,” was a nurse and accomplished nursing educator. His father worked as an accountant and bookkeeper, he said.
The family relocated to Virginia Beach after his father — “a good dad” but not a “good career guy” — lost his job. Childhood friends described him living a comfortable but not lavish middle-class life.
The 6-foot-6 Youngkin said he received a partial scholarship to attend a prestigious private school, Norfolk Academy, where he excelled at basketball and was recruited to play at Rice University in Texas.
He wasn’t the best player, said teammate Dwayne Tanner, but he worked exceptionally hard. By Youngkin’s senior year, the two were co-captains and Youngkin was honored as the “most inspirational” player.
After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering and managerial studies, he worked in investment banking before earning an MBA at Harvard University and eventually joining The Carlyle Group, where he would spend 25 years rising through the ranks, eventually becoming co-CEO.
Youngkin, who retired from Carlyle in September 2020, described leaving because he felt “called into public service.” Reporting from Bloomberg has suggested his retirement also came after a power struggle with Kewsong Lee, his co-CEO, who declined an interview request for this story. Several other people with whom Youngkin worked with closely at Carlyle did not respond to interview requests.
Youngkin accumulated a fortune at the firm; one Forbes estimate says his net worth is roughly $440 million. He now lives in a seven-bedroom home in Great Falls, a pocket of mansions in the well-off Washington suburbs. He also owns properties in Texas and Wyoming, according to tax records and financial disclosures.
His friends say Youngkin’s rise up the professional ladder hasn’t changed him and he remains down to earth, hardworking and humble.
In public, Youngkin, who dresses down in boots and zip-up fleece vests, is warm and upbeat, speaking with a folksy sincerity. (“Man, all right, this is just out-of-bounds awesome!” Youngkin said as he came on stage at a rally in Chesterfield County.)
“He’s earnest and he is honest. … It’s almost like a throwback. Glenn’s a throwback of just old-school hard work,” said Stock Watson, a childhood friend.
He’s been married to his wife, Suzanne, whom he calls “Suzie,” for 27 years, and the couple has four children, the oldest in his early 20s and the youngest in high school. He’s typically up before the sun.
“If you start checking your email at 7, there’s going to already be 10 emails, or 20, from Glenn,” said Caren Merrick, a friend and CEO of a nonprofit job training initiative the Youngkins founded last year.
Merrick also worships with the family at the nondenominational Holy Trinity Church, which the Youngkins helped found in the basement of their home with 12 people and has since grown to a much larger congregation with a brick-and-mortar location. Merrick said Glenn Youngkin’s faith “informs everything he does.”
According to Merrick, it was important to the Youngkins that the church offer an evangelical faith education course called Alpha, which Youngkin has said he’s taken and which got its start at the church Holy Trinity Brompton, which they attended when Carlyle took them to England.
In an interview, Youngkin said his faith impresses on him the importance of loving others and informs his view that the deeply divided country needs to come back together.
Asked in the same interview whether his faith shapes his view of same-sex marriage, Youngkin responded with a vagueness common in his answers to questions about policy. He reiterated that he feels “called to love everyone.” Pressed on whether that was intended to convey support for same-sex marriage, he responded: “No,” before saying that gay marriage was “legally acceptable” in Virginia and that “I, as governor, will support that.”
The interview, the first Youngkin’s campaign had granted to The Associated Press since he won the nomination, was cut off by campaign aides when the subject turned to his policy positions.
Youngkin often talks about his faith on the campaign trail, where he sports a small yellow bracelet with an inscription about prayer. At the recent rally in Chesterfield County, he quoted from Psalms.
He’s also used his religion to attack others. At the Chesterfield campaign stop, he slammed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam for allowing liquor stores to remain open but keeping churches closed early in the pandemic. “I knew he didn’t start the morning every day like I do, which is in prayer,” Youngkin said.
Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, called the remark “a new low.”
But overall, many voters say much of his appeal is in his kinder, softer approach to politics. He lingers at events, listening and asking questions of the voters who often crowd around him afterward.
“Just to talk to him, you feel like he has your interests at heart. He’s not a politician,” said Sue Bridenstine, who typically votes for Republicans and was at her fifth Youngkin rally in Chesterfield.
Some longtime observers say they haven’t seen a similar type of enthusiasm for a candidate for statewide office since the 1990s.
Gilbert, the GOP lawmaker who says he’s come around on Youngkin, said he sees that ability to connect with people as Youngkin’s best attribute. The shifting political winds from Washington aren’t hurting either, he said.
“This is going to be a historic effort when it’s all said and done,” he predicted.The post Blank slate to best hope: Can Youngkin rescue the Va. GOP? first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
GLENNS, Va. (AP) — The second and final debate in Virginia’s closely watched governor’s race had been underway for about 10 minutes when a woman started shouting from the audience.
“I worked very hard to be on the ballot. I should be up on the stage!” she yelled, as Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin stood by awkwardly and NBC News moderator Chuck Todd eventually called for security and went to a commercial break.
For Princess Blanding, disrupting the debate was all in a day’s work. Blanding, a Black activist and educator known for her dogged advocacy for racial justice and police reforms, is making a long-shot third-party bid for governor. She’s determined to make her presence in the race known, despite the structural hurdles of a two-party system.
When the debate sponsor told her she could sit in the audience but wouldn’t be allowed to participate — citing a long tradition of inviting only major-party candidates — Blanding said it felt like she was being told, “Yes, you can come and get on the bus like everybody else … but you’re going to sit in the back of the bus.”
“I came, I sat, I clapped and played right along, and when the time was right, I made my voice heard,” she said.
Blanding, 39, may not need to be on stage to leave her mark. Polls show the race between McAuliffe and Youngkin is tight, leaving Democrats worried that Blanding may siphon off enough votes to help Youngkin win.
Blanding says she’s not concerned with Democrats’ anxiety: “I’m their worst nightmare, but guess what? I’m my ancestors’ wildest dreams,” she said.
Blanding’s activism came to the forefront in 2018 after her brother, a 24-year-old high school biology teacher named Marcus-David Peters, was fatally shot by a Richmond police officer. Peters was experiencing a mental health crisis and ran naked and unarmed into rush-hour traffic. He ran toward an officer, threatening to kill him, before the officer shot him.
Blanding maintains that the officer — who said over his police radio that he was dealing with a “mentally unstable” man — should not have used lethal force. She led protest marches and pushed for criminal charges against the officer, but prosecutors found that the shooting was justified.
Blanding went on to push for legislation to establish an alert system to dispatch mental health providers along with police to help stabilize people in crisis situations. She also was a leading voice in the protest movement and demand for police reforms after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.
But neither the “Marcus Alert” law, named after her brother, nor the reforms went far enough for Blanding. She said it was then that she decided to start the new Liberation Party and run for governor as a third-party candidate.
“It was the continuous failure of the two-party system, especially the Democratic Party,” Blanding said in an interview with The Associated Press.
She rails against Democratic lawmakers who she says passed weak reforms after Floyd’s killing and rejected a bill that would have eliminated qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police from most lawsuits that stem from work performed in the line of duty.
During a ceremonial bill-signing for the Marcus Alert, Blanding slammed legislators for a law she believes gives police too much power when responding to calls involving people with mental health issues.
“Please take a moment to pat yourselves on the back for doing exactly what this racist, corrupt system … expected you all to do, make the Marcus Alert bill a watered-down, ineffective bill that will continue to ensure that having a mental health crisis results in a death sentence,” she said.
None of the three main sponsors of the legislation — Del. Jeff Bourne, Sen. Jeremy McPike and Sen. Jennifer McClellan — returned calls seeking comment on Blanding’s candidacy.
Phil Wilayto, a community organizer and activist with the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, says Blanding’s style is “passionate, at times, dramatic.”
”She’s motivated by an intense desire for justice for the people who have been denied justice, historically and in the present. That’s what her strength is; people see that. She’s the real thing,” Wilayto said.
Running for political office was not something Blanding envisioned for herself. Raised by an aunt in Newburgh, New York, Blanding was one of 16 siblings and grew up wanting to become a pediatrician.
During college, she had her first child. After she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology, she worked three jobs, including as a substitute teacher, an experience that would lead her toward a career in education. She taught middle school science and later became an assistant principal.
Gyna Jones, a friend who attended Morgan State University with Blanding, said she was a fierce advocate even then as a student, recalling a time when a multiday power outage caused the food in her refrigerator to spoil. Jones, who had two young children, said she was receiving public assistance and called the local social services agency to see if she could get additional food stamps to replace the spoiled food, but was told she’d have to wait until the following month.
Blanding took over.
“She called them right up and said, ‘My sister lost all her food during the outage, and she needs her food back,’” Jones recalled. “They replaced the food stamps that we lost.”
Blanding, now a single mother of three daughters, ages 20, 13 and 5, works as a science teacher at a middle school in Alexandria, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) from her home in Middlesex County on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula. Her round-trip commute through metro Washington traffic congestion in northern Virginia often takes about eight hours a day, but she said the driving and long days are worth it so she can earn a livable salary to support her family.
Blanding contrasts her life experiences with those of her opponents, McAuliffe, Virginia’s former governor, and Youngkin, a former top executive at a private equity firm.
“I’m watching and I’m listening to these two privileged millionaires speak about how to address the issues that are felt in our most marginalized communities, and they can’t relate,” Blanding said. “You haven’t been here. You don’t know what it’s like.”
Blanding has raised a small fraction of what her opponents have — about $30,200, compared to nearly $44.5 million by McAuliffe and $42.3 million by Youngkin. But she appears to have built up a loyal following among college students and people who participated in last year’s racial justice protests in Richmond.
She said she’s taken a three-month leave of absence from her teaching job to focus on the campaign, “meeting people where they are” by knocking on doors and attending festivals, outdoor markets and other events. Her audiences tend to be on the smaller side, from about 30 to 75 people.
Lawrence West Jr., founder of the Richmond chapter of Black Lives Matter, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Blanding is able to capture 5% of the vote.
“I see her as a leader of the new age, what America is moving toward,” West said.
“She is somebody who kind of says, ‘Look, it’s not about Democrats, it’s not about Republicans … let’s try to build some equity, let’s try to create some diversity, let’s try to include people.’ She really believes that, and she really stands behind that,” he said.
UPDATE FROM VINTON POLICE: Vinton, VA -An arrest has been made in connection with the homicide of Gary McMiller that took place on October 11, 2021, at 809 Hardy Rd. The individual was taken into custody on October 21, 2021,by the Roanoke City Police Department. The suspect has been charged with:1) Murder in the commission of Robbery2) Attempted Robbery3) Use of Firearm in the commission of Robbery. Pursuant to Virginia Code 2.2-3706, no additional information canbe released on the suspect. The Vinton Police is continuing the investigation to determine the identities of two additional suspects .If you have information please contact (540) 283-7034
PREVIOUS: Vinton, VA–The malicious wounding that took place on October 11, 2021, at 809 Hardy Rd is now being investigated as a Homicide, as the victim of this incident, Gary McMiller, 38, of Vinton has succumbed to his injury. Detectives with the Vinton Police Department have been in contact with the Roanoke County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office with the details of this case. No arrests have been made at this time. No further information regarding the details of this incident is available at this time.
Information regarding the incident is asked to call the Vinton Police Department at (540) 283-7034. Vinton, VA-On October 11, 2021, at 9:39 PM officers of the Vinton Police Department responded to a Malicious Wounding at 809 Hardy Road, in regards to reports of a person with a gunshot wound. Responding officers located an adult male inside the establishment with what appeared to be a gunshot wound. A preliminary investigation indicates that a shooting took place in the parking lot of the aforementioned address. The suspected vehicle, a silver sedan, fled the scene prior to officers’ arrival.
No suspects have been located at this time. The male was transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital for treatment. Detectives with the Criminal Investigations Division are still actively working to determine the circumstances that led up to the shooting. This matter remains under investigation and no further information is currently available for release. Information regarding the incident is asked to call the Vinton Police Department at (540) 283-7034.
PREVIOUS: Vinton, VA -On October 11, 2021, at 9:39 PM officers of the Vinton Police Department responded to a Malicious Wounding at 809 Hardy Road, in regards to reports of a person with a gunshot wound. Responding officers located an adult male inside the establishment with what appeared to be a gunshot wound. A preliminary investigation indicates that a shooting took place in the parking lot of the aforementioned address. The suspected vehicle, a silver sedan, fled the scene prior to officers’ arrival. No suspects have been located at this time. The male was transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital for treatment. Detectives with the Criminal Investigations Division are still actively working to determine the circumstances that led up to the shooting. This matter remains under investigation and no further information is currently available for release. Information regarding the incident is asked to call the Vinton Police Department at (540)283-7034.The post Suspect arrested, others sought, for Vinton McDonald’s fatal shooting first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
Home sales continue to set records in the Roanoke Valley, both in number and average price. Here are the numbers: 4,962 listed homes sold this year through September, and that is up about 6% over the same period last year. The average sales price for the first nine months is about $290,000, about 5% higher than for all of 2020. The high numbers continue even as the number of homes on the market continues to be historically low. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:Area home sales numbers, prices continue to set records first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman – and former Virginia Tech Hokie – Christian Darrisaw took advantage of a bye week for his NFL team and returned to the Ronald McDonald House of Southwest Virginia to deliver a personal check for $10,000 today. Last year Darrisaw became an Ambassador for Ronald McDonald House, which provides temporary living spaces for those in the valley while a child receives medical care. Ronald McDonald House is also seeking donated supplies as it reopens in phases after being shuttered last year during the height of the pandemic.
The post Former Hokie gives back to Ronald McDonald House first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
(Statement from Virginia State Vaccination Liaison Dr. Danny Avula on CDC Recommendation of Moderna, J&J Booster Doses and ‘Mixing and Matching’) (Richmond, Va.) – On October 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced recommendations for booster shots for certain people who previously received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines. Virginians will be able to receive boosters for Moderna and J&J beginning today.
For individuals who received either a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, a single booster is recommended at least six months after completion of their initial series for those populations who are 65 years of age and older, those living in long-term care facilities, and those 18 years of age and up who are at increased risk due to underlying medical conditions or where they work or live. A single booster is recommended at least two months after completion of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines for those 18 years of age and up.
The CDC also announced that there are now booster recommendations for all three available vaccines in the United States. Those individuals eligible for a booster vaccine may choose which vaccine to receive as their booster. Further guidance from the CDC in the coming days to help individuals understand these recommendations is expected.
The following statement is from Virginia’s State Vaccination Liaison Dr. Danny Avula, MD, MPH.
“VDH has been working with our vaccination partners — pharmacies, healthcare providers, hospitals and other institutions — to prepare for the booster rollout. In addition to these vaccination partners, Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) are strategically located across the Commonwealth to ensure Virginians will be able to access a booster dose when it’s recommended. The move by the CDC to allow vaccine recipients to ‘mix and match’ vaccines for their boosters gives Virginians another level of choice in protecting themselves from COVID-19.
“If you decide to get a booster dose by mixing and matching, VDH urges you to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider who can assist you in making the best decision for your own situation. We also stress that all three vaccines authorized for administration in the United States are highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death.”The post VA Vaccine coordinator of CDC “mix and match” advisory first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
Virginia Tech-Carilion School of Medicine students who are also members of the Refugee and Immigrant Medical Association are raising money via an art auction that starts this Sunday – “An Afghan Crisis Fundraiser.” The story from WFIR’s Gene Marrano:An Afghan Crisis Fundraiser organized by Med. School students first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
The state Supreme Court must now determine how redistricting in Virginia will be conducted — and who will do it. This comes after a voter-approved redistricting commission gave up any hope this week of doing so itself. Virginia Tech Political Science Professor and WFIR Political Analyst Bob Denton says the commission was doomed to fail because of its structure, one he calls “just like witnessing the construction of Frankenstein with duct tape.” He spoke with WFIR’s Evan Jones:VT prof says redistricting commission was built like “Frankenstein with duct tape” first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
Virginia’s ABC has sometimes joined retailers large and small for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales right after Thanksgiving, but there is no decision yet regarding this November. Officials say it is not so much a matter of intent but more of whether popular liquor products will all be available. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more in this News Extra:
The post Shortages may imperil ABC Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading
You may not know his face but many will recognize his voice from animated series like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pinky from Animaniacs, Jimmy Neutron and The Land Before Time. Rob Paulsen has made a living as the voice of 250-plus animated characters and has voiced over 1000 commercials. This weekend he’s at Sonic-Con on the Liberty University campus, a hands-on convention for aspiring voice-over professionals. Sonic-Con 2021 starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday; it ends with an Animanics concert accompanied by the Liberty Symphony Orchestra. See the Sonic-Con website for tickets and information, or the link below:
The post A familiar voice – if not a face, at Sonic-Con this weekend first appeared on News/Talk 960-AM & FM-107.3 WFIR. Continue Reading