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A Virginia tragedy unfolds

There are several definitions of a tragedy. One common in Greek drama is when a prominent person, often because of their own failings, is brought down from their lofty perch. However, common in these human dramas, is the sympathy the writer makes the audience feel for the main character. They often have many redeeming qualities, and their demise, true to the meaning of a tragedy, is something that leaves the

audience sobered and saddened.

This definition of a tragedy to a large extent defines our Governor, Bob McDonnell. He is in the midst of scandal. It could even lead to a resignation or indictment. It’s a sad business and it is particularly so because Governor McDonnell, more so than many of his predecessors, leaves behind an impressive record as Virginia’s Chief Executive. Four years ago, I didn’t vote for McDonnell, I am too much of a Democrat for that, but during his nearly four years in office, he has surprised me. He has been a good governor. My Democratic friends may cringe at that comment, but in looking at his record, he has done well. Unfortunately, though, as revelations about the scandal involving Star Scientific widen, much of this is likely to be forgotten. But, that is the nature of a tragedy.

During his term as governor he accomplished more to improve our aging transportation infrastructure than any other state chief executive during the past 25 years. McDonnell pushed and pushed. He would send a transportation plan to the legislature, lobby for it, and then see it go down to defeat. But he never stopped trying. Finally, with a mix of increasing the sales tax and eliminating the gas tax he hit on the magic combination that was able to make it through the General Assembly. It wasn’t popular with many in his own party, but that didn’t stop him. Thanks to his persistence we can finally make the long term investments in our roads and mass transit the Commonwealth so desperately needs. We’ll see the benefits in the Fredericksburg region and in the Northern Neck.

McDonnell became governor during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Working with his able Lieutenant Governor, Bill Bolling, he made it his business to do everything he could to bring jobs to Virginia. His record in terms of attracting new firms to the Commonwealth and in the number of jobs created is impressive. He also leaves behind a good record in education. McDonnell, more so than most Republican governors in the Commonwealth, took a passionate interest in education. His support for teacher pay raises and his Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative have made a real difference.

These accomplishments should be what the public remembers when the Governor leaves office next year. But, in all likelihood, that’s not going to be McDonnell’s legacy. The scandal over gifts and favors from Star Scientific, and its sleazy owner, Johnnie Johnson, to McDonnell and his family, just keeps growing. It probably isn’t going to end well. Even if the governor avoids criminal penalties and is able to serve out his term, the damage to his reputation is already done. And that, because this administration had so much to be proud of, is the tragedy.

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