<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - First Read]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.comen-usWed, 16 Aug 2017 22:11:49 -0400Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:11:49 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Republicans Announce New Nominee for Va. House Seat]]> Wed, 16 Aug 2017 05:53:43 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Virginia+Flag+shutterstock_144084445.jpg

Virginia Republicans have announced a new state House candidate to run in a Democratic-leaning district. 

GOP House Speaker William J. Howell announced that Navy veteran Mike Mackee is the party's nominee to run in the district that includes parts of Prince William County and Stafford County. 

The district is currently held by Republican Del. Mark Dudenhefer, who is not seeking re-election. The previous Republican candidate, Laquan Austion, withdrew from the race earlier this month after overstating his academic accomplishments.



Photo Credit: Ufuk ZIVANA, Shutterstock.com]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. Teachers Get New Union Contract, Raise]]> Mon, 14 Aug 2017 19:46:17 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc-flag-shutterstock_206336774.jpg

Washington, D.C. teachers are headed back to school this year with a long-sought new union contract offer -- including the union's first base pay raises since 2012.

That was the last year that the Washington Teachers Union members had a contract. Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson and WTU President Elizabeth Davis announced a tentative agreement.

The new deal would give teachers a 4 percent retroactive raise in fiscal 2017, a 3 percent raise in 2018 and a 2 percent raise in 2019.

The two sides also agreed on additional benefits and to keep talking about issues that concern each side, including extended-year schools, according to a press release from Bowser's office.

The tentative agreement must be approved by union members. They were emailed the deal Monday morning at 8 a.m.; they will have two weeks to review it. Teachers also will be able to visit locations set up by the union to answer any questions about the agreement.

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<![CDATA[Karl Racine Accepted Thousands in Illegal Contributions]]> Tue, 08 Aug 2017 10:58:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Attorney+General+Karl+Racine.jpg

The District’s top law enforcement official accepted thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and is now the focus of a review by the DC Office of Campaign Finance. DC Attorney General Karl Racine’s 2014 campaign accepted at least $3,500 in excessive contributions, according to a review of records by News 4.

Contributions to candidates for Attorney General are limited by law to $1,500.

Since News4 brought the illegal donations to the attention of the OCF and Racine, the attorney general’s campaign has repaid $3,500 to four donors, including Home Depot’s political action committee and AT&T. Three individuals also received refunds.

A senior advisor to the Racine campaign who did not want to be identified by name told News4 in an email, "As soon as the oversight was pointed out, it was reviewed quickly, and once validated, refunds were issued within 24 hours."

This comes two months after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s campaign was fined $13,000 for accepting $11,000 in illegal contributions. The Bowser campaign also refunded those donations.

When asked if the Racine campaign was facing any fines, an OCF representative told News4 the matter is still under review by that office.

“Pursuant to your inquiry, the Office of Campaign Finance re-examined the Reports of Receipts & Expenditures filed by the Karl Racine for AG principal campaign committee, spokesman Wesley Williams said in a statement.

"The examination of the reports shows that there may have been five (5) excessive contributions. This resulted in the issuance of a Request For Additional Information (RFAI) to the committee to which we received a response. Additionally, the most recent report filed by the committee (the July 31st R&E Report) shows refunds of contributions questioned by you, included. However, the matter remains under inquiry," Williams continued.

Racine, who has been rumored to be considering challenging Bowser for the mayor’s office, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any businesses that donate to District political campaigns from seeking contracts with the District government.

News4 has submitted requests to OCF for 2 D.C. Council candidates who, from a review of their campaign filings, also appear to have accepted excessive donations. OCF is reviewing those records.

Racine’s campaign issued the following refunds:

AT&T: $250.00
Home Depot PAC: $1,500
Clifford Barnes: $250.00
Chester Burrell: $500.00
Jeff Guimond: $1,000 

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington]]>
<![CDATA[Holmes Norton Hosting Job Fair Wed.]]> Wed, 02 Aug 2017 11:15:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_644944735.jpg

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is hosting her annual job fair Wednesday, featuring employers from D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

The fair is open to D.C. residents only at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (801 Mt. Vernon Place NW) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Opportunities are available from nonprofits, private businesses, retail, restaurants and hotels, construction companies, the federal government and county governments, and more, according to Holmes Norton's website.

Attendees don't need to register in advance.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Delaney Enters Presidential Race Early to Connect to Voters]]> Tue, 01 Aug 2017 19:34:54 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Rep_Delaney_Entered_Presidential_Race_Early_to_Connect_With.jpg

Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., got a jump on the race for the White House. He told News4's Chris Lawrence he got in early to start listening to voters’ concerns and build his national name recognition.

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<![CDATA[Angela Alsobrooks Running for Prince George's Co. Exec]]> Fri, 28 Jul 2017 18:09:43 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/030816+angela+alsobrooks.jpg

Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks is running for county executive.

She posted an invitation to her Monday announcement of her candidacy on Facebook Friday morning.

Alsobrooks was elected state's attorney in 2010. She started as a assistant state's attorney in 1997 afer graduating from University of Maryland Law School. She would become the county's first prosecutor assigned to handle domestic violence cases full time.

The incumbent county executive, Rushern Baker, is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Last month, State Sen. C. Anthony Muse said he is running for Prince George's County executive. (Editor's Note: Muse is married to News4 anchor Pat Lawson-Muse.)



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<![CDATA[Soccer in Spain: D.C. Girls Could Go on Life-Changing Trip]]> Wed, 26 Jul 2017 19:51:15 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Soccer_in_Spain_DC_Girls_Could_Go_on_Life_Changing_Trip.jpg

As many as 40 girls from D.C. public schools could travel to Spain to learn soccer skills next year as part of a new partnership with the FC Barcelona team. The girls will have to try out to win a spot -- and will have to meet academic standards to qualify. News4's Mark Segraves reports.

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<![CDATA[Transgender Candidate Takes on Culture Warrior in Virginia ]]> Tue, 25 Jul 2017 05:56:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/armus-danica-roem.jpg

She's a transgender woman and an experienced journalist who sings in a metal band in her spare time. 

He has sponsored some of the most socially conservative legislation in Virginia in the past 25 years, including a measure this year that would have restricted the bathrooms transgender people can use. 

Democrat Danica Roem is challenging Republican Bob Marshall for his northern Virginia seat in the state House of Delegates. With such stark differences between the candidates, the race is expected to draw in big money and is seen by some as a referendum on rights for gay and transgender people. 

Roem would be the first openly transgender candidate to win and serve in a state legislature, according to the Victory Fund, a political action committee that supports her and calls Marshall "the most anti-LGBTQ member of the Virginia state legislature.'' 

"Danica Roem is a leader in a national movement of trans candidates who are determined to become a voice for their community in the halls of power,'' said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the organization. 

In an interview and through emails, Marshall defended his record and said he respects every person "because we are all made in our Creator's image.'' 

"I'm not trying to tell people like Danica, formally Dan, how to live their life, and likewise they should not be forcing their views and behaviors on the rest of us,'' Marshall, 73, wrote in one message. 

Roem handily won a four-way primary in June and is part of a surge of young, first-time candidates Democrats hope will help it retake control of the GOP-led chamber for the first time in nearly two decades. 

Campaign finance reports show she's off to a strong fundraising start. Roem raised $151,487 in the first six months of the year, compared with Marshall's $18,564, leaving her with about $9,000 less than Marshall on hand after expenses. 

Marshall was prohibited from fundraising when the legislature was in session during the first two months of the year. 

During a recent interview, Roem, 32, energetically rattled off stats about issues like zoning and land use, topics she covered while reporting for two Virginia newspapers. She quit to campaign full time and said it's hard now to find time with her band, Cab Ride Home, which has played shows in the Midwest, along the East Coast and in Europe. 

Roem started pursuing therapy to begin her gender transition when she was 28. While she talks openly about it - saying transitioning "fundamentally altered my life for the better'' - she'd rather focus on local issues: jobs, schools and improving one of the area's most congested thoroughfares. 

Marshall has spent too much time on social policy, she argues.

He authored a now-void constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. He sponsored a bill banning gay people from openly serving in the Virginia National Guard. This year, he unsuccessfully pushed a bill that would have generally prohibited people from using a bathroom of the opposite sex in government-owned buildings. 

But Marshall pointed out he's authored 60-plus bills and studies that have become law. Among them: prohibiting warrantless searches of cellphones and computers and streamlining the paperwork for doing business in Virginia. 

He's also tangled with his own party, often over government transparency. 

"So many times in Richmond, it's maintain the status quo, 'Don't do this, don't bring this up,''' Marshall said. 

Recently, the two candidates took opposing positions before the Prince William County School Board as it weighed whether to expand its nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity and sexual orientation. The board approved the expansion last month after extensive debate. 

Jeannie and Darin Lowder, whose children attend Prince William County Public Schools, said before the board's vote that they plan to vote for Marshall largely because of his unwavering support for parents like them, who didn't want to see the nondiscrimination policy expanded. 

That kind of constituent connection could help Marshall, who is an "institution'' in the district, said Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University. 

But Manassas resident Hope Vella, who is gay, said Roem has her vote, in part because she was inspired to see someone being unapologetically herself and running on an inclusive platform. 

"If you're not like me, you're disposable'' seems to be the prevailing attitude in politics, said Vella, who was moved to tears when she met Roem. 

Since Marshall was first elected in 1991, the district, which covers Manassas and Prince William County, has become more populous, diverse and left-leaning politically. In November, it was one of 17 Republican-controlled House districts Hillary Clinton won over Donald Trump in the presidential race. 

"The district is changing...and at some point he's likely to be defeated,'' University of Mary Washington political science professor Stephen Farnsworth said. "We'll see depending on the campaign whether this year is that year.''



Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jaffe: DC Police Find Guns, Assault Weapons in Storage Unit]]> Thu, 20 Jul 2017 15:02:59 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170720+DC+Guns.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

The nation’s capital is hip-deep in illegal firearms, and that’s not counting the three semi-automatic, long-barrel assault weapons cops recovered last week on South Capitol Street, a block north of Nationals Park.

During the second week of July, police recovered 30 guns, including those three that might be capable of killing crowds of people, according to its regular report. Adding up gun recoveries, I found an average weekly harvest of 30 guns, which comes to 1,560 a year.

"That’s low," D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham tells me.

Our freshly-minted top cop has made gun recovery a priority since he took over the department last September.

"We recovered 1,870 firearms last year and 1,130 already this year," he says. "We’re on a pace to get more."

Whoopee?

Chicago claims to recover more guns than any other city. Actually, D.C. police bring in more weaponry on a per-capita basis. The University of Chicago Crime Lab reported that 6,644 guns were recovered in the Windy City last year. With a population if 2.7 million, Chicago is four times larger than D.C. So our 1,870 guns top Chicago, relative to population.

News that cops are taking more illegal firearms off the streets and out of the hands of criminals cuts both ways. I applaud Newsham for grabbing random guns, but I also see an unending supply of firearms available to people with ill intent.

Newsham has fingered Virginia as the source of D.C.’s ill-gotten arsenal. With some of the most lax gun control regulations in the nation, it’s easier to score a Glock-19 in the Old Dominion than it is to buy a BMW X1. At least a car dealer asks for a driver’s license. Pass a background check and off you go with a handgun – or semi-automatic rifle.

Most troubling for me in last week’s haul were the three assault weapons. In addition to assorted semi-automatic pistols and the occasional snub-nosed revolver, police recovered one Colt AR15, an Anderson Manufacturing AM15 and a Smith & Wesson M&P 15.

Each is fit more for the streets of Mosul than South Capitol Street, where they were found. The “M&P” on the Smith & Wesson stands for “military and police.” Each has the capacity for a 30-round magazine.

“These weapons have the ability to shoot multiple rounds in quick succession,” Newsham said. “They can go through car doors, dry wall, glass. They use the type of round that can go through the target and keep travelling as far as a mile.”

The chief was not eager to talk about the three semi-automatic rifles, their provenance or destination.

“They are under investigation,” he said.

So I pulled the police report.

Officer Qasim Thomas – assisted by three other officers and a crime scene technician – arrived at the Public Storage building near Nationals Park just after 4:30 pm on Thursday, July 13. I am assuming they were operating on a tip, because they went directly to a locker and popped the lock.

Inside they found clothing, a gun sling, “mail matter” – and the three assault weapons. And 40 rounds of ammunition.

The cops left a copy of the search warrant with the attendant and left with the guns.

Keep in mind this storage unit is within sight of the U.S. Capitol, two miles up the road. A Bryce Harper home run from the top of the building might reach the lights of Nationals Park.

I pressed Newsham on the obvious question.

“There is absolutely nothing to tie these weapons to a terrorist,” he said. And that’s all he would say.

Leaves you with a queasy feeling, right?

So thanks to the hard-working cops who disarm gun-wielding thugs and chase down tips to basements or bedroom closets or storage lockers stuffed with weaponry.

And I promise to chase down the source of the three assault weapons. More to come.



Photo Credit: Metropolitan Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Potomac River Section Closed When Trump Is Golfing in Va.]]> Mon, 17 Jul 2017 20:23:15 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/071717+kayakers.jpg

If President Donald Trump is at his golf courses in Virginia, don't expect to be able to paddle down the Potomac River nearby.

A new rule issued by the United States Coast Guard allows a section of the river spanning more than 2 miles to be closed before, after and during events held at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia.

Hundreds of people use the river every day, including kayakers, summer campers, those with nonprofit groups and those with small businesses that rent gear.

Susan Sherrod, the chairwoman of the Canoe Cruisers Association, said she was outraged by the new rule.

"It just seems blatantly unfair that Trump shuts everything down so he can have a nice day playing golf, and the rest of us are just out of luck," she said.

Matt Markoff of the outdoor adventure nonprofit Calleva Outdoors, was worried about the logistical impacts.

"One of my main concerns is having a group that's on the other side of the security zone, and the end of the day comes and it's time for them to come back and get on buses and go home, and they can't pass through the security zone and I can't get them around," he said.

According to the Coast Guard, officials already have set up temporary security zones around the club five times since March, at the request of the Secret Service. Boaters said those security zones were smaller and did not require boaters to leave the water.

Adam Van Grack, an attorney for USA Canoe/Kayak, said the president's security is key, but the new rule goes too far.

"We're talking about a multiple-mile stretch of river, from bank to bank, and essentially not giving any limits to their rights to do it," he said.

Many people who use the river are hoping a compromise can be reached.

The Coast Guard is accepting public comment on the rule through August 9.



Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Protests Were Growing in DC Even Before 2017]]> Fri, 14 Jul 2017 15:19:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/MarchCrop.jpg

Dana Fisher has spent recent weekends zigzagging through crowds of lab coat wearers and pussy hat knitters gathered on and around the National Mall. She has been collecting data on protesters, and what she has found is that the 2017 protester is part of a new -- and growing -- breed.

Fisher, a professor at the University of Maryland who studies protests, said these protesters are more likely to be new to protest and more likely to support a broad base of liberal ideals.

They are also more likely to return for more protests, which might help explain why the number of protests happening in Washington, D.C. is on the rise.

A new audit of the Metropolitan Police Department found that the District hosted approximately 2,436 marches between 2014 and 2016. That number does not include protests under the supervision of the U.S. Capitol Police or National Parks Service -- including events on the National Mall.

Each year, more protests were reported than the year prior. 


Just Friday, protesters gathered at the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax and began a walk to the Department of Justice in D.C. They plan to rally in D.C. Saturday.

They were organized as part of the movement that also led to the Women's March on Washington the day after President Trump's election.

It's part of a persistent protest movement, Fisher said. “And it’s growing,” she added.

The recently released audit data does not include information on the number of protests that have happened in 2017. But Fisher said she knows the numbers are still going up, and fast.

Since Inauguration Day, the Women’s March, the March for Science, the March for Truth and others have flooded the District. According to Fisher, the National Parks Service has seen a significant increase in the number of requested permits this year.

The presidential election is likely the explanation for the uptake in protests reported during 2016, when former President Obama was still in office. Fisher said her research shows that peak protest times for 2016 were in November and December, in the time immediately before election day and in the period between the election and inauguration.

With all that protesting, D.C. Police have had plenty of experience monitoring the crowds. “We are there to make sure the peace is maintained,” said D.C. Police Assistant Chief Jeffery Carroll, who heads the Homeland Security Bureau, which includes the Special Operations Division.

The SOD is responsible for public safety during protests and other events that D.C. law defines as "First Amendment activities."

He said that all D.C. officers receive at least one week of First Amendment activity training at the police academy. Some officers, including those in SOD and some in patrol units, receive even more training for protest monitoring. 

When a protest happens, Carroll said an appropriate number of officers are deployed to monitor the situation without alarming protesters. Specially trained officers are called in from their individual patrol units if more officers are required.

Carroll said most protesters are peaceful. Police responsibilities are mainly focused on making sure people can move about safely, especially during large gatherings such as the Women's March.

“We talk a lot about demonstrations,” Carroll said. “But in the large [gatherings] there is a large concern about crowd management.”

Carroll said many of the protests that D.C. Police respond to are on the smaller side, with 100-200 attendees.

While the number of large protests did increase between 2015 and 2016, the number did not rise between 2014 and 2015. Mid-size protests featuring 25 to 999 protesters saw the largest increase.

Carroll said D.C. Police look to other departments to learn more about how to best manage protest situations -- and that D.C. often serves as a model.

“We have a lot of different agencies that have reached out to us over the years,” Carroll said. “We are very unique here in how we handle demonstrations, and I would venture to say that our officers are some of the best trained officers in the world.”

For Fisher, who came to D.C. with the hope of observing protests, protest activity is a part of D.C.'s identity. 

“Protests are one of the main ways that citizens express their opinions,” Fisher said. “And when they want to do that they go to Washington.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA['NRA2DOJ' Marchers Rally at Justice Department]]> Sat, 15 Jul 2017 10:46:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/071417+nra+march+aerials+2.jpg

Demonstrators calling for the National Rifle Association to respond to the Philando Castile trial verdict held a rally at the Department of Justice on Saturday after an 18-mile march on Friday.

Hundreds of participants in the demonstration, which was organized by the group behind the Women's March on Washington, gathered for a rally outside NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, at 10 a.m. Friday. They were met by a small group of sign-holding gun rights supporters.

Then, they set out for D.C. as temperatures topped 90 degrees

The hundreds of participants marched on the sidewalk along Lee Highway (Route 29) in Virginia, then over the Key Bridge into D.C., through Georgetown, into downtown D.C. and along Pennsylvania Avenue. The protesters had to take a break from marching when thunderstorms rolled through the area in the late afternoon.

"We're here today to tell the NRA that they have a powerful platform and they should be using the platform to ensure that its members understand the challenges that people of color, particularly black men and women, are facing in this country," said Tamika Mallory, co-president of Women's March Inc.

The NRA has responded to march and rally in a series of tweets:

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"The truth is that gun control laws harm those willing to follow the law more than they harm those willing to break it," the NRA said in an article on Medium.

The article goes on to state, "Not every woman in America will choose to protect themselves by owning or carrying a gun — and that’s ok. But when that choice comes under attack by the very people claiming to march for women’s rights? Or when those same people say that women must subscribe to gun control to be a true feminist? That’s when we have a problem."

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Demonstrator Polly Peters marched carrying a sign with no words, only the face of a young woman. The woman was her niece, Sarah Wayson, who was shot and killed by her boyfriend when she was 29. Almost eight years have passed since Peters' niece was murdered, but tears still pour down her face when she speaks about her death.

"This is my niece. She was born and raised in Annapolis," Peters said.

She begged for more gun restrictions.

"I'm old, but there's going to be no peace in my life if there isn't a change in the gun laws," she said.

The demonstration Friday was timed to coincide with protests held on the 14th of every month outside NRA headquarters. That date marks the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre.

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Protester Jim Sollo said that as he marched, he thought of a young employee of his who was shot in 1993 by the "shotgun stalker" who terrorized the D.C. neighborhoods Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant, killing four people and wounding 10 others.

"He heard these voices that told him to kill people, and we went about doing it," Sollo said as he paused in Arlington, Virginia, along the march route. "Those situations happen in this country because it's so easy to get guns."

At NRA headquarters, some counterprotesters shared common ground with protesters. Some of their signs mourned the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting

Counterprotester Fred Diven, who is part of a gun rights group in Annapolis called Patriot Picket, said the country does not have a gun problem.

"If the person has violence in their body, they're going to have a gun, they're going to have a bat, they're going to use a car and try to run over a police officer or run it into a group of people," he said. "We have a societal problem, not a gun problem."


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<![CDATA[Sen. Sanders Endorses Ben Jealous for Maryland Governor]]> Thu, 13 Jul 2017 13:21:57 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-610996698.jpg

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has endorsed former NAACP chairman Ben Jealous for Maryland governor. 

Sanders endorsed Jealous at an event in Silver Spring on Thursday. 

Jealous, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, was the Maryland co-chairman of the senator's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for president against Hillary Clinton last year. 

Sanders says Jealous has had a lifetime of courageous activism and can speak to every community. He says Jealous has proposed a progressive agenda that can bring together working people across the political spectrum and create change. 

Sanders also says the most important thing that can be done to battle Republican President Donald Trump's agenda is to elect strong progressive leaders at every level of government.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Corey Stewart to Run for Senate in Virginia]]> Thu, 13 Jul 2017 12:43:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20160607+Corey+Stewart1.jpg

Virginia Republican Corey Stewart announced Thursday that he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, challenging former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine for his seat.

Stewart revealed his plans at his historic home in Woodbridge.

Stewart told Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey he's starting so early to tap into the many donors nationwide he says are interested in trying to "knock off" Kaine.

"It's going to take a lot of money to remove him, but there is a lot of interest in removing him," Stewart said. 

Stewart said if he becomes the GOP nominee, he's "going to be running a ruthless campaign against Tim Kaine."

"I'm a fighter. It's going to be a vicious race," Stewart added.  

In June, the Prince William County Board chairman almost pulled off an upset of Ed Gillespie in his bid to become the GOP nominee for Governor. Stewart only lost by about one percentage point.

The next day, Stewart said he might challenge Kaine for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

It's unknown who else Stewart might face for the GOP nomination, but there has been speculation that both former Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham could be interested in trying to challenge Kaine.

Stewart said he'd be the strongest GOP candidate because of his proven ability to win in northern Virginia in an important bellwether county -- Prince William.

"I almost won Loudoun County," said Stewart. "I understand what it takes to win here. I've done it (won Prince William) four times in a row countywide. No other Republican candidate considering running for the Senate can say that." 

Already some Republicans are critical of Stewart's decision to put a spotlight on the Senate race at the same time as Gillespie's GOP ticket is working to get voter attention on its 2017 campaign.

Bearing Drift's Jim Hoeft writes, "This is the time for Ed Gillespie, Jill Vogel, and John Adams. These constant Stewart interventions in which he hopes to maintain a degree of relevance are tedious and tiresome. What he really ought to be doing is discussing how awesome this Republican ticket is."

When asked about whether President Trump's unpopularity in Virginia could be a drag on him, Stewart said he believes as time goes on the economy will improve, tax cuts and health care reform will take effect, and Trump's image will improve.

Stewart served as Trump's Virginia campaign chairman, but was fired by the campaign last October for publicly clashing with the RNC over what he felt was its lack of support for Trump in the commonwealth.

Senator Kaine has been a vocal critic of the president, and has suggested the investigation into Trump's potential ties to Russia could be moving into the territory of treason.



Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[DC Bids to Host 2022 Gay Games]]> Wed, 12 Jul 2017 17:46:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GayGames1.jpg

While Los Angeles is bidding for the 2024 Olympic games, Washington, D.C., is making its own bid for games of a different kind.

D.C. is a finalist to host the 2022 Gay Games, a sporting event that aims to promote inclusivity and awareness of the LGBTQ people. The games could attract as many as 15,000 participants, planners say.

"Not only does it allow visibility of our community to a wider audience, but I think it opens up a greater self-awareness within our own community," said Brent Minor, the chair of the D.C. bid committee. "One of the great benefits is that it helps to break down the stereotypes of LGBTQ folks playing sports."

D.C. was selected in February, along with Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico, as one of three finalist cities for the 2022 games. 

If the District is selected for the games, venues around the area, including the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the University of Maryland and the George Washington University, will host events.

Gallaudet University is also a proposed venue, which Minor said helps emphasize the games' commitment to the deaf and hard of hearing community.

"This is the first time in the history of the games that I can recall that this has been a central part of outreach," he said.

Anyone can participate in the games, regardless of sexuality or gender identity. In fact, Minor said that about 15 percent of participants do not identify as being a part of the LGBTQ community.

"Some are surprised when they see that some of our teams are very competitive," Minor said. "A true sportsman, that's what [competitors are] really looking for. They don't care who they sleep with; they just want to go out there and have a good tennis partner or a good soccer team."

Minor has been to six Gay Games and has competed in five of them. He said the games attract all sorts of people and help spread messages of inclusivity and self-confidence.

In recent weeks, the committee sponsoring the D.C. bid hosted several events for the Federation of Gay Games site inspection committee, including a rally at the National Museum of the American Indian and a gathering at D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's home.

Bowser has been a supporter of the D.C. bid, stating in a letter in support of the bid that "when so many things in the world divide us, events like the Gay Games bring us together and give us the opportunity to celebrate our differences while recognizing our many similarities."

Minor said he hopes D.C. will serve as a venue to attract more participants and spectators to the games.

"We're a very accessible city and I think it will draw more people," Minor said. "And getting more people there, the message is spread to a greater audience."

The Gay Games have taken place every four years since 1982, making the July 2022 games the 11th event.

The next games will be hosted in Paris in 2018. The D.C. committee will make its final presentation at the Paris event, where the host of the next games will be announced, Minor said.



Photo Credit: Marvin Bowser]]>
<![CDATA[FBI HQ Decision: Winners & Losers]]> Tue, 11 Jul 2017 18:54:18 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Winners_Losers_in_FBI_HQ_Decision.jpg

Robert McCartney, who covers politics and policy in the D.C. area for The Washington Post, talks about the winners and losers in the wake of the GSA's decision to not move the FBI's headquarters.

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<![CDATA[DC Pot Arrests Nearly Tripled in 2016, Despite Legalization]]> Tue, 11 Jul 2017 18:48:32 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/pot+generic.PNG

Arrests for both the public use and distribution of marijuana in Washington, D.C. nearly tripled in 2016 and are on track to remain high in 2017.

The Washington Post reported that Metropolitan Police records show more than 400 people were arrested in 2016 for public consumption, up from 142 arrests in 2015, when marijuana use was legalized. Records show that 78 people had been arrested for public use as of April 5.

Arrests for distribution rose from 80 in 2015 to 220 in 2016. Records show that 79 people had been arrested for distribution as of April 5.

Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck says that legalization has led to more arrests for public consumption, as smoking marijuana outside remains illegal. Sternbeck says police are focusing drug enforcement efforts on illegal sales.



Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Metro Fare Evaders Could Get Lighter Penalties Under Bill]]> Tue, 11 Jul 2017 18:55:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-51576304410.jpg

A bill to reduce penalties for fare evaders in D.C's Metro system will be introduced Wednesday in the D.C. Council, the News-4 I-Team has learned.

The bill would eliminate jail time and drop the fine from $300 to $100 for cheating bus or rail fare in the District, if it were passed and signed into law. 

"This measure would make evading fare on Metro a civil infraction punishable by fine instead of imprisonment. We have a significant number of young people and economically challenged residents who are being arrested for this minor offense," said a statement to the I-Team from Council Member Trayon White's office. 

White, who represents Ward 8, will introduce the Fare Evasion Decriminalization Act of 2017 to the Council.

The bill would apply to fare evaders in the District only, not in Maryland or Virginia.

A recent News-4 I-Team investigation showed a recent spike in fare evasion on Metro's bus system. In 2015, the agency reported 1,077 citations, arrests and warnings for fare cheating issued by transit police. The number spiked to 1,870 during the same time period in 2016, according to agency records. The increase carried over into 2017, the I-Team learned. The A2 and X2 routes are among the most frequently targeted by fare evaders.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said, "While we have not yet reviewed the proposed legislation, as stewards of taxpayer funds from federal, state and local sources, Metro believes it has an obligation to ensure that every rider pays his or her fair share."

Metro has undertaken a new enforcement and patrol detail to deter or issue citations to bus fare evaders, using both plainclothes Metro Transit Police officers and uniformed officers wearing bright fluorescent vests.

Metro uses a similar enforcement system to stop rail evasions. Recent I-Team reports have captured images of rail fare cheats at the AU/Tenleytown station.

"In recent years and months, WMATA [the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] has increased enforcement of fare evasion laws, with a particularly heavy enforcement presence at Congress Heights, Anacostia Metro Station and other stations in economically challenged areas," White's office statement to the I-Team said.

The statement continued, "For WMATA, whose mission should be to help people access their city, punitive approaches to fare collection does not seem to be the best use of resources."

A large number of assaults on Metrobus operators stem from disputes over fare evasions, according to Metro officials and union representatives. The agency has not offered comment on White's proposal. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Donna Edwards Joins Health Care Fight After MS Diagnosis]]> Mon, 10 Jul 2017 19:56:23 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Donna_Edwards_Joins_Health_Care_Fight_After_MS_Diagnosis.jpg

A former congresswoman from Maryland is getting involved in the health care debate after he multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Barbara Harrison reports.

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<![CDATA[D.C. Council Considers Big Changes to Political Campaigns]]> Mon, 10 Jul 2017 19:37:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/DC_Council_Considers_Big_Changes_to_Political_Campaigns.jpg

D.C. Council is looking for ways to stop big money and big business from influencing future city campaigns.

They are considering some of the biggest proposed election rule changes since D.C. home rule began in the 1970s.

A half-dozen different bills would ban corporate contributions by city contractors, require more disclosures, or offer taxpayer money to future candidates who limit contributions. News4's Tom Sherwood reports.

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<![CDATA[Housing the Homeless: District Breaks Ground for New Shelter]]> Thu, 06 Jul 2017 19:44:56 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Housing_the_Homeless_District_Breaks_Ground_for_New_She.jpg

A long-vacant building along Kennedy Street in northwest Washington, D.C. is being turned into short-term housing for up to 45 homeless families. News4's Tom Sherwood reports.

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<![CDATA[Maryland Won't Turn Over Voter Data, Joining Virginia, D.C.]]> Mon, 03 Jul 2017 20:43:22 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170702+Missing.jpg

Maryland has joined a growing number of states that are refusing to give President Donald Trump's voting commission personal information on voters.

Maryland's attorney general says the state is prohibited by law from releasing the information. Plus, he added, he finds the request "repugnant."

"It appears designed only to intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote," Brian Frosh said in a statement. "There is no evidence that the integrity of the 2016 election in Maryland -- or any other state -- was compromised by voter fraud."

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had rejected the request the day after it was made.

"At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump's alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression," McAuliffe said in a statement.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has also rejected the request, citing the need to protect voters' privacy.

D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, who chairs the Council committee that oversees elections, said "the District of Columbia will not be party to this blatant effort to intimidate voters" and has pledged to introduce emergency legislation to make sure the D.C. Board of Elections is not forced to turn over the data.



Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Should Every Airbnb Unit Be Inspected? DC May Require It]]> Thu, 29 Jun 2017 18:16:10 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/062917+airbnb+app+getty.jpg

When you stay in a hotel in Washington, D.C., your accommodations must meet a long list of inspection standards. Federal law says hotels must have exit signs, working smoke detectors and evacuation plans, plus sprinkler systems in buildings higher than three stories.

But when you stay in a short-term rental through a website like Airbnb, those same standards don't apply.

That may soon change in D.C.

D.C. lawmakers are expected to cast an initial vote in July on a bill that would require health and safety inspections of all short-term rental units. If approved, the bill would establish some of the strictest regulations on Airbnb units in the country.

D.C. Councilman Kenyan McDuffie introduced the bill. He said Airbnb renters should have proof the properties meet basic safety standards -- rather than having to rely only on previous renters' reviews.

"We should take the guessing work out of it and make sure that the District of Columbia DCRA [Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs] weighs in on this process, to make sure that basic safety regulations are complied with," he said Wednesday. "It's serious and shouldn't be left up to our guests."


Airbnb says it is reviewing the bill and that safety is their No. 1 one priority.

"The overwhelming majority of our hosts in D.C. share the very home they live in and they agree that they will be in compliance with all applicable laws and other rules and regulations including permits, licenses and registrations," the company said in a statement.

"We run home safety workshops, give out free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and have made it easy for guests to know who to do if there is an emergency by providing them with online safety cards that include important phone numbers, locations of fire extinguishers, fire alarms and emergency exit routes," the statement continued.

If renters report concerns about an Airbnb unit, that online listing can be suspended.

Those safety measures were not enough to prevent a fire in a cabin Medina Abdelkader rented through Airbnb in February 2014. The Toronto resident said she and her partner were sleeping when smoke began to pour out of the woodstove in the cabin in rural Ontario.

Abdelkader, 29, went to open a window, and flames leaped out of the stove.

"I looked back, and the bed that I had just been in was on fire," she said.

Abdelkader and her partner escaped, and she received only a minor burn.

She said she loves Airbnb and has stayed many times in properties she found on the site.

"These are the growing pains of disruption," the consultant and organizational design strategist said.

Still, Abdelkader said she believes Airbnb units should be inspected for safety.


"One of the things that Airbnb does beautifully is that they send a photographer out to take photos of the properties," she said. "I think if you can go to the effort of sending out a photographer, you can go to the effort of sending out someone who can do safety inspections."

The debate over the Short-term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act primarily has focused on how it would affect the city's stock of affordable housing, and the income Airbnb helps D.C. residents earn. Scores of D.C. residents testified at a public hearing in April that the bill would change their neighborhoods and their lives.

The legislation also could have a significant impact on public safety, said Robert Solomon, a manager at the National Fire Protection Association, which sets fire safety standards worldwide.

Because Airbnb units are often inside individuals' private homes, they're often off-limits to inspectors, he said. The bill would "crack the door open so there would be some form of regulation," he said. "By signing on the dotted line, inspectors could come in."


Airbnb hosts in D.C. are supposed to seek permits now. The licensing requirements vary depending on the characteristics of the property. But enforcement is tough; it's hard for DCRA to distinguish between someone staying at a friend's house for a weekend and someone who's paying for an Airbnb rental.

Safety hazards that slip through the cracks can be deadly. A 25-year-old woman and 24-year-old man died in a rowhouse fire near Dupont Circle in apartments that had not been inspected because the rentals were illegal. As News4's reporting revealed, lawsuits filed by the victims' families said the housemates were trapped on the third floor of the house because there was no fire escape and the windows were painted shut.

If the D.C. Airbnb bill passes, DCRA estimates they would need to hire eight new housing inspectors to perform as many as 8,500 additional inspections. Now, DCRA inspectors perform about 1,000 inspections of all kinds annually.

McDuffie is aiming for the Council to hold the first of two votes on the bill in July, before the summer recess, a spokesman said.

Abdelkader, the woman who escaped a fire in an Airbnb unit, said new safety measures could help prevent future accidents.

"This is not a wild card," she said. "It's entirely possible and plausible that these types of safety concerns are going to come up."



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[New Laws Take Effect in Virginia on July 1]]> Mon, 03 Jul 2017 20:05:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/110816+virginia+flag.jpg

New state laws going into effect Saturday could impact how Virginians drive, what kind of alcohol they buy, and what they wear when they go hunting. 

This year's legislative session lacked any landmark compromises between the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Instead, lawmakers focused on adjusting the state budget to give public employees raises, particularly law enforcement officials. 

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Still, there are new laws going into effect July 1 that could affect Virginians' daily lives in ways big and small. Here's a sampling: 

DRIVING TOO SLOW IN LEFT LANE 

Driving in the left lane on state highways without a good reason could now result in a $100 to $250 fine. The bill's sponsor, Del. Israel O'Quinn said he wants to prevent people from driving too slow in the left lanes, which he said endangers law enforcement and spurs road rage. 

Drivers who hold up traffic in the left lane previously could be stopped, but a fine is now in place. There's one exception: if you're making a left turn, you can go slower in the left lane. 

"It's all about being courteous and being in the right lane with the right flow," one driver told News4's Adam Tuss on July 3. 

OPIOID CRISIS 

The opioid crisis gripping Virginia's neighbors has made its way into the Old Dominion, and lawmakers made addressing the rising number of overdose deaths a priority, passing laws that allow for a needle-exchange program and help new mothers addicted to opioids to more easily get treatment. 

DOGS AND CATS

Cities and counties can now offer lifetime pet licenses, which cannot cost more than $50. 

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EVERCLEAR/GRAIN ALCOHOL

State-owned liquor stores will now be able to sell a high-proof grain alcohol that is "without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color," which includes the well-known brand Everclear.

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University officials had voiced concern about binge drinking, but proponents of the law noted that Everclear can be purchased legally in most other states and is often used in cooking. 

FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION 

State law now makes it illegal to perform a female genital mutilation, or for a parent or guardian to consent to one for their daughter. Genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision or cutting, has been condemned by the United Nations and outlawed in many parts of the world. But the practice is common for girls in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 

DRIVER'S LICENSE REVOCATION 

Adults convicted of possessing marijuana will no longer automatically have their driver's license suspended for six months, but instead be required to perform 50 hours of community service. 

BLAZE PINK 

Hunters are no longer required to wear blaze orange, but can instead wear blaze pink if they so prefer. The new law is designed to encourage more women to hunt.

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HAIR-REMOVAL REGULATIONS 

Laser hair removal will now have to be performed by a medical practitioner or someone trained and supervised by one, unless people do it at home with their own equipment. The law's sponsor said the legislation was prompted by a constituent who said a janitor was removing hair at a spa. 

SCALPERS' RIGHTS 

Del. David Albo, a self-described "metal head," said he brought the Ticket Resale Rights Act after he bought tickets for an Iron Maiden show, then couldn't go and wasn't able to resell them. The law prohibits ticket sellers from using systems that prevents purchasers from lawfully reselling tickets on the internet platform of their choice. It also prohibits individuals from being denied admission because they purchased a secondhand ticket.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. Fire Dept. Will Check That Your Fireworks are Legal]]> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 19:04:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC_Police_Will_Check_That_Your_Fireworks_are_Legal.jpg

There are fireworks that are in D.C. -- and those that are illegal. And the police will be out looking for the latter as the July 4 holiday nears. News4's Tom Sherwood spoke to Batallion Fire Chief Tony Falwell, who is overseeing the crackdown. "I just want to tell people, don't buy fireworks from people from the trunks of their vehicles or from trucks just riding around," Falwell said. If they do find illegal fireworks, "We're going to confiscate them and you will be ticketed and possibly prosecuted if someone is injured," he said.

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<![CDATA[New Virginia Law Permits Sale of Grain Alcohol]]> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:33:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-1518303.jpg

A new Virginia law will permit the sale of grain alcohol up to 151 proof in the commonwealth starting Saturday.

HB 1842 will allow an increase in the alcohol content of "neutral grain spirits or alcohol that is without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color" sold in government stores from 101 to 151 proof.

Rum, vodka and other flavored liquors with proofs above 151 can already be purchased in Virginia. The new law allows tasteless and colorless liquors, such as Everclear, to be sold as well.

The bill was introduced by Del. Barry D. Knight, R-Virginia Beach. He put forth the legislation last year, but Gov. Terry McAuliffe wanted to slow it down so Knight could meet with colleges, advocacy groups and other Virginia officials in order to allay concerns, Knight said.

"We got in there all together, told them 48 other states had it and also that there's at least eight or nine other alcohols that we sell in the state of Virginia that have 151 proof or greater," Knight said. "This is just the only one that will be 151 that's clear."

Some colleges were concerned about the possibility of this type of liquor being sold around campus, Knight said. However, he explained that the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) controls the sale of liquor to the public.

Therefore, "It's up to the discretion of the ABC board to make it so they cannot sell this product in certain radiuses around college campuses, if they so desire," Knight said.

Virginia's ABC stores are a major source of revenue for the commonwealth and have contributed more than $1.8 billion to Virginia's general fund in the last five years, the ABC said in a statement.

Regardless, Knight doesn’t expect the additional sale of this liquor to cause much change among consumption habits of college-age residents.

"The statistics show that the overwhelming consumers of this [product] are 35 years of age or older," Knight said. "It hasn't been a problem in 48 other states.... It was only two states, us and Vermont, that didn’t have it."

Other new liquor-related laws to begin July 1 in Virginia include SB 1578, which includes a clarification that requires people offering short-term rentals (such as Airbnb) to obtain a bed and breakfast license if they wish to offer alcoholic beverages to their guests.

SB 1150 also comes into effect July 1. This law requires Virginia ABC stores to provide training for employees serving alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption on how to recognize and prevent situations that may lead to sexual assault, according the ABC statement.



Photo Credit: Erik S. Lesser / Stringer]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Take a Seat …With History]]> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 06:22:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Park_Bench_Remembers_Civil_Rights_Icon_Julian_Bond.jpg

Try Googling the late civil rights icon Julian Bond.

In a life full of activism, historic achievement and honors, none of the pictures show him relaxing quietly on a bench.

But this week a bench took center stage.

“He liked the idea of sitting on a bench,” recalled Bond’s widow Pamela Horowitz. “He walked in the neighborhood a lot because he said it was his thinking time.”

On Monday, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3/4G (Chevy Chase) joined in celebrating a new bench in Bond’s honor. Its proclamation said Bond walked and sat along Connecticut Avenue, “always greeting both neighbors and strangers with kindness and consideration.” The bench sits in the shadow of the Chevy Chase Community Center at Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street NW, only a small plaque acknowledging his storied life.

“I know it might seem modest for such a grand life, such a giant of a man,” said Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh. “But he would be delighted to know that this bench was here.”

And the accolades kept coming.

Joyce and Dorie Ladner, two sisters involved in the civil rights movement and accomplished in their own right, knew the quiet-spoken but determined leader who had steel will behind his boyish demeanor. The bench “tells a side of him that people don’t know,” Joyce Ladner said. “And I think that’s important.”

She said he would sit and talk with anyone: “Part of that was because of the way he carried himself. He wasn’t interested in being famous.”

Dorie Ladner was there with her young grandson, Seyoum Gipson.

“What do you want him to know when he grows up?” we asked.

“I want him to know that he is a free black man,” she said without hesitation. “And he’s able to move in and out of different circles unencumbered and to not be afraid to compete in the world.”

Courtland Cox stood quietly in Monday’s crowd, as usual. Cox also doesn’t seek public acknowledgement, but he has been a fixture of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, including stints in Deep South Mississippi. He said it’s important that people today and in the future do not romanticize the civil rights movement, its bold push against legal segregation and the unspeakable violence against the civil rights workers.

“It was terror. Basically we were dealing with terror,” he told the Notebook. “You did not know at any time riding down any of those highways in Mississippi that you would be shot, or bombed in Alabama. Those were very terrifying times.”

Cox said Bond was important as a key contact with the authorities and any sympathetic media. Many local demonstrations or attacks were not reported unless word got to Bond.

■ “Race Man” explained. Some who visit the bench might at first be startled. Its plaque reads: In Memory of Julian Bond, 1940 – 2015, “Race Man,” A Life Dedicated to Civil Rights.

The phrase dates to the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois and debates about black liberation, the role of women and who could best represent African-American communities. Bond acknowledged the intellectual and cultural discussions. He knew some segregationist whites might hurl the name “race man” as an insult.

“Julian actually wanted a bench,” his widow said. “He knew what he wanted on it. And he wanted it to say, ‘Race Man.’” Horowitz said he was worried the plaque supporters “might flinch at ‘Race Man.’’

She said there are different interpretations, but “Julian always thought about W.E.B. Du Bois and the idea that a ‘race man’ devoted himself — and, of course, it could be herself — but at the time it was a male-dominated society. So a ‘race man’ devoted himself to the uplift of his race. … Julian always considered himself a ‘race man.’”

Your Notebook will remember Julian Bond gently chastising us a few years ago.

Passing through the National Portrait Gallery’s atrium, we spotted Bond and his wife having a quiet talk at a side table. We decided to leave them in peace and stepped into the gift shop.

A moment later, a voice said, “So, you don’t speak anymore?” It was Julian Bond coming to get me. He said then he wished more people in public would speak to him rather than be reticent.

Well, now, you can sit at his bench all you want.

■ A fresh start. Rep. Trey Gowdy is the new House Republican chairman of the committee that oversees the District of Columbia government. Gowdy replaces Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who seemed to be involved in everything except setting up an office in the Wilson Building.

“I try really hard not to meddle in the affairs of the District of Columbia beyond that which is constitutionally required,” Gowdy told reporters last week. Gowdy already has met with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and will meet in July with Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Ward 6 D.C. Council member Charles Allen welcomes the change in Hill leadership, but remains wary. There are current efforts to weaken the city’s gun laws. Will Gowdy’s committee assist or stand by while that happens? Allen once mocked Chaffetz, calling his office and reporting a trash problem. We’re hoping there won’t be any reason to make the same request of Gowdy.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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<![CDATA[Park Bench Remembers Civil Rights Icon Julian Bond]]> Mon, 26 Jun 2017 18:44:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Park_Bench_Remembers_Civil_Rights_Icon_Julian_Bond.jpg

Civil rights leader Julian Bond was a man of action, but he also appreciated the importance of time to think, particularly on a park bench among his neighbors in D.C.

"He liked the idea of sitting on a bench," said his widow, Pam Horowitz. "We lived in this neighborhood. He walked in the neighborhood a lot, because he said it was his thinking time."

So Monday, those neighbors honored the man who helped create the most important civil rights organizations in the country with his own dedicated bench.

There's even a plaque: "In Memory of Julian Bond, 1940-2015, 'Race Man,' a Life Dedicated to Civil Rights." News4's Tom Sherwood was there for the dedication of the bench on Connecticut Avenue, near Chevy Chase circle.

"I know it might seem a bit modest for such a grand life, such a giant of a man, but he would be delighted to know that this bench was here," said Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh.

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<![CDATA[Rushern Baker Announces Run for Governor]]> Wed, 21 Jun 2017 18:09:41 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/092115+rushern+baker.jpg

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has announced he will run for governor. 

Baker announced he would seek the Democratic nomination Wednesday morning. 

"We can't wait for change. We've got to make it happen," Baker said in a campaign video published Wednesday. 

Baker, who is a Democrat, has been frequently mentioned as a likely challenger to the Republican governor Larry Hogan.

Hogan is seeking his second-term as governor. If he succeeds, he will become the first Republican governor to win a second term in Maryland in 60 years. 

Former NAACP president Ben Jealousbusiness innovation author Alec Ross and state Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. have also announced their intention to run for the Democratic nomination. 

Rep. John Delaney, former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and lawyer Jim Shea are also considering running. 

Baker has served as county executive since 2010 and has a political career that spans 25 years.  


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<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Hail to the…Supreme Court?]]> Wed, 21 Jun 2017 09:13:28 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/supreme-court-generic-new.jpg

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a rock band — and its ruling could help legally settle the fight over the name “Redskins.”

An Asian group calling itself “The Slants” had sought for years to trademark its name and by doing so, directly attack the derogatory use of the word as an insult.

Federal licensing officials refused to issue that trademark, saying the name was disparaging and violated trademark regulations that date back to the 1940s.

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled The Slants had a First Amendment right to call themselves essentially whatever they want, and it ruled the 1940s trademark limitation unconstitutional.

Justice Samuel Alito said in the court ruling that the federal restriction “offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

Band founder Simon Tam said the band name was an attempt to neutralize the word.

“The notion of having slanted eyes was always considered a negative thing,” Tam said in January when oral arguments were heard in the case, according to National Public Radio. “Kids would pull their eyes back in a slant-eyed gesture to make fun of us. ... I wanted to change it to something that was powerful, something that was considered beautiful or a point of pride instead.”

Now after this ruling from a court of law, only the court of public opinion will decide whether The Slants will succeed.

The Washington Redskins team has fought an increasingly loud battle over the team name and its meaning. While team owner Dan Snyder and supporters say the team proudly honors the fighting spirit and determination of American Indians, opponents say the name is a historic slur and refers to the discrimination and even scalping of American Indians for profit.

The federal Patent and Trademark office canceled the “Redskins” trademark in 2014 after decades of its use. The team has fought back in court in a case that’s now pending in federal court in Richmond. Expert court watchers say there’s little chance the team will lose given the sweeping opinion from Monday’s Supreme Court ruling.

Team owner Dan Snyder declined an NBC News interview request on Monday, but issued a simple statement: “I’m THRILLED. Hail to the Redskins.”

The public relations battle over the name took an earlier hit last year when The Washington Post published a survey that said nine out of 10 Native Americans were not offended by the Redskins name. The survey in May 2016 covered 504 people in every state and in the District. It was similar to a poll done in 2004 and was “broadly consistent” across age, income, education, political party and proximity to reservations, The Post reported.

So, now what?

The legal ruling may help clear some of the opposition to the team returning to the District and the team paying for a new $1 billion stadium on the site of the old RFK. The team’s lease in Prince George’s County expires in 2027. It will take several years to gain federal approval and local permits and years more to build a new stadium.

The team is also looking in Virginia and another site in Prince George’s, but no site matches the history and drama associated with RFK Memorial Stadium. Intense opposition from neighborhoods around RFK could be a hurdle unless any new plan guarantees the family recreation and retail opportunities the neighbors want.

Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans — a longtime advocate for the team returning to Washington — says the District can provide extensive amenities to the adjacent neighborhoods and that the team could anchor development that benefits the whole city.

“The name should not be a sticking point in getting the team here,” Evans told NBC4 on Monday. “Whether the name stays the Redskins or gets changed is up to the owner of the team.”

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who opposes the team name, did not rule out negotiating a team return, but told NBC4, “whether the team name is constitutional or not doesn’t change whether it’s appropriate.”

■ Folklife Festival returns. Pack the sunscreen and grab a bottle of water or two. The popular event returns for two long weekends: June 29 through July 4 and July 6 through 9.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the festival, which this year will highlight circus arts, migrations of people across and around America, and iconic items that tell the story of 50 years of Folklife gatherings.

And more good news: The National Mall grass has been reseeded. The festival will return to its spot from 7th to 12th streets. Enjoy. It’s one of your Notebook’s favorite events.

■ A final word. We’ll have more to say in future Notebooks, but we join others in mourning the death last week of former Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham. He was best known on the council for supporting the homeless, the struggling tenants in a growing city and the need to keep Metrobus fares affordable for hardworking families.

Prior to joining the council, Graham for nearly 17 years ran the Whitman-Walker Health clinic that was an early leader in the care and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Although Graham late in his career was reprimanded for mishandling government contracts involved with Metro development, his long career reflected far more good than bad. Our condolences are offered to his wide array of friends and to those who only knew him by his work.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bow Ties Encouraged at Memorial for Jim Graham]]> Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:55:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Grahamspicture.jpg

Memorial services will be held Friday and Saturday for former D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, who died last week at 71, with mourners encouraged to don bow ties in his memory.

To many D.C. residents, Graham was the politician who wore bow ties and could be seen driving his Volkswagen Beetle convertible all over town. 

He was a longtime activist for LGBT rights, and opened Whitman Walker Health in the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. He represented Washington's Ward 1 for four terms, starting in 1998.

Graham's body will lie in repose at the Wilson Building this Friday from noon to 5 p.m. Elected officials, dignitaries and special guests are expected to speak, and visitors are encourage to wear bow ties, the D.C. Council said Tuesday.

A viewing and a religious service is scheduled for Saturday at All Souls Unitarian Church (1500 Harvard St. NW). The viewing will begin at 10 a.m., followed by a religious service at noon.

A repast will immediately follow the service in the church's multi-purpose room. Again, bow ties are encouraged, the Council said.

Flowers and cards may be sent to Bacon Funeral Home (3447 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20010), the Council said.

Remembrances flooded in from local politicians and social media users after Graham died Thursday following a brief illness.

"He left our city a better place," D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Graham told friends in April that he had a life-threatening bacterial infection Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff.

He was battling that infection and died of "chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder," his partner, Christopher Watkins, told The Washington Post.

Still, his death was a shock, Ward 2 Councilman and longtime friend Jack Evans said.

"Jim was a real advocate for people who were in need. That's the best way to describe it," Evans said.

Don Blanchon, the executive director of Whitman Walker Health, called Graham a legend.

"I always think of Jim as the father of this place. He's the person who put us on the map. He led this place for nearly 17 years during the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic," he said. 

Graham even enlisted actress Elizabeth Taylor in the local fight against the disease. One of the establishment's facility's bears her name.

The former councilman believed everyone can help create change, Blanchon said.

"He believed that all politics were local. He believed that people had the ability to change things locally," he said.



Photo Credit: NBC
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<![CDATA[Jim Graham, Ex-DC Councilman, Dies at 71]]> Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:52:48 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Grahamspicture.jpg

Former D.C. Councilman Jim Graham has died after a brief illness. He was 71. 

The Council was informed that he died earlier Thursday, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Thursday afternoon.

Graham was a longtime activist for LGBT rights, and opened Whitman Walker Health in the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. He represented Washington's Ward 1 for four terms, starting in 1998.

"He left our city a better place," Mendelson said in a statement.

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"On the Council, Jim worked especially hard on issues like homelessness, juvenile justice, diversity and public transportation. The District thanks him for his long public service and many accomplishments," he said. 

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“Jim Graham embodied DC values," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

To many D.C. residents, Graham was the politican who wore bow ties and could be seen driving his Volkswagen Beetle Convertible all over town. 

Graham told friends in April that he had the life-threatening bacterial infection Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff.

He was battling that infection and died of "chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder," his partner, Christopher Watkins, told The Washington Post.

Still, his death was a shock, Ward 2 Councilman and longtime friend Jack Evans said.

"Jim was a real advocate for people who were in need. That's the best way to describe it," Evans said.

Don Blanchon, the executive director of Whitman Walker Health, called Graham a legend.

"I always think of Jim as the father of this place. He's the person who put us on the map. He led this place for nearly 17 years during the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic," he said. 

Graham even enlisted actress Elizabeth Taylor in the local fight against the disease. One of the establishment's facility's bears her name.

The former Councilman believed everyone can help create change, Blanchon said.

"He believed that all politics were local. He believed that people had the ability to change things locally," he said.

Remembrances flooded in on social media.

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The D.C. Council will announce plans for services for Graham.



Photo Credit: NBC
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>