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Your first stop for politics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Sherwood's Notebook: Tune Into America

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Here in the voteless nation’s capital, we get the endless television deluge of political ads, but we’re pretty much bit players in national politics. And the word “bit” may be stretching it.

    But it’s the Wild West of politics in neighboring Virginia. Both the presidential race and the U.S. Senate contest are — pardon the Southern slang — closer than two roaches on a bacon bit there.

    President Barack Obama leads Republican Mitt Romney by just one point, 48 to 47, according to Real Clear Politics. (It’s a great site for keeping up with all the national politics and polling.)

    Former Republican Sen. George Allen is seeking to return to the Senate after losing six years ago to Democrat Jim Webb, who found that one term on the Hill was enough for him.

    Allen, a former Virginia governor, is being challenged by another former Virginia governor, Tim Kaine. They have been neck-and-neck for a year, and the latest polling average has Allen ahead by less than one point.

    So when Kaine and Allen meet for a one-on-one televised debate in Northern Virginia Thursday at noon, you might want to tune in. It’ll be on News4.

    NBC’s David Gregory, host of “Meet the Press,” will moderate the one-hour debate that’s being hosted by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce in McLean at the Capital One headquarters. Reporters asking questions include the Notebook’s colleagues Julie Carey and Aaron Gilchrist of News4, and Washington Post reporter Ben Pershing.

    “For the 23rd year in a row, we’re pleased to host Northern Virginia’s premier political event,” said Fairfax Chamber president and chief executive officer Jim Corcoran when he announced the faceoff. “History has shown us that to fare well in Northern Virginia, a candidate must do well in this debate,” he said. “We’re eager to hear from the candidates in this nationally watched race.”

    Former Northern Virginia Rep. Tom Davis knows how important Northern Virginia can be in statewide races. In a recent interview on the WAMU Politics Hour with host Kojo Nnamdi, Davis said Democrats have carried the area by more than 200,000 votes, forcing Republicans to make it up elsewhere.

    (If you miss the Thursday telecast, the debate will be rebroadcast on NBC4 at noon on Sunday. Your Notebook will be making a rare venture into Virginia Thursday to report on the debate. But we promise to scurry back as quickly as we can to our voteless city.)

    ■ Michael Brown’s follies? Most any elected official wanting to avoid controversy might pay more than normal attention to his or her campaign finances, personal finances and other matters, like a personal driving record.

    It seems that at-large D.C. Council member Michael Brown has outdone himself in flailing about in all these categories and more. As one person said, “Talk about self-inflicted wounds!”
    The Washington Post reported the latest episode this past week, noting that Brown’s driver’s license has been suspended five times in the past eight years. Reporter Tim Craig, citing Department of Motor Vehicle records, wrote that Brown has “lost his driving privileges for a quarter of the time he’s served on the council.”

    Our first thought was not about how this might affect Brown's troubled re-election bid for Nov. 6. Our first thought was: What the heck is he paying for insurance? Maybe Brown should follow up on some of those past flirtations with running for mayor. If he won, at least he would have someone to drive for him.

    The Post story said records show Brown was ticketed nine times for traffic violations from May 2005 until April 2010. The offenses included speeding in Virginia, red-light running in D.C. and something about “unreasonable speed” in New York. At least there has been no really recent offense on the records.

    But the driver’s license embarrassment was recently preceded by Brown’s embarrassing announcement that $113,000 was missing from his campaign account. It’s far from clear what happened to that money. And the tale told so far is too complicated to summarize here.

    Brown has stumbled for years over debts and disputes involving business deals and his home.

    A few months ago, Brown stunned his own staff when he seemed to minimize concerns about ethics in city government, complaining on WAMU’s Politics Hour that if you jaywalked somebody could call that unethical. It was an astonishingly flippant answer to perhaps the city’s No. 1 issue, corruption and malfeasance in office.

    In response to our questions about the latest reports, Brown’s campaign released this statement: “We believe that voters care about issues that impact their own lives, not discussions about Michael Brown’s life. Instead of distracting voters, we want to talk about substantive issues like jobs and housing.”

    Someone maybe ought to “drive” the importance of these issues home to Mr. Brown. Many think he seems to be having trouble steering his own ship.

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