Afternoon Read: Henrico County -- The Bellwether of Virginia?

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CNN has dubbed Henrico County, Va., the bellwether of the Commonwealth and, by extension, possibly the United States.

The once conservative-dominated county in the center of the battleground state is now emerging as a key barometer for political watchers in Virginia, CNN said.

The Democrats who have won in Virginia -- from President Obama to Tim Kaine to Mark Warner -- have all carried Henrico. (Except Jim Webb, who narrowly lost the county during the 2006 Senate race when he beat George Allen).

The county swung red again in 2009 when Bob McDonnell took back the county and won the governor’s race.

Via CNN:

"For operatives in both political parties, the county's shift from conservative to competitive is striking.

Along with Hanover and Chesterfield, Henrico is one of three populous suburban counties outside the heavily African-American city of Richmond that were long counted on to deliver big Republican tallies in statewide races.

Until Obama won Henrico in 2008 by a 56% to 44% margin over John McCain -- a result that echoed his 52% to 46% win statewide -- the county was a killing field for Democrats in presidential races.

George H.W. Bush swamped Michael Dukakis there in 1988 and did the same against Bill Clinton four years later. The county went for Bob Dole over Clinton in 1996. George W. Bush won Henrico twice."

Henrico -- the state’s fifth largest county -- has a longstanding conservative history dating back to colonial times. In the past 20 years, though, it's been home to burgeoning African-American and immigrant populations.

African Americans now account for a third of Henrico residents, up from 20 percent two decades ago, according to U.S. Census data:

"It's a cross-section of Virginia," Levar Stoney, a Democratic operative advising likely gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, told CNN. "If you find out what the vote total is on election night in Henrico, you will probably have a good idea of where Virginia is on election night as well."

So residents of Henrico, hang tight. Until election night, expect to be inundated with an influx of campaign messages from Obama and Romney. They want your votes.

* The Maryland House voted 77-60 to raise income taxes on single filers who make more than $100,000 and joint filers who make $150,000 in taxable income each year. That tax increase will affect roughly 300,000 taxpayers, according to the Baltimore Sun.

* If the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes for a second special session in the summer to consider gambling issues, pit bull advocates may get a chance to overturn a recent Court of Appeals decision deeming the dog breed as dangerous, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he’s open to putting the issue on the agenda and encouraged people to voice their concerns to the governor.

Via the Sun:

"The Senate president's encouraging words came a few hours before pit bull supporters rallied outside the State House Tuesday afternoon to demand action to protect pit bull owners from the additional legal liability they could face under the court ruling. The rally drew more people to Lawyers Mall than an anti-tax rally at the same location Monday night.

Legislators of both parties addressed the crowd, urging them to contact the governor and lawmakers to press for quick action to invalidate the court ruling."

* Here’s the roll call vote roster of how the members of the Virginia House of Delegates voted when they rejected the judicial appointment of Tracy Thorne-Begland, an openly gay Richmond attorney.

Thorne-Begland received 33 yes votes and 31 no votes, but needed a majority -- or 51 votes -- to get the nomination.

* DCist has a breakdown of the takeaways of the budget that passed the D.C. Council Tuesday.

Topping the list: no new taxes. Read the full list here.

* D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said Wednesday that the administration’s program to promote job growth is responsible for the creation of 3,000 jobs.

According to the Washington Examiner, the mayor’s office said about 40 percent of those hired through the program are residents of Wards 5, 7 and 8, sections in the city’s eastern half with particularly high unemployment rates.

Via the Examiner:

“When I took office, I promised to do all that I could to get District residents back to work, and connecting more than 3,000 previously unemployed people with jobs is an important step toward that goal,” said Gray, who hopes his One City One Hire program generates 10,000 jobs. 

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