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Virginia
'I’m very much alive': Joe Biden campaigns in Norfolk after winning South Carolina primary

NORFOLK — Fresh off a primary victory in South Carolina, former Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday brought his rejuvenated campaign to Virginia with cameos from several of the state’s most prominent Democrats, who have endorsed him in recent days.

Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of perhaps 1,000 supporters at Booker T. Washington High School, Biden touted himself as the candidate who can unite the country.

“This race is bigger than just the Democratic Party. The character of America is on the ballot,” Biden said in the school’s gymnasium. The scoreboard was set to show a score of 3-3 with 20:20 on the clock to symbolize the date of Super Tuesday, one of the most impactful in the contest to see which Democrat will run against President Donald Trump.

Biden, who did not address reports that former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., was dropping out, is one of several moderate candidates still in the race ahead of Super Tuesday, when Virginia and 13 other states will take to the polls.

Ninety-nine of Virginia’s 124 delegates are up for grabs, the fourth-most among Super Tuesday states. The other 25 delegates are unpledged, meaning they are not required to support a specific candidate.

During his 20-minute speech, Biden vowed to build on former President Barack Obama’s legacy, specifically the continuation of the Affordable Care Act and not its elimination, which some more progressive candidates have called for.

The rally came a day after Biden won every county in South Carolina in what his campaign hopes will bring a re-emergence ahead of Super Tuesday.

“I’m very much alive,” Biden said.

Biden, in his third run for president, had not prevailed in Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada, but overwhelmingly beat front-runner Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator, and other Democratic hopefuls in South Carolina — relying heavily on the strong support of the African American community.

Polling released Friday by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University showed Biden leading in Virginia at 22%, followed by Sanders (17%) and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg (13%), whose first campaign stop in November was in Norfolk. Sanders campaigned in nearby Virginia Beach on Saturday.

“We can’t go on like this. We have to build a more perfect union,” Biden said Sunday to cheers from the crowd, which danced and sang along to McFadden & Whitehead’s 1979 disco hit “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” before Biden took the stage.

Booker T. Washington High, named for the prominent African American educator and presidential adviser, was segregated in 1914 when it became Virginia’s first accredited public black high school.

Sunday’s event came as Biden rolled out a number of prominent Virginia endorsements. Since Friday, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe; Sen. Tim Kaine; Rep. Bobby Scott, D-3rd; Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-10th; and Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, have backed Biden’s campaign. Rep. Don Beyer, D-8th, who was the first member of Congress to back Buttigieg, endorsed Biden Sunday night.

“We don’t need a revolution,” McAuliffe said in Norfolk while introducing Biden. “We need Joe Biden in the White House.”

Biden referred to McAuliffe as “the once and future governor of Virginia.” McAuliffe, chief executive from 2014 to 2018, is considering another run for governor next year.

Kaine, the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2016, said Biden would bring “decency back in the White House.”

Among Biden’s supporters is Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who echoed Kaine’s sentiment, saying, “It’s time to put someone in the White House with some character.”

Added Rep. Don McEachin, D-4th: “We can’t let South Carolina show us up.”

Also Sunday, former Sen. John Warner, a five-term Virginia Republican who has increasingly broken with his party as it moves further right, said he is endorsing Biden over Trump, declaring that the Democrat is “thoroughly tested.”

Warner’s endorsement — coming two days before Super Tuesday — could bring other centrist Republicans to the polls, though the former senator said it would be “overload” for him to vote in the Democratic contest.

“To win nationally, he has got to bring aboard a lot of moderates and moderate Republicans,” said Warner, who represented Virginia in the Senate from 1979 to 2009.


MARK GORMUS/TIMES-DISPATCH  

Youngsters watched a mock futuristic battle at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on Sunday on the last day of GalaxyCon, where fans of comic books, television shows, tabletop gaming and collectibles gathered. The event also featured panels and autograph sessions with guest writers, artists and actors.


Local
Lohmann: Searching for photos of the fallen, including 51 from Virginia, at a Dutch WWII cemetery

A picture of her Uncle Ed hung on a wall of her childhood home, as did a photo of the Dutch cemetery where he was buried.

From an early age, Debbie Holloman was well-aware that her uncle — Army Pfc. Eddie Hart — had been killed in World War II, having marched into Germany in 1945 as the war was coming to an end. His unit expected little resistance but received a deadly surprise from a German assault. Hart, 22, was among those killed. The native of La Grange, N.C., quit school as a teen to run the family farm when his family became ill.

Hart was buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, with its neatly aligned rows of white marble crosses and Stars of David, tucked in the far southeastern corner of the Netherlands, not far from its borders with Belgium and Germany.

After the war, a Dutch woman “adopted” Hart’s grave, as so many Dutch did at the cemetery as a way to express their gratitude for their American liberators. She visited the grave several times a year, bringing fresh flowers, and wrote letters to Hart’s sister in North Carolina to let her know that her brother’s grave was being tended to and that his sacrifice had not been forgotten. That sister was Holloman’s mother, Hattie Holloman.

A lifelong correspondence and friendship developed and even after the Dutch woman immigrated to the United States, her family took up caring for Hart’s grave and still does to this day.

In 2002, Debbie Holloman and her family took her mother to Margraten to visit her brother’s grave and meet the family that attended to it and witness the devotion of the Dutch to the Americans buried there.

“It’s really amazing, and there’s a waiting list to adopt a grave,” said Holloman, a career law clerk for the U.S. District Court in Richmond. “I’ve been pretty involved since that point.”

She had researched her uncle’s military service and tracked down men who served with him for a documentary produced in 2004 about her uncle, which I wrote about. (“One of Their Own: Grateful Dutch Tends N.C. Soldier’s Grave,” April 18, 2004.)

After that, Dutch friends she met through the cemetery would ask her, from time to time, to help them find family members of soldiers buried at Margraten.

Her volunteer work has evolved, and she has spent recent years searching for photos of fallen soldiers from Virginia and North Carolina for an online database (fieldsofhonor- database.com) for Americans who are buried or listed on “walls of the missing” at overseas American war cemeteries.

A spinoff of the Fields of Honor database is the Faces of Margraten project a few years ago in which available photos are placed on the graves every other year. This year is a milestone with the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, and the Fields of Honor Foundation set a goal of collecting photos of 7,500 of the 10,023 Americans either buried at Margraten (8,301) or listed on its Wall of the Missing (1,722).

As of the end of last week, the count stood at 7,326, said Jac Engels, a longtime volunteer and foundation board member. When the first Faces of Margraten was held in 2015, the foundation had only 3,300 photos.

“It is important that we never forget that our freedom was not for free and that many young men and women gave their lives for our freedom and [did] not made it back home,” Engels said in an email.

The photos put faces to the names on the grave markers. As Sebastiaan Vonk, chairman of the foundation, has said, “After all, what is a more powerful way of not forgetting than being able to look at their young faces? To look them in the eyes?”

The photographs will be on display at Margraten between May 2 and 6, coinciding with Remembrance Day, the Dutch version of our Memorial Day that is held every May 4, and Liberation Day on May 5. For a photo to be included in this year’s display, the deadline for submission to the foundation is April 13.

Photos and information can be submitted by email at info@degezichtenvan margraten.nl. More information can be found at the Faces of Margraten website: www.thefaces ofmargraten.com.

Engels said local researchers stateside, such as Holloman, are doing much of the heavy lifting: searching online databases, public libraries, local newspapers and the like to find photos or to find families of the fallen who might have photos of their loved ones.

Holloman said time is critical because with each passing year, fewer relatives who knew those buried at Margraten are still alive. Many of them were not married, so there are no direct descendants, and nieces and nephews and generations beyond that might “have boxes of family photos and don’t even know who these people are.” They also might not even know the details of their relative’s service in World War II.

The photos are “super important,” Holloman said, as reminders of the sacrifices made and that everyone who was lost had a story of their own and left behind relatives whose lives were changed forever.

Beyond that, when she looks at the individual memorial pages in the Fields of Honor database, she said, “I feel bad when the soldier’s page is empty.”

In her amateur sleuthing trying to find photos, Holloman has come to learn many families are not familiar with the Faces project and some are not even aware of the adoption of graves at the European war cemeteries.

Holloman has compiled a list of 51 Virginians whose photos are still missing from the collection. In recent weeks, the list has shrunk as she found three photos she needed on the Virginia War Memorial site and responses have come in from her letters to families that she tracked down via online searches.

If she had more time or the help of other volunteers, she could delve into records at such places as the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. Short of that, she said, “I’m going to keep plugging away.”

“It’s so interesting,” she said of the work, “and it’s so meaningful to people. It’s like, what else do you want to be doing with your spare time?”


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Plus
Virginia Democrats grapple with how to grant driving privileges to immigrants in the state illegally

As the General Assembly session winds down, Virginia lawmakers must still decide how to help immigrants who are living here illegally drive legally.

The House of Delegates and Senate agree on the concept, but have passed bills that differ in their approach, with the House allowing for regular driver’s licenses and the Senate wanting special identification cards.

“They live here. They work here. They have kids who attend schools here and other activities,” said Tram Nguyen, the co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, a Latino advocacy organization. “It makes it really hard for them to get to and from places safely if they don’t have the ability to legally drive on the road.”

Senate Bill 34 from Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue “driver privilege cards” to immigrants who have filed a Virginia tax return in the past year and who meet state car insurance requirements.

The applicant would not be required to present the DMV with proof of their legal presence in the U.S.

“This is a way to bring everyone into the fold so that we know that people are trained, know that people know what the rules are, know that they have insurance,” said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, who had a similar bill rolled into Surovell’s last month. “We will be safer on the road. It will make it better for everyone.”

Said Surovell: “This is a critical quality-of-life issue.”

Current law says Virginia licenses, permits and special ID cards “may only be issued to United States citizens, legal permanent resident aliens, and holders of valid unexpired nonimmigrant visas, with few exceptions,” according to an impact statement on the bill created by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission.

Applicants would have to pay $100 for the card. The bill, which passed the Senate on Feb. 11 in a 22-18 vote, would take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

The bill is the more moderate — as is often the case in the Senate — of the two proposals.

The House version, carried by Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, calls for the elimination of the citizenship and legal presence requirements the state has for obtaining a driver’s license. Like the Senate bill, House Bill 1211 requires applicants to pass the driver’s test and has a delayed enactment of Jan. 1.

“This is a matter of providing dignity to members of our commonwealth,” Tran said.

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a Richmond-based research organization, found in a report in January that between 124,500 and 160,800 people “would be newly licensed within two years if Virginia expanded access regardless of immigration status.”

Those drivers would register their cars with the state, leading to additional license plate fees and local personal property tax revenue, among other things.

The institute said that even without the actual driver’s license fees, the state and localities could bring in roughly $7 million in additional revenue during the first two years of the bill’s implementation.

Advocates say moving forward with the driver’s license measure is best, citing concerns that the special ID cards would stand out as a “scarlet letter.”

“If there were to be an interaction in real life with law enforcement on the streets and an individual presents a driver privilege card versus a license, then that does have a certain connotation,” Nguyen said. “There is a fear that having a driver privilege card is an automatic flag.”

Said Maria Martinez, who commutes two hours via bus every day into Washington for work: “For me and for all, I prefer driver’s licenses because we don’t want to have to have discrimination.”

The bills’ differences will be resolved in a conference committee.


Virginia
Here's where the five Democratic presidential candidates stand on five key issues

While 14 Democratic presidential candidates qualified for Virginia’s March 3 primary, only five remain as Virginia joins 13 other states in voting on Super Tuesday.

The remaining candidates, in alphabetical order, are former Vice President Joe Biden; former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Here is a look at where the Democratic candidates stand on five key issues. For more details, click on the candidates’ websites.

College education

Biden: Proposes two years of tuition-free community college; doubling the maximum value of Pell grants to more than $12,000; changing the income-based repayment system for federal student loans to reduce required payments.

Bloomberg: Proposes making two-year public college tuition-free for all and making four-year public college tuition- and debt-free for the lowest-income students; doubling the maximum Pell grants; cutting the cap on student loan payments by 50%; forgiving loans tax-free after 20 years.

Gabbard: Calls for eliminating tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities for families that make up to $125,000 a year; proposes eliminating tuition fees for community college.

Sanders: Proposes to make public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition-free, cancel $1.6 trillion in student debt over the next decade and let low-income students use Pell grants to cover books, housing and transportation.

Warren: Proposes to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt to help 95% of student loan borrowers; provide “universal tuition-free public two- and four-year college and technical school” and ban for-profit colleges from receiving federal aid.

Environment

Biden: Calls for a “clean energy revolution” to ensure the U.S. achieves “a 100% clean energy economy” and “reaches net-zero emissions” by 2050; says he would spend $1.7 trillion on “climate and environmental justice” over the next 10 years.

Bloomberg: Proposes to lead in fighting “the global climate crisis” and “propel the United States” toward a 100% clean energy future; ensure 100% of new vehicles are pollution-free by 2035; “green our buildings to save Americans money on their heating and energy bills.”

Gabbard: Calls for building “a renewable energy economy” by “redirecting the billions spent every year subsidizing the fossil fuel industry” to invest in “the industries of the future”; would ban fracking and require utilities to use 100% renewable resources by 2035.

Sanders: Says he would “launch the decade of the Green New Deal” and direct a $16.3 trillion public investment toward the effort. Goals include reaching 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and “complete decarbonization of the economy by 2050.”

Warren: An original supporter of the Green New Deal, she calls for a 10-year plan for “100% clean energy for America by decarbonizing our electricity, our vehicles and our buildings.” Says a $3 trillion federal investment will leverage trillions more in private investment and create millions of new jobs.

Health care

Biden: Proposes to build on the Affordable Care Act and offer a public health insurance option like Medicare; offer middle-class families a “premium tax credit” to help them buy insurance on the individual marketplace; offer premium-free access to the public option to eligible people in 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

Bloomberg: Calls for creating a Medicare-like public option; expanding enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans, in part, by expanding subsidies; capping out-of-network hospital charges to bring prices down.

Gabbard: Calls for “a single-payer system where everyone contributes and is covered, and that will also allow individuals to access private insurance if they choose.”

Sanders: Proposes a Medicare for all single-payer national health insurance program “to provide everyone in America with comprehensive health care coverage, free at the point of service.”

Warren: Proposes Medicare for All as a “long-term goal,” starting by allowing anyone over the age of 50 to opt in.

Taxes

Biden: Proposes to raise the highest personal rate from 37% to the pre-Trump level of 39.6%; increase the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%; tax capital gains as ordinary income for those with $1 million in income; impose a 15% minimum tax for corporations with $100 million in income.

Bloomberg: Proposes to restore the top individual rate to 39.6%; place a 5% surtax on incomes above $5 million a year; tax capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income for taxpayers above $1 million; raise the corporate tax rate to 28%.

Gabbard: Calls the Trump tax cuts “a failure”; backs higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for Medicare for All.

Sanders: Proposes an annual “wealth tax” on people worth $32 million or more, ranging from 1% for a married couple with wealth of $32 million, to 8% on a married couple with wealth of more than $10 billion, with brackets halved for singles; scrap Trump’s business tax cuts, restoring the corporate rate to 35% from 21%.

Warren: Calls for a 2% tax on households worth between $50 million and $1 billion and a 6% tax on “every dollar of net worth above $1 billion”; proposes a 7% tax on every dollar of corporate profits above $100 million; calls for restoring 35% corporate tax rate.

Foreign policy

Biden: Proposes to “reinforce” democracy at home and to strengthen the coalition of democracies that stand with the U.S.; says he will restore “moral leadership” and “mobilize global action on global threats.”

Bloomberg: Proposes to protect Americans against new threats; make infrastructure, education and innovation the bases of U.S. power; “reinvigorate” alliances with U.S. allies and partners.

Gabbard: Calls “regime change wars” wasteful; calls for withdrawing U.S. from “ongoing conflict that achieves nothing and wastes so much.”

Sanders: Says he would focus on democracy, human rights, diplomacy, peace and economic fairness; would “allow Congress to reassert its constitutional role in warmaking”; would “follow the American people, who do not want endless war.”

Warren: Says the U.S. should “leverage all the tools of our national power, not just our military might” and that “endless wars” sap U.S. strength; says the U.S. must remain vigilant about terrorism threats, but “it’s time to bring our troops home.”