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National Democrats pick their candidate for the 2nd Congressional district

National Democrats pick their candidate for the 2nd Congressional district
A bill that aims to bring horse racing back to New Kent County’s Colonial Downs is working its way through the General Assembly. (Rob Ostermaier / Daily Press)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which usually forswears endorsing candidates in primary races, this year is breaking with that tradition, giving its nod to 24 hopefuls, including Norfolk business owner Elaine Luria in the 2nd Congressional District.

Luria hopes to unseat freshman Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia Beach.

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Luria owns Norfolk's Mermaid Factory, which sells miniature versions of the city's iconic mermaid statutes for people to paint. A 20-year U.S. Navy veteran who retired as a commander, she was one of the first women in the Navy's nuclear power program and among the first women to serve the entirety of her career on combatant ships. She deployed six times to the Middle East and Western Pacific as a nuclear-trained "surface warfare officer," and her final assignment was as commanding officer of Assault Craft Unit Two at Little Creek. She has a bachelor's degree in physics from the Naval Academy and a master's in engineering management from Old Dominion University.

The nod from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has upset other candidates seeking the Democratic Party nod, and feelings aren't soothed by a Richmond Times-Dispatch report that Luria voted for Taylor in the 2016 primary in which he defeated Rep. Randy Forbes for the GOP nomination, and again in the November general election, in which he defeated Hampton business owner Shaun Brown, who lost the 2016 race by nearly 23 percentage points.

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Brown, who was indicted last month on federal fraud charges (she has said she is innocent of any offense), is seeking the Democratic nomination again this year. Other declared candidates for the Democratic nomination are Virginia Beach teacher Karen Mallard; Garry Hubbard, a retired businessman; David Nygaard, who operated a jewelry business; and Ernest Porter.

Making History at Colonial Downs?

A bill that aims to bring horse racing back to New Kent County's Colonial Downs is working its way through the General Assembly.

The legislation, sponsored by Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, who hails from the heart of Virginia horse country, would legalize something called "historical horse racing" that Virginians could bet on.

No, that's not horse races with old nags or with jockeys sporting 19th-century costumes. It's a way of betting on previously conducted horse races (carefully shielded from the likes of the characters Paul Newman and Robert Redford played in the movie "The Sting").

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Historical horse racing is an approach state Sen. Thomas K. "Tommy" Norment Jr., R-James City, floated for several years, from 2007 to 2012, as a way of supporting racing at Colonial Downs. But the idea ran into strong objections from anti-gambling legislators, including former Speaker Bill Howell.

But the investors interested in re-opening Colonial Downs need a way to generate funds for the purses that bring horses to a track, said state Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier.

She, like Webert, represents horse country, including many horsemen who were at loggerheads with Colonial Downs owner Jacobs Entertainment. Vogel sponsored legislation in 2015 that facilitated a financial divorce between the two. She said Webert's bill should bring the kind of money that will reopen the track under new ownership.

Webert's bill, HB 1609, passed the House 79-21 and has won approval from the Senate General Laws Committee.

An unusual politician

Jack Miller, who served as an elected supervisor in Middlesex County for more than two decades, often joked that he was like no other elected official in America.

That's because, the Middlesex native would explain, he was the only politician ever elected who had no heart.

Miller was re-elected in 2013 shortly after receiving an artificial heart and served for several months while awaiting his heart transplant. He continued to serve despite failing health and the cancer that eventually took his life on Monday.

"He was always proud to say he was the first politician who truly didn't have a heart," his friend, Del. Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna, told fellow legislators this week, adding that Miller "had a unique ability to unify people for the common good."

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During his term as a supervisor, he oversaw the planning and construction of Middlesex Elementary School, a renovation of Middlesex High School, the renovation of the county court house and the establishment of an enhanced 911 system.

A retiree from the paper mill in West Point, his service to the community included work on the Middle Peninsula Community Criminal Justice Board, the Disability Services Board, the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck Community Services Board and the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission.

A memorial service will be held at Harmony Grove Baptist Church, Topping, at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Ress can be reached by telephone at 757-247-4535

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