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Roll call vote on Thorne-Begland judicial appointment

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the House of Delegates voted down the appointment of openly gay prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland to be a general district court judge.

Conservative Republicans in the House, led by Del. Bob Marshall and the Family Foundation’s opposition to the appointment, said they objected to Thorne-Begland becoming a judge because of his activism for gay rights. They also objected to the fact that twenty years ago, as a naval officer, he came out on national television to object to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy.”

Democrats said the vote against Thorne-Begland was blatant bigotry and discrimination.

“Tracy Thorne-Begland is a highly qualified and exceptionally competent prosecutor, who also served our country with honor as a Navy pilot,” said Sen. Don McEachin, D-Henrico. “The blatant prejudice that Republicans displayed last night should have no place in our government. The GOP took Virginia back to the bigotry and mean-spirited prejudice of the 1960s. ”

You can read more on the arguments from Tuesday morning’s vote here:


Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office released a statement in which he said lawmakers should not discriminate when selecting judges.

“I believe candidates for judicial vacancies must be considered solely on their merit, record, temperament, aptitude, skill and commitment to follow the law. I have long made clear that discrimination on the basis of such factors as race, religion or sexual orientation is not acceptable in any judicial appointment process,” McDonnell said. “In my consideration of judicial candidates I only consider the individual’s ability to do the job well. If anyone voted against Mr. Thorne-Begland because of his sexual orientation that would be very disappointing and unacceptable.”

The constitution requires a majority — 51 in the House — to elect a judge. Begland got 33 votes for, 31 against. Ten delegates abstained and 26 didn’t vote. Many of those who didn’t vote may not have been there; other votes indicated that by the time of the judicial votes (after 1 a.m.) only about 80 delegates remained in the chamber.

Among local delegates, only one voted for Thorne-Begland — Del. Peter Farrell, R-Henrico, whose district covers part of Spotsylvania. One — Del. Ed Scott, R-Madison — abstained.

Delegates Bobby Orrock, R-Caroline, and Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland, did not vote; neither did House Speaker Bill Howell, who was in England the day of the vote. According to an Internet post by Del. Jennifer McClellan, Ransone was absent from the Capitol all day.

Orrock said he, too, had left the House before the judge vote, because he had to be at work early in the morning.

But had he stayed, Orrock said, he’d have been the 32nd vote against Thorne-Begland — not because Thorne-Begland is gay but because of his activism.

“I was not going to vote for the gentleman for his political activism,” Orrock said. “(Judges) can have whatever beliefs they wish to have personally. When they become political activists… it makes me question their objectivity on the bench.”

Delegate Mark Dudenhefer, R-Stafford, and Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, voted against Thorne-Begland’s appointment. Dudenhefer also spoke on the House floor against it, arguing that Thorne-Begland had violated military rules when he came out as being gay while still in the Navy.

The full vote count:

Yeas (33)

David B. Albo (R-Fairfax); Kenneth C. Alexander (D-Norfolk); Mamye E. BaCote (D-Newport News); David L. Bulova (D-Fairfax); Betsy B. Carr (D-Richmond); Barbara J. Comstock (R-Fairfax); Rosalyn R. Dance (D-Petersburg); Peter F. Farrell (R-Henrico); Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax); Charniele L. Herring (D-Alexandria); Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington); Algie T. Howell Jr. (D-Norfolk); Matthew James (D-Portsmouth); Mark L. Keam (D-Fairfax); Terry G. Kilgore (R-Scott); L. Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax); James M. LeMunyon (R-Fairfax); Lynwood W. Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack); Alfonso H. Lopez (D-Arlington); G. Manoli Loupassi (R-Richmond); Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond); Delores L. McQuinn (D-Richmond); Joseph D. Morrissey (D-Henrico); Thomas Davis Rust (R-Fairfax); James M. Scott (D-Fairfax); Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax); Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake); Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax); Luke Torian (D-Prince William); David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville); Jeion A. Ward (D-Hampton); Vivian E. Watts (D-Fairfax); Joseph A. Yost (R-Montgomery).

Nays (31)

Richard L. Anderson (R-Prince William); Richard P. “Dickie” Bell (R-Staunton); Robert B. Bell (R-Albemarle); Kathy J. Byron (R-Campbell); Benjamin L. Cline (R-Rockbridge);  Mark L. Cole (R-Spotsylvania); John A. Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake); John A. Cox (R-Hanover); L. Mark Dudenhefer (R-Stafford); James E. Edmunds II (R-Halifax); C. Matthew Fariss (R-Campbell); T. Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg); Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-Loudoun); Gordon C. Helsel Jr. (R-Poquoson); M. Keith Hodges (R-Middlesex); Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax); Salvatore R. Iaquinto (R-Virginia Beach); Barry D. Knight (R-Virginia Beach); L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William); Daniel W. Marshall III (R-Danville); Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William); Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico); Donald W. Merricks (R-Pittsylvania); James W. “Will” Morefield (R-Tazewell); Brenda L. Pogge (R-James City); Charles D. Poindexter (R-Franklin County); David I. Ramadan (R-Loudoun); Roxann L. Robinson (R-Chesterfield); Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach); Michael B. Watson (R-Williamsburg); Tony O. Wilt (R-Rockingham).

Abstained (10)

M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights); Anne B. Crockett-Stark, R-Wythe; Riley E. Ingram (R-Hopewell); R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta); Israel D. O’Quinn (R-Bristol); Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford); Larry N. Rush (R-Montgomery); Edward T. Scott (R-Madison); Beverly J. Sherwood (R-Frederick); Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach).

Not voting (26)

Robert H. Brink (D-Arlington); David L. Englin (D-Alexandria); C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah); Gregory D. Habeeb (R-Salem); Christopher T. Head (R-Roanoke); William J. Howell (R-Stafford); Johnny S. Joannou (D-Portsmouth); Joseph P. Johnson Jr. (D-Washington County); S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk); Joe T. May (R-Loudoun); Jackson H. Miller (R-Manassas); J. Randall “Randy” Minchew (R-Leesburg); Richard L. Morris (R-Isle of Wight); John M. O’Bannon (R-Henrico); Robert D. Orrock Sr. (R-Caroline); Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover); Kenneth R. Plum (D-Fairfax); Harry R. Purkey (R-Virginia Beach); Margaret B. Ransone (R-Westmoreland); Robert Tata (R-Virginia Beach); Roslyn C. Tyler (D-Sussex); Onzlee Ware (D-Roanoke); R. Lee Ware Jr. (R-Powhatan); Michael J. Webert (R-Fauquier); Thomas C. Wright Jr. (R-Lunenburg) David E. Yancey (R-Newport News).