News In 5: Sen. Norment among over a dozen Va. legislators retiring this year

Here are the week’s top stories.

1. State Sen. Tommy Norment will not seek re-election this year. 

  • Long-serving Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment has announced that he will not seek a 9th term. Norment, of James City County, has served in the Senate since 1992.
    • “Tommy Norment is a Senate legend, a worthy adversary & one of the most effective legislators I’ve ever known – I’m going to miss our battles, our negotiations, his wisdom & his love of the Senate and Virginia – we are losing so many titans this cycle,” Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell said in a tweet.
  • Norment is one of more than a dozen Virginia legislators to rule out running again under the new maps that were redrawn during the latest redistricting cycle. Other legislative veterans opting not to seek re-election this year include Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw and Democrat Del. Ken Plum, the longest-serving member of the House. Norment and Saslaw have rotated back and forth between minority and majority leaders in the politically-divided General Assembly since 2008.
  • All 140 seats in the General Assembly are on the ballot this year. The announced departures, combined with the incumbents who may be unseated in upcoming primaries, could result in a turnover of 15%-20% of the General Assembly membership before next year’s session, according to veteran political analyst Bob Holsworth. Holsworth told the AP that the redistricting “has impacted everyone” and has “turned into backdoor term limits.”
  • In 2021, a bipartisan redistricting commission couldn’t agree on maps for either Congress or the General Assembly, leaving two court-appointed special masters to carry out the task. The maps they developed made no effort to protect incumbents, leading many districts to be overhauled.
  • More retirement announcements are still expected, in part because General Assembly members are required to live in the districts they represent. 
  • Future plans: Norment, 76, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he plans to spend more time with his wife, two adult children and grandchildren after he retires. A former professor at William & Mary, he also hopes to return to teaching and become more involved in local civic issues in Williamsburg, he said.
    • “I came in quietly, and I want to leave quietly,” Norment said.
Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) speaks to College Republicans at William & Mary on Sep. 23, 2022. Norment, a former professor, said he hopes to return to teaching after he retires from the Senate. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Webb)

2. Colonial Williamsburg has received a $3 million grant to restore and interpret the First Baptist Church.

  • The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has been awarded a $3 million grant to fund a nationally-recognized project to examine, reconstruct and interpret the Historic First Baptist Church in Williamsburg.
  • The church was founded in 1776 by free and enslaved Black worshippers and isone of the nation’s earliest Black Baptist churches. A primary goal of the project is to reconstruct the original building by 2026, the 250th anniversary of the church’s founding.
  • The grant, provided by Lilly Endowment Inc., will establish a financial endowment for long-term support of religious interpretive staff on site. It will also help directly fund the reconstruction of the church’s original structure.
    • “First Baptist Church’s history is one of many powerful stories that unfolded in Williamsburg during our nation’s founding. Lilly Endowment recognizes the significance of ensuring the church’s history and the lessons of its early years are researched and shared with the nation and the world,” said Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of Colonial Williamsburg.
  • Lilly Endowment also awarded a $2.5 million grant to The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for the project in 2020, its first year. Since then, several significant discoveries have drawn national and international attention. In October 2021, archaeologists found the foundation of the church’s original structure – dating back to the early 1800s – near the intersection of Nassau and Francis streets. More than 60 burials were also discovered, and those remains are undergoing DNA and osteological analysis in search of clues about who was buried there.
  • The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is currently seeking additional support to continue carrying out the First Baptist Church project and is actively encouraging other donors through the grant’s gift-matching challenge. Additional information is available here
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has received a $3 million grant to support a nationally-recognized project to examine, reconstruct and interpret the Historic First Baptist Church in Williamsburg. In October 2021, archaeologists found the foundation of the church’s original structure near the intersection of Nassau and Francis streets. (Photo by The Triangle)

3. A James City County man was arrested Monday in connection with a shooting.

  • A man has been arrested in the shooting of a 56-year-old James City County resident.
  • James Bradsby, 49, of James City County, was charged with malicious wounding, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and reckless handling of a firearm.
  • Police say they received a report of a gunshot victim at the 7-Eleven located at 8185 Croaker Road in James City County around 6:20 pm. Upon arrival, they found a man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to MCV Hospital in Richmond for treatment.
  • After an investigation was launched, police went to the home of the alleged shooter in the 8200 block of Croaker Road, where the shooting is believed to have taken place. Bradsby was arrested before midnight after police obtained a search warrant.

4. Avelo Airlines will no longer provide service from Newport News-Williamsburg Airport. 

  • Avelo Airlines will officially stop service at Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport on April 16.
    • “We have decided to end service at Newport News effective April 17. The last flights out of PHF will be Sunday, April 16,” a spokesperson for Avelo said in a statement. “Unfortunately, PHF has not been generating the demand we expected and has been underperforming in future bookings. This was not the outcome we envisioned when Avelo took flight at PHF last fall. All Customers who have tickets booked past April 17 will be automatically refunded and we are in the process of notifying Customers about this news.”
  • The announcement came just days after the airport’s executive director, Michael Giardino, was fired from his post by the Peninsula Airport Commission (PAC) in a 4-1 vote.
  • Giardino expressed optimism about the airport’s future in October 2022 after Avelo announced it would provide nonstop service to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. Service was offered twice a week, starting at $49.
  • News of Avelo’s departure has been frustrating to some local residents who had already made plans to fly on Avelo from the airport later in the spring or over the summer.
    • “I received an email yesterday stating that they canceled my flight and they would be refunding my money in seven to 10 business days,” passenger Charlene Morris-Harris told 13NewsNow. “I was pretty upset, only because I’ve already made my hotel accommodation and it was about the cheapest flight going, anyway.” Morris-Harris said she is unlikely to fly out of the airport again because of the negative experience.
  • Meanwhile, Avelo also announced last week that it will be adding twice weekly service from Orlando to Charlottesville, Virginia, beginning May 3.

5. A new Dairy Queen will be opening in York County in March.

  • A DQ Grill & Chill is set to open in the Grafton Shopping Center in York County. The new restaurant, owned the Mid Atlantic Dairy Queen Franchisee, will be located at 5704 George Washington Memorial Highway. 
  • The 1,400-square-foot DQ will seat up to 55 people indoors and will also feature an outdoor covered patio for up to 40 customers, according to The Daily Press.
  • The store is also currently hiring 50 employees. Full-time and part-time employment is available, and current openings include assistant manager, shift leader, customer service and kitchen staff positions. Starting wages range from $13-$18 per hour.
  • Interested job seekers can apply here, and open interviews will be conducted on March 1, 2 and 3 from 10 am – 6 pm. 

6. The Williamsburg Voter Registrar is considering making changes to precinct boundaries. 

  • The City of Williamsburg’s Voter Registrar has proposed revising its precinct map.According to a news release, a significantly higher number of voters are assigned to the Stryker precinct polling place than to the Matoaka precinct polling place. A total of 6,521 voters currently cast their ballots at Stryker, while only 3,947 vote in Matoaka.
  • If approved, the changes would shift 1,139 registered voters from Stryker to Matoaka, so that 5,382 voters would be assigned to the Stryker precinct compared to 5,086 assigned to Matoaka.
  • The registered voters who would be impacted by the change live in the area south of Francis Street and east of South Boundary Street. The changes wouldn’t affect voters’ state or congressional districts. To review maps of the proposed changes, click here.  
  • According to Virginia state law, localities are required to revise precinct boundaries whenever the number of voters who voted in a precinct for a presidential election exceeds 4,000. The Stryker Center, according to the City, is now nearing that threshold.
  • A public meeting will be held at the Stryker Center to discuss the proposed changes on Thursday, March 9 at 2:00 pm. Residents can also submit feedback by completing this online form through Monday, April 3.
The City of Williamsburg has proposed changes to the boundaries of its voter precincts. (Photo courtesy of the City of Williamsburg)

In the National News

Covid-19 likely leaked from a China lab, FBI chief says: Covid-19 most likely originated in a government-controlled Chinese lab, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday. Speaking publicly about the matter for the first time, he told Fox News that the FBI “has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.” Wray also said the Chinese government has tried to block U.S agencies from investigating the pandemic’s origins. The assertion came after a Wall Street Journal report revealed that a new Department of Energy assessment concluded the virus was likely the result of a lab leak in Wuhan. Meanwhile, China refuted the claims Wednesday, saying the U.S. government’s lab leak findings have “no credibility whatsoever,” according to Reuters

Eli Lilly cuts insulin prices: Eli Lilly is cutting the prices of its most commonly prescribed insulins, Axios reports. The company’s most commonly-prescribed insulin, Humalog, rose in cost by 52% between 2014 and 2019, with its list price going up to nearly $600 per month. But on Wednesday, Lilly said the price of its top insulin products, Humalog and Humulin, will drop by 70% in the fourth quarter. Out-of-pocket costs for its insulin will also be capped at $35 per month at some retail pharmacies, the manufacturer said. 

Spring water bottled near East Palestine pulled from shelves: A major grocery chain has pulled water that was bottled 25 miles from the Norfolk Southern train derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio. Giant Eagle, which operates hundreds of stores in multiple states, has withdrawn spring water from Salineville, Ohio, out of an “abundance of caution,” Time Magazine reports. Meanwhile, in spite of earlier EPA assurances, scientists say new air quality tests have registered unusually high levels of some toxic chemicals in the air in East Palestine, according to CNN.

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