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Marsh appointed to ABC board

(AP) Gov. Terry McAuliffe is appointing two recently resigned Democratic lawmakers to state boards.

The governor announced Thursday that he is appointing Sen. Henry Marsh to be a commissioner of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Del. Algie T. Howell, Jr. to be vice chairman of state’s parole board. Howell will be paid $112,445 and Marsh will make $122,000, according to McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy.

Marsh and Howell recently announced their resignations from the General Assembly. Last week, Arlington Democrat Del. Bob Brink resigned to take a job deputy commissioner for aging services at the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

The 80-year-old Marsh worked as a civil rights lawyer and was Richmond’s first black mayor before serving more than two decades in the state Senate. Howell spent 10 years in the House and was previously a member of the Norfolk Public School Board.

A spot on the ABC board is widely viewed as one of the more cushy political appointments that governors can make.

One of McAuliffe’s early picks for the board, GOP political operative Boyd Marcus, had to leave the job earlier this year after House Republicans would not confirm his appointment. Marcus shocked Virginia’s political class last year by endorsing McAuliffe during the gubernatorial campaign, and was paid $140,000 as a campaign adviser.

McAuliffe’s appointments of lawmakers to state positions come a month after Democratic Sen. Phil Puckett’s sudden resignation started a political firestorm and led to a federal investigation. Puckett’s departure gave control of the state Senate to Republicans and dealt a blow to McAuliffe’s goal of expanding Medicaid eligibility.

At the time of his resignation, Puckett was considering a high-level job at the GOP-controlled tobacco commission, an arrangement that some Democrats characterized as an improper back-room deal.

The FBI has been investigating the circumstances of Puckett’s resignation, and a grand jury has been empaneled. Puckett has denied any wrongdoing.

Some Republicans have suggested the probe is politically motivated and Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins used McAuliffe’s announcement Thursday as a way to mock the investigation.

“The Puckett precedent is clear: resigning General Assembly to take a government job — or even to consider taking a government job — is worthy of empaneling a grand jury,” Mullins said in a statement.

But McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy rejected any comparison between the governor’s appointments and Puckett’s departure, noting that only Puckett’s resignation altered the balance of power in the General Assembly.

“Attempting to compare any of these appointments to other recently rumored appointments would be an attempt to distract from an unfolding legal scandal and nothing more,” said Coy.

— ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press

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