Youngkin ‘boggled’ Caps, Wizards deal ‘from the beginning,’ Va. Sen. Lucas tells WTOP

WTOP Reporter Sandra Jones' full interview with Sen. L. Lucas on the failed arena deal and marijuana bill veto.

Now that the push to move the Washington Capitals and Wizards teams to Virginia’s Alexandria area has been nixed — with owner Ted Leonsis calling himself political “collateral damage” in the deal — state Sen. L. Louise Lucas is putting the blame squarely on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s shoulders.

Lucas, a Virginia native who represents District 18, told WTOP that Youngkin “pretty much boggled this thing right from the very beginning.”

“Because the governor knew that in order to get any kind of major project through the legislature, he had to deal with those of us who are coequals with him in this process. That’s number one. So it was up to the governor to get with those of us in the legislature, which he did not early on — he had announced that this was a done deal back in December,” she said.

As the newly elected chair of state’s Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, having just been elected in November, Lucas said Youngkin knew she’d be coming in but “there was no effort made from him to talk to us.”

She said there was a virtual meeting with Youngkin’s Secretary of Finance Stephen Emery Cummings — but that was it.

“Other than that, there was no conversation with us in December,” Lucas said. “Then, in January, when we get to the session. And all the conversation starts about it. … This has never been done in the history of the Commonwealth, to use our bond rating and to take the faith good and credit of the Commonwealth and put it behind the project.”

“There was no way that this finance committee was going to do that on my watch,” she added.

She raised concerns about other projects that could have been pushed through: “What would have happened if we have 15 or more other projects to come through like that, and wanting the same deal? What would happen if we had a 10 or 15 others to come behind them, even five, and they weren’t able to live up to their commitment to pay off this debt than the Commonwealth of Virginia?”

“We’d be on the hook for it,” Lucas said.

Not surprised by veto of recreational marijuana sales

Lucas said it “came as no surprise” when the governor vetoed two top Democratic legislative priorities on Thursday, including a bill that would have allowed recreational retail sales of marijuana to begin next year.

Youngkin had referred earlier this month to the bill as part of a possible package deal with arena funding to appease Democrats in the legislature. He said he was less open to allowing the legal sale of recreational marijuana after the arena budget plan fell through, before he vetoed the bill.

“A lot of people would say that it was immature of him to do that,” Lucas said. “After having worked — well, I won’t say work with him because that hasn’t been very fruitful — but after having been exposed to this governor for the last two years and three month and four months, he did exactly what I would have expected him to do, to retaliate in just that way.”

She went on to critique the governor’s view of marijuana use.

“Can you imagine a governor who says marijuana is more dangerous than the AR-15?”

Lucas said she could have imagined a “a more cordial or civil discussion” with the governor if he had shared his Monumental arena plans with the legislature earlier. However, she said that the legislature would have still ultimately shot down the deal to “protect the taxpayers’ dollars, and that’s exactly what we did.”

When it comes to the next session, she’s prepared for whatever the governor plans to introduce next.

“There’s nothing that the governor can do that would surprise me,” Lucas said. “Based on our constitutional rights as a coequal partner with him in this process, we’ll do what we have to do.”

Monumental Sports CEO Ted Leonsis, who owns the Capitals and the Wizards, told WTOP the deal’s failure was a result of it slowly becoming more politically motivated.

“I had always looked at Virginia as being a well-managed state, wanting to do business,” Leonsis said, adding that this experience changed his opinion. “It was like, ‘oh my gosh, this has nothing to do with business anymore; this has to do with politics.’ … Who would have thought that D.C. was easier to work with than Virginia?”

He has since reached a deal with D.C. to keep both teams in the District until 2050 to the tune of $515 million.

WTOP’s Sandra Jones contributed to this report.

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Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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