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On Election Night, Jamison Reemerges

But Richmond's former city manager, the man behind the curtain, was in the thick of things Nov. 8, rubbing elbows with Richmond's political elite and business leaders like Jim Ukrop, who joined Kaine onstage.

Was he angling for a political comeback or just showing support for his old ally?

Jamison's kept a low profile since his ouster after Wilder swept into office. But he recently took a job as senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Hampton University. That's what he's "really focusing" on now, he says, and he isn't looking for a position in the Kaine administration.

Still, Jamison wastes no time defending his record while the Kaine crowd reaches a fevered pitch. "It's probably time to speak the truth," Jamison says, his voice straining to rise above the din. "We wouldn't be here tonight were it not for all the things we have accomplished in the city of Richmond."

He's referring to more than $4 billion in new investment downtown, rising real estate values and "record numbers" of young professionals moving into the city. He says murders dropped by more than half while he and Kaine were running the show. And unlike the city's current $14 million budget shortfall, Jamison says his administration never had such problems: "I will say we balanced our budget every year."

But some political observers say Jamison may have been Kaine's biggest fumble as mayor. Kaine championed him to become city manager in 1999, although he had no government experience. Critics say Jamison emphasized public relations and economic development over crime and education. Wilder's pegged him for much of the city's mismanagement and financial duress, such as the Paygo scandal two years ago.

Wilder has specifically pointed to Jamison as brokering bad deals for the city, such as the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation's plans for a performing arts center. In Wilder's inaugural press conference, he launched an investigation into Jamison's $175,000 severance package.

Jamison, who still lives in Richmond, would love a shot at redemption, says Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks, an avid political watcher and an old Jamison foe. He says he's predicted all along that if Kaine were elected, Jamison would reemerge in politics. A job with Kaine, he says, "cleans him up again."

For all Wilder's lashings, Jamison has this to ask: Was the city better off before or after he left his post?

Just ask Kaine, who spoke out against Jamison's detractors in early October. "I think that they're wrong," Kaine said. For starters, the city's bond rating increased, as did school test scores during Jamison's tenure, he said. "What Calvin could not do was overcome City Council members that were doing things they shouldn't." — Scott Bass and Melissa Scott Sinclair

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