GOP Virginia Lawmaker Compares Medicaid Expansion to 'Tar Baby'


Virginia State Senator Frank Ruff (R), who opposes the expansion of Medicaid in his state, recently compared this medical coverage for low income residents to a "tar baby."

According to, Ruff made his comments at the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce.

Ruff later claimed he "meant nothing racial," but several people were offended by the phrase.

"I thought it was not a correct statement to make," said Danville City Councilman John Gilstrap. "It certainly was offensive to a couple African Americans in the audience."

Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders, who is black, reportedly left the meeting after Ruff made his "tar baby" comment.

In response, Ruff told in an email, “Speaking with no prepared remarks I used the term ‘tar baby’ referring to a sticky situation one time. Never have I ever heard this as a racial term. I called the Mayor yesterday afternoon to clarify that. I consider Sherman a friend and do not expect this to change our working together in the future for all of the people of the region.”

Ruff and his fellow Republicans have blocked the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia, which would provide health coverage for an estimated 400,000 residents.

Virginia Republicans claim they are worried the federal government will not pay its share of the expansion, but in reality, the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion costs for the first three years and 90 percent until 2022.

While Ruff opposes expanding health coverage, he has worked hard to streamline gun permits, noted



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