McAuliffe Launches Campaign
Dem Hopes To Avoid ‘Election Hangover’
HARRISONBURG — The swing-state status Virginia had in last year’s presidential election brought the commonwealth plenty of national attention from both the media and the two major parties. In the end, Terry McAuliffe’s party-mate Barack Obama won the state, thanks in large part to energized Democratic voters.
But an “election hangover” scenario has crossed McAuliffe’s mind in his bid this year for governor: a worn-out party base that spells defeat for McAuliffe and hands victory to his Republican foe, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
McAuliffe has less than six months — the election is on Nov. 5 — to avoid that fate. He thinks he can do it by laying out his case that Virginia’s economic viability is at stake.
“My opponent is focused on the social agenda,” McAuliffe said as he kicked off his campaign Monday afternoon at Friendship Industries in Harrisonburg. “We’re not going to [grow business] with a social, ideological agenda that divides folks.”
About 70 people attended the event at the company’s Friendship Drive location. The company, which hires local residents with developmental disabilities, has more than 200 employees who offer contract packaging, certified document shredding and shipping services.
McAuliffe is touring the state to launch his campaign this week. Events in Richmond and Charlottesville on Monday preceded the Harrisonburg stop.
Additional kickoff events are planned in Roanoke, Danville, Arlington and Bristol today through Thursday.
Cuccinelli opened a campaign office in March at the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republican committees’ headquarters on Neff Avenue in the city.
SOL Reform Sought
A Northern Virginia businessman, McAuliffe said his “jobs first” platform has been more than four years in the making. In 2008, the former Democratic National Committee chairman lost the state party’s nomination for governor to Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Hot Springs.
Deeds then lost to Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is barred by the Virginia Constitution from serving two consecutive four-year terms in office.
After the nomination defeat, McAuliffe set out on a massive statewide listening tour. He visited random festivals, people’s living rooms, a coal-mining operation and, as of Monday, 18 of Virginia’s 23 community colleges.
McAuliffe swung by Blue Ridge Community College in April. He calls community colleges the “engine for work force development.”
The growth of those schools will bolster Virginia’s economy, McAuliffe said. More collaboration with high school students who otherwise would not be considering college needs to occur, he said, and “old-fashioned” state mandates need to be removed.
One of those regulations requires the colleges to order furniture through the government, which can sometimes cost the schools several times more than the market value of an item, McAuliffe said.
At lower levels of education, his ideas include reforming the Standards of Learning assessment, either by breaking up the test throughout the year or developing progress-based data to track a child’s academic growth.
A well-funded, maintained transportation system is another major component to economic growth, McAuliffe said. He is trying to separate himself from Cuccinelli on this topic by noting that he supports the comprehensive, bipartisan roads package that McDonnell carried through in this year’s General Assembly.
Cuccinelli came out against the plan in early March because it calls for tax increases to help bring in up to $880 million of new revenue a year within five years. The Republican Party of Virginia says McAuliffe’s support of the plan is evidence of his willingness to raise taxes.
Harrisonburg and Rockingham County’s senators and delegates, all Republicans, opposed the plan, too.
The transportation debate is a contributing factor to what McAuliffe calls “probably the starkest contrast” between two gubernatorial opponents in the history of the commonwealth.
But if Democratic voters don’t show in November the way they did a year earlier, history books will reflect a GOP victory.
McAuliffe is intent on reminding supporters of that very point.
Said the candidate: “Don’t think that last year’s election meant more than this year’s election.”
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or email@example.com