Notwithstanding the mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs” repeated by the candidates, the fact is that there are not wide policy differences between our candidates. Given that, the three key issues that should be of concern to the Democratic primary voter are as follows:
1. Electability. Which candidate has the best shot of beating McDonnell?
2. Vision. Which candidate has articulated a positive and pragmatic vision for the Commonwealth’s future?
3. Capability. Which candidate will make the best, most effective Governor, able to begin work from day one and make the most of his four years?
Here is the rank of each candidate in these respective areas, with a very brief analysis
First Place: Creigh Deeds. He is a Democrat that hails from a rural part of the state, allowing him to benefit from the strong Democratic organization in NoVA while also appealing to large numbers of voters in other parts of the state. In 2005, he fought McDonnell to a draw, despite being outspent two-to-one. That won’t happen this time – both sides will have plenty of money.
Second Place: Brian Moran. As a NoVA liberal, Moran will have trouble gaining the support he will need in the rest of Virginia to win the election, even with strong support in NoVA. He differs from Mark Warner in this regard, as Warner ran specifically as a businessman and a moderate who sought to directly appeal to rural voters. But Moran has campaigned across the Commonwealth for many years and has contacts throughout the state.
Last Place: Terrence McAuliffe. He brings fundraising ability, but we probably won’t need that in the general. Otherwise, he brings a lifetime history of wheeling and dealing in sketchy deals, and the fact that while he has lived here for 17 years, apparently, he has spent 16 of them not spending any time thinking about Virginia.
First Place: Creigh Deeds. With respect to the three most critical issues facing Virginia, transportation, energy and education, Creigh has articulated a clear vision. With respect to transportation, Creigh has told voters across the states that it is a statewide problem in which rural areas need to support the efforts of NoVA and Hampton Roads in building more roads and mass transit systems. With respect to energy, Creigh takes the common-sense proposition that we ought not to take anything off the table until science takes it off the table, while also communicating a strong affirmative vision of developing alternative energy sources and continuing research across the state, using it to power not only our cars and homes, but also Virginia’s economic engine. On education, Creigh speaks of a network of community colleges across the Commonwealth, so every resident is within an hour’s drive, and utilizing the capabilities of the Commonwealth’s many great universities to drive economic development through energy research and development of new technologies. Lastly, his promise to enforce redistricting one way or another will return the General Assembly to its rightful owners: the citizens of Virginia.
Second Place: Brian Moran. His campaign theme of a “fighter, not a fundraiser” flopped badly for a variety of reasons, but as this contest wore on Moran’s campaign failed to articulate a clear message of any kind beyond “Defeat Terry McAuliffe.” What was worse, even those attacks backfired, as criticism leveled on McAuliffe on such subjects as fundraising invariably boomeranged back on Moran. Still, Moran has a strong reputation in Virginia as a fighter for Progressive causes, and despite, IMHO, having run a poor campaign, he had and has plenty of good will in the bank.
Last Place: Terrence McAuliffe. The vision McAuliffe brings to the race is encapsulated in his line, “Not all great ideas come from Richmond.” This outsider meme worked great for Barack Obama after eight years of Bush-Cheney. As I have said, I don’t think the outsider meme will work in a state where the Governor is (a) a Democrat, fer cryin’ out loud; and (b) enjoys a favorability rating above 50%. But whatever.
Ability to be an Effective Governor
First Place: Creigh Deeds. Creigh has 20+ years experience in the House of Delegates and the State Senate. He has run a statewide campaign. Creigh has crafted legislation that has gathered the support from both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate, most recently his compromise for closing the gun show loophole and his legislation for non-partisan redistricting. Republicans and Democrats alike respect him throughout the Commonwealth. He hails from a rural area, but clearly understands and appreciates the needs of Virginia’s urban areas, particularly when it comes to transportation. Creigh is, by far, the best-prepared candidate to be governor and to put his credentials up against Bob McDonnell in a general election.
Second Place: Brian Moran. Brian Moran has significant legislative experience, but he has never been a member of a majority party in the HoD, and has not really crafted coalitions to pass controversial legislation. He did pass Alicia’s Law, but a subject like that is not controversial and does not test legislative skills. That said, Moran fought tough for Progressive principles in his 20 years in the House of Delegates, and he deserves our praise and thanks for that, but he has not shown the ability to govern or to build coalitions that are the hallmark of an effective Governor.
Last Place: Terrence McAuliffe: Lived in Virginia for 17 years. Paid attention to Virginia issues for one year. Do the math.