Jurors are now getting a little taste of Robert F. McDonnell’s campaign for governor, complete with some behind-the-scenes information about when and why he decided to run.
Robert F. McDonnell testified Wednesday that he came to that decision in the middle or end of 2006. He said he had just gotten settled in at the attorney general’s office — having moved to Richmond on his own so his kids could finish school in Virginia Beach — but knew he had to act quickly.
“You only really get one chance at doing this,” he said.
McDonnell said he tapped a number of political advisers to help. Among them were Phil Cox, Janet Vestal Kelly, Tucker Martin and Jasen Eige, all of whom have been witnesses at the trial. And by 2009, McDonnell said he had a staff of 30 or 35 working to get him elected to the highest office in the state.
The hours were long and the travel was extensive, McDonnell said.
“There’s always one more event you can do,” he said. “There’s always one more voter you can talk to.”
“The time spent on the campaign, did that take away from your time with your family?” defense attorney Henry “Hank” Asbill asked.
“Well, sure,” McDonnell responded.
Then McDonnell launched into why he ran.
The testimony might help his defense attorneys argue that he always acted in the best interests of those he governed, not because of a corrupt bargain with Jonnie R. Williams Sr.
McDonnell said his focus was, “What’s going to make Virginia better over the next four years?” Of particular importance: economic development.
“I really saw an immense amount of hurt and pain in people in Virginia,” he said.
But McDonnell said he had other priorities, too. Among them were public safety, transportation, the state pension system and budget deficits. At times, it sounded like he was again on the campaign trail, looking directly at jurors as he talked about Virginia’s problems, and how he wanted to solve them.
“There was a pretty comprehensive list of things, but everything that we focused on really revolved around this idea of economic development and job creation,” he said.
Most jurors looked back, though two seemed to be looking down, bored with the proceedings.
The judge declared a break at 4:15 p.m. The governor should resume testifying at 4:30 p.m.