September 22, 2013
Terry McAuliffe (Maddie Meyer/The Washington Post)
Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (Maddie Meyer/The Washington Post)

Unless you are a state party insider, and maybe even if you are, you probably aren’t excited by the Virginia gubernatorial race. As we see it, center-right voters have four options, none of which is entirely satisfying.

Ken Cuccinelli:

On the positive side, the attorney general is experienced in state government and undeniably pro-business and pro-growth. Whatever his personal views on abortion and gay marriage, there is little he could do about either issue in the governor’s office. With a center-right legislature, not much will change in Virginia, which has enjoyed a period of growth and relative economic prosperity. Finally, as a fellow Virginia conservative put it, he’ll probably do what mainstream conservatives want most of the time, making him the only reasonable choice for center-right voters. Should he lose, we’ll have to suffer through another round of the “GOP is dead” chatter.

On the downside, his tone and views on social issues are obnoxious to many Virginians. There is genuine concern he’ll project an image that Virginia is backward-looking and intolerant. His obvious national aspirations may lead him to engage in ideological crusades rather than concentrate on the state’s business, resulting in gridlock and disarray on critical items like a state budget, taxes and transportation. Moreover, the state GOP should not be rewarded for conducting a convention (designed to protect the far-right candidate) instead of a primary that would have tested him with a wider electorate. One way to send a message to the Virginia GOP, which is teetering on the edge of irrelevancy, is to send Cuccinelli packing.

Terry McAuliffe:

On the plus side, he’s not an ideological liberal and has no interest in chasing business out of Virginia. The governor’s office is rather weak, so it wouldn’t be a tragedy if he were elected, and (see above) sending a message to the state GOP is important.

On the other hand, the man defines cronyism and has shown little interest in learning much about the state. His honesty and integrity are suspect. His decision to “pay” for his budget by expanding Medicaid (and thereby upping federal contributions) is unsound. Moreover, he might find himself in legal trouble, thereby saddling the voters with a governor in legal peril. And if you think he is somehow representative of the Clintons, then there is no use in giving Bill and Hillary bragging rights.

Robert Sarvis:

In his favor, I can say the libertarian candidate is smart, sincere and not hobbled by any of the ethical baggage that weighs down McAuliffe and Cuccinelli. It would give both parties a huge wake-up call if Sarvis racks up a solid vote total. And his positions are not that “out there” (e.g. he wants school choice, opposes tax hikes, wants user fees to pay for transportation).

But wait. This guy has no chance, right? So it may benefit McAuliffe (who theoretically would lose less votes to Sarvis than would Cuccinelli). It’s not a good idea to reward unqualified or inexperienced candidates.

Leave it blank:

On the plus side, it’s the only way to accurately express disgust with both major-party candidates. There are other candidates for center-right voters to focus upon, including the solid GOP nominee for attorney general, Mark Obenshain. Leaving the top of the ticket race blank sends a message to the state GOP without rewarding candidates with whom center-right voters may disagree.

On the downside, not choosing is a cop out. It’s not smart to allow other voters — probably the true ideologues — to decide the governorship. Races always have imperfect candidates.

Other information may come to light before the November election. But for now, like many Virginians, I remain in a quandary.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.