President Obama and Mitt Romney aren’t the only pols barnstorming across Virginia these days. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) embarks on a six-day statewide tour Monday that will take him from a high school on the Tennessee border to the deck of a Navy cruiser in Norfolk.
The “Virginia: Growing Strong” tour is not — at least officially — on behalf of Romney’s presidential campaign, or on behalf of McDonnell’s vice presidential aspirations.
No, this is official state travel, officially undertaken to call attention to all that’s right about Virginia, just like those TV ads McDonnell is running, though his PAC picked up the tab for those.
And if by sheer coincidence that lap around the state also calls attention to the term-limited McDonnell in a campaign-tour kinda way, who’s gonna complain?
Democrats, that’s who.
“McDonnell Vanity Tour,” they called it.
Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, questioned “why taxpayers should have to fund a transparently political effort to rehabilitate his image in the midst of the Republican vice presidential selection process.”
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the tour was no such thing.
“Only an opposing state political party could find a sitting Governor traveling around his own state to be somehow ‘political’ and worth attacking,” Martin said via e-mail. “But hey, they’re paid to make comments like that, so we understand.”
Here’s how McDonnell’s office billed the tour.
“Following recent news of record-high agriculture exports; Virginia’s unemployment rate falling to 5.6 percent, the lowest rate in over three years; and the passage of a balanced budget that directs historic new resources to higher education, puts significant new funding into K-12 education and dramatically improves the solvency of Virginia’s Retirement System, with no tax increases; and continuing his administration’s focus on job creation and economic development, Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that he is embarking on a ‘Virginia: Growing Strong’ statewide tour over the next week,” reads the announcement from his office. “The statewide tour is aimed at highlighting private-sector growth around the Commonwealth and celebrating bipartisan successes from the recent General Assembly session.”
Said McDonnell: “Virginia is growing strong again. ... Our 5.6 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in over three years, the lowest in the southeast, and it has fallen by 23 percent since we took office. Our new biennial budget puts historic new resources into higher education, over half a billion in new funding into our K-12 system, and stabilizes our retirement system for the years ahead. And we did this without raising taxes. We are making government live within its means, and be more efficient and effective. ... These are Virginia successes. They are the result of Virginians coming together across party and regional lines to get things done and get results. We are celebrating that.”
Call the tour what you will — nonpartisan, feel-good, gubernatorial jaunt or vice presidential politicking on the public dime — here’s the schedule for it:
Monday, May 7
●8 a.m. Governor McDonnell’s Cabinet Kicks-Off Statewide Tour During Weekly Cabinet Meeting; Cabinet Conference Room, Patrick Henry Building, 1111 E. Broad St., Richmond
●12:15 p.m. Governor McDonnell Visits EIT, Inc., 350 Slayton Ave., Danville
●2 p.m. Governor McDonnell Signs Jobs and Economic Development Legislation and Cuts Ribbon at Grand Opening of ICF International, 980 Beaver Creek Dr., Martinsville
Tuesday, May 8
●11:40 a.m. Governor McDonnell Visits Fredericksburg Machine & Steel, 2202 Airport Ave., Fredericksburg
●2:30 p.m. Governor McDonnell Signs Legislation to Protect Victims of Sexual and Domestic Violence. Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale Campus), Robert Ernst Community Cultural Center, 8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale
Wednesday, May 9
●9 a.m. Governor McDonnell Makes Land Conservation Announcement, National Sporting Library and Museum, 102 The Plains Rd., Middleburg
●12:30 p.m. Governor McDonnell Visits DuPont Front Royal Plant, 7961 Winchester Rd., Front Royal
●2 p.m. Governor McDonnell Signs Legislation to Promote Agriculture and Forestry Industry; Cave View Farm, 147 Cave View Lane, Weyer’s Cave
●3:30 p.m. Governor McDonnell Visits Charlottesville-Based State Employees, Fontaine Research Park, 900 Natural Resources Dr., Suite 800, Charlottesville
Thursday, May 10
●9 a.m. Governor McDonnell Signs College- and Career-Ready Legislation; First Part of “Opportunity to Learn” Agenda, Virginia High School, 1200 Long Crescent Drive, Bristol
●12 p.m. Governor McDonnell Visits Ruby’s Steak House for Lunch, 191 Industrial Dr., Pennington Gap
●12:45 p.m. Governor McDonnell visits Lee High School and Lee County Career and Technical Center, 200 General Lane, Jonesville
●3 p.m. Governor McDonnell Signs Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit and Coal Mine Safety Legislation; (Location will be announced Wednesday.)
Saturday, May 12
●10 a.m. Governor McDonnell Delivers Commencement Address at Christopher Newport University, The Great Lawn, Christopher Newport University, Newport News
●2 p.m. Governor McDonnell Holds Military Appreciation Month Event Aboard the USS San Jacinto, Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia Beach