Big-name politicians visit Virginia to help legislative candidates

October 24, 2011

In the final two frenzied weeks before Virginia’s legislative elections, a host of bold-faced names is stopping in the state to raise money and energize volunteers as Republicans and Democrats battle for control of the Senate.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will rally the troops Wednesday at the Fairfax County Republican Committee headquarters. Former president Bill Clinton will headline a fundraiser Friday in McLean for Senate Democrats.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a GOP presidential candidate, appeared in the state last month. So did Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), who heads the Democratic National Committee.

Their appearances on behalf of legislative candidates in an off-year election underscore the importance of November’s races in Virginia — and the role the state will play in 2012. Only three other states — Louisiana, Mississippi and New Jersey — hold legislative elections this year.

“Obviously, this year, everyone is focused on those four states,” said Terry McAuliffe, a former gubernatorial candidate who is hosting Clinton at his home for the only political event the former president is headlining this year. “We’re proud to have [Clinton]. He understands how important these races are.”

Virginia Republicans, ahead in recruiting and fundraising, are aggressively fighting to take control of the Senate, where Democrats hold a 22 to 18 majority.

If the GOP picks up just two seats, the party would seize control because a Republican — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — presides over the Senate.

Romney’s appearance in Fairfax with Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and Bolling, who heads his campaign in Virginia, will be his first public event in the swing state this election cycle.

“It’s great that he’s taking time away from his own campaign to help support our efforts in Virginia this year,” Bolling said. “That’s the kind of person he is, and our activists and candidates really appreciate that.”

McDonnell invited Romney to come to Virginia after Perry addressed more than 1,000 people at a fundraiser for the state party in Richmond, raising more than $125,000.

Romney, considered the national front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has been in Virginia several times this year for closed fundraisers, including one at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner and an event in Virginia Beach hosted by Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach).

The former Massachusetts governor will hold a fundraiser Tuesday night at the McLean home of Bobbie Kilberg, a major Republican supporter who heads the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Kilberg said more than 350 people will attend the event, which is expected to raise more than $268,000 for Romney’s campaign.

“I think Mitt is showing he has financial support in Virginia, which translates to political support as well,” said Kilberg, who serves on his national finance committee with her husband, Bill.

The Romney campaign declined to comment.

The fundraiser Clinton is headlining at the home of his good friend McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will be attended by more than 250 people and is expected to raise more than $100,000.

“It’s huge, huge, huge,” Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said. “It’ll be a great event. It will be profitable. He creates a lot of excitement wherever he is.”

McAuliffe has worked in national politics for almost three decades. He raised more than $200 million for Clinton in the 1990s and chaired Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, which raised about $220 million.

McAuliffe, who is eyeing a second gubernatorial run in 2013, has attended 70 political events for candidates since the Aug. 23 primary.

Virginia’s top Republicans — McDonnell, Bolling, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II and former U.S. senator and governor George Allen, now a candidate for U.S. Senate — have been crisscrossing the state for candidates. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and former governor Timothy M. Kaine, now a U.S. Senate candidate, have done the same for Democrats.

McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli will fly around the state as part of a get-out-the-vote effort for Republicans in the final weekend before the Nov. 8 election. Warner and Kaine will travel the state for Democrats.

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