Wife of Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate steps in to defend him

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that about 13,500 activists attended the Republican Party of Virginia convention in Richmond. About 8,000 delegates attended. The story has been updated.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is defending himself from charges of caddish behavior by turning to a woman who knows him best: his wife.

“Anyone who knows Terry knows he is someone who respects women and the role we play in today’s world — and nobody knows that better than me,” Dorothy McAuliffe said in a written statement released by her husband’s campaign as Republicans gathered in Richmond for a two-day convention to anoint his opponent.

The GOP formally nominated Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II on Saturday in a hall filled with about 8,000 delegates. Polls show the high-profile race is close.

McAuliffe, who has recently been highlighting women’s issues and criticizing Cuccinelli’s strict anti-abortion views in a bid to attract female voters, has drawn criticism over several ungallant episodes involving his wife. Most of the stories were merrily recounted by him in his 2007 autobiography, “What a Party!”

When his wife was giving birth to their daughter Sally in 2005 at Sibley Hospital, for example, the former Democratic National Committee chairman abandoned her in the delivery room to attend a party for a Washington Post gossip columnist.

“I was trying hard not to appear restless, but I am not one to sit still for long, and soon I was going stir crazy, which drove Dorothy nuts,” McAuliffe writes. She told him to go, he says, and so he went flying out the door. He writes that he did keep calling to check on her.

When his wife was in labor at Georgetown Hospital with their son Jack in 1993, he got into a shouting match with an anesthesiologist over health-care reform.

“We were making so much noise that we got kicked out of the delivery room by a nurse who made Nurse Ratched look like Mother Teresa,” McAuliffe writes.

When the couple’s son Peter was born, McAuliffe was there for the birth. But McAuliffe also had to dash away immediately afterward for a fundraising mission at a union-sponsored event in New York. The event made him late returning to pick up his wife and newborn son at Sibley Hospital for the drive home.

“I had to keep pushing back my flight, and Dorothy joked to me later that the nurses were murmuring among themselves, ‘Jeez, isn’t it sad that this new mom is here with her baby and her husband is not coming to get her?’ ” McAuliffe writes.

But on the way home to McLean, McAuliffe also surprised his wife with news that he needed to detour for “a quick little drop-by” at a fundraiser. He left her in tears with the baby and an aide waiting in the car.

“She was having trouble understanding how I could be taking my wife and newborn baby to a fundraiser on our way home from the hospital,” McAuliffe writes. “I felt bad for Dorothy, but it was a million bucks for the Democratic Party and by the time we got home and the kids had their new little brother in their arms, Dorothy was all smiles and we were one big happy family again.”

His autobiography also recounts how he didn’t bother to tell his wife he was lending former president Bill Clinton $1.35 million to buy a house in Chappaqua, N.Y. until after the loan was made and just before he thought reporters might start calling their home asking questions about it.

In discussing his wealth with the late Marjorie Williams, a Washington Post reporter who was writing a profile of him for Vanity Fair, McAuliffe said that even his wife didn’t know how much money they have.

“She’s got a great life. Listen, her credit cards are always paid and all that. She knows I do very well. But she has no idea. Myself and my accountants are the only people who know,” McAuliffe told Williams.

“Hearing him talk,” Williams wrote, “it is odd to remember that Dorothy McAuliffe, thirty-six, is also a Georgetown-trained lawyer who worked for some years in banking law before becoming a full-time mother to their children. . .

Late Friday, McAuliffe’s campaign issued a statement from Dorothy McAuliffe, saying she had helped him write the book and that it was all in good fun:

“The truth about Terry is that he is a wonderful husband and a great father — he is supportive, devoted, and caring. . . I have always stood beside him, and he has always stood beside me,” the statement says. “While Terry has always been there for me, I can stand on my own two feet and say that Mr. Cuccinelli should know that he will have me to answer to if he wants to intrude on our family life for political attacks.”

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