As Cuccinelli and McAuliffe stump at VCU, Doug Wilder shows who’s boss

September 6, 2013

RICHMOND — It’s good to be ex-governor. Just ask L. Douglas Wilder, the Democrat who left the governor’s office nearly 20 years ago but still wields enormous influence.

We speak not of Wilder’s power to draw both major-party candidates for governor Thursday to the class he teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, though that was impressive.

Nor of the nakedly burning desire that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) and former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe both have for his endorsement.

No, we refer to Doug Wilder’s power to trump fire code.

More than 40 students, some from other political science classes, crowded into a fourth-floor conference room on VCU’s downtown Richmond campus to take in back-to-back appearances by Cuccinelli and McAuliffe. TV, print and radio reporters also wanted in, but a campus security officer said the room was over capacity.

As Cuccinelli began addressing the class, reporters were stuck in the hallway, straining to hear and see past the officer, who stood squarely in the open doorway. Cuccinelli campaign spokesman Richard Cullen appealed to the officer again and again to let the media in to report on his boss. The officer, invoking the fire marshal, wouldn’t budge.

A few minutes into Cuccinelli’s spiel, Wilder took a few steps toward the doorway. Cullen caught his eye.

“Governor, it would be great to get these folks in,” Cullen whispered.

“Go ahead,” Wilder said as breezily as if he were welcoming someone into his living room.

The officer stepped aside without a word.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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