As McDonnells cast ballots, Va. governor urges successor to ‘unite people’


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, arrive to vote at the main library in Richmond, Va., on Tuesday. Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe are running to succeed McDonnell. (Steve Helber/AP)

At about 10:35, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell arrived at the Richmond Main Library, Precinct 607, to cast their ballots. Both were dressed in gray pinstriped suits and walked hand-in-hand to the polling place.

McDonnell (R) and his wife both handed over their drivers’ licenses to poll workers, and Rose Austin asked the governor a question or two to verify that he was, in fact, Robert Francis McDonnell.

“Thank you for your public service,” McDonnell told her. On his way out, he stopped to chat with a well-wisher who used to work at the Republican National Committee.

Outside, McDonnell said he voted the Republican ticket in the hope that the slate would win and carry on his legacy.

“ I think we’ve got a good get-out-the-vote effort, and I think especially with the smaller turnout, and the energy and enthusiasm of the base Republicans and the Libertarians, it is going to be significant,” McDonnell said. “So I’m still hopeful, despite what some of the polls have said, that we will prevail today.”

McDonnell said he also agreed that the election could become a referendum on the federal Affordable Care Act, especially because of the “disastrous implementation of Obamacare.” But he acknowledged that the partial, 16-day shutdown of the federal government has also hampered the GOP’s chances, particularly in Northern Virginia. He said the economic impact of the shutdown has appeared in the state’s revenue figures.

“It certainly got a lot tougher about two months ago with the government shutdown,” McDonnell said. “I think people blamed Republicans, whether that was fair or not. They blamed Republicans for waging a spirited battle on Obamacare. I’ve said there was plenty of blame to go around. We had a president who didn’t lead and the Republicans used a tactic that didn’t work.”

McDonnell deflected a question about whether the gift scandal that has tarnished his governorship would mean that he would have to shoulder responsibility for a Republican loss, saying he believes the electorate is focused on issues closer to home.

“I think people make their decision based on the issues in the race, based on the views of the candidates, based on the style and tone of the election, and based on what they think is best for them and their families,” McDonnell said. “While other stories might be of interest, that’s not in any way what I see people voting on. It’s the kitchen-table issues. It’s jobs. It’s the economy. It’s taxes. It’s spending. It’s transportation. It’s education. It’s the same issue matrix that I ran on four years ago. I think that’s ultimately what determines the outcome of the election. And I think it’s the independent voter.”

McDonnell added that he had won two-thirds of independents for an overall margin of 18 points in his victory four years ago.

McDonnell also said he planned to call the victor in the governor’s race after the election is called Tuesday night and invite him to the Executive Mansion for lunch Thursday to begin discussing the transition. He said his Cabinet members have also started preparing detailed briefings for the newcomers. And he talked proudly of his administration’s accomplishments, including bipartisan efforts to create jobs, education reforms and recording budget surpluses despite spending about the same amount of money the state spent in 2007.

Asked what advice he would impart to the governor-elect — Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) or Terry McAuliffe (D) — he said he would give the same advice to both: Unite people, especially because the General Assembly is divided by party.

“Our basic governing philosophy has really been this: Get people to work together. Focus on solving problems and not on speeches and scoring political points,” McDonnell said. “It doesn’t really matter who gets the credit. But if you don’t get people equally invested in the outcomes, you’re not going to get good results. And I think that’s why we’ve gotten a lot of things passed is we’ve had people work together, and we don’t have nearly the political acrimony that they have in Washington, D.C.”

McDonnell said his successor would also be wise to be fiscally conservative because of the heavily indebted federal government and its dysfunction: “Drill down and get to know your budget. Be conservative and be frugal about how you spend the people’s money.” 

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