McAuliffe ads: partly sunny with partisan punch

October 4, 2013

RICHMOND — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe released a pair of campaign ads Friday certain to give voters whiplash: a sunny TV commercial hailing his bipartisan appeal and an ominous-sounding radio spot packing a highly partisan punch.

The 30-second TV ad, titled “All Supporting,” features three Hampton Roads mayors backing McAuliffe. One of them, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, is a Republican who endorsed McAuliffe in the governor’s race over Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R).

“We’re Democrats and Republicans, and we know that Terry will get the job done for Hampton Roads,” Sessoms says in the ad, which shows all three mayors on the boardwalk.

There’s a much darker mood in the radio ad, titled “Cuccinelli and the Architect.”

“Look who’s coming to Virginia this weekend,” a male narrator intones. “Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas who’s the leader of the government shutdown. Cruz is coming in to campaign for another radical Republican, Ken Cuccinelli. So don’t believe Cuccinelli’s ridiculous ads. Because supporting a government shutdown is nothing new to Cuccinelli. ... It’s no surprise that Cuccinelli supports the Tea Party in Congress now.”

Cruz is scheduled to appear with Cuccinelli in Richmond Saturday, but at a fund-raiser for the Family Foundation, not a campaign event.

Cuccinelli’s campaign could not be immediately reached for a comment.

But he has said repeatedly that he opposes shutting down the federal government as a means of de-funding the Affordable Care Act, even though he remains strongly opposed to the law, known informally as Obamacare. He has suggested that McAuliffe is the one inclined to Washington-style brinkmanship, given the Democrat’s campaign promise not to sign any state budget that did not expand Medicaid under the ACA.

Republicans have said that amounts to a threat to shutter state government given opposition to expansion in the GOP-dominate House of Delegates. McAuliffe has said that he was not threatening a shutdown and that he would work in a bipartisan way to expand the program.

The radio ad repeated a claim McAuliffe made in a Sept. 25 debate, when he said Cuccinelli had tried in 2008 to shut down state government in an effort to block funding for Planned Parenthood — a claim that PolitiFact Virginia awarded its “pants on fire” rating this week.

“Cuccinelli in 2008 offered a budget amendment that would have ended funding for Planned Parenthood, and debate over the measure tied up the Senate for about four hours,” PolitiFact wrote. “McAuliffe offers no credible evidence that Cuccinelli’s intent was to force state government to close. The Senate, later that same day, approved a budget bill. The final version of the state budget was signed by the governor more than seven weeks before it took effect. McAuliffe has invented a crisis to blame on Cuccinelli. We rate his statement Pants on Fire.”

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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