But e-mails obtained by The Post make clear that the lobbying effort on McAuliffe’s behalf was intense.
“I urge you to stop any endorsement of Cuccinelli,” state Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), told PAC leaders Friday in an e-mail. “The ramifications of his being endorsed will be huge within the Senate Democratic caucus. . . . The response [from legislators] will be frigid and doors will be closed [when the council seeks help with its legislative agenda]. Achieving the goals of NVTC will be difficult to impossible.”
Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) seconded those sentiments in their e-mails. In interviews, the senators said the messages should not be perceived as threats but as expressions of their frustration, given Cuccinelli’s opposition this year to the council’s top legislative priority: passage of a transportation funding overhaul. McAuliffe publicly supported the $1.4 billion-a-year plan; Cuccinelli opposed it as a “massive tax increase” but has said on the campaign trail that he would not seek its repeal as governor.
Howell, Saslaw and Favola also argued that Cuccinelli’s opposition to stem-cell research, his legal battle with a University of Virginia climate scientist and vocal opposition to gay rights make him an “incomprehensible” choice for the council, as Howell put it in her e-mail.
“For them to endorse a guy with his views, a supposedly enlightened group of people — science-oriented — would have been the same as in the 1960s, the NAACP supporting George Wallace,” Saslaw said.
Several members of the council said they did not ask questions about social issues but focused exclusively on business and technology matters.
TechPAC endorsed Republicans for governor in the past two campaigns, but some prominent members of the larger council have been so publicly discontented with Cuccinelli that many thought McAuliffe had a shot. Bobbie Kilberg, chief executive of the council, and Gary Shapiro, chief of the Consumer Electronics Association, blasted Cuccinelli in February when he spoke before a large business meeting in Washington.
TechPAC’s bipartisan board interviewed both candidates Thursday and voted immediately afterward by secret ballot to endorse Cuccinelli.
The endorsement was scheduled to be announced Friday afternoon but was delayed when the McAuliffe camp protested, leading to an intense weekend of lobbying by both sides.
Cuccinelli impressed the board’s majority as a serious, detail-oriented candidate while McAuliffe seemed to wing it, according to three board members present for the interviews who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly.
“Terry was his normal, flamboyant self,” said a board member present for both interviews. “He didn’t want to get pinned down to any details. He didn’t give any details. He was all about jobs, jobs, jobs — ‘I’m just going to take care of the situation when the time comes. I’m just going to do it.’ It was all [expletive].”
Cuccinelli, by contrast, the person said, “was precise. He was thoughtful. He thought through all the issues. He had a clear position on all those issues, and he didn’t agree with the council on all the issues.”
Two people present said that in response to a question about how he’d accomplish his goals as governor, McAuliffe told the PAC board that as an Irish Catholic he’d be adept at taking people out for drinks and doing whatever it takes to get things done. McAuliffe is well known as a schmoozer, but he seemed to badly misread his methodical audience with that answer, several of those present said.
On a question about whether Virginia should stay in something called the “open-trade-secrets pact,” Cuccinelli gave a thoroughly researched response, the person said.
But McAuliffe answered, according to the source: “ ‘I don’t know what that is. I’ll have to look it up later.’ And then he turns back to the guy [who asked] and said ‘Well, what do you think we should do?’ And the guy says, ‘We want Virginia to stay in it.’ And then Terry says, ‘Okay, we will.’ ”
One member said that not everyone came away from the interviews thinking McAuliffe was blase and Cuccinelli better prepared. That member did not dispute McAuliffe’s drinks comment, but said, “You can take 30 seconds out of a four-hour interview and make anything out of it.”