McDonnell prank makes McAuliffe especially early riser

RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe, too energetic and ambitious to sleep much more than four hours a night, was up at 4 a.m. Monday, the first workday of his governorship. But not by design.

His predecessor in the Executive Mansion, former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), left an alarm clock set for that ungodly hour in the governor’s bedroom as a practical joke.

McAuliffe (D) proceeded to his office, where he got another jolt: a huge stuffed bear in the governor’s private office bathroom. It was no teddy bear. It was the real, taxidermied thing, poached from the office of McDonnell’s natural resources secretary Doug Domenech.

“It’s standing straight up. It’s coming at you,” said McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy. “It’s lunging at you with teeth bare. It’s actually pretty scary.”

The bear bore a note: “It can get really wild in the governor’s mansion.”

The one-time capital of the Confederacy is steeped in tradition, from the formal morning suits sported at inaugurations to the way people refer to the man who designed Richmond’s historic Capitol. When McAuliffe made reference in his inauguration speech to “Jefferson’s Capitol,” it set off a buzz among insiders, as if to say, “Hey, that’s Mr. Jefferson to you!”

Gubernatorial pranks are part of that proud tradition. Outgoing governor Mark R. Warner (D) left a life-sized cut-out of himself in the governor’s mansion shower for Timothy M. Kaine (D). Kaine hid cell phones in the mansion elevator shaft and periodically called them as a trick on McDonnell.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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