NVTC’s TechPAC, whose 25-member bipartisan board includes top executives from many sectors of the technology industry, voted to endorse Cuccinelli on Thursday after conducting lengthy interviews of both candidates. Several board members said Cuccinelli, the commonwealth’s attorney general, came off as serious and even wonky while discussing policies of importance to the group, while McAuliffe seemed flippant and uninformed.
But the formal announcement was delayed until Monday after McAuliffe supporters and some NVTC officials who have not made up their minds in the race pushed for the council’s executive committee to reconsider the endorsement. Several said they were most concerned about backing Cuccinelli because some of his positions on social issues, such as his hostility to gay rights, could send a message that Virginia is not a welcoming place to do business.
The decision to endorse Cuccinelli touched off an intense lobbying campaign, with some state Democratic lawmakers sending outraged e-mails to TechPAC members that warned their legislative initiatives could be blocked. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) urged the NVTC to reconsider, and so did Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who had said previously he would remain neutral in the campaign after Cuccinelli outmaneuvered him to gain the nomination.
On Monday, Republicans took their turn venting outrage at what they said was a brazen display of partisan muscle.
“You cannot extort endorsements; they have to be earned,” state Sen. Frank M. Ruff Jr. (R-Mecklenburg) said in a written statement.
Cuccinelli, addressing about 500 supporters at a fundraiser in Richmond with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Monday, said: “Not only did my opponent try to bully members of this organization, but we also had Democrat state senators leveling some of the most serious political threats I’ve ever seen in Virginia. It was very un-Virginia, which might suit their candidate well, but that is not how politics should be done in Virginia. We saw an interesting example of what we’d have to look forward to with a Governor McAuliffe just in how they handled this situation.”
McAuliffe campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin dismissed the flap and said pro-Cuccinelli partisans inside the business organization had misrepresented what McAuliffe said.
“With Ken Cuccinelli desperate and losing the support of mainstream Republicans, it’s not surprising that his allies are willing to twist Terry’s words for a political attack,” Schwerin said.