Democratic Consultant McAuliffe Weighs Run for Governor

Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, did little to dampen speculation at the Democratic convention in Denver.
Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, did little to dampen speculation at the Democratic convention in Denver. (By Jae C. Hong -- Associated Press)
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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2008

DENVER, Aug. 27 -- Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a key adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), is considering running for governor of Virginia next year.

McAuliffe spoke to the Virginia delegation at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. After his speech in support of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), McAuliffe distributed copies of his book, "What a Party! My Life Among Democrats." He then spent nearly an hour signing autographs and chatting with the delegates.

Speculation that McAuliffe is interested in being governor of Virginia has been percolating at the convention all week. In an interview with reporters after his speech, McAuliffe did little to dampen reports that he was considering entering next year's race for the Democratic nomination.

"I'm focused on this election. I am going full-time for Senator Obama," said McAuliffe, 51, who lives in McLean. "But I never rule anything out. . . . Every day is a new opportunity. I would like to be pope if I could."

During his speech to the delegation, McAuliffe noted that he diverted $5 million when he was national party chairman to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's 2005 race for governor. The infusion of party money is widely believed to have helped Kaine (D) defeat former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore (R).

If McAuliffe ran for governor, he would probably be able to tap his personal funds and national fundraising network to raise millions of dollars quickly. Virginia does not limit donations to a candidate seeking state office.

Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria) and state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) are the only announced candidates in the 2009 race for the Democratic nomination for governor. Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell is likely to seek the GOP nomination.

When asked if he would jump into the governor's race even though Deeds and Moran are campaigning for the job, McAuliffe said: "I don't rule anything out. We will see where we go."

"I was a kid who grew up in Syracuse," he said. "I started my first business when I was 14, got lucky, started a couple [of] companies and basically retired at a young age. I've spent the last 15 years as basically a full-time volunteer for the Democratic Party. I love its ideals. . . . I never take anything off the table."

Moran declined to comment on McAuliffe's comments. Deeds welcomed the potential addition.

"The more the merrier," Deeds said. "Terry McAuliffe is an accomplished political professional. He knows how the process works."

He added, "It doesn't change anything for me."

Tucker Martin, a spokesman for McDonnell, joked about McAuliffe's knowledge of the state.

"Terry McAuliffe doesn't know Norton from Norfolk," Martin said. "If he runs, remind me to send him a Virginia state map."

After he finished signing his books, McAuliffe said to a reporter: "A lot of people came up and said, 'I hope you run.' "

Mo Elleithee, a Virginia-based Democratic consultant, said McAuliffe could "certainly shake things up" next year if he decided to run for governor.

"I think Terry McAuliffe is a dynamic and exciting figure," Elleithee said. "I think he has the potential to be a very strong and formidable statewide candidate."

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