By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Former Democratic National Committee chairman and McLean businessman Terry McAuliffe said yesterday that he has decided to run for Virginia governor.
In a three-minute video e-mailed to supporters yesterday afternoon, McAuliffe, 51, said a two-month tour of the state convinced him that his business and political experience prepared him to work on issues of concern to Virginians: creating jobs, improving public schools and working toward energy independence.
McAuliffe did not mention his competitors in the June Democratic primary, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County and former state delegate Brian J. Moran of Alexandria. Instead, he sought to contrast himself directly with the Republican nominee, Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, and to portray himself as a natural successor to former Democratic governor Mark R. Warner, who was elected in November to the U.S. Senate, and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).
Warner and Kaine, McAuliffe said, "know that not every good idea comes out of Richmond. When it comes to fixing our economy, there's no such thing as a Republican job or a Democratic job. It's about bringing people together to create good jobs." McDonnell, in contrast, has opposed the Warner and Kaine administrations for seven years, McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe's entrance into the race ends months of speculation but renews the question of whether Virginia voters will take to a national Democrat known more for fundraising prowess and his friendships with former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) than for living in McLean for the past 20 years. McAuliffe's candidacy is bound to appear formidable. His rivals have conceded they can't possibly match his national fundraising network, but they have sought to portray it as a liability instead of an asset. On Friday, Moran called upon all candidates for governor to accept donations only from Virginians.
McAuliffe is assembling a veteran political team for a high-dollar campaign. Spokesman Mo Elleithee said yesterday in response to Moran's fund-raising challenge that the McAuliffe campaign will have "the resources we need to run a competitive race."
Deeds spokesman Peter Jackson and Moran said in separate statements yesterday that they welcome McAuliffe into the race. Jackson urged a focus on how to "capitalize on the historic victory" of President-elect Barack Obama in Virginia, and Moran said: "I am more convinced than ever that Virginians want a governor with a proven record of fighting for Virginia families and a vision for the commonwealth."
McDonnell's campaign manager, Phil Cox, said McAuliffe would be wise to focus on what Cox described as a "tough" primary with three strong candidates. Cox also took the opportunity to provide his own contrast between "Chairman McAuliffe" and McDonnell.
"McAuliffe is a career partisan, he's a professional fundraiser," Cox said, "whereas Bob McDonnell is a true public servant with a record of bringing Democrats, independents and Republicans together to confront very difficult challenges facing Virginia."
McAuliffe will formally kick off his campaign Wednesday in Hampton Roads, starting a week-long swing of town hall meetings across the state. He will appear in Alexandria on Wednesday evening and in the outer suburbs of Washington, including Loudoun and Prince William counties, on Saturday.