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Richmond Veterans Face Steep Climb to Governor's Office

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2009

RICHMOND

During this year's campaign for governor of Virginia, one piece of trivia that will probably be invoked is that since Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, the party that has won the White House has lost the state's race for governor the next year.

But here is another tidbit that might be more relevant in this year's contest: Since 1957, no delegate or state senator has won the nomination for governor without first leaving the General Assembly to serve in a higher office.

In Virginia, where governors can run for only one term, major party nominees in modern times have been sitting or former lieutenant governors, attorneys general, congressmen or businessmen.

Brian Moran (D), who resigned last month from the House of Delegates to focus on fundraising, and state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) are hoping to buck that trend. But first, they have to get past Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

McAuliffe's candidacy is offering clues why it is so hard for state lawmakers to leap to the highest office in the commonwealth.

In campaign finance reports released last week, Deeds reported raising $658,000 from July 1 to Dec. 31. Moran raised $755,000, including a $50,000 donation from his brother, U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.). Although their coffers are respectable, Moran and Deeds appear to be well short of the resources needed to wage a modern TV campaign.

McAuliffe raised $950,000, but he had been a candidate for only the last six weeks of the reporting period.

In dealing with McAuliffe's entry into the race, Moran and Deeds face a unique challenge.

Moran, who has not had to run a competitive race since being elected to the General Assembly in 1995, will have to keep pace with McAuliffe financially or figure out how to make strategic spending decisions that won't jeopardize his bid.

Deeds is starting to signal that he might not try to raise or spend money on the same scale as his opponents. If that occurs, Deeds risks a trap that befell former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in last year's GOP presidential primaries -- he's a popular guy who was never quite accepted as a serious contender.

Although many State House insiders were initially skeptical of McAuliffe, he has been running a nearly flawless campaign. Democrats and Republicans are taking him seriously.


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