Va. Governor's Race Up, Running on TV

Candidate Terry McAuliffe starts early with campaign commercials airing in Hampton Roads.
Candidate Terry McAuliffe starts early with campaign commercials airing in Hampton Roads. (Richard A. Lipski - The Washington Post)
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By Tim Craig and Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

RICHMOND -- After being bombarded by an unprecedented number of campaign commercials in last year's presidential contest, many Virginia residents probably still have a political hangover.

But the ads are back.

Terry McAuliffe began airing TV commercials yesterday in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, which is believed to be the earliest any statewide candidate in Virginia has ever launched a paid media campaign.

McAuliffe spent about $30,000 to air an initial week of 30-second spots in Hampton Roads, a key Democratic battleground. His campaign advisers say the ads will soon spread to other parts of the state, setting the stage for what might become one of the most fiercely contested and expensive nomination battles in Virginia history.

"This is the first time in a generation that we have had a contested Democratic contest for governor, so things are getting started a little earlier than usual," said Mo Elleithee, a senior strategist for McAuliffe. "More important than that, we are at a point right now where people are very anxious about the state of the economy. They are worried about jobs, and they want to know the next governor will be focused on this."

In the ad, McAuliffe vows to create thousands of jobs as governor and says "I will make it my job to protect your job."

By advertising early, McAuliffe is signaling that he hopes to overpower former delegate Brian Moran and state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath), his rivals in the June 9 primary.

In campaign finance reports released two weeks ago, all three Democratic candidates had finished 2008 with a little less than $1 million in the bank. McAuliffe amassed that amount in six weeks; Moran and Deeds had been fundraising for six months.

McAuliffe, a longtime confidant of former president Bill Clinton's, added to the total last week at a fundraiser in New York hosted by Hassan Nemazee, an investment banker; Marc Lasry, a billionaire financier whose company hired Chelsea Clinton; and Douglas Band, the former president's chief counsel.

In interviews, Moran and Deeds emphasized that McAuliffe's unusually early start will not affect their bids. Previous candidates for statewide office have not aired television ads until late spring.

"If this campaign is about money, it ain't about me," said Deeds, conceding that he will not be able to keep pace with McAuliffe in fundraising. "I'm convinced I will have enough money to make my case. People know there is a choice out there. I am convinced they will choose me."

Steve Jarding, Moran's senior strategist, said McAuliffe had no choice but to launch television ads because he is a relative newcomer to Virginia politics.


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