Creigh Deeds, Brian Moran Take Different Routes in Race for Va. Gubernatorial Nomination

Terry McAuliffe only recently became involved in state politics, but his fundraising prowess is well known.
Terry McAuliffe only recently became involved in state politics, but his fundraising prowess is well known. (Richard A. Lipski - The Washington Post)
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By Tim Craig and Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

When Terry McAuliffe entered the Democratic race for governor, his two opponents faced a pivotal decision: Keep their seats in the General Assembly, or quit to take on a man with no day job, an almost bottomless bank account and a best friend named Bill Clinton.

Brian Moran chose to leave the House of Delegates to campaign and raise money in hopes of keeping pace with McAuliffe. Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) decided to stay. Each thinks his decision puts him in the best position for victory in the June 9 primary.

But both might have sacrificed, too. Moran gave up the limelight in Richmond to scrounge for coverage in local media markets while raising money and building a campaign strategy to hold off McAuliffe. Deeds had to halt his fundraising because it is prohibited during the 45-day session. He had to forgo a considerable amount of face time with voters. And he was left to try and distinguish himself in a venue where 140 lawmakers compete for attention.

Moran, who resigned as chair of the House Democratic caucus in December, explained his decision this way: "As important as the 45-day session is, the next four years are critically important to Virginia's future. The bottom line still exists: I'm fighting to move Virginia forward in the next four years, so the time spent out of session has been crucial to winning this election."

Deeds said he never considered giving up the seat he has held since 2001: "I guess I'm a little old-fashioned. I didn't think I could backtrack on that commitment."

The stakes are high for both men as they battle McAuliffe, a well-funded candidate who has hired 40 field organizers and launched TV ads in Richmond and Hampton Roads.

A look at the way Deeds and Moran spent one day late last month offers a window into what each gained or gave up by his decision.

Moran started his day behind a lectern at a Prince William County fire hall, speaking to about a dozen supporters who had come to watch him pick up the backing of local elected leaders. Although Moran appeared at times to be speaking to a room full of empty tables, the event was covered by a reporter from a county newspaper, giving the campaign the publicity it sought.

Democrats on the Board of County Supervisors praised Moran for being "grounded" in Virginia, a subtle swipe at McAuliffe, who only recently became involved in state politics. And Moran stressed that he was the Democrats' best hope for defeating Robert F. McDonnell, the GOP nominee.

Ninety miles to the south at the state Capitol in Richmond, Deeds was taking his seat on the Senate floor.

Momentous legislation, such as a bill to impose Virginia's first statewide smoking ban and another to expand the use of the death penalty, came before the Senate, along with routine bills dealing with wastewater treatment regulations and a $3 fee for traffic violations to pay for courthouse renovations.

With the primary more than three months away, most political analysts say the nomination is up for grabs. In the coming weeks, however, many expect that one of the contenders will start lagging the others in public opinion polls, momentum and fundraising.

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