Democratic Hopefuls for Va. Governor Become More Aggressive

"No one has broken out of the pack," Craig Bieber, a longtime Democratic political consultant, says of state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, left, former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and former delegate Brian Moran. (By Andre Teague -- Associated Press)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 30, 2009

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 29 -- The Democrats running for Virginia governor took a sharper tone in their fourth debate Wednesday night, attacking their opponents about campaign finance, personal investments and even about who attacked whom first.

In what was by far their liveliest debate, R. Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran shouted and interrupted each other repeatedly. Each is searching for a way to stand out in a race in which the candidates agree on almost every major policy issue.

Moran, a former delegate from Alexandria, repeatedly questioned the millions of dollars McAuliffe made in his investment in failed telecommunications giant Global Crossing.

McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, accused Moran of changing his positions on issues, such as coal, oil drilling and payday lending, after he began running for governor.

Deeds, a state senator from Bath County, criticized both of them. He took on McAuliffe for campaign contributions he received from wealthy out-of-state donors and Moran for his ties to defense contractors.

And, at the most pointed moments of the night, Moran attacked McAuliffe for the way McAuliffe was attacking him.

"I can take your negative campaigning against me," Moran said at one point, wagging his finger at McAuliffe. "What I can't take is your sanctimonious rhetoric."

"That is what happens when you're ahead in the most recent poll," McAuliffe told him later.

The tone of the campaign has become sharply more negative over the past 10 days as the candidates have debated around the state.

With five weeks until the June 9 primary, Virginia political observers saw this coming.

"No one has broken out of the pack," said Craig Bieber, a longtime Democratic political consultant who is not affiliated with any gubernatorial candidate, before Wednesday's debate. "Political consultants are telling them, 'Hey, you have to do something to separate yourself.' "

Deeds, McAuliffe and Moran appeared together Wednesday night in front of hundreds of people at the first-ever blogger-sponsored gubernatorial debate, at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg. They answered questions submitted beforehand through the Internet and Twitter. The 90-minute debate was available online and will be televised later on C-SPAN.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company