The Democratic Candidates for Governor in Virginia Squabble Over Fundraising

Saturday, May 2, 2009

AGREEING AS they do on most (though not all) issues, the three Democratic candidates for Virginia governor have taken to arguing about fundraising. If you believe the campaigns, Terry McAuliffe has too much money from out-of-state donors, Brian Moran has too much money from defense firms, and R. Creigh Deeds . . . well, he's a nice enough guy, but he just won't be able to raise enough. The attacks have accelerated as each candidate has struggled to break from the pack; most polls show a competitive race for the June 9 primary.

In terms of electability, money isn't much of an issue: Each candidate has enough to be competitive in the primary, and whoever emerges will have plenty of funding to take on Republican Bob McDonnell, the state's former attorney general. With only this and

the New Jersey governor's race to focus

on in this off year, both national parties will be generous.

The barbs continue, though, as a surrogate for critiques that the candidates are reluctant to make directly. The subtext of the attacks is that Mr. McAuliffe is a carpetbagger, Mr. Moran is a lightweight riding on his big brother's coattails, and Mr. Deeds is a country lawyer who can't play in the big leagues.

Mr. Deeds, a state senator from rural Bath County, and Mr. Moran, a former state delegate from Alexandria, have chided Mr. McAuliffe for raising the bulk of his money outside Virginia. Mr. McAuliffe, former head of the Democratic National Committee, has jetted across the country to raise funds; more than 80 percent of the $4.2 million he raked in during the first three months of the year came from out-of-state donors. By comparison, more than 90 percent of donations to Mr. Moran and Mr. Deeds were from Virginians. Mr. Deeds and Mr. Moran keep pushing the issue to raise a deeper question: Can someone who has lived in McLean for roughly 20 years but shown minimal interest in state politics be an effective governor?

Mr. Deeds, meanwhile, charges that Mr. Moran received money from "tainted" defense contractors that have business before his brother, Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee. While it is fair to ask whether contributors to Brian Moran's campaign are currying favor with his influential brother, it is worth noting that the firms are Virginia businesses that have donated to candidates before. For example, they gave more than $250,000 to Timothy M. Kaine's gubernatorial campaign, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

The Moran campaign counters that Mr. Deeds has solicited money from the same sources, only with less success. That plays into questions of whether Mr. Deeds could be competitive with a well-funded Republican in the general election. While Mr. McAuliffe was raising his $4.2 million, Mr. Moran brought in $800,000 and Mr. Deeds, hampered by a state law that bars fundraising during the General Assembly session, exceeded expectations by raising $730,000. Mr. Deeds also has more cash on hand than Mr. Moran has.

None of the caricatures underlying the attacks is entirely fair. It's true that Mr. McAuliffe came lately to Virginia politics, but he is a quick study who has immersed himself in the issues. Mr. Moran has a long record in Richmond independent of his brother. And Mr. Deeds, his aw-shucks manner notwithstanding, is a legislator of substance and former prosecutor with a keen understanding of issues important to Northern Virginia.

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