Virginia Voters Should Focus on State Issues, Not National Distractions

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NOW THAT Virginia Democrats have selected their nominee for governor, a lot of people outside Virginia are trying to define the candidates and the significance of the race. Given that only two states hold gubernatorial elections this year, it's inevitable that the national parties and their attendant consultants will descend. But we hope that both candidates, and Virginia voters, will focus on what's really at stake: not Barack Obama's presidency, not the future of the Republican Party, but the direction Virginia will take during the coming four years.

Already it's clear that Republicans will seek to caricature state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, the Democrat who won a resounding victory Tuesday, as a tax-loving spendthrift and closet liberal. Democrats in turn will try to depict former attorney general Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican nominee, as a right-wing zealot and Pat Robertson protégé. In fact, both candidates are serious public servants with long records that deserve more careful examination. Mr. Deeds's record is certainly not that of a flaming liberal; Mr. McDonnell's tenure as attorney general, by most accounts, has been professional and not overtly ideological.

The candidates could spend the next five months arguing about the Bush tax cuts and the Obama bailouts. Or they could talk to voters about the real challenges facing Virginia, from clogged roads in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to an unemployment rate above 20 percent in Martinsville. There's no mystery as to which debate we think would better serve the commonwealth.

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