Thursday, August 13, 2009
In campaign literature mailed recently to Northern Virginia residents, Robert F. McDonnell touts himself as a "governor that Fairfax County families can be proud to call their own." In another mailer sent to Hampton Roads residents, he touts himself as "a governor Virginia Beach can be proud to call our own."
But McDonnell, the Republican nominee for governor, doesn't live in Fairfax or Virginia Beach. He lives in Henrico County, just outside Richmond.
McDonnell grew up in Fairfax, represented Virginia Beach in the General Assembly for 14 years and then moved to Henrico when he was elected attorney general in 2005.
He has been campaigning aggressively in Virginia's suburban core, hoping his strong ties to the state's three most populous areas, and support from traditionally conservative rural areas, will give him enough votes to carry the state in November.
"I'm really the candidate who has really lived his whole life in suburbia," he said in a recent interview. "Fairfax and Virginia Beach, the two largest jurisdictions in the state, and now Henrico. I want to make sure that people know that's my background. I understand the problems of suburbia."
That has his Democratic opponent, R. Creigh Deeds, a state senator who hails from rural Bath County in the western part of the state, grumbling.
"When he's in Northern Virginia, he sends flowers that say 'I'm from Fairfax.' He sends flowers in Virginia Beach that say 'I'm from Virginia Beach,' " Deeds said. "He lives in Henrico County."
McDonnell ran nearly identical biographical television ads in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads in the spring. In Northern Virginia, he mentioned the "principles molded growing up in a middle-class Fairfax County neighborhood." In Hampton Roads, he mentioned "a family raised in a middle-class Hampton Roads neighborhood."
McDonnell stands by his ads and his strategy, saying the facts are on his side.
"I have strong connections in the two most populous areas of the state,'' he said. Deeds "may not like that, but it's true. . . . It's a consistent biography."
Democrats complain that McDonnell's modus operandi is to try to appeal to everyone, instead of standing up for who he is.