The Race to Richmond

Fact Checker

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 23, 2009

When it comes to support for charter schools, Republican Robert F. McDonnell has been acting the teacher's pet.

His campaign has touted his legislative record supporting the creation of Virginia's charter schools 10 years ago. The gubernatorial candidate has also seldom missed the chance to remind voters that he has moved his seat to the front of the class, as it were, to be near President Obama, who is an enthusiastic charter school supporter.

Now the Republican is accusing his opponent, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, of copying him.

"I strongly support the president's initiatives to expand charter schools -- there's no reason Virginia should lag behind on this," Deeds told a crowd at a recent rally with Obama at his side.

Calling Deeds the "Me Too" candidate, spokesman Tucker Martin said Deeds's support was an election year turnabout. "All of a sudden the president shows up, and they throw that line in the speech."

As further evidence, Republicans note that not so long before his appearance with Obama, Deeds shared the stage with the head of the teachers union and appeared to agree with her by nodding his head while she talked critically about charter schools.

"To stand there and nod your head with approval as the head of a union talks about how bad it is to give students a better chance at an education is just breathtaking," fumed Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.

Although it's possible that the GOP camp is making too much of the head-nodding -- perhaps Deeds was just being polite? -- it's true that as a former delegate, Deeds voted against HB543, the 1998 law that authorized the creation of charter schools. McDonnell was a patron of the measure.

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