Va. Politics: Wilder Declines to Endorse Deeds

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By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 24, 2009; 12:48 PM

Former Democratic governor L. Douglas Wilder said today that he will not endorse either candidate in the race for Virginia governor despite serious courting from both candidates, Gov. Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democration National Committee, and even President Barack Obama.

The decision can only be considered a slap in the face to Democrat Creigh Deeds and a victory -- of sorts -- for Republican Bob McDonnell. No one really expected Wilder to endorse McDonnell because he never has supported a Republican, but declining to endorse anyone -- and resisting Obama's personal lobbying --- sends enough of a message.

Wilder specifically mentions his opposition to increasing taxes (which Deeds has said he would be open to for road and transit) and his desire to limit the number of handguns.

Update: Deeds' campaign responds. "We respect Governor Wilder's decision,'' said Jared Leopold, a Deeds spokesman. "While Creigh and he may not agree on every issue, they share a fundamental commitment to keeping Virginia the best managed state in the nation, as Governor Wilder first made it in 1992. As governor, Creigh intends to seek Governor Wilder's counsel often, and looks forward to working with him."

We'll provide you with McDonnell's response when we get it.

In the meantime, read Wilder's full statement below:

There may have been no period in our State's history when the voters are more aware of what issues confront them in their choice for Governor. We have undergone the worst economic downturn since the Depression. I have previously set forth the things that I would look to see the next Governor address. (1) Who is best suited by temperament and training to govern in hard times? (2) Who has presented to the people realistic plans for Education, Transportation, Health Care, Public Safety and Social Services, etc.? (3) Who is strong enough to stand up for the state when tough calls have to be made? 4) Who has the vision that can inspire confidence and assure people that Virginia can still move forward, even while confronting difficult choices.

The overriding "issue" in this year's Governor's race will be the judgment the voters make about which candidate is most capable of managing tough times and establishing the right priorities for when the economy begins to recover.

Throughout my entire involvement with public service, I have tried to be a voice for those most often left out when decisions are being made which affect them in their everyday lives. As a state senator, I fought to get rid of the sales tax on food. As Lt. Governor, I fought to get rid of the sales tax on non-prescription drugs and opposed the increased sales taxes for transportation, because they are regressive taxes, meaning the poor pay at the same rate as the rich. I have lived long enough not to assume that these voiceless people can always count on someone articulating for them.

This is not the time in our Commonwealth to talk about any kind of tax increase, especially those that are fundamentally regressive and will hit hardest those who are struggling.

Rather, it is the time to put our fiscal house in order, strengthening the Commonwealth for the future.

Now is the time to replenish the "Rainy Day" fund which has bailed several administrations out of deficits, but will be all but depleted for future administrations to have at their avail. It is a time to do everything possible to let the public know that we are serious about getting a handle on spending and controlling it better. Re-examine the efficiency and effectiveness reports, previously administratively commissioned, draw from them, and make this reform agenda further known to the public. It is a time to return to the funding of "necessities" rather than "niceties".

Furthermore, In my conversations with the people across the state, I have not encountered anyone who has listed as their priority the need for them to have more handguns. The present law permits anyone of sufficient age, who is not a felon, to be able to buy one gun a month; twelve a year, twenty four a year for couples etc..

Mr. Deeds thinks that's not enough and signed a pledge to repeal that law.

This action would allow the truck loads of guns to come back in exchange for drugs from those Northeastern states where gun laws are more stringent. This law was put on the books by Democrats and Republicans because they had seen where those guns go to in our cities and suburban areas where the violence occurs. Partly because of that law, as Mayor, I was able to have the lowest crime rate in our capital city of Richmond in 30 years.

I do not see how endorsing a proposal to have more handguns brought into our cities and suburban areas qualifies as any type of urban renewal plan.

For this situation to exist and for Democrats who lead our party to say nothing is puzzling and inexplicable.

The requests, made of me, have been to endorse Mr. Deeds, the Democratic Candidate, for Governor. I refrain from doing so and will leave that choice to the voters.

This in no wise is intended to detract from Mr. Deeds in terms of character or commitment to the task of being Governor. I find that he, as well as Mr. McDonnell are fine and honorable men and well suited to that task. The question before me is whether I support the Democratic candidate's position in addressing these issues. I have not thus far in the progress of the campaign, and as aforesaid refrain from so doing.


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