Voting-Record Review of Virginia's Gubernatorial Candidates

By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 27, 2009

RICHMOND -- Voters elected Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and Republican Robert F. McDonnell to the General Assembly in the same year, 1991. For the next 14 years, the future candidates for Virginia governor were divided on the most contentious issues of the day.

Today, their voluminous legislative records of almost 40,000 votes show a stark contrast in their philosophies on the role of government, the spending of taxpayer dollars and restrictions on abortion, gay rights and guns.

Deeds's record shifted in some areas through the years, although he remained a fairly consistent advocate for smaller class sizes and higher standards for those caring for children, restrictions on same-sex couples and increased taxes.

"Government cannot do everything, but there are some things it has to do,'' Deeds said. "I'm a guy that understands . . . you have to look at real-world solutions in the problems we face."

McDonnell's mostly consistent record shows he opposed new taxes and favored less regulation in most areas, including public schools and day-care centers, while supporting government-imposed restrictions in others, such as abortion and birth control.

"I have a strong belief in the private sector and the free enterprise system," McDonnell said. Deeds's "record reflects more of a belief in government solutions and government regulations. . . . It's a very different view of the role of government."

Deeds and McDonnell did find themselves on the same side on a handful of major issues, including welfare reform and the creation of a children's health insurance program, and scores of less prominent issues widely supported by both parties.

Occasionally, Deeds, a conservative Democrat from a rural area, would vote alongside McDonnell and other Republicans -- requiring the words "In God We Trust" to be displayed prominently in every school, designating English as the state's official language and increasing the penalty for killing a fetus.

Deeds and McDonnell served in the House of Delegates together for a decade until 2001, when Deeds won a seat in the Senate, where he still serves. McDonnell left the House after narrowly defeating Deeds for attorney general in 2005.


Deeds and McDonnell differed on almost every major education bill.

Year after year, Deeds supported reducing class sizes at schools and day-care facilities and requiring more teachers and guidance counselors. McDonnell opposed those efforts, saying that local schools should determine their own staffing needs.

McDonnell's votes reflected an interest in alternative education opportunities. He voted for a 1998 bill that authorized charter schools; Deeds opposed it. He supported a 2004 bill to allow high school graduates to home school their children. Deeds voted to keep the requirement that parents have a college degree. McDonnell voted to loosen requirements for supervisors of children in day care by allowing them to be accredited by groups other than the state. Deeds opposed the bill but eventually voted for it after changes were made.

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