Race to Richmond

Race to Richmond

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

One of Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell's top supporters apologized Monday after a video surfaced of her mocking Democrat R. Creigh Deeds's speaking style at a McDonnell campaign event Sept. 25.

In the video, which was shot by the Deeds campaign and leaked Monday morning to a popular political blog, Washington Mystics managing partner Sheila C. Johnson told a crowd that she was looking for a governor who could communicate. "The other people I talk to, especially his op-op-op-o-opponent, di-di-did this all through my interview with him," she said. "He could not articulate what needed to be done."

The statement was condemned by the National Stuttering Association, and a top Deeds aide called it a "petty, personal attack."

"Two weeks ago I made reference to Creigh Deeds's inability to clearly communicate effective solutions to the serious problems facing Virginia," Johnson said in a statement after the video had buzzed around the Internet. "I shouldn't have done it in the manner in which I did, and for that I apologize for any offense he, or others, may have taken."

Johnson, a Democrat and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, crossed party lines over the summer to endorse McDonnell. McDonnell was at the campaign event during Johnson's remarks.

"Why the Deeds campaign wants to attack a prominent supporter of both Governor Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama, while reminding voters that she strongly supports Bob McDonnell for governor, is beyond us," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said.

In a call with reporters, Deeds senior adviser Mo Elleithee said that the Democratic state senator has never had a stutter diagnosis but that many in the disability community had been offended by Johnson.

"He sometimes stumbles over his words. He's spoken that way his entire life. He's never sought medical attention for it," Elleithee said. "Whether or not Creigh has a speaking issue is less important than their blanket indictment about people who have speech impediments."

Moran Tells Deeds To Lighten Up

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) said that Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) is in a position to win his campaign for governor but also said that he counseled his party's nominee Sunday night to run fewer negative and more positive ads.

"We had a conversation last night," Moran said. "I said, 'All your consultants are going to tell you to go negative, just like they told my brother. And spend all your money on negative, because positive ads don't move anything.' . . . I said, 'You've got to go with your instinct. You're a genuine guy. People relate to you.'

"That's how Creigh won the primary, and I think that's how he'll win the general, by showing that he's a very decent guy," Moran said. People know about Republican Robert F. McDonnell's controversial graduate school thesis, Moran said, and "the people who care about the thesis, they're in Northern Virginia and . . . they know. But there's got to be more. He's got to give people a reason to vote for Creigh."

Moran said Deeds told him he agreed. Moran also said he thinks the $1 million in national Democratic money coming to Deeds is a sign national party members think the campaign is winnable.

The comments came as Deeds toured a Shirlington shopping center with the congressman and his aforementioned brother Brian, whose loss in the Democratic primary to Deeds in June has been thought by many to have come partly because his campaign was too negative. Also with them was Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Warner squired Deeds to restaurants and outdoor patio areas, introducing him as his friend and telling potential voters that if they liked the progress Virginia has made under Deeds's leadership, they should back him.

"I'm just a former governor, sitting senator. I'm not a pundit," Warner said of Moran's comments. "I think you'll see Creigh make a positive case. I think that's why he was successful in his primary, and I think that's why he'll be successful in 29 days."

-- Rosalind S. Helderman

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