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After loss, Va.'s Deeds tries to regain his footing

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, left, holds his hands together and cries as his wife, Pam console daughter Susanna, while son Gus hugs sister Rebecca at the doorway behind the stage, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009, before Creigh Deeds makes the concession speech at the Westin Hotel in Richmond, Va. Amanda Deeds is hidden behind her mother and sister. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Hyunsoo Leo Kim)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, left, holds his hands together and cries as his wife, Pam console daughter Susanna, while son Gus hugs sister Rebecca at the doorway behind the stage, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009, before Creigh Deeds makes the concession speech at the Westin Hotel in Richmond, Va. Amanda Deeds is hidden behind her mother and sister. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Hyunsoo Leo Kim) (Hyunsoo Leo Kim - AP)

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By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 12, 2010

It's not easy to hide in public service, but in the early days of Virginia's General Assembly session this year, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds seemed to be trying.

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Months after being trounced by his Republican opponent in a governor's race that received national attention, Deeds (D-Bath) kept his head low. He gave no floor speeches. He kept his own counsel in the Democratic caucus. He skipped its retreat. Other lawmakers gave him a wide berth, too.

Outside the state Capitol, Deeds socialized less than in former years. He was terse with reporters and seemed eager to be anywhere the media were not. What media attention he did receive was not always positive.

When the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) transformed Democratic candidate Martha Coakley from shoo-in to goat, pundits compared her to Deeds.

His bill to create a lifetime hunting license for infants -- one of the few initiatives of his to pass the General Assembly -- came in for a round of wicked mockery by Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central.

Other significant legislative initiatives, such as an eight-year fight for nonpartisan redistricting, perished in committees.

Former Democratic governor L. Douglas Wilder, who denied Deeds his endorsement during the campaign, lashed out at Deeds afterward. Speaking out against an attempted repeal of Virginia's ban on buying more than one handgun a month, Wilder criticized Deeds for abandoning his party's traditional embrace of gun control and giving comfort to the forces seeking to loosen firearms regulations.

Outwardly, Deeds, 52, seemed to have weathered the loss. Except for a dash of gray hair over his temples, he still has his boyish looks. From the Senate gallery one could see him smiling in the glow of his laptop and scrolling through spring training reports about his beloved Cincinnati Reds while fellow senators conversed during a break. But Deeds, who comes off as a bit shy for a politician, seemed more withdrawn than usual.

"How's the session going?" a reporter asked during a break.

"It goes," he replied, lifting his eyes just above the top of his eyeglasses.

On inauguration day, as marching bands played and military jets swooped low in a majestic salute to the man who beat him, Deeds updated Twitter followers with his playlist that day. At the top was the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Overwhelming defeat

The 18-point loss was such that even some of his friends use the most violent verbs to describe it: Deeds was clobbered. He was drubbed. And so on. Campaign insiders admitted that there had not been one mistake, but many.


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