McDonnell doing his part for the GOP

By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2010

RICHMOND - Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has been working behind the scenes for months to raise more than $2.5 million for Republican candidates for governor and Congress on the ballot Tuesday, according to his staff.

Although other Republicans have received more attention for their efforts - including former governors Sarah Palin of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts - McDonnell has been fundraising for candidates from the donor base that helped him secure his landslide victory last year.

Since June 1, McDonnell has headlined 18 fundraisers - most in Virginia or Washington - where his contributors have flocked to give money to candidates running elsewhere. He will headline his 19th fundraiser Friday.

"When he puts his imprimatur on something, people trust that," said Bobbie Kilberg, president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, who has co-hosted several Republican events that McDonnell headlined, including for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Susana Martinez, who is running for governor in New Mexico.

Some candidates across the nation have been eager to hold up McDonnell as a new Republican model. He appealed to Democrats and independents by campaigning on jobs and the economy and spent his first year in office trying to balance the budget by cutting millions of dollars without raising taxes. He was asked to give the high-profile Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address in January and twice addressed the U.S. House Republican caucus on Capitol Hill.

McDonnell is taking part in a national get-out-the-vote effort with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association; and Govs. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, both considered possible presidential candidates. On Wednesday, McDonnell flew to Wisconsin and Illinois. On Thursday, he will travel to New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

Nick Ayers, RGA executive director, said candidates and voters want to hear from McDonnell because "he is willing to cut spending, not increase taxes and get his fiscal house in order. That's exactly what they're interested in hearing about."

Democrats in other states sometimes criticize GOP candidates for holding events with McDonnell, who they say is too conservative. For example, the governor opposes same-sex marriage and has not backed measures that protect gay state workers from discrimination.

But in Virginia, Democrats have said nothing about the events, possibly because Timothy M. Kaine juggled his governorship with being chairman of the Democratic National Committee during his final year in office.

C. Richard Cranwell, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said that he does not have a problem with McDonnell's fundraising but that he wishes McDonnell would pay more attention to the problems at home. "I'm not pointing fingers at him for his fundraising," Cranwell said. "But his attention should be on Virginia."

McDonnell has raised funds for national groups - the RGA, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee - as well as candidates outside the state and Virginia candidates for Congress.

Phil Cox, the governor's senior political adviser, estimates that McDonnell has raised more than $2.5 million, primarily through fundraisers but also through direct mail. The figure could not be independently confirmed because federal election records do not indicate which donations come from which events.

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