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McAuliffe Takes Steps To Run for Va. Governor

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 11, 2008; Page B01

RICHMOND, Nov. 10 -- Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, a wealthy businessman and Washington insider, filed paperwork Monday to launch a potential candidacy for Virginia governor.

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Ending months of speculation, McAuliffe said he plans to spend the next two months traveling to "every corner of Virginia" to gauge interest in his possible run.

McAuliffe, 51, plans to announce his final decision Jan. 7 but will start raising money and hiring a staff this week.

A close friend of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton's, McAuliffe has lived in McLean for two decades. But until recently he has had little involvement in state government or politics. McAuliffe said his distance from Richmond will be the focal point of his exploratory effort.

"I don't think Richmond is working for people anymore," McAuliffe said. "I think sometimes Richmond, especially the House of Delegates, thinks too small. . . . Richmond is not doing what needs to be done, forward thinking, big bold ideas. If I decide to [run], I will be all about big, bold ideas."

McAuliffe's decision further complicates the first contested battle for the Democratic nomination for governor in more than two decades.

Del. Brian J. Moran (Alexandria) and state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath), who narrowly lost a bid for attorney general in 2005, have been campaigning for the job for months. But neither Deeds nor Moran has a big statewide following, and McAuliffe has been telling Democrats he believes he can win the June primary by overpowering Deeds and Moran with paid advertisements.

"There is no single [Democratic] standard-bearer this year," said Mark J. Rozell, a public policy professor at George Mason University. "There is no person whose turn it is this time, and it's an open field."

Deeds, who might benefit in a primary by having two candidates from Northern Virginia, welcomed McAuliffe to the race Monday, saying he looked forward to "an open and honest discussion of the issues."

Moran's campaign noted that Democrats in Florida floated McAuliffe as a potential candidate for governor in that state in 2005, until they realized he lived in Virginia.

"Given Mr. McAuliffe's previous ambitions to run for governor of Florida, he needs to explain to the people of Virginia if he's doing this for the right reasons," Moran spokesman Jesse Ferguson said.

The potential for an expensive, nasty primary fight comes as Virginia Democrats are hoping to continue their recent winning streak in statewide elections.

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