Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) speaks during the 2017 Center for American Progress Ideas Conference in Washington in May 16. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Opinion writer

“You’re never gonna outwork me. I’ll go 20 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

That mantra doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, but it perfectly sums up Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who is proud of his statutorily mandated one term. “I work very closely with the legislature on economic development, transportation, education. I got 93 percent of my campaign promises done, [but] we disagreed violently … on social issues,” McAuliffe told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” “They had passed the most anti-women, anti-gay, anti-environment, pro-gun, anti-voting of any assembly I had ever seen. So I have the record for the most vetoes and I finally convinced these folks that you can’t bring the businesses of the 21st century to your state if you’re putting up walls around it.”

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“Since I’ve been governor, our unemployment’s gone from 5.4 [percent] all the way down to 3.6, the lowest we’ve had in a decade. It is now the second lowest of any major state in the United States of America,” McAuliffe said. “I have brought 19-and-a-half billion dollars into the commonwealth. The most any other governor had done was [$]13 [billion], so almost a third more than any governor of the history of the state. Our initial unemployment claims just … hit a 44-year low. Jobs, economic development, open and welcoming. We are a new Virginia.”


McAuliffe speaks with The Post’s Jonathan Capehart during an interview for the “Cape Up” podcast on Dec. 5. (Jonathan Capehart/The Washington Post)

This, combined with the victory of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam to succeed McAuliffe, led to a conversation about whether what happened in Virginia could be replicated by Democrats in other parts of the country. McAuliffe argues that it could if the party followed a few basics. “Democrats have got to have a message that lifts people up and helps folks,” he said. “The biggest value set you can have is providing a family with a job, most important thing that you can do. And everything sort of comes off of that.” He added, “People are sick and tired of politicians who put their finger up in the wind to see which way the wind is going. I’m very proud I have never done that as governor of Virginia. I have leaned in.”

One of the areas where McAuliffe leaned in is also his proudest achievement: restoring the voting rights of convicted felons. “People are back in society, they’re paying taxes,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you want them to vote?”

Listen to the podcast to hear McAuliffe hold forth on so much more. President Trump’s impact on the Republican Party? “Oh, I think Trump has taken the party into the gutter. No question. Absolutely,” he said. The bigots who paraded around Charlottesville in the ugliest display of hate in our nation’s recent history? “You pretend you’re patriots, you’re nothing but a bunch of cowards,” he bellowed. “Goodness gracious, they’re a disgrace to our nation.” His political future and a run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020? “I don’t want people talking about 2020 for anybody, because I am petrified about 2018,” he cautioned.

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever else you listen to podcasts.