WINCHESTER, Va. — Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said Tuesday that Virginia should change its law to allow its governor to serve more than a single four-year term, as state law has allowed since the 19th century.

During a tour of retail businesses in Winchester’s historic downtown, McAuliffe said the governor should serve for six years to allow more time to implement policies.

“My preference would be one six-year term,” he said while talking to the owner of a stain glass shop. “One six-year term, you should be able to get a lot done.”

McAuliffe, who is in an intensely watched race against Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, made the statement after he was asked what he would do first if elected governor. He replied that he would sign executive orders, though he did not specify for what, and that he would “put a diverse cabinet in.”

“I got to get right on the job,” he said.

Virginia is the country’s only state that limits governors to four years, a restriction enacted in 1851. Over the years, legislators have proposed changing the law, including at this year’s meeting of the General Assembly.

McAuliffe traveled to Winchester to visit four women-owned retail businesses — a bookstore, an expresso bar, and a wine and beer shop. He spent an hour talking to the owners, asking about their businesses and what the government could do to make their work less challenging.

His visit was decidedly low-key. The aides who came with McAuliffe did not hand out campaign flyers or signs. The only word of his arrival was on the chalk board at the expresso bar. Beneath “Kiwanis is alive in Old Towne,” someone wrote, “Terry McAuliffe coming to town.”

Asked about McAuliffe’s comments, Cuccinelli campaign spokeswoman Anna Nix said in an e-mailed statement: “Once again, Terry McAuliffe is demonstrating he is not a serious leader focused on addressing the important issues confronting the Commonwealth. . . . On Election Day, Virginians will vote against the ‘showman and salesman,’ and in favor of Ken Cuccinelli, a man with a proven track record of delivering, as well as an economic plan that will put more people to work.”

Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.