The Virginia governor’s race will detour through the Richmond classroom of former governor L. Douglas Wilder (D) on Thursday, the campaigns said Wednesday.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, who is the GOP’s nominee and a former intern of Wilder’s, said early Wednesday he would use his visit to Wilder’s public policy class at Virginia Commonwealth University to unveil a new campaign plank. The campaign did not provide further details about the policy initiative.
The campaign of Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe said he too would drop by Wilder’s class after Cuccinelli’s visit.
“Terry’s excited to talk to Governor Wilder’s class again to visit with the students and discuss his plans to strengthen Virginia’s education system and economy,” McAuliffe campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin said in an email.
The campaign stop will once again bring an election-year spotlight to Wilder, who has been notoriously unpredictable in recent years when lending support to fellow Democrats or playing the party oracle.
“He’s the only major party leader not beholden to the party,” said Bob Gibson, who is executive director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. Gibson said endorsements may not matter much to voters, though Wilder’s tends to matter more than most.
Wilder, who in 1990 became the first African-American governor of a state since Reconstruction, has been known to speak his mind, having suggested that former Democratic governor Timothy M. Kaine should resign as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and that President Obama should drop Vice President Biden from the ticket. In 2009, he withheld his endorsement from Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), who lost to Gov. Robert. F. McDonnell (R).
In May, after posting — and then deleting — a tweet that some thought sounded like an endorsement of the GOP ticket, Wilder suggested that McAuliffe “has got to get gravitas,” but also said he hadn’t made up his mind about the Cuccinelli-McAuliffe showdown.
Cuccinelli has been known to meet from time to time with Wilder, since well before he formally announced his campaign to run for governor.
“Wilder’s a bit of a maverick, and he probably sees Cuccinelli as a bit of a maverick,” Gibson said. A call Wednesday to Wilder wasn’t immediately returned.