Anyone who has followed the 2013 Virginia governor's race knows that this has been a historic race in terms of negative campaigning and low public opinion of the candidates. Polling indicates the vast majority of voters displeased with both major party candidates plan to vote for Terry McAuliffe over Ken Cuccinelli because they dislike Ken more. For those of you out there who feel this way, I wanted to present you a few arguments on why you can feel good about the choice you are planning to make.
In 2008 at the Democratic National Convention word leaked out that Terry McAuliffe was considering a run for governor the next year. Two Democrats were already running -- Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds -- and the party establishment in Virginia had lined up behind one or the other. The reaction to Terry was swift and harsh with many longtime Democrats telling him not to run. At that time, I was one of the few Virginia political leaders to ask everyone to take a deep breath and step back as I saw both Creigh and Brian as flawed candidates and thought a more interesting primary might actually help everyone become stronger.
By the end of the primary cycle I had decided to vote for McAuliffe. The reasons I did so still stand strong today.
#1- Virginia is a fundamentally corrupt state and needs an outsider as governor
When you think of corrupt states, many people think of New Jersey, Louisiana or Illinois. But those states actually have much stronger ethics laws than Virginia. As the country has learned this year thanks to Governor McDonnell, Virginia has no limit on gifts to public officials. Besides the widely publicized gifts to the governor that put him under risk of a federal indictment, did you know lobbyists funded a trip to France two years ago for legislators and their spouses with the only requirement to spend a couple of hours at a French uranium mine? There are multiple Virginia corporations with boxes at the Redskins game where legislators can get free tickets upon request. (Don't ask for a playoff game unless you are in leadership though.) On top of the "gift" culture, campaign contributions are also unlimited and can come from corporate accounts. Even the post Citizens United world at the federal level doesn't allow companies to write those unlimited checks directly to lawmakers campaign funds. Finally, if you can't buy off the votes you need through gifts or unlimited campaign money, you can hire our legislators directly! Virginia has a part-time citizen legislature where numerous lawmakers work as lobbyists the rest of the year! Just a couple of years ago as one key bill for Verizon was moving through the legislature, their legislator employees had to recuse themselves. But when it went up for discussion behind closed doors in the caucus meeting, one legislator who works for Verizon presented Verizon's case to the legislators in the private meeting! It's nice to have a legislator on the payroll, even when they don't vote on your issues.
This culture of corruption takes many good people who work their way through the ranks of Richmond and turns them into political whores unable to see the problem with using office to enrich themselves or their families. While the governor has gotten all of the attention this year, there are plenty of even better examples in Richmond that are lower profile.
It would be a big positive to have a governor in Richmond who did not come from this background. In fact the GOP candidate for governor has been highlighting Terry as a "Richmond outsider" this year. I can not think of a bigger compliment that a candidate for governor could receive. Hopefully after all the attention that corruption issues have received this year the public is finally aware of these issues and will agree.
#2- Virginia is a federal dependent state and needs a governor who knows Washington
Again, this has been one of the attacks on McAuliffe by the Cuccinelli campaign, calling him a "Washington insider." But Virginia needs a Washington insider. No state has been hurt more by the federal sequestration -- hitting Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads particularly hard. No state was hurt more by the federal shutdown last month. While some states benefit more from military spending, and others benefit more from domestic programs, Virginia is hit hard when either one suffers cuts. Having a governor who knows Washington and its players is good for Virginia! Period. One of the big differences in this campaign is over the Medicaid expansion and Ken Cuccinelli has been highlighting the additional tax burden an average family may pay in federal taxes to fund this expansion. But what he fails to discuss is that a state that opts out of expansion does not have these taxes removed from its citizens; instead we get nothing back and pay for every other state that opts in. That position is nothing but a straight transfer of wealth from Virginia to other states. We need a governor who understands that kind of math. If you want to repeal Obamacare -- or the taxes needed to fund it -- run for Congress. But for governor, we need someone who will protect Virginia's interests first and ensure we are not paying for federal programs in other states while getting nothing in return. That's Terry McAuliffe.
#3- Business Development for Virginia
It sickens many on the left and the right to see states spending money against each other to attract businesses to their area. It's nothing but corporate welfare. But as a state governor you have two options: compete with other states or watch businesses select states that offer them better deals. Terry McAuliffe comes into office with a national and international network that probably puts him on top of any other governor in the country. This access to business leaders across the world gives him an opportunity to bring jobs into Virginia that no other governor could. With many areas of the state in western Virginia suffering as their former sources of money (tobacco and coal) continue to decline, Terry McAuliffe offers their best hope in many years of someone who can bring new business and industry to the state.
In conclusion, after months of negative ads and campaigning from both sides, if you have been wanting to vote for McAuliffe and had no reasons to do so besides stopping Ken Cuccinelli, you now have three good ones. In eleven days get out to your voting location and proudly cast your vote for Terry McAuliffe for governor.
Follow Ben Tribbett on Twitter: www.twitter.com/notlarrysabato