05/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McAuliffe Wins One for the "Farm Team": VA Debates

Governor's races in Virginia seem more genteel. While the gloves were off last weekend at the College of William & Mary debate, they were velvet. Nobody's face was slapped as in Colonial and Revolutionary times seeking a duel.

Former DNC Chairman and Democratic Party activist Terry McAuliffe killed with kindness the opponents for the June 9 Virginia Dem Primary. He lauded both State Delegate Brian Moran (D-46th) and State Sen. Creigh Deeds for their service to the commonwealth.

The only person better prepped for this debate than Terry McAuliffe was moderator Andrea Mitchell, of NBC News, who peppered the candidates with tough questions. McAuliffe won on issues of business, job creation, transportation, environmental and energy issues. He has a "business plan" for Virginia. He promotes wind energy and using market forces to increase production. He has a smarter plan for regional transportation including high speed rail from DC to Richmond and beyond.

But most importantly, McAuliffe has 3,000 volunteers, a sophisticated grassroots network rivaling national candidates for public office, and more money. More money than the other three gubernatorial candidates -- Republican Bob McDonnell too!

On tough fundraising source questions (Moran said his donors are from Park Ave. and Hollywood), and on the "carpetbagger claim" that McAuliffe is not "from these parts," he deftly answered or deflected.

The national "Farm Team" for Women's Candidates sponsored the debate. Mary Sue Terry, a democratic force in the state, was host. The farm team meeting was geared toward promoting women candidates for state and national office. Vanquished candidate Janet Oleszek was there. The seminar was held at the newly refurbished Williamsburg Lodge, complete with large conference rooms, a new restaurant (chicken kabobs!) and spa; the meeting was a rally for women. McAuliffe's long-time backing (over 18 months) of Hillary Rodham Clinton, and strong support for national women candidates through his National Women's Candidate Center at the DNC, was not lost on the group. Neither was the fact that there are no women in the governor's race here.

With breakout sessions on developing Speaking Skills using forceful political language, and a great dinner keynote by Celinda Lake, the program capped with the debate at the 17th Century College in Williamsburg. Later, it was time for a steam, massage and eucalyptus shower at the Lodge's "Leading Spa" of the world. Ranked "coolest new spa" by Vanity Fair, we transitioned from Colonial-style politics to modern relaxation!

McAuliffe, looking past the primary to the summer race with McDonnell, chided the VA legislature for foregoing stimulus funds. While $125 million was offered to Virginia for part-time employees and job skills training, the Commonwealth turned it down. "I would take that money for part-time work," said McAuliffe, and "ask Obama for everything else the President can give us!"

McAuliffe also eschewed taking money from big energy companies, including Dominion Power, calling for wind power farms. He noted that Virginia unemployment is higher than in much-maligned West Virginia. "Thirty four percent of our counties have double digits," he said. "Martinsville, which lost a textile mill, has 22 percent unemployed."

Last year, under Gov. Tim Kaine, Virginia was ranked among "The Best Places to do Business in America." Under now Sen. Mark Warner, the state was judged "Best Managed." Today, foreclosures in Virginia are up over 19 percent, which McAuliffe said "wreaks havoc" on the state economy. Only McAuliffe, among this Democratic crop, can keep and build business here in VA and manage our fiscal woes. McAuliffe is a "turnaround artist" in business -- including his leadership at the United Bank (a West Virginia financial institution with strong presence here), where he lent money for mortgages.

Most importantly, only McAuliffe can keep Virginia blue and beat Bob McDonnell this fall.