This hasn't been an easy choice.
For the three years that this was a two man race between Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds, I was planning to come down in the Moran column. His campaign, his message and his operation were far superior to Deeds and he looked ready to take on Bob McDonnell.
Then came Terry McAuliffe, and Brian's meltdown began. All I can really say is thank goodness that Terry got into this race and we saw this meltdown before the primary- and not in the General Election against McDonnell. Despite his warnings in a recent fundraising letter that we might "never hear from him again" if he loses this primary, I am confident Brian will learn from this campaign and his impending loss and will be a better candidate for it- and I look forward to supporting him in the future.
The choice I was left with between Terry and Creigh was surprisingly tough. Creigh lost his 2005 Attorney General election because he finished behind Tim Kaine and Leslie Byrne in hundreds of suburban and urban precincts in all corners of the Commonwealth- some even in his own Senate district! To Creigh's credit these results were a wake up call for him, that Virginia Democrats were no longer willing to tolerate candidates gravitating to the right and demanding a vote because they stayed slightly to the left of the Republicans. Creigh has responded by "growing" in a number of his positions for this Governor's race. He's done such a great job with some of these issues that I strongly considered supporting him as a candidate who could speak to the "blue" voters in many parts of Virginia that still uncomfortable being progressives to bring together the broadest governing coalition.
But after a lot of thought, I'm going to support Terry McAuliffe for Governor. A few reasons:
The national media has been salivating over this race since Terry got into it waiting for a gaffe that they could jump on and blow up. It hasn't happened, because Terry has researched the issues, learned local politics in every corner of the Commonwealth and surrounded himself with a first rate campaign team. I think that indicates that Terry is ready for the General Election.
Terry also has an opportunity to be a transitional figure as Governor. He owes no one person, group, corporation, union or committee for his election. He can govern in the best interests of every Virginian- period. He can take on the toughest fights- and drive the General Assembly to solutions. For a state where the blue tide has been driven by national Democratic voters in Northern Virginia, we are still barely beating Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina in some key categories- we need a Governor to shake things up in Richmond. Terry is the right man at this time to do so.
Also, Terry's attitude in this race couldn't be better. He has laughed off attacks- and brought a sunny vision of economic growth and prosperity to many parts of Virginia that are struggling right now. I think this is creating a real bond with a lot of areas of the Commonwealth that we need to win in November. More importantly, Terry is giving people a little bit of that hope we got in 2008 and that kind of optimistic attitude can do everyone a lot of good right now.
In a lot of ways, Terry's campaign reminds me of Jim Webb's in 2006. Both ran with support from almost no members of the General Assembly and their victories will both be driven by voters who don't want their candidates picked in a smoke filled room in Richmond. I think a large part of why Senator Webb has been able to take on so many tough issues in the U.S. Senate is because of the support base that elected him and gave him a free hand to shake things up. I would love to have a Governor that could do the same- and Terry can without ever compromising our principles.
This has been a great primary, and it was an honor for the candidates to let me moderate one of the Gubernatorial Debates last month. As we move to June 9th I urge all Virginia Democrats to give Terry McAuliffe a big victory in this primary- he has earned it- and we will need every bit of momentum we can harness to take on the Republicans this year.