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Budget Blues May Boost McAuliffe

Tim Craig

With Virginia facing a budget shortfall of up $3 billion over two years, Democrat Terry McAuliffe could emerge as the big political winner this spring if he decides to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

McAuliffe, who will be in Chesterfield County today campaigning for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has begun laying the groundwork for a campaign. He's hired Mo Elleithee, a veteran of former governor Mark R. Warner and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's successful campaigns, to begin organizing the preliminary structure of his effort in case he enters the race.

McAulifee, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, would face Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria) and Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) for the nomination. The budget shortfall means Moran and Deeds will be consumed when the General Assembly convenes in January with tough votes - including possible major spending cuts to schools and other government services as well as potential efforts to raise some taxes or fees - that McAuliffe will be able to avoid.

Instead, McAuliffe will be able to play up his background in business, arguing he's better suited to manage the state's finances because Moran and Deeds are both lawyers. And if the budget battle gets really heated, the public may have an appetite for a fresh face not connected to the power structure in Richmond.

Any Richmond fatigue could be more than offset by concerns about McAuliffe's extensive ties to Washington. But if Obama wins the White House and Democrats retain control of Congress, primary voters will likely have an entirely new perspective on the power players in Washington.

One other point to consider: Under state law, neither Moran nor Deeds will be able to raise money during the 45-day legislative session. McAuliffe, because he's not an elected official, will be free to raise as much as he wants while Moran and Deeds are tied up in Richmond.

By Tim Craig  |  September 24, 2008; 10:36 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Brian J. Moran , Creigh Deeds , Terry McAuliffe , Tim Craig  
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