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Deeds as the Messenger

Tim Craig

State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, a Democratic candidate for governor, began fleshing out his campaign theme today, delivering an emotional but unpolished message.

At an event in Richmond, Deeds announced he had been endorsed by nearly two dozen of that city's leaders, including five city council members, two school board members, Sheriff C.T. Woody and state Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (D).

Deeds described Richmond as his "second home," noting he was born in that city after his parents left their farm in Bath County in search of work.

"I guess I grew up in humble circumstances," Deeds said. "I never thought of myself as poor until I went away to college and realized what other people had, so I guess I did know poor but I never knew humble."

Later, after Deeds' family moved back to Bath County, he started volunteering at a local boys camp sponsored by the Richmond Baptist Association.

"That summer I looked hunger in the eyes, I was 17-years-old. I was sitting at the head of the table in the mess hall and this little 9-year-old boy, a little African-American boy, just cute as can be, with big ole eyes and big ole ears, looked up to me during lunch and asked, 'You mean we eat more than once a day here?" Deeds recalled. "That moment, that summer, just changed things for me. It made me realize that even here in Virginia, things aren't perfect ...there are children who grow up without the same opportunities as everyone else."

Deeds then vowed if elected governor to create "opportunity in every corner of the Commonwealth." He said his three top priorities will be "the economy, the economy, the economy" so he plans to invest in energy, the community college system and job training.

Deeds message closely tracks with the policy positions being espoused by his two rivals for the nomination, Terry McAuliffe and Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria). But Deeds differs from McAuliffe and Moran in one major way: he's not a sophisticated speaker.

During his speech today, Deeds often stumbled over his words and at times appeared to be rambling, a surprising performance for a politician making his second bid for statewide office.

While that style could be a liability during the heat of a campaign, Deeds personality will also be what sets him apart from his two rivals. Moran and McAuliffe were both born north of the Mason-Dixon line, with the accents to prove it. They sort of look alike - have similar hair cuts, at least - and both tend to raise their voice when the speak.

If Democratic primary voters decide they want something different, Deeds will be there trying to position himself as the authentic Virginia voice in the race.

By Tim Craig  |  December 9, 2008; 9:43 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Tim Craig  
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