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Deeds Unsure of Cigarette Tax Hike

Tim Craig

Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, said today he's not sure whether he will support Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's (D) proposal to double the state's cigarette tax to 60 cents.

On a conference call with reporters, Deeds praised Kaine for his leadership on the budget but added he is not "prepared to say yea or nay" on a tax increase.

"I'm going to look at the whole budget picture," Deeds said. "I'm not going to take a position on that yet."

As the only sitting legislator in the governor's race, Deeds will face a number of thorny political issues when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 14. Deeds will have to juggle his own ambitions against the needs of Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax). With Democrats holding a narrow 21 to 19 Senate majority, Saslaw often cannot afford to have even one member of his caucus stray from the party line.

While an increase in the cigarette tax may play well with Democratic voters in Northern Virginia and parts of Hampton Roads, Deeds could quickly discover it's a tough sell in the rural parts of the state, where he hopes to perform well.

The two other candidates for the Democratic nomination - Terry McAuliffe and Brian J. Moran - will also have to stake out a position on the cigarette tax and other issues coming before the General Assembly. But Deeds, who will spend the winter surrounded by reporters on Capitol Square, will probably have to field the most questions about his views on pending legislation.

Depending on how he handles the spotlight, it could turn into a major boost for his campaign by enhancing his profile or a political disaster by raising questions about his leadership skills.

By Tim Craig  |  December 18, 2008; 12:36 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Tim Craig  
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