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Live Blog: Virginia FREE Luncheon

Rosalind Helderman

Good Afternoon. Today we come to you live from the Ritz-Carlton Tyson's Corner, where all four men seeking the governor's mansion in Virginia are about to begin addressing a roomful of business leaders and electeds for the Virginia Free lunch. The room is packed. Folks are now munching on salad. And Clayton Roberts is now reading the lengthy list of influential folks in the audience. We'll get started with a live blog in just a couple minutes, when the speechifying begins and keep with it as long as our technology holds out.

1:59 p.m.: Our event is concluding. Thanks for joining us today.

1:56 p.m.: Card check and unemployment. Like Deeds, Moran starts on the unemployment insurance issue. Dems think this one's a winner--business organizations have been with the GOP on this one. Moran completes his answer before answering card check. Says Holsworth, "card check?" Moran says he supports right to work and he'll take Mark Warner's lead on card check. "I look forward to receiving his guidance" on it, he says.

1:55 p.m.: Transportation: Moran says the network needs new investment. He notes he wrote an editorial calling for a sales tax hike for roads. Which he says he's sure Bob McDonnell has xeroxed and has prepared to use against him. He chuckles, the crowd doesn't really though.

1:53 p.m. Jobs--talks about trips overseas on trade missions. Apparently, a business leader in Israel told him once that he liked the business environment in Virginia because of the Commonwealth's right-to-work law. That's why he supports it.

1:51 p.m.: Renewable energy. Once again says no to the Surry coal plant and to oil drilling and natural gas drilling. It's all about wind, he says. That's the ticket for renewable energy.

1:48 p.m.: 1 minute, he's told. He says, "Oh, well then I won't list all the differences between us" and then goes on to list his support for a mandatory renewable energy standard (also supported by McAuliffe--maybe Deeds too) and his pledge to give all children health care. He talks until he's cut off. Moran: "You want me to continue?" Holsworth: "I'll ask the questions here."

1:46 p.m.: Moran says he knows the press is fond of saying there's not a lot of difference between the candidates on issues (who, us?) then notes they're all four white guys. That joke lies there. But he says "Moran's the man with the plans." The issues he suggestes are the differences between he and others is--his economic plan is about small businesses; he has a plan for a homeowner's bill of rights; he wants a watchdog for stimulus dollars.

1:41 p.m.: Our last speaker for the afternoon, Brian Moran. He stresses it's good to be in front of a crowd with so many long time friends. He's doing the bio thing, talking about his hard-scrabble background, talking about how if you've tasted watered down carnation milk, it's a taste you never forget, his six sibling, his brother in congress, his time as caucus chairman. He also invokes a higher being in this room. Yes, Mark Warner was the guy who asked him to run for delegate.

1:40 p.m.: This time around, Holsworth rolls card check in with uninsurance employment benefits. Not what McDonnell would hope. But carfd check, he say, "In my view, it shouldn't be part of this debate." He notes the federal bill will never come in front of a Virginia governor for signature.

1:38 p.m.: We're talking energy. Deeds endorses "clean coal" and says coal is part of the equation. And oil drilling, if the state could get royalties (which he acknowledges as a big if) and could protect the environment, he'd do it. "Let's not kid ourselves--it's not he panacea.

1:36 p.m.: Once again Deeds says Virginia doesn't have trouble attracting business--clearly a counter to the McAuliffe pledge to draw in new corporations. He says the state doesn't support business because of traffic clogged roads.

1:35 p.m.: Holsworth--we always flounder on the investment side of transportation. What will you do differently. He says Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have two things he doesn't have--Warner has 250 million of them and Kaine is...unusually decent. (He doesn't have that? Did he mean to suggest that?) He says what he does have is his lengthy legislative experience. He pledges to use that experience to fix transportation in his first year in office, including during a special session.

1:29 p.m.: "By golly," says Deeds, "Virginia is still the best place in the nation to do business." By golly. Most of his opening remarks are devoted to transportation. "We've never had a difficult time attracting employers to Virginia. We have trouble supporting employers," he says.

1:27 p.m.: Here's Creigh Deeds. Deeds wasn't going to attend this event, but his schedule changed yesterday and now he's here. Along with in front of the Fairfax Democratic Committee tonight and the Fairfax Education Association Thursday. Sense a pattern? Maybe it has something to do with the Washington Post editorial endorsement he got last week--copies of which just happened to have been helpfully left for luncheon attendees on their seats.

1:24 p.m.: Are you for or against card check, asks Holsworth. McAuliffe says the bill isn't going to get through congress in its current form--he'll take a look at amendments when they come forward. He pleads not to allow the issue to divide people. McDonnell talks about this everywhere he goes. It looks like Holsworth is likely to ask each of the candidates about it in turn, which McDonnell's folks are probably loving. I'm sure they'll doublechecking to make sure their tracker's camera is working.

1:22 p.m.: Holsworth asks about whether McAuliffe agrees with McDonnell that the state does not now have a comprehensive, statewide plan for higher education. Does he agree? Does he not? It's hard to fully say--he says we can't look at these issues in silos, but his answer hits on the importance of pre-k and fixing transportation. He declines to criticize SCHEV, the state higher ed agency, as McDonnell did.

1:19 p.m.: Holsworth: how does someone come in and be effective without the relationships. McAuliffe says that's his whole argument--he'll come in from the outside. He invokes the holy name, in this room. Mark Warner--a business guy who hadn't held elected office. There is no magic formula for the fixing the state budget other than by growing revenue, not by raising taxes but by growing the economy.

1:16 p.m.: For a moment, it feels bit like September in here, as McAuliffe tells the crowd he disagrees with McDonnell on oil drilling. He said federal law preclude the state from getting oil royalties, so they can't be pledged to fixing state roads. "We get zero," he says.

1:13 p.m. Next up is Terry McAuliffe--identified as a "McLean businessman" (hometown guy while we're at the Tyson's Ritz?) McAuliffe picked up some endorsements this morning, former LG candidate Jon Bowerbank and the blog Not Larry Sabato's Ben Tribbett. McAuliffe is giving his standard stump, heavy on his business background. "I'm an entrepreneur," he tells a room of entrepreneurs.

1:12 p.m.: Last question to McDonnell--card check. What does that have to do with Virginia. We see some passion from McDonnell--it would hurt right to work, which he calls the "lynchpin of the free enterprise system."

1:10 p.m.: Transportation--probably the most critical issue in this room, McDonnell pledges a specific plan soon. But says royalties from oil drilling can provide new dollars--pledges to fix I66 soon.

1:07 p.m. Holsworth notes the biz community has sometimes been ambivalent about Republicans, fearing they spend too much time on social issues. Noting McDonnell's ties to Pat Robertson and his recent decision to come out against President Obama receiving an honorary degree at Notre Dame--what kind of Republican are you, asks Holsworth. McDonnell chuckles, then pledges to rebuild the Reagan coalition, bringing together clear-minded poeple to solve problems that affect quality of life.

1:05 p.m.: The moderator today is blogger and former VCU professor Bob Holsworth. Who asks McDonnell to evaluate Tim Kaine's legacy. He's going for an on the hand, on the other hand approaching, noting Kaine made strides in improving mental health post-the Virginia Tech shootings and expanded pre-k education. But, snap, he says he'll have "broader, visionary goals", more than Kaine. Including fixing transpo, he says.

1:03 p.m.: McDonnell is making a pitch for the biz community on "free enterprise" issues--including card check and support for right to work. He says he has "big, bold" ideas and is pushing oil drilling, nuclear energy, new funding for higher ed and the Virginia film industry. That last one gets McAuliffe staff eyebrows raising since it's an issue Terry often mentions.

12:59 p.m.: Okay, we're getting started with Republican Bob McDonnell. He owns up to feeling a little lonely at the moment, given all the attention the Dems have been getting lately. He said much the same thing a little while ago, encountering Terry McAuliffe downstairs. McAuliffe's response--just give a few weeks.

12:19 p.m.: We're told it'll be a good 20 minutes before the program begins. So hang with us here while we take a short break.

12:18 p.m.: Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is about to give our invocation. He said he asked if he were allowed to give a speech first but was told he had to be running for governor. He says he thought for a time he might become govenor, if Gov. Tim Kaine had been selected vice president. "I was all for the idea," the Republican jokes.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  May 26, 2009; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , 2009 Governor's Race Fact Checker , Bill Bolling , Brian J. Moran , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , Terry McAuliffe  
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Next: Ticketmate Byrne Backs Deeds

Comments

"card check?" Moran says.. he'll take Mark Warner's lead on card check. "I look forward to receiving his guidance" on it, he says.

Are you kidding? Bueller... anyone? Card check is the #1 issue Warner has dodged- refusing to take a position on it after saddling up to labor AND business. And Moran wants to follow his lead- I bet he does! Not take a position and not be held accountable. Good luck pulling a Warner on this one.

Posted by: ChrisD4 | May 26, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

On labor's side, all four candidates from both parties are a down right dirty shame. They all like the right to work for less law, hate the idea that working men and women will ever be able to raise themselves up to middle class status, and continue to provide a very poor education for Virginia's children. Northern Virginia is the exception because of all the defense and other government contractors living and working in and around the nation's capitol. We have a middle class society that provides better than average education. But the Roanoke to Richmond area is the real blue collar Virginia that needs strong unions so that they can raise themselves up to the same standards enjoyed in NOVA. Meanwhile, the families in NOVA see their tax dollars being cyphered off by Richmond and both sides suffer as a result. Oh well, enough reality, back to the political fantasy.

Posted by: peter49 | May 26, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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