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McAuliffe Consoles, Campaigns at GM Plant

Rosalind Helderman

From the annals of smart campaigning... Terry McAuliffe made a stop this afternoon at the GM plant in Fredericksburg that the company announced Monday it is shuttering as part of its bankruptcy filing.

Not a bad move for the candidate who has made job creation the centerpiece of his run for the governor's mansion. McAuliffe took a tour of the plant, which is scheduled to close in 2010, as a guest of local UAW leaders and Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors Chairman Henry "Hap" Connors Jr, whose endorsed his campaign.

Melvin Carter, the local union political coordinator, said he'd welcome any of the candidates--he said he's invited everyone "all the way up to the White House" to visit the plant--but only McAuliffe had so far reached out to make it happen. The plant once employed 300--now only 68 people work at the mostly quiet factory that manufacturers torque converter clutch plants.

"It's good to know he's interested," Carter said. "You know what they always say, contact your congressman or senator. Well..."

McAuliffe spent more than an hour at the plant, safety goggles on his face, ear plugs in his ears, bright orange vest over his shirt, eagerly examining the massive machinery on the factory floor and talking to workers who run it. Cocking his head to listen over the noise of the machines, he occasionally pulled out a notebooks and jotted down notes.

Many of the workers at the plant have been working for GM for decades. Some are eligible to retire, but others are just a few years shy.

"If you work somewhere for 25 years and then it closes up on you, it feels pretty bad," said worker James Holsworth.

After his tour, McAuliffe addressed a small group of workers at an afternoon team meeting in a break room off the factory floor. He told the group he would bring new alternative energy jobs to Virginia that would replace the jobs lost at the GM plant and other factory closings.

"All I can tell you is that if I get in as governor, I promise you I'll create some jobs. I'll give you some opportunities--I promise you. I've done it my whole live," he said. "My heart goes out to everyone. I'm sorry this had to happen to you."

The workers questioned McAuliffe about education and health care. Then, one woman asked the key question: "Do you have a General Motors car?"

"Two," McAuliffe answered, his first words that broad broad smiles to pretty gloomy faces.

"Three," piped up an aide, reminding McAuliffe of his Escalade.

"I have three, excuse me," he said. "I've had one since 1990, but I bought two hybrids. You bet. Two new ones."

Brian Moran, meanwhile, spent the day on a series of campaign stops through the outer suburbs of Northern Virginia, including greeting voters at the VRE train station in Fredericksburg and touring a community health center in Prince William. At the health center, he met with board members and learned how federal stimulus money saved the center from having to close its doors.

Creigh Deeds, meanwhile, will be throwing out the first pitch tonight at the Norfolk Tides minor league baseball game at Harbor Park in Norfolk.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 3, 2009; 4:25 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Brian J. Moran , Creigh Deeds , Rosalind Helderman , Terry McAuliffe  
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