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Caps Owner Leonsis Shoots for Deeds

Rosalind Helderman

Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds snagged a big name to head his "Business for Deeds" group today, joining Sen. Mark Warner on a perch overlooking the Capitals ice skating rink in Ballston to announce that Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis has agreed to take the job.

Leonsis, a former AOL top executive who is also majority owner of the Washington Mystics is tight with Warner and has donated to both Democrats and Republicans (though, per the Virginia Public Access Project, more to Ds than to Rs). But as Warner joked at the event, Leonsis couldn't be persuaded to take on the same role for Warner's campaign, so it is something of a coup.

But Leonsis said he had met with Deeds and determined him he'd be good for business in the state, providing necessary improvements for education and transportation.

"He's someone who's listening and will follow the tradition that Mark and Tim [Kaine] laid out for us where this is a pro-business state," Leonsis said. "We know without jobs, without a strong economy none of the great programs that define the state are possible. I've agreed to chair this group, and we'll bring together a very broad base of people with lots of opinions."

"I'm running for governor because I want to restore confidence in the economy and I want to do that by building a broad base of support," Deeds said in response.

Leonsis will head a group of 43 business executives on Deeds' steering committee. They also include former Warner aide and current Dominion executive Bob Blue, longtime NoVa businessmen Jimmy and John T. "Til" Hazel Jr. and Austin Ligon, a top Deeds' donor and co-founder of CarMax.

The involvement of the business community is going to be key to watch in coming months. Once loyal to the GOP, top business leaders were lured to the Democrats under Warner and Gov. Tim Kaine. But Republicans have said they sense an opening, particularly over the federal card check legislation that would prohibit secret balloting in union organization.

In response to questioning today, Deeds said he supports Virginia's right to work law, but also supports the rights of workers to organize.

Republican Bob McDonnell has been hammering Deeds over union connections--including a $500,000 donation Deeds received from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on June 26 (some fence mending going on there--AFSCME was one of Terry McAuliffe's biggest supporters before the primary.) "The national labor union agenda that comes with their big bucks is bad for jobs in Virginia," McDonnell's camp said in a statement this morning.

Deeds joked today that McDonnell has been hitting the federal issue so hard, he might as well run for Congress. "I might even send him a check," Deeds cracked.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 2, 2009; 1:14 PM ET
Categories:  Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Mark Warner , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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