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Deeds, McDonnell and a Roomful of Farmers

Anita Kumar

Creigh Deeds has operated on farm animals. Bob McDonnell has not.

That's one of the things we learned this afternoon when Deeds and McDonnell made their pitches to Virginia farmers at a candidates' forum designed to determine which of the men is the "most farm and forestry friendly."

Deeds relished the opportunity to talk up his rural roots in Bath County, his 18 years service on the General Assembly's agriculture committees and his long record on issues important to farmers. He doesn't often get to tout that part of his record (bills creating a board to promote the state's sheep industry, classifying potbellied pigs as companion animals and guaranteeing the right to hunt and fish) when he campaigns around the state but Friday's event gave him the chance.

"You've got to remember I grew up on a farm,'' Deeds said. "You won't find too many candidates for statewide office who have performed surgery on cows and pigs." (For the record, Deeds told reporters later that the surgeries were the kind performed on male animals. Enough said.)

It's hard to compete with a statement like that in a roomful of farmers. But McDonnell held his own. (Afterall, this is the same group who endorsed him over Deeds for the attorney general race in 2005).

A relaxed McDonnell spoke long (as usual) but managed to elicit laughter several times with jokes and a few off-the-cuff remarks. "I know Creigh grew up on a farm. He operated on a pig,'' he said. "I can't say that."

Instead, McDonnell described growing up in the Mount Vernon area (which used to be part of George Washingon's farm) and representing rural south Virginia Beach in the House of Delegates. "Having the ability to say you grew up in a place is helpful,'' he said. "But actuallly having the right ideas on promoting the industry is really what most of the members here today want to hear."

Deeds and McDonnell gave a few opening remarks before answering questions from a packed room of farmers, young and old, from all across the state at the Virginia Farm Bureau's headquarters outside Richmond.

The questions touched on water quality, property rights, transportation, taxes and all the ways the next governor can keep agriculture and forestry viable in Virginia. Combined, the two industries have an annual economic impact of $79 billion in Virginia.

Deeds and McDonnell continue to bicker about the number of debates they will have this fall. Friday's forum marked one of their few joint appearances so far.

By Anita Kumar  |  July 31, 2009; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar  
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