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Live Blog: The Potomac Officers Club Forum

Rosalind Helderman

Greetings from the ritzy Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner, where a forum hosted by the Potomac Officers Club with gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell is about to kick off. The two men won't be sharing the same stage. We understand they are even attending two separate VIP events before the main event. But they'll appear consecutively on the same stage to answer questions from the critical business community. We'll be live-blogging the event when it kicks off, assuming our trusty wireless card holds out here in the hotel ballroom. Follow to the jump to read.

1:28 p.m.: We're done! Thank you for joining us today.

1:25 p.m. Last questioner asks him to say something about the state's children. He's talking about providing opportunities everywhere and uses a seed corn metaphor. He sure did spend a lot of his time telling this Northern Virginia crowd about how rural he is. He's proud of the roots, and it might have gone over well. Or perhaps not.

1:24 p.m.: He says that Northern Virginia is insulated from some effects of the recession by government spending. He says unemployment has reached double digits in other parts of the state where people are hurting in "ways you can't imagine." He says he'll look for ways to increase partnership with the federal government to expand contracting.

1:22 p.m.: He wants to bring down the cost of health care, increase access and expand health providers in underserved areas like urban and rural areas. And, he says, he's too focused on this race to have focused on capital gains tax increases.

1:19 p.m.: "I don't support the card-check provisions" of that legislation he says. There are four senators who have to sign off on any legislation. On health care: Frankly, Deeds says, I don't think Congress can afford to get health care wrong. He says he has some elementary understanding of the five bills. His answers are coming across fairly haltingly -- it seems odd that he doesn't have a stock answer to these questions. He's still going on health care.

1:17 p.m.: First questioner: What happens in Washington doesn't stay there -- it affects us here in Virginia. How would you tell our two freshman senators to vote on cap-and-trade, health care, card-check and increasing the capital gains tax? Cap-and-trade: We must curb greenhouse gases, but any bill that would raise energy costs or send jobs overseas is not good. "The bill as written is not something I would support," he said.

1:15 p.m.: "My opponent's opposed progress every step of the way," says Deeds, noting that McDonnell's transportation plan siphons general funds for transportation. He's spending a lot of his time talking about McDonnell. McDonnell spent much less time talking about Deeds.

1:13 p.m.: Deeds is talking about "his opponent" -- that McDonnell voted against the 2004 Warner budget plan, that he voted against the governor's opportunity fund before this year promoting its expansion. (We just had a visit on press row from a McDonnell spokesman who noted that Deeds voted for budgets in the past couple of years that also cut the fund.)

1:11 p.m.: Deeds is reading his speech. It's noticeable. McDonnell did not -- or if he did, it was not noticeable.

1:08 p.m.: We need new money for transportation, Deeds says, and all options are on the table. He says he's getting attacked for some of his proposals in the past for transportation and some are more popular here than in Bath. He means the gas tax. He gets applause from a couple of folks -- the only applause of this forum so far -- by saying that if transportation doesn't get new revenue it will choke-off commerce.

1:07 p.m.: "It's very simple: Create a job, get a tax credit." And provide health insurance to unemployed workers and 70,000 new college degrees. He talks up his new scholarship program, which would pay 50 percent of tuition for B-average students who commit to two years of public service in Virginia.

1:05 p.m.: Mark Warner alert -- Deeds is telling the crowd about 2004, when Warner's budget plan helped the state retain its AAA bond rating. He wants a Virginia, he says, where Virginians in any corner of the state can turn their ideas into opportunities.

1:03 p.m.: He says that when you grow up in a 4,800-person county with one stoplight, you learn how to get along with other people. You got to wonder how many business people in this room know a lot about 4,800-person counties with one stoplight. Here's a money line, a difference from McDonnell who just told the crowd that the government's role is stay out of the way: "We can count on government to make a difference," Deeds says.

1:01 p.m. He's talking about his childhood and how, early on, he learned the need for education. My story is built on a quality education, a strong family and community and a commonwealth that gave me opportunities, he says.

12:58 p.m.: Now it's Creigh Deeds time. Bob McDonnell has remained in the room. He seems hungry. Deeds notes he lives in a house a few miles from where his ancestors lived in the 1740s. And he tells us he's a little sick but assures the crowd he is not infectious. Which is indeed reassuring.

12:54 p.m. A question about why Republicans have blocked some of the same proposals McDonnell now is proposing for transportation. (The questioner doesn't cite an example but we can point one out: privatizing ABC stores.) McDonnell says the ideas never had the leadership of a governor and he is confident they will be "widely embraced."

12:53 p.m.: A head of human resources says he finds himself worried about spiraling health costs, taking care of his employees. McDonnell talks about creating a better market for health care coverage by allowing businesses to pool across state lines. More focus on preventive and wellness care. Costs must be addressed in Medicaid, he says. "That's what the insurance companies have said are driving up the cost of insurance, all the mandates," he said.

12:46 p.m.: Our first question comes from someone with the Mount Vernon project -- he introduces himself as a fellow Bishop Ireton Mount Vernon dad, which McDonnell must love. He asks what government can do to encourage green jobs. McDonnell says he would devote 20 percent of state oil drilling revenues to promoting green jobs, but acknowledges that none of those revenues will start flowing for a good long time. He also says he would put in place a $500 tax credit for new green jobs. And what was that? He mentioned algae. Little shout-out to the departed Terry McAuliffe and his algae/chicken-poop plans.

12:44: McDonnell is closing with a call for civility and results-driven leadership. And we're about to get some questions.

12:41 p.m.: McDonnell's now on his very favorite topic of all, his concern that the federal government is intruding into local businesses. He says he opposes card-check while Deeds supports it. (Which isn't quite right. Deeds has said repeatedly that he does not favor taking the secret ballot out of union elections.) He hits cap-and-trade and "unfunded mandates" too.

12:39 p.m.: "You're a donor region," he tells the crowd, explaining how he would redirect some NoVa sales tax revenues into transportation. He doesn't mention that doing so would take money from other state services.

12:37 p.m.: "I think President Obama is right," McDonnell says on charter schools and merit pay for teachers. This is one of his favorite lines on education. He notes he went to T.C. Williams High last week -- "my old nemesis from my football days," he says, spreading a bit more NoVa pixie dust -- to announce shifting the state's schools spending from administration to the classroom.

12:36 p.m.: Economic development is clearly the most important issue in this campaign, he says.

12:34 p.m.: And we're into energy: nuclear, coal and oil drilling. He wants carbon sequestration. That's certain to show up in a TV ad any day.

12:32 p.m.: He transitions into government programs on which he would spend money -- tourism, incentives to the film industry, the governor's economic opportunity fund.

12:30 p.m.: Government is only profitable if you are successful, he tells the business folk. He says his overall philosophy is that government's job is to promote free enterprise. It's not federal government with its big programs that's going to end the recession. Keep taxes low and maintain Virginia's right-to-work law.

12:28 p.m.: Two minutes in and McDonnell has mentioned growing up in Fairfax three times. He also just noted that he grew up with a working mom.

12:27: McDonnell has begun. "I'm basically your local candidate all over the state" he jokes, describing his childhood in Fairfax, his time in Virginia Beach and his current residency in Henrico County.

12:23 p.m.: The bizfolk are eating their lunch and our hosts are welcoming us. We've been assured (jokingly of course) by the Deeds campaign that they have not planted anyone in the audience to shout "you lie" during McDonnell's remarks. On a serious note, McDonnell was just asked about the "you lie" heckle by a Republican congressman to President Obama during his address to a joint session of Congress last night. McDonnell condemned the remark to reporters and said he believes there should be civility in politics.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  September 10, 2009; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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This is a pretty fair and balanced accounting of events there. Well done!

Posted by: SpotsySteve | September 10, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

As someone who attended the event as a somewhat undecided voter, it looked as if McDonnell had been wound up and pointed in a direction from which he never deviated.

Deeds, who faced tougher questioning, gave a more nuanced and thoughtful presentation, especially regarding solutions for the region's transportation crisis.

Posted by: jeffersonian1 | September 10, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Terrible article skewed from the opening sentence. Isn't this the same kind of place the President frequents when he is in Tyson's Corner?

As a looong time resident of the region, the solution is if we park our cars at home and take the Metro.

Every election cycle the politicians pander for our votes on transportation, but there is no real solution when some many bottlenecks exist. I'm surprised you fell for the Deeds transportation spell. You must not be a true independent but a party hack.

McDonnell is also pandering on this issue, but overall I think he's spent more time in NOVA than Deeds, who looks like a fish out of water.

Posted by: letsfroggy1 | September 11, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

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