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Excerpts: Post Reporters, Bob Holsworth on Gov. Race

Earlier today, Post reporters Anita Kumar and Rosalind Helderman -- who are assigned to the McDonnell and Deeds campaigns respectively -- and former VCU professor Bob Holsworth (now blogging at Virginia Tomorrow) answered readers questions about the Virginia governor's race. Some excerpts follow. Read the entire discussion here.

And come back next Wednesday for another chat with Post reporters, who will be joined by fundraising watcher David Poole of the Virginia Public Access Project.


Alexandria, Va.: I want to like Deeds but feel he is taking NoVA for granted because it generally skews highly democratic. Does he have any plans for flyers, ads, appearances in the area that would help him convey his stances on the issues or plans for Virginia? So far, he hasn't done that at all (at least as far as I have noticed). He really needs to step up his game and come out with some real details if he wants to do well here.

Rosalind Helderman: Deeds was in Northern Virginia yesterday, attending a forum at the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce in Leesburg. He's doing the Mark Plotkin show on Friday. He also has a variety of television ads up in the area and is sending mail home to voters. Having said that, certainly plenty of Northern Virginians have suggested he has not done enough to explain who he is in this region.

Takoma Park, Md.: I was very surprised to see a Bob McDonnell TV campaign ad in which people (in this case, women who assert that McDonnell supports women's rights) who speak as McDonnell supporters are identified as "deputy attorneys general" of Virginia. In Virginia, are government employees permitted to campaign in this way? Furthermore, I assume that these deputy attorneys general worked under McDonnell when he was attorney general. I find it troubling that state workers that McDonnell supervised are campaigning for him and that Virginia law permits it.

Anita Kumar: Hello Takoma Park. McDonnell is airing a TV ad with some of his former employees who still work for the Attorney General's Office. The employees, Attorney General Bill Mims and McDonnell's campaign have all said that the women filmed the ad at a private location during hours when they were not working. My understanding is they permitted to do appear in ads if it is on their own time and separate from the office.

Deeds's ad campaign: FWIW, I believe Deeds's campaign is making a mistake in solely focusing on McDonnell's thesis and the obvious hypocrisy found in his response to it. Yes, there is valid room for criticism there and it's probably earned Deeds some votes, but I don't think that will be enough.

I think he should go after McDonnell on one issue that McDonnell seems to think is a strength ... his view on improving the state's economy. McDonnell, who supposedly never introduced any job-creation legislation when he served in the Assembly, is falling back on the old GOP stance of "lower taxes will solve everything." If I ran Deeds's campaign, I'd be comparing him to George Bush and Jim Gilmore on this.

Any sign that this will happen?

Bob Holsworth: I really like this question and believe that it gets to the heart of the campaign in the final four weeks.

Does Creigh Deeds develop what the lawyers would call an "affirmative case."

I think that there is one for the Democrats that would consist of:

1. Emphasizing the "bests" that Virginia has achieved - best managed state under the last three Democratic Governors (include Wilder), best place to raise a child, best state for business.

2. Stressing that this has been achieved by the willingness of Democrats to make "hard decisions" and not avoid and defer problems -- cutting the budget judiciously and making the right investments.

3. Highlight Deeds' and the Democrats' historic commitment to inclusiveness.

Would this be enough -- I'm not quite sure, given the national trends impacting the race.

But I think that both Jim Moran and Governor Kaine were correct this week -- Deeds has to make an affirmative case if he is to have a real chance at winning.

Richmond, Va.: Bob -- is the election going to be Allen coming from behind and beating Sue Terry with Deeds as the dark horse Allen, or Gilmore V. Beyer with Deeds as the Beyer "Me too, No Wilder Endorsement" candidate? Is there a historical equivalent?

Bob Holsworth: At the moment, Democrats are telling me that it feels like some mix of both campaigns (on the wrong side) -- In each one, the Democratic candidate failed to establish a clear, positive identity with the voters -- and I think that Democrats are frustrated that deeds has not been able to turn his personal story and his own dedication to Virginia into a compelling campaign narrative.

Richmond, Va.: You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. Who are McDonnell and Deeds's close advisors -- not just campaign staffers, but the people they turn to for advice and counsel?

Rosalind Helderman: You can be sure both are getting a ton of advice from anyone and everyone. Deeds talks often to Gov. Tim Kaine, who is of course chair to the DNC. He is also particularly close to Mark Warner. And his campaign is getting daily input from the DNC and democratic governors association. Anita, you want to talk about McDonnell?

Anita Kumar: McDonnell also works with the Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association. Jerry Kilgore, the 2005 GOP nominee for governor, and Tom Farrell, the head of Dominion power company who is a high school friend, help him raise money. He also receives advice and policy assistance from other like Richard Cullen and Eric Finkbeiner of McGuire Woods law firm.

Winchester, Va.: All three of you have observed the candidates in much closer detail than most of us. What's your actual measure of Bob McDonnell? Has he truly moderated his views since leaving the legislature, or is his moderate image that's been on full display since the summer a sham? And if elected governor, which McDonnell will we see?

Bob Holsworth: Great Question. Here's my take.

I don't think certain that McDonnell's principles and beliefs have changed very dramatically since leaving the General Assembly (I do believe that he has obviously changed his views on working women since writing the thesis).

What he is doing in this campaign is attempting to focus public attention on the issues that he maintains will be his priority as Governor -- dedicating resources to transportation and helping Virginia's economy recover.

If elected, my sense is that he will try very hard to fulfill his campaign promises.

Yet I would not think that his social conservatism would go away -- I think that he would likely have pro-family, pro-life policies in, for example, the health and human services area. At the same time, the national environment certainly would limit his capability to change, for instance, abortion policies.

Princeton, N.J.: If I have to pay to enter Virginia, will I get a refund when I leave?

Rosalind Helderman: Only after all those Virginians who have paid tolls on the New Jersey turnpike get refunds too!

Arlington, Va.: Who would McDonnell sell the liquor stores to? And what happens to all of the revenue the stores generate now that the state will no longer be collecting? Sure, in the short run it means a big chunk of money upfront but what about when that runs out? Is this about his object to the state being in the liquor business?

Bob Holsworth: Another very good question.

I think that it's hard to make the case that selling liquor should be a core function of Virginia state government.

The issues surrounding privatization always center on how would it be done, what would happen to the "profit" the state currently accrues, and how would more "profit" for the state arise through privatization.

My guess is that McDonnell would offer "licenses" to sell liquor to both small and large retailers. And, for the state to make money, they would have to obtain a recurring license fee and additional tax revenues.

This would entail, I think, enabling retailers like Wal-Mart, Walgreen's and Costco to participate in a big way.

The political opposition to ABC privatization s considerable: Liberal "moralists" don't like it because of it's impact on the poor. Faith-based conservatives don't like it because of potential negative impact on the family. Groups like MADD hate it because liquor advertising would be far more prominent.

And every group that fares well economically under the present system hates it.

I think that Virginia should have a serious dialogue about privatization -- whether it can be shaped politically and economically to provide an addition $500 million a year in revenue to the state is obviously open to debate.

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  October 7, 2009; 3:49 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Anita Kumar , Creigh Deeds , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Next: Cuccinelli and Shannon Go At It -- Again


Mr. Holsworth said, "...emphasizing the "bests" that Virginia has achieved - best managed state under the last three Democratic Governors (include Wilder), best place to raise a child, best state for business."

This is advice that Deeds should focus on these last few weeks. Governors Warner and kaine have made this a great state tolive in and do buiness in the past 8 years. There's no need to retreat to the disaster of the Gilmore years by electing someone like McDonnell who is relying on smoke-and-mirrors and pie-in-the-sky projections as the centerpiece of his campaign.

Posted by: BigDaddyD | October 7, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Well, Bob Holsworth, I could not disagree more with your argument "it's hard to make the case that selling liquor should be a core function of Virginia state government". First of all, it's NOT core, right now. But it is best managed by the state---for a whole host of reasons some of which you tough on. I live in the Route 1 corridor in Alexandria, already host to an abundance of check-cashing rip-offs and pawn shops. The purpose for doing this is purportedly to finance transportation, but the $100M in lost annual revenue is NOT going to be made up in total with licensing or franchising fees! This is a significant amount to replace in the VA General Fund--period. Where would McDonnell and his merry band of pro-"innovation" & "creativity" delegate candidates who are advocating this "create" this lost revenue that is already sorely needed for supporting truly CORE services in education and social services?

Furhtermore, McDonnell may think that he can use smoke and mirrors financing to improve transportation, but Deeds is far more likely to maintain a real and grounded (ie HONEST) outlook in terms of what can actually be accomplished.

For example, a convenient fact about McDonnell's oft-touted "$500M sell the liquor stores!" gamble---the stores are currently generating $100M in revenue that goes into the General Fund. He doesn't like to talk about this because, no matter the price he gets for the liquor stores if they were sold (and it wouldn't be $500M in today's market), how is he going to replace that revenue in the budget?

Prioritizing profits for his friends in the alcohol industry in the end would hurt Virignia. Not to mention, I'm sure areas like mine on Route 1 in Alexandria would suddenly have a liquor store on every corner, right next to the 7-11, cash-checking rip-off store, and pawn shop! NO THANKS!!

Privatizing our liquor stores might build one or two interchanges in the near term, but it's a long-term disaster that shortchanges Virginia's revenue and invites a very corruption-prone industry into looting the communinities of Virginia.

Sorry, but Virginia can do better--much better--in financing its badly needed transportation problems. Virginians can handle the truth--if they want improvements, they must be paid for. This is responsible governing.

Honest solutions for serious problems = CREIGH DEEDS. Regardless of how well he says it, what he has to say makes far more sense.

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | October 7, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Selling our liquor stores is a bad--very bad--idea, however the other laughable idea that I am hearing out there--moreso from delegate candidates at this point--is "energy exploration" to create revenue for transportation. What a joke. There is NO OIL offshore from VA. There MAY be some natural gas. I am not opposed to extracting that natural gas if it's economically feasible and there's an investor willing to do it. Great. But DO NOT pretend that this is going to create ANYWHERE near the amount of revenue needed to even build one darn interchange every year. It's LAUGHABLE, the GOP candidates at all levels are NOT understanding the scale of the need for transporation dollars, nor are they willing to consider what WILL BE REQUIRED to find an honest solution--yes, a modest and FAIRLY assessed tax increase--somewhere, somehow.

Level with the people, fer X's sake!

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | October 7, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

At this stage (Deeds down 14%) is it Obama who doesn't want to be linked to Deeds, or Deeds who doesn't want to be linked to Mr. Copenhagen? If nothing else, you leftists are always good for a laugh..

Posted by: SMWE357 | October 7, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Deeds is distancing himself from Obama...yet he has fundraisers with two other Libs: Biden and O'Malley. LOL. Real popular dou there. Who is he trying to appeal to MORE Liberals in NOVA. I think the WPO already secured them for him. He needs to head South and West to scrap the bottom of the morals barrel.

Posted by: espnfan | October 8, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

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