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Live Blog: Loudoun Chamber Forum

Rosalind Helderman

Good morning. Greetings from Lansdowne, Va., and the National Conference Center in Loudoun County. We'll be live-blogging today's candidates forum, sponsored by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce. Our Internet connection is a bit weak, so bear with us here. But the introductions are getting started and both candidates are in the room so we'll get going shortly.

This is an area we know well. In 2005, we did a series of stories all about the voting precinct that includes the National Conference Center. It was a place where just about every residence had been built in the four years since the 2001 election. In '05, this precinct went for Democrat Tim Kaine. Kaine won Loudoun and won the election. Ever since, this has been a pretty Democratic-leaning area -- President Barack Obama won it last year. We'd note, however, on an organizational level, that Republican Bob McDonnell blanketed the area with signs all the way to the door. Democrat Creigh Deeds had just a few signs right outside the conference center's entry. More striking, a small clot of McDonnell volunteers is holding signs and greeting people outside. Deeds? Not so much. Our questioning panel is now getting introduced.

10 a.m.: Thanks for joining us today. To get another look at the candidates, tune in to ABC 7/WJLA-TV at 7 p.m. tonight. Deeds and McDonnell will be participating in interviews as part of a previously taped hour-long TV special. The show will be simulcast on the Politico's Web site.

9:50 a.m.: On taxes, he says they should be lower. He talks about how Ireland boomed after a cut in its corporate income tax. We're no expert in the Irish economy, but we think we also remember hearing something about how that Irish tiger economy has now collapsed? On regulations, he says he wants to cut them. He talks about his two year regulatory task force which worked to reduce burdensome rules. That contrasts with Deeds's line on not having giving a lot of thought to the regulatory structure.

9:46 a.m. On immigration, he says the federal government has preempted almost everything the state could do except for law enforcement. "Reasonable" and "common sense" seem to be his buzz terms here, stressing he wants businesses to have the information they need to do "reasonable" checks on workers.

9:43 a.m.: He is asked if he is interested in being bipartisan, would he sign a bill that is the product of bipartisan compromise that included a tax increase for transportation? He says he does not believe new taxes are the way to go.

9:41 a.m.: Again, he says that the next governor needs to be able to look corporate executives in the eye and tell the Virginia story. Another made-to-repeat line.

9:39 a.m.: On energy: nuclear, coal, off-shore drilling, alternative energies, oh my. Again he says, "it will take the leadership of a governor." We think that's a line that might come up again before Nov. 3.

9:37 a.m.: On transportation -- McDonnell says he'd use bonds, he'd sell the state-owned liquor stores and he'd shift general-fund spending. "I've come out with a package of ideas that are specific, that are attainable, but you know what, they will take the leadership of a governor."

9:33 a.m.: Question: What would you cut in the state budget? McDonnell says he would grow the economy so revenue would rise instead. "I will be a traveling governor," he says, promising to go to other countries, look CEOs in the eye and "tell the Virginia story." The clear subtext here is that's something he would be equipped to do -- aw-shucks Deeds, not so much.

9:30 a.m.: A question -- the chamber supports changing state formulas to ensure more of Loudoun's school funding is paid by the state. What would McDonnell do about that? He says that formulas should be reviewed, but that changing them would be politically difficult. He says this is why his transportation plan involves keeping more Northern Virginia tax revenue in the area. For transportation. We're not following that argument. He shifts the conversation to his support for charters.

9:27 a.m.: McDonnell notes that every business group in the state that has issued an endorsement has given it to him.

9:24 a.m. Words not uttered by Deeds: thesis, women, abortion. Now McDonnell is giving his opening. He's telling funny stories about what this area was like when he was growing up in Northern Virginia. There was nothing here. (Hey, did you know that Bob McDonnell grew up in Northern Virginia?) He says he listened to Deeds's presentation on transportation: "The bottom line is that he has not proposed one dime, not one dollar." He says we can't tax our way out of the downturn nor bail our way out. It's about low taxation and regulation so people can use their God-given talents to pursue the American dream.

9:15 a.m.: On health care, Deeds advocates "no frills" health plans for small businesses, not subject to some state mandates on insurance. Would that include mammograms and the like? (McDonnell has been crying foul about a Deeds radio ad that accuses him of supporting health plans that don't include cancer screenings.) We'll ask the Deeds camp about that.

9:12 a.m.: Question: What single change should be made to the regulatory structure next year to help business? Deeds seems a bit uncertain. First he talks about what a great state this is already to do business. And he says the current environment should be guarded. Then he humphers a bit before saying that he "hasn't really thought much about regulatory changes," then tells a story about a construction executive complaining about duplicative permitting and says duplicative regulations should be removed. Then he talks about the need for transportation improvements.

9:10 a.m.: Deeds is asked about cutting spending. He says he's confident the state can find half a billion in new savings through performance reviews. And he advocates zero-based budgeting.

9:06 a.m.: Here's something we didn't know about Deeds -- he's got broadband Internet access at his home in Millboro Springs. In response to a question about broadband Internet, he says government needs to be in the infrastructure business, including making broadband access universal. He says Rick Boucher has done a great job getting it in the 9th district. (And Frank Wolf in this area?) "That I have broadband Internet access at my house but there are areas of Northern Virginia that do not have it does not make sense."

9:01 a.m.: What's your biggest legislative achievement? A bill signed by the governor into law. Deeds: the governor's opportunity fund, Megan's law, Virginia's preservation land tax credit.

8:57 a.m.: Our first question is going to be about transportation. The Loudoun Chamber starts by saying that securing a new, stable revenue stream for transportation is a top priority for the group. What would Deeds do about that? That's the way we imagine Deeds likes to be asked that question. "I'm committed to the notion that we will get a transportation plan next year with a sustainable source of new revenue for transportation," he says. He says he can get the plan done where Warner and Kaine didn't because of his 18 years in the legislature ("I know the legislative process like the back of my hand") and because he's a nice guy ("I'm a nice guy.")

8:53 a.m.: In the wake of the ad now on TV featuring Deeds stumbling over tax questions, as well as yesterday's kerfuffle over a video showing McDonnell supporter Sheila Johnson mocking Deeds sometimes-stammering speaking style, we're interested in a few lines from Deeds's opening. "I need to be clear," he says at one point. On transportation, he says that McDonnell is lying to Virginians. "I have an honest, straightforward approach." This clearly is going to be a closing argument for Deeds: I may not speak the best, but I speak the most honestly. We'll see what McDonnell has to say about that when it's his turn.

8:48 a.m.: By coin toss, Deeds is going first. (McDonnell won the toss and, like an old football vet, chose to get the ball second. He's in the room so he'll get a preview of the questions.) Deeds is doing his opening statement. He's talking about the 2004 budget fight and is now talking about the need to break the legislative logjam on transportation. "Here's my vision" he says. "My plan is on my Web site -- I encourage you to take a look." He says everyone pretty much agrees on what should be done in transportation, just not how to fund it. And he's talking about Gerry Baliles's 1986 transportation commission. Pretty much a standard Deeds stump speech.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  October 6, 2009; 8:34 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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As someone who attended today's event, I'd like to offer a correction. The "small clot" of McDonnell supporters was actually around 40 people, and there was not one Deeds supporter present, instead of "not so much."

Posted by: imkimmy | October 6, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

imkimmy--likely that the Democrats had to go to WORK. Nice that you had the time tho! Good luck!

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | October 6, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I also attended the Loudoun event. Actually, DouginMountVernon, most of us were able to attend the event before going to work or school. Not a single Deeds supporter was able to show that level of commitment to their candidate. It speaks volumes.

Posted by: SueBearinVA | October 7, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

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