Johnson Stumps for McDonnell, Makes Less Inflammatory Joke
Northern Virginia businesswoman Sheila Johnson hit the campaign trail again Tuesday with Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell, vowing not to be "intimidated for crossing party lines" only days after she came under fire for comments she made mocking McDonnell's Democratic opponent.
Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and managing partner of the Washington Mystics, had ridiculed the speaking style of state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds at a Sept. 25 campaign event, saying, "The other people I talk to, especially his op-op-op-o-opponent, di-di-did this all through my interview with him."
On Tuesday, Johnson -- a Democrat who has previously supported President Obama and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) in their respective races -- opened up with another joke (prefaced by at least one audible gasp in the crowd). The topic? What the Bible's three wise men would have been like if had been women.
"They would have asked for directions and arrived on time," she noted. "And there would have been peace on Earth."
She later told supporters that she wasn't going "to be intimidated" for endorsing McDonnell, saying she supported Democratic candidates when she "thought they were the right people at the time."
"I did my homework," she said. "Bob is not only the best, but the smartest. His message resonated with me. It's not about party, it's about policy and the person."
She used the phrase "you are powerful," several times during her 10-minute speech, which she said she wrote at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
"You are smart enough, you are beautiful enough, you are powerful enough," Johnson told the gathering.
McDonnell introduced Johnson and, during his comments, touched on offshore drilling, transportation funding and his higher education proposals, while making reference to a series of Michigan economic development commercials that he said reflect the kind of successful marketing he "wants in Virginia."
"Small businesswomen are hurting," McDonnell told a crowd of about 50 women in a conference room at Marriott Tyson's Corner in Vienna. "They're certainly not seeing any bailouts from the federal government."
He also spoke of free elections in Iraq and invoked the name of his daughter, Jeanine McDonnell, a former Army lieutenant who served as a platoon leader in Iraq.
"She was the platoon leader for 25 men, flying around on Blackhawks and working on convoys," McDonnell said. "I'd call that the ultimate working woman, wouldn't you?"
But the rally was truly the Sheila Johnson show. Barbara J. Comstock, a Republican consultant who is challenging state Del. Margi Vanderhye in the McLean-based 34th House District, told the room to "win one for Sheila."
After the rally, Johnson was expected to speak to reporters but rushed to a private luncheon inside the hotel. (As she left the conference room, reporters gave chase, leading one McDonnell staffer to rather roughly grab the arm of a television reporter. The staffer later apologized, saying she had intended to grab for the door.)
And McDonnell again came to Johnson's defense for the stuttering joke, saying it was "done."
"She meant no harm by her comments and she issued an apology," McDonnell told reporters after the rally.
McDonnell also touched on last night's debate, calling Deeds's campaign "divisive and backwards looking."
October 13, 2009; 2:17 PM ET
Categories: 2009 Governor's Race , Robert F. McDonnell
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