Virginia’s gubernatorial race: Four things to watch

Gray Delany Freelance Writer
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Virginia’s 2009 gubernatorial race between Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds was a harbinger of things to come. McDonnell trounced Deeds by 18 points, paving the way for the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2010. The governor’s race in Virginia this year is shaping up to be a battle of two hyper-partisans in current Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe. Cuccinelli, a darling of the tea party, is best known for leading the legal fight against Obamacare. McAuliffe is close friends with Bill Clinton, which will give him access to the vast Clinton fundraising network. Here are four things to watch as this race unfolds.

1.) Will the abortion issue hurt Cuccinelli? Cuccinelli has been a strong proponent of Virginia’s new abortion regulations, which were passed last year. Abortion clinics in the state are now essentially regulated like hospitals. As Virginia’s attorney general, Cuccinelli certified the regulations on September 14, 2012, despite the fierce opposition of abortion activists. Expect this issue to be brought up repeatedly and used to portray Cuccinelli as a right-wing extremist.

2.) Will LaCivita hurt Cuccinelli? Cuccinelli has hired Chris LaCivita as his consultant for the gubernatorial campaign. LaCivita, who also consulted Cuccinelli during his successful 2009 attorney general campaign, is hardly an unknown commodity in the consulting world. In the past, he’s worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Most recently, he worked for Linda McMahon on her failed Senate bid in Connecticut. He played an integral role in the “Vote Obama, Vote Linda” push toward the end of the campaign, a move that angered McMahon’s base and helped contribute to her lopsided loss. McMahon ran a cautious campaign, rarely taking stances on controversial issues for fear of negative political ramifications. Reportedly, LaCivita was a driving force behind this campaign strategy. Cuccinelli has gotten to where he is today because of his reputation as a straight talker. If LaCivita attempts to move Cuccinelli to the center or hide his views on certain issues, Cuccinelli will pay a political price.

3.) McAuliffe and Global Crossing. Terry McAuliffe’s investments and business decisions will be heavily scrutinized and could place a cloud over his campaign if not managed correctly. McAuliffe reportedly invested $100,000 in a company called Atlantic Crossing (later renamed Global Crossing) in the late 1990s. This investment turned into an $18,000,000 profit in less than three years. He sold his stock in the company one month before it went bankrupt in the wake of an accounting scandal that inflated the company’s earnings. McAuliffe denies any wrongdoing but his decision to sell the stock right before the company went bankrupt raises many questions. Global Crossing donated almost exclusively to Democratic campaigns. McAuliffe was close friends with Global Crossing’s CEO, Gary Winnick, who donated considerable amounts to Clinton and was awarded a large defense contract shortly before the company went bankrupt. Although McAuliffe will have no shame in railing against the wealthy and special interests on the campaign trail, he will be compromised in doing so.

4.) McAuliffe and GreenTech Automotive. McAuliffe is one of the primary investors in, and a founder of, GreenTech Automotive, a startup company that produces electric cars. McAuliffe touts those cars as the future of transportation. However, GreenTech’s electric cars can’t go faster than 45 mph. McAuliffe pledged that GreenTech would create hundreds of good-paying middle-class jobs, but the company has only 100 employees on its payroll and only six cars have rolled off its assembly line. This story may sound familiar if you’ve been following the stories of some of President Obama’s green energy “investments.” On his campaign website, McAuliffe emphasizes that he is a “Virginia businessman” — it’s one of his major campaign talking points. Yet McAuliffe decided to build GreenTech’s factory in Mississippi, largely because GreenTech received significant tax incentives (totaling over $8 million) to locate in an “economically depressed” part of that state. But GreenTech is likely to lose those subsidies by the end of 2014.

Whichever campaign does a better job incorporating these issues into its campaign message will have an advantage in November.

Gray Delany attended the University of Richmond, where he was responsible for breaking the news of Tim Kaine’s intention to run for Senate in 2011. Most recently, he worked for Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign.