Virginia Loses No Matter Who Wins Governor's Race

The contest between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe leaves a lot to be desired.


With Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's announcement this week that he will not make an independent bid for governor, residents of Virginia are left to choose between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Save for some Tea Party stalwarts and yellow-dog Democrats, few will cast their ballots with unbridled joy. By campaign's end, a lot of voters may think they are choosing between Sauron and SpongeBob Squarepants. 

Both candidates have written a book. And while you can't judge a book by its cover, you can tell a lot about a pol by his tome. 

Cuccinelli's just came out. The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty contains no surprises. It calls the EPA "an agency of mass destruction" and declares the Obama administration "the biggest set of lawbreakers in America." As Cuccinelli told The Times-Dispatch earlier this month, its central theme is all about "first principles" – federalism, the Constitution, the proper limits on government power.

Cuccinelli – who just gave the kickoff address at the Conservative Political Action Conference – has made himself a lightning rod in the Old Dominion by, among other things, attacking two of liberalism's most sacred cows, climate science and abortion rights; by warning that Social Security Numbers are "how they track you"; and by declaring homosexual behavior "intrinsically wrong." His book steers clear of some of those issues, but Democrats won't. (Those positions also overshadow his deviations from right-wing orthodoxy: He is wary of expanding the reasons for imposing the death penalty, and recently slammed Dominion for exploiting green-energy mandates to the detriment of utility customers.) 

McAuliffe's book came out in 2007. What a Party! My Life Among Democrats regales the reader with tales of the former DNC chairman's derring-do: raising funds that seemed impossible to raise; rescuing the 2000 Democratic Convention ("the convention had been in trouble and I was brought in to save it"); and, of course, schmoozing with celebs and golfing with his good friend Bill Clinton. The narrative voice is authentically inauthentic, conveying a salesman's bombastic credulity. McAuliffe writes, for instance, that Clinton "got out of bed every morning thinking about how he could give the average Joe a shot at the American dream." 

Cuccinelli's record will give McAuliffe plenty of fodder for negative ads. McAuliffe, by contrast, has little record—because he never has held public office. (When he parachuted into the Democratic gubernatorial primary four years ago, he came in a distant second out of three.) And his antic ebullience may partially disarm critics posing tough questions—some of which McAuliffe does a poor job of answering. 

Most of those questions have to do with the way "The Macker" has mingled business and politics to his own great personal gain. E.g., he once made a mint off a Florida development deal in which he invested a measly hundred bucks. A union pension fund invested $40 million —and eventually drew Labor Department disapproval for having done so.

At present McAuliffe is the chairman of GreenTech Automotive, a maker of electric vehicles that is building production facilities in Mississippi. Why not in Virginia—where, McAuliffe says, he wants to create jobs? McAuliffe claims Virginia wasn't interested while Mississippi was willing to pony up. And "I have to go where, obviously, they're going to put incentives."

About that, two points. First, Virginia claims otherwise. Officials at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership tried several times to get straight answers from GreenTech and never could. "We did not receive enough information to respond to GreenTech's business proposal," says a VEDP rep.

Second: Why "obviously"? Virginia consistently ranks as the best or second-best state in the nation to do business, whereas Forbes ranks Mississippi 46th. But McAuliffe is friends with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, who "put the most aggressive [incentive] package on the table for us." Besides, as McAuliffe once told The Washington Post, "Who do you do business with? People you meet in life."

Such wheeling and dealing represents the sort of crony capitalism so many people on both the left and the right have come to abhor. Conservatives deplore the way it facilitates the political allocation of economic goods, to the detriment of fair and open competition in the free market. Progressives despise the privileging of powerful elites who leverage insider connections to get rich through avenues unavailable to working stiffs. Bill Clinton might have wanted to give the average Joe a shot at the American Dream, but Terry McAuliffe seems more keen to wrangle a better-than-average shot.

At one point in his book, McAuliffe says raising money for gubernatorial candidates is easy because "they have all kinds of business to hand out, road contracts, construction jobs, you name it." As Governor, whom would McAuliffe hand that business out to—the most qualified, or the most connected? The fear about a Cuccinelli administration is that it would, like Savonarola's, yield a reign of far too many principles far too stridently enforced. The fear about a McAuliffe administration is that it would yield a reign of far too few.

This article originally appeared in The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. The best thing about crazy Ken is the tremendous amounts of butthurt he inspires among liberals. I’m telling you guys, he can get a Richmond hipster to have a borderline stroke.

    1. Absolutely true. This past fall my wife, agent provacateur that she is, stuck a Cantor sticker on her purse for the express purpose of delighting in the reactions it brought whenever she went shopping over in Carytown. If she did the same thing again with the Cooch, the reactions would be instant classics.

      Amusements aside, this one’s an easy call. McAuliffe is guaranteed to be much more corrupt than Crazy Ken and will do much more to wreck the state’s finances. On the flip side, there really isn’t much of anything Cuccinelli could do about gays one way or the other, and as far as abortion goes, I must have missed when supporting abortion became official libertarian dogma.

  2. A guy who will raise taxes vs a guy who will legislate morality.

    It’s an easy call… fuck em both.

    1. Will Ken legislate morality any more than his opponent? This article doesn’t really say.

      1. They just want to legislate different parts of morality. McAuliffe probably thinks AR-15s and plastic bags are immoral.

        1. Except the AR-15s that go to government and the plastic bags that go on penises.

        2. Democrats are just as into legislating morality as Republicans are, arguably even more so. The difference is that the stuff Republicans want to legislate on are either already severely limited by judicial ruling (abortion), or not going to be able to do anything of substance (gays), or the Democrats are just as bad about (drug war). Whereas Democrats mostly have a clear field to what they want to legislate on: gun control, food (under the guise of obesity), health care, taxes, and government support of a list of causes too long to all list in a blog comment.

          Which party can do the most damage here?

  3. The key word here is “guber”.

  4. Cucci is an asshole and, judging solely from this article, the superior choice. I say this without enthusiasm.

  5. The Republicans fucked up and ran a nut. What a surprise. Mcauliffe will win and turn Virginia into Southern Maryland. Woohoo.

    1. Cooch is the AG, and he was one of the movers behind the OCare challenge.

      I suspect this one will turn on whether 2014 is a status quo election (in which case, the crony capitalist will win) or a 2010-style Repub wave election (in which case, Cooch should win).

      1. I would be very surprised if 2014 is a status quo election. Obamacare kicking in is going to cause a revolt. It is going to be ugly out there. People’s insurance premiums are going to double. I still can’t get my mind around how big of a deal that is going to be when it happens.

        1. It’s fascinating to watch the articles appearing in the conservative and libertarian media about the problems of Obamacare, while in the rest of the media they are still pretty rare. I get the sense that liberals just don’t want to know, and are hoping it all works out somehow. But eventually, they won’t be able to ignore it, and then the fun will really start.

          1. It was designed to fail, to create a crisis and a groundswell for Single-Payer. It may blow up in their faces, but then again it might go just as they planned.

    2. All the Marylanders moving to here are already doing that for him.

  6. attacking two of liberalism’s most sacred cows, climate science and abortion rights;

    So far, he’s 1 for 2 amongst libertarians, at worst.

    by warning that Social Security Numbers are “how they track you”;

    Factually true.

    and by declaring homosexual behavior “intrinsically wrong.”

    So, at worst, he’s batting .500. In our current degraded state, that’s better than most.

    1. But what can he really do about homosexuality? He can’t criminalize it. Maybe run around and say mean things.

      1. He’ll figure something out.

  7. Really looking forward to choosing between the religious wingnut and the corporatist welfare queen. What a treat!

    1. On the upside, we only have to suffer through 4 years of whoever wins.

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