This year’s gubernatorial candidates have not thrilled the majority of voters. Democrat Terry McAuliffe has never held public office, and there are concerns about his history of mixing business ventures with his work as a political operative. Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the sitting Attorney General, has his own ethics challenge with Star Scientific, mostly pertaining to substantial gifts he received from the CEO.
But no one is perfect, and voters must decide which man will best serve them. We believe Mr. McAuliffe is the more pragmatic choice to lead our commonwealth for the next four years.
Ultimately, it comes down to a question of which man can break through the partisan gridlock and form a consensus on the critical issues Virginia faces. Mr. McAuliffe’s strongest asset is his ability to bring together people with differing opinions and negotiate deals in which both parties can find satisfaction. The man is a natural deal maker.
By contrast, Mr. Cuccinelli has used the attorney general’s job to take an active role in promoting his own agenda on cultural issues. He made it clear that his office would not defend members of the state’s Board of Health if they challenged new legislation targeted squarely at clinics that provide abortions. He demanded research documents from a prominent scientist who formerly worked at U.Va. researching climate change, costing that institution hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal bills. He instructed state colleges and universities that they could not protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.
We believe Mr. Cuccinelli to be an intelligent man who is passionate in his beliefs. We wholly embrace his general principles against excessive taxation and regulation from intrusive government. But Mr. Cuccinelli has a fatal flaw for one who would be leader of all Virginians: He cannot make pragmatic compromises that allow all sides to come away from the bargaining table feeling they have been heard. This is the problem that is crippling our national government today, and we cannot allow to make further headway in our commonwealth. Our Virginia forebears established this nation on personal freedom and respect for compromise, not rigid ideology.
Mr. Cuccinelli has divided not only Virginia’s voters, but his own party. The GOP had an unwritten understanding that Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling would have the next shot to run for governor. Mr. Cuccinelli and his backers engineered a change in the party’s nomination from statewide primaries to a nominating convention, which tends to draw only the most committed and die-hard party members. The capture of the state GOP by hard-right ideologues has done lasting damage to this party.
Ample proof lies in the large number of moderate Republican politicians and strategists who have lined up to endorse Mr. McAuliffe – from Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms to Boyd Marcus, who was chief of staff under former Gov. Jim Gilmore. If Mr. Cuccinelli cannot inspire strong support within his own party, how is he going to forge deals with a General Assembly composed of Democrats and Republicans of varying political leanings?
Mr. McAuliffe’s extensive background in business would help him tackle the state’s most pressing issues, which are directly linked to the economy. His opponents have criticized him as overly opportunistic, but he has been careful to stay on the proper side of the law and has shown an acute talent for bringing deals together and seeing them to fruition.
Mr. McAuliffe has expressed consistent support for Gov. Bob McDonnell’s $6 billion transportation plan, which will fund badly needed work on the state’s infrastructure, including this region’s interstates and tunnels. As attorney general, Mr. Cuccinelli strongly opposed the bill and argued it was unconstitutional. Everyone will agree the transportation legislation is far from perfect. But it’s the first successful transportation bill Virginia has seen in the past decade, is beneficial to the state and to the region, and represented a triumphant compromise for Gov. McDonnell.
When Mr. Cuccinelli visited our editorial board four years ago during his campaign for attorney general, he vowed that his strongly held personal beliefs would not interfere with his responsibility to defend and uphold the laws of the commonwealth. We believe he broke that promise.
Trying to appeal to a broader base of Virginia voters, Mr. Cuccinelli is now once again promising that he would not use the office of governor to advance his social beliefs. Based on his past actions, we find that claim hard to accept.
The third candidate in this year’s gubernatorial race, Libertarian Robert Sarvis, did not return our call inviting him to meet with the Daily Press Editorial Board. As a policy, we do not endorse local or statewide candidates without discussing their positions with them.
This decision comes down to which candidate is best suited to develop and pass legislation that will benefit our commonwealth.
We believe Terry McAuliffe is the best choice for Virginia. He will work to bridge party divides and find common ground to move our state forward. And that’s what Virginia needs.