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Bath County State Senator Creigh Deeds won an overwhelming victory last week in the statewide Democratic primary. He will now face Republican Bob McDonnell in the fall for the contest to succeed Tim Kaine as Virginia’s governor.
Deeds was thought to be the underdog to the heavily financed campaign of former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe. But much of McAuliffe’s appeal fell apart under scrutiny, especially his claim to have created so many jobs, a notion pretty much put to rest by a critical Washington Post article.
Deed’s other opponent, former state delegate Brian Moran, resigned his seat in the legislature so he could continue to raise money for his campaign. The fact that he utterly abandoned his constituents for his gubernatorial ambitions apparently rubbed some people the wrong way.
In contrast, Deeds went to Richmond and performed the job the voters of his district had elected him to do, knowing he couldn’t raise money during the General Assembly session. He even put forward a progressive package of legislative proposals; he didn’t get much of it passed but his ideas were lauded by the press and by his colleagues.
For people who know him personally (and I do), he has an infectious enthusiasm for the Virginia Democratic Party. He has given much of his own time to campaign for the party’s candidates, even in races where he probably knew privately that a particular candidate couldn’t win.
But Deeds knows something about party building, and he was always looking to find good, credible candidates to carry the Democratic banner. Virginia Democrats have generally been a bit more moderate than the national party. Deeds will fit in well with that tradition, and shouldn’t have a problem convincing most voters that he’s in the mold of Mark Warner, Jim Webb and Tim Kaine.
As for the Republicans, well, their state party is every bit as right-wing and ideologically driven as the national GOP. They prove that every chance they get, and they proved it again recently when they chose state senator Ken Cucinelli as their candidate for attorney general.
Taxes and abortion; that’s all you’ll get from him. He’s every bit the ultraconservative that his buddy, Steve Newman, is, and he’ll make a good running mate for McDonnell, who is certainly no moderate.
So, Virginia voters will have a good choice. They can go with the kind of mainstream, moderate leaders they’ve been voting for in recent campaigns, or they can choose the passions and extremes of the state Republican party.
I’m betting that once more voters get to know Creigh Deeds, they’ll find the choice easier to make. They are likely to be impressed by his common sense, his intelligence, and his passion for good and responsible government.
Those are the reasons he swept to what turned out to be a rather easy victory over not one, but two opponents in his own party. When primary voters actually began to think about who would make the best Democratic candidate in the fall, they mostly concluded that it was Deeds.
Now, it’s on to the fall election in a state that has truly turned blue, and that has chosen moderate Democrats just like Deeds in the last two governor’s campaigns. I think it’s clear that he starts off as the favorite.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.