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Democrats must soon choose governor nominee

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By Rick Howell

Only a few weeks remain now until Virginia Democrats must pick their nominee for governor to face Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell in the fall.

    The paper’s policy forbids a direct endorsement of any candidate by its correspondents and writers, and I’m happy to abide by that. But I can tell you what many Democrats are weighing as they consider whether to select state senator Creigh Deeds, former delegate Brian Moran, and former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe.

    Originally, the race was thought to be only between Moran and Deeds, and Deeds was probably the favorite. But late last year, word of McAuliffe’s entry into the race got around. At the time, most Virginia Democrats probably didn’t even know he lived in the state.

    His candidacy was met with much skepticism among party activists. But since that time, McAuliffe has worked hard, raised a ton of money (the one thing everyone was certain he could do…), and put forth detailed proposals for Virginia’s future in education and job growth.

    In the process, he has erased much of the earlier doubt and has attracted some significant support. If he swamps the other two candidates in Northern Virginia, he’ll be hard to beat statewide.

    Deeds was on the wrong end of a terribly close loss to McDonnell four years ago in the race for attorney general. He has a hard core of support among many state Democrats who appreciate his enthusiasm, his long and hard work promoting Democrats all around the state, and can point to his substantive, cerebral approach to government.

    While Brian Moran resigned his legislative seat in order to raise money, Deeds kept to the job he was given by voters. And he did so at his own expense, knowing he’d be prohibited from raising money while the legislature was in session. A lot of people were impressed by that, and Deeds responded with an solid package of legislative proposals.

    In his most recent television ad, he is campaigning as “the Democrat most prepared to be governor,” and that may be a line that will resonate with primary voters. Plus, there’s an awful lot of affection for Deeds among party activists, most of whom have met him at some event for one of their local Democratic legislators.

    Brian Moran may have an edge because of his long history in Northern Virginia. But I just don’t see or hear much about significant support for Moran in this area of the state. He’s gotten endorsements from all over, to be sure. But you don’t see much evidence of that on the ground.

    The June 9 primary will certainly produce a low turnout. A few Republicans may even participate in order to try and get the nominee they’d most like to face (whoever that would be….).

    But Democrats have had much to smile about in Virginia in recent elections. In Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, the party has produced governors who have managed the state responsibly and have set an example for moderate, common sense leadership. They’re also been very popular.

    The Republicans offer what they offer nationally: a doctrinaire conservative view of the world that allows no room for moderation. In Bob McDonnell, they have a young man that Pat Robertson helped produce. But that’s a subject for a future column.

    As the primary bears down on Democrats, we need to get this choice right. It’s fun to win elections, and that’s exactly what we want to keep doing. Don’t forget to vote on June 9.

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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.