Governor’s race under way, but few notice

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Virginia will be the most politically-watched state in the country later this year, but you sure wouldn’t know it right now.
    Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor, is getting around the state and meeting with supporters. He was in Roanoke last week, and again this week.
    McAuliffe knows that a significant drop in voter turnout from 2012 could very well put his opponent, the extremist attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, in office.
    And a drop in turnout is exactly what will happen, simply because that’s the name of the game after a presidential race.
    The early polling has Cuccinelli with a 46-41 lead, but only about 10 percent of those voters say they are “following the election closely.” With summer about to launch, that number won’t change much until after Labor Day.
    That doesn’t mean, though, that responsible voters shouldn’t begin already to discern the differences between these two, and it’s a pretty stark contrast.
    Cuccinelli is getting around, too, to his supporters, and that means more than one “tea party” rally. He’s completely at home in that sort of wacky environment, where right-wingers warn each other in somber tones about “Agenda 21,” an alleged U.N. plot to, well, I don’t know, “take us over,” or something.
    Apparently aware that many voters have heard of his right-wing passions and his notorious record as attorney general, Cuccinelli’s first ad features his wife, telling us what a nice guy he really is.
    Now, though, he’s on the edge of a scandal that – depending on which way it goes – could give him serious trouble in the fall, and possibly even force his resignation as attorney general before that.
    Both he and Governor Bob McDonnell are under scrutiny (with Governor Ultrasound actually under investigation) for their ties to a corporate leader. You know how it is with Republicans; they love big corporations and big money so much this kind of thing often happens.
    But it remains to be seen if the Star Scientific matter (that’s the company McDonnell and Cuccinelli were dancing with) will adversely affect his candidacy.
    McAuliffe, meanwhile, has a different problem, according to early polls. Voters don’t know him, and if they do, it’s only because of his connection to Bill Clinton, for whom he was a key fundraiser, and later, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
    He was not the choice of Democrats four years ago, who chose state senator Creigh Deeds over McAuliffe. But he really does have a lengthy and significant business background in Virginia that goes all the way back to his youth.
    In his first television ad, he tries to tell that story. And he’ll have to do all he can to define himself before the Republicans define him their way.
    McAuliffe is a lifelong Democrat, progressive and dedicated to the Obama agenda, and he should be unabashed about saying that. He has an argument to make that Virginia, which has now voted Democratic in two straight presidential elections, is growing as a progressive state, and, obviously – having voted for him twice – supports this president!
    Four years ago, Deeds ran away from Obama, tried another version of the old “Virginia Democrat” thing (as in: how different we are from national Democrats), and got butchered at the polls. McAuliffe can’t afford to lose any of the Latino, other minorities, and youth voting blocs that carried the president.
    If he does, Cuccinelli will be elected governor.
    But, alas, I jump ahead, and do not wish to contemplate “Worst Case Scenario” right now.
    Voters really do need to multi-task; enjoy the summer, work, and live your life, but start paying some attention to these two candidates. It’s important.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com.