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Terry McAuliffe's coffers spark backlash in Virginia governor's race

February 9, 2009 |  8:49 am

Terry McAuliffe, aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Democratic National Committee Chairman


Terry McAuliffe's ability to raise campaign money -- complete with help from his political megastar patrons, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton -- is already becoming an issue in his race to become governor of Virginia.

As the Ticket pointed out, McAuliffe has raised more than $940 million over the last 18 years for the Clintons and the Democratic National Committee. With that track record of IOU's, there's no telling what he'll be able to pull in during this year's gubernatorial race in Virginia, which has been titling from red to blue in recent elections.

Over the weekend, at the Virginia Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, rival Brian Moran all but accused McAuliffe of trying to buy the governor's mansion. In remarks to the party loyal, the 12-year veteran of state politics said:

We must decide what our party stands for. Will our party be dominated by big money and those who raise it, or will we be the party of the people?

Later he added, "We need a fighter, not a fundraiser."

Moran never mentioned the Clintons by name, but the former state lawmaker -- tied at 18% with McAuliffe in the latest Public Policy Polling survey -- made clear he thinks McAuliffe’s bid to run for governor after years of managing campaigns for others is about “personal gain,” a brazen attempt by an outsider to capitalize on the hard work of state Democrats over the last decade in turning around the party from backwater to powerhouse.

"It took us a generation to build this party. ... This was no overnight success," he said, referring for Gov. Tim Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner, who both worked their way up the ladder before achieving statewide office.  "They earned the trust and loyalty of Virginians through their works, not their word. And it is a trust that no one can buy. Mark and Tim, they didn't just show up when it was easy and the battles had already been won."

The line was a hit with the party regulars, but whether it will score on the campaign trail is the big unknown. Here's a look at another Moran appearance before Virginia Democrats last week:

In any event, no one thinks this race will come cheap. California's Jesse Unruh called it a long time ago: "Money is the mother's milk of politics."

-- Johanna Neuman

Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press