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

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

Comments () | Archives (3)

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The guy holding the mike: "Did he say chicken manure?"

(T-Mac is obsessed with converting chicken manure into electricity even though we use it in VA as high quality organic fertilizer to displace the petroleum chemical kind.)

The theme of fundraising should preclude negative connotations and underscore the significance of the 2009 gubernatorial race in Virginia. An ability to attract national attention can do wonders for the Democratic Party of Virginia; similarly, the ability to obtain investment from out-of-state donors is a positive and not a negative. It's one of the perks that McAuliffe brings to the race because it qualifies his platform, essentially a pro-business one that seeks to attract investment from out-of-state corporations that may be interested in bringing jobs and revenue to Virginia. Moran's argument is a double-edged sword; blaming a candidate for success outside of the geographical boundaries of Virginia has a hint of political xenophobia that is not conducive to the national party. Furthermore, Moran's own campaign is in the red [deepening negative digits] for campaign funds; can a candidate lash out at another candidate's lucrative campaign fund gains when his own indicates a potential problem with fundraising? How about grassroots? Does Brian Moran strike a good balance between grassroots, staff and publicity expenditures to sell the deal based on his fundraising potential? One has to wonder; his speech at the JJ Dinner shows a little bit of vulnerability based on the statistics. Turning negative in campaign tone can often be a sign of compensation for a perceived or undisclosed weakness. Meanwhile, Terry is keeping the tone positive, not attacking his primary opponents and is gaining more and more grassroots support with each passing day.

Dear Johanna,

While I truly appreciate the LA Times' coverage of the Virginia Governor's race, I do wish you had linked to the full text of the speech ( given by Mr. Moran. The whole speech, in context, is worthy of reading and shows why Mr. Moran is the best candidate for Governor in the state of Virginia.

I'm a nearly lifelong Virginian - I've been here since 1976. I've been active in the political shifts in the state as well - and I echo what Mr. Moran said. For too long, Virginia Democrats have labored and worked and canvassed and organized and called in a state that continued to vote for Republicans for the White House and Republicans in the US Senate. This shift toward more Democratic leaders has hardly been accidental - it's been the product of hard work on the part of volunteers and elected Virginia Democrats alike.

At no other time was this year's long road more evident than during the general election last November. Years and years of working and building and organizing came together in a ground game so impressive it defies description. As a shoe-leather volunteer and weekend canvasser, I can say that Brian Moran supported not only candidates but also volunteers. I have difficulty thinking of events I attended through my months of volunteering where Brian Moran wasn't present and helping with the effort. He didn't just do this in Northern Virginia, either - he went all over the state to help and lend his support.

THAT is the kind of Governor we need in Virginia. The only time I've seen Terry McAuliffe in Virginia political and volunteer circles was after he decided to run for Governor. Typical.

Virginians will see through this and reject the purchasing of the nomination by McAuliffe.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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