- Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 May 2009 17:48
- Published on Wednesday, 27 May 2009 17:48
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It was the closest statewide election in the history of the Commonwealth and if Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General in 2005, had managed to garner just a few hundred more votes everything about this year’s election would be different.
More than likely, in the tradition of these contests, winning that election would have made Deeds the heir apparent for the Democratic nod to run for Governor. However, that’s not the way it worked out. Bob McDonnell won that election and now he is the GOP standard bearer in the race for Governor. As for the Democrats, they’re fighting it out in a primary. Oh what a difference a few hundred votes can make.
This year Creigh Deeds, the loser in that cliff hanger election in 2005, is one of the Democrats trying to get their party’s nomination for Governor. His only opponent, that is up until late last year, was Delegate Brian Moran from Alexandria. For the most part, it looked like Moran had the edge. Moran had more money, deep ties in vote rich Northern Virginia and a better organization. However, that simple dynamic got tossed on its ear when Terry McAuliffe entered the race. All at once it was a three person contest. Moran and Deeds were known quantities, but now, with McAuliffe in the race, and he is anything but a known quantity, it’s become a far more complicated picture.
Democrats are a bit conflicted over their choices. There are the purists who want a true liberal in the Governor’s mansion. Then there are the moderates. They want a progressive candidate who is also pragmatic and fiscally conservative. And finally there are those, not too concerned with the nuances of either label, who just want someone who can win. For many the choice has been presented as a contest between Moran and McAuliffe. Deeds, in several commentaries, including mine, had been dismissed as a candidate unable to expand beyond his rural, southwest Virginia base. But maybe that’s changing. Or maybe Democratic primary voters just want another choice.
Many are starting to give the “third man” in this contest, Creigh Deeds, another look. Maybe his earnest, moderate, and folksy manner is a better fit when it comes to taking on Bob McDonnell in the fall. Senator Deeds tends to be a bit more conservative than his two primary opponents and this has caused some Democrats, particularly those in Northern Virginia, a bit of anxiety. However, it’s worth noting that his views aren’t that out of sync with Virginia’s two prior Governor’s, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. These two Democrats won their elections by presenting themselves as moderates and appealing to both Democrats and Republicans.
Creigh Deeds, a member of the State Senate, since 2001, is a serious legislator. He is passionately concerned with education and economic development. His region of the state has been the hardest hit by the recession and he knows, first hand, how painful the economic dislocation has been. He has also taken on some issues that his opponents, while holding similar views, haven’t worked so hard on. Most notably, tired of the partisan redistricting that leads to elections that don’t offer any choices, Deeds has introduced a bill, every year since he got to the Senate, that would create a bipartisan redistricting commission. It’s not a glamorous issue, but Deeds thinks it’s important. And this year, in a testament to the value of persistence, it passed the Senate. Unfortunately it never made it out of committee in the House. But it shows Deed’s commitment to good government and doing the right thing. These are traits that are worthy of any prospective Governor.
Deeds, more so than most candidates, has a self deprecating sense of humor. As he told me at a recent event, smiling broadly as he made the comment, “I am everyone’s second choice.” At the time, I doubt he considered that a good thing. But the dynamics of the race may, as the primary moves into its closing days, seem to be shifting.
Democrats in Virginia don’t want to lose this election. The same is true nationally. The national party is anxious to show that their biggest prize in last year’s election, a newly “blue” Virginia, isn’t slipping back into its old ways. McAuliffe has money and Moran has deep ties in the party and in Northern Virginia. They are both committed Democrats, but both can easily be painted into the liberal corner. This will make it easier for the GOP candidate to cast himself as a moderate. Also, both Moran and McAuliffe, in seeking to appeal to more conservative parts of the state, will have a very tough time. While any Democratic victory requires winning big in Northern Virginia, it also, as Mark Warner and Tim Kaine proved, means winning in swing regions and holding your own in more conservative rural areas.
Deeds more than any candidate has the ability to honestly cast himself as a moderate and reach beyond the party’s liberal and regional base. If the Democrats want to win in November that’s just the kind of candidate they need. Maybe, recalling Deed’s comment earlier this year, being everyone’s second choice isn’t so bad after all.