Rolling into Falls Church last Sunday night after earlier campaign stops in Powhattan and Gainesville, an Energizer Bunny-like, loud and wide-eyed, spring stepping, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”-professing Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe took a winding down potluck hosted by the Falls Church City Democratic Committee at the local Community Center and turned it into a cheering, yelping and stomping political rally.
There were a number of seasoned stump speakers who spoke that night, including U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, State Sen. Dick Saslaw, Del. Jim Scott and two of the four Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general, Aneesh Chopra and Sen. Mark Herring, but it wasn’t until McAuliffe stormed the joint that things really got hopping.
McAuliffe has that kind of effect on people, especially Democratic partisans, and they love it. Everywhere he speaks, he proclaims whomever his hosts are to be “the best in the country,” or a similar superlative. He’s been doing this since the last time he ran, unsuccessfully, for the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2009, and while some party loyalists were skeptical of him then, he’s made true believers of them all since. He’s campaigned tirelessly, eying a 2013 run, but raising energy levels and money for Democrats running at all levels throughout the commonwealth for four years.
Even though the crowd had begun to dwindle before he arrived Sunday night, it did not dampen his enthusiasm. Accompanied by his campaign manager and driver, he went around the gym floor at the Community Center shaking hands, patting backs and having his picture taken with everyone who wanted one. Most did.
There was no doubt from any of the speakers Sunday that they, as Democrats, were hopping up and down with enthusiasm following the choices their Republican counterparts made at their state convention in Richmond the day before.
While there was no doubt that current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli would become the GOP gubernatorial standard bearer, not so the choices of what many see as Cuccinelli’s closest ally, ideologically, in the State Senate, Mark Obenshain, for Attorney General, and uber-right wing Rev. E. W. Jackson for lieutenant governor. One of the few moderates bidding for a nomination at the convention, Fairfax County’s former State Sen. Jeanne-Marie Devolites Davis, wife of former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, never got past the first round of balloting for lieutenant governor.
“On this GOP slate,” Sen. Saslaw intoned sarcastically at the Falls Church Democratic event Sunday night, “Cuccinelli is the moderate.” Saslaw spoke as a supporter of lieutenant governor candidate State Sen. Ralph Northam after Northam’s opponent in the June 11 Democratic primary Chopra spoke for himself.
Loudoun County State Sen. Mark Herring spoke, running for the Democratic nod for Attorney General, while his opponent in the June 11 primary, Justin Fairfax, was not present.
Herring, seeing that the GOP’s Obenshain would be his opponent in November if he won the primary, charged that Obenshain was a “clone” of Cuccinelli, and said that “ideology needs to be taken out of the office (of attorney general – ed) and the law put first.”
But the importance of the lieutenant governor’s race cannot be overstated, it was noted, because with the State Senate currently in a 20-20 draw between Democrats and Republicans, and the lieutenant governor tasked with casting tie-breaking votes when they occur, the lieutenant governor will tilt control of the Senate to one party or the other depending on who gets elected.
In his remarks Sunday night, McAuliffe focused on education as an issue, and the energy in his campaign, noting that he will be opening 35 field offices in the state. “This election will be about turnout,” he said. “I’m excited, but then again I’m always excited,” he added. “I will be a 24/7 candidate between now and November. I don’t believe in sleep. Sleep is overrated.”