Democratic Gubernatorial Primary: Terry McAuliffe

This is the second in a series of articles about the three Democratic candidates for governor of Virginia. The Democratic primary is Tuesday, June 9, at which time one will be chosen as the party’s candidate for governor, to face off in November against Republican nominee Bob McDonnell.

Today’s article examines Terry McAuliffe and his platform. Yesterday’s article looked at Brian Moran, and tomorrow the series concludes with Creigh Deeds.

Terry McAuliffe says his business background and separation from Richmond politics sets him apart from his Democratic opponents for governor.

“I haven’t been caught up in the partisan battles in Richmond,” he said. “I bring a new, fresh approach of big, bold ideas, an executive background, a business background that created thousands of jobs. I think that’s what we need in this very tough economic time.”

Unlike opponents Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran, McAuliffe has not served in the state legislature. However, McAuliffe has been heavily involved in Democratic politics on the national scale — and as a young man made a name for himself.

As a 22-year-old, McAuliffe directed the finances for Jimmy Carter’s 1980 reelection campaign. McAuliffe gained some notoriety after wrestling an eight-foot, 260-pound alligator for a $15,000 donation.

From 2001 to 2005, McAuliffe chaired the Democratic National Committee, raising $578 million and bringing the party out of debt. McAuliffe, however, was less skilled at winning elections, as his tenure saw the loss of 10 congressmen and 6 senators.

McAuliffe has been involved in a number of businesses over the last several decades and has generated some personal wealth from the transactions, which he says gives him an advantage on dealing with the state’s failing economy. In fact, his website hosts a 135-page document outlining his plans for the economy, which includes creating “green” jobs.

“The main thing is in creating alternative energy jobs, green jobs. We need to be building wind farms off the coast of Virginia Beach. We should be doing biomass, biodiesel,” McAuliffe said. “That’s why I’ve called for a mandatory renewable energy standard. That’s why I won’t take a check from Dominion Power. I think the greatest sustainable jobs in the future are in alternative energy. And that’s why I would start creating jobs.”

McAuliffe has also tied in his environmental plans with his economic plans to expand alternative energy sources in Virginia.

“One of my signature topics is talking about chicken waste, and I do that really to mean all agricultural waste, which today, as you know, reaches into the watershed. Parts of the Chesapeake are dying because of our agricultural waste. I have a whole program to convert waste into energy,” he said. “We need to be doing that immediately, not only with, you know, agricultural waste, but land waste. We should be shutting our landfills down and converting them to energy.”

Improving transportation infrastructure is another key aspect of McAuliffe’s economic plan.

“I say we need high-speed rail. We’ve got to get cars off the road. We need to finish up our rail line so we can double-stack our freight coming from the port so we can get all these trucks off the road,” McAuliffe said. “I called for high-speed rails in northern Virginia all the way down to Hampton Roads, that would create 176,000 jobs. It would take about a million cars off the road. President Obama’s already got $9 billion committed; ours would take $1.3 billion. These are the kind of big projects we need to get moving on right away.”

He also focused on repairing roadways and bridges, 26 percent of which he said are deficient.

The transportation upgrades, McAuliffe said, would likely take longer than his gubernatorial term, but said that starting now is the only way to anticipate future transportation needs.

McAuliffe decried the affordability of the state’s colleges and universities. To fix the affordability problem, McAuliffe supports a program called Scholars for Service, in which the state will pay the college loans of any graduate who performs two years of community service.

Beyond helping students pay for college, however, McAuliffe is looking to make more money off of the state’s higher education system.

“We need to do a better job of commercializing the patents in our universities. We are losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars annually that we could bring in if we had a streamlined process like our neighboring states, Maryland, North Carolina. Florida has brought in over $650 million,” he said. “By allowing the commercialization of our patents and putting together a procedure, it’s an easy, efficient process. I would use half of those funds to reduce college tuition. The other half I would use to continue to invest in science, engineering, math, and continue building those fields which we need to do the patents of the future.”

Finally, McAuliffe said tourism is yet another revenue source not properly utilized by the state today.

“We haven’t put the resources into our tourism,” he said.

He noted especially that movie studios are going to other states and building sets that resemble Virginia because the state does not off enough economic incentives for films to come to Virginia.

“You have to spend money to make money,” McAuliffe said. “We’ve got to focus on bring tourism into Virginia because it’s a great revenue source. But you’ve got to put a campaign together, you’ve got to spend money to bring folks in and have it be a top priority for me.”

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