Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

bartonmugA couple of months ago, I confidently stated in this column that Creigh Deeds clearly would win the governor’s race this year. Now, I am not so sure.

Deeds stunned political junkies when he won the Democratic primary with a majority vote over two ostensibly stronger candidates, Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe, even in Northern Virginia. He looked strongly like the solid middle-of-the road candidate from Southwestern Virginia that Northern Virginia voters wanted and needed.

I still believe Deeds is whom we desperately need, but whether he is wanted is another question. Recent polls slows that he is steadily slipping behind Republican candidate Bob McDonnell throughout the state and shows no signs of reversing that trend. Add to this that polls also show that as many as half of the Obama voters in 2008 have no intention of voting in the 2009 election and you see the dark clouds of a Tsunami for Virginia Democrats and, in my opinion, for Virginia as a whole and Northern Virginia in particular. These Obama voters must be made aware of the fact that the 2009 vote will be in many ways a referendum on his administration. They must vote!

Let there be no doubt about it. A McDonnell election would bode very darkly for the economic health of Northern Virginia. While McDonnell has rather grandiose plans for improving the transportation system in Northern Virginia, for example, he provides absolutely no meaningful plan of paying for them. Selling state liquor stores? Give me a break.

Let’s face it. If we must have a far better transportation system to sustain economic growth in Northern Virginia, then we must raise taxes to pay for it. Or to use good economic terms, we must invest in the future – it takes money to make money. At least Deeds is moving in that direction.

If you doubt me, just go to the Washington Post’s Monday editorial page. In a strong editorial, “Pain, Prozac, and the Pump,” the Post says plainly that the state’s drivers may applaud Virginia’s low gasoline tax – “until they find themselves sitting in traffic, wondering why the road system is such an under funded disaster.”

Numerous conversations with Arlington Democratic leaders show a deep dissatisfaction with how the Deeds campaign is being run. One recently told me that his numerous attempts to organize events designed to solidify support among union members and minority groups – notably blacks and Hispanics – have been met largely with silence or indecision. And there are the well known pleas from elected Democratic officials that Deeds run a more positive campaign – stressing his strengths and what he will and can do positively for Virginia.

This is also important for Jody Wagner’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor and Steve Shannon’s run for Attorney General. Like it or not, their fate is closely tied to Creigh Deeds’. The polls show, too, that they are behind Republicans Lieutanant Governor Bill Bolling, who is running for reelection, and State Senator Ken Cuccinelli running for Attorney General.

It appears obvious to all but the leaders of the Deeds campaign that a major effort must be made to greatly improve his on-the-ground campaign and the direction of his message if he stands a chance of winning statewide and in Northern Virginia.

A Deeds win is still possible, and history has shown that he can be a formidable run-from-behind winner. But major changes must be made in his campaign and there are less than three weeks to go. Good Luck!