Family, Party Tie Virginia Race to Capitol

Posted April 22, 2009 at 6:48pm

As they get set today to square off in their second debate in Hampton, all three Democratic candidates in Virginia’s closely watched gubernatorial primary can claim high-profile supporters among those who walk — or used to walk — the halls of Congress.

The most obvious, of course, is Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who has funneled $125,000 over the past year from his Congressional campaign account to the gubernatorial efforts of his younger brother, former state Del. Brian Moran (D).

But while Moran’s familial ties may run deepest, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe can claim the widest selection of supporters with Capitol Hill ties.

That list includes Democratic Reps. James Langevin (R.I.) and Dan Maffei (N.Y.) as well as former Sen. Mark Dayton (Minn.), former Reps. Owen Pickett (Va.) and Chris Bell (Texas) and former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairmen Martin Frost (Texas) and Tony Coelho (Calif.), all of whom show up on his donor list.

McAuliffe served as finance director at the DCCC under Coelho before moving on to work for former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt’s (D-Mo.) 1988 presidential campaign then eventually to President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign. And, sure enough, both Gephardt and Clinton are represented on McAuliffe’s first-quarter fundraising report, which showed that he raised a staggering $4.2 million from Jan. 1 to March 31.

Gephardt Group Government Affairs donated $30,000 to McAuliffe on March 30 and Clinton, who will soon be hitting the campaign trail with McAuliffe, cut a $10,000 check to the campaign in mid-January.

The influx of out-of-state money to McAuliffe’s campaign has been widely criticized by his opponents. In their first gubernatorial debate, which took place Sunday, state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D), who raised $730,000 during the first quarter, questioned the high-dollar donations that McAuliffe has received from big-name donors who don’t live in Virginia. That list includes real-estate mogul Donald Trump, venerable Washington, D.C., lobbyist Tommy Boggs and former California Gov. Gray Davis (D).

But Langevin said this week that McAuliffe’s broad base of support stems from his being “a national figure— who has been “a friend to so many Democrats— over his long political career.

Langevin, who donated a total of $10,000 to McAuliffe from his Congressional and political action committees, said that in the month and a half left before the primary he would be willing to hit the campaign trail for his “longtime friend— if McAuliffe asks. But that call has yet to come.

“Terry has my number, and I know he’s not shy about asking for what he needs,— Langevin said.

But more important for all three Democratic candidates will be the level of involvement of members of the Old Dominion’s delegation — only two of whom have publicly taken sides so far.

At last week’s Shad Planking event in Wakefield, Va., McAuliffe said he’s “constantly— reaching out to Members of the Virginia delegation.

In particular, McAuliffe mentioned Rep. Bobby Scott (D), whose former political director McAuliffe hired for his gubernatorial run.

Scott, who also attended last week’s festivities in Wakefield, said he hasn’t announced who he is supporting but indicated that an endorsement could be forthcoming.

But in the end, McAuliffe said, he believes Virginia’s Congressional delegation will mostly stay on the sidelines in the primary.

“They’ve got their own issues. … They’re doing their deal. They’re letting us do our deal … and we’ll all come together— after June 9, he said.

While acknowledging the help he’s received from his brother, Brian Moran also played down the role that the Congressional delegation will play over the next six weeks.

“I would welcome any of their support,— Moran said of Virginia’s delegation. However, the former state House Democratic Caucus chairman was more interested in playing up the grass-roots support he has received from local politicians around the state.

Besides his brother, Moran pulled in $500 last year from the political action committee of Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) — a close ally of the elder Moran — and picked up contributions from former Virginia Rep. L.F. Payne (D) and former DCCC Chairman Vic Fazio (Calif.).

“Brian is my brother, so of course I’m going to help him if I can,— Jim Moran said when asked about the race this week. “But he’ll win this on his own merit and ability.—

For his part, Deeds has landed the endorsement of 9th district Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.). Boucher cut a $5,000 check for Deeds in mid-March and, perhaps more importantly, stumped with Deeds in his southwest Virginia district last week.

“I’m supporting [Deeds] because I think he is the strongest person we could nominate and would have the best chance of winning the general election of any of the three Democrats,— Boucher said.

The Congressman said Deeds has appeal in both urban and rural areas while McAuliffe and Moran mostly have support in urban and suburban areas. He also noted that Deeds is the only Democratic candidate to have been tested in a statewide race. He came within a few hundred votes of becoming state attorney general in 2005 despite being outspent nearly 2-to-1.

In the coming weeks, Boucher said, he will continue to support Deeds in his district but he won’t be twisting the arms of other Members of the delegation to pick a side in the race.

“I haven’t discussed it with other members of our delegation,— Boucher said. “Jim [Moran] and I are great friends and Jim is not the candidate. … There’s no awkwardness whatsoever.—

All three of Virginia’s freshman Democratic Members have indicated their intention to stay on the sidelines, and neither of Virginia’s Democratic Senators are expected to get involved. Rep. Tom Perriello (D) said last week that the competing interests among more senior members of the the state’s Democratic delegation has not caused any friction.

According to fundraising records, Perriello cut a $150 check to Deeds’ campaign in January 2008, when Perriello was still a long-shot 5th district candidate. But the Congressman said he has no plans to endorse a candidate before the primary.

“Obviously, I go way back with Creigh in our district. He’s done a wonderful job representing our area, and I think he’d be a strong governor,— Perriello said. “But Brian’s been out there working hard on the stump in areas that people didn’t think he could play. And Terry is a force of nature.—