Republican Bob McDonnell won a “landslide” victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds in yesterday’s gubernatorial election in Virginia, sweeping the state by a whopping 18 points. Exit polls showed Democrats had “trouble getting their base to the polls.” One possible explanation: Deeds did not run as a progressive reformer.
McDonnell “spent much of the campaign trying to tie Deeds to cap-and-trade environmental legislation and pro-union legislation on Capitol Hill that is unpopular with many Virginia voters.” But rather than make the affirmative case for progressive policy reforms, Deeds responded by largely “distanc[ing] himself from Obama’s agenda, especially on health and energy policy.” Some key examples:
NOT PROGRESSIVE ON CLIMATE: By the end of his campaign, Deeds was running ads attacking Obama’s clean energy agenda, saying Obama’s “cap and trade bill” would “hurt the people of Virginia.” Other ads carried the same message: “Creigh Deeds says no to any new energy taxes from Washington.” Instead of disputing his Republican opponent’s false attacks on climate legislation, Deeds amplified them. Deeds chose to run away from his past record on environment and climate issues. He had been a leader in “getting a land-preservation tax credit program into effect and supporting mass transit,” and “supporting a gas tax to fund transportation improvements.” Deeds “was one of 40 members of a commission on climate change convened by Virginia’s current governor.” His campaign platform included strong renewable energy and energy efficiency standards and environmental protection programs. Deeds embraced some coal industry positions. During the primary season, Deeds defended the despicable practice of mountaintop removal, telling a reporter in March, “The coal industry calls it surface mining.”
NOT PROGRESSIVE ON HEALTH CARE: During the final gubernatorial debate, Deeds stressed that health reform must “reduce costs so more people can afford insurance” and “increase coverage,” but argued that creating the option of a public health care plan “isn’t required.” “I don’t think the public option is necessary in any plan…I would certainly consider opting out if that were available to Virginia,” he said. After the debate, Deeds conceded that the plan might be “one way” to reduce costs, but “maybe one way might not be the best way.” “We have to leave all options on the table to find ways to reduce costs and increase coverage,” he concluded. The Deeds campaigned also issued a statement reiterating the candidate’s lukewarm support for the plan. “If the public option proves to be the best way” to reduce costs and expandcoverage, “he’d support having Virginia participate. He’ll examine all of the proposals on the table and choose the option than providesVirginians with the most affordable and quality coverage.”
NOT PROGRESSIVE ON LABOR ISSUES: “When I’m governor, you won’t just have a friend in Richmond — you’ll have a partner,” Deeds told union supporters in October, 2008. However, despite support from SEIU and the Teamsters, Deeds then proceeded to campaign on an anti-labor platform. He opposed the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — which would have created a fairer path toward unionization for workers — saying it would “put us at a competitive disadvantage” and reasserting the false right-wing claim that EFCA would eliminate the secret ballot in union elections. Deeds also did not support the right of public safety employees in Virginia to bargain collectively, “because it would carry with it the right to strike.” However, Deeds had previously told the Fraternal Order of Police of Virginia that he was a “strong” supporter of their right to collectively bargain.
NOT PROGRESSIVE ON IMMIGRATION REFORM: More than one in ten Virginians are immigrants. The Immigration Policy Center also points out that Latinos comprised 2.0% (or 74,000) of Virginia voters in the 2008 elections — enough to make a difference in a tight race. Creigh Deeds might regret repeatedly voting in favor of legislation that would hurt a large and growing part of his constituency. Deeds voted alongside his contender, Republican Robert F. McDonnell, to designate English as the state’s official language. He also supported denying undocumented immigrants state or local benefits. Deeds recently voted in favor of a bill that would’ve restricted in-state college tuition benefits to undocumented immigrants. And although undocumented immigrants can’t vote, about one-third of all “unauthorized families” in the country are “mixed-status families,” or families that include legal resident and US citizen family members. Neither Deeds nor McDonnell talked much about immigration on the campaign trail, however, Deeds’ organizers told the Washington Post that he would treat immigration as a federal issue and McDonnell would not.