Deeds stops in Staunton, pledges to fight for Dem nomination
Story by Chris Graham
Another afternoon, another dinner with a few dozen friends, another few thousand dollars to take back to the campaign treasurer, which ought to keep what could turn out to be a $25 million election going for, well, another hour or two, at the least.
Creigh Deeds has been down this road before, falling 360 votes short out of the 2 million or so cast of being our current attorney general. And now the Bath County state senator is running for the Democratic Party nomination for governor, and it’s that quest that has him spending “80 percent of my time” on the road these days.
“We’re trying to build a fund-raising base, but also I spend a lot of time just talking to different groups. I talked yesterday, for example, in Halifax County, with a group of people who aren’t necessarily big contributors, but people who participate in politics. It’s about building a base,” said Deeds, who was in the Valley today for a fund-raiser at the White Star Mills in Downtown Staunton.
He didn’t do badly on either count – 80 people were on hand for lunch, and the Deeds campaign raised more than $6,000 all told at the event. The question-and-answer session following Deeds’ remarks to the assembled went on toward 1:30 p.m., about a half-hour past what was supposed to be the quitting time. Typical Deeds – he is not one to leave a question unanswered, or an important point unmade.
Deeds, who is competing with Northern Virginia state delegate Brian Moran for the 2009 nomination, is also not one to be afraid to mix it up a bit politically. He pointed out that no sitting member of the Virginia House of Delegates has ever been elected governor, not mentioning Moran by name, but letting those within earshot know the stakes at hand in what promises to be a pitched battle. I use that frame of reference because in an interview with me a few minutes earlier over lunch, Deeds made it clear that he’s in it to win it as far as his nomination campaign is concerned.
“I would love it if someone would hand me the nomination, but it’s not going to happen,” he answered my question about whatever pressures there might be on himself and Moran to resolve the nomination without having to go to a convention or primary at the risk of splitting the Democratic Party.
“Politics is about competition, and competition is not a bad thing. So maybe there’s pressure out there. If there is, I don’t feel it,” Deeds said.
I followed up with a question asking Deeds if he thinks there will be a resolution to the nomination contest before next spring. “There are lots of people who would like to resolve it. But I don’t know how that’s going to happen,” Deeds said.
Deeds would prefer the fight be played out in a primary. “I think you can make the case for either one,” Deeds said. “I’ve always liked primaries better, because they involve more people. It’s more expensive, it’s potentially more divisive, but the candidate hones his message, he gets out there, and the candidates have to work harder, and they’re better-prepared for the fall elections having had to go through a primary. And there’s more people participating. In a convention system, you might have twenty or thirty thousand people statewide participating. In a primary, you’ll have two or three hundred thousand people participating.”
But that’s far off into the distance – 11 months and counting. And Deeds has millions of dollars to raise, and about a million hands to shake if he’s going to be able to look back on ’09 more fondly than he can ’05. And while he can claim experience as a statewide candidate, he also concedes that “it’s a different ballgame altogether” running for governor than it was running for attorney general.
“It’s a big leap from an attorney general’s race to a governor’s race. While I was spending $3 million, and McDonnell was spending six the last time, both Kaine and Kilgore were spending about 25. It’s a huge fund-raising leap. When you’re running for attorney general, you’re third on the ticket. When you’re at the top of the ticket, all of the attention is on you,” Deeds said.