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Dem leader critical of McDonnell’s election to RGA post

The head of the state Democratic Party is offering criticism of Gov. Bob McDonnell in the wake of his election as vice chair of the Republican Governors Association.

“Bob McDonnell’s aggressive campaign schedule does raise valid questions about whether campaigning in other states is the best way for our governor to spend his time, especially if taxpayers are footing the bill for his traveling security detail. Virginians did not elect Bob McDonnell to help him build a presidential campaign, they elected him to lead and make their lives better,” Democratic Party of Virginia executive director Dave Mills said today in a statement.

McDonnell was elected to the RGA leadership position on Thursday. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was elected RGA chair. Joining them on the association’s executive committee will be Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and a pair of governors-elect, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Susana Martinez of New Mexico.

“Good politics makes good policy, and the RGA combines effective practical politics with innovative and visionary policy development. I look forward to helping lead the effort to ensure more Republican governors are elected in 2011 and the years ahead, and joining my fellow Republican governors in implementing policies that help get our citizens back to work and our economy back on track,” McDonnell said in a statement.

The criticism from Mills echoes state GOP leaders who were critical of McDonnell’s predecessor, Democrat Tim Kaine, who served as chair of the Democratic National Committee in the final year of his gubernatorial term.

“If the governor’s gimmick-laden budget and his failed plan to sell the state’s profitable ABC system at a huge loss to taxpayers are the best we can expect from Bob McDonnell for the rest of his term, it might be better for everyone if he continues to spend most of his time outside of Virginia,” Mills said.

Update: 2:25 p.m.

“The governor’s political travel has been exceedingly rare, completely transparent, and scheduled appropriately,” said McDonnell administration communications director Tucker Martin, noting that all costs for McDonnell’s political travel are covered by PAC and private sponsors, and that the McDonnell political team reimburses the state for car mileage racked up by the Virginia State Police Executive Protective Unit for in-state political events and all travel costs (including plane, hotel and food) related to out-of-state travel.

The statement from Mills was also inaccurate, according to Martin, in its reference to a McDonnell political event in Iowa. McDonnell had a scheduled campaign event in Iowa, but the event was canceled due to bad weather.

“Since taking office, the governor has closed two historic budget shortfalls by cutting spending, not raising taxes,” Martin said. “Eighty percent of his first legislative package was passed into law with broad bipartisan support. He secured historic school reforms to bring more opportunities to our young people, and he found and is utilizing over $1.4 billion for transportation that the previous, Democratic, administration had failed to use to get traffic moving. Also, since the governor took office the Commonwealth has seen the second highest amount of new jobs created of any state in the nation. That is why he was elected by his peers to this leadership position.

“We understand that some partisan Democrats may be upset that the governor’s success in Virginia has garnered national attention. Maybe Virginia Democrats should actually try to roll out some policy ideas of their own, rather than their usual snide press releases, and they might actually get some positive recognition for themselves. We are always ready to work across party lines for the good of the people of Virginia, and we look forward to hearing their ideas and proposals in the months ahead,” Martin said.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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