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Early start to ’09 Dem governor’s race

Special Commentary by Chris Graham

The battle for next year’s Democratic Party nomination is ever-so-quietly heating up.

House Democratic Caucus chair Brian Moran seems to have been focusing his attention on cornering the Mark Warner market at the outset of the ’09 nomination race. Moran has some of the big guns from the Warner run at the head of Virginia government lined up on his side – with Warner confidant Mame Reiley running his fundraising operation and Warner ’01 campaign manager Steve Jarding and Warner State Board of Elections appointee Jean Jensen among his consultants.

Moran’s opponent for that nomination, former thisclose attorney-general candidate Creigh Deeds, meanwhile, is fighting back with a couple of key endorsements from Moran’s NoVa backyard.

“Creigh Deeds is a leader who deliver results: whether it was working with Mark Warner to reform our budget and make record investments in education or writing one of the most progressive environmental protection laws in the nation,” NoVa State Sen. Chap Petersen wrote in an e-mail that went out last week.

“Just listening to him talk about his vision for Virginia’s future, you know right away he understands the concerns of everyday families and has thoughtful, innovative ideas for moving us forward. Deeds doesn’t believe in the gimmicks or the divisive politics that are so popular in our nation’s capital – and all too often in Richmond, as well – but do nothing to build consensus and find solutions. He has always led with an optimistic, commonsense vision for Virginia’s future, and I know he is the best candidate to continue the Warner-Kaine brand of leadership that has brought us so far in recent years,” Petersen wrote in the e-mail.

This next endorsement from another NoVa state senator, Mary Margaret Whipple, should sound familiar.

“When he announced he was running for governor, I was proud to add my name to his growing list of supporters. Creigh Deeds is the Democratic candidate who will continue the Warner-Kaine brand of leadership that has brought us so far and will stand up every day for our shared progressive values,” Whipple wrote in an e-mail that also went out last week.

Whipple’s parting words spelled out the stakes of the ongoing jostling for position.

“It is all but certain that Attorney General Bob McDonnell will be the Republican nominee for governor next year. Creigh proved to us in 2005 – when he was our Democratic nominee – he could beat McDonnell by coming within just 360 votes out of more than 2 million cast. This despite having just half the resources of the Bush-Cheney-funded Bob McDonnell,” Whipple wrote.

“We can’t let the policies and politics of George W. Bush’s Republican Party take control of state government here in Virginia. We must defeat Bob McDonnell, and I know that if we unite behind Creigh early, he will be successful next year,” Whipple wrote.

That’s why things are heating up now, one would have to suppose.

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