Today marks the unofficial-official beginning of the ’09 Democratic Party gubernatorial campaign season. I say that because we’re right now in the midst of the first full-blown public spat of the runup to next spring, involving the campaigns of Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe.
The Moran campaign got things going earlier today with an e-mail to its press list entitled “Virginians Respond to McAuliffe Candidacy” that listed quotes from columns and editorials critical of McAuliffe, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee and top advisor to the presidential campaign of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Among the critics: ubiquitous University of Virginia political-science professor Larry Sabato, Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro and, curiously, our local News Virginian, an ultraright Republican newspaper that would have a hard time endorsing a sunny day if a Democrat was the first to see it and point it out.
Not to be outdone, the McAuliffe campaign, such as it is, given that McAuliffe hasn’t yet formally announced his candidacy, fought back by declaring that very point. “Brian Moran and his campaign have been spending a curiously large amount of time focused on someone who’s not even a declared candidate for governor yet, and their tone has been surprisingly negative,” senior advisor Mo Elleithee said in a statement sent out this afternoon.
I’m scoring Round One of this sure-to-be months-long exchange to McAuliffe for what else Elleithee had to say. “Terry McAuliffe is focused on having a conversation with and listening to what Virginians have to say as he decides whether or not to run for Governor. He is saving his criticism for Bob McDonnell, not great Democrats like Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds. We hope that both of them and their campaigns follow the same approach. We are all members of a unified party that accomplished great things in 2008 by advocating a positive and hopeful message. Virginians have made clear that unity and positivity is what they want, and it is the only way we’ll win in 2009,” the spokesman said.
For the record, the Deeds campaign has yet to weigh in on this tete-a-tete.
Another for the record: We’re working out the details of bringing Terry McAuliffe to Waynesboro on Monday for a conversation with local area voters about next year’s governor’s race.
Yet another for the record: We’ve already had Brian Moran over for a get-together, and he brought food with him. Hint, hint …
– Column by Chris Graham