National parties gear up for Virginia governor's race

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Photo - Holding political campaign buttons
Holding political campaign buttons
Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

The national political organizations representing Republican and Democratic governors are already zeroed in on Virginia's gubernatorial race as they gear up for a major fight in 2014.

Virginia is one of only two states electing a governor this year, and with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expected to sail to victory in his contest, the Republican and Democratic governors associations are focused intently on the Old Dominion as a warm-up to the battles of 2014, when 36 governor's mansions will be up for grabs.

The sides have sought to paint the other guy as the symbol of his party's excesses and foibles. To the Democratic Governors Association, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is an extremist who represents the conservative takeover of the GOP. The Republican Governors Association continues to paint Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, as a well-connected liberal who cozies up to the Washington culture.

Since November, the DGA has sent out a half-dozen emails to supporters hoping to raise money by ripping into Cuccinelli. Last week, the association nailed Cuccinelli over his soon-to-be published book, "The Last Line of Defense," for calling government entitlement programs "goodies."

"It's downright scary how out of touch Ken Cuccinelli is with most of America," the email said.

Not to be outdone, the RGA dusted off Democrat Terry McAuliffe's 2007 autobiography, "What A Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals," to blast the presumptive Democratic nominee as a Beltway fundraiser and party fixer who is already tapping his Washington allies to fund his campaign.

Both governors associations have new leadership looking to score big victories in 2013 as they plot their own political futures. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is taking over the RGA from former Chairman Bob McDonnell, now the governor of Virginia, while Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley passed the DGA torch to Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Both parties expect to work closely with their candidates' campaigns, and it likely won't be long before Virginia is once again seeing election ads on television. By May of 2009, Democrats were already running ads against then-candidate McDonnell in the state's governor's race.

The RGA has more than $10 million on hand heading into 2013, while the DGA would not disclose what it has. The associations face a hangover from donors who contributed heavily to the presidential races in 2012, but they expect to have plenty of resources to put into Virginia.

"You're kind of seeing what the political landscape might look like ahead of the midterm elections," said RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf. "Obviously in a year when only two races take place, your fundraising isn't going to be as high as 2014, but I'd say on a per-race basis, there is not donor fatigue."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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