Virginia governor race shifts from politics to policy

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Bogged down by competing controversies, Virginia's gubernatorial candidates are looking to change the conversation this week by talking about what they would actually do as governor.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe is shifting from his campaign-trail listening tour to roll out an agenda he hopes will convince voters who scarcely know him that he has the credentials to improve the state's economy, including a promise Friday to lower local business taxes. Likewise, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will hold an event Tuesday in Richmond to announce a "major policy initiative," his campaign said without offering any specifics.

For McAuliffe, the campaign trip around the Old Dominion has been one of the first opportunities for many Virginians to meet the candidate who remains a relative unknown to a majority of voters.

McAuliffe spent the weekend officially "launching" his campaign, though the former Democratic National Committee chairman has spent the four years since his unsuccessful 2009 gubernatorial campaign jockeying for another shot at the governor's mansion.

On Monday, McAuliffe was joined by newly elected Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., as he trumpeted his new campaign slogan: "Putting jobs first" -- not too far off from the "Bob's for jobs" mantra that helped elect Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell four years ago. The Democrat will stop in Bristol on Wednesday to discuss diversifying the state economy and he'll be in Arlington with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Thursday to announce his plans for K-12 education.

"After traveling around the commonwealth gathering mainstream ideas, Terry is now officially launching his campaign by giving policy speeches across Virginia laying out his 'Putting Jobs First' agenda to strengthen and diversify the economy," said McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin.

As he looks to run a campaign focused on jobs, McAuliffe's business acumen has come under heavy fire from Republicans and Cuccinelli, in particular, for business ventures in Mississippi and Hampton Roads that failed to meet his lofty job creation projections. McAuliffe quietly stepped down as chairman of GreenTech Automotive -- an electric-car-maker based in Tunica County, Miss. -- late last year as production at the company stalled. In Virginia, McAuliffe is part of Franklin Pellets, an investment group that was supposed to build a biomass power plant that has yet to materialize, the Tidewater News reported over the weekend.

"Ken Cuccinelli looks forward to contrasting his record of fighting for middle-class families -- be it through lower taxes, greater government accountability, and access to more and better jobs," Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix said, "versus Terry McAuliffe's jobs failures, starting with GreenTech Automotive and Franklin Pellets."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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