First off, I want to say that switching my support from Creigh to Brian wasn’t an easy thing to do. I like Creigh’s stances on a lot of issues from guns, to the environment, to smart growth, and especially his non-partisan redistricting proposal. What the party needs most in their nominee for governor is someone who can appeal to and represent a large and diverse swath of the electorate and for a long time, Creigh was the best choice. Also with Creigh, no matter what your views on his stances are, you have to admire that he stayed true to them even though they most likely cost him the election for attorney general and probably will cost him the democratic nomination for Governor (that and a very pathetic ally run campaign by Joe Abbey). Secondly, it isn’t easy for me to blog about it in the open like this. In 2008, I was an organizer for the coordinated campaign (which for those of you who don’t know, is the campaign arm of the DPVA). I have met both Terry and Creigh on several occasions and they seem like decent people that want to leave Virginia a better place than when they started here. Also, I have a lot of friends and co-workers in each of the campaigns. I know that their intentions are good and for the most part they are honorable people who want what is best for Virginia. Before this is all over, I’ll get a bunch of angry emails and postings from people in Terry’s camp calling me a traitor and worse. My loyalty however is to the Commonwealth of Virginia and then secondly to the Democratic Party of Virginia and I feel compelled to speak out now before the party nominates Terry McAuliffe and hands the election to Bob McDonnell.
After the November election, I was more than happy to vote for Creigh, keep it to myself, and sit the primary out. I felt both physically and psychologically burned out and I wasn’t willing to take on my friends and fellow democrats in a potentially vicious primary fight, especially so soon after we were all in the trenches together. However I quickly found out that staying active with my local democratic committee while avoiding all the fanfare and pageantry of the campaigns was a futile endeavor. So when I reluctantly began to tune into the Governor’s race, it was like watching your parents get divorced and then having to decide which one you are going to go live with. Both Brian and Creigh are compelling candidates with admirable records of public service and Terry has a lot of good ideas on how we can turn our economy around in Virginia. When I first heard Brian and Terry talk, I was still sure that Creigh was not only the right choice for the party and Virginia, but the most capable of beating the very formidable Bob McDonnell. It wasn’t just being closer to Creigh ideologically and his chances in a general election. I felt a lot of residual loyalty towards him after the 2005 race and some sympathy because I thought he got screwed by some voters in Northern Virginia who just didn’t care enough to vote down ticket. I was surprised when I got some backlash from friends of mine who are supporting Moran about these original reasons for supporting Creigh, especially when it came to the electability factor. First off, anyone who thinks Terry can win a general election against Bob McDonnell doesn’t understand the demographics of Virginia or the formidability of McDonnell. Secondly and more importantly, I have never seen a whole lot of divergence of direction in a primary, especially at the state level. For example, do I support chicken biodiesel, solar plants, or offshore wind? The short answer is all of them. But also I really don’t give a crap about debating the three. They are all great ideas for renewable, sustainable, and green sources of energy. They are easily doable, cost efficient, and create jobs. They would all put Virginia at the forefront of technology and innovation. It’s not like we can do only one or that Brian isn’t allowed to adopt some of Creigh and Terry’s ideas. All three candidates want a greener economy, better healthcare, massive investments in education and infrastructure, women’s rights, LGBT equality, and a moderate common-sense approach to guns and taxes; Republicans want none of these things. So why shouldn’t I then begin to factor lesser things like electability, personality, campaign presence, records or service, etc? So I did and ironically, the more I factored these in, it became Creigh’s undoing.
It started simple enough with the question of, “What have the candidates done for Virginia?” As any field organizer will tell you, we recognize almost immediately who is worth a damn and who is useless. We have nothing but undying loyalty for those who slog it out with us on the doors, at metro stops, in the shopping centers with a clipboard, and non-stop on the phones using a predictive dialer. Similarly, anyone who is only in it for a photo op or to pad their resume gets our scorn and becomes the subject of jokes and ridicule at happy hour and on g-chat. Creigh and Brian both did their fair share of fieldwork back when Barack was down by 5 points in Virginia, back when we considered 7 volunteers to be a good showing for a canvass, back when Hillary supporters called us every name imaginable, and back when there wasn’t a yard sign to be found; I wish I could say the same about Terry. It was only after Barack pulled ahead in the polls that word came down to us several times to find a sizeable enough crowd so Terry could make his lofty speeches to our volunteers only to not show because just 30 people were in attendance and it was raining lightly. I remember the night of the special election in Fairfax, Terry didn’t make an appearance until after the election was called. The common wisdom I heard from a lot of people in the room that night was that Terry didn’t want to be associated with a failed effort. This tended to be my gut instinct as well. On the other hand, Brian Moran got there before I did. He shook my hand, patted me on the back, and personally congratulated me for all my hard work doing knock and drag even though I was wearing someone else’s lapel sticker. Then there was the Mardi Gras celebration. I don’t care what the McAuliffe camp said, Terry didn’t show to the MVDDC Mardi Gras celebration because someone in the camp viewed it as a waste of time- it’s that obvious. In the end, Brian Moran just seemed to be doing more than anyone else to turn Virginia a permanent blue.
What finished Creigh off in my opinion is the fact the he and Joe Abbey have run just a completely horrible campaign without explanation. At first I thought Creigh was just not going to compete heavily in Northern Virginia because that’s not where his base is. On a certain level that is understandable and forgivable. Brian and Terry will carve up most of the electorate in NOVA and with limited resources and manpower the Deeds camp will need to put their money, staff, and the candidate where they will do the most good. For Deeds in the primary, that is not NOVA. However, that doesn’t mean that Creigh can just blow it off completely. During my time with the coordinated campaign, one of the things we learned is that elections are decided on the margins. In a state like Virginia that is bound to be a perpetual battleground from now on, this is true as ever. Even if Creigh only gets 20% of the vote in NOVA, getting that 20% out to vote can determine whether he wins or loses. Creigh is smart enough to know that. Joe Abbey, who was one of Mark Warner’s 2008 deputy campaign managers, who I got to know well, who canvassed with me, and who lives in Arlington knows this as well. It is no secret that almost all of the Arlington and Alexandria democratic committees are for Brian, and probably a majority of FCDC as well. If the object is only to win primary voters, the Deeds and McAuliffe camps are wasting their time talking to any group in Arlington or Alexandria and should deploy only a minimal amount of political staff and organizers to these meetings. Virtually no one who goes there are undecided or on the fence and they all have loyalty to one of the Morans in some way. But these committees and groups also have delicate egos. They like to talk about how great they are and how many voters they deliver on election day. Moreover they expect candidates (especially when they are from other parts of Virginia) to come say that as well. Furthermore, they don’t like it when you blow them off and you will need their full-throated efforts come November. If you want to be the democratic Governor of Virginia and win a November election, you can’t blow of NOVA in a primary, it’s that simple. Blowing off NOVA would be bad enough but from what a lot of people are telling me, Creigh is nowhere to be seen anywhere in the state. As far as I know, he has one office in Richmond but he has no visibility efforts, and rarely speaks. In short if he isn’t going to make the effort to build a base in the primary, how is he going to be able to take on the republicans in the fall?
My reason for switching to Moran isn’t simply that Creigh is self destructing. While I subscribe to the idea of anybody but McAuliffe, I have been stunned and impressed to see Brian Moran be the candidate that he is and run the campaign that he has. If McAuliffe wasn’t in the race, I would still be supporting Brian over Creigh at this point. For starters Brian has done what I thought was impossible: he escaped from his brother’s shadow. He is his own person with unique positions and ideas and unlike his brother I won’t cringe when I press the button next to his name. But looking at everything Brian has done, I know he is the best one to carry on the legacies of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. We Virginia Democrats have been doing post partisan results based government way before Barack Obama made it trendy. We will work with anyone who is willing to roll up there sleeves, put partisanship behind them, and actually work to get stuff done. It is how Governor Warner was able to reverse the horror that was the Gilmore administration. Reaching out to moderate and results oriented republicans in the Senate is how Governor Kaine and democratic legislators have been able to get stuff done for our schools and roads. It is what we have come to expect in our candidates and it is why we win elections. The idea that Terry McAuliffe can be either results oriented or post-partisan is laughable. He simply just doesn’t have a record of doing either and I find it hard to believe that he’s suddenly found the light after the way he ran the party from 2000-2004 and the Clinton campaign. The more I follow the campaign and look at Brian’s record, I know that he will succeed. I have been impressed with the way he has reached out to republican moderates in Springfield and Centerville. I see him relate and inspire independents in Loudon, Prince William, and Virginia Beach. What is even more amazing is how Brian can go into southwest, southside, Richmond, and Hampton Roads and connect with local bussinessmen, county officials and others. His record of endorsements is now almost as impressive as his record of achievement. He will carry the party to victory in November and bring great things to the state. This is why I will support Brian for Governor.