Heavy rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of 150 Terry McAuliffe supporters Tuesday morning as the gubernatorial hopeful made his first stump speech in Roanoke at The Wallace Agency, an advertising and marketing firm located in Roanoke’s Industrial Park.
Jobs and the economy was McAuliffe’s overriding theme. He also spoke a message of bipartisanship saying he would welcome bipartisan support in a chief jobs creator position. McAuliffe said, “It matters that we understand the need to diversify and strengthen every region of our economy … we need to put jobs first.”
Reforming the Standards Of Learning would be his first step in improving education he said. “The current once a year, high stakes, multiple choice isn’t working for students, parents or teachers.” He advocated for progress based data instead of “simplistic end of the year one time tests.” Student measurements need to be taken closer to the beginning of the school year to identify where students need improvement.
McAuliffe said public/private partnerships are needed to increase workforce training. Teacher’s non-instructional workload needs to be reduced. “We must attract and retain the best teachers … we need to pay our teachers what they are worth.” McAuliffe said he would make community colleges the engine for workforce development. His other education goals include college tuition cost control and helping already trained veterans back into the workforce.
McAuliffe believes that as Virginians begin to pay attention to his policy initiatives his poll numbers with minorities and women will improve. “We’re going to win this race but it’s going to be a long six months.”
McAuliffe said voters want to know what a governor will do for them. “It’s about putting jobs first and working in a bipartisan way as I did with Governor McDonnell on transportation.” He said his chief jobs creator office will be right next to the governor’s office. “It’s the first person I want to see in the morning and it’s the last person I want to see at night.”
He said that he talks frequently with Republican legislators and he’s talked with Republican Lieutenant Bill Bolling on Medicaid expansion which he supports.
Bolling has said he wants to stay involved and McAuliffe has a place for him if he wants it. “He’s got a wealth of knowledge, he has great relationships, he’s creative and done a great job. I’d love to have him in some roll,” said McAuliffe.
Political analyst Dr. Bob Denton thought that McAuliffe had come a long way in four years and that he was now much more specific in his initiatives and policy, saying that McAuliffe blended together the jobs, education and transportation issues together well. Denton thinks his emphasis on bipartisanship will also have a strong appeal. “That’s something that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not quite as successful in.”
Denton called his stump speech “reminiscent of Bob for Jobs” – a disciplined theme of Governor Bob McDonnell four years ago. He hears that same policy tone from McAuliffe. He thinks McAuliffe’s lagging poll numbers may improve over the months with increased name recognition. A recent poll of 1,000 Virginia adults gave Cuccinelli a 46 percent to 41 percent advantage over McAuliffe, who has never held public office and is far less known than the Attorney General.
Neither Cuccinelli nor McAuliffe have the electorates ear right now and that shows up in the polls with undecideds who say they don’t know much about either candidate – especially with McAuliffe who has never held elective office. “This is going to be a base race,” said Denton.
McAuliffe didn’t mention his opponent, Ken Cuccinelli by name but did take a few swipes saying that Cuccinelli attempted to block the bipartisan transportation compromise “at each and every step.” McAuliffe contended that lack of transportation improvements and clogged highways caused Virginia to slip from being the top state to do business in to third place according to CNBC’s ranking.
McAuliffe supports Medicaid expansion while his opponent does not. “My opponent doesn’t want the $21 million dollars over the next seven years.”
On taxes McAuliffe said he wants to look at some of the regressive taxes that disincentive business expansion and discuss options for the business license taxes (BPOL) and the machinery and tools tax. Business license taxes on gross receipts is a disadvantage to startup businesses he said.
Cuccinelli for Governor Spokeswoman Anna Nix sent a preemptive response to McAuliffe’s Roanoke campaign kickoff saying, “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 – versus Terry McAuliffe’s jobs failures, starting with GreenTech Automotive and Franklin Pellets. Making matters worse, McAuliffe has a long record of supporting tax increases on voters in the Commonwealth, including the estate tax that even Tim Kaine opposed.”
By Valerie Garner