The summer of the 2013 Virginia governor’s election has been eventful, if not policy oriented. Democrat Terry McAuliffe began the summer trying to appeal to moderates in the business community, while Republican Ken Cuccinelli has focused on exciting his base with a convention. That said, the majority of June and July have been dominated by various controversies, from the SEC investigation of McAuliffe’s company Greentech to Cuccinelli’s association with Star Scientific. But perhaps the most interesting thing so far on the campaign is how each candidate is ending the summer and preparing for the homestretch.
Call it the summer of scandal. The sitting governor of Virginia is under federal investigation for having received over $100,000 in gifts from Star Scientific C.E.O. Johnnie Williams. The Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli has also received $18,000 in gifts and trips from the same executive. In addition, a company formerly led by the Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. This is important to the main focus of my research, as the messages of both candidates are being drowned out by these stories, and risk turning this race into one in which the issues are only an afterthought.
The election to replace Bob McDonnell has taken on an interesting dynamic, where both candidates are attempting to paint themselves as moderate, but one has met substantially greater obstacles to that goal. In this post, I will discuss how the rest of the tickets has affected the race, and each respective candidates tack towards the middle.
In recent years, the political atmosphere in the United States has experienced drastic polarization, both at the federal and state level. Not only is this development shown in the media and the national discourse, but also in the way the public votes and the candidates nominated by each party. This pattern is repeating itself in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, between Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe (D). While the general consensus is that both candidates are on extreme ends of the political spectrum, Cuccinelli being strongly associated with the Tea Party movement and McAulliffe being a Democratic Party insider; however, only the former is currently running as such. Taking place in an off-year election, and following a presidential election in which Virginia’s vote most resembled the national average, this race is likely to be nationalized. The current campaign dynamic is that the Republican candidate is emphasizing his conservative credentials, while the Democrat is tacking towards the center and focusing on jobs. Most recently, a transportation bill was approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Governor McDonnell; Ken Cuccinelli criticized it heavily, while Terry McAulliffe praised its passage. The race is currently even in most public polling, and both candidates have essentially won their respective party’s endorsements.