Warner Supporters Back McDonnell over Deeds

The most recent Washington Post poll showed the race for governor of Virgnia tightening up, as Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds continually invokes the name of Mark Warner, popular U.S. Senator and former governor of the Old Dominion.  

But despite liberal State Sen. Deeds’ insistence that he would govern in the tradition of centrist Warner, a number of the senator’s supporters aren’t buying it.  In fact, many major donors to Warner’s winning Senate race last year are among the biggest donors to conservative Republican hopeful Bob McDonnell’s race for governor this year.  

A review of McDonnell’s largest contributors shows that 21 individuals who have donated $10,000 or more to his campaign for governor also donated the maximum amount permitted by law ($2300 before nomination and $2300 for the general election) to Warner in his winning Senate race last year.  (Federal election law limits contributors to a candidate for the House or Senate to $2300 before nomination and $2300 in the general election; Virginia rules place no limit or personal or corporate donations to a candidate for state office).

The “Warner-McDonnell” Virginians run the gamut of business and industry — coal mining, investment banking real estate, manufacturing, and information technology.  Richard Gilliam of Keswick Virgnia, president of Cumberland Resources Corporation and a leader in the coal mining industry, made two $2300 donations to Democrat Warner in ’08 and has given $50,000 to Republican Warner in ’09. The same pattern is true of Joseph Luter IV of Smithfield, head of Smithfield Foods Inc., who also made two $2300 donations to Warner last year and $50,000 to McDonnell this year.  

The list extends to Northern Virginia-based captains of venture capitalism and high information technology.  Venture capitalist Mark Kington, chairman of Kington Management Corporation in Alexandria,  gave the maximum donation to Warner twice and has given $25,000 to McDonnell so far.  Gary Nakamoto, vice president of Base Technologies in McLean, made two $2300 donations to Warner in ’08 and has so far made two $5000 donations to McDonnell.

The pattern followed by Gilliam, Luter, Kington, Nakamoto and seventeen others is a clear one.  All went to the wall for a Democratic candidate who talked about opportunity and job creation and could point to accomplishments in those areas while he was governor (2002-05).  All are now going to the wall for a Republican who emphasizes his record of voting more than fifty times in the legislature to cut taxes and talks about rolling back regulations to permit job creation.

In addition, McDonnell has spoken freely about the national agenda and how programs such as the “cap and trade” proposal or the Obama-backed health care measures will hurt the Virginia economy.

“And Creigh Deeds is the most anti-business candidate of either party to run for governor of Virginia in decades,” Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Chairman and now general chairman of McDonnell’s campaign, told me when we discussed the “Warner-McDonnell” Virginians.  

As he has done before, Gillespie ticked off Deeds’ decidedly anti-business votes that include  voting six times in the legislature to increase the gasoline tax and his rating of 96% with the state AFL-CIO (Virginia is a right-to-work state).

These are ample reasons, Gillespie said, “why Creigh Deeds is no Mark Warner”– and why there are so many Warner backers now going strongly for Bob McDonnell. 

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