EXCLUSIVE Interview with Bob McDonnell

Last Saturday, during the convention that nominated former Commonwealth Attorney General Bob McDonnell as the Republican candidate for governor, HUMAN EVENTS Editor Jed Babbin sat down with the candidate.  Here’s a transcript of the interview, edited for length.

Jed Babbin: Gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell congratulations on the nomination. Thanks for taking the time to join us.

Bob McDonnell:  Thanks Jed. It’s an incredible honor to be the Republican nominee and having our party unified around a McDonnell-Bolling ticket, which we think is the most experienced and accomplished in the modern era and stand in the footsteps, on the shoulders, of governors like Henry and Jefferson. To think that I could be in that same line is just an incredible thought, so I’m honored.

B: Well I’m very impressed by a number of things today. Number one, and it was kind of an oddball thing, the benediction here at the Republican convention blessed even the president. Now I was watching the Democrat convention in Minneapolis last year. I don’t recall that that was the spirit there. They didn’t bless President Bush. What’s different here?

M: I really think we understand as Republicans that our message and our key to victory is being able to demonstrate that our conservative principles are the best for all people, whether they’re rural, urban, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, independent. Our ideas are put into action, work and solve problems and improve the quality of life for people. So we want to stick to our common sense conservative principles. We want to bring new people into the party and I think you do that by doing the outreach. So if the prayer of the minister reflected that approach, that’s a good thing.

B: In the next few months you’re going to be working very hard. Tell us what is the central theme of that campaign and why.

M: It’s promoting free enterprise, extending freedom and opportunity to citizens over the state. That is really the heart and soul of the campaign because I think that’s the heart and soul of the conservative movement: less government, more private sector solutions.

When you get to the specifics, obviously I think the chief concern for most Virginians right now is the economy, jobs, the financial situation, and so I am focusing heavily on what we can do to promote more prosperity and opportunity by growing jobs. I’m certainly going to be the champion of small business with faster permitting and less bureaucracy: more film and tourism, more ability to attract the big corporations with some financial incentives.

We can make Virginia the energy capital of the East Coast. I’m going to make that happen. We are going to have great coal and natural gas and nuclear resources. I favor offshore drilling to bring in all those revenues, capital and investment. We do need to explore with green energy, but it’s 3% of the total solution now. We need more research and development to make it commercially practical.

Well I’ve got a comprehensive solution, the other side is talking solely about green energy and it’s not going to cut it in the near term. I think we’ve got a set of platforms, or a set of ideas, frankly, that will inspire people to realize that if they follow our bold vision for creating great, high standards in Virginia, that will have more prosperity for the citizens and their children. That’s what the campaign is about.

B: In terms of that concept of making Virginia an “energy capital of the east coast” and offshore drilling and things of that nature. How would that help in terms of what would be the effect on the Virginia economy? Do you have a guesstimate as to the number of jobs, the amount of income? What are we talking about for Virginia and for the country right now?

M: It’s staggering what the potential could be for Virginia. Right now Virginia is scheduled to be the first state on the east coast to be able to explore and drill for oil and natural gas. There’s a lease sale, number 220, planned for 2011. We haven’t been able to drill for 25 years because of a moratorium that was in place that was lifted by the president and Congress last year. We’re on track to have that lease sale go forward.

Governor Kaine has said, “Let’s delay that, let’s put us in with other states.” I’ve written the Secretary of Interior, and said he’s flat wrong. He’s not going to be governor in 2011, I am. Let’s stay on track because it means prosperity for Virginia.

Old Dominion University professor Jim Koch, former president of ODU, economist, PhD, did a study just of natural gas and said there’s anywhere from a trillion to nine trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  At the very low end of that it will mean 2600 jobs, $644,000,000 in new payroll, $260,000,000 tax revenue, $8 billion capital infrastructure and I’m told millions in royalties — it depends on how the federal government sets the law.

It is an economic bonanza in potential for us if we are able to be the first. I’m making that a goal. I’m doing everything I can to make it happen. It’s environmentally safe — we’ve seen that — the Gulf of Mexico, category five storms roll throw there, 2,000 rigs, no problem. It’s something I think we can make happen in VA. It would be a tremendous economic boost for us.

B: One of the things you said in your speech that struck me as a pretty good theme, you said that employers want to go to the places where people want to live. How do you think that should be as a policy for Virginia?

M: It’s all about quality of life. We have a basic, good business structure: We keep taxes, regulation, litigation low, we do have a good right to work law and we’ve got great universities. But there are other issues that employees look at: quality of the schools, and they look at things like enjoyment of the great natural beauty of the state. We’ve got mountains, we’ve got oceans, we’ve got history, we’ve got tremendous amenities.

And what I’ve said, a lot of people — obviously from this crowd today — like to fish, hunt, camp, hike, so I’ve set a goal of conserving 400,000 acres of open space over the next four years. That will be preserved in perpetuity for future generations for the enjoyment of the outdoors. I’ve said conservation is a conservative value. Therefore the more space we can preserve for people to use the great outdoors, the more people are going to want to live here.

B: One of the things you mentioned in your speech was also a little bit out of the ordinary. You said you wanted to build an east coast spaceport in Virginia. Why? How are you going to do that? What does it mean for the state?

M: Well, we’ve got the start of that already at Wallops Island, Virginia. We’ve got a spaceport that we’ve actually just teamed up with Maryland that just got its first major contract from Orbital Technologies, a $1.6 billion contract to launch satellites over the next couple of years. We competed with Cape Canaveral and won. It’s a tremendous victory for Virginia space travel. I think in the future, we all know, that space exploration and satellites and technology is going to be a tremendous source of economic activity in the future. I want to be at the cutting edge of that. We’ve got a start already. I know there are some things to do to boost state support of that, to help them with more research and development, to help them get more contracts. If we do that, I think it has enormous possibilities for jobs and new revenues to come to Virginia. That’s one of our great assets: We’re going to continue to make it better.

B: Former Attorney General Bob McDonnell, We’re going to be talking to you a lot during this campaign. Best of luck.

M: Thanks, Jed. Thank you for all you do at HUMAN EVENTS.