Last week, I reported a little-noticed but-significant development in Virginia’s heated race for governor: namely, that 21 Virginia business leaders who made maximum donations under the law to Democrat Mark Warner’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in ’08 are all contributors of $10,000 and above to Republican Bob McDonnell’s race for governor in ’09.
(Contributions of $2300 before and after nomination are the maximum amount permitted in races for federal office under the law and corporate donations are outlawed; but in Virginia, contributions to candidates for state office can be in unlimited amounts from individuals as well as corporations).
But why? Is it because, as one old friend and cynical political observer e-mailed me after the article, that “Big Business always goes with who it perceives as a winner”? The most recent polls show the race tightening, but former Attorney General McDonnell is almost always leading Democratic State Sen. Creigh Deeds among likely voters statewide.
And, with all respect to my cynical friend, we are not talking about multi-nationals or Wall Street brokerage houses here. To a person, the 21 Warner-McDonnell contributors are all successful, not “big business;” all either run or work for entrepreneurial operations in areas ranging from the high-tech field to food-processing.
None of the Warner-McDonnell Virginians returned calls inquiring about their pattern of political donations, with the secretary of one of them telling me flatly: “He won’t call you back because he doesn’t discuss that sort of thing.” But two other seasoned observers of Old Dominion politics have a different take: namely, that McDonnell’s no-tax, less government message is resonating with the state’s business community, very much as onetime cellular phone entrepreneur Mark Warner’s message resonated in his winning bids for governor in ’01 and the Senate in ’08.
Both Speaker of the state House of Delegates William J. Howell and former Gov. (1993-97) and Sen. (2000-06) George Allen also believe that the sharply leftward-leaning on economic issues of the Obama administration is damaging the “centrist” image of Democrat Deeds, who already has a liberal record on taxes and union issues.
It’s “Issues That Matter,” Says Allen
Former Gov. Allen told me that he has introduced McDonnell to various business leaders throughout the state and, “Bob is getting business support due his clear leadership on issues that matter for Virginia’s economic competitiveness: tax and regulatory, energy, education and transportation policies.”
Allen agreed with Howell that McDonnell’s willingness to take stands on national issues important to Virginia business (Deeds won’t address national issues) has been helping him. As he noted, “Bob has taken unequivocal stands against the ‘cap and trade’ tax scheme, the card check avoidance of private ballots in unionization efforts, the government takeover of health care decisions. These are key issues in Virginia on which his opponent has dodged.
“Virginia is the furthest north State on the Eastern seaboard with a Right to Work law, which gives us a significant competitive advantage. The fact that Virginia Democrats cower to Union bosses on the ‘card check’ issue is worrisome to a diverse array of job-creating business leaders in Virginia.
“Bob has a much more credible record on business, free enterprise issues than his opponent. Business folks can easily discern the difference in their past performance."