Ex-Clin­tonite McAuliffe read­ies an­other gov bid

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY PAIGE WIN­FIELD CUN­NING­HAM

As Terry McAuliffe sprinted out of Alexan­dria’s T.C. Wil­liams High School in Alexan­dria, Va. on a sunny Satur­day morn­ing in March, a woman shouted af­ter him, “Where are you run­ning to?”

“An­other speech,” re­sponded the for­mer chair­man of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, jog­ging to­ward his dark red Wran­gler in the nearby park­ing garage. “Can’t get enough in, you know.”

Two years since Mr. McAuliffe’s quest for the Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­na­tion was thwarted by vot­ers who viewed him as a car­pet­bag­ger out of touch with grass-roots Vir­ginia, the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire en­tre­pre­neur who raised hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars for Bill Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns in the United States and his char­i­ta­ble ef­forts abroad is qui­etly mount­ing a sec­ond bid for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for Vir­ginia gov­er­nor.

He is promis­ing to cre­ate thou­sands of po­si­tions through green-en­ergy ven­tures that could dove­tail nicely with a 2013 cam­paign plat­form built on jobs and the en­vi­ron­ment.

When asked about the prospect of a sec­ond gu­ber­na­to­rial bid, Mr. McAuliffe told The Wash­ing­ton Times that run­ning again is some­thing he doesn’t think much about.

“If I think I could do a bet­ter job and do more for peo­ple as gov­er­nor here, then I’d look at it,” he said.

One of Mr. McAuliffe’s chief ob­sta­cles in a sec­ond gu­ber­na­to­rial bid would be gain­ing sup­port from vot­ers who thought of him as chair­man of the DNC and of Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, in­stead of as a Vir­ginian of nearly 20 years.

In the three-way 2009 party pri­mary, Mr. McAuliffe gar­nered 26 per­cent of the over­all vote, best­ing for­mer Del­e­gate Brian J. Mo­ran’s 24 per­cent, but fall­ing far short of state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds’ 50 per­cent.

That he’s scat­ter­ing more cam­paign do­na­tions around the state than ever be­fore could sig­nify an at­tempt to put down more ob­vi­ous roots. He gave nearly $30,000 to Demo­cratic can­di­dates and causes in the state last year, af­ter do­nat­ing $5,500 in 2008. There are no records of do­na­tions from Mr. McAuliffe be­tween 1996 and 2008.

Then there are his trav­els. Lest any­one miss out on his ef­forts to reach Vir­gini­ans all over the state, Mr. McAuliffe makes his outreach ef­forts easy to track. His bright green web­site pro­motes him as a can­di­date with­out a cam­paign, in­tro­duc­ing him as “a Vir­ginia busi­ness­man fight­ing for Demo­cratic causes and cre­at­ing jobs” and in­cludes a Google map pin­point­ing his re­cent vis­its.

The map in­cludes des­ti­na­tions Mr. McAuliffe vis­ited dur- ing a three-day road trip through south­west­ern Vir­ginia in March to talk about green en­ergy with fel­low Democrats and en­er­gy­fo­cused groups.

Mr. McAuliffe’s travel itin­er­ary in­cludes some ju­ris­dic­tions in which he lost heav­ily to Mr. Deeds in 2009.

In Char­lottesville, where Mr. McAuliffe won just 10 per­cent of the vote, he spoke with groups about wind en­ergy and tur­bines. He met with lo­cal Democrats in Rad­ford, where 18 per­cent of Demo­cratic vot­ers sup­ported him. He dropped in on a City Coun­cil meet­ing in Roanoke, where he per­formed some­what bet­ter, re­ceiv­ing 24 per­cent of the vote.

Roanoke City Coun­cil mem­ber Bill Best­pitch said Mr. McAuliffe’s March visit was well re­ceived, but it’s not enough. He needs to travel and travel and travel some more, he said.

“I think he needs to get out in pub­lic a lot more,” Mr. Best­pitch said. “Com­ing by Roanoke and spend­ing some time with peo­ple is just a start.”

Chris Horne, a spokesman for the In­sti­tute for Ad­vanced Learn­ing and Re­search, said he got a call out of the blue from a McAuliffe aide to set up a visit to the Danville, Va.-based cen­ter, which aims to re­vi­tal­ize the area econ­omy. Mr. Horne took Mr. McAuliffe for a tour, dis­cussed re­new­able re­sources and asked him whether he was go­ing to run for gov­er­nor again.

“I asked him point-blank,” Mr. Horne said. “He said, ‘I never say no.’ ”

Mr. McAuliffe’s early ef­forts haven’t been lost on Vir­ginia Democrats.

“I don’t think he’s trav­el­ing the state be­cause he’s run­ning for city coun­cil,” Mr. Deeds told The Times. He said it’s im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict the is­sues that will drive de­bate in 2013, but that Mr. McAuliffe is do­ing a bet­ter job of lay­ing the ground­work for a run than he did in 2009, when he took full ad­van­tage of Vir­ginia laws es­tab­lish­ing no lim­its on cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions to amass an over­whelm­ing war chest.

“Terry spent more than Mo­ran and I com­bined,” Mr. Deeds said, later adding, “I think he’s do­ing the right things right now.”

For­mer Gov. L. Dou­glas Wilder, who with­held his en­dorse­ment in the 2009 race for Vir­ginia gov­er­nor, said Mr. McAuliffe con­sulted with him ear­lier this year about a run.

“He’s come by to talk about him run­ning for the gov­er­nor­ship, that he was se­ri­ous. I don’t know that I gave him any ad­vice as much as lis­tened,” Mr. Wilder said.

He said Mr. McAuliffe has to let peo­ple know that he is a Vir­ginian, that he cares about Vir­ginia and the is­sues that are af­fect­ing Vir­ginia.

“The more im­por­tant thing is the peo­ple of Vir­ginia; they are fiercely in­de­pen­dent,” he said. “Too many peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mate the in­tel­li­gence of the vot­ers, and one thing I told him is to lis­ten to them.”

His­tory sug­gests the path to vic­tory for Mr. McAuliffe, or for any other Demo­cratic can­di­date, could be dif­fi­cult. Not since 1965 have Vir­gini­ans elected a Demo­cratic gov­er­nor when the White House has been held by a Demo­crat.

Other names have been floated as op­po­nents to Mr. McAuliffe’s likely bid. House Mi­nor­ity Leader Ward L. Arm­strong, state Sen. A. Don­ald McEachin of Rich­mond, for­mer U.S. Rep. Tom Per­riello and Sen. Mark R. Warner, a for­mer gov­er­nor, are pos­si­bil­i­ties, said po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Bob Holsworth.

Mr. Holsworth said Mr. McAuliffe is “ob­vi­ously let­ting Democrats know he wants to run,” but it’s un­clear whether state party lead­ers are as en­thu­si­as­tic about him.

“I think there’s still some hes­i­ta­tion in the Demo­cratic Party to em­brace him,” Mr. Holsworth said. “He’s en­er­getic, he’s smart, he’s re­ally out there try­ing to ad­dress some of the is­sues. I don’t think he’s go­ing to clear the field by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion.”

Demo­cratic strate­gist Paul Gold­man said Mr. McAuliffe needs to do a lot more than shake hands around the state. Suc­cess­ful gov­er­nors have of­fered vot­ers a sig­nif­i­cant re­form, such as cur­rent Gov. Bob Mc­Don­nell’s trans­porta­tion plan, Ge­orge Allen’s no-pa­role plat­form and James S. Gil­more III’s push to elim­i­nate the car tax, he said.

“Peo­ple need to have a sense there’s a prob­lem you can solve, and the pol­i­tics of that de­pends on what peo­ple are think­ing,” Mr. Gold­man said.

On the other hand, Mr. McAuliffe would be the first to run for gov­er­nor who can claim to have cre­ated lots of jobs, as­sum­ing his busi­ness ven­tures go ac­cord­ing to plan.

“Let’s as­sume he gets credit for bring­ing a lot of jobs to the state,” Mr. Gold­man said. “Well, no one who’s run for gov­er­nor has been able to say that.”

Mr. McAuliffe’s cam­paign seems to be try­ing a new strat­egy: Don’t talk about the jobs you’re go­ing to cre­ate as gov­er­nor, cre­ate them be­fore you run.

Since los­ing the 2009 pri­mary, Mr. McAuliffe founded a com­pany called GreenTech Au­to­mo­tive Inc., which pro­duces en­vi­ron­ment-friendly and en­ergy-efficient ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing com­pact cars and sport util­ity ve­hi­cles. It was the first in a line of green-en­ergy in­vest­ments he has made. He also ac­quired the pro­ducer of a new low-priced elec­tric car and is on the road to con­vert­ing a shut­tered pa­per mill in south­ern Vir­ginia into a re­new­able-en­ergy plant.

As many as 100 jobs could be on the way for South­side Vir­ginia if Mr. McAuliffe is suc­cess­ful in his at­tempts to transform a pa­per mill into a green-en­ergy plant that cre­ates a higher-en­ergy, lower-pol­lu­tion fuel by mix­ing wood pel­lets with coal. Closed in 2010, the mill em­ployed 1,100 peo­ple in the eco­nom­i­cally dis­tressed ar­eas of Isle of Wight County and the town of Franklin.

The pro­ject moved ahead two weeks ago when Mr. McAul­life an­nounced that his in­vest­ment com­pany, CMI L.P., will in­ves­ti­gate whether it’s fea­si­ble to take over and con­vert the mill, as part of a joint busi­ness ven­ture. De­pend­ing on how quickly that pro­ceeds, the plant could be up and run­ning by the next gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion in 2013.

With two elec­tric hy­brids and three hy­brid mod­els lined up for pro­duc­tion, Mr. McAuliffe’s GreenTech is cre­at­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs. Those jobs, how­ever, will be lo­cated not in Vir­ginia, but in Mis­sis­sippi, where Mr. McAuliffe has said he re­ceived a bet­ter of­fer to build a man­u­fac­tur­ing plant.

His char­ac­ter­is­tic en­thu­si­asm seems to spike when he dis­cusses GreenTech’s most in­no­va­tive pro­ject: the MyCar. The $10,000 ve­hi­cle can reach 45 miles an hour, travel 70 miles on a sin­gle charge and plug into stan­dard elec­tri­cal out­lets. The car was pro­duced by a Hong Kong-based com­pany, which Mr. McAuliffe bought last year and in­cor­po­rated into GreenTech.

“Go to China, buy a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany, bring it back, sell cars back to China,” Mr. McAuliffe said, his words trip­ping over each other in his haste. “All made here in Amer­ica.”

He had just re­turned from a trip to Den­mark to pro­mote the car to the prime min­is­ter, he said.

Al­though he is ef­fu­sive in his com­ments about his job-cre­at­ing com­pa­nies, brought back to the sub­ject of Vir­ginia, and his own po­lit­i­cal plans, Mr. McAuliffe re­mains coy.

“In two years, if I’ve got this com­pany up and I’ve got thou­sands of peo­ple go­ing and I’m a leader in the in­dus­try and the world on elec­tric cars and I’ve built this thing into a bil­lion-dol­lar com­pany, I don’t know what I’m go­ing to do,” he said.

DREW AN­GERER/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Run­ning around and do­ing a lot of smil­ing: Once and per­haps fu­ture Vir­ginia gu­ber­na­to­rial hopeful Terr y McAuliffe chats with Edna Frady at a Falls Church City Demo­cratic Com­mit­tee fundrais­ing din­ner last month. He ran in the 2009 party pri­mar y.

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