Nobody For Virginia Governor

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has endorsed "none of the above" for governor of Virginia.

virginia-governor-2013-none-of-the-above-richmond-times-dispatch

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has endorsed “none of the above” for governor of Virginia.

The major-party candidates have earned the citizenry’s derision. The third-party alternative has run a more exemplary race yet does not qualify as a suitable option. We cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate for governor.

This does not gladden us. Circumstance has brought us to this pass. This marks, we believe, the first time in modern Virginia that The Times-Dispatch has not endorsed a gubernatorial nominee.

Reading through the editorial, however, it seems that they find Republican Ken Cuccinelli more repugnant than Democrat Terry McAuliffe:

All three support the Second Amendment, although McAuliffe appears more amenable to restrictions on the right to bear arms. As governor, none would attempt to remove guns from the hands of the law-abiding.

On social issues such as abortion and homosexual rights, Cuccinelli not only takes stands we find objectionable but pursues his divisive agenda with a stridency that was unbecoming in an attorney general and would be unbecoming in a governor. We do not support abortion for any reason at any time and have embraced bans on late-term abortions, for instance; we remain troubled by Cuccinelli’s approach to personhood and to regulations on clinics. Questions involving abortion will be resolved not by government policy but by transformation of the human heart.

Cuccinelli’s hostility to marriage equality offends. The rights applying to human beings by definition apply to homosexuals. The concerns relating to Cuccinelli do not relate to McAuliffe and Sarvis.

In any case, the challenges confronting Virginia’s next governor will concern the economy and related matters.

We disagree with Cuccinelli’s opposition to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation package. McAuliffe scores points here. The Democrat stumbles when he proposes major spending hikes, which he claims can be financed by the federal dollars the state would receive by expanding Medicaid. He offers an easy answer to a tough question.

His inclinations do not conform to Virginia’s history of fiscal restraint. Regarding uranium mining, the three wannabes opt to lead from behind.

On energy generally, McAuliffe has spun like a top and now supports items he once opposed, such as the exploration for energy sources off Virginia’s shores. Cuccinelli and Sarvis did not need electoral considerations to persuade them to do the right thing. McAuliffe’s endorsement of the EPA’s new regulations on coal-fired power plants counters sentiment in Virginia’s coalfields, nevertheless.

All the candidates favor top-quality education, imagine that. Their platforms conform to nostrums offered by their respective philosophical inclinations. We see little to repudiate out of hand; little thrills us, either. Education reform is a tough slog and must coincide with a comprehensive assault on poverty and family disintegration.

Experience makes a difference, and Cuccinelli, McAuliffe and Sarvis fall short. Cuccinelli may have performed the legal tasks of his office with professional competence, but his focus raises questions about his gubernatorial ambitions.As AG, he stressed things he did not have to, and, if he stayed in character, he would do the same as governor.

McAuliffe styles himself a businessman and entrepreneur. He inhabits the crossroads where the public and private sectors intersect and sometimes collide. His experience with GreenTech does not generate confidence. He located the plant in Mississippi, which is not known for its social enlightenment. The company has not lived up to expectations. If it eventually does, no credit will accrue to McAuliffe, for he has, he says, stepped away from it. He is not the reincarnation of Henry Ford.His ignorance of state government is laughable and makes Rick Perry, the notorious governor of Texas, look like a Founding Father.

Sarvis has no experience applicable to the governorship, period. Being a fine fellow is not enough. The encouraging news is that an excellent and loyal state workforce will ensure that Virginia will win high marks for efficiency and management, regardless of the person elected to lead the commonwealth.

And so it has come to this. Voters do not expect perfection in candidates. No one is always right. Hubris claims many at all points along the political spectrum.

In the past, The Times-Dispatch has endorsed candidates with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We find it impossible to endorse any of the 2013 candidates with even minimal zeal.

Elections make voters complicit in the government they receive. If we would not urge a family member to vote this way or that, then we have no business recommending Cuccinelli, McAuliffe or Sarvis to our readers.

Last go-round, I voted without enthusiasm for Republican Bob McDonnell, a religious zealot albeit one much more moderate in style than Cuccinelli, over Democrat Creigh Deeds, a political nobody who won the nomination by default when McAuliffe and Brian Moran turned off the electorate. McDonnell didn’t do any real damage in office, other than embarrassing himself by exploiting loopholes in the Commonwealth’s ethics laws to line his family’s pockets.

I can’t in good conscience vote for Cuccinelli. While I don’t think he’d have much success in getting his retrograde social agenda through the legislature, his views on even ordinary matters of state, like transportation and the relationship with neighboring DC, would make him a disaster as chief executive. McAuliffe  is more sensible on those issues and would get my vote if I could countenance his character at all. I cannot.

That leaves me in the position of the Times-Dispatch and most of the voters of the Commonwealth: one of those men is going to be governor, whether we like it or not. The paper makes a tacit argument for a Libertarian protest vote:

Libertarian Robert Sarvis has neither embarrassed himself nor insulted the commonwealth. He lacks the experience the job demands, however.

Moreover, while The Times-Dispatch finds considerable merit in the libertarian ethos, the libertarian ideology is a luxury afforded by a political, economic and social climate that, despite the nation’s commitment to liberty, was not created by libertarian doctrine. We fear Sarvis would be in over his head.

Still, a vote for him would not be wasted but would serve notice to Republicans and Democrats that the electorate rejects their surly antics. Citizens whose votes reflect their ideals do not throw away their ballots.

But that’s only true if the election results are not in doubt. Otherwise, not choosing between the two candidates who can plausibly win is to allow others to choose for you.

If it were up to me to choose the governor who would do the least damage to the Commonwealth over the next four years, I’d have to go with McAuliffe, repugnant as I find him. Thankfully, it looks like I’ll be spared being put in that position, as the combination of an effective ad campaign highlighting Cuccinelli’s outrageous positions on women’s rights and his alignment with the Ted Cruz wing of the GOP during a government shutdown that Virginia quite hard will make this election a walkaway.

Because I don’t closely follow local politics and don’t have strong views on any of the down-ballot candidates, I’ll likely just sit this one out. If I get motivated in the next few days to vote for any of those races, I’ll likely cast a protest vote for Sarvis.

Update (Doug Mataconis): Two thoughts to add to James’s thoughts here.

First of all, this strikes me as a bigger loss for Cuccinelli than McAuliffe in that the Times-Dispatch has long been a traditionally conservative-leaning newspaper that endorses Republican candidates, especially at the state level. They endorsed McDonnell in 2009 and endorsed former Governor George Allen over Tim Kaine in last year’s Senate race. The fact that they couldn’t bring themselves to endorse Cuccinelli is, some would argue, a reflection of the rift that has developed between many in the top tier of the party and the base over the 2013 ticket. Indeed, another newspaper endorsed Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, once Cuccinelli’s rival for the GOP nomination this year, and he isn’t even on the ballot for Governor.

Second, Virginia political blogger Vivian Paige brings my attention to this excerpt from the RTD editorial:

Cuccinelli’s hostility to marriage equality offends. The rights applying to human beings by definition apply to homosexuals.

It doesn’t appear that the paper has spoken on the marriage issue in the editorial pages in recent years, but it looks to me like the most conservative paper in Virginia just endorsed same-sex marriage.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. rbaron321 says:

    I voted early for Sarvis. Given the way Cuccinelli has acted as Attorney General, it seems pretty clear that he would run the state by ideological point scoring with the most conservative parts of the national party regardless of whether or not a policy fits the problem at hand or the people of Va. At least TM will be watched so closely he won’t be able to get away with too much corruption.

  2. Raoul says:

    JJ: I told my son this weekend that voting is a civic duty; it will be a shame if you didn’t avail yourself of the francise. Also, depending on the situation, a third party vote can be an effective protest vote and not “wasted.” Finally, why do you find Terry McAuliffe repugnant?

  3. MarkedMan says:

    The idea that the lead off measure in this newspaper was gun rights just boggles my mind. This is one of the reasons I find Republicans so repugnant – not that they value gun rights or are against abortion rights or want to promote prayer in schools, but that they consider them so much more important than actually governing. The Republicans literally cannot keep the government running but they can find the time for nonsense like this. Give me an f-ing break.

  4. A.Men says:

    I won’t vote to DETROIT Virginia.

    The Clinton’s McAwful is too criminal for Virginia.

    Cucinelli moved against obombascare.

  5. DC Loser says:

    I am not a Democrat. I have voted pretty straight Democrat tickets since 2003. I see no reason for me to change that pattern now, and it seems to me to be more urgent that I keep voting the big D until the GOP goes back to being a sane party. It’s too bad the GOP has been taken over by religious zealots. I have no other home than the Democrats at this point.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    As is usually the case, Jesus and George Washington aren’t running this cycle. It’s your duty to look at the available choices, select the lesser of two evils if that’s what it comes down to, and vote. The Times-Dispatch seems to have figured out that while McCauliffe is badly flawed, Cuccinelli is a monster. But they can’t seem to muster the stones to deal with it. How are you going to feel if everybody has the vapors and sits on their hands, or protest votes for what’s his name, the Libertarian, and you wake up to find Cuccinelli is Governor Elect?

  7. cporet says:

    Choosing between the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. I will hold my nose and vote for McAuliffe.

  8. Libertarian Robert Sarvis has neither embarrassed himself nor insulted the commonwealth. He lacks the experience the job demands, however.

    In terms of ability to be governor, it’s not clear to me how one can argue Sarvis lacks the experience the job demands without leveling the same complaint toward McAullife. Neither has any experience in government.

  9. PJ says:

    Without knowing your voting pattern, not voting for Cuccinelli is at least a step in the right direction.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    James:

    Sounds like November 5th will be a good day to enjoy a lovely adult beverage.

  11. stonetools says:

    But that’s only true if the election results are not in doubt. Otherwise, not choosing between the two candidates who can plausibly win is to allow others to choose for you.

    Indeed. This should be tattooed on the forehead of the “symbolic voters” out there. One problem is if there are enough symbolic voters out there, you run the risk of electing the one you don’t want in charge. (See Nader, Ralph, 2000 Presidential Election Campaign of). Remember the “There’s no difference between Gore and Bush” meme?
    And that’s the problem here. If you are a well-off straight white guy, there’s probably no big difference between a Macauliffe and a Cuccinelii Administration. But Cuccinelli Administration, if it had its way, would drive women to back-door abortion clinics , gays back into the closet for fear of discrimination or persecution, and have climate scientists face persecution for practicing science. A Macauliffe Administration would extend Medicaid and fully implement Obamacare: A Cuccinelli Administration would not extend Medicaid and not implement Obamacare. For poor and working class people who want health insurance, that’s a BFD. I once spent a long time without health insurance , and believe me, that’s a major issue.
    Now the major problem with Macualiffe is that he is a glad-handing sycophant of the rich and powerful-but then, most politicians are. Liberals really don’t like that, and see him further as a triangulating, Third Way, Clintonian liberal in name only type. The bottom-line, though, is that he is running for governor, not pastor or guru. He will govern as a centrist Democrat. That’s not great, but its better than “Back to the Nineteenth Century” Cuccinelli.

  12. stonetools says:

    Libertarian Robert Sarvis has neither embarrassed himself nor insulted the commonwealth.

    There is no political candidate so beautiful or so perfect as the unexamined third party candidate. There is no voter so pure and so unrealistic as the one who votes for such a candidate. I’ve looked at Sarvis’s website. It’s a mass of generalizations and happy talk with no firm position taken on any issue. A sample:

    •Repeal the Transportation Bill, a Frankenstein monster of tax increases and new revenue sources – sales-tax increases, an unconstitutional regional sales surtax, a real-estate transaction tax, a changed gas-tax formula, and more.
    •Adopt an intelligent transportation policy designed for the 21st century, improving traffic while reducing spending from general tax revenue.

    So what is this intelligent transportation policy, Mr. Sarvis? Does it involve unicorns?
    And that is typical of the site. He does seem to be a nice guy, though.

  13. Pinky says:

    I have to once again say that this is what term limits get you. The state needs a new governor every four years, and isn’t exactly turning out statesmen at the rate it did during the Revolution. Looking over the last half-dozen governors (Wilder, Allen, Gilmore, Warner, Kaine, McDonnell), if you see each one as an improvement over his predecessor, then by all means let’s have more term limits!

  14. al-Ameda says:

    @A.Men:

    The Clinton’s McAwful is too criminal for Virginia.
    Cucinelli moved against obombascare.

    McWow, more McTalkingPoint language from the McEchoChamber

  15. Mikey says:

    My wife likes Sarvis and will be voting for him. She absolutely despises Cuccinelli and finds McAuliffe irredeemably slimy.

    Me, I don’t know. I’ll go to the polls to vote for my local delegate to the state assembly and other local issues, but might leave the governor spot blank.

    Or I’ll write in Cthulhu, because why vote for a lesser evil?

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: I wish I could find my “Smile! Cthulhu loves you!” tee-shirt….smiley face with batwings and tentacles.

  17. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist: I have this sign and it goes up for every Presidential election.

  18. cporet says:

    If for no other reason than the commercials will stop.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    “…I’d have to go with McAuliffe, repugnant as I find him…”

    Says a middle-aged white man who voted for a middle-aged white guy that signed a law that would force trans vaginal ultrasounds on women.
    What inspires repugnation in you remains a mystery to me.

  20. C. Clavin says:

    “…The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on Sunday that Jonnie Williams, the CEO of the dietary supplement company Star Scientific, has told federal investigators that he met with McDonnell before making a $50,000 payment to his wife, Maureen McDonnell, in 2011. The Times-Dispatch cited a source “close to the ongoing gift scandal investigation,” who also said that Williams insisted on the meeting in McDonnell’s office to be sure that the governor knew about the loan…”

    Seriously…but McAuliffe is repugnant???

  21. Woody says:

    Dr Joyner, this sounds exactly like the situation in Minnesota in 1998, which went to Jesse Ventura with a 37% Mandate.

    “Probably won’t do as much damage” is pretty tepid as a rallying cry.

  22. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: McConnell actually stopped the law from going into effect.

    @C. Clavin: There was no reason I’m aware of at the time of the 2009 election to consider corruption among the reasons not the vote for McConnell. Not so much for McAulife.

  23. C. Clavin says:

    “…McConnell actually stopped the law from going into effect…”

    Faced with massive nat’l level protestation…and the fact that it would probably never pass Constitutional muster…yeah…he compromised to a slightly less invasive, but still intrusive procedure aimed at abridging a womans right to make decisions regarding her own body. How generous of the middle-aged white rich man.

    “…There was no reason I’m aware of at the time of the 2009 election to consider corruption among the reasons not the vote for McConnell…”

    Which is just another form of;

    “…I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

    I’m no supporter of McAuliffe…I probably would stay home that day…but to find him repugnant while McDonnell is just, you know, meh…is a symptom of the politics by emotion that cripples our system today. Obama is evil…because….Parkghaziiii!!!!

  24. Rob in CT says:

    I know very little about the candidates, but from the chatter I’ve seen online, I have the following impressions:

    Cuccinelli – wingnut with wingnutier running mate

    McAuliffe – general scumbag

    Someguy – who?

    The Dem chatter I see online is basically “yeah, McAuliffe’s a scumbag, but whaddya gonna do? Gotta vote against Cooch.”

  25. David M says:

    @James Joyner:

    I can’t in good conscience vote for Cuccinelli. While I don’t think he’d have much success in getting his retrograde social agenda through the legislature, his views on even ordinary matters of state, like transportation and the relationship with neighboring DC, would make him a disaster as chief executive. Cuccinelli is more sensible on those issues and would get my vote if I could countenance his character at all. I cannot.

    Is that supposed to read “McAuliffe is more sensible on those issues and would get my vote if I could countenance his character at all. I cannot.”

  26. wr says:

    @C. Clavin: Repugnation?

  27. C. Clavin says:

    @ wr…
    I know…I know…but I do kinda like it.
    If it catches on…you read it here first.

  28. Alex says:

    Meanwhile, Maggie Gallagher is arguing in the Washington Post that Cuccinelli is losing because he’s not socially-conservative enough.

  29. Pinky says:

    @Alex: As noted elsewhere, that’s not what she says. She says that he didn’t campaign on his socially-conservative platform. He gets all of the costs of his pro-life position among moderates without any of the benefits of his pro-life position among conservatives.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    I think making a semantic argument about being Conservative versus campaigning Conservative is BS. It’s pretty clear what Coochinwhatshisname is.
    Regardless of that nonsense…this from Alex’s link is a f’ing gem:

    “…Thus, Democrats do not have to justify their positions on infanticide, late-term abortions or permitting unborn baby girls to be killed just because of their gender…”

    Can anyone link to a prominent Democrat anywhere suggesting that we permit unborn baby girls be killed just because of their gender?
    Again…if you have no new ideas, no solutions to problems, nothing that resonates with the public…you are forced to make shit up.
    And folks like Pinky and JKB and Jenos eat it up with a spoon.

  31. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: It’s not a semantic point. If you read the article, it’s her whole point. Agree with it or disagree with it, but it’s her whole point.

  32. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Can anyone link to a prominent Democrat anywhere suggesting that we permit unborn baby girls be killed just because of their gender?

    HR 3541 (2012)

  33. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: Going much higher from my present baseline is likely counterproductive.

    @David M: Yes. Fixed.

    @C. Clavin: The post isn’t about McDonnell; he’s not eligible to run again. I wouldn’t vote for him, either, given his conduct in office. On matters of policy he’s been meh. On matters of ethics, I can’t decide if he’s corrupt or simply clueless and entitled, given that the largess came from a single individual and went to his family.

  34. Pinky says:

    I reread Gallagher’s article, and it’s clearly about campaigning pro-life, not being pro-life. She uses the word “strategy” in nearly every paragraph. She cites Cuccinelli’s credentials on the issue. She in no way implies that he wouldn’t govern as a pro-lifer, only that he “doesn’t want to appear to care about the issue enough to govern on”. This is like one of those standardized test reading comprehension things. The article isn’t about what you’re saying it’s about.

  35. C. Clavin says:

    Pinky… That bill does not say what you think it says….and her whole point is semantics.

  36. David M says:

    @Pinky:

    You don’t see the problem with this?

    “…Thus, Democrats do not have to justify their positions on infanticide, late-term abortions or permitting unborn baby girls to be killed just because of their gender…”

    We already knew Gallagher was a bit of a loon from her work with NOM, not sure why the GOP is paying attention to her regarding other social issues.

  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @stonetools:

    There is no voter so pure and so unrealistic as the one who votes for such a candidate.

    There is no holier than thou person than the one who says, “You must make your vote count by voting for one of the 2 major parties! And if you vote for the person bearing the mark of the beast, you are little better than Satan!”

    Seriously, I am so tired of this argument, it is ridiculous. It is as ridiculous as the argument for term limits. “You should not vote for the person you want to because I find them irrelevant (or offensive due to the time they have spent in DC).”

    Neither is very democratic. So, with all due respect, Fwck you, it’s not your vote, it is my vote and I get to waste use it as I please. As do you.

  38. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I’ll be damned. All the articles I recall about this race all boiled down to the same thing: Cuccinelli’s bad for reasons A-Z, and nobody should think of voting for him. And, oh yeah, McAuliffe’s bad, too. It seemed a very well-orchestrated prelude to “holding our noses and voting for McAuliffe.”

    However, the trend continued right up to this point: lots of reasons why Cuccinelli’s bad, but the only explicit criticisms are in the quotes, not from the authors themselves.

  39. Jeremy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I agree with your first half.

    However, I find your second half on term limits perplexing. I don’t think that’s the argument being used for term limits at all. The argument for term limits usually goes that we don’t want permanent incumbents in office and a healthy democracy needs new blood from time to time.

    Right? Or am I missing the movement memo?

  40. C. Clavin says:

    and it’s clearly about campaigning pro-life, not being pro-life.

    Pinky may be onto something with this…Republicans rarely match their words to their actions or vice versa. Bush the Compassionate Conservative. Walker and his attack on Unions without warning by campaign. Again…if you have nothing that sells…you lie about who you are. Even if, as in Cooches case, it’s a matter of degree.

  41. An Interested Party says:

    I won’t vote to DETROIT Virginia.

    The Clinton’s McAwful is too criminal for Virginia.

    Cucinelli moved against obombascare.

    Wow, if this is the type of person who is going to vote for Cuccinelli, no wonder he’s going to lose…

    I have to once again say that this is what term limits get you.

    Indeed, a very good argument against term limits…

  42. wr says:

    @C. Clavin: Yeah, it does have a ring to it.

  43. Alex says:

    @Pinky: Um, do you really think that conservative, pro-life Viriginians were unaware of Cuccinelli’s position on abortion? Even Gallagher says that Cuccinelli talked about his position when he was speaking to a conservative audience. What benefit could he have gotten with different tactics that he wasn’t getting already?

  44. Pinky says:

    @Alex: Capital-C Conservatives, sure. The average conservative-leaning voter who votes every two or four years, maybe not. Or maybe they’re going to vote for him, but never thought about donating time or money to his campaign because they didn’t feel passionately about it. Or maybe they’ve only heard the McAuliffe ads and seen Cuccinelli talk about his pro-life position the way some candidates talk about a youthful drunk driving conviction (eyes averted, “yes but there are other things to talk about”) that they’ve started to think that he’s hiding something.

    And in the long run, that is, beyond this particular campaign, by talking freely about his position he legitimizes it for other candidates. No one wants to talk about abortion. It’s judgey and gross. The 1980’s saw public discussion about it for the first time. For several reasons including the past two presidential races, the movement has been taking a non-political course lately, and the difficulty in talking about the subject has resurfaced. It’s not a losing issue – in the right place and time it can be a winning issue – but the pro-lifer is acting like it’s a losing issue, and that weakens the cause.