Home Virginia Politics VA Pilot asks: Are Allen, Kaine, Bolling, Cuccinelli, McAuliffe, Petersen paying attention?

VA Pilot asks: Are Allen, Kaine, Bolling, Cuccinelli, McAuliffe, Petersen paying attention?


by Paul Goldman

The issue which could easily decide the 2012 Senate race and 2013 Governor’s race is being played out right. Having run a few statewide campaigns in my time, I say this: read today’s editorial in the Virginian Pilot entitled “Hurtling toward a horrible deal,” and tell me it isn’t something which should send a shiver down the spines of George and Tim, along with Bill, Kenny, Terry, and Chap.

Let me admit the following up front: I am not an expert on the Hampton Road’s transportation issue or claim any particular knowledge of the tolls, etc. discussed in the editorial.

But my gut instinct is this: the editorial isn’t way off the mark in terms of the politics of things, which is why I started this post with a reference to the next two statewide elections.

Tidewater is a crucial part of any winning statewide strategy. Assuming the editorial is right in terms of how the public perceives the deal – politics being perception – then if the deal goes through, it would seem to be a defining moment in statewide politics.

Historically, these kinds of circumstances can lead to huge upheavals in traditional voting patterns on a short term basis such as the next two statewide elections, and of course local elections. They transcend traditional political parameters since so many people feel a personal stake.

Given the documented voter anger at these kinds of deals between government and government contractor types – which leave the taxpayer on the hook either through tolls, taxes or whatever – the editorial amazed me for this reason: assuming it is an accurate read of the politics, why isn’t there at least one of the candidates making his opposition to the deal a central part of their image?

As a political matter, what’s the downside?


If this is a “horrible deal” – again, we are assuming the Pilot is right on the politics – how does it hurt to be defined as opposing it?

But you say: If you are identified as helping to kill the deal, can’t you easily branded as a typical pol who never gets anything done, thus easily to blame for the region’s transportation.

My answer: NO. Admittedly, many of the big business interests will be opposed to you, and that will cost your campaign money big time.

BUT: If the Pilot is right, then there is brewing a populist backlash to the deal which would, presumably, favor those seen as having been against it.

Remember: Your political position would be something like “no one is more committed to fixing the problem – I’ve done X, Y and Z – but this deal is a huge tax increase and big government boondoggle masked as something good for Tidewater, when it is actually unfair if not ruinous to some many middle class families.”

The key: How do the middle class families, especially working, suburban women, feel about the deal? That’s the key Democratic constituency. If the Pilot is right, then these people will oppose it.

Again, this is the key swing vote in 2012 and 2013 in Tidewater. In terms of base party voters in this region, African-Americans, the key Democratic vote, can’t be any happier about paying the tolls discussed in the editorial than white guys, who are the key Republican vote.

That’s the hard reality, in stark terms.

Let me say this: If this deal were being pushed by Democratic Governor Creigh Deeds, I have to believe George, Kenny, and Bill would be openly, passionately opposed — I mean big time!

So is GOP Governor McD the reason for their relative silence?

To me, the biggest surprise of all is this: Why isn’t Terry, or for that matter Chap (who has a State Senate seat), not leading the opposition? By and large, they aren’t going to get the big Tidewater money tied to this deal anyway.

Let’s cut to the bottom line: The more the Pilot editorial is right about the deal and its politics, the more astounding is the failure of someone running for Senate or Governor not being publicly identified, in a big way, with the opposition to the deal.

That’s the 200% proof politics as I see it.

Finally: Even if the Pilot isn’t totally correct, how far off can they be? It isn’t exactly a hippy newspaper, but has generally supported the business community on these kinds of projects.

So if the Pilot Editorial board is going “populist”, then how much risk could their politics be?

  • harvey1941

    I totally concur with the observations in this article.  Richmond and the current crop of candidates had better get their heads out of their nether regions on this issue.

    People in Hampton Roads AND the people in the Northern Virginia suburbs are being shafted big time with these toll road change ups.  The obscene activity with the HOT lanes on the Virginia DC Beltway I-495 (or as they are more accurately named, the LEXUS Lanes) coupled with the coming HOT changes for the I-95 HOV lanes simply take advantage of previously paid for systems by the taxpayers and now are benefiting big businesses and the partners are FOREIGN OWNED.

    Between the tolls in the Hampton Roads area and the tolls along I-95, I-495 and potentially along I-66 and I-395 the people of Virginia are being sold down the river by the legislators.

    Just a side note?  In the photograph of the Chesapeake Bridge toll booth, I note that ALL of the cars in the picture are CORVETTES.  Any idea why?

  • NotJohnSMosby

    Until the Dulles Toll Road hits $4.00 each way.  This is a road that was .75 cents just 15 years ago, and is at the moment $2.25 – just up from $1.75 a year or two ago.  And this for a road that has had no work done since the 4th lane was opened in each direction in the late 90s.  No expanded toll booths, no more lanes, pothole filled and all.  A tripling of rates with no direct return on investment except the future Metro line, which tolls haven’t even begun to be cranked up yet.  

    Oh, and wait until the HOT lanes open up two years or so from now.  

    Toll roads are the cowardly politician’s best friend.  A return to private turnpikes is another trip back to the 19th century that we do not need.  Raising the freaking gas tax so that everyone in the state pays a little for the roads that enable the economic engine of the state to hum.  We’ve been subsidizing the “real Virginia” for a century, it’s due time that we get a few pennies in subsidies returned.

  • Paul, do you agree with the editorial that a “$1.84 each way” toll is “punishingly high”? It’s less than a one-way Metro fare. I know why people in Hampton Roads are mad the tunnel won’t be free, but I am far from convinced why anyone outside the region should be convinced this is injustice, not whining.

  • Teddy Goodson

    has been the favorite complaint of developers and (mostly big) business), as I doscovered in 11+ years on the Board of Directors of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a mostly-road oriented lobbying group (but they did also support the Virginia Railway Express). The talking point meant that developers and business blamed the elected political leaders for not having the guts to pay for roads, bridges, or any other improvements in infrastructure. Yet, at every election, these same businessmen and developers always sent huge donations to, and openly supported, only those candidates who ran on a no-tax-nowhere-no-time pledge, i.e., almost all Republicans.

    Talk about cognitive dissonance! The hard-bitten businessmen and developers did not want their taxes to go up in any way, but they also wanted the roads and other infrastructure to somehow fall like manna from heaven; that it did not had to be because politicians “lacked political will.” They never seem to get the connection between their support of Republicans, no pledges,and the lack of effective transportation improvements. The best things in life are not free, it turns out.  

  • great8

    Had the chance to attend a discussion with Louise Lucas and Terry McAuliffe yesterday. Learned of the event a week ago from Councilman Steve Heretick. Residents are piping mad about onslaught of tolls. Glad to see TMAC lent an ear to hear us out. I hope others follow his lead and make a visit soon.