EXCLUSIVE Blue Virginia Interview with Terry McAuliffe: Part I


    Intro: Recently, the McAuliffe for Governor campaign graciously provided Blue Virginia editors lowkell and kindler the opportunity to interview Terry for 45 minutes at his campaign HQ in Arlington. Terry was energetic and enthusiastic as always, even as he noted that the campaign is keeping him going regularly from 6 am to midnight. The following interview is edited for length and to focus on highlights of our conversation. This is the first installment; the second will be posted tomorrow. Cross-posted at Daily Kos

    “I want other people to have those same experiences that Terry McAuliffe had.”

    kindler: I recently went canvassing for your campaign, and while I found many Democrats motivated to get out and vote, many of them still don’t know you well.  To help introduce yourself to these voters, can you please tell us the 2-3 things Virginia Democrats most need to know about you as a person?

    Terry: Listen, I’m a kid who grew up in a middle class family, started his first business at fourteen, paid for college because I either got to work or I wasn’t sure I was going to go.  I’ve always been involved in business and politics.  I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world, I’ve had so many great experiences, I want other people to have those same experiences that Terry McAuliffe had.

    There are a lot of things I could do in my life. This is not the easiest business in the world, but you need to have folks willing to step up to the plate.  I’m going to fight for families, fight for jobs.  So for me it’s personal.  I like to get things done, I love to be in the arena.  I have Teddy Roosevelt’s quote behind my desk [reprinted here]:

    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

    I will never be that poor timid soul — I’m going to be in that arena fighting for people, because I’m passionate about helping them.

    “You cannot grow an economy if you’re putting walls up around Virginia”

    kindler: So as governor, you get four years, and understanding the limits to what you can do, what are the 3 or 4 things you most want to be accomplish?

    Jobs and economic development: That is our challenge.  We have been blessed — we’ve been the number one recipient of DOD dollars.  That’s not going to change, but with $500 billion baked into the Department of Defense cuts, and sequestration going into next year, it’s going to be traumatic for us because we are the number one recipient. So the next governor’s got a big, big challenge.  

    For me as governor, for jobs and economic development, I’ve got to fix transportation. Now the current governor’s plan, I was all for it, while my opponent tried to stop this mainstream compromise. I’m all for the Silver Line while he would kill the Silver Line even if it’s halfway completed. Let’s get people out of cars, let’s get them into mass transit. Let’s get to Dulles Airport, let’s go out into Loudon County.

    It’s a quality of life issue on transportation: Northern Virginia, we’re stuck in traffic 67 hours a year, 43 hours a year in Hampton Roads. It’s debilitating. Dorothy and I just went with our kids to see a ball game in the afternoon — it’s a 2-3 hour deal.

    And if we don’t have a great education system, I cannot convince that CEO to move an advanced manufacturing facility to Virginia. As we know, if you take average Virginia teacher pay and compare it to average wages in the state, we rank 50th in the country. We are dead last. Virginia is one of the wealthiest states in America, and we should never be 50th in any category.

    Now, I want accountability for teachers, we need to get the best teachers, and we’ve got to stop eroding their retirement benefits, we’ve got to pay them what they’re worth. I’ve called for total reform of the SOLs — they do not work. These high-stakes, multiple choice tests at the end of the year are forcing teachers to teach to the tests. Why do we give a test at the end of the year? If you really want to help a student, why don’t you give it at the beginning of the year so the teacher can assess what that student needs and help him or her throughout the year?

    One of my core messages is on community colleges. I’m going to all 23, I think I’m the first candidate for governor to do that. These are our real workforce engines. Three out of five of our higher ed students go to community colleges, within an hours drive of everybody. But whereas in 2008, funding was about $4400 a student, now we’re down to around $2500.

    One of the biggest issues for us is the Medicaid expansion — my opponent’s against it, I’m all for it. Whatever you think about health care, it is now the law of the land. So, we can cover 400,000 Virginians with quality, life-saving care. We will bring, over the next seven years, $21 billion back into the Virginia economy, we can create up to 33,000 new jobs. I want to use the money to reform the entire health care delivery system, make it more efficient and cost effective.

    But here’s a very important point that I don’t think a lot of folks realize: in the near future, the Federal DSH payments — for when you’ve got a disproportionate share of low income individuals who come into your hospital — will go away. Indigent care in emergency rooms, gone. Our hospitals will incur up to $190 million in expenses today that they’re not presently paying. So there’s a cost to us. This is a big deal.

    The last thing I’ll say — you cannot grow our economy when you consistently attack women on health issues. I’ve told women that I trust them to make their own decisions. I will be a brick wall, I will not tolerate any discrimination on any issue. I’ll do like Tim Kaine did, Executive Order #1 will be to make sure we have protections against any forms of discrimination, including as it relates to sexual orientation.

    When you say being gay leads to ‘self destruction not only physically but of their soul’, when you lead the effort to shut women’s health services down, when you sponsor personhood legislation, which would outlaw most forms of contraception including the pill, I’ve got to tell you, you cannot grow an economy if you’re putting walls up around Virginia. It’s as stark a difference as you can have between two candidates.

    “People will go where they don’t have to be stuck in traffic for 67 hours a year, where they and their daughters have access to women’s health centers”

    lowkell: In the Homestead Debate on Saturday, Ken Cuccinelli said that his views on what he called the “personal challenge of homosexuality” haven’t changed. He also has reiterated his support for making sodomy – even, apparently, between consenting adults – a crime in Virginia. I’m wondering what you think these types of views, expressed by powerful political figures in a state, do to that state’s image, particularly among businesses thinking about locating here.

    I think that encapsulates the difference in this race — I’m trying to make the state non-discriminatory, open to everyone, but there are consequences to actions, as I said in the debate. As one of his first actions as attorney general, he sent a letter to every college and university in Virginia rolling back protections on discrimination related to sexual orientation for professors and students. Northrop Grumman, which was about to pick us for their national headquarters, with 300 very high paying jobs, sent word to Governor McDonnell that the deal was now in question — because Northrop Grumman is very pro-gay rights, very pro-woman. Gov. McDonnell had to intervene to save that deal. So there are real consequences to this type of mean spirited, hurtful rhetoric and actions.

    We’ve got to really diversify and figure out what is it that replaces the military money that is likely to be cut. I always talk about cyber-security — it’s one area where the Federal government is going to plus up over the next few years. Cyber, nano, bio-life sciences — but let’s take cyber-security for a second. Maryland is working at warp speed today to make themselves the top state in the country for cyber-security. Fort Meade just got named the command center for cyber-security. This is a big area for us — we’ve got to be the leader. We’ve got the universities, we’ve got the colleges, we’ve got the military installations — we’ve got to really do it.

    I need to go to Silicon Valley to recruit the “cyber warriors” who do this. Many of them are women. They’re not going to come to Virginia when they’re questioning whether you can have access to the pill, whether our 20 women’s health centers will close — and it’s already started. The first one’s come up for renewal in Norfolk, Virginia, and they’ve shut down, they’re gone forever. Many of these women’s health centers provide cancer screening, affordable birth control.

    So this is happening and I always try to make the point that people can move around the globe today.  This is a global economy and people will go where they don’t have to be stuck in traffic for 67 hours a year, where they and their daughters have access to women’s health centers if that’s what they choose, the best education system.  

    We really have big challenges.  And I think everyone realizes this but we’ve been blessed because of advantages like the Pentagon.  That’s why you need a governor with a lot of entrepreneurial experience, who’s willing to work in a bipartisan way.  I get asked all the time, “Well, Terry, how are you going to do it when you’ve only got 32 Democrats in the House of Delegates?” At the end of the day, I talk about jobs and economic development — who’s not going to work with me on that?  

    But I will be a brick wall on these social issues.  I will veto any of those pieces of legislation.  It’s not the right thing to do, morally and socially, and it cripples our ability to grow our economy.

    “Are you going to go to the only state where the attorney general is threatening your work product?”

    lowkell: We were excited to see you campaigning with Prof. Michael Mann, the target of Attorney General Cuccinelli’s infamous witch hunt against climate scientists.  What will you do, as governor, to promote science, research and innovation, and science-based policy?  And what are your specific plans to promote a clean energy economy and confront climate disruption?

    Terry: I talk about this a lot on the trail — obviously, clean air, clean water, critical for us, but also for our tourism industry, our fisheries, all of it.  This weekend, I went to see one of the leaders on wind energy — we ought to have some turbines out in the water.  One of the things I’d be most excited about as governor would be going out there on a boat to put the first pole in the water.  

    We’re the only state in the mid-Atlantic region without a mandatory renewable energy standard.  We need to work it in a way that makes sense, but if you’re an investor in renewable energy, you’re not going to come to the only state that isn’t required to buy the product.  It goes to job creation as well.  We should be the leader on carbon capture and storage, now being worked on at Virginia Tech — these are jobs of the future.

    One thing we need to do a better job on is the commercialization of our great research at our higher ed institutions.  George Mason’s done a little — I just toured them, they’ve got two great new nano-scientists from NIH.  The work’s going on at Tech, ODU has a lot of great renewables — our universities are doing great work, but the state has to help incentivize them to take that research out to the private sector.  We need private-public partnerships to do that.  

    On the Michael Mann case, let’s be clear — besides the $600,000 it cost the University of Virginia, the idea that the attorney general attacked our flagship university, even though 800 professors and scientists sent him a letter asking him to stop, until he was slapped down by the Supreme Court.  So here’s the end result of this — these scientists and technologists, they will go wherever they want in the world, they’re heavily recruited.  Are you going to go to the only state where the attorney general is threatening your work product?  No, I don’t think so, not going to happen.  So there are consequences to these types of actions.  

    As governor, I would personally engage myself in helping recruit the best and the brightest to Virginia.  I would visit, I would make calls, I would do what I need to do to recruit.  That’s what you need to do to grow.

    Check this space for Part II tomorrow.  


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