Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe might not be running a campaign, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his packed schedule or by listening to his polished, election-ready commentary on Virginia politics. As of Friday, the former governor of Virginia had made 57 stops across the Commonwealth over the last six weeks.
“It’s killing me, but I love it,” he said in an interview. It’s a good thing he does love it, because McAuliffe has a whopping 117 events on the books before the Nov. 5 General Assembly elections and more coming, according to his staff.
Some of McAuliffe’s aggressive summer schedule is devoted to promoting his new book, “Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand against White Nationalism.” McAuliffe called the book an insider’s account of the Unite the Right rally, a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that erupted in violence and left two counter-protestors dead.
“I think [readers] will be fascinated about the whole interaction with President Trump,” McAuliffe said about his book. “I called him, begged him to come out and do the press conference and attack the neo-Nazis.”
After the attack, which the FBI director called an act of domestic terrorism, Trump instead infamously defended the white nationalist protesters, saying there were “some very fine people on both sides.”
“The President of the United States failed that day,” McAuliffe said. “The folks on the other side were neo-Nazis … they were carrying swastikas and they were screaming the most vile things I’ve ever heard against members of the African American community and members of the Jewish faith.”
Or as McAuliffe emphatically put it at a book release event at Richmond’s River City Roll bowling alley last week, “there were not good people on both sides.” He does not mince words on the topic.
“That’s the kind of leadership we need,” said Brian Moran, who helped McAuliffe write the book, at the event on Thursday. Moran is the secretary of public safety and homeland security, a position he’s held since McAuliffe appointed him to the role in 2014.
Other McAuliffe supporters at the event couldn’t agree more that Virginia needs a leader like McAuliffe. Or, ideally, McAuliffe himself.
Twenty-seven of 28 supporters interviewed by The Dogwood at the book release said they missed the McAuliffe days and that they would like him to run for a second term. Just one person, who chose to remain anonymous, declined to comment, though the person’s friends said they, too, would support a hypothetical McAuliffe for governor 2.0 campaign.
Daniel Oakley, 62, of Richmond, called McAuliffe the “most fun governor in 30 years.”
“He made you feel good about Virginia,” Oakley said.
What does McAuliffe say to his supporters eagerly awaiting an announcement on 2021?
“I say first of all: we’re all about ’19. I don’t want anyone to take their eye off the prize.”
All 140 seats of the state legislature are on the ballot this year, and Democrats have an opportunity to gain control of the House, Senate, and governorship for the first time in nearly three decades.
“With a Democratic majority, we can raise the minimum wage. We can have background checks, finally,” McAuliffe said, “We can lower prescription drug costs.”
“So for me, it’s all about ’19, and doing what we’re able to do — it’s so important going forward.”
But McAuliffe views his time in the governor’s mansion as a “renaissance.”
“When we took office, I inherited a record deficit of $2.4 billion. We left with the biggest surplus in the history of the state,” he said. “Virginia when I took over — anti-woman, anti-gay,” McAuliffe continued, referencing restrictions to legal abortion-services that he inherited from a Republican administration, but fought as Governor.
He rattled off his other achievements with rhythmic precision. “Record number of jobs. Record number of investment. Reformed criminal justice.”
He touted the state’s “biggest investment in transportation,” during his tenure and the “biggest investment in K-12 education.” And he recalled his best day as governor, when he restored voting rights to over 200,000 convicted felons.
“I think people look at those as really great dynamic years for Virginia and they want to take it to the next level,” he said.
If there is an announcement about 2021 coming — and McAuliffe maintains he hasn’t decided yet — re-election hopefuls will have to wait.
“I don’t take anything off the table, but I’m really focused on ’19,” McAuliffe said.