The Terry McAuliffe campaign’s panicked and heavy handed response to the decision by the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s independent political action committee, TechPAC, to endorse Republican rival Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor’s race may have done more harm to his electoral prospects than the endorsement itself.
On Monday morning, Dendy Young, chairman of TechPAC, released a statement endorsing Cuccinelli. “The TechPAC Board of Trustees concluded that Ken Cuccinelli’s experience in Virginia government, command of the issues, and knowledge of key technology priorities will serve him well as Governor in working to ensure the Commonwealth remains a competitive and innovative global technology center,” the statement read.
McAuliffe had been counting on an endorsement from the group to prop up his flagging image as an “entrepreneurial job creator,” but, according to attendees, his presentation on Thursday to the entrepreneurs who made up the panel was so flippant and blatantly political it offended their more methodical and fact based approach to business evaluation.
On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that “Cuccinelli impressed the board’s majority as a serious, detail-oriented candidate while McAuliffe seemed to wing it, according to three board members present for the interviews.”
One board member told the Post, “Terry was his normal, flamboyant self. He didn’t want to get pinned down to any details. He didn’t give any details. He was all about jobs, jobs, jobs — ‘I’m just going to take care of the situation when the time comes. I’m just going to do it.’ It was all [expletive].”
Unlike McAuliffe, Cuccinelli “was precise. He was thoughtful. He thought through all the issues. He had a clear position on all those issues, and he didn’t agree with the council on all the issues,” according to the board member.
The Post reported that McAuliffe “badly misread his methodical audience,” responding flippantly to a serious question about how he would deliver on his promises if elected governor. According to the Post, when asked how he would accomplish his goals as governor, “McAuliffe told the PAC board that as an Irish Catholic he’d be adept at taking people out for drinks and doing whatever it takes to get things done.”
The Post provided a blow-by-blow description of McAuliffe’s hard ball political efforts to reverse the PAC’s endorsement of Cuccinelli. State legislators warned the PAC that “‘doors will be closed’ to the group if it sticks by its choice.”
Those who lobbied TechPAC to reverse its endorsement of Cuccinelli over the weekend included a United States Senator, several state legislators, and Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, according to the Post.
The heavy political pressure did not sway TechPAC, but it did apparently cause the parent organization, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, to issue a statement on Monday that it was not making an endorsement in the Virginia governor’s race:
The Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) announced today that the organization is not endorsing a candidate in Virginia’s gubernatorial race.
TechPAC, an independent, non-partisan committee of NVTC, voted on September 12 to endorse Ken Cuccinelli for Governor of Virginia by a majority of its voting trustees present. NVTC acknowledges and respects TechPAC’s endorsement process, which was deliberative, transparent and consistent with TechPAC’s bylaws.
The TechPAC endorsement, however, may not in itself reflect the views of NVTC’s membership. Given the deeply divided opinions of the NVTC membership concerning this race, NVTC is making no endorsement in the gubernatorial election.
Emails and comments from Democratic state legislators to TechPAC board members hinted at draconian retaliation.
“I urge you to stop any endorsement of Cuccinelli. . .The ramifications of his being endorsed will be huge within the Senate Democratic caucus. . . . The response [from legislators] will be frigid and doors will be closed [when the council seeks help with its legislative agenda]. Achieving the goals of NVTC will be difficult to impossible,” wrote state Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax).
“For them to endorse a guy with his views, a supposedly enlightened group of people — -science-oriented — would have been the same as in the 1960s, the NAACP supporting George Wallace,” Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said.
The full impact of McAuliffe campaign’s overreaction to the TechPAC endorsement of Cuccinelli may not be known until election day, which is now less than two months away.