RICHMOND — Terry McAuliffe eased into the Virginia governor’s race Wednesday by branding himself as a pro-business pragmatist and his Republican foe as an apostle of “socially divisive issues,” after a potential rival for the Democratic nomination decided not to run.
Former Rep. Tom Perriello, a one-term Democratic congressman from Charlottesville and a favorite of his party’s liberals, announced after days of huddling with advisers that his heart wasn’t fully into a statewide election.
He announced his decision to stay out of the race first on the Democrat-leaning blog Blue Virginia.
“Asking someone to vote for you is a sacred act, so I wanted to go in ready for the task at hand,” Mr. Perriello said in an Associated Press interview.
Mr. McAuliffe lost a three-way nomination battle for governor in 2009 to Democratic state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, whom Republican Bob McDonnell later trounced. Mr. McAuliffe announced his encore gubernatorial run last month three days after the presidential election.
With the Democratic field now cleared, the November race appears set. Republican Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II’s chief rival, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, dropped out of the race last week, acknowledging he had no hope of winning a statewide GOP nominating convention dominated by pro-Cuccinelli conservatives.
That leaves political novice Tareq Salahi, best known for crashing a 2009 White House dinner with his wife at the time, Michaele, as Mr. Cuccinelli’s only opponent.
Compared to the big-money, stage-lighted, circus-atmosphere campaign kickoff four years ago, Mr. McAuliffe’s tour of fledgling high-tech and professional businesses sharing space in a trendy, repurposed 1920s red-brick warehouse was subdued.
“I did run before. It was a great experience. You know, you don’t win at every business; you don’t win at every election,” he said. “People will definitely know me. I’m pretty consistent.”
Wednesday was mostly a photo opportunity for Mr. McAuliffe to burnish an image he has cultivated since his 2009 primary whipping as a developer of clean-energy startups and claim for his own the job-creation issue that propelled Mr. McDonnell to the governorship.
But he made certain to jab Mr. Cuccinelli, who has used his office to challenge federal clean air and health care reforms in court and prevent stringent new building standards for abortion clinics from being watered down.
“I do think people want a governor who has mainstream ideas,” he said. “To me, jobs aren’t a [partisan] issue. So I’m focused on mainstream ideas, growing and helping the middle class. It’s either that or a governor who wants to promote socially divisive issues.”