The political arm of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce endorsed Terry McAuliffe for Virginia governor Thursday, handing the Democrat a key boost from the business community in the state's largest jurisdiction while undercutting his Republican opponent's most effective line of attack thus far.
"In terms of the priorities of the Northern Virginia business community, Mr. McAuliffe's policy positions and proposals closely align with the Fairfax chamber's legislative agenda," said Jim Corcoran, Fairfax chamber president and CEO and NOVABizPAC trustee. He cited Mr. McAuliffe's support for a bipartisan transportation plan shepherded through the General Assembly by Gov. Bob McDonnell this year and for a project to extend Metro to Washington Dulles International Airport.
Republican Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II opposed both projects.
After recently winning the endorsement of TechPAC, the political arm of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Mr. Cuccinelli appeared to be gaining momentum in a race in which the Democrat has consistently polled slightly ahead.
The attorney general began a line of attack that suggested Mr. McAuliffe was not a "serious" candidate for governor, after reports that members of the TechPAC board judged him to be comparatively flip and shallow — a message Mr. Cuccinelli carried with him into a debate between the gubernatorial hopefuls Wednesday evening.
NOVABizPAC Chairman Scott McGeary said Thursday that the group had discussions with the candidates and called the dialogue "very significant, thorough and thoughtful."
The endorsement also counters GOP warnings about the Democrat's deep ties to labor unions.
Republicans have charged that Mr. McAuliffe would work to undermine Virginia's status as a right-to-work state in which employees cannot be forced to join a union as a precondition for being hired.
Additionally, Mr. Cuccinelli has noted on the campaign trail that Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, saved the state $300 million on Dulles rail by demanding the removal of contract language that would require a project labor agreement essentially pre-negotiating the terms of wages and employment. He has said that construction projects under a union-friendly McAuliffe administration would cost the state more money.
But the business group said its members took the criticism into account and were satisfied with the Democrat's responses.
"Absolutely everything was considered, but Mr. McAuliffe allayed the concerns," Mr. Corcoran said.
Mr. Corcoran said Mr. McAuliffe "vocalized his opposition to mandatory project labor agreements and he has vowed to veto any attempt to chip away at Virginia's long-standing right-to- work laws."
The chamber's PAC backed Mr. McDonnell in 2009 but supported Mr. Cuccinelli's opponent, Democrat Steve Shannon, in the contest for attorney general. It also endorsed former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, a Republican, in the 2005 gubernatorial race won by Democrat Tim Kaine.
Mr. McAuliffe said he was "honored" to get the nod, while Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix cited the TechPAC endorsement as well as one from the National Federation of Independent Business.
"Ken Cuccinelli has secured a significant number of endorsements from key business groups across the Commonwealth because he's the only candidate with a credible, substantive plan that will create 58,000 jobs and ensure our young people can make immediate contributions in the workforce," Ms. Nix said. "On Election Day, voters are going to stand with the serious candidate who has fought for them, and has the vision and experience to move the Commonwealth forward."
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