Friday, July 3, 2009

RICHMOND | Democrat R. Creigh Deeds got support from corporate captains and venture capitalists Thursday in his run for governor as he pledged to honor Virginia’s right-to-work legacy if elected.

But he did not commit to whether he supports or opposes union-supported “card-check” legislation now before Congress.

With businessman-turned-governor-turned-senator Mark Warner and former AOL vice chairman Ted Leonsis at his side, the campaign announced “Business Leaders for Deeds.”

The list of 44 business leaders is rich with numerous close allies of Mr. Warner’s including three who held senior posts in his administration as governor: Bob Blue of Richmond-based utility giant Dominion Power, Virginia Chamber of Commerce Vice President Sandy Bowen and Jimmy Hazel, an Oakton developer whose company markets environmentally friendly design and construction.

Mr. Deeds pledged to sustain a pro-business reputation that has earned Virginia the label as the best state for business several times in the past eight years.

At an event at the practice facility of the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals, a team Mr. Leonsis owns, and in a conference call with reporters later, Mr. Deeds said he wanted the state to become an incubator for new energy enterprises.

When asked about labor, an important Democratic constituency but a recurring Republican line of attack, Mr. Deeds said he backs Virginia’s right-to-work law banning compulsory union membership.

“We’re one of 22 states that have the right-to-work law. We’re the northernmost [right-to-work] state on the East Coast [and] there’s no question the right-to-work law has brought jobs to Virginia,” Mr. Deeds said.

Then he added, “I also support the right of people to organize.”

When asked whether he supports the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act - also known as card check - now before Congress, he said it’s a federal issue that won’t involve the next governor.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell and other Virginia Republicans have assailed the measure as a threat to Virginia’s right-to-work law, saying it will take away the right of a worker to vote in private on whether to organize a union at his or her workplace. The measure would remove an employer’s discretion to demand a secret ballot when there is a vote on collective bargaining.

Democrats this spring hammered Mr. McDonnell for exhorting legislative Republicans in April to reject $125 million in federal stimulus cash to sweeten benefits for Virginians left jobless in the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.

Mr. McDonnell clawed back by tying Democrats to union money that he says makes them beholden to big labor’s aims, including eroding the state’s right-to-work law through the card check bill.

McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker Martin carried on the theme Thursday after Mr. Deeds’ news conference.

“With his 92 percent lifetime AFL-CIO rating, and his refusal to stand up for Virginia’s workers and employers, it’s clear that Creigh Deeds is a wholly owned subsidiary of big national labor,” Mr. Martin said.

Mr. Deeds brushed such comments aside.

“Bob keeps raising it,” Mr. Deeds mused. “I’m wondering if he wants to run for Congress. Maybe if he does, he ought to announce and I might even send him a check.”

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