- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2009

RICHMOND | The fourth candidate in this year’s governor’s race launched his march to the November election Saturday with a focus on jobs.

Bob McDonnell, 54, who is uncontested for the Republican nomination, kicked off his campaign with a rally and a door-knocking tour of his boyhood neighborhood in Northern Virginia.

Democrats R. Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran have been battling for months, each promising more jobs as the state’s unemployment rate climbed to 6.6 percent.

The winner of the Democrats’ June 9 primary will face Mr. McDonnell in a closely watched fall election that will serve as one of the first referendums on a Democratic White House and Congress.

Looking to put the governor’s office back in Republican hands for the first time in eight years, Mr. McDonnell called for setting “big, hairy, audacious goals.”

In a kickoff address targeted more toward business owners than the wage-earners to whom Democrats primarily appeal, Mr. McDonnell blasted organized labor.

Condemning the “card-check” legislation that appears stalled in the U.S. Senate, he portrayed the measure that would make it easier for workers to form unions as a grave threat to “our sacred right-to-work law.”

At his second stop of the day at a high school in Richmond’s affluent Henrico County suburbs, Mr. McDonnell’s most rousing ovation from a crowd of several hundred was over his support for abortion restrictions, gun rights and his attack on unions, a mainstay of money and campaign support for Democrats.

“Now, all three of my opponents look at it differently,” Mr. McDonnell said of the Democratic field. He said they will not oppose the card-check bill.

Mr. Moran, Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Deeds are on record as supporting the state’s right-to-work law. And none has either endorsed nor opposed the card-check legislation, dismissing it as a federal issue.

The Democratic Party state chairman, C. Richard Cranwell, shadowed Mr. McDonnell at his first-day stops in Annandale, Richmond and Virginia Beach, saying the gubernatorial candidate was trying to distance himself from the extreme conservative positions he took as a member of the House of Delegates.

He accused Mr. McDonnell of opposing President Obama’s stimulus package and this year’s compromise between Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, and House Speaker William J. Howell, a Republican, that imposes restrictions on smoking in Virginia restaurants.

“A leopard can not change their spots, even if they are running for governor,” Mr. Cranwell said.

Mr. McDonnell did oppose the $787 billion stimulus package as poorly conceived and passed in haste by Congress, but said Virginia taxpayers should receive their nearly $5 billion share of the federal money “that they are paying for.”

He opposed the smoking ban as a government intrusion into private business.

The former state attorney general’s strong opening signal to business and entrepreneurs was not coincidental. It represents the party’s effort to win back some of the corporate and business support Democrats co-opted while the Republicans waged an internal battle between pro-business pragmatists and conservative advocates of unyielding anti-abortion, anti-tax and pro-gun policies.

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