- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

Former President Bill Clinton told Virginians on Wednesday that difficult economic times call for a governor who can help manage the state’s budget, preserve jobs and maintain important services.

Mr. Clinton spoke Wednesday at two campaign stops in Northern Virginia for longtime political friend Terry McAuliffe, who is seeking to win the state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary on June 9. Mr. McAuliffe is running against state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds and former state Delegate Brian J. Moran.

Mr. Clinton told about 300 people at a rally in Herndon that Mr. McAuliffe’s experience as chief fundraiser for both his winning White House campaigns has him well-prepared to lead Virginia through a tough fiscal climate.

“Everybody knows this guy raised a lot of money for me,” Mr. Clinton said. “But what I want you to know is, every nickel he raised, he also talked to me about how to be careful spending it. He will manage this government well and practice fiscal responsibility so he can be socially progressive.”

Mr. Clinton praised the economic-stimulus package recently passed by Congress that will funnel millions of dollars to states. But he cautioned the benefits will vary from state to state, depending on the governor.

“You’ve got to have a leader,” Mr. Clinton said. “Somebody that can bring jobs to the state, that can diversify this economy, that can maximize the potential inherent in the stimulus funds that you will get.”

Mr. McAuliffe, meanwhile, criticized Republican candidate Bob McDonnell for joining with the House of Delegates to reject $125 million in federal stimulus money. Republicans and the state’s business lobby opposed the measure as an unwarranted federal intrusion into state issues and noted it would eventually increase the unemployment insurance taxes that employers pay on each of their workers.

Mr. McAuliffe also used Wednesday’s rallies at a Herndon park and later at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College to touch on such key campaign issues as the need for more jobs, “green” energy and better education.

Some of the loudest applause came for his call for better teacher pay. He said Virginia can’t afford to remain 31st nationally in what it pays teachers if the state hopes to retain gifted educators.

“If you go to the District of Columbia or Maryland or North Carolina today, they pay on average $14,000 more than we pay our teachers here in Virginia,” he said.

The first rally Wednesday involving Mr. Clinton and Mr. McAuliffe began about an hour late, which Mr. Clinton blamed on Northern Virginia’s notorious traffic.

He joked that if Mr. McAuliffe is elected, that problem will disappear.

“He’ll end the traffic jams,” Mr. Clinton said to loud applause, “if it can be done.”

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