Friday, September 4, 2009

RICHMOND | Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds said Thursday that some of his own beliefs have changed in the past 20 years, as he attacked his Republican foe in the governor’s race for a conservative thesis written in 1989.

At a news conference that featured women denouncing the paper Robert F. McDonnell wrote, Mr. Deeds said changing times had changed his views, though he didn’t identify which ones.

After The Washington Post reported details of the thesis Sunday, Mr. McDonnell renounced some arguments he made in the paper, saying life experiences and those of his two grown daughters in the work force had changed him.

Mr. McDonnell said he no longer believes that working women and feminists are detrimental to families or that the state has a right to discriminate against “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.”

Asked at the news conference whether there were beliefs he held at the close of Ronald Reagan’s presidency that have changed since, Mr. Deeds replied, “I’m sure that there are.”

“In 1989, I was 31 years old, I was a prosecutor, we’d had our third child, … I was trying cases in Bath County every day. I’m sure there were views that were different in 1989 than they are today,” he said.

When asked what they were, he said, “I don’t know. I didn’t write a thesis in 1989,” he said.

“I think we are all evolving as we live this life,” Mr. Deeds said in his broadest discussion yet about the 93-page treatise that has shaken up a race in which Mr. Deeds trailed three weeks ago.

Mr. Deeds, who often describes himself in public speeches as “a work in progress,” said the thesis matters because during 14 years in the House of Delegates, Mr. McDonnell sought to write many of its points into Virginia law.

Concerning his own record, Mr. Deeds acknowledged voting in the Senate in 2005 and 2006 to put the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions in Virginia on the ballot for a statewide ratification vote. But he said he voted against it in the November 2006 referendum.

“Everybody in my family voted against it in the ballot box,” he said.

Mr. Deeds, a consistent gun-rights supporter, said he dropped his opposition to closing the gun show loophole - in which private sellers at gun shows are not required to conduct the background checks that licensed dealers must perform - after the April 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.

“I worked hard to find solutions to address concerns brought to me by grieving parents,” Mr. Deeds said.

McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker Martin said Mr. Deeds should understand, then, how Mr. McDonnell’s positions have changed. “Obviously people change over time. We understand that,” Mr. Martin said.

But Mr. Deeds targeted the thesis relentlessly Thursday as a way to energize his campaign, particularly among female voters who comprise about 54 percent of the state’s registered electorate. The timing was critical, too, just ahead of the long Labor Day weekend of political parades and rallies, the traditional start of the full-throttle fall campaign in Virginia.

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