- Associated Press - Friday, January 17, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe pushed back Friday against criticism from Republican lawmakers over the appointment of former GOP operative Boyd Marcus to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board.

McAuliffe said that Marcus is “well qualified” to be a member of the board that regulates the state liquor monopoly. He said the appointment is not part of any political payoff.

“This is little petty political whatever,” said McAuliffe in a sit-down interview with The Associated Press.

Marcus angered state Republicans during last year’s gubernatorial campaign by endorsing and advising McAuliffe over his GOP rival, Ken Cuccinelli. Marcus had previously worked for several Republicans, including former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore and U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Marcus’ appointment earlier this week to the well-paying ABC job, widely viewed as one of the most plum political positions available for governors to appoint, has reopened some old wounds.

Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, issued a statement after the appointment was announced comparing Marcus to Judas Iscariot.

The General Assembly will have to vote on whether to confirm the pick, and Republicans in the GOP-controlled House have indicated that Marcus’ appointment could be in jeopardy.

“There’s no question that to the victor go the spoils and governors in the past have appointed people with whom they were familiar through the political process,” said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, who is chairman of the House committee that oversees the ABC. “But the nature of this particular favor is, I think, much different in that the governor somehow got a gentleman who had a long history of supporting and working for Republican candidates to completely switch sides. And it does beg the question whether any promise was made to secure that switch.”

On Thursday, former Cuccinelli campaign adviser Chris LaCivita shared with reporters an email he said was from Marcus asking for between $75,000 and $100,000 to work on the Cuccinelli campaign. The email came a few weeks before Marcus announced his support for McAuliffe.

Marcus did not respond to requests for comment.

McAuliffe said the selection of a man viewed by some Republicans as a party traitor wasn’t intended as a slight, but as fulfillment of his promise to govern in a bipartisan fashion.

“I mean, am I not supposed to appoint Republicans who, you know, honestly had the courage to step out and endorse me?” McAuliffe said.

The McAuliffe administration’s decision not to hold over any ABC commissions appointed by former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell left a brief window when the board was without any members. According to The Daily Progress, a Virginia Beach General District Court judge dismissed a case earlier this week because of the vacancies.

It’s not clear what salary Marcus will make. During the McDonnell administration, the range was between $124,000 and $136,000, according to an agency spokeswoman.

Sandra Canada, a Republican fundraiser who was an ABC commissioner under McDonnell as well as under Gilmore eight years earlier, said that while the job may be plum, it has fewer perks than it used to. She said her first time on the board she was given a gun and a badge. Canada added that the position comes with plenty of demands.

“It is a full-time job and you have things to do every day,” she said.

McAuliffe, who is wrapping up his first week on the job, added that he’s paid almost no attention to the controversy that’s stirred up since the appointment, saying he’s focused on bigger issues instead.

“I think I’ve probably spent a minute of my day on it, which is probably a minute too long,” said McAuliffe.

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