If Hillary Clinton had won, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia might now be in President Clinton’s Cabinet. But there is no President Clinton, and there is no Secretary McAuliffe, and the nation’s gain is Virginia’s loss. His days in Richmond are numbered, but the Old Dominion must endure 10 more months of bluster from Bill and Hillary’s longtime bag man.
But relief is in sight. Mr. McAuliffe is ineligible to run for re-election this year because the state constitution bars governors serving more than one term consecutively. His legacy (governors leave them, too) is likely to be the dubious distinction of breaking the Virginia record for most gubernatorial vetoes. The veto is a wise prerogative of any governor, but Mr. McAuliffe has used his pen as a blunderbuss, shooting at worthy targets that most Virginians appear to like. “I’ve vetoed 111,” he boasted Thursday. “If it discriminates, if it hurts our environment, if it allows more guns on the street, I’m going to veto it.”
The governor likes the sound of his bluster mischaracterizing legislation he hasn’t liked.
“Wanting to sell machine guns out of stores, or legislation like [North Carolina’s “bathroom bill”], or saying you need a photo ID to get an absentee ballot, what a joke. Looney-tune legislation should have no place here.” But why would he veto a tax credit for ailing coal-mine operators, who provide jobs for thousands of Virginians, or legislation that would have enabled home-schooled children to compete in games with students from public schools? Whose looney tune is he singing?
“He is less concerned about the welfare of Virginia and its citizens than he is about his own political career,” Corey Stewart, the Prince William County supervisor who is one of three Republican gubernatorial candidates, tells The Washington Post.
Mr. McAuliffe has also blocked legislative cuts in support of Planned Parenthood and its thriving business in the body parts of babies aborted in Planned Parenthood clinics, or common-sense attempts to curb voter fraud, and he refuses to take “no” for an answer about his fiscally risky proposal to expand Medicaid in Virginia under Obamacare. His tenure in Richmond is an accurate reflection of the increasingly bitter partisan tension in national politics.
Mr. McAuliffe is a bit of an accident of Virginia’s fractured politics. Robert Sarvis, a Republican-turned-Libertarian, was a third-party candidate for governor in 2013 who won 145,762 votes when Mr. McAuliffe defeated Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate, by 55,220 votes. This year the third-party spoiler may be a Democrat. Tom Perriello, a former Democratic congressman, has threatened what Democrats thought would be a coronation of Ralph Northam, the lieutenant governor, and Mr. Perriello, a fierce liberal, has forced Mr. Northam to veer sharply to the left.
The Libertarians do not expect to field a candidate this year. This sharply improves Republican prospects for replacing bluster and looney tunes with bonhomie in Richmond.