Due to the weather, some customers may experience late delivery of The Roanoke Times. We apologize for the delay.
None of the three candidates deserves an endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial contest.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Endorsements are neither expected nor intended to dictate the choices readers will make on Election Day. Rather, they are The Roanoke Times Editorial Board’s best effort to assess the merits and weaknesses of the candidates. The task is a serious one, though, and we generally prefer to recommend the lesser of two evils, if necessary, than to issue a ballot-wide repudiation. Particularly when the choice at hand will determine the commonwealth’s chief executive for the next four years.
But an endorsement carries with it the credibility of this institution. When a candidate who receives our support visits ridicule or even shame on the commonwealth, we share in that disgrace. We hope the next four years will be marked by sound policy, prosperity and virtuous leadership. But the sordid filth that has set the tone of the campaign and underscored the defects of the candidates, viewed in the context of a state Capitol already shaken by scandal, has deepened our qualms over backing any of the three men running for governor.
Republican Ken Cuccinelli’s all-take-and-no-give approach to governing culminated in his stubborn antipathy toward the landmark transportation legislation passed this year with bipartisan support. As governor, his obstructionism would condemn the state to four numb years of status quo under the most appealing scenario, decay and disarray under the more likely scenario.
As attorney general, his adherence to social dogma and his national aspirations led him to meddle in the affairs of the University of Virginia, sparking a legal fight that proved costly to unamused state taxpayers.
As a gubernatorial candidate, he has declined to pair his call for massive tax cuts with a truthful accounting of what tax loopholes he would close to balance the budget.
In a year roiled by ethics investigations, Cuccinelli’s own scruples have been called into question by his decision to accept a vacation and a catered Thanksgiving dinner at the lake home of a businessman with a tax dispute pending before the state.
But Cuccinelli’s ambitions have been maimed less by his freebie foibles than by friendly fire from state GOP convention delegates, who handed him a running mate in E.W. Jackson more belligerent than even he could stomach, and national allies eager to cannonball into economic oblivion for a few minutes of face time on cable TV news shows. Students of Shakespeare will appreciate the plot twist.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe espouses some good government goals, including expansion of Medicaid. But his glib and ambiguous efforts at policy analysis, punctuated by name-dropping, are a nagging and annoying reminder of his lack of experience in elected office at any level. He promises to select a bipartisan Cabinet of experts if elected. We particularly recommend current Health Secretary Bill Hazel to his attention.
While he’s nobody’s wonk, McAuliffe cuts a more flamboyant figure as a salesman, a role he says would dominate his gubernatorial agenda. Perhaps, but his “no muss, no fuss, no spills” pitches translate better in the parking lot of Happy’s than they would in the House and Senate chambers, where he’s likely to be met with skepticism.
McAuliffe has gained most of his wealth by cross-pollinating his duties as a partisan fundraiser with business ventures. Most recently, his involvement with GreenTech Automotive has attracted a federal investigation but nothing resembling financial success. There has been no finding of wrongdoing thus far, but it remains unclear whether McAuliffe grasps how dramatically the ethics rules would change if he wins elected office, and even if he does understand, whether he can control himself.
Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis merits gratitude if only for his failure to write a book about himself and hawk it to Virginia voters.
As is true of most libertarians, he is charmingly pure and naïve in his views on government. Government is not the product of purity, however, but of messy compromises. Among this year’s candidates, Sarvis seems least capable of surviving, much less leading, the brink-of-anarchy world he desires. If there is a task he is less qualified to handle than running a state government, it is the dismantling of that government, an inevitable consequence of his proposal to eliminate income taxes.
Sarvis says he would soften the budget blow by expanding sales taxes to cover services, even though he points to the regressive nature of sales taxes as the primary reason he opposes this year’s transportation funding legislation. It’s hard to follow his reasoning, although he should have been given a chance to explain it during this year’s debates.
We recognize that our blaze of bullets offers little help to voters this year. Many will trudge glumly to their precinct and make choices based on partisan loyalty or an individual policy concern, and we give them our thanks for keeping democracy on life support. Those who cannot in good conscience vote for the official candidates should consider writing in Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.
The Republican mistakenly assumed his “next in line” status would send the GOP nomination his way. Cuccinelli out-smarted and out-worked him. While Bolling must accept responsibility for his missteps, he nevertheless presents a viable choice for voters yearning for a public servant with a businesslike approach to his duties.
Bolling has been complicit in past GOP purges of the party’s moderate wing, only to fall victim himself to the latest purity test. But he also has been a long-time advocate of redistricting reform, prescient in his realization that gerrymandering has sown the seeds of extremism within the legislature and local party committees. This year’s ballot is the inevitable consequence.
Yes, Bolling should have worked harder for a better party and a better state. But we all share in that failure. We will either learn from our mistakes, or we will settle for living with our regrets. That’s the real choice for 2013.
Weather JournalMany very icy despite 'bust' claims