And off we go…
Virginia’s political season officially kicked into high gear Monday, as candidates for statewide office ran the streets of tiny Buena Vista for the community’s annual Labor Day parade.
Candidates plastered the community with tens of thousands of campaign signs and volunteers slapped stickers on anyone who’d let them.
Buena Vista is about as traditional as Virginia political events go. For gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds (D) and Bob McDonnell (R), the 6,000 people who live in the area are critical targets.
McDonnell hoped to appeal to conservative voters who are upset with federal issues — the cap-and-trade energy bill, health care reform and proposed union regulations. Deeds sought the approval of jobless Virginians, arguing that Democrats will keep the Commonwealth on the path toward economic recovery.
“I’ve got a plan not only to restore confidence in our economy but also to create thousands of new jobs,” Deeds said in a speech following the parade.
His supporters cheered “Deeds, Not Words” throughout the address, in which the state senator talked about his plans for the economy, transportation and education.
Deeds said the election is about which candidate will move Virginia forward.
“Simple as that,” he said.
McDonnell used his time at the podium to sound off against state Democrats, including Gov. Tim Kaine, who’s taken heat for his role as his party’s chairman.
“Governor, thanks for stopping back in Virginia for just a little bit,” McDonnell said.
Perhaps the largest ovation from the audience came when McDonnell talked about his energy plans.
“I’m then only candidate that will make sure we drill offshore for coal and natural gas,” he said, to chants of “Go Bob Go” from friends and “Backwards Bob” from foes.
McDonnell also hinted at the controversy surrounding his 1989 Master’s thesis, in which he said working women were detrimental to the traditional family.
“[Deeds is] spending his time talking about former presidents and former governors and I’m looking ahead,” McDonnell said.
The thesis also came up when the two candidates talked with reporters.
“I’m not the one that brought the thesis up,” Deeds said. “All I’ve said is that there’s a difference between my opponent and me and you’ll just have to look at the records.”
Deeds said his opponent’s legislative record proves that McDonnell “had a rigid social agenda.”
The GOP candidate said his thesis boils down to one central claim: “that family is the bedrock of society” — a view McDonnell said is common among politicians, from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama.
“I want to make sure that government doesn’t try to do things that undermine the family. That hurts the ability of women to work or undermine the ability of fathers to stay with the family,” McDonnell said.
He said that the women of Virginia are more interested in economic recovery and federal issues than in a 20-year-old term paper.
“They don’t want some big government programs from Washington to solve their problems.”