Former Gov. Doug Wilder, the nation’s first elected black governor, will not endorse fellow Democrat Creigh Deeds for Virginia’s highest office.
Wilder also declined Thursday to back Republican nominee Bob McDonnell.
The former governor said he strongly disagrees with Deeds’ plans to raise taxes to pay for transportation.
“The overriding issue still is money and I don’t see that in the candidate that’s running for the Democrats,” Wilder said during an interview in his Richmond office. “Consequently, I can’t endorse him.”
He said now is not the time to increase taxes.
“I can’t believe that the Democrats who are seeking office are saying oh the first thing they’re going to do is try to raise taxes on the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Wilder also objects to Deeds’ position on Virginia’s firearms laws, which limits people from buying more than one gun per month.
“I have not seen people running around saying ‘Oh for goodness sake we need more guns, more handguns, we gotta have them,'” Wilder said. “They’re not saying that. Yet [Deeds] signed a pledge to allow more guns.”
In rejecting Deeds’ endorsement bid, the former governor also turned down a personal request from President Barack Obama.
“I have no doubt that he’s not going to be pleased,” Wilder said of the president. “The issue is not whether that’s what I’m trying to do here.”
Wilder did say that he hopes to continue a positive relationship with Mr. Obama.
“I would not believe that he would believe that my standing on principle is some reason for that relationship to go asunder,” he said.
ELECTION DAY FALL OUT
Wilder’s decision could have a major impact on Deeds’ campaign. In 1997, Wilder refused to support Democrat Don Beyer; that decision helped send Republican Jim Gilmore to the governor’s office.
His statement is also a victory of sorts for McDonnell, who has continually slammed Deeds for hinting at a tax hike.
But Wilder said his decision not to support Deeds should not be interpreted as tacit support for McDonnell.
“I don’t see how you can if you’re honest, if you look to what I’ve said.”
In response to a question about whether he supports McDonnell, Wilder simply said, “I think the statement speaks for itself.”
And that, he said, will be his final word on the matter.
“I’m finished with this endorsement bit. I’ve said all I’ve had to say.”
Below are extended clips from my interview with Wilder.