Negative advertising and a dearth of information about the issues is causing some northern Virginians to want to just sit out the upcoming gubernatorial election between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
Many of the participants at Monday’s Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia political discussion said they were tired of the mudslinging and really just wanted to know what the candidates planned to do about issues important to them, including crowded roads, the extension of Metro and the economy.
Toni Travis, associate professor of public and international affairs at George Mason University, spoke to the 13 people who attended the first of a three-part series on the elections at the JCC.
The election series continues for the next two Mondays with speakers Debra Gold Linick, the Jewish Community Relations Council director for D.C. and Northern Virginia, and Ron Kampeas, the Washington bureau chief for JTA. The series is held at the JCCNV on Little River Turnpike in Fairfax from 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Outside Virginia, political heavyweights from both parties are calling the upcoming election a bellwether for the 2016 presidential elections, Travis said. Political eyes are focused on Virginia since only that state and New Jersey have gubernatorial elections this November and many believe that incumbent Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, is a shoo-in for re-election.
If McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, wins, that bodes well for the Democrats’ chances and especially for Hillary Clinton, the assistant professor said. If Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is victorious, it could be a sign that support for President Obama and Obamacare are in trouble.
Travis wouldn’t predict who would become the next governor, instead pointing to several variables that could tilt the scales in either candidates’ favor. There are 10,000 more people living in northern Virginia since the previous gubernatorial election, she said, referring to them as “that big unknown.” There also is a Libertarian Party candidate in the race, currently polling around 7 percent, who could affect the outcome, she said, referring to candidate Robert Sarvis.
Because Virginia’s economy is heavily dependent on the federal government, the looming threat of a government shutdown could affect voters strongly, she said.
Another major factor making predictions so difficult, she said, is just how low voter turnout will be. People are upset with the mudslinging between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli and the political gift scandal surrounding current Gov. Bob McDonnell, and that is turning them off.
In 2009, voter turnout was 40.4 percent, Travis said, adding it could be even lower this election. “I think we are going to have a turnout of less than 40 percent,” with many of those voting opting for the lesser of two unlikeable politicians, she said.
Finally, Travis noted, with the election less than two months away, “most people can’t think of both [candidates’] names.”
Barbara Bear of Alexandria, who attended Monday’s session, said she is disappointed that neither candidate is bothering to address the issues. What she would like to see is a list of the issues and where each man stands, she said.
“I want somebody to start talking. I want them to step up,” she said.
Myra Roney, an attendee who lives in the city of Alexandria, is concerned that too many people have tuned out. “I wish more people would think about the election,” she said. She urged everyone not to “give up your vote if you hate one candidate.” Remember, she cautioned, the jobs of lieutenant governor and attorney general also are up for election.
Following the session, one woman declared, “At this point in time, there are things about Cuccinelli that I do not like. However, McAuliffe really scares me. He really doesn’t know anything about the way this state is run,” the woman said, who would only identify herself as Marsha from Annandale.
Her comment seemed to echo many at the event who complained that McAuliffe doesn’t seem to be aware how Virginia is run, and Cuccinelli is very conservative on many of the social issues, particularly in regards to women’s rights.