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Virginia Vote Could Send National Message on Political Gridlock

  • Brian Padden

The political fallout from the recent U.S. government shutdown over a dispute about the Obama administration's health care policy can already be seen in the upcoming election for governor in the U.S. state of Virginia. In this swing state where neither party can claim an overwhelming majority of support, voters are voicing support for compromise over ideology.

In the Republican leaning town of Culpeper, Virginia, diners at the Frost Cafe like Mike Luhko are still angry over the recent federal government shutdown. And they want to punish politicians who will not work together for the greater good.

“I’m just like a lot of people. I hear this from a lot of people. I’m a sales rep [representative] and I see a lot of people every day and most people are fed up with our president and with this congress and with this state," said Luhko.

This is particularly bad news for the Republican candidate, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who is trailing in the polls. Even though he did not support the strategy by Republicans in Congress to shut down the federal government, he has aligned himself with outspoken conservatives like Senator Rand Paul. He has tried to portray his opponent as a liberal who proposes new programs without a way to pay for them.

“I said, hey, I like education, I like jobs, but I like puppies too. But I don’t bring a puppy home if I don’t have a plan how to I’m going to take care of that puppy," said Cuccinelli.

Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, says Cuccinelli and his conservative wing have lost the support of many moderates who are tired of the politics of confrontation.

“It hurt them in the business community, but even more generally they were seen as being irresponsible, as willing to endanger the country’s present and future because of rigid ideology. That doesn’t sell in America. We’re a very pragmatic country," said Sabato.

The Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, a fundraiser for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s and a rich businessman, does not inspire a lot of enthusiasm among voters. But he has stressed a pragmatic approach and a willingness to work with the opposition.

"But we’re also proud that our ticket is in the mainstream of Virginia and in this mainstream ticket we are laser-focused on the issues that matter to most Virginians," said McAuliffe.

That is why Allison Haught, a Democrat and small business owner in Culpeper, says she will vote for McAuliffe.

“I think he is the best option right now. I hope that he can bring to the table everything he says. I also hope that, that table exists with dialogue. It’s just so important," said Haught.

Sabato says the results of this race in Virginia where neither party holds an overwhelming majority, could indicate how the nation will vote in subsequent elections.
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