THANKS, TERRY: Governor McAuliffe’s dynamic leadership strengthened our Commonwealth and our Party
When I think about Terry McAuliffe’s term as Governor of Virginia, there are so many things I could mention.
Like the fact that he slept a total of 18 minutes in his four years in office.
Or the fact that he managed to singlehandedly resurrect Virginia’s craft beer industry one kegerator at a time.
But instead I’d rather mention the one thing that to me, to all of us, that is the connective thread that defines this man and his legacy — good governing makes good politics.
The reason that Virginia Democrats have been so successful these past four years is Virginians have seen what it’s like when we have a Democratic leader who delivers results that improve people’s lives.
Governor McAuliffe inherited a $2.4 billion budget deficit and an economy too reliant on federal spending. With his “sleep when you’re dead” ethos, he traveled the world to sell companies far and wide on why on they should come to Virginia. As a result, he closed over 1100 economic development deals worth over $20 billion in capital investment to Virginia, $6.4 billion more than any other Governor in Virginia history.
Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.4% in January 2014 to 3.7%, bringing more than 200,000 jobs to the Commonwealth. These are good paying jobs, too, with personal income up by 12.3%.
We all know the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” (thanks, James Carville). Our 72nd Governor not only righted Virginia’s economic ship, he built a durable and diverse economy that will benefit Virginians for years to come.
Many of you remember his campaign promise to be a brick wall for women and LGBT Virginians. Well, he delivered. He vetoed a record 120 pieces of legislation (all upheld), making good on his vow to Republicans not to send him bills that hurt women (like defunding Planned Parenthood) or discriminate against LGBT Virginians.
The Governor and his rock star First Lady, Dorothy McAuliffe, knew the linchpin of the New Virginia Economy started with our future — our children. The McAuliffe Administration reformed and eliminated many onerous Standards of Learning tests, re-designed Virginia high schools, and promoted community colleges so that students would be better prepared to enter the work force and be eligible for high paying jobs.
Dorothy, seeing that children “could not be hungry to learn if they are just plain hungry,” fought to provide kids nutritious school meals. And she succeeded, with 12 million more school meals per year now being provided to Virginia children.
Terry and Dorothy also worked to take care of military families and veterans. The Governor’s commitment to our heroes led to over 30,000 veterans finding good paying jobs through the Virginia Values Veterans program and veteran homelessness being functionally ended in the Commonwealth. And, Dorothy, through her tireless advocacy, removed barriers and eased transitions for military families. This is something that is very personal for them as their oldest son Jack is a member of the United States Marine Corps currently stationed overseas.
Second chances. Governor McAuliffe not only fundamentally believes that everyone has a right to a second chance, he took more efforts to restore them than any governor in our nation’s history. He terminated a racist Virginia policy of over 100 years by restoring the voting rights of 173,000 Virginians who had paid their dues to society and deserved to be full citizens of the Commonwealth. This was despite being sued by the Republican leadership and a threat of being held in contempt of court — and spending a night or two in jail. However, Terry was determined and prevailed. Today, because of these efforts, we are a better and more hopeful Commonwealth.
August 12, Charlottesville. It was a tough day for all of us; to watch that kind of hatred, bigotry, and violence unfold before our eyes in a community that had always been known for tolerance and respect.
3 lives lost, others injured. Heather Heyer, a young Virginian, was murdered in the prime of her life. The Governor and Dorothy also lost two of their dear friends as Virginia State Police Trooper Pilots Jay Cullen and Berke Bates gave their lives surveilling from above the hate and bigotry going on below.
During this time, when our commonwealth and our country needed reassurance, it was sadly lacking from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when Donald Trump came out with his disgusting blame on “many sides” comment.
Filling the void created by the President, Governor McAuliffe stood up and condemned the Neo-Nazis and the white supremacists, “go home… There is no place for you here, there is no place for you in America.”
I have never been prouder of Terry than on that day. When we needed strength and comfort, our Governor delivered for both Virginia and the nation.
The Governor’s tremendous leadership has led to substantive Democratic political progress in the Commonwealth.
It’s been the honor of my life to chair our state party under Terry’s leadership. With his support and guidance, we’ve built the best state party in the country and an infrastructure that will endure for years to come.
Terry likes to say, “go big or go home” — and that’s what he did. Going big also meant paying attention to the small. In addition to the unprecedented investment of time and financial resources, it was the infamous phone calls to party leaders and activists singing happy birthday, the handwritten notes of condolences after the loss of a loved one, or a text thanking someone for organizing a meet and greet.
He’s fought against gerrymandered district lines in Virginia and his efforts led to a successful lawsuit that created the 4th Congressional District currently held by Don McEachin, a big pickup for Democrats.
In 2016, he worked harder than anyone as we carried Virginia for Hillary Clinton by 5 points, elected a dynamic new Mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney (a McAuliffe protégé), and defeated a burdensome right-to-work amendment to the Virginia Constitution.
November 7, 2016 was a bittersweet night for all of us; proud of Virginia and our work, sad for the national results and our country. But as my Aunt Charlotte used to say, “there’s no rest for the weary,” and Terry wouldn’t let us get down from the presidential results because he knew the stakes were too high for 2017.
Running on Terry’s record, Virginia Democrats had another clean statewide sweep, electing Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and re-electing Attorney General Mark Herring. To top it off, we came within a hair of taking back the House of Delegates with a record 15-member pickup, the most since the 1880’s! And with this electoral tsunami, the Governor’s personal mission of expanding Medicaid in the Commonwealth is at last in our reach.
And that’s not all. In December, Terry’s political action committee made a record $150,000 commitment to help fund and support full-time staff to ensure that voting rights are protected and expanded in Virginia.
The governorship of Terry McAuliffe is proof that good government is good politics. He has strengthened our Commonwealth and, in the process, invigorated our Party. Whatever is next for Terry, he will be doing what he has always done, helping people, changing lives for the better, and blazing a path that governors across the United States would be wise to follow.
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