With 64 days before the Democratic gubernatorial primaries, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Mike Signer spoke at the College of William and Mary Young Democrats’ 12th annual fundraising banquet Thursday evening at the Alumni House.
Dorothy McAuliffe and Karyn Moran, the wives of Democratic gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran, also attended on behalf of their husbands.
Deeds was the keynote speaker of the evening.
A recurring theme in the night’s speeches was the importance of encouraging economic growth in Virginia. Deeds, whose son Gus Deeds ’11 is a student at the College, emphasized the importance of higher education for achieving economic growth.
“In 2000, we were contributing more than $10,000 general fund money per student in our higher education system,” Deeds said. “Now, if you adjust for inflation we’re under $7,000. Now that doesn’t mean funding doesn’t take place, what that means is that the funding comes out of your hide or your parents’ hide. We’ve got two issues we have to deal with in higher education: affordability and accessibility. And our goal, whomever the governor is, has to be that in four years time, expense — cost — will not be a barrier to anyone obtaining a four-year degree. Higher education is the key to economic growth. It’s the key to development.”
Deeds said fostering growth also requires creating a transportation plan that is long-term, statewide and creative. Such a plan, Deeds said, would include creating state tax benefits for businesses that encourage telecommunication or the development of flexible schedules such as four-day work weeks.
“Take cars off the road during the peak hours,” Deeds said. “Now I’m convinced that’s the most important thing we have to do, and I’m going to do that the first year I’m governor.”
Deeds also linked the economy with environmental issues. He encouraged conservation while calling for alternative fuel innovation that he says will generate jobs.
“There are lots of things we can do to conserve energy, and I think we can reduce our consumption by somewhere between 15 and 25 percent if we put our minds to it,” Deeds said. “We’re not going to conserve our economy the whole way forward. We’re going to have to develop the next generations of alternative and renewable energy.”
Deeds looks to model himself after former North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges, who led the establishment of Research Triangle Park, the largest research park in the United States.
“Now I’m not suggesting that we need a physical research park,” Deeds said. “I am suggesting that we need a plan. We need to plant that seed right now to secure our economic future.”
Besides encouraging more research at Virginia’s universities, Deeds wants to take advantage of the state’s community colleges.
“If we use the community college system as our tool to build the smartest work force in the world — because a community college is within an hour’s drive of every single Virginian — we build smart workers everywhere.”
McAuliffe also emphasized the economy as well, adding that her husband’s unique background as a business executive makes him particularly suited to help turn around the economy.
“He is the only candidate of the three others that has a business background,” McAuliffe said. “He started his first company when he was 14 years old. He’s been involved in turning around struggling companies, leading large organizations, his entire adult career.”
McAuliffe also referenced four chapters of her husband’s business plan as representative of his expertise.
“He looks [at] the role of government as – it’s not just about jobs — it’s not just about healthcare, it’s not just about transportations and policies within each of those categories. It’s, how do those categories, all of them fit together? And how are we going to bring opportunity across the board and economic security to Virginia?”
Moran also spoke of her husband’s ability to create jobs.
“Brian’s plan to help small businesses hire people and raise the minimum wage will lift income and make the daily necessities more attainable,” Moran said. “I know the look on someone’s face when they get a job. It’s the best look ever. And Brian understands that, too, because he ran a small business. He had a law firm in Alexandria. He’s made the payroll. He has hired people. We know what that look is like and we want to do that all across Virginia.”
Moran called for increased funding health care programs, dental care programs and giving law enforcement the money they need to protect children from sexual predators.
“The internet is a fabulous thing,” Moran said. “It opens the door to the world for our children. But guess what, it also opens the door to our children and exposes our children to the world. Because Brian was a prosecutor, he knows what law enforcement needs to protect our families.”
The last speaker of the evening was candidate for lieutenant governor Mike Signer, who had officially launched his campaign earlier that day.
“I’m the last candidate to get in this race, but the first and still the only one to provide a practical jobs plan that will create 50,000 new jobs by the end of 2011 in seven critical areas, including green tech” Signer said.
Besides job creation, Signer also emphasized environmental leadership, veterans issues and getting rid of both the disenfranchisement of ex-offenders and Dillon’s Rule, which requires local districts to receive permission from Richmond to pass certain legislation.
Signer also announced that his campaign had raised over $250,000, with more online donors than any of
the other candidates running for lieutenant governor.
Throughout the banquet speakers and surrogates for other candidates mingled with students, sharing food, ideas and campaign literature. Banquet tickets cost $25 for students and $50 for non-students.
Ross Gillingham ‘10, vice president of Young Democrats, estimated that the banquet raised between $1,200 and $1,500.
The Young Democrats will use that money to campaign for democrats in the fall and lower the cost for members attending the Virginia Young Democrats convention in the spring.