During last year’s election cycle, the media dubbed Virginia “the swingiest” of swing states. The political divide continues in the upcoming gubernatorial election.
Virginians will head to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 5 to cast their votes for the state’s next governor. Voting forecast polls project a close race, but candidates Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli present two very different agendas for Virginia. Both candidates have also received a fair amount of criticism.
“I lament the fact that we don’t have better people to vote for,” Adjunct Professor of government and public policy Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson said.
McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate originally from New York, is making his second run for the Virginia gubernatorial seat after an unsuccessful campaign in 2009. In the most recent polls, he has edged out Cuccinelli by about four percentage points.
Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate, has served as the attorney general of Virginia for the past four years. Before that, he was a member of the Senate of Virginia, representing Fairfax County.
McAuliffe supports the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid. Cuccinelli has been a long-time opponent of the ACA.
If elected, McAuliffe plans to eliminate numerous business taxes and to increase local government taxes as compensation. In contrast, Cuccinelli plans to lower the individual tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5 percent across the state Commonwealth of Virginia.
The candidates also maintain different stances in terms of higher education. McAuliffe hopes to improve Virginia’s community colleges and increase opportunities for financial aid assistance.
Cuccinelli hopes to address issues in higher education through economic growth. He plans to keep Virginia on track to reach 100,000 degrees by 2025, as set by the “Top Jobs Act.” Cuccinelli also plans to increase college graduates’ employability by placing a renewed focus on the STEM curriculum, healthcare and other in-demand fields.
“Cucinelli’s jobs plan hopes to create 55,000 jobs in Virginia,” College Republicans President Chandler Crenshaw ’14 said. “This is critical for students because, while the national unemployment rate is going down, jobs are still hard to find. Under Bob McDonnell the joblessness rate has improved. McDonnell’s administration has made Virginia a better state for jobs. I’m sure Cuccinelli will help bring business to Virginia.”
On campus, the College Republicans and Young Democrats have both been campaigning for their respective candidates.
Young Democrats President Zach Woodward ’14 said that he and fellow club members have spent the past weeks calling voters through the “Get out the Vote” campaign.
“We’ve gone into full ‘Get out the Vote’ mode,” Woodward said, “People have been pretty receptive at the doors and on the phones. So far people have been really excited that we were helping to get out the vote.”
College Republicans have been campaigning for Cuccinelli around Williamsburg and in Northern Virginia. Last weekend, members of the club went up to McLean, Va., to volunteer in Cuccinelli’s Northern Virginia headquarters.
“These types of elections are based on who turns up from your base,” Crenshaw said. “The primary purpose of these campaign trips is to contact Republicans in the area and make sure they turn up.”
Cuccinelli and McAuliffe’s different positions on social issues have also received attention from the media and the public.
A traditional social conservative, Cuccinelli plans to tighten restrictions on abortion clinics, has advocated Virginia’s anti-sodomy laws, and has publicly denounced homosexual acts.
“Cuccinelli is a social conservative; there is no doubt about that. A lot of students are very compassionate about social issues, so it’s hard to find a mix and sell their messages to him.” Crenshaw said, “Some of the issues have been misinterpreted and twisted through campaign ads.”
In campaign advertisements, McAuliffe has used Cuccinelli’s conservative views as a point of contrast to his belief in marriage equality and pro-choice stance.
“I think that young peoples’ views on social issues are the way of the future,” Woodward said. “McAuliffe’s interests serve our interests from a purely ideological standpoint, and they also will make Virginia a better place to live.”
Woodward added that he feels McAuliffe’s more moderate stance may work in his favor.
“Being a modern common sense candidate doesn’t necessarily make you the lesser of two evils,” Woodward said. “He brings a background of business and common interest rather than extreme ideology. Because one candidate is so extreme, many people set up the lesser of two evils scenario, but McAuliffe offers a lot on his own.”
Voting in Williamsburg is Tuesday, Nov. 5 from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Most students can vote in the Williamsburg Methodist Church on Jamestown Road, across from Morton Hall. Students who live in Brown Hall, Sorority Court, Tribe Square or One Tribe Place vote in the Williamsburg Community Building located at 401 North Boundary Street.