I thought McAuliffe had some good ideas, and he seemed to have a good deal of support in the room. As for the substance of his speech, McAuliffe focused on jobs and energy policy. When it comes to creating jobs, he pointed out that the Governor's Opportunity Fund is pretty small compared to similar funds in neighboring states--and says we've missed out on big opportunities that went to other states as a result, including a solar panel manufacturing facility that ended up in Tennessee. McAuliffe also suggested that Virginia invest in offshore wind farms using turbines and wind blades made here in the Old Dominion. T-Mac also wants to see the state invest in high-speed rail, first linking the D.C.-Richmond and other metropolitan areas, then branching out to the rest of the state.
One idea that should play well in Southside is four-laning U.S. Route 58, which runs from the coast through Martinsville on its way to Ohio. The idea is that we could build distribution centers for goods that come to port in Virginia, with an eye toward 2014. What's so important about 2014? That's when a new deep-water lock will open in the Panama Canal that will allow a huge influx of goods from Asia. A robust Route 58 would help Virginia compete for those goods--other states are positioning themselves to be the port of choice, and Terry wants Virginia to be in the game. It's not an idea I've heard other candidates talk about, and I think it's a good one.
On uranium mining, McAuliffe repeated his previous stance that we should wait for the health and safety study to be completed before making any snap judgments. Yes, it's a bit of a punt, but it's a fairly understandable one. The fact that he promised not to take any money from Dominion Power helps me give him the benefit of the doubt. The most interesting thing I heard him say from a Martinsville perspective is that he would crack down on Payday Lending institutions, basically kicking them out of the state entirely.
As with my blogs on visits to the area by Jody Wagner and Mike Signer, this is not an endorsement. I am simply trying to report what McAuliffe said and did while he was here, and throw in a few things I liked. In all honesty, I'm still undecided--but I will say I think McAuliffe has proven he's a strong, legitimate candidate. When he first entered the race, I basically wrote him off as a curiosity, not thinking he would garner much support against longtime legislators. Among other indicators, the poll numbers out today have proven me wrong. However, he clearly has a strong organization across the state and has undoubtedly lived up to the fundraising hype--not to mention his charisma and public speaking ability. That's not to say he's perfect; I think he has several flaws that will make him vulnerable in November, which I will get into in a later post.
Time will tell--June 9 will be here before we know it.