Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why Deeds Matters to Maryland

By Marc Korman.

Every Saturday until the Virginia election on November 3 volunteers from Maryland are meeting at the Montgomery County Democratic Party offices to carpool across the river to canvass and phone bank for Virginia’s next governor, Democrat Creigh Deeds. Why does the governorship of Virginia matter to Maryland?

There are obvious political reasons for Maryland Democrats to help elect a Democrat in Virginia. Because Virginia’s election always comes the year after a presidential election, pundits always draw conclusions from it about national politics. Virginia based political pundit Larry Sabato has pointed out that the party that won the presidential election has not won the Virginia Governor’s race since 1973, so any correlation between a president’s political strength and their party winning in Virginia is overblown.

For example, in 2001 Democrat Mark Warner was elected Virginia’s governor while President Bush’s approval ratings were in the 80s and 90s following 9/11 and the Republican Party was heading towards a victorious 2002 mid-term election, bucking historical trends. But despite history, political pundits will associate Deeds’ performance in Virginia with Obama’s political strength.

But there are also specific policy reasons for Marylanders to care about who is elected Virginia’s governor:

Transportation is a regional issue, particularly the Metro system. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is jointly funded by Virginia, Maryland, and DC. WMATA board members are appointed by the chief executives of those three jurisdictions. The two states also share the Capital Beltway.

While Deeds has been somewhat evasive on the issue, he recently announced a transportation plan. The plan is coupled with his history of advocating for more comprehensive transportation fixes, including expressing a willingness to face reality and raise Virginia’s gas tax, which is among the lowest on the east coast. His opponent’s plan is almost designed to be ineffective. It is loaded with one time revenue raisers and raids on general funds that the Virginia legislature will likely not allow, such as education.

Chesapeake Bay
Virginia and Maryland are key partners in programs to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, including the Chesapeake Executive Council and the Chesapeake Bay Commission. They are the only two states that actually border the Bay, though many other states are a part of its watershed.

Deeds has a history of support for the environment, including creating tax incentives for Virginians to conserve rather than develop land, which has a direct effect on runoff polluting the Bay. Maryland needs a strong environmental partner in Virginia if any progress will be made on the Bay.

Creigh Deeds is not a leader on gun control issues, having been endorsed by the National Rifle Association in his campaign for Attorney General in 2005. But since then he has advocated for closing the so-called “gun show loophole.” The loophole allows individuals to buy firearms at gun shows without conducting the requisite background checks of purchasers normally required. Maryland closed the gun show loophole for handguns, but Virginia has not. As New York City proved by tracking Virginia guns, those guns flow out of Virginia and into other states. Deeds’ commonsense on the gun show loophole cost him the NRA’s endorsement, which unlike in Maryland actually carries some weight.

And for anyone reading this who may argue that criminals will get guns anyway, you may be right. But closing the loophole would provide another check, reduce the ease for the wrong people to acquire firearms, and ensure that if they are caught there is a crime to prosecute them for.

To help elect Creigh Deeds Governor of Virginia, meet any Saturday at 9:00am in the parking lot at 3720 Farragut Avenue in Kensington. Email me at for more information.