With Election Day less than three weeks away in Virginia, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought her star power to Falls Church this weekend, campaigning with family friend Terry McAuliffe before a boisterous crowd sprinkled with Northern Virginia Democrats and soundly endorsing him in his bid for the governor’s office.
"Terry is running for governor for the right reasons, to help all of our kids have the same opportunities to succeed that we had," Clinton, 65, said Saturday.
"If it's only about yourself — to get a job, the perks, have people stand up when you come into a room," she said to laughter, "that's not enough any more. Politics is hard. People are wary. They're wondering, 'Can I give this person my vote and then will he remember me? Will they do what I heard them say they will do?' "
The appearance by Clinton marks her first public foray into political campaigning in years; she left the Obama administration in February.
She was introduced by McAuliffe, 56, a McLean resident who told the crowd: "We must expand healthcare, we must invest in education, we must protect voting rights for all Virginians!" He was surrounded by supporters at the Women for Terry event, including his wife Dorothy McAuliffe, Latinos Con Terry member Leni Gonzalez and Prince William County science teacher Kellie Blair Hardt.
They spoke to hundreds of supporters at the State Theatre, a movie house built in 1936 that now primarily serves as a concert venue. The first film to be shown there? "Thanks a Million," which is about a man who, on a lark, runs for governor and wins.
The latest NBC News/Marist poll shows McAuliffe with an eight-point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the sitting attorney general of Virginia. Among women, McAuliffe’s lead widens by 20 points, leading 52 percent to Cuccinelli’s 32 percent. Libertarian Robert Sarvis garnered nine points in the overall poll.
The Washington Post on Friday looked at apathy among young female voters in Northern Virginia who don’t seem to care or be knowledgeable about the election — potential trouble for McAuliffe.
Women’s issues were the main topic Saturday: "As governor, I would veto any legislation that restricts birth control," McAuliffe said. On his campaign website, he states that “divisive efforts by politicians to interfere with decisions better made by women and their doctors are bad for Virginia families and bad for business. We can’t put up walls or send the signal that Virginia is moving backwards on important issues like women’s health.”
A theme of McAuliffe's campaign has been to paint Cuccinelli as someone with an extreme social agenda, which McAuliffe ties to economic development. He regularly talks about government overreach into women's lives as effecting half of Virginia's workforce, for instance.
Saturday's event was just down the street from the Falls Church Medical Center, an abortion clinic that filed a lawsuit against the state to fight regulations that would require such clinics to meet the same architectural requirements as new hospitals. Virginia’s Board of Health, backed by Cuccinelli, had asked the court to throw out the case. But a judge last week said appellate courts should decide the matter in a full hearing.
Cuccinelli brought a celebrity of his own to Virginia this weekend, campaigning with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee Saturday in Lynchburg, and he will be joined by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a tea party favorite, on Oct. 28 in Fairfax.
The Clintons, who have been close with McAuliffe for years, are pulling out all the stops to try to help get McAuliffe elected. Hillary Clinton was scheduled to attend a fundraiser Saturday night in McLean for McAuliffe. Former President Bill Clinton will headline a fundraiser Oct. 28 for McAuliffe, also in McLean, at the home of Martha and Dwight Schar, according to Politico. Schar, founder of homebuilder NVAR Inc. and a part owner of the Washington Redskins, is a former finance chairman for the Republican National Committee. On Oct. 30, Hillary Clinton headlines a Beverly Hills lunch fundraiser for McAuliffe at $25,000 per couple.
McAuliffe and Cuccinelli will meet for a final debate Thursday in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech University. Sarvis, who was not invited to the debate, will also be on the ballot Nov. 5.
McAuliffe, a businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, lost the 2009 Democratic primary to Creigh Deeds, who ultimately lost the general election to McDonnell.