In Virginia, Democrat turns against Democrat

A prominent Democrat refuses to endorse his party's candidate for governor

Published September 24, 2009 10:45PM (EDT)

Normally, endorsements in a general election are a formality. Wouldn't spit on your party's chosen candidate if they were on fire? Doesn't matter -- you endorse him or her anyway. And if you can pull enough votes, you'll damn sure go out on the stump once or twice too, maybe even embrace for the cameras.

Not so in Virginia, at least not this year.

Democratic gubernatorial canddiate Creigh Deeds has been seeking the endorsement of Doug Wilder, a fellow Democrat who served as governor in the 1990's and was the mayor of Richmond until this year. He was the state's first African-American governor, and Deeds needs help turning out the base, which means turning out black voters.

But Wilder turned Deeds down, and then added insult to injury. In a statement announcing his decision not to endorse Deeds or his Republican opponent, Robert McDonnell, Wilder went after Deeds' positions on taxes and guns, saying in part:

In my conversations with the people across the state, I have not encountered anyone who has listed as their priority the need for them to have more handguns. The present law permits anyone of sufficient age, who is not a felon, to be able to buy one gun a month; twelve a year, twenty four a year for couples etc..

Mr. Deeds thinks that's not enough and signed a pledge to repeal that law.

This action would allow the truck loads of guns to come back in exchange for drugs from those Northeastern states where gun laws are more stringent. This law was put on the books by Democrats and Republicans because they had seen where those guns go to in our cities and suburban areas where the violence occurs. Partly because of that law, as Mayor, I was able to have the lowest crime rate in our capital city of Richmond in 30 years.

I do not see how endorsing a proposal to have more handguns brought into our cities and suburban areas qualifies as any type of urban renewal plan.

For this situation to exist and for Democrats who lead our party to say nothing is puzzling and inexplicable.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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