Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe made his ninth campaign stop at a Virginia community college Monday, remaking his image as the candidate who wants to create jobs at home and not just a financial rainmaker for the national Democratic Party.
At Northern Virginia Community College's Springfield campus, McAuliffe promised to beef up resources for two-year colleges that not only help high school graduates but aid the newly unemployed with job training that would allow them to get back into the workforce. And he got an earful from NVCC leaders who said the state is missing out on business opportunities because it isn't doing enough to pump up community colleges.
"We have got to get serious and understand that we have got to build up these community colleges," McAuliffe said. "They need the resources because they are the first line of defense to keep business here and to bring business in."
McAuliffe vowed to visit all 23 Virginia community colleges before Election Day in November. The events are low key. There's no stump speech. There are not many hands to shake.
But it has been a chance for McAuliffe to get out on the campaign trail early and define himself and his Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has campaigned very little so far.
McAuliffe on Monday criticized Cuccinelli for having an "ideological agenda" and for the first time joined fellow Democrats in criticizing the attorney general's decision to keep his job while campaigning for governor.
"He ought to follow the Virginia tradition like the other attorney generals [and resign]," McAuliffe said. "The taxpayers are paying him to be attorney general. I can tell you this: I'm giving everything up to run for governor."
McAuliffe's free reign to take those pot shots at his opponent will end soon. Cuccinelli is planning to ramp up his campaign activity in the coming weeks. The Republican spent much of March trying to catch up on fundraising since he was barred by state law from accepting contributions during the two months the General Assembly was in session.
Already, the Cuccinelli campaign is fighting back against McAuliffe's efforts to present himself as a jobs-focused, business-friendly candidate very much in the mold of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and Sen. Mark Warner, the state's most popular Democrat and a former occupant of the executive mansion.
"It is laughable Terry McAuliffe talks about who is best at bringing business to Virginia when he chose to build a manufacturing plant in Mississippi and then lied about why he refused to create jobs in the commonwealth," said Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix. "Ken Cuccinelli has a proven record of fighting job-killing government regulations, keeping taxes low and helping Virginia businesses succeed."