The Virginia gubernatorial contest between former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, has grave implications for African Americans in that state.
But, ultimately, the Black community would be better served by the Democratic candidate—the better of two less than ideal choices, political analysts and Black advocates said.
“McAuliffe doesn’t have deep ties in the Black community [and he] has never held public office, so it is hard to judge his record,” though his support from still-popular former president Bill Clinton is a boon, said Michael Fauntroy, associate professor of political science at Howard University.
“Cuccinelli has a record, and for most African Americans that record is unattractive,” added. “He is a very, very conservative Republican.”
Calls and emails to both campaigns were not returned by AFRO deadline.
Among the pressing issues facing Blacks are jobs, access to quality education and health care, public safety, equal justice and opportunity, including opportunities for Black businesses that have been worst-hit by the recession, activists said.
“For more than 12 years, all minority- and women-owned businesses have been receiving less than 2 percent of state contracts,” said Rodney de Peiza, treasurer and acting chairman of the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce. “So our main focus and what we’re looking to hear from candidates is how they could reverse this stagnant plain we seem to be on [and also] how we can gain access to capital.”
McAuliffe, a businessman who has gained support from some Republican leaders for his bipartisan approach to solving issues and for his plan to boost Virginia’s economy, would better address those concerns, supporters said.
On the other hand, Cuccinelli’s affiliation with the Tea Party augurs ill for the Black community, some advocates and political opponents said.
“In terms of what African Americans want, their chief enemies right now are the Tea Party people,” said David Bositis, a senior analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that focuses on issues impacting communities of color.
He added, Everything Cuccinelli stands for, he said, mirrors that faction’s “extremist right-wing agenda.”
Not only is Cuccinelli vehemently against reproductive choice or abortion, “He’s one of those people that believe poor people should fend for themselves,” Bositis said.
The Richmond Free-Press, Virginia’s major Black newspaper, echoed those sentiments in its endorsement of McAuliffe and other Democratic candidates.
The Tea Party-infiltrated GOP, and its oft-cited mission to “take back [their] country,” hails back to the country’s “shameful past,” the newspaper said.
“The Republicans represent the modern day version of white supremacists who supported slavery and American apartheid,” the paper’s editorial board wrote. “…Mr. Cuccinelli’s long record as a naysayer, designed to pander to the
Republicans’ Tea Party, portends danger if he should become our state’s chief executive.”
Of particular concern, detractors noted, is Cuccinelli’s mission to overturn Obamacare, including the expansion of Medicaid to almost 400,000 Virginians without health insurance and the attorney general’s move to impose an even stricter voter ID law as soon as the Supreme Court dismantled Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in June.
“If Cuccinelli is elected, access to voting would be blocked; the ability of women, of all colors, to make decisions about their own personal health needs would be diminished; access to the governor’s mansion would be limited; decisions would be made based more on Tea Party ideology and not what is best for Virginians,” said Daun Hester, national co-chair of the civic group Black Women for Change.
Hester is also running to retain her seat in the 89th Virginia House district.
Fears of what a Cuccinelli governor’s mansion would mean for Blacks in Virginia are not assuaged by the presence of a Black Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, political analysts say.
The Rev. Bishop E.W. Jackson, pastor of Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, Va., said that his platform is geared toward uplifting the Black community. It includes creating jobs for African Americans; ensuring that all children have a quality education, including increasing parental school choice; and restoring the constitutional rights of nonviolent felons who have served their debt to society.
Those policies, however, fade behind his “bombastic and outlandish comments that most African Americans do not support,” Fauntroy said. Jackson is best known for infamous statements, such as his contention that Planned Parenthood was more “lethal” to African Americans than the KKK and that President Obama’s leanings were more “atheist and Muslim” than Christian.
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