News4's Northern Virginia Bureau covers the races

In Gov's Race, Campaigns Turn to Big Names to Get out the Vote

Just twice in 50 years has Va. seen a dip in raw turnout for governor’s race. Why it could happen again.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband have both campaigned for Democrat Terry McAuliffe, (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

    There's a reason Virginians have seen the likes of Kentucky's Rand Paul (R), a Tea Party darling, and former Democratic President Bill Clinton in their state in the past few days.

    The Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D) campaigns for governor have brought in big-name out-of-staters in an attempt to rev up the base, because they fear low turnout.

    "Political extremism does have one political virtue," Clinton said over the weekend. "Once you get people all torn up and upset, steam coming out of their ears, people will show up and vote."

    In fact, just twice in the last 50 years has turnout in Virginia gone down from one governor’s race to the next four years later. That pattern happened in 1985 and in 1997.

    And those elections had a couple of things in common with this year: Both were following the re-election of a president and involved candidates who, some would argue, didn't start out or go on to be household names in Virginia politics.

    The book "Virginia in the Vanguard" described the tenure of Gerald Baliles (who is now head of the venerable Miller Center at the University of Virginia) as "sandwiched between two celebrity governorships."

    Baliles, elected in 1985, was preceded by Chuck Robb and succeeded by Doug Wilder. Jim Gilmore, elected in 1997, was preceded by George Allen and followed by Mark Warner.

    2009: 1,985,103 (McDonnell 1,163,651 to 818,950) (40% turnout)

    2005: 1,983,778 (Kaine 1,025,942 to 912,327) (45% turnout)

    2001: 1,886,721 (Warner 984,177 to 887,234)

    1997: 1,736,314 (Gilmore 969,062 to 738,971)

    1993: 1,793,916 (Allen 1,045,319 to 733,527)

    1989: 1,789,078 (Wilder 896,936 to 890,195)

    1985: 1,343,243 (Baliles 741,438 to 601,652)

    1981: 1,420,611 (Robb 760,357 to 659,398)

    1977 - 1,250,940 (Dalton 699,302 to 541,319)

    1973 - 1,035,495 (Godwin 525,075 to 510,103)

    1969 - 915,764 (Holton 480,869 to 415,695)

    1965 - 562,789 (Godwin 269,526 to 212,207)