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Former Gov. McAuliffe Steps in to Campaign for Virginia Democrats Following Scandals

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says his heart is in the commonwealth, which is why he’s not running for president.

Instead, he’ll work to get Democrats re-elected to the General Assembly.

“It really was a tough decision,” he said. “I really wanted to run for president.

Normally, it would be Gov. Ralph Northam’s job to campaign with Democratic candidates and help them raise funds, but he was forced to cancel a Northern Virginia appearance for a state senator Sunday when demonstrators gathered at the venue.

The top three elected officials in Virginia — Democrats Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring — each has faced scandal. Northam and Herring both admitted in February to having worn blackface as young men, while Fairfax has been accused by two women of sexual assault, which he denies.

“I’ve had a steady drumbeat of folks saying you need to come back, you need to do this,” McAuliffe said.

Then Monday, word came that donations to Northam, Fairfax and Herring had all but dried up.

“Party needs me now. Why? Because I can help them,” McAuliffe said. “We can win the House; we can win the Senate and really take Virginia to the next level.”

McAuliffe said his decision is also about preserving his legacy from his four years as governor.

Prince William County Del. Hala Ayala, who was part of the 2017 blue wave that almost gave Democrats control of the House of Delegates, said she welcomes McAuliffe’s help.

“I think Gov. McAuliffe is a surge of energy that we need here in the commonwealth,” she said.

She doesn’t think the cloud over Northam, Fairfax and Herring will hurt her campaign.

“I think what my focus is as a legislator is not what happens at the top of the ticket but what happens right in my backyard,” she said.

Republican Party leaders will continue to keep the spotlight on troubles facing the top three Democrats, but at the local level, the focus is different.

Republican Rich Anderson, who is trying to win back the seat he lost to Ayala two years ago, said the scandals in Richmond factored in his decision to run again.

“It was very embarrassing, and as a result I wanted to get back into the fray, so that’s why I presented myself as a candidate,” he said.

But he said he won’t bring up the governor’s troubles to voters.

“I’ll tell you what I’m hearing, and it’s the classic kitchen-table issues: transportation, education, public safety, jobs, economy, those sort of things,” he said.

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