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A spat over U.S. 58 puts the governor’s race deeper in the ditch.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
It seemed like an innocuous statement in the middle of the July 20 debate between the major party candidates for governor. Democrat Terry McAuliffe said that Martinsville and other communities in the U.S. 58 corridor would benefit if the state four-lanes the highway “all the way out from the port” to ease the flow of goods “to the commerce of America.”
Republican Ken Cuccinelli pounced. Sort of. Eight days later, his campaign posted a video to point out that U.S. 58 already is four lanes wide from Hampton Roads to Martinsville. The video, hyped by Cuccinelli’s campaign as news, was to paint McAuliffe as an ignorant come-here.
Democrats fired back, noting that several stretches from Patrick County to Virginia’s southwest corner are just two lanes and that big rigs can’t make it over Lovers Leap Mountain.
Republicans counterpunched, highlighting Franklin County Del. Charles Poindexter’s bill to increase the amount of money the state can borrow to fund improvements at Lovers Leap and other stretches of the highway east of Interstate 77. Poindexter’s bill was contingent on passage of a comprehensive transportation funding bill, which Cuccinelli opposed.
We can only hope that most Virginians were too busy with their summer Sunday to pay any attention to this squabble. And we can only hope that by the time the summer ends, Cuccinelli and McAuliffe will offer voters something more than attacks and gimmicks.
Here’s how they can start. Instead of wasting time with snarky videos and scripted statements of indignation from surrogates, maybe both candidates should spend a week traveling U.S. 58 to see it for themselves. Along the way, they could take the time to talk with voters and shed some light on exactly what they would do as governor to improve economic conditions in the hardest-hit areas of the corridor.
The voters of Southwest and Southside Virginia deserve more in this election than silly web videos and overwrought press releases. Either Cuccinelli or McAuliffe will be Virginia’s next governor. It’s about time for them to run campaigns worthy of the title.
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