Final Stretch 

With less than two weeks until Election Day, Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds tackle our 17 questions on government, education — and what's for dinner.

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It's a Style Weekly tradition to pull the gubernatorial candidates away from their wall-to-wall campaign schedules for a private, sit-down interview. We assembled questions (No. 17 came from our Twitter followers) on a wide range of issues and recently spent one-on-one time posing them to Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat Sen. Creigh Deeds. We tossed a coin to determine the order of their answers, presented below in their own words. Election Day is Nov. 3.

1. What is your definition of a hero, and can a politician be a hero? If so, who is your political hero?

DEEDS: My heroes are people that have looked beyond themselves to accomplish a greater good. People who have done things outside of themselves. My hero's my grandfather. He's been gone from this world for a lot of years, but he worked hard to make a difference in his community and in his family, and he did. But my heroes are both public and private figures who have made a difference. On the big scale, I look at Franklin Roosevelt. [He] was a son of privilege who was born with lots of opportunities that other people just didn't have. He had this handicap that caused him pain every day of his adult life. Yet he rose to power at a remarkably bleak time in American history. And he made tough choices. He changed the paradigm, completely changed the relationship between people and government.

McDONNELL: I think anybody can be a hero. I think it's people doing uncommonly good things. … using tremendous fortitude to accomplish great things under great duress. … My personal hero is George Washington. I grew up right in the shadow of Mount Vernon in Northern Virginia and got to know a lot about our first president, and he's a hero for a couple reasons in my view. One is he had extraordinary courage on the battlefield, extraordinary ability to motivate people to achieve their highest and best, even when they were going through tremendous physical pain. And he willingly walked away from power. Some of the settlers wanted to make him king and he said no, it's what we just fought against in England and I'm not going to do that. So he's my personal hero. And I think people in political life can do that if you're a motivator, if you set high standards, if you are honest, if you keep your promises and your word to people, and continue to be resilient no matter what the obstacles. I think people in any walk of life can be heroes.

2. One of the ongoing debates in our country's history centers on the dividing line between federal and state rights, and how much government should be involved in our personal lives. In both cases, where do you draw that line?

DEEDS: I draw the line pretty rigidly in the division between state and federal rights. It was defined by the constitution, the 10th Amendment: Authority not specifically given to the federal government is reserved to the states and people. And that rule is pretty clear. It gets blurred a lot but the rule is pretty clear. People have to be given the freedom to live their lives. I have a lot of libertarian tendencies when it comes to people being able to live their lives, as long as it has no negative impact on others, and as long as they don't hurt other people. People ought to have the freedom to live their lives within the law.

McDONNELL: I think that's a timely question right now with some of the things that are happening in Congress with bills like cap-and-trade, and card check, and unfunded mandates, and takeover of major corporations, intrusions into the free-enterprise system. I do think the whole issue of what does the 10th Amendment mean, what did our Founders believe it to mean, what are the limits of federal power — are very timely questions. I think the balance has gotten out of whack under both Republican and Democrat Congress with excess power going to the federal government. I think there's a legitimate debate among Democrats and Republicans, particularly at the governor level, about a need to restore that balance in favor of having the states make more decisions.

STYLE: And where would you draw the line between  how far the government gets into our personal lives?

McDONNELL: Well, Article 1, Section 8, of the United States Constitution's pretty clear about what the limits of federal power are. I think we just need to make sure courts enforce that, and that we have a pretty robust discussion among people about what government should and shouldn't be doing. I mean, the government's continually passing new statutes and new regulations and new requirements on individuals, on families, on businesses. One of the first things you learn in law school in your first year is: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Well, no one alive can possibly have a handle on even a portion of the law — which of course gives the lawyers plenty of work to do — but I think we've overcomplicated many things in society by excess regulation. Where the balance is, I think is a question for policy makers based on a particular issue. But I think you start with what does the Constitution say, and what's a reasonable amount of legislation that you pass to be able to enforce that. I've generally erred on the side of believing that free people making free decisions using their God-given talents to pursue the American dream is the best formula for our society.

3. How much should the “public-private” partnership concept be used to develop new infrastructure such as roads and bridges? Do you see any problems with the concept?

DEEDS: We are a national leader in the use of public-private partnerships with respect to transportation projects, and it will continue to be one of the lead forces for our development of transportation infrastructure. The problem is, as we saw recently with the hot lanes projects on [interstates] 95 and 395 in Northern Virginia, that project stopped because you've got to prime the pump. Those projects don't happen unless there's a public part to the partnership. And that requires public investment. So right now the challenge is that we just don't have enough money for transportation infrastructure period. We don't have enough money to really incentivize the private sector to be involved in public-private partnerships in too many situations. The major challenge we've got is one of the state's commitment to long-term transportation infrastructure development.

McDONNELL: I think we need to use it more. It's been significantly underutilized in Virginia since the bill initially passed in 1995. But you've got to write the contracts well. You must make sure you're not just trying to solve a short-term problem, but to realize that citizens 10, 20, 30 years or more down the road are going to have to live with the consequences in terms of tolls or other things. But I'd like to see certain road projects, like Route 460 in Hampton Roads, the third crossing in Hampton Roads, are ideal candidates for public-private partnerships. There's been bids submitted, in some cases for years, and this administration can't get a deal. I think you need better people, business people and finance people and engineers at the table trying to make these things work. So I think it holds a lot of promise. But, we've seen with some things like this [Virginia Information Technologies Agency] contract and some others — if you don't have a good organization and good oversight, then some of the contracts can go awry a little bit. So I think you've got to write them well and enforce them well, but the concept themselves give a way to leverage limited state money in a bigger way.

4. What does the Northrop Grumman scandal reveal about privatization of core government functions? What would you do to prevent such failures?

DEEDS: VITA [Virginia Information Technologies Agency], in its concept, was not a bad idea. The whole notion that you would put into the private sector a function that is important but that could probably be done better in the private sector. The failures have occurred in the implementation of VITA. I think there are three basic things that have to be considered as we go forward, three ways that I look at this thing differently.

Number one, in light of the JLARC [Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission] report, in light of the work done by the Senate Finance Committee, I will change the governance structure of VITA so that the director is directly appointed by and reportable to the governor. That was [Gov.] Mark Warner's original recommendation, I think it was [Gov.] Doug Wilder's recommendation to Gov. Warner. But the General Assembly changed that — it was a mistake. The implementation has been the problem with VITA and the governance structure needs to change.

Number two, I'm going to have an independent office on government efficiency that's going to be headed by somebody from the private sector. I think we can squeeze efficiencies out of nearly every aspect of state service. And the first performance review that will be performed by this agency is of VITA. It's such an enormous contract that it will — I'm confident we can squeeze efficiencies out of VITA but frankly out of other areas of state government too.

And number three, in the contract that was signed and approved by the attorney general, by the fellow that I'm running against, it has over 70 performance check-offs that have to occur. I think only 14 of those have penalties! Well that's ridiculous. That's just incompetent. And frankly, I'm going to make sure, I'm going to look at that contract, and see what kind of modifications — you know, contracts, once you sign one, modifying them isn't a unilateral opportunity; you've got to negotiate — but I'm going to go into that contract and … negotiate the modifications that are necessary to ensure that you have performance checks that work, and that you have penalties when the performance isn't up to par.

McDONNELL: I don't know that it's an indictment of the public-private partnership concept itself. There are many things I think the private sector does much better than government. But you've got to have the right incentives, the right contract and then the right enforcement. I think there are some things about the way VITA was designed back in 2004 that are flawed. I think we need to have the CIO reporting directly through the governor, through the secretary of [technology]. I think there are some other reforms — we need to have better oversight of the contract itself to make sure that the services that are contracted for are provided on time, on budget. And I think these reports that are being done by Senate Finance and by JLARC will help give us a lot of information about what I can do as the next governor to tighten that up and fix the problem.

5. What is the most unfair charge your opponent  has leveled at you during this campaign?

DEEDS: Well, it's unfortunate. My opponent continues to spend millions of dollars advertising, telling people that I support the cap-and-trade legislation that passed the House of Representatives that will raise energy prices and put American and Virginia businesses at a competitive disadvantage. My opponent continues to charge that somehow the right-to-work law will be in jeopardy when I'm governor. He knows as well as I do that I'm a strong supporter of the right-to-work law. There are lots of charges out there and it's difficult to know how to quantify the top one. But that's the way campaigns run, unfortunately.

McDONNELL: Well, there's so many it's hard to say. I happen to think that he's running the most backwards-looking campaign in modern history. Very few ideas. About 80 percent of his ads are negative. And eight editorial pages now have opined with very harsh criticism of his ads — all of his ads, no matter what the subject has been — using very harsh words like “disingenuous,” “deceitful,” an “outright lie,” “he should be ashamed,” “not honest.” I mean, very hard, from everybody from the Roanoke paper, to Richmond, to Washington Times, to the Virginian-Pilot. Liberal and conservative editorial boards. And I happen to agree.There have been any number of things that he has said, I think the most outrageous one is … somehow trying to tell people that I don't support women with breast cancer. It's just ludicrous, I mean I think he's just pulling these things out of thin air. So there's a litany of charges — saying that I'm responsible for dramatic rate hikes in Southwest Virginia shows a profound misunderstanding of the office of the attorney general. But virtually every attack ad he has run has contained one or more misrepresentations, and we're calling his hand on it. It's just not right. I think it's below the civility level that people expect out of a gubernatorial candidate, and it's below the dignity of the Virginia people.

6. Have you ever told a lie? If so, give an occasion and why.

DEEDS: I'm a parent, and I still believe in Santa Claus. And I know that when my children were small and they woke up with 50 cents or a dollar under the pillow, it came from the Tooth Fairy. … I'm a parent, I've done the best I could to raise my children with the same sort of fantasies that other people grow up with. I want my children to be amazed every day of their lives, and my wife has done an unbelievable job raising them, and my kids are creative, and they're individuals, and they are funny and smart. But frankly, I'm not going to admit that I lied, but I believe in Santa Claus, and I've perpetuated their belief in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, and that sort of thing.

McDONNELL: Look, I think every honest person in America would say that at one point they've told something that wasn't true. I've tried to always hold myself to very, very high standards in office. As a kid, I know I told a bunch of little white lies to keep myself out of trouble, to keep myself away from my dad's backhand. But all I can say is, look, we all fall short. But when it comes to the public square, and me telling people what I'm going to do, and me putting on TV what I think is what we need to talk about, we hold ourself to very high standards of integrity in doing that.

7. What do you think should be done about Virginians who have no health insurance?

DEEDS: There are 1.1 million Virginians who don't have health insurance. Seventy-five percent of them either work full time or live with someone who does. I know lots of small-business people that would like to provide coverage to their employees because they know that that's going to enable them to attract the best employees — but they can't afford it. I've got a goal to reduce by 50 percent the number of uninsured living in Virginia by the time my four-year term ends. And I've got plans to allow small businesses to pool their resources and to be able to increase their buying power so they can reduce the cost of the insurance they purchased. And I want to incentivize small businesses to be able to provide coverage for their employees. You know, I also think it's worth looking into, is whether or not you can pool resources to create self-insurance pools. The whole idea is you have to be able to reduce costs. I think we have to look at what's available in the market now, and we have to find ways to increase competition to bring down the costs. That's something I definitely want to do.

McDONNELL: I think there's a number of things that can be done — although, depending on what happens at the federal level, they may pre-empt every possible thing we can do. It's hard to say what's going to happen with this [Sen. Max] Baucus bill. But I think there's several things: The best way to do it is through employer-based health care. Many small businesses are not offering health care or discontinued health care because of the expense. I think we need to have better tools to give more access to pooling of insurance to small-business people so they can buy low-cost group insurance. That can be helped by the federal government if they'll drop that federal prohibition against buying insurance across state lines. … But I think that's the top thing that we can do.

Secondly, we ought to do a better job promoting our free clinics. We've got a great network of free clinics for people that either don't have insurance or choose not to have insurance. …

Thirdly, we've got individual medical savings accounts that have been passed in Virginia now for probably 10 years, and very few people know about them. But particularly there's a certain group of Virginians that choose not to be insured because they're healthy, maybe they don't have children, and they … think it's cheaper for them to save money as opposed to them [buying] insurance, particularly if it's an individual premium at $8,000 or $9,000 … a year.

8. Richmond investors are involved in building a detention center for illegal aliens in Farmville, for which the town will make a profit. What do you believe should happen to Virginia's undocumented immigrants?

DEEDS: Well, people who — you might want to check that out, because my understanding is that there are some problems, that Farmville doesn't want that facility. … People who are here should be here legally. It's primarily — the federal constitution gives pre-emptive authority in the areas of foreign policy and border security and immigration, frankly, to the federal government. We need comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level to make sure that people who are here are here legally, and we continue to be a country where people come to. They've come to these shores for 400 years to seek the American dream, to live a better life, and find a better life for their families. I think that the state's role with respect to immigration is somewhat limited — it's mostly a federal issue. We've got to find ways to create partnerships where we can with the federal government, to make sure that the immigration laws are enforced. But primarily I'm an advocate for ensuring that the federal government does a better job of enforcing its laws instead of state and local taxpayers being forced to bear the burden for something the federal government refuses to do.

McDONNELL: The problem is not going to be fixed until the federal government does its job. There needs to be a solution with border security, with much better resources for enforcement of the laws in the state — and then the tough challenge is, what do you do about those that are already present and illegal, which is 12 to 15 million. I was very frustrated, as attorney general I had no enforcement authority. It was all superseded by the federal government. We can only deal with the criminal-justice area, and we got bills passed to make sure that people were identified by their legal status or illegal status at the time of arrest. And then they were held in a no-bond status pending trial if it was a serious crime.

Until the federal government changes the laws and allows more people to come here lawfully, based on the economic needs of the United States, the problem's not going to change. People are going to continue to take the risks, and we're going to continue to have a lack of enforcement at the federal level, and so we're going to continue to have the problem that the taxpayers of Virginia are having to pay for people that are illegally present. And that's not a good deal for the taxpayer. So it's going to take significant federal reforms. I'm going to continue to try to do my part to help in the criminal context with illegal aliens. But virtually everything else is pre-empted and is up to the federal government.

9. Advocacy, citizen and environmental groups complain that they aren't given the same courtesy as paid lobbyists, though they serve the same function — and too often are shut out of General Assembly committees discussing important issues while lobbyists are welcomed. Are lobbyists too powerful in Virginia?

DEEDS: I've been in the legislature for 18 years, and from my perspective a lobbyist, if you have lobbyists on both sides of the issue, they perform a very valuable function. Legislators can read the bills — you can physically read all the bills. But to be able to consider the implications of every piece of legislation is difficult in the context of our short session. If you've got advocates on both sides of the issue, that can provide a valuable source of information to legislators. ... The relationships that are established by lobbyists who are there day in and day out, it's difficult to overcome that because their relationship, I think it's people. But everybody who comes to the General Assembly ought to be afforded the same respect and courtesy. And every advocate, whether that advocate is paid or not paid, or there for whatever cause, ought to be afforded the same courtesy. That's certainly the way it's been in my years in the legislature. … I've tried to listen to everything everybody's said, whether that person is a paid advocate or there just to express an opinion about an issue — I've listened to every one of them.

McDONNELL: I think that depends on the individual being lobbied. I say that because I think you raise a very important concern, and that is, does an individual elected official who's making key decisions ensure that all sides of an issue are represented before making the decision, or is it only people that have powerful interests or who have made political contributions? And I am adamant that it's the former view that should prevail.

When I was attorney general we regularly brought in people that we invited in — many of them that really were not even lobbyists, per se, but if I had issues on anywhere from consumer protection to public safety we regularly brought in groups of people to help give us input so I could make good decisions. ...

When I reformed the Internet safety laws, I asked a few big businesses that are Internet service providers to be there, but you know who I asked? I asked parents, I asked young people, kids, I asked teachers, and people that had no lobbying interest, but they were instrumental in giving us the view. Victims' rights groups — they don't have any money — but they were all a part of what we needed to hear in order to have good reforms of our Internet safety laws. So I think I've demonstrated the fact that we need to bring everybody to the table to make good decisions.

I guess the last example that I'll give you of things that I'm most pleased that I did as attorney general was our support of the food banks of Virginia. They're not lobbyists. They don't have prominent people representing them, but I thought, you know, I can do something good using my bully pulpit as attorney general and I can go and ask every law firm and every judge and every law school in Virginia to get involved with supporting the food bank, and we'll do something to make it fun. So we did. … the Legal Food Frenzy, and it's been enormously successful. We raised 700 pounds, 1,000 pounds the first year, 1.4 million the second year, 1.6 million pounds the third year. And it's just because I went around — and Bill Mims has followed in my footsteps — and urged people to get involved for a two-week Food Frenzy. Let's make it fun, I'll give out prizes, we'll give out the Attorney General's Cup. You lawyers, you have a moral obligation to help people because you're successful and you owe something back to society. And you know, they've been enormously grateful for what we did but they couldn't do anything one way or the other to influence the outcome of any election but I felt it was the right thing to do.

10. Both you and your opponent have said you're in favor of smart-growth policies. What is your definition of smart growth, and how would you apply it to public policy?

DEEDS: That's a good question, because smart growth as a term has been used so often by so many different groups that to find a definition that makes sense is difficult. I think that growth has to occur at some level. Economic growth is a good thing. Population growth is a good thing. … Economic growth is an essential thing for people to continue to have the opportunity to live the American dream. Smart growth — I go back to a verse in the second chapter of the book of Genesis. You know, you can believe whatever you want to believe, or believe nothing at all. But there's a great verse there that's a foundation for my faith and a foundation I think for public policy — verse 15, I think, in chapter 2: God put the man in the garden to work it and to care for it. You've got to find a balance between development and conservation.

As a legislator, I wrote the legislation that became the most progressive, incentive-based land conservation program in the country. A tax-credit bill. We've conserved 435,000 acres of open space with that legislation since 1999. I wrote the legislation in 1996 that put the Governor's Opportunity Fund in the code. Since that legislation became effective, we've created or saved more than 80,000 jobs in Virginia. … I think we have to do a better job of coordinating land-use planning and transportation planning so that we can create prosperity, we can have more concentrated growth in some areas closer to our transportation infrastructure so we can control development of sprawl, so to speak. You can preserve open spaces. But I don't know that any single definition of smart growth is going to be adhered to by all people.

McDONNELL: I believe in the free enterprise system. I believe in letting local governments make a lot of decisions about how their communities are going to run. I believe in not having artificial barriers on businesses and developers about where they can build. I think it's a matter of private property rights, and government shouldn't reduce the ability of people to use their property as they see fit — I mean, within the context of the zoning ordinances and so forth. I do think we need to find a better way to tie growth decisions with infrastructure decisions. If one level of government is making all the decisions about growth, but then the burden of providing the infrastructure falls on another level of government, then you have the disconnect. And that happens a little bit now where local governments are making most of the growth decisions but state officials have to provide most of the money for transportation. And so somehow those need to be joined a little bit better. And so I think we need to work towards that goal of having similar levels of government making similar decisions. 

11. Candidates always talk about improving education, and yet many critics say that the standardized tests politicians often champion have resulted in the watering down of core testing areas in order to maintain mandated yearly improvement standards. In other words, pupils may be improving on the Standards of Learning but may be less prepared for what lies ahead. What two or three specific steps would you take to improve education?

DEEDS: Pam and I have four children, three of whom have graduated from high school and two of whom have now graduated from college. So we've seen our public education system in Virginia from kindergarten through college. And there are several important steps we have to take. Standards of Learning — high standards of a uniform base of knowledge — is an important marker for success. But it's not the only marker. We've got to ensure that the young people who graduate from our high schools and from our colleges are prepared for success at the next level, they're able to critically think, and prepared to solve problems. My K through 12 goals, basically, I can bring them down to three.

Number one, you can look at young people throughout school and know that the No. 1 key for success is making sure they're ready to start school ready to learn. We have to invest in quality pre-K programs — not just 4-year-old education, but 2- and 3-year-old child-care situations that nurture children and have them prepared to learn when they start school. The bottom line is, the most important investment we make is the investment we make in the development of young people. Study after study shows that 90 percent or more of a child's brain development occurs by the age of 5. You can look at a child's success or failure through the public school system and trace it back to their readiness to learn when they start school. That's the most important thing.

Number two, I'm afraid we are just not preparing teachers adequately. We're not putting them on a career path. So my number two goal is to take steps to raise teacher pay to the national average. The truth is we're losing too many teachers after three or four years of teaching. We are 30th or 31st among the 50 states in average teacher pay. If you take Northern Virginia out of the equation we are somewhere between 39th and 47th. ... That's unacceptable. ...

The third big goal for K through 12 is to raise the bar for math and science, because we're not going to cure the diseases that trouble us, or solve our energy future, if we continue to fall behind the rest of the world in math and science. So I've got a plan to put people on a path to lure the smartest people into teacher education mostly through grants on the front end, loan forgiveness on the rear end. … to lure the smartest teacher education students to go into math and science education, and then to incentivize those people to go into the toughest school divisions to teach. Because the reality is we're losing far too many kids right now. We have school systems in this state where more than 40 percent of the kids that start ninth grade fail to graduate. Statewide, I think about 30 percent of the kids who start ninth grade fail to graduate. That's unacceptable. We have to do a better job.

McDONNELL: I've heard this for 10 years, since the Standards of Learning tests were implemented. By and large, our teachers and principals have done an outstanding job making sure people are ready. We owed it to the taxpayers to have some measure of accountability about how well we were doing. I'd outline a number of things. My opponent's talking basically about money. I think there's a lot more we need to do.

One, I think it's unacceptable that we've got 72 schools that are not fully accredited in Virginia. I'm going to bring in turnaround specialists to work with local school boards to find out why those schools are not fully accredited and help turn them around. We do it every day in America in private business. Secondly, we need more money to the classroom and less in administration. I've outlined a plan to get us from 61 to 65 percent of all the education dollars to be going into the classroom. That's where kids learn, and that's where we can increase teacher salaries, where we can buy more computers and laptops and instructional materials. Thirdly, we need to have much more of a focus on science and technology and engineering and math. We're falling behind other countries in the number of engineers and nurses and so forth that we graduate. We've got to do a better job in middle and high school getting young people interested in the sciences.

And I agree, unlike my opponent — which you'll find interesting — with President Obama on his Race to the Top program, which is going to fund $4.35 billion for charter schools and merit pay. My opponent's voted against most of the charter-school legislation in Virginia. We've already got one of the weakest laws in the country. We've only got four charter schools after 11 years — there's 41,000 in America. So we are way behind. And in certain areas of the state they provide good options for parents and kids. In fact I visited just yesterday the Patrick Henry Charter School that's going to start next year in Richmond and toured that, and that'll be the fifth charter school. But it gives some flexibility and creativity for principals and administrators to try some new things to try to bring up the quality of our education system. And the president's right on that, and I want that federal money to come into Virginia. And my opponent doesn't.

12. Much of the debate in this campaign has been about taxes — whether they should be raised, and if not, where additional revenue would come from for state services and such needs as tackling Virginia's transportation issues. Where do you stand on the tax issue, and how would you raise money for Virginia?

DEEDS: When you asked me earlier about the greatest lie that the other guy was saying, you know he talks about these tax plans I support and that's just typical politics. Politics as usual, accuse the other guy of raising taxes. I have lots of general fund priorities, but every one of them can be met by finding efficiencies in other parts of the budget. I'm confident that the general fund priorities — general fund is education, health care, public safety — my general fund priorities can be met by creating efficiencies in government. I have no plans to raise taxes, general fund taxes.

Transportation Trust Fund, you know, here's the urgency of that matter. Not only is it a detriment to the quality of life to many people across this commonwealth who sit in traffic — in Northern Virginia an hour and a half, more than anywhere else in the state, in Hampton Roads, where the evacuation routes in the event of a major hurricane or 9-11-type strike aren't sufficient to get people out, the port isn't adequately developed because of inadequate transportation infrastructure — we've got a major problem. We lose opportunity in every part of the state, economic opportunity, because of transportation infrastructure. We've got 4,000 bridges and tunnels in Virginia that are structurally deficient. I'm not going to wait until we have a disaster like the one that occurred in Minneapolis to take action on transportation. We're not going to be able to match the federal dollars. We're going to lose the federal construction match within the next few years if we don't deal with transportation. It has to be dealt with now.

So the day after I'm elected, I'm going to begin assembling a bipartisan commission, much like the approach [Gov.] Gerry Baliles used in 1986. That commission's going to be tasked with developing a plan to support and fund transportation. And if that commission produces a plan that's supported by a bipartisan majority of the General Assembly, and creates new funding for transportation, and that funding has a nexus to transportation itself, requires everyone who uses the system to pay, and doesn't take money from the general fund … I'm going to sign the bill.

McDONNELL: This is a significant issue in the race. My opponent's been a longstanding supporter of higher taxes; I've been longstanding supporter of keeping taxes low. Taxes, regulation and litigation: Those are the three big impediments to creating jobs and creating opportunity for citizens. My opponent's voted for $3.5 billion in new taxes over the last five years. I voted against those tax increases. I've got a transportation plan that generates over time [$1.4 billion] in new money without raising taxes. He has no transportation plan. But what he said is, we have to raise taxes for transportation. Which shows to me no leadership, no focus on innovation and creativity. He also last year was the biggest spender in the entire General Assembly, and introduced over a billion dollars of budget amendments and said he was very proud of that. And that's at a time when we've got economic downturn and cutting the budget. So on taxes and spending, he's right there with the United States Congress: more taxes, more spending. I think especially in an economic downturn and a recession, that's the wrong policy.

There's a reason all the employer groups in Virginia — every one that's made an endorsement — has endorsed me: the Fairfax County Chamber, the Hampton Roads Chamber … the Northern Virginia Technology Council, which is the largest group of its kind, I think, in the country. The Realtors, the National Federation of Independent Business have all endorsed me and said I've got the best view when it comes to job creation, and tax and regulatory policy. My opponent's endorsed by all the national labor unions. I've got an A with the [National Federation of Independent Business], he's got an F. I mean, the lines could not be any clearer or any brighter on who's supporting businesses and job creators and those who are going to help turn this economy around. It's certainly not going to be the labor unions, it's going to be the job creators. And so, we have a very different view on taxes and that's one of the reasons these groups are supporting me.

13. Do you believe that people are born into this world with a predetermined sexual orientation, or do gays and lesbians consciously choose a homosexual lifestyle?

DEEDS: I don't think people choose a lifestyle.

McDONNELL: You know that's, I guess, a question for science. All I can tell you is that everybody ought to be treated equally under the law. I firmly believe that. When I was attorney general there were no inquiries [of employees] that were made other than this: Are you talented, are you qualified, do you care about Virginia, will you get good results? That was my policy as attorney general, it will be my policy as governor. I believe that everybody has equal civil rights in this state. That's what I will enforce enthusiastically as governor. So those other questions, I don't think about that much because from a matter of public policy it doesn't matter. Everybody's got equal rights that need to be protected.

14. When President Obama was elected, there was discussion about whether we had moved into a post-racial era. Do you believe we have, and if not, do you think such an era is ever possible in the United States?

DEEDS: I would like to think we've moved into a post-racial era, but I don't think we have yet. … I think we still have a long way to go. A long way to go.

McDONNELL: Absolutely. I think Dr. [Martin Luther] King's comments and dream of being able to have people judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin is exactly the right statement to which we should reach. I think we've made a lot of progress since 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed. In America we still, I think, have room to go. I've been a big part of trying to do that in my own public career. I was instrumental in getting the first three African-American judges ever appointed in Virginia Beach during my time in the legislature. I personally appointed the first African-American female deputy attorney general in history when I became attorney general. We increased the minority participation in my office I think from 16 to 20 percent. … I worked very closely with Gov. Kaine on all the SWAM issues — small women and minority business. In fact, I carried the bill for the Warner administration back in 2003 to study disparity in state contracting and then in 2004, based on that study, carried a bill to give the governor more tools to help improve minority business participation.

So I think we've got still more to do but I believe in the basic promise of the American dream, and that is if you want to work hard, play by the rules, be honest, use your God-given talents to the best that you can, that it is a bright access to the American dream for everybody today. Now, we've still got some additional things to work on, and frankly there are vestiges of racism across the racial spectrum. We are increasingly becoming a melting pot. It's not just black and white, we've got in Virginia significant influx of Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, that are all contributing incredible things to the diversity and greatness of our state — and I welcome that and applaud that. And what we need to do is think first that we're all first Americans, and we all ought to have equal opportunity in society. To me, that's what government should provide is equal opportunity.

15. When is the last time that you were moved by a piece of great art? Tell us about the circumstances.

DEEDS: I listen to music all the time, and I'm daily moved by songs. My son is a banjo player — he plays lots of instruments — and he travels with me a lot now in the last weeks of this campaign. And lots of times at night he will be just pickin' the banjo, making it sound like a Spanish guitar. I've found myself moved by that. In terms of visual art, I am not — you know, I will tell you I've seen near my home, there are a group of Richmond artists who come up and have kind of an artists' workshop at Nimrod Hall. And some of their work, I've come upon it in unlikely places. I've come upon it in Richmond, in the General Assembly building, or down in the James Center. And I've seen scenes from my home that are spot-on. … It has just been so soul-stirring just to see that, yeah that's touched me. …

The last book … that really touched me in a dramatic fashion, I read this book recently, “Canaan” by Donald McCaig, that was a novel of Reconstruction-era Richmond history that has some passages that are really moving. The last work of nonfiction that really touched me in a dramatic way was “The Omnivore's Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. But music is … sometimes I just listen to a song I've heard a thousand times before. … On an almost weekly basis I need to listen to “Layla” and other sort of love songs, and Eric Clapton and Duane Allman from the early '70s, and sometimes I've listened to the same songs hundreds and hundreds of times but just a piece, a guitar riff, will just touch me in a way that I've not … [trails off]

McDONNELL: Well, when it comes to art with regard to books, about anything I read about George Washington moves me [laughs], I have to say. I'm in the middle of reading “His Excellency” right now which is by Joseph Ellis, who won the Pulitzer Prize for some other books that he wrote. But Washington continues to inspire me with the kind of person he was, the kind of person I'd like to continue to emulate. I just took a tour of the new wing of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts … it's incredible. That's going to be one of the top 10 in the country. I've already promised them I'd go back and cut the ribbon if I'm governor because that's going to be a gem for Virginia. It gives me a great source of pride because of one, the economic development potential, but two, we're going to be able to get on a traveling basis, probably, any major art piece in the world. We've got now the quality facility to display. That's pretty cool, here in the capital city of Richmond we're going to have that kind of facility.

16. If you were to invite us over for dinner, what's the best meal you could make?

DEEDS: I can fry a chicken that you'd die for. I could probably introduce you to some venison steak that you would probably want to make a regular part of your diet. My wife is unbelievable — she makes this potato salad that is life-changing, almost. And she makes this corn-bread dressing that is just unbelievable, to kill for — the garlic, it's just unbelievable. When I was a little boy, I loved to eat Ruritan Club chicken, you know, this vinegar- and oil-based barbecue sauce, and in 1987 I joined the Ruritan Club so I could learn how to make the chicken. While this campaign has kept me on the road … I've not cooked chicken for nearly a year and a half that way — I love to cook barbecue chicken.

McDONNELL: [Laughs] That I could personally cook? You know, I'm OK. I've been a little rusty lately because it's been microwave and fast food lately. I can cook some great spaghetti. I've got some pretty good salmon dishes that I've been able to make over time. But you know what, I'm pretty much a grill with chicken, hot dogs, pork loin, hamburgers — that's probably my best skill, is the grill.

17. Can you name one good reason that someone should vote for your opponent?

DEEDS: [Long pause] You know, I can name you a thousand good reasons why they should vote for me. I'm the best-prepared person to be the next governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. … Bob is a guy that I've always gotten along with, but I get along with most people. I work hard to get along with people. I don't agree with Bob on a great deal.

McDONNELL: He's a good family man. He's worked hard to represent his district well for 18 years. To me, he's a good story of somebody living and accessing the American dream. You know, he tells the story about … first guy in his family to go to college with four $20 [bills] in his pocket and now he's competing for the job held by Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. To me, that's a great story. I think there's a hundred reasons why I'd be a better governor than him, but for the way, and this is his own personal life story, the way he has told it — it obviously happened because of tremendous hard work, tremendous perseverance to be able to get to the level that he is at, and I think that's very admirable.

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