Photo by David Grace.
BRISTOL, Va. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe pledged support for the state accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid coverage to about 400,000 Virginians while launching the Southwest Virginia portion of his campaign Wednesday.
“It is the right thing to do,” McAuliffe said of the Medicaid expansion during his campaign appearance at the Birthplace of Country Music construction site.
McAuliffe insisted that expanding Medicaid coverage — an optional move for states under last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the federal health care reform law — could create more than 30,000 health care jobs in the state.
In contrast, current Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell rejected that idea last March and cited “the vast reform needed” to make the state’s current Medicaid program cost effective.
McAuliffe’s Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, also rejected expanding Medicaid and championed the state’s lawsuit against the federal health care reform law.
“Ken Cuccinelli is opposed to Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion within that policy. Cuccinelli believes it does not make sense for Virginia to force more of our citizens into a system that’s not working and is going broke. As attorney general, Cuccinelli has cracked down on Medicaid fraud and as governor he will work to make the program sustainable for the citizens who rely upon it,” said Anna Nix, Cuccinelli spokeswoman.
McAuliffe, a businessman and former Democratic National Committee chairman who tried but failed to become the Democratic gubernatorial nominee four years ago, pitched diversifying the state’s jobs base at the Bristol stop.
“Virginia is at a unique crossroads,” McAuliffe told his supporters. “We did a little bit better than the nation did in the last great recession primarily because Virginia is the number one recipient of federal dollars. Now the (federal) stimulus is over. ... The (federal) sequester looks like it’s going to be here at least for the rest of the year. In Hampton Roads, federal spending is nearly half of the economy. In Northern Virginia, it’s over a third.”
A campaign focused on jobs and economic development, McAuliffe insisted, will help his Democratic campaign in GOP-leaning Southwest Virginia.
“My opponent (Cuccinelli) spends more time on a social ideological agenda,” McAuliffe told reporters after his campaign remarks.
McAuliffe also took another political shot at Cuccinelli in his prepared remarks to supporters by praising McDonnell and state lawmakers for passing a transportation funding reform plan that will reduce gas taxes and increase the sales tax.
“Frankly, I was amazed my opponent tried to stop this critical piece of legislation at each and every step,” McAuliffe said. “We were risking future federal funds for transportation. ... We need to improve the Highway 58 corridor (in Southwest Virginia). ... Let’s pick the right projects and build the best ones.”
McAuliffe also pledged support for K-12 education, pre-kindergarten and community colleges in work force development efforts.
When asked what he could do to help the slumping coal industry, McAuliffe stressed he met with Bristol-based coal producer Alpha Natural Resources (ANR).
“I could really help them on exports as they want to open up those Asia markets in China and Korea,” McAuliffe said of the meeting with ANR.
While McAuliffe tries to drum up support for his campaign, the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) continues to take him to task for his past work as a political operative.
“As we continue to wait for Terry McAuliffe to release his full tax records, Virginians are reminded that during his tenure as Democrat Party boss he spent $100,000 to gin up opposition to the 2001 tax cuts,” an RPV release said.
For more about McAuliffe, go to www.terrymcauliffe.com.
For more about Cuccinelli, go to www.cuccinelli.com.