Monday, July 22, 2013

Observations at the Homestead gubernatorial debate

The Homestead early Saturday morning.

We arrived early at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs for the Virginia Bar Association (VBA) gubernatorial debate between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli after leaving home at 8:00 Saturday morning for the leisurely, one-hour drive over the mountains.

Everyone and his brother has written about the debate and there's not really much more I could add to that so I'll pass along some out-of-the-way observations....

Ken Cuccinelli ... walking in George Allen's boots? Were those cowboy boots he was wearing with that lawyer suit on Saturday?

Chris LaCivita, part of the Cuccinelli's entourage for their pre-debate mike check, dropped his name tag in the hallway. Yellow ... all access ... hmm. Wonder if I could get away with it? Tried to get his attention as he hurried away so retrieved the name tag and handed it off to Cuccinelli campaign  manager Dave Rexrode in the ballroom. With an all access pass ... oh, the places I could go?

Pre-debate was a flurry of activity as media worked to get set up. This is a community where many knew others as they called greetings to one another.

Mike Stark

Cue the "Twilight Zone" music ... sitting at the table in front of me was Mike Stark. If you don't recognize the name, you weren't blogging in 2006. We've jostled on the blogging front lines -- liberal Democrat versus conservative Republican -- throughout the years so I asked to get his photo to prove his presence to my fellow SWAC bloggers. He was congenial as we discussed issues like energy and Obamacare ... kind of a surreal feeling.

Brian Coy with the McAuliffe campaign came by press tables to meet everyone and hand out a fact sheet. A young man with America Rising, the Republican youthful outfit, stopped by with an information sheet and introduced himself.

Bob Brown, photo-journalist, Richmond Times-Dispatch

As always, I enjoyed sitting with local political reporter Bob Stuart from the Daily Progress/News-Virginian. Look for his article about the debate in Sunday's paper. Bob Brown, longtime photo-journalist from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, was there -- love his work so stopped by to say hi and chatted a moment with him. There was no sighting of the TD's political writer Jeff Schapiro. His bow tie was missed.

Ellen Qualls

Bob pointed out Ellen Qualls, who kind of made her name working with Mark Warner and is now a consultant to the McAuliffe campaign, was standing nearby. State Senator Creigh Deeds was seen in the audience.

The debate began with introductions of the candidates and then intro of Judy Woodruff, co-anchor of the "PBS NewsHour." There was a slight hiccup when Ms. Woodruff offered the podium to McAuliffe to begin opening statements, only to be told by Cuccinelli that he was to be first. She apologized and tossed it over to him. Later in the debate, Cuccinelli again corrected Woodruff's question rotation. Awkward.

Afterward, both candidates offered a brief interview opportunity for the media. In the middle of the cluster pictured above was Terry McAuliffe.

As I was leaving the ballroom after the debate, Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis was outside the doors greeting folks. I got his photo and talked briefly with him, asking how he felt about not being included in the debate and if he hoped to be in future ones.  He was upbeat and said he's working to make that happen.

Just down the hall stood Greg Letiecq in the hallway talking with someone so I patted him on the arm as I passed. NoVa was in the house....

Heavy media coverage. Extra tables were brought in after all seats were taken.

Someone's cell phone went off at 12:25 on Republican side of ballroom -- it was playing some kind of country song that went on for several seconds while Cuccinelli was speaking -- another awkward moment.

Many thanks to Marilyn Shaw with the VBA who does a great job year after year of communicating with the press and including bloggers. The Homestead was gorgeous, as always. Another year, another VBA debate tucked away into the archives. It's less than four months until election day.

I never tire of the drive to the Homestead on the back roads of western Virginia. Those who know me know I have to post the obligatory rural photo, this one taken near my home as I started out on my morning journey to Hot Springs. Hay bales, mountains, chicory ... serenity.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
July 20, 2013

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