Wednesday Q+A With Terry McAuliffe

The political operative turned governor talks economics, redistricting, and the presidency.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, photographed in National Journal's offices.
Chet Susslin
July 11, 2017, 8 p.m.

Vir­gin­ia Gov. Terry McAul­iffe’s first and fi­nal term ends next year. As chair of the Na­tion­al Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation and a former Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee head, he is vo­cal on na­tion­al polit­ics and policy. McAul­iffe talked with Zach C. Co­hen at Na­tion­al Journ­al’s of­fices about bal­an­cing fisc­al and so­cial policy, the “cor­ros­ive” ef­fect of ger­ry­man­der­ing, and the “fun” he’s had as gov­ernor. Tran­script ed­ited for length.

As you wrap up, what do you con­sider to be your biggest leg­acy over the last four years?

Clearly eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment. Un­em­ploy­ment rate has gone from 5.4 to 3.8, the low­est in nine years. We’re now the No. 1 state in Amer­ica for cy­ber­se­cur­ity. My chal­lenge now is we have so many high-pay­ing jobs that we’re not filling.

I’ve prob­ably been the most pro­gress­ive gov­ernor in Vir­gin­ia his­tory. I was one of the first statewide in the South to come out for mar­riage equal­ity. I told the [Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation] they can go jump off a cliff. I told wo­men I’d be a brick wall to pro­tect their rights. I’ve re­stored more felon rights than any gov­ernor.

You’ve ve­toed more le­gis­la­tion than any oth­er Vir­gin­ia gov­ernor. Is there any­thing you re­gret not be­ing able to do?

I ve­toed 120 bills. I was nev­er over­rid­den once. Sev­enty-eight per­cent of my le­gis­la­tion got passed with a very Re­pub­lic­an le­gis­lature, and to be hon­est with you, we work very closely to­geth­er on eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment. I got everything I wanted. A spec­tac­u­lar fail­ure—not for want of try­ing—has been [not passing] Medi­caid ex­pan­sion.

As chair of the NGA, you’ve talked to oth­er gov­ernors about fed­er­al health care policy. Do they see their role in this de­bate dif­fer­ently from oth­er fed­er­al de­bates?

Oh, yeah. You’ve seen such a co­ali­tion of Demo­crat and Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors come to­geth­er. Those 31 ex­pan­sion states and D.C.—it’s a lot of money for them. And then us non-ex­pan­sion states—we’re per­petu­ally go­ing to be locked out of this fund­ing go­ing for­ward.

Would you run for a second term if you could?

Listen, I’m fine with four years. But of course if there was an op­por­tun­ity to run again, of course you would. I’ve prob­ably had more fun than any­one’s ever en­titled to have. I’m sure you’ve seen the Twit­ter; I was out on the moon bounce the oth­er day, ra­cing kids. I jumped out of a plane at 10,000 feet in­to a Wounded War­ri­or con­cert. I’m the first gov­ernor to go up in an un­manned drone; I flew it with a laptop. My se­cur­ity team is at the point where [they say], “Well, let him do what he wants. We can’t stop him if we wanted to.” Three-hun­dred new winer­ies, 206 craft brew­er­ies—I’m try­ing to do my best to vis­it them all.

Demo­crats last month nom­in­ated Lt. Gov. Ral­ph Northam to re­place you. What do you an­ti­cip­ate his gov­ernor­ship would look like?

He was my lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor, [and] God knows I kept get­ting sued—thank good­ness I had At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Mark Her­ring—but we were a team, the three of us. And these ac­com­plish­ments are not Terry McAul­iffe’s ac­com­plish­ments. They’re our ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­com­plish­ments. That’s what Ral­ph’s go­ing to run on, a con­tinu­ation of those policies.

[GOP nom­in­ee] Ed [Gillespie] has been a good friend. You’d prob­ably kill him by writ­ing that.

You served at the same time as na­tion­al party chairs.

Ed and I did a lot of TV to­geth­er. We come from the same place. Polit­ics isn’t per­son­al. You can dis­agree; it doesn’t mean you’re a bad per­son. And un­for­tu­nately what’s happened in Amer­ic­an polit­ics today is every­body takes it so mean-spir­ited.

What are you go­ing to be do­ing after your term?

The tax­pay­ers are pay­ing me, so I’m really fo­cused on the next six months. And then I’m really lean­ing in on the [Na­tion­al Demo­crat­ic Re­dis­trict­ing Com­mit­tee]. I view this ger­ry­man­der­ing as so cor­ros­ive. These lines are drawn such that nobody will work with each oth­er any­more. And if I had my druth­ers, I’d have an in­de­pend­ent, non­par­tis­an com­mis­sion in all 50 states.

You haven’t ruled out run­ning for pres­id­ent in 2020. Do you think there is an ap­pet­ite for some­body with your re­cord?

I get asked this a lot. I have no idea what I’m do­ing in the fu­ture. I love be­ing gov­ernor. It’s the one job—hon­est—I’ve al­ways wanted.

Take me out of it, be­cause this is not something I’m think­ing about: We need a stand­ard-bear­er of our party who fo­cuses ob­sess­ively on eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment and job growth, and con­nects that to a so­cially pro­gress­ive agenda. But talk­ing about a so­cially pro­gress­ive agenda without eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment to me is a mean­ing­less con­ver­sa­tion.

What We're Following See More »
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
TRUMP SAYS HE WILL SIGN
House Passes Funding Deal
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed a massive border and budget bill that would avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of September. The Senate passed the measure earlier Thursday. The bill provides $1.375 billion for fences, far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded to fund steel walls. But the president says he will sign the legislation, and instead seek to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login