RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds won Virginia's three-way Democraticprimary for governor Tuesday with shocking ease, defeating a formerClinton White House insider and a former legislative colleague.
The victory sets up a Deeds rematch with Republican BobMcDonnell, who beat him in the 2005 attorney general election by323 votes out of nearly 2 million cast.
"I'm a Presbyterian. I believe things happen for a reason," ajubilant Deeds, surprised at the ease of his victory, said in atelephone interview with The Associated Press. Deeds had about halfthe vote in the three-way race with nearly all precincts reporting.His opponents each had around a quarter of the vote.
"The rematch isn't so important to me," Deeds said.
Deeds had trailed both his opponents in fundraising.
McDonnell is a conservative with strong ties to religiousbroadcaster Pat Robertson. He was unopposed for the GOPnomination.
In other races, former Virginia Finance Secretary Jody Wagnerwon the Democratic lieutenant governor primary over first-timecandidate A. Michael Signer.
Deeds, the only Democrat in the race not from the Washington,D.C., suburbs, piled up surprisingly large margins across thestate, including the northern Virginia region that rivals Terry R.McAuliffe and Brian J. Moran call home.
McAuliffe and Moran both called Deeds to congratulate him by8:30 p.m.
Both men had criticized Deeds for legislative votes supportingVirginia's broad, pro-gun laws, actions popular in rural areas thatdon't play well in cities and affluent suburbs.
McAuliffe's political connections from his days as chieffundraiser for Bill Clinton and chairman of the Democratic NationalCommittee helped him dominate press coverage and amass a heftyamount of cash.
He seized on the down economy by promising to bring jobs toVirginia, touring the state with his confidante Bill Clinton.However, that left the venture capitalist open to attacks over hisinvolvement in a telecommunications firm that made him millionsbefore the company went bust, leaving 10,000 people jobless andcosting investors $54 billion.
Moran, from Alexandria, went farther to the left than his rivalsin appealing to liberal activists. He pledged to oppose newcoal-fired power initiatives and reverse the state's same-sexmarriage ban.
Deeds, with by far the least money raised of the three and astaff so sparse that he sometimes drove himself to campaign events,hewed toward the middle.
His campaign finances were so precarious that he was forced tolay off some of his field staff so that he could afford to runtelevision ads in the final two weeks of the campaign.
For much of the campaign, Deeds remained out of the crossfirebetween bitter rivals Moran and McAuliffe. Because he chose toremain in the Senate, he missed 46 days at the start of thecampaign and was barred by state law from raising any money duringthat time.
Only toward the end of the campaign, after Deeds began surgingin polls, did his two opponents take aim at him for Senate votesagainst efforts to close a loophole in state laws that exemptfirearms sales at gun shows from the background checks required offederally licensed gun retailers.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the new Democratic National Committeechairman, is barred by the state Constitution from seekingre-election.
Associated Press Writer Matthew Barakat in Arlington, Va.,contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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