BY WESLEY P. HESTER
Democratic businessman Terry McAuliffe will run for governor next year — as long as U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., does not.
“If Mark runs, I’d be the first guy to endorse him. Let’s have no ifs, ands or buts about it,” McAuliffe said Monday in an interview with the Times-Dispatch.
McAuliffe said he’s planning for a run, but added that Warner “has left the door open a little bit,” and he’ll wait for it to be closed before officially jumping in.
Meantime, McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who unsuccessfully sought the governorship three years ago, is busy laying the groundwork for next year while focusing on his businesses and this year’s elections.
Since losing the nomination battle to Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, in 2009, McAuliffe has founded two businesses — GreenTech Automotive, an electric-car manufacturer, and Franklin Pellets, a wood pellet manufacturer – both of which have created jobs and a storyline he thinks could resonate with voters.
He soon hopes to open a wood pellet plant, a renewable source of energy, on the site of the former International Paper mill in Isle of Wight County.
“Why sit out there for 18 months when I’m actually doing something very productive?” McAuliffe said of pressure to declare his candidacy now.
Three Republicans have already announced: Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and White House party crasher Tareq Salahi.
That’s not to say McAuliffe hasn’t been busy politicking, too. Since the 2009 primary, he’s held 438 events across the state and become one of the state’s biggest fundraisers for Democrats.
Last week, he hosted a dinner at his McLean home attended by President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton that brought in $3 million for the president’s re-election campaign and other Democratic causes.