HOTSEAT- Top o' the ticket? Deeds in HotSeat again

Creigh Deeds

When this newspaper was launched in early 2002, not many people around here had ever heard of the state senator from Bath County who had just won the 25th District seat of the beloved, late Emily Couric. That's why, when Creigh Deeds sat in the Hook's first HotSeat, we put a pronunciation guide, "It's 'Cree,' not 'Cray,'" right in the headline.

Flash forward seven years. Deeds is still in the HotSeat, this time running for governor.

He put a big dent in the name recognition factor with his 2005 run for attorney general, which featured a heartbreakingly close 360-vote loss to Bob McDonnell, the Republican now gunning for governor.   

While it could easily feel like déjà vu, before Deeds has a chance to take a swing at McDonnell again, he's got to come out on top of fellow Democrats Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran in the June 9 primary.

There are other differences from the 2005 race that brought Tim Kaine to the governor's mansion. "I'm not running on anybody's ticket this time," says Deeds. "I'm saying what I want to say." 

And he's saying it faster, as if he doesn't have much time to get it out. "Everything I've done has prepared me for this," he adds.

Deeds is quick to point out that he's the only Democrat in the race who's both run a statewide campaign and run against McDonnell. "I know how to skin this cat," he says with the folksiness one expects from the only rural candidate– and only native Virginian– in the three-way primary.

"Stepping up from attorney general campaigning to governor is like going from AA ball to the major leagues," says Deeds. "Like going from the Chattanooga Choo-Choos to the New York Mets."

Ditto running for statewide office after growing up in Bath County where his family has lived for generations. An attorney, Deeds won his first public office at age 27 when he was elected commonwealth's attorney. From there, he went to the House of Delegates for 10 years before winning his state senate seat. At every step of the way, he's been asked, how can a guy from Millboro Springs (estimated pop. 396) run for office outside Bath County?

Recent polls show Deeds trailing against his two fellow Dem contenders– yet coming closest in a match-up against McDonnell in November.

"Bob McDonnell is doing his best to remake himself into a moderate," declares Deeds. "We'll see if the media lets him. I'm not."

Though Deeds says, "I like Terry McAuliffe," he also notes that 80 percent of McAuliffe's war chest was raised outside the state. "Where you raise your money says a lot about the kind of governor you're going to be," says Deeds. "Most of mine is from Virginia."

He also mentions that Brian Moran has gotten campaign donations from contractors who have legislation in front of his brother, U.S. Representative Jim Moran. "There's nothing wrong with trying to solicit donations from defense contractors," says Deeds. "I've solicited money from them and from a lot of people. But my brother isn't on a congressional committee."

Deeds picked up some press when he skipped the annual political mecca that is the Shad Planking in order to campaign in the western part of the state with Congressman Rick Boucher. To Deeds, it was an obvious choice to take the blessing of the "wildly successful, wildly popular" Boucher over an event swarmed by 1,000 people who "have already made up their minds."

"I got lots of press out of not going, and I reached thousands of people," says Deeds, voicing one regret: "I missed the shad."

A little over a week later, Deeds visits Charlottesville before an evening event in Hot Springs back in Bath County, but he is only going to drop by home, say hello, and head east again to Richmond for a breakfast the next morning. And he sees no slowdown after the June 9 primary. "After November 3, I'm planning on taking a few hours off," says Deeds. "Maybe a day."

Age: 51

What do you like best about Charlottesville? The friendly faces, the good places to eat like Christian's, the Nook, C&O, Basil– my daughter works there– and I love the New Dominion Bookshop.

Least? Humidity in July.

Favorite hangout here? Deeds for Governor Campaign Headquarters at 214 Ridge Street. Come on by to join our grassroots campaign!

Most overrated virtue? There is no such thing as an overrated virtue, but virtues can certainly be cheapened.

People would be surprised to know: I have a donkey named Harry S. Truman.

What would you change about yourself? Better exercise discipline

Proudest accomplishment? Holding the distinction of being the first person to appear in the "HotSeat" for the first-ever edition of the Hook.

People find most annoying about you: I don't give up, and I never quit.

Whom do you admire? Gerry Baliles– he was a governor who made it all count.

Favorite book? Omnivore's Dilemma– many valuable lessons about people, life on earth, and our food supply.

Subject that causes you to rant? People who take themselves too seriously.

Biggest 21st-century thrill? The iPod

Biggest 21st-century creep out? The demise of print media

What do you drive? A 2002 Ford Explorer with over 307,000 miles on it.

In your car CD player right now: I'm an iPod guy and it is my constant companion on the road. Right now I am rotating between Gram Parsons, Little Feat, and The Band.

Next journey? We are facing tough straits right now, and I look forward to my journey as the next governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? Got caught racing cars on Warm Springs Mountain when I was in high school.

Regret: I don't believe in regrets. You only live once, so you have to put it all in and take it all out.

Favorite comfort food: My wife Pam's cornbread dressing

Always in your refrigerator: The basics– eggs and milk

Must-see TV: House

Describe a perfect day. The sun is shining, the grass is green, and the water is clear, and I can walk in the stream and fish all afternoon long.

Walter Mitty fantasy: Clean-up hitter for my favorite baseball team– the Cincinnati Reds– and it's the bottom of the ninth with two outs, and runners in scoring position.

Who'd play you in the movie? Kevin Costner

Most embarrassing moment? The multiple times I've struck out at baseball games.

Best advice you ever got? My uncle Frank always told me growing up that you get out of things what you put into them. That's the best advice I've ever got.

Favorite bumper sticker? I've got to go with "Creigh Deeds for Governor"