Battleground Virginia: Wilder not surprised by Virginia's swing status

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by Janet Roach, 13News

WVEC.com

Posted on October 26, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 31 at 6:21 PM

RICHMOND - L. Douglas Wilder never spent much time convincing himself that he could make history.

On a cold January day in 1990, taking the oath as the nation's first elected African-American governor, he no longer had to convince the rest of the country.

Call it a bit of political clairvoyance.  Wilder saw change in Virginia that others hadn't.  He broke ground as the first black state senator since reconstruction, then as lieutenant governor.  There were naysayers every step of the way.

"As a matter of fact, it was said if I was on the ticket of lieutenant governor, I would not only cause my ticket mates to lose, but I would cause a loss of the control of the legislature by Democrats. It was the worst thing I could do. It was said it was an ego trip for me," Wilder said.

If that was an ego trip, voters chose to go along for the ride then and again in 1989 when he was elected governor.

In his office at the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Va. Commonwealth University, Wilder laughed as he recounted the unfounded fears of some people.

"Could Virginia elect the first African American governor? Oh my God, and the world didn't come to an end?" he said.

Not only did it not come to an end, but Wilder led the state to a number one ranking in fiscal management.  

It took nearly two decades after Wilder's stirring achievements for the Commonwealth to become presidential battleground territory in 2008.   He saw it coming long before then.

"I never could understand why we could be a hundred miles from Washington D.C, and overlooked. We're a big state. We're a populous state. We're not considered bottom rung of the ladder like we were years ago. We have any number of legislators, ambassadors living in Virginia. With that backdrop, why shouldn't Virginia be considered?"

Wilder says Virginia has long history of independent thinkers and they will determine which candidate takes the state's 13 electoral votes.

"I told Obama he could win Virginia if he campaigned in Virginia, if he worked in Virginia and he did that in 2008 and obviously he's doing it now."

Wilder believes it will come down to a few key questions.

"What do you stand for? What is your position? What can you transcend? As I call it, what's in it for them, which means what's in it for us and that means all of us."

 

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