By Rosalind Helderman
Bob McDonnell's 1989 master's thesis is a relevant topic for the Virginia governor's campaign that helps shed light on McDonnell's record in public life, opponent Creigh Deeds said this afternoon in his first public comments since the publication of the thesis in the Post on Sunday.
"The thesis explains the social agenda that has apparently driven his legislative agenda during the years," Deeds said. "If anything, this ensures people understand there are very clear differences between me and the other guy in terms of our record. Records are important."
Deeds said he was not entirely surprised by some of the ideas expressed in the thesis, noting that McDonnell sponsored legislation to establish covenant marriage in Virginia four times, backed numerous bills restricting access to abortions and voted in 2001 against a resolution that urged equal pay for men and women.
He said the thesis explains the ideas McDonnell pursued once elected to the legislature, a "social crusade" that did not include the economic development the Republican has now made the center of his campaign. Deeds said his own record has focused on improving education and creating economic opportunity.
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said, "It's good to see Creigh has come back from California and wants to talk about records. We will be happy to talk about his lifetime 94 percent rating from big unions, his championing of greater government spending, and his strong support for 3.5 billion in tax hikes in just the last 5 years.
"We'd also like to discuss his vision for Virginia's future, but we haven't seen one of note. Creigh should spend more time finding a transportation plan for today and less time trying to find quotes from a decades-old graduate school paper," Martin continued.
Deeds said he was a "little disturbed" by some of the McDonnell's 20-year old language, particularly McDonnell's assertion as a student pursuing a master's and law degree from Regent University in Virginia Beach that working women were detrimental to the family and that federal child care tax credits were harmful because they encouraged women to work outside the home.
McDonnell has said he has changed his views about working women because of life and legislative experience over the last 20 years. He says too that he no longer believes, as he argued in the thesis, that government should discriminate against unmarried people and homosexuals.
"I guess it's for the observer to figure out whether one's views really have changed, but I think the record speaks for itself," Deeds said.
And Deeds rejected the idea that McDonnell's master's thesis was a mere academic exercise that should be out of bounds for the campaign.
"He wasn't 20 years old when he wrote it. He was 34. I was 34 when I was sworn into the House of Delegates and certainly the things I did when I was 34, I'm going to be taken to task for in this campaign," he said. "Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. This was a guy, he was a father, he was a husband, he'd been in the military. He'd been out in the world. It's relevant."