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ND grad elected Governor of Virginia

Aaron Steiner | Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Notre Dame alumnus Bob McDonnell was elected the 71st governor of Virginia Tuesday, topping Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds with about 60 percent of the vote as of press time. With the win, McDonnell will become the fourth Notre Dame alumnus in history to be elected as a U.S. governor.

A Republican, McDonnell previously served as Attorney General of Virginia from 2005 until he left office in February of this year to campaign for governor full time.

McDonnell, a Philadelphia native, attended Notre Dame on an ROTC scholarship and graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in Management from the University.

After graduation he served in the military for 20 years, 16 of which were spent in the Army Reserve. He also received an M.B.A. from Boston University in 1980 and a Juris Doctorate degree from Regent University in 1989.

The Virginia gubernatorial race garnered national attention in recent weeks, with political commentators arguing the outcome would be an indication of political moods both in that state and across the country exactly one year after President Barack Obama was elected.

Late Tuesday, Republican leaders cited the victory as a repudiation of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. The current state governor, Tim Kaine, serves as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The race saw the intervention of President Barack Obama, who campaigned on behalf of Deeds.

Polls indicated that McDonnell’s lead came from his advantage among independent voters and white men.

McDonnell, known by most as a social conservative, emphasized the economy throughout his campaign, promising to create jobs. According to polls, the economy was the top issue among voters when deciding whom to vote for.

His opponent publicly criticized McDonnell’s 1989 master’s thesis, which, by some interpretations, was critical of working women and single mothers. The thesis and its fallout generated national attention, but polls Tuesday said a majority of voters reported the thesis had “no effect” on their vote.

McDonnell is also tied to Notre Dame through his oldest daughter, Jeanine, who graduated from the University also on an ROTC scholarship, with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

Former Notre Dame Football Coach Lou Holtz was also involved in McDonnell’s campaign — Holtz spoke at a campaign function Oct. 26 in support of the candidate.

McDonnell currently resides in Richmond with his wife and five children.

Prior to serving as state Attorney General, McDonnell was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1991 to 2005. He also worked as a prosecutor in Virginia Beach, as a private attorney and as a manager with a Fortune 500 health care company.

McDonnell joins three other Notre Dame alumni as holding state gubernatorial office. Class of 1957 graduate Thomas Lee Judge served as governor of Montana from 1973 to 1981.

1960 graduate Bruce Babbitt is the former governor of Arizona, serving from 1978 to 1987.
Joe Kernan of the Class of 1968 was governor of Indiana 2003 to 2005.

Also on Tuesday, Republican Chris Christie beat incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine for the New Jersey governorship.

New Jersey and Virginia were the only two states that held a gubernatorial election Tuesday.