Pols fluster anti-OLF group

Published 9:06 am Saturday, August 15, 2009

FRANKLIN—With a little more than 11 weeks to go before the gubernatorial election, the group Virginians Against the Outlying Landing Field has been unable to gain an audience with either candidate.

It’s not from a lack of trying.

VAOLF Chairman Tony Clark said he met the Republican candidate, Bob McDonnell, at the annual Shad Planking in Wakefield on April 15.

“We had a substantial, 60- to 120-second discussion where we were off to the side,” Clark said Friday. “We looked each other in the eye. After we discussed it he said it was important that he get information from both sides. He said he hadn’t made up his mind yet and wanted to hear both sides of the story.”

At that point, Clark said, McDonnell told him to schedule a meeting with his assistant, who was standing next to them.

The meeting still hasn’t taken place.

“It wasn’t one of those ‘in passing, we shook hands and he promised me something (moments),’” Clark said. “I know the difference. And for whatever reason, for four months they didn’t schedule a meeting and now they’re saying they don’t have time.”

Clark added McDonnell “wants to talk about doing everything he can on the one hand to protect the interest of the citizens, yet he won’t take an hour out of a six-month campaign to sit down and talk to the residents who this is going to impact the most.”

Crystal Cameron, press secretary for the McDonnell campaign, could not be reached for comment.

Political third rail

Clark said that although VAOLF has so far been unable to secure a meeting with McDonnell, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds has been equally elusive.

“They don’t want to talk about this,” Clark said of both candidates. “These guys don’t want to talk about this issue because they know we’re getting a raw deal. Oceana (Naval Air Station) is one of those political third rails. You don’t want to be the guy running for statewide office that’s not all about keeping that cash cow right there in Tidewater.”

He added, “This is a financial issue for the governor’s office. It’s not a personal issue. And so, rather than get engaged in a discussion with people for whom it is personal, they try to keep it at arm’s length. They say things, (but they don’t) really have to get their hands dirty on the issue.”

Asked if VAOLF would meet with legislative assistants to the gubernatorial candidates, a suggestion Clark said was once floated by the McDonnell campaign, Clark said yes.

“We would probably choose to meet with a lieutenant simply so we could say that we did our due diligence,” Clark said.

North Carolina

Clark said he took issue with the McDonnell’s suggestion during an interview Tuesday with The Tidewater News that selecting one of the two proposed sites in North Carolina for an OLF would be a win-win scenario for Virginians.

“I don’t want to see a candidate for governor in Virginia say that a viable alternative is to find a good site in North Carolina, just to pawn the problem off on somebody else,” Clark said. “Our position has always been that it’s not fair for anybody, and we are not going to throw North Carolina under the bus. I still feel that way.”

But Clark conceded that not everybody shared that sentiment.

“If it comes down that somebody’s going to have to have (an OLF), and we’ve exhausted all of our options, I think there are probably some in our community that, given the chance to stick (an OLF) in North Carolina, they would do it in a heartbeat,” Clark said.