Terry McAuliffe gets personal over gun issue in campaign's closing days

In the final days of Virginia's 2015 elections, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has taken highly public swings at two Republicans running for state Senate. 

To hear the governor tell it, one Republican has "got a horrible record on guns."

In his monthly "Ask the Governor" radio show on Washington's WTOP, McAuliffe called GOP Senate candidate Hal Parrish "a liar" over a television ad running in a northern Virginia district. In a 30-second spot titled, "Stop the Tolls," Parrish says "Richmond politicians are at it again. They want us to pay $17 just to drive on I-66 inside the Beltway. They are talking about more for 395, too." Parrish promises that, if he is elected, he will stop tolls on "any road that you've already paid for."

McAuliffe took strong issue with the ad and the candidate.

"Hal Parrish is doing this because he's got a horrible record on guns. He's horrible on women's issues, he's horrible on gun issues and he can't talk about his record," McAuliffe said, "so he's out now misleading and lying about the truth."

In a news release responding to the governor, Parrish said "instead of explaining just what citizens will be getting in return for a $17 toll, the governor reduced the conversation to name-calling."

The proposal to toll portions of Interstate 66 in northern Virginia has quickly become a hot campaign issue in northern Virginia. Republicans charge that McAuliffe's plan would impose a $17 toll on portions of the highway, and that the money raised would be used to fund buses and bike paths.

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne wrote in an op-ed for WTOP that these assertions are "misleading and flatly incorrect," and that "tolling would only be in effect during peak hours, and this proposal offers more drivers the option of a fast and reliable trip without impacting current HOV commuters."

The 29th Senate District race between Parrish and Democrat Jeremy McPike is one of the marquee contests in the fight for partisan control of the Senate. Democrat Charles Colgan held the seat or four decades and retired at the end of the 2015 legislative session.

Colgan himself has made no endorsements in the race, irking some Democrats. In a letter published on InsideNoVa, Colgan's children endorsed Parrish, saying the Manassas mayor "has always worked for solutions to make our community a better place to live."

The race gained additional importance when Everytown for Gun Safety, founded and partially funded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, said it was committing $1.6 million to support McPike.

According to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, the Bloomberg-affiliated group has slightly exceeded its $1.6 million commitment, spending the bulk of its money as in-kind contributions for television ads.

McPike has raised nearly $1.1 million from individuals and political action committees. McAuliffe's Common Good VA PAC is the largest donor, contributing $792,000 to McPike's campaign.

Parrish raised more than $1.4 million. Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment's leadership PAC is the Parrish campaign's largest donor, having contributed $463,000 to the campaign.

Appearing on the Richmond-area edition of the "Ask the Governor" radio show, McAuliffe also took issue with Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin). News reports indicate Stanley had received what he perceived to be credible threats of bodily harm on his Facebook page form Andy Parker.

Parker, the father of slain Roanoke TV journalist Alison Parker, appears on camera in Everytown for Gun Safety's TV ads, currently running in the Parrish-McPike contest in northern Virginia, as well as the 10th Senate District race between Republican Glen Sturtevant and Democrat Dan Gecker.

Stanley provided screen captures of Parker's messages to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. One of the messages said, “I’m going to be your worst nightmare you little bastard."

McAuliffe brushed off the incident. While admitting that Parker may need to be more careful about what he says, McAuliffe told Stanley he needed to "man up," and that Parker obviously meant him no physical harm.

Stanley released a second message, in which Parker wrote, "WHEN YOU SEE ME AGAIN, YOU BEST WALK THE OTHER WAY LEST I BEAT YOUR LITTLE ASS WITH MY BARE HANDS.”

Parker has since issued an apology to Stanley.