Democrats are understandably very sensitive about the Defund the Police issue, especially since it cost them so many House seats in the 2020 elections. But Terry McAuliffe’s answer to a local sheriff’s question on the issue prompted a lot of head-scratching and eye-rolling in the aftermath of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association Conference and Exhibition event he spoke at last night.
McAuliffe, a Democrat and former governor of the state who is again vying for the position, got into what ended up being a heated exchange with Montgomery County Sheriff Hank Partin after Partin asked him some questions about whether he supported defunding the police considering back in July he accepted the endorsement of a group that Partin says wants to defund the police, abolish prisons, and ICE.
Here’s how their back and forth went down:
Partin: “On July 20th, you accepted an endorsement from the New Virginia Majority, they are a large ‘defund the police’ organization. They want to abolish prisons and ICE. You said that you were proud to accept their endorsement.”
McAuliffe: [Snidely] “First of all, Sheriff, I am proud to accept any endorsements. I get hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. Groups that endorse me, I don’t know everything they do. Have I ever supported ‘defund the police’? [Yelling] Are you out of your mind? I have invested in law enforcement. I just went through 25 minutes of telling you what I do for the police. Not defund it. I funded them!”
Partin: “So you’ll never support defunding?”
McAuliffe: [Yelling] “I won’t even dignify that with an answer. If my track record of four years as governor isn’t enough for you to understand how I feel on law enforcement, I will not dignify that with an answer.”
Partin: “Unbelievable, I don’t believe an answer to either one of those questions.”
McAuliffe: [Yelling] “I don’t care what you believe! I’ve got a track record, and I’m proud of that track record.”
Watch McAuliffe repeatedly blow up defensively after Partin questioned him:
MUST WATCH: Terry McAuliffe lashes out at Sheriff who asks him about touting an endorsement from an org that supports defunding the police & ending qualified immunity.
McAuliffes response: “I don’t care what you believe.”
— Virginia GOP (@VA_GOP) September 16, 2021
Matt Wolking, the comms director for McAuliffe’s Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin, blasted back on Twitter, pointing out that McAuliffe was tighter with the New Virginia Majority than he was willing to let on in public appearances:
You gotta love @TerryMcAuliffe trying to distance himself from the "defund the police" group he said he was "proud" to be endorsed by.
"I don't know everything they do," he claims.
— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking) September 16, 2021
"The progressive activist group [New Virginia Majority] got an official invite days ahead of the April 22 news conference, and Tram Nguyen, the group’s co-executive director, had more than three weeks’ notice that the order was coming." https://t.co/VsQudpyiq7
— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking) September 16, 2021
In an interview with Fox News, Partin told “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade that he believed McAuliffe lashed out in part because he knows Partin supports Youngkin, having campaigned for him and appeared in campaign ads.
“He’s angry at me, number one, because I have publicly supported his opponent, who I believe will defend us and defend our commonwealth and keep our community safe,” Partin stated. “And that’s what all of the sheriffs want to do.”
Regardless of Partin’s endorsement of Youngkin, that’s hardly the appropriate way to address someone who literally puts their life on the line for their community every time they go to work. Not only that, but Partin’s endorsement of Youngkin shouldn’t matter, because every resident of Virginia no matter who they support deserves to know where the candidates stand on the issues, especially when it comes to matters of public safety.
That said, McAuliffe’s penchant for dodging uncomfortable questions apparently is well known in Virginia, even among Democrats like former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, who tweeted out this prescient message back in July:
To ask people to follow you is what leaders do; reasons for that request are expected. Terry McAuliffe is asking the people of VA to elect him to be their leader. But when the people ask questions of him, he declines to comment. https://t.co/7wJEEnO2JH pic.twitter.com/KVfGULzKsw
— L. Douglas Wilder (@GovernorWilder) July 13, 2021
If polling for this race is to be believed, though McAuliffe currently has a 5 point lead in the polling averages, Youngkin remains within striking distance. And if McAuliffe keeps yelling at county sheriffs, expect that lead to evaporate, because not even Virginia Democrats are too far gone (yet) to think such treatment of law enforcement officers is acceptable coming from someone who claims to want to lead the state.