In one of a handful of electoral races that captured national attention this year, Robert F. "Bob" McDonnell '89 (Law and Government) has been elected the 71st Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the first alumnus of Regent University elected to a state's highest office.
By 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, major news networks had called the election for McDonnell, who held a commanding lead over his opponent, state Senator Creigh Deeds. At 10:00 p.m., with 95 percent of precincts reporting, McDonnell was ahead with 59 percent of votes, compared to Deeds' 41 percent.
McDonnell took the stage at the Richmond Marriott, surrounded by family, friends and supporters, as the Black Eyed Peas song, "I gotta feeling tonight's gonna be a good night," played, and people cheered and clapped.
"Eight months ago, I applied for the job of Govenor of Virginia. Tonight you have hired me. Thank you," he said to several hundred people gathered for the Republican victory party.
"Our motto at Regent is 'Christian Leadership to Change the World,' and this is the way we do it," said Regent's President and Chancellor Dr. M.G. "Pat" Robertson in an interview at the hotel. "The good thing about Bob is that he stayed on message, never wavered and he didn't let his opponent take him off message."
When asked what advice he had for the new Governor, Robertson replied, "Stay the course. I'm really proud of you."
Many in the Regent community share Robertson's pride. Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Carlos Campo commented, "There isn't a college president in the country who wouldn't be feeling like a proud papa at this moment. The broad support that Bob has had in Virginia is a reflection of the fact that Regent's values are Virginia's values, and they are Bob's values."
Law School Dean Jeffrey Brauch also weighed in. "I am excited for Bob McDonnell and deeply proud of him. Regent University is about training leaders who will serve others with excellence and integrity. Alumnus - and now Governor-elect - Bob McDonnell is just such a leader," Brauch said. "I am eager to see how he positively impacts the lives of Virginians and millions of other Americans as he assumes a leadership role on the national stage."
McDonnell began his political career in 1991 running for the House of Delegates in Virginia Beach, Va., against a 20-year Democrat incumbent who had run unopposed for a decade. He went on to serve 14 years as a delegate, and then ran for Attorney General in 2005. In what became the closest statewide race in modern Virginia politics that involved weeks of court hearings and physical counting of ballots, McDonnell won by a mere 360 votes over Deeds.
As attorney general, McDonnell saw a majority of legislative proposals become law, most with bipartisan support. He has been commended for his work to strengthen Virginia's mental health laws, crack down on animal fighting, establish a "Senior Alert" to assist in locating missing seniors with mental deficiencies, create a state-of-the-art Sex Offender Registry, and provide new tools for law enforcement involved in online investigations of identity theft, sexual predators and other 21st century criminals.
McDonnell created and led Virginia's Youth Internet Safety Task Force, which received widespread attention for its significant recommendations to improve online safety, and established the ongoing Attorney General's Task Force on Regulatory and Government Reform. The task force has already made over 250 individual recommendations to streamline Virginia's Administrative Code and reduce burdensome government regulation He resigned his position as Attorney General in February 2009 to campaign fulltime for Governor.
"By leading the Republican Party out of its wilderness wanderings in Virginia during the last decade, McDonnell immediately becomes a model for forging a Republican comeback nationally in 2010 and 2012," said Dr. Charles Dunn, dean of the Robertson School of Government.
"McDonnell's approachable personal demeanor. like that of Ronald Reagan. will enable him to reach out across the ideological and political divides in America, forging successful solutions to intractable problems," Dunn predicted. "Bob McDonnell's success bodes well not only for his future, but also for the future of Virginia on the nation's political stage."
Born in Philadelphia in 1954, McDonnell was raised in Northern Virginia where his mother, Emma, worked nearby at Mount Vernon. John McDonnell, his father, a retired Air Force officer, joined the military several months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. McDonnell attributes his father's service as part of the reason he pursued an Army ROTC scholarship at the University of Notre Dame. He continued serving on active duty and in the Reserves, retiring in 1997.
In 1985, McDonnell enrolled in Regent's Robertson School of Government to pursue a master's degree in public policy. When the School of Law opened the following year, he enrolled and earned a joint degree in law and government. As a Regent student, McDonnell was one of a group of third-year law students who helped write a brief that led the American Bar Association to provisionally accredit Regent's School of Law in 1989.
Besides his two decades as an active or reserve Army officer, McDonnell's professional experience also includes four years as a manager with the American Hospital Supply Corp., and two years prosecuting crime in the Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney's office.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, have been married for 32 years. They have five children, ages 17 to 27.
His inauguration as Governor will take place Saturday, January 16, 2010, in Richmond, Va.
By Mindy L. Hughes, APR