Republicans, who have long called for oil drilling off Virginia’s coast, were not thrilled late last month when Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe joined their cause.
"Terry McAuliffe, once again, stuck his finger in the wind to be sure he says whatever voters want to hear," said Anna Nix, a spokeswoman for Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli. "In 2009, when he was running in a liberal Democratic primary, he was absolutely against offshore drilling. Now, in 2013, McAuliffe realized that even Democrats are for offshore drilling and he can’t wait to jump on the bandwagon."
The Republican Party of Virginia issued a news release accusing McAuliffe of doing "an about face."
So we rolled out the Flip-O-Meter to see if McAuliffe’s position on offshore oil drilling has changed.
The issue has become a perennial debate in Virginia. Supporters say drilling would enhance the state economy and help the U.S. become energy independent; opponents say it poses environmental risk and that credible information about the offshore supply of oil does not exist.
At the start of the decade, Virginia was part of an Interior Department lease plan for offshore oil and gas development, but the leases were deferred until after 2017 in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
In 2009, prior to the spill, McAuliffe made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. During a debate that May, he said offshore drilling should be done only for natural gas, not for crude oil. He said his position was identical to two other Democrats: then-Gov. Tim Kaine and Brian Moran, one of his opponents in the primary.
"I've been consistent from the start of this campaign," McAuliffe said. "There was bipartisan legislation passed, signed by Governor Kaine, promoted by Governor Kaine, that says no oil drilling, no oil drilling and limited exploration for oil and natural gas off the state’s coast."
The next day, McAuliffe stated in an online interview with The Washington Post, "I do not support drilling for oil off our coast."
Now, let’s move forward. Kaine, during a successful 2012 bid for the U.S. Senate, changed his position on offshore drilling. In May 2013, he joined U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in introducing a bill that would allow oil and gas exploration off the state’s coast.
McAuliffe said through a spokesman that he supported the legislation.
"Terry has learned more about offshore drilling from experts in Virginia," spokesman Josh Schwerin told The Washington Post. "He thinks that because of technological progress we can now do it in a responsible fashion."
We asked Schwerin three times to expound on his comment, but did not get a response.
McAuliffe has clearly shifted on offshore oil drilling. We rate it a Full Flop.