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McAuliffe says he knew nothing of NVTC pressuring

RICHMOND  (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe says he knew nothing about allies to his Democratic gubernatorial campaign pressuring members of an influential northern Virginia high-tech business group last weekend not to endorse his Republican rival, Ken Cuccinelli.

Democratic legislative leaders expressed disbelief and even outrage in telephone calls and emails to the trustees of TechPAC, the political action committee of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, after word leaked Saturday that they would endorse Cuccinelli. The endorsement was made public Monday morning.

But emails sent over the weekend and obtained by The Associated Press show concerted efforts to persuade members of the organization to halt or reverse the endorsement. They also reveal that one Republican — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — also weighed in with members of the politically muscular organization.

“The pressure is hot and heavy,” Dendy Young, the chairman of TechPAC, wrote in an email Sunday morning to others in the group. “I personally received calls yesterday from Sen. Mark Warner, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Aneesh Chopra, and several others.”

Bolling had been a Republican rival to Cuccinelli in the governor’s race until November when Bolling conceded that Cuccinelli had outflanked him for the nomination with a conservative takeover of the state Republican Central Committee and the change from a primary to a convention where pro-Cuccinelli conservatives would dominate.

State Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw, in an email, called the endorsement “totally unbelievable that the NVTC PAC would even remotely consider a person with his miserable record.” Fellow Fairfax County Democratic Sen. Janet D. Howell took it a step farther, writing that the Cuccinelli endorsement’s ramifications “will be huge within the Senate Democratic Caucus.”

“The response will be frigid and doors will be closed. Achieving the goals of NVTC will be difficult to impossible,” the email said.

When reporters asked him about it after a Wednesday speech, McAuliffe brushed it off blithely, saying, “I don’t know anything about it,” and quickly shifted the subject to his endorsement Tuesday by Will Sessoms, the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach.

Cuccinelli’s campaign has alleged the response was choreographed by McAuliffe’s campaign.

“I think Virginians got a view of what kind of governor they’d get if McAuliffe was governor,” Cuccinelli said Wednesday. “You saw it: it was bully tactics, it was threats.”