WASHINGTON - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, once the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, says he was "devastated" by Rep. Eric Cantor's primary election loss in June, saying the state lost an important advocate in the halls of Congress.
Coupled with the retirement of Congressmen Jim Moran and Frank Wolf, the state's influence at the U.S. Capitol could be dwindling at a time when sequestration and budget cuts continues to threaten the state's major business sector, the military and defense contractors, and as the federal government finalizes the location of a new FBI headquarters.
Speaking on WTOP's "Ask the Governor" Wednesday, McAuliffe said the lose of the power and voice of the House Majority Leader, a post held by Cantor until this summer, will make it harder for the state to keep military and related civilian jobs at the bases in Virginia
"I'm heartsick that Eric Cantor lost. I will say this as a Democrat. I had as governor, the House Majority Leader, about to be speaker," McAuliffe said. "This is about how I complete. How do I compete against those other 49 states."
Cantor lost to a little-known professor from Hanover County, who drew intense support from tea party activists and conservatives from within Cantor's home district of suburban Richmond and from outsiders as well.
The unexpected election result sent shockwaves through the Republican Party nationally and within the state.
McAuliffe said he hs been focused on diversifying the state's economy into the biosciences and cyber technology to wean the state away from its reliance on federal spending on the military and defense industries.
For example, the deactivation of one air craft carrier and its related support vessels and air craft could cost the state 30,000 jobs, he said.
"These are the unique challenges that we face in Virginia. That's what we have to work on."
The state will also lose the influence and seniority of Moran, a Democrat whose district covers Arlington, Alexandria and parts of Fairfax County, and Wolf, a Republican whose district stretches from Fairfax County to Winchester, when they retire at the end of the year. Both sit on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
The lack of influence could also affect the final location of a new FBI headquarters. The General Services Administration has selected three sites as the final contenders for a new complex: one in Fairfax County and two in Prince George's County, Maryland.
Maryland's Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who chairs the Senate Finance committee, has thrown her support behind the sites in Landover and Greenbelt.
McAuliffe said the site in Springfield would be cheaper to redevelop than the greenfield sites in Maryland.
McAuliffe blamed congressional inaction for the immigration crisis along the Southern border. He said the children crossing the border have the right to a hearing and to seek possible asylum.
He called for a more civil debate, saying the children crossing the border aren't criminals.
"Let's remember, we're talking about children here. Let's dial the rhetoric down a little bit."
He said the United States should welcome newcomers but enact immigration policies that would secure the border and address the status of those who have crossed the border already.
"There is nothing we can do at the state level. This is a federal issue. Pass legislation. Deal with it," he said. "Stand up and make tough decisisions. Governors have to do that every day."
McAuliffe said the corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen is not good for the state, calling it "unfortunate."
He said he would let the legal system be the final arbiter.
Since taking office, McAuliffe has implemented a $100 gift cap for himself, his family, his administration and their families.
He signed into law an ethics reform bill but stripped funding for from the state budget saying the reforms did not go far enough.