Top Kaine supporter endorses McDonnell for governor

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Sheila C. Johnson, a Democrat billionaire businesswoman with influence in the African-American community because of her history as a co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, has crossed party lines and thrown her support behind Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell. 

In a statement Johnson says McDonnell, the state’s former attorney general, has the leadership to improve the state’s economy.  “He understands that we have to help businesses in our state — both big and small — thrive so that we put Virginians back to work.”

Johnson chaired Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s (D) inaugural committee and is his second-largest individual supporter, donating $600,000 since 2003. A lifelong Democrat who say’s she isn’t leaving her party, Johnson’s endorsement indicates that the state’s moderate business community — lured away from Republicans by former Gov. Mark Warner — won’t necessarily be lining up lock-step behind Warner’s pick for governor,  Sen. R. Creigh Deeds,  D-Bath County, during this tough economy. 

Johnson is building a168-room luxury resort in Middleburg near her home that’s expected to open in 2011. She also holds an ownership stake in three professional sports teams, the Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Capitals (NHL) and the Washington Mystics of the WNBA.

While McDonnell praised the attributes of his new political backer yesterday, Deeds released an economic plan. It calls for doubling the Governor’s Opportunity fund for economic development, providing tax cuts for small businesses and granting tax credits to businesses that create jobs. 

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