WASHINGTON (CNN) – Despite a personal phone call from President Obama urging him to do so, former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder said Thursday he will not endorse his fellow Democrat Creigh Deeds in this year's gubernatorial race.
Pointing to Deeds' support for gun rights and his willingness to raise taxes, Wilder wrote in an online column that he plans to keep his powder dry.
"The question before me is whether I support the Democratic candidate's position in addressing these issues," Wilder wrote on the Web site Virginia Tomorrow. "I have not thus far in the progress of the campaign, and as aforesaid refrain from so doing."
Wilder said he doesn't expect Obama - who called him several weeks ago asking him to publicly endorse Deeds - will be thrilled with his decision.
"I'm not thinking the president is going to be pleased," he told CNN, adding that he and the president "have a very good relationship."
“I live in Virginia,” he continued. “I have to deal with the people here. This is bigger than party to me. This has to do with the future of Virginia.”
Virginia political observers know that Wilder, who became the nation's first African-American governor in 1990, has never been afraid to speak his own mind, a point the Deeds campaign has been sure to note when discussing Wilder's thinking.
But his refusal to endorse Deeds because of the tax issue will certainly provide fodder for the campaign of Republican candidate Bob McDonnell, who has vowed to avoid any tax increases if elected.
Throughout the campaign, Wilder has criticized Deeds for not defining himself or his positions on certain issues. At the same time, Wilder has spoken warmly about Deeds' Republican rival, Bob McDonnell, sparking chatter that he might buck his own party and endorse McDonnell. But Wilder said he won't back McDonnell.
Deeds spokesman Jared Leopold said the campaign respects Wilder's decision.
"While Creigh and he may not agree on every issue, they share a fundamental commitment to keeping Virginia the best managed state in the nation, as Governor Wilder first made it in 1992," Leopold said. "As governor, Creigh intends to seek Governor Wilder’s counsel often, and looks forward to working with him.”