Former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) attacked General Assembly Republicans and his opponents in the U.S. Senate race Wednesday, arguing that their support for controversial social legislation was turning Virginia into a national “laughingstock.”
The state has in recent days drawn national attention — and mockery in
venues like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show — for legislation moving in Richmond that would require women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion. The state House has also approved a “personhood” bill declaring that life begins at conception. The two bills garner broad support among Assembly Republicans but have sparked protests and petition drives from opponents.
Kaine, the likely Democratic nominee in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D), said in a conference call with reporters that the measures were distracting policymakers from focusing on the economy and jobs.
“What’s happening in Richmond right now is bad for Virginia women, it’s bad for Virginia’s image, and it’s bad for Virginia’s businesses,” Kaine said.
Instead of promoting the state’s vibrant economy, Kaine said, “the focus has now switched to extremely divisive social legislation.”
Turning to his Republican opponents in the Senate race, Kaine noted that Del. Robert Marshall (Prince William) was the author of the personhood bill, while ex-governor George Allen has said he backs personhood legislation at both the state and federal level.
Kaine said that Allen, the frontrunner for the GOP nod for the U.S. senate seat, should “do the right thing and reconsider” his position on personhood. (Allen’s campaign has declined to say whether he has a position on the ultrasound bill.)
Allen spokeswoman Katie Wright said it was actually Kaine who was looking to “change the subject” from the economy to social issues.
“It’s ironic that Chairman Kaine professes to want to talk about jobs when he’s on a conference call that his own campaign organized discussing issues that are moving through the General Assembly,” Wright said. “He and his allies seem intent on making this race about anything other than solutions to create jobs, addressing our country’s energy issues including surging gas prices and reining in the wasteful excesses of Washington that have made trillion dollar deficits the norm.”
While Allen’s campaign Web site touts his position on the personhood issue, he has discussed the topic lately only when asked about it by the media and has preferred to promote a series of economic-themed events across the state. Kaine’s campaign, meanwhile, has sent multiple press releases and fundraising e-mails on the subject, in addition to Wednesday’s conference call.
Regardless of which side is more responsible for the current focus, Kaine and his fellow Democrats appear to believe they have found a political winner. A poll released this week from Christopher Newport University and the Richmond Times-Dispatch found majorities of Virginia voters opposed to both the ultrasound requirement and the personhood bill.
Marshall, a late entrant into the Senate race, chastised his colleagues Wednesday for letting the media change their mind on ultrasounds.
“Instead of confronting the misinformation that’s going on here, some Republicans want to back away from this,” Marshall said. “Instead of confronting the public with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we the descendents of those who fought the British empire are sounding the call for retreat.”
Staff Writer Anita Kumar contributed to this report.