The ads still blanket the state, the mail has been sent and the debates are long over in Virginia’s marathon U.S. Senate race. But for Timothy M. Kaine and George Allen, there was time on the frantic last weekend before Election Day to reach small pockets of supporters.
Allen (R) barnstormed through Hampton Roads Sunday, when he spoke on behalf of veterans and defense spending. Meanwhile, Kaine (D) spent the morning hearing church services in English, Spanish and Korean before leading a rally at a Vietnamese shopping center in Northern Virginia.
Both men have a full slate of events remaining before voters pick a successor to retiring Sen. James Webb (D) — in a mad dash to Nov 6. that on Sunday saw Kaine run into Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and two of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s sons at the Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Centreville.
“I went to three religious services in three languages,” Kaine told the crowd at Eden Center in Falls Church. He praised the “rich and beautiful tapestry” of Virginia’s different ethnic groups.
Touring Eden Center, Kaine was asked to sign a menu at Saigon Restaurant and received bright smiles at Sunlight Travel Agency.
Citing the concentration of small businesses, Kaine called the state’s diversity an “economic strength.” He is hoping it’s also a political strength for him Tuesday: Kaine has courted the state’s different ethnic constituencies, particularly in rapidly growing Northern Virginia.
On Saturday night, Kaine attended a boisterous “Latinos por Kaine” event at El Gran Palenque restaurant, where he alternated between English and Spanish as he sought to fire up the crowd. The Democrat has put at least a quarter-million dollars into Spanish-language advertising.
J. Walter Tejada, vice chairman of the Arlington County Board, said Kaine recognized what it took to get the region’s Latino community motivated to vote.
“There has been an enthusiasm gap,” Tejada said. “So what he’s done is recognize that and explain to the community — in Spanish and English — why they should vote for him.”
Tejada said he also appreciated that “Kaine tells Latinos the same things he tells mainstream Americans,” and that the Democrat touted the need for immigration reform, regardless of the audience.
Allen, meanwhile, rallied his troops in Great Bridge, a community in Chesapeake where Americans ran off Virginia’s last British colonial governor in 1775. Right by the historic bridge site, in a strip center where Allen’s campaign office sits beside the Over the Rainbow crafts store, Allen and others urged about 90 supporters keep up the fight.
“The Battle of Great Bridge was fought just a stone’s throw, right over there, and we watched as some of the principles that we saw birthed in this country . . . [were] apologized for, rejected, kicked to the curb,” said U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), who faces a challenge from Chesapeake City Council member Ella Ward (D). “We’re gonna turn those principles back up and put ’em on the pedestal that they need to be on.”
Turnout at the event was small compared with the rally Allen would head to in the evening, with Romney as headliner in Newport News, or the one he had attended the day before in Richmond with Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). But Allen said it was an impressive showing for a chilly Sunday afternoon.
“The fact that you all are here really does express the strength, the care and the determination that we are going to get our country moving in the right direction,” said Allen, who later went on to a similar event in Virginia Beach.
Speaking in Navy country and calling national defense “the paramount responsibility of the federal government,” Allen asked veterans in the crowd to raise their hands. He voiced concern about deep, across-the-board defense cuts that could hit early next year if Congress does not strike a deal to avoid them.
“What we need to do is not raise taxes as my opponent and President Obama suggest,” Allen said. “That will only cause more job losses. The best way to raise revenues is with a vibrant economy, where businesses, especially small businesses, are prospering, thriving, investing, hiring. People get a paycheck, not worrying about an extension of unemployment benefits.”
A Romney-Ryan bus that has been touring the state pulled into the parking lot for the event, drawing some people, including Rick Montrose, 44, and daughters Sydney, 13, and Skylar, 12. The Montroses had been having breakfast nearby and decided to check it out.
“We just wanted to show our support for future senator Allen and Randy Forbes — great men,” said Montrose, who owns a small custom fabrication business.
Aboard the bus was Pete Snyder, a Virginia technology entrepreneur and chairman of the 2012 Virginia Victory Campaign.
“We think it’s gonna be tight, but we’re going to win this thing,” said Snyder, referring to the Senate and presidential contests.
Pete Burkhimer, chairman of the Chesapeake City Republican Committee, said volunteers working in Chesapeake on Saturday had knocked on 6,800 doors — representing nearly 10 percent of the city’s households. Joining their efforts Sunday were 40 cadets who had traveled from the Citadel in South Carolina to knock on doors.
Burkhimer wasn’t quite sure how the cadets had gotten into the act.
“Angels from above?” he said. “A ton of volunteers have popped up from nowhere. . . . This is a groundswell.”
Vozzella reported from Chesapeake.