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Kaine Kicks Off Campaign for Governor

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 16, 2005; 4:13 PM

ROANOKE, Va., March 16 -- Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine launched his Democratic campaign for Virginia governor Wednesday by promising to cut homeowners' taxes, improve the state's transportation network and uphold the legacy of Gov. Mark R. Warner (D).

Kaine's list of priorities also included enhancing the state's public education system, providing health care opportunities for small businesses and improving economic development for the state's southwestern and Southside communities.

Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine prepares to embark on a barnstorming tour. He said he wants to slow the rise in real estate taxes. (Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

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"There's a new way of doing business here in Virginia," said Kaine, 47, before a crowd of about 400 at Fire Station Number One in downtown Roanoke. "Either we all work together to move this state forward or we slip back into the bitter partisanship and fiscal recklessness of the past. Simply put, we cannot afford to go back."

A central part of Kaine's platform will be a plan to address the rising real estate taxes in nearly every corner of the state.

Each spring, real estate assessment increases lead to higher tax bills that can often amount to increases of more than 20 percent, particularly in Northern Virginia. Kaine said that he wanted to address the concerns of middle class homeowners and that he had a record of cutting property taxes as mayor of Richmond from 1998 to 2001.

"I cut homeowners' taxes as mayor, and I'll fight to cut homeowners' taxes as your next governor," Kaine told the crowd in a speech that lasted about 25 minutes. "And we'll do it in a fiscally conservative way."

Kaine's aides said they would present specifics of the plans on Thursday during stops in Northern Virginia.

His message of lowering homeowners' taxes was part of several references to his commitment to reducing burdens on citizens and businesses. But he also proclaimed his support for last year's tax increases to finance education and health care services, as well as this year's planned cuts in the state food tax.

Kaine's appearance in the state's southwest was the beginning of a four-stop day that will also take him to Herndon, Norfolk and Richmond. He will then launch a week-long tour of Virginia, including stops in the Shenandoah Valley, the Appalachian foothills and the Southside areas of Danville and South Boston.

Kaine was scheduled to begin his day of campaigning in Big Stone Gap, in the state's mountainous southwest corner, but that stop was canceled because of heavy early morning cloud cover that prevented his plane from flying into the city's tiny airport. Instead, he held a conference call to address the 250 people who attended a pancake breakfast at a college student center.

Political observers expect Kaine will align himself closely with Warner, who was able to pull off a victory in 2001 by running a centrist campaign that focused on economic development and relief for the southwest corner of Virginia.

"Kaine is going to run as Mark Warner's little brother," said Robert D. Holsworth, a professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Kaine will likely face former Virginia attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore (R) in the race. Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch is challenging Kilgore in the June 14 Republican primary. Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. of Winchester said he will run in the Nov. 8 general election as an "independent Republican."

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