ROANOKE, March 16 -- Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine launched his campaign Wednesday to become the first Democrat in 15 years to succeed a member of his party in the Virginia governor's office, pledging to offer tax relief to homeowners statewide if elected Nov. 8.
Kaine, 47, began the day with a rally at a firehouse in this city of 80,000 in southwestern Virginia, then covered the rest of the state with stops in Herndon, Norfolk and Richmond, his home town. His father-in-law, former governor A. Linwood Holton, a Republican, was with him at all four stops, and Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) joined him for the last three.
Former governor Linwood Holton, right, and Gov. Warner were among those shaking hands in Herndon and elsewhere on behalf of Kaine, left.
(Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Po St)
These are the candidates for governor in Virginia:
Timothy M. Kaine: Lieutenant governor, former mayor of Richmond, lawyer. Unchallenged for the Democratic nomination in the Nov. 8 election, he began a statewide tour yesterday to formally launch his campaign.
Jerry W. Kilgore: Former attorney general, secretary of public safety under former governor George Allen (R), former prosecutor. The Republican candidate plans to formally begin his campaign Monday with a statewide tour similar to Kaine's.
George B. Fitch: Mayor of Warrenton and founder of the Jamaican bobsled team in the 1980s. He announced in February that he will challenge Kilgore in the June 14 Republican primary.
H. Russell Potts Jr.: Republican state senator from Winchester for 14 years and sports promoter. He announced last month that he is running as an "independent Republican" in the general election.
Holton, who became the first GOP governor in nearly 100 years when he was elected in 1969, urged the crowds to vote "for the best man."
Like Warner before him, Kaine began his campaign in a part of Virginia that tends to support Republicans. His likely Republican opponent, former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore, is a native of southwestern Virginia and will begin his own campaign Monday in his birthplace of Gate City.
From Roanoke, Kaine flew in a plane festooned with red, white and blue streamers and balloons to Northern Virginia, where he will fight to hold the traditionally Democratic strongholds inside the Capital Beltway while seeking to win over new residents pouring into Washington's outer suburbs. He finished the day in southeastern and central Virginia, two traditionally challenging areas for a Democratic candidate.
Statewide, voters gave President Bush a solid victory in November, and the GOP controls both chambers of the General Assembly.
Warner was so successful at finding support in GOP-leaning regions during his 2001 campaign that he is now one of the politicians whom Democrats talk about when they consider who could reverse their national fortunes in the 2008 presidential election.
As he did at rally after rally on Wednesday, Kaine will campaign as the candidate to uphold Warner's centrist legacy of "fiscal responsibility," a man who would protect taxpayers while maintaining state services.
"There's a new way of doing business here in Virginia," Kaine told about 400 at Fire Station No. 1 in 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."
The lieutenant governor would, in one sense, like to go back to 1990, when Gov. Gerald L. Baliles was succeeded by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. It was the last time a Democrat handed the reins to a fellow party member.
Kaine, also accompanied by his parents and three children, referred to the "Warner-Kaine administration" in his speeches and in several instances allied himself with Warner's successful effort in last year's legislative session to win tax increases for state services and make other changes to the tax system.
"Kaine is going to run as Mark Warner's little brother," said Robert D. Holsworth, a professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Warner urged activists to help Kaine in his quest. "If you do your job, [Kaine] will do his job" as governor, Warner told about 450 people at Herndon Town Hall.
In Norfolk, Warner said of Kaine: "This is a good man. He shares our values."