Two men who would be governor -- Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R) and Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) -- are about to launch year-long conversations with Virginia's voters. And their speaking styles couldn't be more different.
Any doubt about that was erased last week when both candidates gave what were described as early but important speeches to business executives at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.
Kilgore went first, reading from a 3,204-word speech that began with a quip about his Southwest Virginia twang. "But we're not here to talk about my accent," he told the crowd, sparking the usual chuckles.
The native of Gate City, Va., proceeded to give a 23-minute talk like many before: direct, filled with references to government programs that need improvement and laced with anti-tax and pro-business rhetoric aimed at firing up his conservative base.
For this speech, Kilgore offered the audience an analogy: Think of Virginia as a college trying to build a championship football team. You need to recruit the best players, invest in infrastructure and provide support for your key players.
He returned to the football analogy at the end of the speech, but he dropped it in the middle, referring to the governor as the state's chief executive. Shouldn't the governor be the quarterback? Or the coach?
As usual, Kilgore delivered the speech in a steady, deliberate tone. His voice grew emphatic, however, when he got to the more partisan moments. He punched phrases such as "excessive taxation, limitless litigation and redundant regulations." His voice also grew a little louder when he vowed not to "advance more of the outdated, ineffective efforts of the past, such as a gas tax increase."
Kilgore sometimes strayed from his prepared remarks, changing words or phrases slightly or skipping over a sentence or two at a time. But he largely stuck to his written speech, which included a real-life example of what Kilgore said were continued problems at the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Throughout, he made no direct references to Kaine and few mentions of his ambitions to be governor, although at one point he noted that he has never held a job longer than five years, adding, "There are rumors I'm applying for a new one next year."
Kaine spoke to the same group several hours later and gave a shorter, more thematic speech.
He spoke, without notes, for just 17 minutes in his trademark rapid-fire pace. One wonders how well his speeches will be received in parts of Virginia where people tend to speak a bit slower.
Kaine started more personally than Kilgore. He offered up his three personal heroes: a mentor Kaine met while he was a missionary in Central America; A. Linwood Holton, a former Republican governor and Kaine's father-in-law; and Kaine's father, who ran a welding shop. Kaine joked that he learned to appreciate the value of education by working for his father's business.
"If you've ever worked in manufacturing like a welding shop, you really come back to school ready to hit the books," he said.
Kaine touched on economic development, transportation and education, making promises about each. He also took credit for taking a tough stand in favor of the tax increase this year, wrapping himself in Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner's popularity.