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Four-Term Va. Delegate Has Higher Ambitions

Lieutenant Governor Field Reaches 6

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 22, 2005; Page B05

RICHMOND, April 21 -- Del. Viola O. Baskerville of Richmond announced her campaign for lieutenant governor Thursday, formally entering a crowded Democratic field for Virginia's second-highest office.

Baskerville, 53, who just completed her fourth term as a delegate, is seeking to be the state's first female lieutenant governor. Baskerville vowed to champion health care reform and develop small-business centers that could spur economic growth.

Health care reform and business growth are priorities for Del. Viola O. Baskerville (D-Richmond). (Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

Three other Democrats and two Republicans will also be on the June 14 primary ballots. The winner of the Nov. 8 general election will preside over the state Senate, casting the deciding vote if there is a tie.

"We aren't doing enough to create . . . an environment in which Virginia invests in disease and illness prevention," Baskerville said. "I will recommend higher reimbursement rates for hospitals that reduce patient injuries and . . . propose creating a patient-centered injury compensation system."

The timing of Baskerville's announcement, which was attended by dozens of supporters, was unusual: It came six days after she submitted 12,466 signatures to the state Board of Elections to seek a spot on the ballot. Usually, candidates formally announce their campaigns well in advance of their search for statewide support.

In a four-candidate primary, Baskerville will likely try to take advantage of several potential demographic and geographic advantages. She is the only candidate from central Virginia, while two other candidates, Del. J. Chapman Petersen and former congresswoman and state senator Leslie L. Byrne, both of Fairfax, could potentially draw from the same base. The other candidate is Sen. Phillip P. Puckett of Russell County.

The Republican primary will pit Sean T. Connaughton, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, against Sen. Bill Bolling (Hanover).

Baskerville could also rally the large black Democratic populations in Richmond and Hampton Roads.

"There is the potential that she could successfully reach out to the minority community and uniquely draw from that potential resource," said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of political science at George Mason University. "In a multi-candidate race, that could be a huge advantage."

Baskerville faces a struggle in the battle to raise money. During the last campaign finance period, which ended March 31, Baskerville raised $64,679. Petersen raised $202,845, Byrne took in $118,594 and Puckett raised $60,358.

Baskerville raised eyebrows among some Democrats two weeks ago when she criticized the tax relief proposal of her party's gubernatorial candidate, Timothy M. Kaine, the current lieutenant governor, who wants to give localities the option of offering a homestead exemption to homeowners.

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