To Kilgore, Primary Election Is Secondary to Kaine Fight

Jerry Kilgore has raised nearly $8.5 million for his gubernatorial campaign.
Jerry Kilgore has raised nearly $8.5 million for his gubernatorial campaign. (By Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 10, 2005

RICHMOND -- A sea of orange surrounds Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore wherever he goes.

It is his volunteer entourage: supporters dressed in bright-orange T-shirts that read "KILGORE - GOVERNOR." As he waded through the crowd at Richmond's annual Greek Festival last week, they morphed around him, visually blaring their message to hundreds of souvlaki-eating potential voters.

"Wait, let me get you with my camera phone," said Angela Gibson, 32, as Kilgore passed by. He smiled broadly as the Richmond hairstylist declared: "The next governor!"

Then the orange crush moved on, Kilgore at its center.

His campaign is like that: an electoral behemoth whose only goal for Tuesday's primary is to shed itself of upstart George B. Fitch, the mayor of Warrenton, and look forward to defeating the Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, on Nov. 8.

For more than three months, Kilgore's team has virtually ignored Fitch. It has raised nearly $8.5 million and built a campaign staff of dozens, supplemented by thousands of active volunteers. The operation is overseen by "HANC," an acronym for the four top campaign aides: Ken Hutcheson, Ray Allen, Chris Nolen and Joey Carico.

"I just have to win," Kilgore, a lifelong fan of college basketball, said of the primary. "It doesn't matter if you win by 2 points or 30 points -- you are going on to the next round. We are going on to the next round."

Mark J. Rozell, a George Mason University politics professor, said that Kilgore is in a dominating position to do that, having outraised Fitch by more than 40 to 1. But he said primaries are unpredictable because so few people turn out to vote. A few thousand votes one way or the other can mean a lot.

"If Fitch were to pull a quarter of the vote, everybody would be shocked, and that would signal a real weakness in Kilgore's candidacy," Rozell said. "That's the real challenge for Kilgore here. He does need to [make sure] no one can doubt his candidacy."

Kilgore said he's not worried. He called Fitch "a nice man" and said he's looking forward to "winning his support in this campaign." In an interview this week, Kilgore said he's focused on telling voters across the state what he will do to improve education, transportation and economic development.

He called education his "top priority" and said his plan to create a statewide merit pay system for teachers will improve the quality of schools.

Kilgore is also continuing to push his plans to require voter referendums before any new statewide or regional tax increases may take effect.

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