House Centrists Prevail In Va.

Abdol Hashem Ghalehbaghi, left, an immigrant from Iran, gets help with his ballot from his grandson, Sohail Farahangi, and election official Carlyn Elder at Lees Corner High School in Fairfax County.
Abdol Hashem Ghalehbaghi, left, an immigrant from Iran, gets help with his ballot from his grandson, Sohail Farahangi, and election official Carlyn Elder at Lees Corner High School in Fairfax County. (By Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Voters in yesterday's Virginia primary rallied behind moderate Republicans in the House of Delegates, turning back a concerted effort by state and national anti-tax activists who had vowed to oust them for passing a tax increase.

All but one of the six GOP delegates who faced conservative challengers were renominated as the state's voters got their first chance to weigh in on the tax and spending issues that divided the General Assembly in last year's historic session.

In primary balloting marked by low turnout, voters also chose two anti-tax champions to join the Republican ticket for the Nov. 8 general election. State Sen. Bill Bolling (R-Hanover) won the nomination for lieutenant governor, and Del. Robert F. McDonnell (R-Virginia Beach) will be the party's nominee for attorney general.

They will join former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore, who easily defeated the party's upstart challenger, Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch, for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Fitch, who raised almost no money against Kilgore's millions, received about 18 percent of the vote.

"It's not about the margin of victory; it's about advancing to the next round," Kilgore said. "Tonight we advanced to the next round, and I can't wait to get started."

On the Democratic side, Leslie L. Byrne of Fairfax County, a former state senator and member of Congress, captured the party's nomination for lieutenant governor. She will join Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the gubernatorial candidate, and Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), the attorney general candidate, who were unopposed for nomination. Sen. H. Russell Potts (R-Winchester) is running for governor as an independent.

What emerged from the primaries were two teams of candidates with deep ties to state politics in Richmond but starkly different political philosophies. In the lieutenant governor's race, for example, Bolling proudly calls himself a conservative while Byrne describes herself as a liberal.

Kaine welcomed Byrne to the Democratic ticket. He said that Republicans "chose guys who fought against budget reform" and that the two tickets offer a "very clear race about whether we keep the state going forward or do a 180."

Bolling's defeat of Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton deprives the GOP ticket of a candidate from vote-rich Northern Virginia. Connaughton's loss was a blow to one of his key supporters, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate but, like the office of attorney general, the position often is a steppingstone to higher office in Virginia.

"The Republican on-deck circle for governor is anti-tax," said Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax), a leading anti-tax voice in the state legislature and a Bolling supporter. "It's the guaranteed position."

McDonnell, a veteran lawmaker from the Hampton Roads area, faced Stephen E. Baril, a lawyer from Richmond who ran a well-funded campaign backed by many in the state's business community.

Byrne emerged as the top vote-getter in a four-way race with Del. J. Chapman Petersen (Fairfax), Del. Viola O. Baskerville (Richmond) and Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (Russell).


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