On Day After Primary, The Barbs Begin to Fly
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The two major party candidates for governor in Virginia waited just a few hours after the state's primary season ended Tuesday night and then launched the first blistering commentary of the general election campaigns.
Former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore joined his newly chosen ticket mates and other top Republicans at rallies in Richmond and Northern Virginia.
"My opponent has more flip-flops than a Virginia beach souvenir shop," Kilgore said to the crowd of about 80 activists and interested Republicans outside a Dulles International Airport hangar.
Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) said the GOP ticket is fighting "against budget reform and civic responsibility." Mo Elleithee, his communications director, called the Republicans "the most partisan, the most divisive, most anti-progress ticket in Virginia history."
And Sen. H. Russell Potts (R-Winchester), who is running for governor as an independent, joined the fray. He called Kilgore's team "extreme, radical [and] far right" but also criticized Kaine for opposing the death penalty and said both major party candidates have been ducking solutions for transportation, health care and education.
"Neither of the two gubernatorial candidates have been willing to address making the tough decisions on those issues," Potts said in an interview.
A tiny group of voters went to the polls Tuesday to choose the slates for the fall campaign. Preliminary state tallies showed that less than 7 percent of Virginia's 4.4 million voters cast ballots.
Republicans chose Sen. Bill Bolling (R-Hanover) for lieutenant governor and Del. Robert F. McDonnell (R-Virginia Beach) for attorney general. Both men defeated candidates who campaigned with the backing of centrist Republicans and moderate business executives.
The GOP also nominated Kilgore, though more than 30,000 voters, or about 17 percent, voted for Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch.
Voters also nominated Leslie L. Byrne, a former state senator and member of Congress, as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, rounding out the three-person ticket with a classic liberal politician. Kaine and Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), the candidate for attorney general, were unopposed.
Strategists for all three gubernatorial campaigns immediately claimed an advantage in what is likely to be a costly race to Richmond in the Nov. 8 general election.
Democrats said their team will appeal to independents and moderates who backed Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) and his efforts to improve the state's finances. Republicans said their conservative ticket will attract solid support from people who opposed Warner's push to increase taxes.