New Dominion

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore at the Virginia Cantaloupe Festival last month. Sample jab:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore at the Virginia Cantaloupe Festival last month. Sample jab: "My opponent has more flip-flops than a Virginia Beach souvenir shop." (By Sara D Davis For The Washington Post)

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By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 7, 2005

N annynanny boo boo, you're such a yahoo .

That might as well be the battle cry of the campaign trail in Virginia, where Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Jerry Kilgore are entangled in a noxious, gnarly, accentuate-the-negative race for governor. The election is in November.

"They are like two kids fighting in a sandbox," says Russ Potts, a third-party independent candidate who is lagging behind the K-men.

In a state known for its civility and gentility, the enmity is surprising. Kaine and Kilgore are pushing each other off the playground, battling for all the marbles, all the cookies, all the Crayolas.

Apparently everything Kilgore and Kaine know about campaigning they learned in kindergarten.

Like dressing someone up as a duck to mock Kilgore. Tucker Martin, a Kilgore staffer, recalls an incident at the spring Shad Planking in Wakefield where the Kaine folks "dressed up a guy in a duck suit who tried to follow Jerry all around." The point they were trying to make: Kilgore ducks debates.

He was "a dastardly duck," Martin said, who "tried to push his way through Kilgore supporters and at that point promptly split open the toe of a female Kilgore staffer."

Or like body-checking a Kaine supporter.

Just outside the gates of the Virginia Cantaloupe Festival at the Halifax County Fairgrounds in southern Virginia on a recent summer afternoon, Jerry Kilgore hugs and busses supporters who are hoisting Kilgore signs. Carrying a huge Kaine for Governor poster, Alleyn Harned, 25, stands close -- perhaps too close -- to the clamoring clutch of Kilgorites. Harned is Kaine's "visibility coordinator," the guy in charge of planting Kaine signs amid the sea of Kilgore signs.

One of the Kilgore faithful, Tucker Watkins -- who works for Sen. George Allen -- gets outraged and, using his chest and his body, bumps Harned back away from Kilgore. It's a particularly ugly little skirmish in what the political operatives refer to as "the sign wars."

Kilgore seems oblivious to the ruckus going on behind him. "I'm running for governor," he says, dressed in an orange-and-purple-plaid short-sleeve shirt, shaking hands with festival-goers.

It's that kind of contest. "Things can get a little tense," Kilgore will say later.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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