Va. Candidates Stick With Tradition, Stumping on Holiday Parade Routes

By Chris L. Jenkins and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 6, 2005

BUENA VISTA, Va., Sept. 5 -- Virginia's three gubernatorial candidates bounded through this Shenandoah Valley town's annual Labor Day parade Monday, offering hearty handshakes and wide smiles to the crowd along Magnolia Avenue as well as fervid speeches that forecast the themes they hope will carry them to victory.

The Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, walked -- then practically ran -- beside Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), a veteran of the holiday festival that for decades has marked the start of the fall campaign. Kaine has linked his candidacy to the administration of the popular governor, promising voters a moderate, business-like government.

Republican nominee Jerry W. Kilgore, the former attorney general who has said Kaine is too liberal for Virginians, rallied his orange-clad supporters with a call to embrace "conservative values from the Cumberland Gap to Tangier Island." He walked the route briskly, at one point high-fiving a supporter who held a "Welcome to Kilgore Country" sign above her head.

H. Russell Potts Jr., the Republican state senator from Winchester running for governor as an independent, campaigned with the sleeves of his oxford shirt rolled up, promising he would tackle the state's "abysmal" transportation network and imploring onlookers to give his campaign a chance.

"This is an underdog town," he said of Buena Vista, a hamlet of about 6,500 near Lexington at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. "They like the idea of pulling off the biggest upset in the history of Virginia politics. That's just what we're going to do."

As in previous years the streets of the town and nearly all roads leading to it were cluttered with campaign signs. Such displays are a mark of campaign pride, and some say organizational strength. But this year, only Kaine's blue signs and red Potts placards were visible. Kilgore decided to withhold his placards and said he donated the approximate cost to victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf.

The Buena Vista parade was one of several events during a busy day for the gubernatorial candidates, who were accompanied by the contenders for lieutenant governor and attorney general as well. After leaving town, they traveled to Covington, a small city 50 miles away, for a second parade, where they marched with fire engines and bands along East Riverside Drive.

After an hour-long flight, Kaine, Warner and the rest of the Democratic candidates gathered with hundreds of party loyalists at a backyard picnic overlooking the James River in Newport News. Hosted by U.S. Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D), the picnic is an annual must-do for Democratic hopefuls.

"Do we keep Virginia moving forward?" Warner asked the crowd. "Do we finish the job? Or do we make a giant U-turn?"

The Buena Vista parade is a rite of fall in a state that has a major election every November. The marchers wind past the old and the new of Magnolia Avenue: the Grizzly Archery Supplies and TNT Motor Sports, the brick VFW Post and a collection of small country diners. Monday's paraders passed a sign proclaiming, "Coming soon: Millennium Tattoo Piercing Arcade."

The lighthearted campaigning along the parade route preceded some tough speeches delivered from a bandstand in Glen Maury Park before a crowd of residents and campaign workers.

Kaine referred to the Warner administration's efforts to improve the state's finances and increase spending on education and other services.

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