Candidates Intent on Wooing Fairfax

Speaking before a crowd at George Mason University, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine said Northern Virginia has
Speaking before a crowd at George Mason University, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine said Northern Virginia has "given us the momentum to succeed." (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
By Lisa Rein and Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Virginia's two leading candidates for governor campaigned in Fairfax County yesterday and said they plan to devote more resources and time to capturing the state's largest bloc of voters.

Democrat Timothy M. Kaine rallied a crowd of more than 200 students at George Mason University, while Republican Jerry W. Kilgore stood beside business leaders in Tysons Corner to highlight his endorsement last week by the political arm of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

"We've long said we wanted to see the day when Northern Virginia was a battleground," Kilgore said at the chamber, calling his recognition as the race's "pro-business candidate" a sign of his appeal to centrist voters in Fairfax. "Well, it's turning out to be a battleground."

Kaine, the lieutenant governor, credited supporters in the county of 1.1 million people with helping narrow his opponent's lead in the polls in recent weeks.

"This part of the state is so important to us," Kaine said to his Northern Virginia supporters at the start of a day-long swing that included stops in Newport News and Lynchburg. "It is so important. The work that you have done here. . . . You have given us the momentum to succeed. We have caught this race up from a big gap. We have the steering wheel in our hands, and we are not letting go of it. We are in control of this race now."

The candidates set up strong field operations in Fairfax months ago. Kilgore has two offices in Fairfax City and a dozen staffers, and Kaine has one in McLean.

The challenge in the race's final stretch before the Nov. 8 vote will be to appeal to an electorate that swings left and right, depending on the office and the issue, a big political middle ground between more liberal inner suburbs and more conservative outer ones.

Democrats dominate local offices in Fairfax; the congressional delegation is split; and, last year, John F. Kerry became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the county in 40 years.

Mark R. Warner (D) won Fairfax in the 2001 gubernatorial campaign, and so did his predecessor, Republican James S. Gilmore III. The county's delegation to the General Assembly in Richmond splits about evenly, with Democrats representing districts inside the Capital Beltway and Republicans outside it.

The county added 25,000 jobs last year but has trouble finding places to put new homes for those workers. A growing immigrant community struggles to afford rising housing prices.

Kilgore's chamber endorsement drew responses from across the political spectrum.

Four former chairmen of the chamber wrote a letter to its executives protesting the endorsement, saying that Kilgore opposed two of the business group's top priorities: tax reform in 2004 and the transportation tax referendum in 2002.

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