Virginia Governor's Race Tightest In Years

By Michael D. Shear and Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 7, 2005

The candidates for governor of Virginia stalked voters in the southwestern coal country and in the parking lots of FedEx Field yesterday during the final hours of a contest that polls show is the closest in more than a decade and in which turnout efforts could be especially critical.

Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, hoping to succeed a fellow Democrat in a state that has been friendlier to Republicans in recent years, rallied supporters along the borders with Kentucky and West Virginia, near where his Republican opponent, Jerry W. Kilgore, grew up.

Kilgore, who wants to draw away Kaine's strong support in the suburbs of Washington, visited the Virginia tailgaters in the Purple Lot at FedEx Field in Landover, where he was joined by Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), son of the late Redskins football coach.

Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester), the long-shot independent candidate who could draw enough votes to swing the race to one of the other contenders, campaigned at the George Mason University Law School. He attended the dedication of Hazel Hall, named for one of Potts's biggest contributors, developer John T. "Til" Hazel.

Today, Potts plans to campaign at Metro stops while Kaine and Kilgore cross the state with their mentors.

Kaine will appear at rallies in Roanoke, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Norfolk with Gov. Mark R. Warner (D). And Kilgore is hoping a final, 8 p.m. rally with President Bush in Richmond will drive up turnout among his supporters in tomorrow's voting. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Recent surveys show Kaine and Kilgore in a virtual dead heat. With traditional supporters accounted for, the Republican and Democratic campaigns are hoping to lure new voters. Republican operatives call them "lazy voters"; Democrats have dubbed them "federal voters." Tomorrow, they will almost surely decide who becomes the next governor.

Hundreds of thousands of Virginians line up at polling booths every four years to vote for president. And then they take four years off, ignoring city council, school board, legislative and governor's races.

In 2004, 71 percent of the state's registered voters cast ballots for president, far more than the 46 percent who voted in the 2001 governor's race. Kilgore and Kaine have spent millions to find them -- and then pester and cajole them into showing up to vote.

"You take someone who usually doesn't vote in a governor's race, and we've got to touch them four or five times to get them to vote," said Mary A. "Mame" Reiley, a senior Democratic strategist.

Both parties say they have "touched" more voters in Virginia than ever. In political parlance, a touch could be a phone call back in June or a personal visit by a volunteer in September or a glossy mailer in October. The final touches will come tomorrow, when armies of volunteers fan out across Virginia's 2,230 precincts to bring people to the polling places.

Both campaigns know a lot about Virginia's 4.4 million registered voters. They know whether they've voted in a Democratic or Republican primary, how often they vote and which magazines they buy.

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