Heated Crossfire As Parties Angle For Power in Va.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) faulted Republicans for bad-driver fees.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) faulted Republicans for bad-driver fees. (By James A. Parcell/Post)
By Tim Craig and Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 9, 2007

RICHMOND, Oct. 8 -- The battle for control of the Virginia General Assembly intensified Monday as top Republican and Democratic leaders traded barbs over who is responsible for the strength of the state's economy and whether President Bush should be a factor in voters' decisions this year.

With the Nov. 6 election less than a month away, the rhetoric and campaign promises are increasing as Democrats try to retake the state Senate and make inroads in the GOP-led House of Delegates.

Despite years of intraparty feuding, Virginia's top elected Republican officials joined Monday for a tour of the state, including a stop in Northern Virginia, to try to stall Democrats' momentum by touting GOP proposals on health care, transportation, illegal immigration, taxes and education.

Republican leaders took aim at the state's current and former Democratic governors, saying Timothy M. Kaine and Mark R. Warner are not responsible for the state's recent successes, including Forbes magazine's naming Virginia the best state for business.

"It's only in the last seven years that Republicans have been in charge of the General Assembly," said Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R). "During that time, there has been a phenomenal record of accomplishments. . . . The accolades continue to pour in, and I am here to say it's not been because Governor Kaine and Governor Warner have been in the governor's mansion. It's because of Republican policies over the last decade."

Kaine, who was campaigning for Democrats in Northern Virginia, quickly fired back, saying the state was in a fiscal crisis in 2002 after James S. Gilmore III (R) and George Allen (R) were in office.

"Look, we know where the state was in '02 at the end of two Republican governors," said Kaine, noting that Warner had to push through a $1.5 billion tax increase to fund education and government services in 2004. "We've been focused on not dividing people or beating people up but on making progress."

The GOP tour included McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, House Speaker William J. Howell (Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Walter A. Stosch (Henrico) as well as John H. Hager, chairman of the Virginia Republican Party.

Monday's GOP effort came as party leaders are increasingly concerned that Democrats could pick up the four seats needed to retake the Senate on Nov. 6, when all 140 seats of the legislature are up for reelection.

Democrats, backed by Kaine and Warner, have been arguing that change is needed in the General Assembly because Republicans have been too focused on divisive social issues while not doing enough to enhance the state's quality of life.

But GOP leaders, who called their tour "Republicans for a Reason," said they are the party responsible for keeping taxes low, boosting funding for transportation and having a plan for addressing health care, illegal immigration and education.

"Governors came and went, but the legislature remained under Republican control, and this remarkable record was achieved," Stosch said.

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