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Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III on Campaign 2000

Free Media
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Full Post coverage: George W. Bush
Campaign 2000
Live: "Free Media"
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Monday, July 31, 2000; 3 p.m. EDT

Texas Gov. George W. Bush's win in Virginia's Feb. 29 primary was a critical moment for the Texas governor in his race against John McCain for the GOP nomination. Bush owed his victory in part to his rival's ill-timed comments about Pat Robertson and other popular Christian conservatives based in the Old Dominion. But he also owed his victory in part to the strong support of fellow governor James S. Gilmore III. Gilmore was even mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate by OnPolitics Political Junkie columnist Ken Rudin of NPR and others.

Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R-Va.) (File photo)

As chairman of the Virginia delegation at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Gilmore is leading a group of 56 delegates that includes his predecessor, George F. Allen, who is now challenging Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb in one of the year's most-watched Senate races. How will the Bush nomination affect Allen's chances in Virginia, a steadfastly Republican state in presidential election years?

Gov. Gilmore answered your questions in a live online discussion on Monday, July 31. The transcript follows:

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Free Media: Good afternoon, Gov. Gilmore, and welcome. This discussion is the latest stop on your Internet press tour here at the Republican Convention. Can you talk about the effects -- both good and bad -- of the growing Internet and technology community on Virginia and your administration?

Gov. James S. Gilmore III: Enhancing the information technology industry is a top priority of my administration. I want Virginia to be recognized as the Internet capital of the world, for this reason I established the Office of Secretary of Technology in my cabinet and have set up two advisory committees -- 1) in the private sector, and 2) in government. Virginia is now nationally recognized as a leader in information technology and the new economy. The result is more Internet businesses in Virginia, new jobs, and better opportunities for our kids as they come along. There is no bad.

Arlington, Va.: Governor, in the presidential race, Virginia is now completely safe for Republicans, and has been for decades. Bush may or may not be president, but he will get all 13 of Virginia's votes this year for sure. As a result, no president steers much attention (or federal $$) to Virginia. Have you thought about splitting Virginia's electoral vote to make the state more competitive (and more interesting) to presidential campaigns?

Gov. James S. Gilmore III: We sure can't split Virginia's electoral votes. But we are a big and important state. We gained a great deal of national attention this year when we won the primary for George Bush. Virginia will continue to stand out because of our progressive ideas and economy, and out commitment to bringing conservative ideas to working men and women and families across our state.

Oak Hill, Va.: Would you consider a Bush cabinet level appointment if one was offered?

Gov. James S. Gilmore III: Gov. Bush and I have not spoken about anything like that. My goal is to be the best governor of Virginia that I can be, and to elect George Bush president of the United States.

Warrenton, Va.: Two quick Virginia questions:

First: When will we stop writing checks for the "car tax?"

Second: Are there any projects that include widening Route 66 to have four lanes until Gainesville? If not, why not? The road narrows from four lanes to two at Manassas. The volume that flows through that stretch has dramatically increased in recent years while the road is unchanged, with the exception of standstill traffic everyday!

Gov. James S. Gilmore III: I am proud to say that this year, we are in the fourth year of a five-year phase-out of the car tax. This year, car tax bills will be reduced by 70 percent on the bill received by each citizen. After next year, there will be no more car tax.

This year, the General Assembly passed my very aggressive "innovative progress transportation plan." This plan added about $3 billion of new money to transportation. In this administration, we are now spending more than ever before on road building. One innovation I sought was a special major projects fund to have priority in the immediate future. Unfortunately, the General Assembly listed hundreds of special road projects for their districts, making it more difficult to plan strategically for transportation. My secretary of transportation assures me that we can continue to aggressively build roads where they are most needed. Now that you have asked, I will check to see the status of Route 66 construction at Gainesville.

Free Media: Do you think that the moratorium on sales tax for goods bought over the Internet should stand? Would Virginia benefit, offsetting revenue lost through other tax cuts?

Gov. James S. Gilmore III: The past year, I have served as chairman of the national advisory commission on electronic commerce. After listening to all of the testimony and reports, I concluded that the best policy for the United States is to not have taxes on electronic commerce between business and consumers on remote sales. The extension of the moratorium was called for by the commission, and would be a good first step. However, the moratorium needs to be broadened to eliminate access fee taxes. Also, we should abolish the 3 percent telecommunications tax that was imposed to fight the Spanish-American War. We should define nexus of businesses to states to eliminate taxes where we can.

Virginia and every other state will benefit from the growth of the industry, the creation of new jobs, and increased commerce. The biggest winners will be consumers who can engage in e-commerce without paying any additional taxes. There is no evidence that traditional retail will suffer, or that government needs to impose new taxes on this new and exciting medium.

Vienna, Va.: Governor, could you please give us an update of Virginia's efforts to bring a Major League baseball team to the area? Do you see a showdown between D.C. and Northern Virginia for a baseball team and what can be done to resolve that potential challenge?

Gov. James S. Gilmore III: I believe that upstate Virginia would be a good place for a Major League baseball team. I have written a letter to Commissioner Bud Selig, and have met with him personally to underscore Virginia's desire to have a team. I have also indicated I am willing to consider state participation in a new stadium. But, any such deal must be a good business deal for the taxpayers. I believe baseball would be an asset to our state, but I will be a firm protector of the taxpayers' dollar in any arrangement.

Too soon to tell whether this means a showdown between D.C. and the northern part of our state.

Vienna, Va.: How do you, Governor Gilmore, plan to maintain the exemplary institutions of higher learning that Virginia has to offer. Also, what do you plan to do about the fact that Virginia ranks 48th among the United States in terms of state financial support to colleges and universities? This is striking when one considers that Virginia has some of the best public colleges and universities in the United States.

Gov. James S. Gilmore III: Higher education is a top priority for this administration. I myself and the first lady are graduates of the University of Virginia, for example. My first act as governor was to sign an executive order establishing the blue-ribbon commission on higher eduction. Their task is to find ways to achieve quality, affordability, and accountability to the taxpayers who fund the universities. While I do not believe Virginia is 48th in state support, even so, an assessment of finances and quality is much more complicated. We need some system to be assured that the enormous amount of money that Virginians put into higher education is being effectively used to build a quality education for our students. No oversight system currently exists. We are beginning a process called Institutional Performance Agreements, in which the state enters into a six-year contract for funding in return for some strategic plan as to how the money will be spent. This is responsible oversight, and will continue to build public support for the financial commitments of the future. By the way, I believe the traditional African-American universities need a greater commitment of support, and I am doing that.

Arlington, Va.: What are the chief topics of conversation among your fellow Virginia delegates? You talking about Cheney? Abortion? Transportation?

Gov. James S. Gilmore III: The chief topics of discussion at this convention remain our solid, progressive, conservative approaches to tax cuts, education, Social Security reform and inclusion. The Republicans believe their conservative approaches will be more responsive to the concerns of working men and women and families than the old, shopworn, worn-out, tired ideas of the Democratic Party left over from the early part of the last century.

Blacksburg, Va.: Virginia is scheduled to execute Bobby Lee Ramdass on August 17th, Russel Burket on the 30th, and Derek Barnabei on Sept. 14th. In the Ramdass case, procedural rules led the judge to decline to inform the jury of Ramdass' ineligibility for parole under our "three strikes law" and three jurors have now declared they would not have voted for death if they had known that Ramdass would have been ineligible for parole. Russel Burket is mentally ill, and Derek Barnabei has compelling claims for his innocence. In light of the recent scrutiny of capital punishment, which will influence the 2000 election, do you have any plans to stay or commute the death sentences? Do you think a temporary halt to executions is in order to examine these crucial issues in other sentences?

Gov. James S. Gilmore III: As governor, the review of each case is one of my more weighty responsibilities. Be assured that I examine each case on its individual merits. In fact, I did commute the sentence of one mentally defective inmate. However, these cases are almost always very clear on the issue of guilt or innocence. Where a legitimate issue of innocence exists, I will not hesitate to order new tests or to examine new evidence. Innocent people are not being executed in the United States, largely because of the thorough system of trial and review by the courts and review by the executive branch up until the day of execution. No moratorium is called for in Virginia. Issues of abolition must be taken to your elected representatives in the general assembly. I support the death penalty because it sets a standard that says that we will not tolerate these ghastly murders that not only kill people, but destroy families forever. Efforts to undermine the rule of law threaten the destruction of civilization itself. If the law is not permitted to be enforced, what do we have left, except the rule of the strong over the weak?

I have not yet reached any conclusions regarding the three cases you have mentioned.

Free Media: That was our last question today for Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III. Thanks so much to Gov. Gilmore, and to everyone who joined us.

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