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Beyer Alleges `Flip-Flop' as Gilmore Backs Off Abortion Notification Remark

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 16, 1997; Page D01

Donald S. Beyer Jr., Virginia's Democratic candidate for governor, said yesterday that Republican rival James S. Gilmore III's initial support for requiring wives to tell their husbands before getting an abortion amounted to an anachronistic insult to the state's women.

"We've come a long way from when we treated women as property, women as chattel, where we treated them as children, where somehow I have the right to say what happens in my wife's life," Beyer said at a Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate in McLean -- the third and likely final debate between the two candidates before the Nov. 4 election.

In an interview recorded Oct. 8 and broadcast Tuesday evening, Gilmore said a state law requiring women to notify their husbands before having an abortion was an idea "that would require serious consideration." Later Tuesday night, however, Gilmore backed away, saying he'd found out such laws had been declared unconstitutional and therefore shouldn't be an issue in the race, which remains a dead heat.

In yesterday's debate, Gilmore retreated further, saying he wouldn't support such a law even if the U.S. Supreme Court hadn't ruled against it.

"No, I don't support it," he told the audience of more than 750 Northern Virginia business leaders. "I don't support a spousal notification bill. I don't believe it ought to be the law."

Abortion has emerged as a key issue in the final days of the race, and analysts say it has the potential to help Beyer among women -- especially moderate suburbanites in Northern Virginia. Beyer, a two-term lieutenant governor, is pressing his attack with television ads charging that Gilmore opposes a woman's right to have an abortion after eight weeks.

Gilmore has branded Beyer a "flip-flopper" on issues such as taxes and crime, but the Democrat hurled the label back yesterday, noting that Gilmore took one position on abortion notification in a television interview broadcast about 6 p.m. but backed off in a news release several hours later.

"The world record flip-flop in this campaign was to be for spousal notification at 6 o'clock [Tuesday] night, and at 10 o' clock to be against it," Beyer said.

Spousal notification is just the latest flare-up in the candidates' ongoing debate on abortion. Gilmore opposes abortion after the first three months of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. Beyer opposes new restrictions on abortion. Both support the current law requiring a minor to notify a parent before having an abortion.

In addition to abortion, the topic of taxes figured prominently in yesterday's debate, with Gilmore touting his plan to virtually eliminate the personal property tax on cars and trucks and repeating his charge that Beyer's true intention is to raise taxes.

Gilmore, the state's former attorney general, noted that early in the campaign, Beyer left open the possibility of raising taxes, then said he wouldn't do that and offered his own plan to cut the so-called car tax. Now, Gilmore noted, Beyer says he would support legislation to let local jurisdictions raise taxes for regional transportation and schools.

"First he said he wouldn't agree to taxes," Gilmore said. "Then he flip-flopped . . . and offered a [tax relief] program of his own. Then he . . . said taxes would not be a priority in his campaign. And now, he said he'll give the green light to regional tax increases."

Beyer said that his commitment not to raise state taxes didn't conflict with letting local governments raise levies and that a governor should "in no way tie the hands of local governments . . . to raise taxes."

Gilmore, who has pledged to eventually eliminate the personal property tax on the first $20,000 in assessed value of a car, pitched his plan as the one that applies to everyone, regardless of income. "My opponent does not have a plan to eliminate the personal property tax," he said.

Beyer defended his tax relief plan as one that would help those who truly need it. His proposal would give a $250 tax credit to families making less than $75,000 a year, to help them pay their personal property tax.

Both men continued to assert that economic growth will cover their plans' costs. Beyer's is projected to cost $1 billion over five years, and Gilmore's $1.6 billion to $3 billion over the same period.

If the economy doesn't grow fast enough to cover the costs, Gilmore said he would phase in the cut more slowly, taking more than five years as planned. Beyer said he would still offer some relief on personal property taxes but would "choose to go with my priorities, education first" in responding.

The biggest laugh of the afternoon came when moderator Judy Woodruff, a CNN reporter, asked whether in setting a "moral tone" as governor they would follow the example of President Clinton or Virginia Gov. George Allen (R).

"Is that a trick question?" Beyer asked, with a grin.

"It's a serious question," Woodruff replied.

Neither candidate answered her question directly, with Beyer saying that "there is much to be admired" in both Clinton and Allen -- as husbands, fathers and leaders -- and that successful leadership means being visible, talking about "the things that are important" to people.

Gilmore rattled off several ways he believes he's taken a more ethical approach to the campaign than his opponent, noting, among other things, that he had made his full tax return public while Beyer has released a one-page summary of income and tax payments.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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