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Gilmore Is Leading Money Race

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 25, 1997; Page H01

RICHMOND, Oct. 24—Democrat Donald S. Beyer Jr.'s campaign for governor, which for months was boosted by contributions from Northern Virginia real estate and technology moguls, saw donations dip last month, while Republican James S. Gilmore III continued to ride a wave of cash from national GOP groups, finance reports show.

The reports indicate that in September, the Alexandria Democrat's donations from Northern Virginia dropped to half their previous monthly level, to $126,000. Gilmore, a former suburban Richmond prosecutor, out-raised Beyer for the first time in the Democrat's back yard, netting $155,000 in his best one-month showing in the region.

The regional figures come from a Washington Post analysis of a state campaign finance database compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit group supported by news organizations and Virginia Commonwealth University.

The contrasting tales of campaign finance were revealed in recent reports that offer a hint of why Beyer, Virginia's lieutenant governor, has lagged behind Gilmore in recent fund-raising. Overall, Beyer has raised $6.6 million, compared with $7.2 million for Gilmore, a former state attorney general who has received $1.1 million from national GOP groups.

The influx of party money into Gilmore's campaign has surprised Democrats, who have complained that the national groups have not complied with state disclosure policies.

M. Bruce Meadows, executive secretary of the State Board of Elections, said today that one of the three GOP committees that have given to Gilmore will be fined for not filing timely disclosure reports, and that his agency is investigating whether the committees violated any state campaign finance laws.

Meanwhile, Beyer's fund-raising difficulties are among several problems his campaign has faced lately. As reports of Beyer's September fund-raising dip hit last week, the Democrat cut some scheduled ads downstate to add spots in Northern Virginia. This week, several polls indicated that Gilmore has jumped to the lead in the once-deadlocked race for governor.

Beyer, who has struggled to find a theme to match Gilmore's popular plan to cut the state's property tax on cars and trucks, today sharpened a new attack on the Republican's plan, calling it a "gimmick" that would cripple state education spending.

The attack on the GOP tax cut plan is the focus of two new Beyer TV ads; the ads were financed in part by $250,000 from the Democratic Governors Association and up to $400,000 in loans by top Virginia Democratic business donors, party sources said.

Republican Dwight C. Schar, a developer who has given Gilmore $7,000 and helped raise more, said that although Beyer jumped to a head start in Northern Virginia and has out-raised Gilmore there overall -- $2.3 million to $900,000 -- most of the late-arriving money is betting on Gilmore.

"I would bet you that in the months of October and November, there will be more contributions toward Gilmore than Beyer," Schar said.

Edward H. Bersoff, head of BTG Industries in McLean, who has given $90,000 to Beyer, complained that Gilmore's deft use of the tax-cut issue, and Beyer's willingness to respond with his own tax-cut plan, discouraged Beyer's base of business donors from continuing to give.

Many Northern Virginia business leaders believe the state should spend more on schools, roads and worker training, and were disappointed to see Beyer support a tax-relief plan that would cut into state revenue.

"The whole tax issue put a lot of people on the fence," Bersoff said. "Among the large Northern Virginia givers, they're saying there's no difference between the candidates. . . . They don't understand when push comes to shove, Don's going to be more receptive."

Stumping across Virginia by plane with Gov. George Allen (R) today, Gilmore dismissed Beyer's new attack on his "No Car Tax" slogan, saying that "Don Beyer is running against the hopes and aspirations of the people of Virginia."

Gilmore brushed aside Democrats' complaints about the national GOP money flowing into his campaign.

Albert J. Dwoskin, a Fairfax developer, contrasted Beyer's top donors with the GOP committees, saying, "What you have are people like myself . . . basically happy to identify ourselves with anybody we're going to contribute to. I resent stakeholders who have an interest in a campaign who don't disclose who they are."

Metro Resource Director Margot Williams contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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