Job Offers Called GOP Plot
By Mike Allen
Democrats say Gilmore is trying to get Democratic lawmakers out of legislative seats in districts where Republicans would have a strong chance of winning. The grumbling among Democrats comes as several Republican officials acknowledge that Gilmore may offer an administration post to Sen. Charles L. Waddell, a Democrat who represents Loudoun County and part of Fairfax County.
The full-time position as a member of the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would pay Waddell at least $74,885 annually, compared with the $18,000 that the retired Waddell receives for his part-time job as senator.
Waddell's district is largely Republican, but he has been able to hold the seat for 26 years because of his strong personal following there.
If he were replaced in a special election by a Republican, Virginia's 40-member Senate would tilt to a 21 to 19 advantage for the GOP, with Lt. Gov.-elect John H. Hager (R) presiding to break any tie votes. Such a scenario would solidify GOP control of a General Assembly chamber for the first time in state history.
Gilmore already has created the need for a special election in the House by appointing Del. David G. Brickley (D-Prince William) to head the Department of Conservation and Recreation. A Republican is favored to win Brickley's seat, which could put the Republicans one seat away from a majority in the 100-member House.
Brickley's move -- and the possibility that Waddell might not be far behind -- has sent Democratic officials scrambling to come up with new candidates. And increasingly, they're venting at what they see as GOP tampering with the delicate balance of power in the General Assembly.
Sue Wrenn, chairwoman of the Virginia Democratic Party, said Gilmore "is using taxpayer funds to buy what he couldn't win at the polls."
"These are cleverly crafted back-room deals with people who are not necessarily qualified for the jobs to which they are being appointed," Wrenn said. "He is using the appointment process for the deliberate purpose of skewing the voters' will."
Gilmore's spokesman, Mark Miner, replied: "No decision has been made concerning any appointment at ABC."
The governor-elect created the vacancy on the ABC panel this week when he appointed its chairwoman, Anne P. Petera, to his Cabinet as secretary of the commonwealth.
As word of Waddell's possible appointment spread across Richmond this week, fellow Northern Virginia Democrats in the Senate tried to reach Waddell, but could not. On Tuesday, he did not make an expected appearance at a Senate Finance Committee meeting in Annandale.
Yesterday, an aide said Waddell was out of state.
Waddell, 65, a retired airline customer-relations worker, was first elected to the Senate in 1971 and is chairman of the Transportation Committee. The ABC chairman is paid $87,366 and the other two board members are paid $74,885, so the full-time job would dramatically increase Waddell's pension when he leaves state service.
Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax) said he was "really disappointed" by Brickley's decision and Waddell's possible departure.
"These people did well as members of the Democratic Party," Gartlan said. "For them to turn their back on all of that is a very sad thing for me. It's better to be disappointed than angry, right?"
Brickley's successor will be chosen in a special election Jan. 13, the day before the General Assembly convenes for its 1998 session.
The Republican candidate is Prince William Supervisor Michele B. McQuigg (Occoquan), and the Democratic nominee is county School Board member John Harper Jr. (Neabsco).
Both parties are dumping money into the Prince William campaign, a reflection of the importance of the seat Brickley is vacating.
The Virginia Democratic House Caucus pledged $40,000 yesterday to Harper's campaign, party officials said. Mike Riley, chairman of the Prince William Democratic Party, said the campaign is aiming to raise another $25,000 in the next two weeks.
Republicans responded by vowing to raise at least $80,000 for McQuigg.
If McQuigg wins and Republicans hold on to two other open House seats in special elections Jan. 13, the GOP would have 49 House seats, the party's largest number this century. Fifty would be held by Democrats; the other is held by an independent who often sides with Republicans.
As for Waddell's Senate seat, Del. William C. Mims (R-Loudoun), a Leesburg lawyer, said many Republicans have approached him about running, and he said he would consider it.
Lawmakers in both parties said Mims would be a heavy favorite in the special election. Wrenn, the Democratic chairwoman, said Waddell's seat would be "a tough race" for another Democrat.
"It can be won with the right candidate," Wrenn said. She did not have one immediately in mind.
Sen. Jane H. Woods (R-Fairfax) said that Republicans are overjoyed and a bit stunned at the sudden prospect of a Senate majority and that they are impressed by Gilmore's strategy.
"For a party that has spent most of our lives not even being close, it's staggering that it could be right around the corner," Woods said. "I don't think either Democrats or Republicans had thought this might occur before 1999," when the next round of Senate elections will be held.
"This is a very good time to be a Republican," said Chris LaCivita, executive director of the Virginia Republican Party.
Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company