Gilmore Endorses Bush's Candidacy
By R.H. Melton
"We share the same core, conservative values," Gilmore said at a Capitol news conference, where he was joined by Lt. Gov. John H. Hager and GOP activists.
Also endorsing Bush today were 15 of the GOP's 21 state senators, 38 of its 49 delegates and nine Republican chairmen in the state's 11 congressional districts.
Bush, who has an exploratory committee for a national campaign in 2000, came to Virginia two years ago to help Gilmore raise money for his governor's race, and the two have worked together in national associations. Bush may be here again this summer for a fund-raising event, GOP leaders said.
The political agendas of the two governors mirror one another, Gilmore observed today, noting that Bush oversaw the largest tax cut in Texas history, abolished parole, reduced welfare rolls and promoted standards for school performance. Gilmore, flanked by several African American and female GOP leaders at his news conference, praised Bush for trying to touch all Texans with his programs.
Bush "is everything that the American people expect from their president, and I think more than that," Gilmore said. "With his record of inclusion and bringing people together, I think he'll appeal to people from all across the country."
More than a dozen Republican governors have endorsed Bush, who has lined up entire political organizations in other Southern states.
But Gilmore, who has worked to elevate his own national profile, especially on high-technology issues, could have an enhanced role next year, his advisers said.
For one thing, Virginia could have a presidential primary as early as February: Gilmore announced today that he will sign a bill permitting parties to hold a primary on Tuesday, Feb. 29, next year. A big state like Virginia with an early primary could draw several national contenders to the Old Dominion.
"We may hold a primary next year, but the winner was decided here today," quipped Dick Leggitt, one of Gilmore's senior advisers.
In a statement from Austin, Bush hailed the endorsement and the potential early primary.
"Governor Gilmore's leadership on education and tax cuts have made him a rising star in Republican Party," Bush said. "His endorsement in what will be an early primary state is important not only in Virginia, but nationally, and I am honored to have his support."
Bush may rely on Gilmore for raising money from the high-tech community of companies in Northern Virginia or even California's Silicon Valley, which Gilmore is visiting for much of next week.
Several of the Republicans who posed with Gilmore today said they worked for the state or Gilmore-appointed commissions and enthusiastically endorsed Bush.
Preston M. Royster, of Fairfax, an African American who is director of the Advisory Council for Adult Education and Literacy, said, "I particularly like his inclusiveness, just as our governor has reached out to people."
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