The race for lieutenant governor of Virginia has been dominated by the marriage of the Democratic candidate, Charles S. "Chuck" Robb of McLean.
Republican nominee A. J. "Joe" Canada Jr., a state senator from Virginia Beach, has said repeatedly that Robb would not be in the contest if he had not married Lynda Bird Johnson, daughter of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Robb's marriage to the daughter of a President unquestionably has done more for his name recognition among voters than his past political experience, which before this campaign was limited to membership on the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.
However, Robb has proved to be an able campaigner. Hw won a three-way Democratic primary by staking out the moderate-conservative turf in a contest against two more liberal opponents.
In his current campaign against Canada, Robb's support on the right has been augmented by endorsements from organized labor and from Virginis's most influential, predominantly-black political action groups.
Robb's association with the Johnson family has proved to be influential in winning support from the Virginia Democratic establishment. Johnson was the only Democratic presidential candidate to carry Virginia in many years. Old guard Democratic political figures in the state who shunned the other national ticket leaders of the last 25 years have supported Robb as they did Johnson.
Canada is a conservative former Democrat who is serving his second term in the state Senate.He also has proven that he is an able campaigner. He is the only Republican elected to the Senate from the populous Tidewater region since Reconstruction. He won the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor at the party's state convention despite the opposition of the party leadership, including gubernatorial candidate John N. Dalton.
In his successful convention fight, he portrayed himself as a self-made champion of ordinary people fighting the political kingmakers. It is a theme he has continued to pursue in his general election race.
Canada and Robb are campaigning for a part-time office that carries the single responsiblity of presideing over the state Senate.
An effort was made in 1975 to launch a constitutional amendment that would separate the office from the Senate and give the lieutenant governor explicit executives duties.
The Senate itself rejected this effort, heeding the plea of one senator who urged the state to preserve the tradition of "giving its lieutenant governor a low license plate number, the opportunity to make a lot of speeches and nothing more.
Under the state Constitution, the lieutenant governor succeeds a governor who dies in office. No Virginia governor has ever died during his term, but three lieutenants governors have failed to survive their jobs.
In the absence of any ability to deliver on campaign promises, the two candidates have run on issues that they feel strike a responsive chord with voters.
Robb has promised to make attraction of new jobs to Virginia and promotion of tourism in the state a top priority.
Canada has seized on the proposed Panama Canal treaties and opposed tham as a threat to jobs at the Virginia port of Hampton Roads. Robb has said he has reservations about the proposed treaties but refuses to treat them as a serious issue in a state race.
Robb has stressed his support of the effort to ratify the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an issue that cast Canada in a controversial role early this year.
The Republican had publicly professed his support of the admendment banning discrimination by sex, but voted against ratification because he wanted a statewide referendum on the issue. His vote was the decisive one in defeating ratification this year.
Both Robb and Canada are 38-year-old lawyers. Robb is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the University of Virginia Law School. Canada graduated from Hampden Sydney College and the University of Richmond Law School.