Former Virginia attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore got off to a fast start today in his bid to be the state's next governor, barreling to victory in a Republican primary against a largely unheralded opponent best known for sponsoring a Jamaican bobsled team.
The race was among 23 Republican and Democratic primaries held today in Virginia to select candidates to run in general elections in November for state executive and legislative offices.
In other contests, state Sen. William T. Bolling, 47, of Hanover County north of Richmond, won the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, and Del. Robert F. McDonnell, 50, of Virginia Beach, emerged as the GOP candidate for state attorney general.
Bolling will face former U.S. congresswoman and state senator Leslie L. Byrne, 58, who prevailed in a four-way race in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.
In primaries for seats in the House of Delegates, five of six maverick Republicans defeated challengers who sought to punish them for supporting tax increases advocated by Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner.
In the sixth of those races, the Republican incumbent, Del. Gary A. Reese, 60, was beaten by Chris S. Craddock, 26, a youth pastor who billed himself as more of a social conservative, as well as an opponent of all tax increases.
Kilgore ran away with his primary, winning 82 percent of the vote in his race against Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch. Polls closed at 7 p.m.
"Tonight is just another rung in the ladder, another step on the journey," Kilgore said in a telephone interview with reporters, according to the Associated Press. He hardly celebrated the victory, sharing delivery pizza with his staff in a low-key gathering at his headquarters, the agency said. It said President Bush is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for Kilgore in McLean, Va., next month.
Kilgore spent the primary campaign looking ahead to the Nov. 8 general elections, in which Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is the Democratic candidate for governor. Kaine is unopposed for his party's gubernatorial nod and therefore was not on the ballot in today's primaries.
Kilgore, 43, is the choice of Virginia's Republican establishment and has raised more than $7 million for his campaign for governor, far outdistancing Fitch, 57. The small-town mayor, who was born in China to a missionary family and served 11 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, is known mainly for his role in helping to found the Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and was the subject of a Disney movie, "Cool Runnings." But his long-shot campaign for the GOP nomination failed to galvanize voters in the way that his improbable bobsled team captured the public's imagination 17 years ago.
The race in November is to succeed Gov. Warner, who cannot run for reelection since Virginia law limits governors to one four-year term. Warner reportedly is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2006, or possibly the presidency in 2008.
Among the most closely watched statewide contests today were the Democratic and GOP primaries for lieutenant governor, a post with limited responsibilities but one widely regarded as a springboard to the governorship.
In the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, Bolling defeated the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, Sean T. Connaughton, 44, of Triangle, Va. Bolling won with 57 percent of the vote.
On the Democratic side, Byrne, of Falls Church, built an insurmountable lead over three other candidates: Del. Viola Osborne Baskerville, 53, of Richmond; Del. J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen, 37, of Fairfax City; and state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, 57, of Russell County in southwestern Virginia. Byrne was ahead by 10 percentage points over the closely bunched pack.
The other statewide office in play today -- attorney general -- featured a Republican primary fight between two prominent lawyers: McDonnell and Stephen E. Baril, 50, of Richmond, president of the city's bar association.
McDonnell won easily, capturing 65 percent of the vote.
He will face Democratic state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, 47, of Bath County, in the Nov. 8 election. Deeds had no opponent in today's primaries.
In November, all 100 seats in Virginia's House of Delegates will be on the ballot. Nineteen candidates for those seats, which have two-year terms, are being decided in today's primaries -- 12 on the Republican side and seven on the Democratic side. (Virginia's 40 state senators, who hold office for four years, are not up for election until November 2007.)
Republicans were looking to the primaries as a means to put up strong candidates in November with the aim of increasing their current 60-seat majority in the House.
The primaries were open to any registered voter, but voters had to choose whether to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. State law does not allow them to vote in both. This was seen as limiting the ability of centrists to draw support from outside their party, possibly affecting some closely contested primaries. It is rare for both parties to hold statewide primaries on the same day. The last time this happened was in 1988.
In several closely watched races, Republican mavericks who backed Gov. Warner's tax increases were prevailing over challengers staunchly opposed to the tax hikes.
In Northern Virginia, Del. Joe T. May of Leesburg turned back a challenge in his Republican primary, winning with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Del. Harry J. Parrish (R-Manassas), another of the GOP mavericks, won his primary with 55 percent of the vote.
With all of the vote counted in his Spotsylvania district, Del. Robert D. Orrock Sr. also held off his challenger, taking slightly more than 55 percent of the vote.
Downstate, Del. L. Preston Bryant Jr. of Lynchburg won his Republican primary in a landslide with 75 percent of the vote, and freshman Del. Edward T. Scott of Madison prevailed handily, garnering 65 percent.
But the sixth GOP maverick, Reese, was overwhelmed by Craddock, who jumped out to an early lead and wound up winning by a 2-to-1 margin in District 67, which includes a piece of western Fairfax County and part of Loudoun County surrounding Dulles International Airport.
In a tighter race in House District 35, which includes Fairfax City, lawyer James E. Hyland, 44, defeated two opponents in the Republican primary: anti-tax crusader Arthur G. Purves, 56, and political newcomer Edward M. Robinson, 41. Hyland, who won by 10 percentage points, faces incumbent Democratic Del. Stephen C. Shannon in November. Shannon is unopposed.
In nearby House District 37, Republicans and Democrats were competing in their respective primaries to run for the seat of Democratic Del. Petersen, who was running for lieutenant governor.
David L. Bulova, 36, a member of the Soil and Water Conservation Board and the son of Fairfax County Supervisor Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock), defeated Janet S. Oleszek, 58, a Fairfax County School Board member in the Democratic primary.
In the race for the Republican nomination to represent the same district, former Fairfax City mayor John Mason, 70, cruised to victory over political novice Jim L. Kaplan, 34, who was making his first run for public office. With nearly all precincts reporting, Mason led with 60 percent of the vote.
In a crowded field in the Democratic primary for House District 45, which includes slices of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County, David L. Englin, 30, a former Air Force captain, defeated five other candidates. He will face a Republican candidate who has yet to be named in a race for the House seat being vacated by Democratic Del. Marian Van Landingham, who has cancer.
In House District 41, centered on Springfield in Fairfax County, lawyer Michael J. Golden, 31, easily beat lobbyist William A. Finefrock, 49, in the Republican primary. The seat has been held for 25 years by Republican Del. James H. Dillard II, who is retiring.
As expected, turnout was light across the state. In the statewide races, fewer than 4 percent of Virginia's 4.4 million registered voters cast ballots in the primaries for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In the 19 House primaries, turnout peaked at nearly 17 percent in one race (the Republican primary in House District 23), but it remained in single digits in most of the other contests.