Virginia gubernatorial candidate Andrew P. Miller today accused opponent Henry E. Howell of switching positions on gun control and of opposing utility rate increases only in the most publicized cases.
Miller made his charges at a classic, small town political rally in this Henry County community near the North Carolina border south of Martinsville. Miller, seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in the June 14 primary, charged that Howell is among those politicians who "sniff the air constantly to be sure that the prevailing wind is at their backs."
Miller charged that in 1969, when Howell was making his first unsuccessful race for governor, he favored licensing of firearms - including rifles.
"He even opposed including in our revised 1971 Virginia Constitution the right of the people to keep and bear arms," Miller said, "and his was only vote in the state Senate against it."
Miller said that Howell "changed his tune when he lost that election. Now he says he opposes te licensing of firearms." (Howell could not immediately be reached for comment on the charge).
Miller made his gun control accusation today in the rural heartland of pro-gun sentiment. Miller said he opposes licensing but successfully supported legislation calling for mandatory sentences for the use of a gun in commission of violent crimes. He also said he has proposed a law that would make it a crime for a convicted felon with a record of violent conduct to possess a firearm.
Henry County is in an area served by the Appalachian Power Company creases. He said that Hoell, who has of never opposing APCO rate in (APCO), and Miller accused Howell made consumer advocacy a centerpiece of his political career, has raised his voice only against increase by the Virginia Electric and Power Company (Vepco) because it is the state's largest utility and its rate cases attract the most publicity.
Howell has acknowledged he appealed in only a limited number of utility rate cases but he said he makes no apology for that. All of his appearances were voluntary and he had only limited funds and staff to prepare for such appearances, Howell has said.
Miller, Howell has charged, failed to appear in 48 per cent of the rate cases before the SCC although his office had a responsibility to represent consumers. Miller's campaign literature has said "consumers are represented no matter how much publicity surrounds an SCC proceeding."
Henry County, with a population of about 60,000 voted for Howell in in 1973 when he ran for governor against Mills E. Godwin. Miller forces, however, are confident that they have made inroads into the Howell strength here. Miller's appearance today attracted about 250 people to a community park where barbecued pork and cole slaw were served and a country music band performed on a flatbed truck. A similar appearance here by Howell two weeks ago drew about 150 people.
Miller came here after being introduced to the Virginia Day crowd at the Charlotte, N.C., motor speedway. The speedway attracts thousands of Virginians to its Memorial Day weekend races and also attracted two politicians, Miller and former Navy Secretary John Warner, a Republican who is testing his potential as a, U.S. Senate candidate next year.
At the speedway, Miller was among those who saw diminutive Gary Wells, a 20-year-old Texas, jump his motorcycle over 21 compact cars lined up side by side. The jump was measured at 139.4 feet, breaking the old world record for motorcycle jumps held by Evel Knievel.
Miller shook hands with Wells after his performance and said of him, "He's a nice young man." Before the jump Miller toured the garage area where drivers and pit crews were preparing for the annual running of the Patriot 300. Miller was escorted by Richmond stock car promoter Kenneth Campbell. He greeted wellknown drivers including Cale Yarborough and Virginia driver Lenny Pond of Petersburg.
Miller also shook hands with Leonard Wood, of the famous Wood Brothers pit stop cres of Stuart, Va. Stuart is the county seat of Patrick County, just west of Henry County.
Both the Democratic gubernatorial candidates have a light schedule for the rest of the holiday weekend. After appearance in the Hampton Roads area on Sunday, Miller will take Monday off and Howell will appear only at a Memorial Day parade in Hopewell.