Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew P. Miller charged today that the Republican Party of Virginia has "openly declared war on our primary" to ensure a low turnout in the June 14 Democratic primary election and to help the chances of Miller's opponent, Henry E. Howell.
Miller made his charge at a press conference here a few miles from the site of the Republican state convention, which open on Friday.
Lt. Gov. John N. Dalton, unopposed candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, immediately scoffed at the Miller statement. Dalton said that he and Republican Gov. Mills E. Godwin have told Republicans and other Dalton supporters that their participation in the Democratic primary would be "inappropriate.
"The Democratic nomination is a matter for Democrats only" Dalton said. "I would hope that the people who plan to support my candidacy in November would leave the question of the Democratic nominee to those who traditionally consider themselves to be Democrats.
Miller in his campaign has gained the support of conservative Democrats and independants who have often voted for Republican state and federal office holders during the last decade. Efforts to discourage primary partcipation by these voters are considered favorable to the more liberal Howell, who most Republicans think would be an easier opponent for Dalton in November.
The Republican have begun a pre primary radio advertising campaign throughout the state that contends the "real" election campaign does not begin until after June 14. The ads end with an endorsement of Dalton by Godwin, a former Democrat who has influence with conservative Democrats and independents.
Miller said the Republican efforts to minimize the June 14 turnout is the most "over Republican interference in the Democratic's Party's nominating process since 1949."
In that year, Republican leader Henry Wise responded to please by the (Democratic) Byrd organization and asked Republicans to vote for John Battle in the Democratic primary against Miller's father, Francis Pickens Miller. Former Gov. John Battle won the primary by a narrow margin and went on to win overwhelmingly in the general election.
Dalton said his plea for Republicans and others who intend to support him in the fall to stay out of the primary is "just the opposite of interference in a Democratic nomination."