Ira M. Lechner publicly questions Charles S. (Chuck) Robb's loans to his own campaign without disclosing how he intends to pay them back. Richard S. (Major) Reynolds accuses Robb of "listening to the voices of the past) in accepting the support of old-line conservatives known for their segregationist views, Robb's campaign manager calls Reynolds "hypocritical" for campaigning as a nonlawyer when he actually is a law school drop-out.
Those are just some of the public charges in what has become a spirited windup to the three-way brawl for the Virginia Democratic Party's lieutenant gubernatorial nomination in next Tuesday's primary. Privately, none of the camps misses any opportunity to slander the other.
Meanwhile, the candidates collectively are spending money at a record rate for the office - all $875,000 of it aimed at getting a chance to hold a job that pays but $10,500 a year and whose chief function is to preside over the State Senate and break occasional tie votes during its annual legislative session.
The race, according to several polls, seems to be close. The Reynolds staff released a poll this week showing their candidate with 38 per cent of the vote to Robb's 31 per cent and Lechner's 5 per cent. But the poll also showed 26 per cent of the voters undecided, easily enough to overturn their predictions of victory. Newspaper polls have also shown Reynolds and Robb to be close, but with large per centages of undecided voters.
Meanwhile, Lechner vehemently resists contentions that he trails the other two candidates. At the same time, Robb has been gathering support among the moderates and conservatives in the party and interviews along the campaign trail show that people who are supporters of gubernatorial candidate Andrew P. Miller generally also support Robb.
A picture of Miller "coincidentally" campaigning recently with Robb on the same public bus has impressed many.
Since Miller has a better-financed and seemingly better-organized campaign than his opponent, Henry E. Howell, Robb may be the beneficiary if Miller wins the gubernatorial nomination. Howell supporters seem to be divided between Reynolds and Lechner, with the organized black vote generally committed to Reynolds and the labor vote for Lechner.
The campaigns of the three lieutenant gubernatorial candidates have been distinctly different, even within the essentially ritualized forms of Virginia politics.
Reynolds, the scion of the family that built Reynolds Metals Co. and other businesses, reported a spending total of $416,000 in loans and contributions through last Saturday, with his family providing more than 37 per cent the total.
Fifty people have contributed more than $100 apiece to Reynolds' campaign, according to his financial report, and 119 people have made contributions of under $100. Lechner has reported 83 large contributors and 1,587 small ones; Robb has received more than $100 from 333 persons and under $100 from 1,285.
Nearly half of Reynolds' money has been spent on advertising of one sort or another, hsi largest single expense category. He pays about half a dozen staff members, according to his report, as well as a veteran political consultant, Mark Shields. So far Shields or his firm has been paid more than $10,000.
Reynolds' advertising portrays him as a businessman who is "tough" and who will "fight for you." He also stresses that he is the "only nonlawyer" in the race. Reynolds, dropped out of the University of Virginia law school in 1956 after the fall semester, before the time when grades would have been issued. He later entered the university's business school, Shields said, which he left after a year to work for Reynolds Metals.
Reynolds has been a state delegate representing Richmond in the General Assembly for two terms. This year he introduced seven bills, of which one, a bill extending the period of time a small business has to prevent a hostile take-over by a large corporation, passed. When asked for a list of his accomplishments in the General Assembly in an interview, Reynolds did not cite this bill. There were 903 bills introduced in the last session, of which about half passed.
Rather he stessed his efforts to prevent the records of legislators' calls charged to their state credit cards from being closed to public scrutiny. He and another legislator threatened to file a suit if the records did not remain open, although he did not introduce legislation on the subject. The records stayed open.
As further example of Reynolds' "toughness," Shields noted that his candidate supported George McGovern in 1972 when most Democrats in the state were unwilling to be publicly identified with the liberal presidential contender. Reynolds also fought to have blacks included in party dicision-making committees, and took on the organization of the party's main fund-raising event, the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, right after the McGovern issue had created a divisive split in the party. According to state party chairman Joseph T. Fitzpatrick, Reynolds made a success of the dinner.
Reynolds has made a disclosure of his net worth, which shows about $1.1 million in assets. Robb has also, in keeping with what his campaign describes as his "full-life disclosure," including every job and residence he ever had. Robb's income has ranged from a low $26,500 in 1971 when he was in law school to a high of $268,509 in 1974. He net worth is nearly $700,000. Lechner has not disclosed his financial worth, but said in one interview that in order to do so he simply had to look at his checkbook.
Of his expenditures so far of more than $336,000, Robb has personally borrowed $210,000. His campaign manager William A. Romjue said there are no specific plans on how to pay back the loans, but said he was sure that most of the money would come from Virginia - not Texans.
Robb has campaigned vigorously for this, his first try at public office. His paid staff of at least 16 people are among the most energetic political workers in the campaign, and they schedule their candidate for as many as a dozen appearances a day.
The media have been lavish in its attention to Robb's wife and mother-in-law, the daughter and wife of the late President, Lyndon Baines Johnson. This is a built-in advantage that Robb is quick to admit is an asset for him.
Reynolds ahs not been as visible, eschewing, as Shields put it, an "archaic" way of scheduling. Reynolds has concentrated, he said, on groups "where you can speak to a special constituency."
The most serious criticism the Reynolds camp levels at Robb, however, centers on his acceptance of support of conservative figures who were active in the days of the state's massive resistance to school desegregation.
In Prince Edward County, for example, Robb's coordinator is Hugh Jenkins, who is on the board of supervisors and was on it when that body voted in 1959 to discontinue financing of the public school system. As a result, the schools were closed for five years, with white children attending the private academy and black children either leaving the area or not going to school. Another Robb activist there is Vernon Womack, now clerk of court and then commissioner of revenue.
"I support Mr. Robb because he seems to have more of the old Virginia Democrat line," Womack said, "We believe in paying as you go. You know we're pretty conservative down here in Southside."
Robb says that the Reynolds attack is creating a phony issue and that he repudiates the massive resistance philosophy. Even Reynolds campaign director Ben Ragsdale says he does not believe Robb to in any way a racist.
Lechner, the least well-financed in the campaign with $122,700, started his quest two years ago. He methodically traveled the state cultivating local officials and party workers, and subsequently, as a member of the House of Delegates, introduced a number of bills aimed at special interest groups.
"At one point I told him he had a bill for every special interest group in creation except blind epileptics," said Del. Thomas Moss, (D-Norfolk) who is not a Lechner supporter. In fact, Lechner did introduce a bill banning discrimination in employment on the basis of physical handicaps, which passed.
Of the 27 bills Lechner introduced in the last session, 19 were killed. He had legislation to increase life insurance for state employees, to add a deduction for day-care expenses to the state income tax requirements and one to establish a pay scale for sheriffs.