Virginia Republican lieutenant gubernatorial candidate A. Joe Canada figures he's got a way to get elected Nov. 8: Ask voters if his opponent would even be running for public office if he hadn't married the President's daughter.
When Canada campaigns against Democrat Charles S. (Chuck) Robb, who has been married for nearly 10 years to the late President Lyndon B. Johnson's older daughter Lynda Bird, he asks: "If my opponent were married to Lynda Jones or Lynda Smith, would he be here tonight?"
In much of the state, Canada aides say, the rhetorical question has drawn applause and laughter. But when Canada, a state Senator from Virginia Beach, tried it out on Robb's home turf in Northern Virginia Wednesday night, the remark drew loud boos, hisses and catcalls.
"The guy wouldn't be there if he weren't connected with the Johnson family," a Canada spokesman said yesterday of Robb. "It's a major point were trying to communicate to the public."
Canada's remark Wednesday came at the end of a one-hour debate before nearly 400 people, including Mrs. Robb, at Falls Church High School. Robb didn't get a chance to respond to the remark because the debating time was over.
Yesterday, Robb said through a spokesman, I'm going to continue to run this campaing in a positive manner, talking about the issues."
"Those things always hurt," Mrs. Robb said, "but I've been married to Chuck Robb for 10 years and I'm proud of it. As a Southern state, I thought Virginia was the home of gentlemen."
The Canada remark drew criticism from Democratic and Republican officials alike.
"I thought it was inappropriate," said Joseph Ragan, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee. "I hate to see the candidate himself getting down in those types of personal attacks."
It's stupid to say something like that." said Republican Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr., who is seeking his sixth team in the House of Delegates. "Everybody knows that (Robb is married to Lynda Bird)." he continued. "That's not going to be a factor when you go to vote."
Emille Miller, chairman of the county's Democratic Committee, said, "It was a low blow . . . I just thought it had no place in the debate."
Despite the criticism, Canada spokesman Jack Bonner said the GOP candidate will continue to chide Robb for being the son-in-law of former President Johnson. "We will be using it more and more until Charles Robb gives us specific stands on the issues," he said. Robb has denied that he is unspecific.
The important of a name has been an issue used in previous elections. In a 1962 Democratic primary in Massachusetts, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, then making his first bid for the U.S. Senate, was attacked by his opponent, Edward J. McCormack.
At the end of a television debate, McCormack turned to Kennedy and said: "Teddy, if your name was Edward Moore, with your qualifications your candidacy would be a joke. But your name is Edward Moore Kennedy."
Kennedy won that election with 62 per cent of the vote and has been in office ever since."