By the end of the campaign, the two men running for the job of Virginia's governor will have spent more than seven times as much money seeking the job as it pays in its four-year term.
Since the job is only part-time and requires only one actual duty - presiding over the state Senate at the annual General Assembly session - it becomes clear that running for lieutenant governor is not really running for lieutenant governor after all. It's actually running for the platform the job gives the occupant, a platform from which to go on to bigger and presumably better things - like the U.S. Senate or the governorship.
"The only constitutionally mandated duty is to preside over the Senate," Democratic candidate Charles S. (Chuck) Robb told a Chamber of Commerce group in Charlotttesville recently. "I think that's a very important job, but it's not, no matter how much we might campaign, and how vigorously and how much time and effort we put into it, it's not the most important job in the Commonwealth."
Robb's opponnent, Republican State Sen. A. Joe Canada of Virginia Beach, who has had a difficult time trying to find issues on which he and Robb differ sharply, told the same group he thought the job was important, "because if something should happen to the governor you have to know how the state works because you must be in a position to step in."
At any rate, the difficulty of campaigning for a basically amorphous job (which pays $16,000 plus $5,000 in expenses) has colored the tenor of the campaign. While the races for governor and attorney general are marked by sharp contrasts and charges flying back and forth, the race for lieutenant governor is often marked by its similarities.
Both candidates are 38, lawyers, and photogenic. Both say that creating more jobs for Virginians is the most important issue. Both take pains to mention that they worked their way through college. Both were active in the Boy Scouts. Both see a role for the lieutenant governor in improving communication between state and local governments.
Robb is given the lead over Canada, according to most political observers in the state, and the few polls that have been taken my candidates and newspapers. With his high name recognition because of his marriage to Lynda Bird Johnson and the moderate image he projects as a candidate. Robb has conducted what he calls a "positive" campaign, attacking his opponent only in response to Canada's challenges.
Canada, on the other hand, did not even start out as the nominee favored by the leadership of the Republican party. He won the nomination in a party convention by a vote of 958.89 to 896.71 over investment banker Walter Craigie Jr. of Richmond after a speech in which Canada seconded his own nomination and condemned the use of power politics.
Canada was not well known outside of Virginia Beach, except for largely negative publicity he received after he changed his position on the Equal Rights Amendment during the last session of the General Assembly. His vote blocked ratification of the ERA in the Senate after he had previously said he supported the amendment. Now he says he is for a statewide referendum on the ERA and othe r"emotional" issues.
Canada has vigorously promoted his opposition to the proposed Panama Canal treaties as an issue of importance to Virginians. In press conferences, public testimony before the Senate sub-committee on separation of powers, and in campaign speeches, Canada has argued that if the treaties are approved Virginia will suffer economically.
Using research compiled by Charles Lihn, a former employee of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, the National Right to Work Committee and the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan, Canada says that "25,000 Virginians could lose their jobs" if the treaties are ratified.
Robb, who has expressed "cautious support" of the treaties, claims they should not be an issue in the Virginia campaign, because it is the U.S. Senate that will vote on ratification. Both of Virginia's senators are opposed to the treaties.
"Let's not make (the election) a referendum on the Panama Canal," Robb told the Charlottesville group. "The office of lieutenant governor may not be that important, but let's not waste a vote. We may end up electing somebody for governor on the basis of whether or not he thought a treaty should be ratified regardless of what this person might do for the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Canada has also tried to make his opponent's lack of legislative experience an issue. He points out that Robb "has been a Washington lawyer for two years," and occasionally seems personally affronted that someone without previous experience as an elected official is running.
Canada charges that Robb would not be running "if his wife's name was Lynda Smith or Lynda Jones," comment that has brought mixed reactions drawing some laughter and applause, some boos and hisses.
Robb notes that in 1969, neither candidate for governor, Democrat William C. Battle or Republican A. Linwood Holton, had previous legislative experience.
Canada has served as the Senator from Virginia Beach for six years, elected as a Republican after an earlier switch from being a Democrat. Opinions of his effectiveness as a legislator vary, usually along partisan lines.
"I don't think you could say he has taken a leadership role," said Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan (D-Fairfax), who serves with Canada on all three of the committees he is assigned to. "I do remember that his first year he was effective in getting an amendment to the appropriations bill to provide $7,500 for sand for Virginia Beach. I think that's been the high-water mark on his achievement."
Sen. Wiley Mitchell (R-Alexandria), however, said that Canada was a "forward-looking, bright, articulate legislator," whose record belies the conservative image he is projecting during the campaign. Mitchell cited Canada's support of legislation expanding the Freedom of Information Act, banning the sale of non-returnable bottles, and increasing requirements for financial disclosure by public officials. "He supported Metro enthusiastically even when it was not popular," Mitchell said.
Mitchell's comments point out that Canada's public record is somewhat enigmatic. His voting record is essentially moderate; he has a positive record of support for issues favored by the citizen lobbying group Common Cause, for example. The ultra conservative Young Americans for Freedom and Canada voted the way the group felt he should a middle of the road 47 per cent of the time for the last two legislative sessions.
Yet Canada has campaigned as a conservative. His campaign manner, Nick Longworth, worked briefly as a consultant for the National Conservative Political Action Committee, and the firm hired to do his commercials, is run by supporters of conservative causes.
Robb, meanwhile, has collected endorsements from such widely diverse groups as hard-line conservative Democrats from Southside Virginia who were leaders in the massive resistance movement to close the public schools rather than desegregate them and the state's most influential black political group, the Crusade for Voters.
Canada has also attempted to make an issue of Robb's financial support, which was considerable before the June primary but has dwindled since then. Canada charges that 71 per cent of the more than $400,000 Robb spent in the primary is "out-of-state money." However, in compiling this percentage, Canada admits he is including two loans totaling $210,000 that Robb personally secured from Virginia banks. Robb says that if Maryland and District of Columbia residents "a few miles from our home" are discounted from the total of out of state money, the percentage is actually less than 20 per cent of his total.