Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee John N. Dalton today charged that commercials paid for by his Democratic opponent featuring Rep. Peter W. Rodino (D-N.J.) are inaccurate and an example of the "double standard and the name-calling Henry Howell has been guilty of throughout his career."
Democrats, who said yesterday they had withdrawn the commercials, reacted sharply to Dalton's charges. "Even if we had" continued the ads "what's the difference?" demanded William Rosendahl, Howell's manager. "They're still running a dirty campaign against Henry. The ads are just as applicable as they were two weeks ago."
In the ads, which were taped in a Capitol studio for the Howell campaign, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rodino charged that Watergate style tactics were being used against Howell.
The ads have angered Republicans across the state, and today William A. Royall, Dalton's campaign manager, charged that radio versions of the ads were still being used in Richmond and Roanoke by the Howell campaign despite Rosendahl's earlier statement.
In Washington, Rodino and House Democrats defended the congressman against Republican charges that he acted improperly in taping the commercial in a House of Representative studio used mostly by members to record statements to send to their congressional districts.
Rodino said he notified the studio in advance he was to be billed personally for the taping and said again he was distressed by a mailing against Howell that was sent out by an independent group opposed to the Democrat. The letter, signed by Rep. J. Kenneth Robinson (R-Va.), appealed for funds for a series of anti-Howell television commercials that Howell said distorted his position on several issues. At Dalton's request, the ads were never broadcast.
"There are no Watergate tactics being used by my campaign and Henry Howell knows that," Dalton said, as he campaigned through the small towns of Southwest Virginia that he considers his home territory. He called on Howell to denounce the Rodino commercial as he had denounced the commercial prepared by the independent anti-Howell group known as the Independent Virginians for Responsible Government.
"Today we have a situation where inaccurate ads are being run, not by any independent organization but by my opponent's own organization," Dalton said to a group of 75 supporters here. Howell "said it was not his decision to run the ads and that he had other things on his mind," Dalton said. "Can you imagine a man running for governor and saying such a thing as that?
"Henry Howell has talked about ethics and morality but when he has a chance to speak out about something he knows is untrue he remains silent and the silence is deafening," Dalton said.
Rodino said today he had asked the Howell campaign to withdraw the ads after being told by Rep. M. Caldwell Butler (R-Va.) that Dalton had stopped the independent group from running its ads.
As Dalton was attacking Howell on the Rodino commercial, Royall released copies of what he said was a Howell mailing that appears to have the Democrate urging repeal of the state's 4 per cent sales tax on food and clothing. That would conflict with what Howell has said during the campaign is his position on the tax.
The letter Royall released was on the letterhead of the Howell campaign but was signed by "Marguerite Hogge, secretary," not Howell. A woman by that name is the office manager of Howell's state headquarters in Norfolk, but she could not be reached for comment.
Howell has said in this campaign that he favors retaining the sales tax, although in 1973 he said that he wanted to repeal the sales tax on food and nonprescription drugs. Repeal of the tax is now a "goal" favored by Howell, but "it's not an iron-clad fact he would (want) to remove it" immediately, Rosendahl said.
Traveling to several towns in this hilly part of the state with a steady drizzle causing gloom and dampness, Dalton seemed to relish being among people whose accent is the same as his. "We ain't gonna lose this election," he told one group, lapsing for a rare moment into colloquial language.
Earlier in the day, he said in interviews that he opposes any change in the current state law that governs the powers that cities and countries have. This law, known as "Dillon's rule," says that a locality does not have any power that is not specifically granted by the General Assembly.
Howell campaigned today from Roanoke to Tidewater with his running mates Charles S. (Chuck) Robband Edward E. Lane. At one point a Charlottesville hospital trailed by a rushing horde of reporters, photographers flashing strobe lights and radio news people thrusting microphones.
"Henry Howell!" he called, amid th hospital quietude. "Running for governor with the Rainbow Ticket.
"Here's Ed Lane. He's running for attorney general. We lost Chuck Robb. He's back there somewhere with a patient, or maybe with a nurse."
As the waiting patients looked at each other, startled, and the news media swarmed around him, Howell flashed through the seated crowd, grabbing hands and dropping epigrams.
"We come here not because we're running a temperature, but because we're running for governor. Here's a picture of me and my wife, Betty. She was undecided who to vote for until about a week ago, but now she's come on over," Howell said.
In less than a minute he was gone, trailed by cameramen and scribblers down the hall and, apparently, leaving the patients uncertain as to what had happened.
The Rainbow Ticket, as the three Democrats like to call themselves, was on the move in a three-day blitz of Virginia that confounds all expense and reason. From Roanoke and Charlottesville to Fredericksburg, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, the Democrats whirled today in a flurry of schedules, press releases, media caravans and oratorical hyperbole.
"I see why you say this is one of the loveliest little towns in the whole world," said Howell at midmorning in the town of Vinton, as he stood in a misty rain overlooking a dingy landscape of tarred roofs, one-story brick buildings and occasional pizza parlors and pool halls.
"We're here because we don't have $2 million and when . . . all the great Democrats turn out . . . that makes news . . . the Democratic Party is together and ready to go after independents and any Republicans ready to be born again . . .
"If anyone wants to know why the Rainbow Ticket came to Vinton, it's to get visible on TV and give the press the message of unity, and to tell the workers to go out and win one, not for the Gipper, but for the people . . ." Howell said.