Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate John N. Dalton staged his last major campaign spectacle today with a breakfast for 1,200 supporters that was presided over by the gray eminence Gos. Mills E. Godwin and orchestrated by a retinue of planners and a rousing brass band.
As the warmth of television lights beamed down upon him, and the band greeted him with "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," Dalton used the occasion to lace into Democrat Henry E. Howell in Howell's home town. The event was clearly designed, as former Norfolk Mayor Roy Martin put it, to show that "Tidewater is not in Henry's hip pocket."
Howell, meanwhile, was about a mile away at a breakfast for about 75 Tidewater Democrats. Howell told the gathering: This is Howell territory . . . the question is whether Henry's going to win or Vepco's going to continue to dominate this part of the state."
Later, Howell charged that the Virginia Electric and Power Co. is preparing to ask of an unprecedented $300 million rate increase and suggested that the rate boost request won't be long in coming if Dalton is elected.
"Using figures available from the public records, I can demonstrate that in the immediate future, Vepco is going to request hundreds of millions of dollards in rate increases," Howell said at his Richmond headquarters."They would have done it earlier if this wasn't an election year.
"The issue is whether Vepco is going to win Nov. 8," Howell said.
Vepco president T. Justin Moore called Howelll's claim "aburd political rhetoric (to) mislead the voters of Virginia." Vepco has said it cannot predict when it will make another rate increase request.
The Dalton breakfast, which a group of conservative Democrats and independents has been planning for weeks, gave the Republican nominee the opportunity to demonstrate a show of strength four days before Tuesday's election and display such supporters as former Tidewater Democratic kingpin Sidney Kellam. It was also a forum for Dalton, Godwin and others to rail against the "conduct" of Howell, whose antiestablishment stances are anathema to the well-ordered traditions of the establishment they cherish.
Dalton, his supporters at the head table told the crowd in speech after speech, is "in the mainstream of Virginia political thought" and is "worthy" of the highest office in their "beloved commonwealth."
Of the two candidates, Godwin asked, "which one of these two men . . . speaks in that tone and that manner that reflects the greatest qualities of the commonwealth?"
Dalton said that Howell's "rhetoric" in this campaign reflected "an indication of the manner in which he would conduct himself during his term of office" and cited what he said were examples of Howell's rhetoric. Dalton said Howell had called him a "snake," linked him to "forces of prejudice" and implied that the father of his opponent in the Democratic primary was senile.
"During his campaign with former Attorney General Andrew Miller, Mr. Howell at various times referred to his opponent as inexeprienced and unbalanced and implied that he was anti-Semitic. When he was informed that Francis Pickens Miller was supporting Andrew Miller - his own son - my opponent responded by employing that Colonel Miller was just getting senile," Dalton said. ". . .There seems to be no end to the lengths my opponent has been willing to go to in this campaign to personally attack me and other individuals in Virginia."
Dalton was referring to a story in a Norfolk paper last December in which Howell was quoted as saying in response to Col. Miller's support of his son, "I have an 88-year-old aunt and I am well aware of the wear and tear on one's body and spirit as we reach the autumn of our lives."
Dalton was also referring to a speech Howell gave to a Jewish group during the primary in which he criticized Miller for being supported by well-known conservative figures of Virginia's past, one of whom had made an anti-Semitic remark during a previous Howell try for the governorship.
The link of Dalton to the "forces of prejudice" is based on a Howell campaign letter sent to black clergymen throughout the state. Howell's campaign manager, William Rosendahl, said he sent the letter and that it urges voters to choose Howell over "forces of racism and prejudice."
"There is no personal reference to John Dalton," Rosendahl said, "He has clearly accepted support from those folks who have been so consistent in their segregationist policies . . . that are reflected in the realities of state government today. Tha lack of black participation is so glaring it is evident to every black person and Dalton doesn't seem to represent anything more than a continuation of those so-called fine Virginia traditions."
Howell, interviewed before he prepared to board a plane for Northern Virginia and the completion of a three-day campaign blitz with the Democratic "Rainbow ticket," said Dalton's charges were "lies, just lies" and said he had found nine "mistruths" in Dalton's text.
He didn't call Dalton a "snake," Howell said He said Dalton had "snake issues."
He also rebuffed Dalton's charge that a Howell television commercial is a "total falsehood." The ad features Rep. Peter W. Rodino decrying alleged "Watergate tactics" being used against Howell.
The Rodino commercial, Howell said, is "right on." In the commercial, he said, Rodino is "excising a wart from the body politic of Virginia."