Former Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Richard J. Davis claimed yesterday that he has won over more than enough previously uncommitted delegates to capture his party's lieutenant governor nomination on the first ballot.
Davis's leading opponent, former Arlington legislator Ira M. Lechner, labeled the claim "political flim-flim," but did not dispute reports that he is seriously considering a face-saving move that would remove him from the lieutenant governor's race and place him at the helm of the state party instead.
"I'm certainly considering it, and I'm serious about listening to the concerns of the people who are talking about it," said Lechner, a Washington labor lawyer who is considered a liberal maverick by Virginia standards.
Lechner added, however, that he is still a long way from deciding how to respond to suggestions from campaign supporters that he seek the chairmanship of the party as an accommodation for liberals; he said he is "not giving up or giving in" on his lieutenant governor campaign.
No one in the campaigns of Davis and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charles S. Robb "is offering any such deals," Lechner said. "Nobody is showing any inclination for accommodations."
Former Portsmouth mayor Davis told reporters at a Richmond news conference yesterday that his new supporters, gathered from among uncommitted delegates and state legislators, give him at least 58 votes more than the 1,805 needed for a first ballot victory at the state party convention to be held in Virginia Beach May 29-30.
Unofficial figures prepared by the state party list Davis as leading the race with 1,686 delegates, followed by Lechner at 1,119 delegates and state Sen. Dudley (Buzz) Emick of Fincastle at 166.
Davis is a close ally of Lt. Gov. Robb who has been identified with the moderate-to-conservative arm of the state party.
Despite Lechner's apparent delegate strength, rumors that the was considering abandoning his lieutenant governor run in favor of the state party chairmanship started circulating last weekend after he suffered a major setback at the hands of a temporary party credentials committee, which rejected Lechner's challenges to nearly 1,000 Davis delegates.
The Northern Virginia's campaign was further damaged this week by the revelation that rules adopted by the party's temporary rules committee could drastically reduce Lechner's delegate bargaining power. Under those rules, delegates will cast their ballots for lieutenant governor and attorney general nominees at the same time. Lechner forces, had instructed many of their delegates to declare themselves uncommitted in the attorney general's race in hope of negotiating with attorney general candidates Gerald Baliles and Erwin S. (Shad) Solomon for more votes.
Reversing the decisions of the temporary rules and credentials committees would likely require a heated convention floor fight by Lechner forces and anger Robb supporters, who hope for a peaceful convention portrait of their candidate.
Virginia's Republicans will choose their lieutenant governor nominee in convention next month from among State Sens. Herbert H. Bateman, Nathan H. Miller and former Fairfax legislator Guy O. Farley Jr. Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman is unopposed for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.