Virginia Republican Paul S. Trible Jr. leveled his roughest charges of his U.S. Senate race today while his Democratic opponent, Richard J. Davis, released a finance statement showing him trailing far behind in campaign fund-raising.
The Davis finance report shows he raised $622,366 up to the Sept. 30 filing date -- compared to a Trible statement due tomorrow that is expected to report about $1.5 million. Though Davis campaign officials said he has raised another $200,000 since the filing deadline, the report suggests that Davis' late-starting campaign is still beset by money woes in spite of polls showing the two candidates locked in a virtual dead heat.
Interrupting his campaign schedule for a hastily called news conference, a visibly angry Trible today attacked his 61-year-old opponent for "utter distortions, half-truths and lies" about Trible's congressional record and exploiting Trible's personal "religious activities."
"His conduct violates the Virginia tradition of honorable men who put forth their honest differences before the people," said Trible.
Trible's comments came in response to a Davis statement issued yesterday that ridiculed Trible as a "press release congressman," while lampooning his foreign trips to "Switzerland, Fiji, Italy and the British West Indies."
In fact, Trible said, the journeys to the Fiji Islands and the British West Indies weren't paid for by the government -- the Fiji trip having been sponsored by the Fellowship Foundation, a Christian group, and the British West Indies trip being part of a University of Virginia-sponsored conference on ocean law and policy.
"I bitterly resent Mr. Davis criticizing my religious activities," Trible said. "Dick Davis owes an apology to every voter who believes in religious freedom."
Davis campaign manager James Carville responded gleefully that Davis had never "criticized" Trible's foreign travel. "All we said was that he's a well-traveled congressman," Carville said. "We just think it's interesting that he and former senator William L. Scott seem to have the same affinity for foreign travel."
The exchange of barbs today comes at a time when the two candidates appear deadlocked in one of the tightest Senate races in the country. Earlier this week, an Associated Press/WRC-TV poll showed Davis leading Trible by two percentage points with nearly 20 percent of the electorate still undecided.
Though the two adversaries are running even in the polls, Trible's lead in fund-raising could be decisive as the campaign moves into its final weeks. Davis' Federal Election Commission report shows that of the $622,000 raised, $100,000 comes in the form of a personal loan from Davis.
Davis' report also shows that he has had little success in attracting money from political action committees--the major source of funding in most federal campaigns where individual contributions are limited to $1,000.
Davis raised only $82,356 in PAC money, about $31,000 of which came from labor unions such as the AFL-CIO, the United Auto Workers, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the Sheet Metal Workers International and the United Transportation Union.
Davis, a millionaire Portsmouth mortgage banker, received $4,581 from the PAC of the Mortgage Bankers Association, of which he is a past president, $1,000 from the Independent Bankers Association and $2,000 from the U.S. League Savings Association.
Carville said today that if Davis can raise $100,000 a week in the last three weeks of the campaign he will be able to make the last-minute media buys considered crucial to the race's outcome.
"People are tapped out, they're tired," said McLean O'Ferrall, a Richmond investment broker who is a key Davis fund-raiser. You're one man in 100 votes. What can a senator do for you?"