Democratic Senate nominee Edythe C. Harrison said today that Republican incumbent John W. Warner is "ducking" her on the campaign trail and has skipped three joint appearances with her, including an Alexandria Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday.
"The more he appears with me, the more vulnerable he is," said Harrison, who is trailing Warner in opinion polls, fund-raising and organization.
Harrison, who also released an eight-point agenda on a variety of issues, told a news conference here that "Virginia deserves more than a ceremonial senator" and challenged Warner to release position papers of his own.
Warner's aides denied that the senator had ducked any appearances.
One of the events cited by Harrison was a meeting of the Virginia Press Association in Virginia Beach. A spokesman for that organization said Warner had never confirmed that he would show up. A second event was a meeting of independent Baptists in Richmond. Attempts to contact that organization failed.
There were differing accounts from Warner's office and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce over his absence from Friday's luncheon at the Old Town Ramada Inn that left 300 guests who had paid $13 apiece without the promised political matchup.
Warner's press secretary, Peter Loomis, said the senator remained at the Capitol to work on legislation and at the last minute was asked to preside over the Senate. Former congressman Joel T. Broyhill, a standby surrogate speaker, was dispatched to speak for Warner.
Joe Vaughn, executive director of the chamber, said he was told in a telephone call Thursday afternoon by Warner's aides that it was "doubtful" Warner would attend, "but they never said he wouldn't." He said he had been told that Warner's aides would call if he couldn't make it.
Gail Blachly, press secretary for the chamber, said today that "I didn't know until I saw Broyhill walk in. The understanding was that Warner would be here" unless he called to cancel, she said. "It was an unpleasant surprise."
Loomis dismissed the episode as "not a big deal" and said Warner's invitations are always accepted on the condition that Senate business doesn't intervene.
Harrison and Warner, who met in one debate Sept. 9, have three more joint appearances scheduled, including a debate Oct. 12 that is scheduled for statewide broadcast on public television.
At Harrison's news conference today, the Democratic nominee released a compilation of issues that she has addressed in the past few months, stressing her support for a balanced budget, education and environmental issues and moderate cuts in the defense budget.
"Today, I begin asking Mr. Warner questions," said Harrison, suggesting that Warner's "rhetoric and his record do not match." Harrison contends Warner supports costly weapons systems at the expense of conventional readiness while supporting cuts in federal student loans and other education.
For federal employes, many of whom live in Northern Virginia and her hometown area of Norfolk, Harrison said she would oppose reductions in cost-of-living adjustments and health benefits for federal retirees and "challenge attacks on the dignity of public employes."
Harrison also said she would favor legislation to provide incentives for states to hold down health-care costs, restore funds cut from the Small Business Administration and support vigorous enforcement of the Clean Air Act.
Asked about Harrison's comments, Loomis said Harrison "failed to address a number of major issues, including crime, transportation, senior citizens, veterans and agriculture, just to name a few."