When Rep. Stan Parris talks about his plan to win the Republican nomination for governor of Virginia next spring, the conversation seldom gets around to issues and philosophy.
The four-term congressman from Fairfax County is an Atari Republican, a devotee of the costly modern-day techniques of computerized mail, telephone banks and polling, a politician whose ability to tap political action committees also has earned him the nickname "PAC man."
Parris already has raised $350,000, and plans to spend "a minimum of $600,000" to capture the GOP nomination, which will be decided by 4,000 delegates. The delegates to the May 31 convention will be elected at a series of mass meetings around the state.
The 55-year-old Parris knows that in the frantic, deal-making atmosphere of a convention, delegates otherwise interested in candidates' views on schools, prisons and roads can turn into "an unruly mob." That is a situation tailor-made for wily political pros who understand parliamentary tricks and how to use walkie-talkies and other convention paraphernalia. So Parris has hired 15 of the best political insiders big money can buy -- the total may reach 40 -- to direct his underdog campaign.
He also says he believes the demographics of the '80s make his high-tech Northern Virginia base more important than the Old Confederacy, where his rival, former Fairfax delegate Wyatt B. Durrette, is stronger. Parris pointed out in a recent interview that the Washington suburbs provided 38 percent of Virginia's votes in the recent presidential campaign and that his home of Fairfax County will have 535 votes at the convention, where 2,000 votes are needed to win the nomination.
Parris' strategists met yesterday in Richmond, and in a slap at Durrette, announced that Jeff Gregson, who managed Durrette's unsuccessful bid for state attorney general four years ago, will be Parris' campaign manager. Other well-known tacticians on the congressman's team are the campaign cochairman, John Alderson of Roanoke and GOP National Committeeman William Stanhagen of Manassas; Joe Loyacono of Charlottesville, who directed Nathan Miller's upset convention nomination for lieutenant govenor in 1981; Jim Sanders, who worked as a field director for Durrette the last time, and the political consulting firm of Black, Manafort and Stone of Alexandria.
David A. Bovenizer, Durrette's senior policy adviser, dismissed the Gregson appointment as "something people who manage campaigns do, they work for a variety of candidates." Bovenizer said. Durrette's campaign manager will be Mike Conlin, who recently ran the successful reelection campaign of Republican Rep. Herbert H. Bateman of Newport News.
While Parris has concentrated on "tying down anyone with talent to run a convention," Durrette and his chief strategist, Judy Peachee of Richmond, have worked for endorsements.
Parris plans to test his campaign this weekend in Staunton, where 127 unit chairmen (representing Republican organizations in that many of the state's cities and counties) are meeting to recommend to the State Central Committee how the mass meetings and convention should operate.
Parris has chartered three buses to take 150 supporters to Staunton, to work the hallways and hospitality suites. He also has purchased advertising time on the local television station and will give a party in the ballroom of the convention hotel.
Durrette claims to have the support of a minimum of 90 of those grassroots leaders, so Parris views the meeting as a no-lose opportunity to win converts.
A big part of Parris' pitch is that he is a winner and Durrette is a loser.
"Wyatt's last successful election was in 1975 (to the House of Delegates from Fairfax)," Parris said. "That was a decade ago; things were a lot different then than they are today."
Durrette twice lost bids to become attorney general, in 1977 at the GOP convention to winner J. Marshall Coleman, who dropped out of the gubernatorial race Monday in favor of seeking nomination as lieutenant governor, and to Democrat Gerald L. Baliles in 1981.
To further make his point, Parris pointed out that Republicans will choose their candidates before Democrats, and that if the respective gubernatorial nominees were Durrette and Baliles, "we would be handicapped right out of the box."