Lined up like so many schoolboys before a class outing, eight Virginia Republican candidates for statewide office pledged today not to throw political spitballs at each other.
"We will save our fire for the Democrats . . . ," state party chairman Donald W. Huffman said during an unusual press conference at party headquarters here.
Huffman called up each candidate to the podium, eliciting a promise to abide by the GOP's so-called 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.
It wasn't quite a love-in, though.
The party's two candidates for governor -- Rep. Stan Parris of Fairfax and Wyatt B. Durrette of Richmond -- couldn't quite bring themselves to mention the other's name. Parris' campaign, after a bitter, name-calling exchange with Durrette, had said last week he wouldn't show up today.
But Parris said today that he rearranged his schedule to support party unity.
Huffman diplomatically called the spat "a gray area," and added later, "I wish I had done this announcement a week earlier."
Huffman said the unity pledge was not an effort to avoid full discussion of the issues. "What we are talking about are personal attacks, character assassination."
"It's a good way to begin a campaign," said former attorney general J. Marshall Coleman of McLean, the party's 1981 nominee for governor who this year is running for lieutenant governor. "It's important for the people of Virginia to evict the Democrats and elect us."
The other four candidates for lieutenant governor attending today were state Sen. John H. Chichester of Fredericksburg, Del. A.R. "Pete" Geisen of Augusta County, Washington consultant Maurice Dawkins and Richard J. Viguerie of McLean. Viguerie, a conservative publisher and fundraiser, is scheduled to formally announce his candidacy Tuesday.
Del. W.R. "Buster" O'Brien of Virginia Beach, the lone GOP candidate for state attorney general, also took the pledge.