Virginia Democrats threw an outdoor band and balloon rally in Alexandria yesterday with gubernatorial candidate Gerald L. Baliles and his two running mates saying they had risen above the "negative campaign" tactics of the ticket led by Republican gubernatorial candidate Wyatt B. Durrette.
The Democrats, who drew a crowd of several hundred to Old Town's Market Square, said they clearly have the momentum to win on Nov. 5. A Washington Post poll, as well as a Republican poll, shows the Democrats with a strong lead in the statewide contests.
"Never before in the history of Virginia politics have we encountered such a personalized negative campaign," state Sen. L. Douglas Wilder, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, told the crowd, which included more than 25 state representatives and local Democratic officials.
Wilder pointed to the 81 high school students carrying signs for Durrette and forming a solid line at the edge of the Democratic rally as an example of the opponents' negative focus.
While the Democrats rallied in Alexandria, in one of the many joint appearances expected in the closing days of the campaign, the Republican state candidates campaigned in separate corners of the state.
Durrette attended receptions and campaigned door-to-door in Manassas, Prince William and Loudoun counties yesterday and could not be reached for comment. State Sen. John H. Chichester of Fredericksburg, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, was in Charlottesville and Virginia Beach. State Del. W.R. (Buster) O'Brien of Virginia Beach was campaigning for attorney general in his home town.
Baliles said yesterday that he had not seen a Durrette television commercial that portrays him as a lying Pinocchio, but he said the commercial -- which has not been aired because top Durrette advisers cannot agree on whether to use it -- points to an increasingly divided Republican campaign.
"Are they falling apart?" Baliles repeated a question he was asked. "I wouldn't say that, because that assumes it was together."
Mary SueTerry, Democratic candidate for attorney general, also spoke at the rally. Terry, who would be the first woman to hold statewide office in Virginia, said she hoped the final stretch would not be filled with personal digs or slurs, as has been the tendency in many campaigns.
Durrette's press secretary, Don Harrison, said yesterday the Democratic slate dwells on "campaign negatives because they have nothing positive to say."
Harrison rejected the Democrats' charge that the Republicans were becoming more divisive. "That's just Democratic wishful thinking."
Alexandria Democratic Party Chair JoAnn Miller said she expected Democrats to concentrate on Alexandria and do very well there, because the city of 107,000 has a solid Democratic base and "is needed to counter the more conservative districts in the south."
Howard Sorenson, visiting the Washington area from Oelwein, Iowa, wandered into Market Square yesterday and heard the cheering and band-playing after Baliles' pep talk. He said he had no idea what the commotion was about, but he offered an observation of the race: "It seems to be zip-and-go. Yes, real lively."