The rival candidates for governor of Virginia may have signaled how they intend to conclude their often-bitter campaign: the Republicans making a direct assault on the Democrats as too liberal for Virginia, and the Democrats stressing their continunity with Gov. Charles S. Robb.
Both Democrat Gerald L. Baliles and Republican Wyatt B. Durrette campaigned in different regions of the state today, sounding themes they raised Wednesday night in their final television debate.
Durrette, appearing with former governor Mills E. Godwin in South Boston near the North Carolina line, attacked Baliles as a failing to adequately support the state's right-to-work law. It prohibits mandatory union membership and long has been championed by Virginia conservatives.
Baliles appeared in Northern Virginia pushing education programs begun under Robb, while his running mate for lieutenant governor, state Sen. L. Douglas Wilder, picked up the endorsement of The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, the home-town newspaper of Republican state Sen. John H. Chichester, Wilder's opponent.
The paper, which had backed Chichester in his runs for the legislature, said it was proud he had been nominated by the GOP. "But that pride cannot hide our conviction that, based on experience and accomplishment, Douglas Wilder deserves to win this election."
During their final TV debate, Durrette and Baliles put aside their detailed position papers and duked it out in an old-fashioned, name-calling confrontation in which they attacked each other's competency and philosophy.
Durrette, in what many said was one of his best performances in a long and expensive campaign, sounded what aides have said would be a thrust of his final assault on Baliles, labeling him a "national Democrat" too liberal for Virginia and citing his selection of Wilder as his lieutentant governor running mate as proof that "you are not a conservative."
Wilder, who is seeking to become the first black elected to statewide office in Virginia, is "perhaps the most liberal state senator in Virginia," Durrette said, reviving a remark that had been abandoned earlier in the campaign after complaints that it had racial overtones.
Baliles, invoking the name of the popular Robb at every opportunity, sought to distance himself from national Democratic leaders, saying that "Gov. Robb and I are trying to set an example for other [party] leaders . . . showing that we are a party that understands balanced budgets, fiscal prudence. We don't seek tax increases . . . . We also recognize the need for social responsibility . . . . "
Durette accused Baliles of "selective application of your partnership" with Robb. He said Bailies, who was state attorney general until he resigned earlier this year to run for governor, "wanted to take advantage of whatever benefits that might come to him as a part of the administration," but "quickly distances himself" on problems such as those in the state's troubled corrections system.
Baliles' harshest attack on Durrette dealt with rifts within the GOP campaign. "How can you be in control of state government, with thousands of employes and a $16 billion budget, if you can't control your own campaign?" the Democrat asked.
Durrette acknowledged differences of opinion exist among his supporters, saying "you can always have people around you who will tell you what you want to hear. But I want strong, independent-minded people in my administration who are willing to disagree with me. But I am going to make the decisions . . . . I am the captain of the ship."
One of the reporters on the television panel asked Durrette why blacks should vote for him, given his campaigning with Godwin and former senator Harry F. Byrd Jr., and Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, all of whom supported segregation in the past.
"All the men you have mentioned have put their pasts behind them . . . ," said Durrette. "Their ideas and philosphoies are those of 1985, with all of us participating in a free society.