The Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, Wyatt B. Durrette, set as a goal for his administration today the nomination of a woman to the state Supreme Court.
Durrette said, however, he would not make an "unqualified commitment" to appoint a woman to the state's highest court, even if a seat opened during his administration. Durrette said he could make only a temporary appointment because the General Assembly elects judges.
Durrette's press conference announcement that he has formed a committee to help find qualified women to serve in his administration drew snickers from some Democrats.
"He must be trailing in the polls with women, too," said George Stoddart, spokesman for Gov. Charles S. Robb. "He's a Johnny-come-lately."
Only eight days before the Nov. 5 election in which he will face Democrat Gerald L. Baliles, Durrette was forced to curtail his campaign schedule because of a hoarse voice brought on by a long day of rallies in the Richmond area on Sunday.
"John Warner says to suck on lemons," Durrette quipped referring to the Virginia senator.
Staffers said Durrette canceled an early morning appearance at the E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co. Inc. textile plant in Richmond because of his hoarse voice and spent much of the day on the telephone "doing some fund raising and making personal calls" coordinating the last few days of his campaign, according to spokesman Don Harrison.
Durrette's raspy voice also prompted him to reschedule two television appearances.
Both Durrette and Baliles, in separate appearances, fielded tough questions from a roomful of high school students at Richmond's prestigious St. Catherine's School, an Episcopal women's school for kindergarten through 12th grades.
When one student asked Baliles how he distinguishes himself from national Democratic figures who may be considered too liberal for Virginia, he sidestepped a direct answer saying, "The difference between Virginia Democrats and national Democrats is that in Virginia Democrats win."
In reponse to questions about his close association with former governor Mills E. Godwin, a one-time segregationist, Durrette said Godwin had "never suggested to me that anyone should hold a segregationist view."
"I've had all sorts of advice about what kind of campaign I ought to run," Durrette told the approximately 350 students. "But I call the shots."
Also today, Democrats denounced a radio commercial by W.R. (Buster) O'Brien, the GOP nominee for attorney general.
Democrat Tony Troy, who served as an appointed attorney general for a year in the late 1970s, said the spot suggests that Mary Sue Terry, the Democratic nominee, is not a qualified lawyer.
"It's the most transparent attempt at political deception," said Troy, who called for O'Brien to withdraw the commercial.
Troy said the spot says Terry is not a member of the Virginia Bar Association, but fails to point out that it is a voluntary association, to which only a quarter of the state's lawyers belong, and is easily confused by nonlawyers with the state bar, the licensing agency of which Terry is a member.