Virginia Republican Wyatt B. Durrette said today his unsuccessful campaign for governor was crippled by a wide range of problems while his Democratic opponent benefited from the popularity of Gov. Charles S. Robb and far more effective television advertising.
But Durrette, who lost to Democrat Gerald L. Baliles by 55 to 45 percent of the vote, told a news conference that there was fighting among his advisers, but it was not as serious as reported by the media. News stories created "the impression of disarray that never existed," he said.
Only minutes after Durrette concluded his first public appearance since his concession Tuesday night, associates disputed some of his statements, blaming "colossal mismanagement" of the Durrette campaign and its finances for the GOP loss.
One campaign aide, David Bovenizer, blamed Durrette's initial campaign manager, Michael Conlin, who was dismissed in July, for many problems. "I was all for cutting his throat a lot earlier," said Bovenizer, a Richmond lawyer. He said Conlin had made commitments totaling $1 million without informing other staff members.
Durrette, a Richmond lawyer and former Fairfax County legislator, also rejected allegations by some Republican officials that his alliance with former governor Mills E. Godwin, a one-time segregationist, may have damaged his campaign.
"That is perhaps one of the most unfair things that has come out of all this," Durrette told a roomful of reporters as his wife Cheryn and campaign staff members looked on somberly, "to forget what a remarkable man he's been and to concentrate on only one segment of his life."
Durrette, 47, also criticized the timing and the findings of two polls by The Washington Post as "significantly detrimental. They showed us just getting clobbered and they proved to be inaccurate." Both polls showed the GOP nominee trailing Baliles by 19 points.
Durrette said the first Post poll, published the day President Reagan appeared at a GOP fund-raiser in Arlington, created a negative "psychological impact" and a similar poll Sunday was a "discouragement to our voters."
"When you lose, you always find something to blame," said Barry Sussman, The Post's polling director. "Preelection polls have virtually no effect whatsoever on the way people vote."
The Post poll had indicated that blacks would account for 20 percent of the Virginia voters, but initial estimates indicate the turnout of blacks may have been between 12 to 15 percent, about the same as in the state's 1981 election. Sussman said he had no clear indication why the predicted black vote did not materialize.
Durrette, who lost two previous attempts for state office, was vague about both his personal and political future plans. He said he plans to return to his law practice, but said his family had not yet decided whether they will remain in Richmond, where they moved three years ago, or return to Northern Virginia, where they lived for about 15 years.
Durrette, the father of seven children, said he would have more time to spend with his family. "I haven't been a very good husband and father in the last 1 1/2 years," said Durrette. "I'm going to do a heck of a lot better at that."
He said his wife's "life has been pretty well controlled by my decision to be in politics and the decisions about what we do for the next few years . . . are going to be hers."
As for any plans to run for office, Durrette said: "I don't think you can ever say 'never,' but it's unlikely."
Durrette also credited the Democrats with "good and effective campaigns." He said the Democratic ticket outdistanced his with more and better TV ads earlier in the campaign and heavier saturation in the closing days of the campaign.
"I don't think I did a particularly good job of getting out our message effectively," he said. Democrats, he said, also managed to use issues once considered traditional Republican, such as fiscal responsibility. "Our opponents did as good a job with our issues as we did -- maybe better."
Durrette also paid tribute to state Del. Mary Sue Terry, the Democrat who won the race for state attorney general. "She ran one heck of a good campaign," he said. "Virginians were more than ready to look to a woman" as a top state official.