Virginia Democrats yesterday got their first official candidate for governor in 1989, and it wasn't either Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder or Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, both unannounced but widely considered the leading candidates for the nomination.
The announced candidate is Daniel W. Bird Jr., a 12-year member of the state Senate from Wytheville in Southwest Virignia.
Bird, 49, a lawyer, conceded that he is not well known, but called himself an "early Bird" and said, "as the only candidate in the race so far, I guess I'm ahead."
Bird portrayed himself as an advocate of the "progressive policies" of Gov. Gerald L. Baliles and former governor Charles S. Robb. He said his biggest achievement as a legislator was serving on the governor's Commission on Transportation in the 21st Century.
Bird is the author of legislation requiring motorists to wear seat belts and hunters to wear blaze orange clothing, and of state funding for rescue squad volunteers.
His candidacy produced furrowed brows on some Northern Virginia legislators, however, who pointed out that Bird has not been supportive of many of the problems of fast-growing urban areas.
Bird acknowledged that as a legislator, he has represented the interests of his rural constituents, but as governor he would represent people "regardless of where they live."
An immediate benefit of the Bird candidacy for Northern Virginians is his pledge, made in response to a question at his news conference, that he will support additional money for teachers in the area. The extra money is included in the governor's budget in recognition of the higher "cost of competing" in the Washington area.