Gov. James S. Gilmore III continues his winning ways on the Republican fund-raising front, generating $550,000 with two days of golf, tennis and fishing over the weekend at the Tides Inn resort on Virginia's Northern Neck.

The money raised in Irvington, on the banks of the Rappahannock River, goes to Gilmore's New Majority Project, a political action committee determined on capturing clear Republican majorities in the two chambers of the General Assembly this fall.

About 60 people attended the weekend fund-raiser, which featured speeches by a Wall Street Journal editorial writer about taxes; a former U.S. ambassador to NATO; and Larry J. Sabato, the reigning political pundit at the University of Virginia.

Some GOP activists were crowing that it was the most successful fund-raiser of its kind in state history.

The President at Birthday Bash

President Clinton made a quick trip across the Potomac River on Friday to attend a fund-raising birthday party at the home of Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.), whose 60th birthday was Saturday.

About 40 supporters, including two unsuccessful candidates in the 1997 election, former lieutenant governor Donald S. Beyer Jr., of Alexandria, and former representative L.F. Payne, of Charlottesville, partook of food, drink and speeches that included Robb's talking about his views on foreign policy.

Robb's press secretary, John J. DiBiase, said he couldn't talk about the bash, "because it was political." He referred a caller to chief of staff Tom Lehner to talk about the event, but Lehner did not return two phone calls.

Robb is expected to seek a third term next year, facing formidable Republican opposition from former governor George Allen.

Fund-Raising Women

Tipper Gore also touched down in Virginia on Friday, appealing directly to professional women to credit the Clinton-Gore administration for their strong economic gains in the current boom.

At a time when Democratic pollsters say her husband, Vice President Gore, trails Republican George W. Bush among female voters in head-to-head polls for president, Tipper Gore used a sold-out fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum to tackle the issue.

"The administration has created a climate in which women have been able to get in position to make things happen that just didn't happen before," Gore said, citing statistics that she said underscored record prosperity for female employers and workers. "We should be getting this story out to other women."

"Women-owned start-up businesses are outpacing all business growth in every state in the nation," said Gore, who listed pay equity and health care as top issues. "They employed more workers than all Fortune 500 companies combined."

Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), making a rare trip across the Potomac to meet Virginia donors in advance of a possible bid for governor, also spoke. The $125-a-plate, $1,000-a-host event, drew about 225 people to the Potomac riverside home of real estate invester Rafat "Ray" Mahmood.

Also attending were DNC Finance Chairman Beth Dozoretz and Virginia Gore 2000 organizer Susan R. Swecker.

If Called, He Will Serve

The legislature's only independent, Del. Lacey E. Putney, of Bedford, is making himself available to serve as speaker of the House next year, should Republicans either need his vote to organize the chamber or win control and not be able to agree on a choice within the party.

Putney, 71, is the assembly's senior member, having been first elected as a conservative Democrat in 1962. He said in a letter to the 49 GOP delegates--they need to capture 51 seats in November to win a first-ever majority--that he "would be greatly honored" to serve, if they turned to him.

But Putney said he would not actively campaign for the post, held since 1991 by Democrat Thomas W. Moss Jr., of Norfolk, because the House minority leader, Del. S. Vance Wilkins (R-Amherst) and other Republicans "are actively aspiring to become speaker."

Elbowing for Honors for 2001

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager and Attorney General Mark L. Earley, who already are off and unofficially running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2001, have picked up honors from their peers in the Deep South.

Hager was elected chairman of the southern states in the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors. His selection includes a seat on the group's executive committee, which sets policy for its national conference.

Earley was elected vice chairman of the Southern Attorneys General, which promotes cooperation among the top legal officers of 15 states. Earley got the group to agree to hold its annual meeting in Colonial Williamsburg next spring. Earley also was elected an officer in a new Republican attorneys general association.

Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this article.