A combative Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) took on his political adversaries with a vengeance today, denouncing Democrats as "left-turning, liberal-leaning" obstructionists and jumping into political spats from Roanoke to Richmond.
Gilmore savaged Democratic legislators who he said want to elect "leftist people" in the crucial November elections that will determine the balance of power in the General Assembly.
The governor also aimed broadsides today at a Roanoke lawmaker facing a well-financed Republican challenge this fall and the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has urged school superintendents to exercise restraint as they balance school safety and individual student rights.
Gilmore attacked Democrats in an six-minute fund-raising videotape designed to generate $4 million for GOP candidates in time for the Nov. 2 elections, when every assembly seat is on the ballot.
"We are the underdogs," said Gilmore, who complains in the video that Democrats want to manipulate government to hurt "the individual and the family."
In the tape, which was circulating today at the homes of thousands of Republican donors, Gilmore was joined by former state attorney general Richard Cullen, who sounded similarly tart themes about Democrats who have long ruled the legislature.
"Instead of advancing their own program, what they want to do is just fight and . . . scrap--guerrilla warfare, so to speak--just cling to this power so that they don't have to give it up," Cullen said.
Gilmore added, "They still want to do things in the old way, which is a left-turning, liberal-leaning approach."
Democratic leaders said they were appalled by the tenor of Gilmore's rhetoric.
"It's unconscionable!" said Thomas W. Moss Jr. (D-Norfolk), the speaker of the House of Delegates. "It's rabble-rousing from the highest office of this commonwealth, it's demeaning the highest office in Virginia.
"It's not the Virginia way," Moss said.
Republican strategists said it was quite appropriate for Gilmore, as titular head of his party, to energize his political base and its donors, especially at a time when control of the legislature may well be within the GOP's grasp.
No assembly race is escaping the governor's attention. On Wednesday, he raised money for a state Senate aspirant in Fredericksburg before moving on to Fairfax County to help a House hopeful.
Today, he jumped into a Senate race in Roanoke, attacking Democratic incumbent John S. Edwards (D) for suggesting that all lottery proceeds be dedicated to school construction.
Gilmore aides said Republican challenger William H. Fralin Jr. may topple Edwards, helped in large part by a $400,000 campaign treasury.
By day's end, Gilmore let the ACLU have it, saying it issued "threats . . . discouraging our teachers and administrators from enforcing school safety measures."
"Virginia will not be bullied," Gilmore said.
R. Kent Willis, director of the ACLU's Virginia chapter, said he merely hoped schools would balance expressive rights, including dyeing hair, with safety needs.
Mark L. Earley (R), Cullen's successor as attorney general, had earlier complained about the ACLU's stance. Willis said he was surprised by Gilmore's reaction.
"I thought Mark Earley's remarks would have been the last salvo," he said.