Jerry Kilgore says Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, Democratic candidate for Virginia's top job, is making fun of his down-home accent.

Kaine says Kilgore, the GOP hopeful and former attorney general, is hiring "slick radio announcers" rather than speaking directly to voters on radio ads.

After four years of having an adult as governor, the Republican and Democratic parties have decided that Virginians crave a return to childhood, back to fantasies about providing quality education while slicing budgets and concocting magical solutions to traffic without new revenue.

Who wants to eliminate the car tax? Everybody! Wheee!

Kilgore emphasizes such pressing state issues as the death penalty (expand it), the gun culture (celebrate it) and the gay agenda (it's insidious).

A Kilgore radio ad you're not likely to hear in the D.C. area boasts that "Kilgore has made his decisions based on the Christian values he learned growing up in rural Southwest Virginia -- conservative values . . . standing up for the sanctity of marriage, fighting pornography. . . ."

Kaine, fighting his party's free-spending reputation, devoted his first TV issues ad to his promise to cut taxes. Kaine is trying to appeal to all sides on social issues by contrasting his personal opinions with his obligations in office. He opposes the death penalty, but he'll enforce it. He opposes abortion, but he'll respect the law.

Perfect place to introduce Russ Potts. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester who is mounting an independent bid for governor and thus is not on today's primary ballot, is a pariah to bosses of his party, a no-nonsense former sports executive and the only major candidate from Northern Virginia. With far less money than the two big guys, he'll struggle for a place on TV and in the debates.

Last year, Potts made a cold call to Lowell Weicker, the Republican who won the Connecticut governor's job as an independent, and got the lowdown on making an outsider bid. Potts has studied the Jesse Ventura victory in Minnesota. He wants to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain and Ventura all rolled into one lumpy, crusty little dynamo of a Virginian.

Potts says Virginia must make up for decades of inaction in building roads, bridges and transit. To do so, "we have to pay for it." He says voters know wedge issues are silly distractions from what really matters -- transportation, education and jobs. He's positioning himself as the adult in the race.

"We're cobbling together the strangest doggarnedest coalition Virginia's ever seen," says Potts, 68. "Women who are tired of the extremist Republican position on abortion. People who admire Mark Warner for taking on issues head on. People who know there's no free lunch."

He's pro-environment, pro-immigrant, anti-Wal-Mart. He proposes to put everything on the table to improve the traffic mess -- a gas tax increase, more rail, HOV lanes, privately built roads. "No sacred cows."

He is convinced that voters will not automatically rush to whomever promises to cut taxes the most. "The far-right crowd, the extremists in my party, are going to find out that Virginians value cherished institutions like higher education, and people know they have to pay for it.

"Weicker told me the most dangerous person in a race is the one who's not afraid to lose," Potts adds. "I'm not afraid of losing, and I say what I believe. I am adamantly for the death penalty. We already have laws on the books that fully address the gay issue. That's not even in the top 10 of people's issues. Leave it alone. People in Virginia are fed up with the Republican Party's anti-schools, anti-transportation, anti-gays -- goodness, what aren't they anti?"

Potts figures he needs $4 million to get his message out. He's running around the country -- New York, Chicago, L.A. -- going after the moneybags who've supported the moderates embraced by Republicans only at convention time: Rudy Giuliani, McCain and Schwarzenegger.

"My political heroes are Barry Goldwater and Harry Truman," Potts says. "Goldwater would roll in his grave if he saw this Republican Party that wants to invade your bedroom and mix religion and politics."

Potts is neither pro wrestler nor cyborg, but he may yet knock some sense into the robots on the ballot.

E-mail: marcfisher@washpost.com