Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder met with Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore on Monday in an attempt to inject urban issues into the statewide campaign.
Wilder, a Democrat who served as governor of Virginia in the early 1990s, has asked Kilgore, Democratic nominee Timothy M. Kaine and independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. to respond to 10 proposals that he said he wants the General Assembly to consider when lawmakers convene in January.
He said he will use the replies to help him decide whether he will endorse any of the candidates.
The proposals include ending the practice of allowing public housing authorities to hire their own lawyers, which costs Richmond $1 million in legal fees annually; prohibiting "lame duck" city councils from giving departing administrators costly severance packages; and giving parents more freedom to transfer their children out of dangerous schools.
Wilder also suggests providing a tax credit to low- and moderate-income families to "offset the increase in their taxes" that was passed by the General Assembly in 2004. Wilder and Kilgore opposed the tax increase backed by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), Kaine and the Republican-led legislature. The proposals also include mandating that cities hold a referendum before raising taxes if the money is to go to a private entity, which is similar to Kilgore's pledge to put all statewide tax increases to a public vote.
At a news conference after the meeting, Kilgore said that he would support the initiatives, many of which come from Wilder's experience during his first eight months in office.
"Mayor Wilder is right to point out the problems, and he's right to come up with the solutions," said Kilgore, who lives in Henrico County, a suburb of Richmond. "The question that the mayor has put before us are issues that we can all agree upon. To help mayors fight crime. To help mayors take charge of their city. To help mayors take charge of the education policies in their cities."
Wilder said he is trying to increase the tools that he and other mayors in the state have at their disposal. He said each of the initiatives will help not only Richmond, but also the image of the entire metropolitan region.
"I don't want to say, 'We want money.' I want to say, 'We want opportunity.' Give us flexibility," Wilder said. He added that each of his proposals are aimed at helping strengthen the Richmond region. "What affects one part of our area affects the other. If we have dangerous schools in Richmond, it's not going to help the [metropolitan] area."
Kaine is working on his response to Wilder's proposals, press secretary Delacey Skinner said. She added that Kaine, the lieutenant governor and a former Richmond mayor, has met with Wilder on several occasions, including a dinner meeting this year but was not sure if the two would meet specifically about the proposals. Kaine endorsed Wilder in his campaign for mayor last year.
Wilder is looking for a response from Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester who is running for governor as an independent. The two are to meet Wednesday, Wilder said.
Although Wilder left the governor's mansion in 1994, his endorsement has traditionally been sought by Democrats running for public office. But Democrats know not to take it for granted. In 1997, Wilder refused to endorse Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer (D) for governor. His endorsement of U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) in 2000 was lukewarm. Both lost their races. He endorsed Warner in 2001.
"It would mean a lot to me if I knew the person in the statehouse is friendly to the needs" of the capital city, Wilder said.