Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore accused his Democratic opponent of violating a legal agreement by testing a campaign ad including unflattering footage from last month's Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate.
Kilgore and Democrat Timothy M. Kaine signed a no-use agreement before the September debate, promising that no audio or video footage of the exchange would be used on television, on Web sites or in radio advertisements for the Nov. 8 election.
Two Republican women said Tuesday that they participated in an online survey in which they viewed a Kaine ad with video from the debate. They said the survey sought to determine whether voters would be angry with Kaine for breaking his word and using the footage.
"Here we have a candidate for governor taking a poll to see if he should keep his word," Kilgore said. "It's a matter of trust. He's breaking his word, and that's what it comes down to. Apparently his word doesn't mean anything anymore."
Kaine Communications Director Mo Elleithee refused to confirm or deny that an ad using footage from the chamber debate had been prepared or tested using an online focus group. But he said Kaine has done nothing to break the word he gave before debating.
"I'm not confirming anything about our potential advertising strategy. We don't talk about our research strategies," he said. "We haven't violated any agreements. Let's leave it at that."
The agreement, signed by representatives of both campaigns, said: "No filming or taping of the event will be permitted by any campaign, nor may any campaign use any authorized filming or taping for campaign purposes."
According to the two women -- Edie Light of Lynchburg and Denise McManaway of Harrisonburg -- a Kaine ad was part of a focus group conducted by SurveySpot.Com, a consumer research company. The ad featured an exchange in which Kilgore refuses to answer a question from debate host and NBC journalist Tim Russert.
Russert had asked whether Kilgore would ban abortion if given the chance. "That's a hypothetical question," Kilgore responded. Russert then asked whether he would sign or veto a tax increase. "I'd veto a tax increase that wasn't approved in a referendum," Kilgore said.
"That's a hypothetical question!" Russert thundered, prompting laughter from the audience.
Light, who works as an aide to Republican Del. L. Preston Bryant Jr. (Lynchburg), said the online survey seemed focused on the no-use agreement that both candidates had signed.
"Before the clip, they said, do you think if you have taken a pledge, if there was information that would help people statewide, do you think you should still abide by that pledge," she said. "And then they showed the clip. And then they asked the same question again."
McManaway, who is a staff member for the Republican Party of Virginia, said the ad started with white letters on a black background that said: "What does Jerry Kilgore really stand for?" and ended with: "Virginia deserves a governor with a backbone."
Both women said the ad ended with Kaine saying his campaign sponsored the ad. "He definitely had a smirking smile on his face," Light said.
A spokeswoman for Survey Sampling International, which runs the site, said she could not reveal who organized the poll because of confidentiality rules. "I think our client would be very unhappy if we did that," Diane Urso said.
Urso said participants in such online surveys are sometimes given cash payments or entered into drawings. Light and McManaway said they were not paid for taking the Virginia survey.
Officials at the Fairfax Chamber said they would be "disappointed" if any candidate violated the agreed-upon rules. Chief Executive William G. Lecos sent a letter to both campaigns Tuesday.
"The rules to which the candidates committed are designed to protect the integrity of the debate," Lecos wrote. "We trust that you will both honor your word in this regard."