An Oct. 26 Virginia Campaign Journal noted that bloggers had posted about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine berating his staff's performance at the Salem County Fair. Kaine campaign staffers say no such incident occurred and the bloggers were wrong. (Published 10/27/2005)
Marty Kilgore jams on a pair of tortoise-shell sunglasses as an assistant revs up her Jeep, New Wave music blasting from the car stereo.
Today's tunes come straight off the iPod of the woman who could be the next first lady of Virginia.
"Hope you like the '80s!" Kilgore says cheerfully as they navigate toward the highway and the next campaign stop. The music from the Liverpudlian band Dead or Alive blares: "You spin me right round, baby right round. . . . "
"The rule here is that we have to have fun every day," Kilgore, a former schoolteacher, instructs. "If there's no opportunity to have fun, we create one."
It does seem that Marty Kilgore -- wife of Virginia's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Jerry W. Kilgore -- is having fun these days, buoyed by her husband's slight lead in some polls and the fact that there are just a handful of days left in the grueling race.
"She's sort of been my co-campaigner," Jerry Kilgore says of his wife of 15 years. "She's been willing to take on a heavy schedule. . . . She's great at meeting people. She loves the retail side of this business."
This day, Marty Kilgore, 40, is floating above the wave of attack-ad furor. Perspiring a little in the sun, she power-walks the route for the Midlothian Village Day parade behind a birthday cake float and marching band, shaking hands and introducing herself, "Hi! I'm Marty Kilgore!"
She has stumped at events such as this in small towns all over the state, where she woos voters with homey talk in a twang that's every bit as southwest Virginian as her husband's.
She braved the rain -- twirling a leopard print umbrella -- at Peanut Fest in Suffolk, one local paper wrote. The blogosphere noted with glee that she smoothly worked the crowd at the Salem County Fair this summer while her husband's opponent, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), arrived late and berated his staff a few yards away.
"Everybody who knows Jerry loves Marty," says Karen Mottinger, a neighbor and friend for over a decade. "That doesn't mean it has been easy. . . . One night, she had been at some function late and she was running around the house at 11 o'clock trying to find five things that magnets pick up for one of her children."
The couple has two kids, Klarke, 12, and Kelsey, 9, both students in Henrico County public schools. In August, to campaign for her husband full time, Marty Kilgore left her job as executive director of the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation.
Like any working mother, juggling duties has sometimes been a challenge, she says, but, "we're committed to doing this as a family." The previous evening, she took time off from campaigning to drive Klarke's carpool.
The couple met in 1985 in Scott County, in southwest Virginia, while Jerry Kilgore was in law school and Marty was about to start her junior year studying education at what is now the University of Virginia at Wise. He came into the grocery store where she was working for the summer, and she noticed him.
"I was definitely smitten," she recalls. "I was going to investigate."
Calls to friends revealed that the cute brown-haired guy was Jerry Kilgore, son of a politically active local family, and not his identical twin, Terry, now a Republican member of the House of Delegates. He asked her out after meeting her formally at a wedding later in the summer.
"The thing that struck me the most about Jerry was how honest he was," she says. "If he told you he was going to call you, he called you! I couldn't get over how nice he was, a real gentleman."
His wife was cautious about his taking the plunge into politics, Kilgore says. He remembers well the conversation the two had when he first broached the subject.
"She wasn't necessarily 100 percent behind it at that point, but since then she has become quite the politician herself," he says. He chuckles when he recalls Marty poring over voting returns after the 2001 election, noting with glee that his victory margins in the attorney general race were greater in the counties she had visited in his stead. "It certainly looked true," he says.
Many at the Midlothian Village Day parade thought she'd make a fine first lady. "She'll be more active," says Fay Williamson, an office manager from Chesterfield, comparing her with Gov. Mark R. Warner's spouse, Lisa Collis. "She'll be more reachable."
Muses Carol Nixon, 47, a Chesterfield resident and the wife of Del. Samuel A. Nixon Jr. (R): "You know how Susan Allen opened up the governor's mansion all the time, for parties and receptions? Marty will do the same thing."
But Marty Kilgore isn't thinking about parties and receptions. She claims she isn't even thinking about next week.
"I don't get discouraged, but I get tired," Kilgore says. "When we do get a poll back -- whether it's a good-news poll or a bad-news poll -- we talk about it and laugh and say tomorrow we're going to get up and run like we do every day: like we're 10 points down."