Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine used an Arlington appearance before about 300 women yesterday to hammer his Republican opponent on abortion, saying former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore wants to make the procedure a crime.
Kilgore, meanwhile, stepped up his attacks on Kaine's character, accusing him of violating an agreement by using debate footage in testing a campaign ad and saying it calls into question Kaine's honesty and integrity.
The back-and-forth in Virginia, where the election is 12 days away, signaled a new focus on abortion issues while the national debate continues on how new Supreme Court justices might affect the court's stand on abortion law.
Both candidates also turned to rising stars in their respective parties for help. Kaine tapped Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm for the women's event and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for a multicultural event in Annandale. Kilgore welcomed former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani for a law-and-order boost in Norfolk.
Kaine made his abortion remarks at a luncheon event featuring Granholm. About 300 women, and a handful of men, paid $100 each for the fundraiser, which Granholm dubbed "estrogen in the afternoon."
Kaine spoke more extensively than he has previously about abortion, which he said is a "critical issue" in the race because of the changes on the high court, which has protected abortion rights.
"Jerry Kilgore believes that you can't be anti-abortion unless you want to make abortion a crime, and I fundamentally reject that," Kaine said. "I've always opposed making it a crime -- outlawing a woman or a doctor for participating in an abortion. And you don't have to criminalize women or their doctors to be anti-abortion."
Kilgore has said he does not want to criminalize women. He has refused to say whether he would sign a bill banning abortions if a newly constituted Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark case guaranteeing the right to an abortion.
That refusal prompted the most unflattering moment of the three debates between Kilgore and Kaine this election season.
At the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate in mid-September, moderator and NBC journalist Tim Russert asked whether Kilgore would ban abortion if a new Supreme Court gave him the chance. "That's a hypothetical question," Kilgore responded, adding that he wouldn't answer a hypothetical. Russert then asked if 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.
The exchange between Russert and Kilgore is at the heart of the Republican's accusations against Kaine, which the former attorney general repeated at a Norfolk fundraising luncheon headlined by Giuliani.
Kilgore told the audience of about 500 that Kaine showed a focus group an ad featuring the Russert exchange in violation of the no-use agreement the two signed beforehand.
"Tim Kaine was taking a poll to determine whether he should keep his word," Kilgore said, to applause. "I won't need to take a poll to keep my word. I'll be a governor you can all trust."
Kilgore later held a news conference with state reporters to emphasize his point. And Sen. George Allen issued a news release condemning Kaine for breaking the agreement.
"The Governorship of Virginia is a venerated and vital position -- one worthy only of honorable men and women," Allen said in the statement. "All Virginians should consider this window on the candidate's character when they vote."
"We haven't broken any agreement. I take these things very seriously," said Kaine, whose campaign would neither confirm nor deny that it has developed such an ad.
"The issue is why a candidate for governor is so afraid of having his answer to a question about the future of Roe v. Wade" broadcast to voters, he added.
In Norfolk, Giuliani lavished praise on Kilgore, predicting that he will be "a really, really great governor." He also said the election will be very important for the national Republican Party. "It's important to the state of Virginia," he said, "but it's really important to the Republican Party, because he represents what we're all about."
In Arlington, Granholm defended Kaine against attacks from Kilgore on "the death penalty and other wedge issues." Kaine is "a person who is strong enough to stand up for his personal convictions but also respectful enough of the rule of law that he's going to put his hand on the Bible at his inauguration to uphold the law," she said.
Kaine also responded to word that Kilgore does not plan to attend President Bush's speech in Norfolk tomorrow. "Well, it's odd," Kaine said. "I'm not going to tell you what's in his mind or what his motivations are, but I think it's very odd."
Later in the day, Kaine joined Richardson and the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general for a bilingual event at Edgar Allan Poe Middle School in Annandale, where the flags of 57 countries line the cafeteria. Speaking in Spanish, both Richardson and Kaine gave interviews to foreign-language media.
Richardson said turning out "the multiethnic component of Northern Virginia is going to be critical" on Election Day.
Some in the crowd of about 200 waved signs that said "Indians for Kaine," "Muslims for Kaine" or "Latinos for Kaine." Kaine called the crowd "the new face of Virginia."