Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore unveiled a television ad Friday evening that focuses on immigration and blasts Democrat Timothy M. Kaine for supporting taxpayer-financed day-laborer centers and in-state tuition discounts for undocumented immigrants.
Kaine's campaign responded immediately, saying that the commercial misrepresents the lieutenant governor's views.
"Illegal immigration: a growing crisis," the ad's narrator says. "Kaine favors taxpayer-funded job centers and supports in-state tuition discounts for illegals. Taxpayer benefits for illegal immigrants? What part of 'illegal' does Tim Kaine not understand?"
With 10 days left until the Nov. 8 election, Kilgore's ads inject a volatile issue back into the statewide campaign. Polls have shown that the race is a virtual tie, with Kilgore and Kaine both showing leads within the statistical margin of error in several recent surveys.
Aides to Kilgore have said they believe that the day-laborer issue -- and Kilgore's tough stand against illegal immigration generally -- will help them counter Kaine's strength in the inner suburbs of Northern Virginia, which tend to support Democrats.
But Kaine's campaign aides said the ad distorts the facts. The Democrat has said local governments -- not the state -- should decide whether to use public funding for day-laborer sites, such as the one that was approved in Herndon in August, the aides said.
And they said that Kaine opposes in-state tuition for immigrants in the country illegally. He would make an exception for tax-paying immigrants brought to the country by their parents and educated in the state's public schools, provided they were seeking to legalize their status. Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) vetoed a bill that would have barred illegal immigrants from the tuition benefits in 2003 because it did not grant this exception.
The exchange between the two candidates was the second intense flap over a Kilgore ad this month. Two weeks ago, Kilgore released a pair of commercials that attack Kaine's view of the death penalty. Kaine criticized the ads as mean-spirited and false. Kilgore, the former state attorney general, has emphasized his law-and-order credentials and conservative values during much of the campaign.
"This is just the latest in a long string of distortion of the facts from the Kilgore campaign," said Delacey Skinner, Kaine's press secretary. "In ad after ad after ad, they have misrepresented the truth and lost credibility in doing it."
Kilgore's campaign said Kaine is running from his own public statements.
"If he says it's [local governments'] call to make, that means he supports whatever decision they make," said Tim Murtaugh, Kilgore's press secretary. Herndon "made the decision to fund it. Therefore, he supports their decision to fund it. Therefore, he supports the funding."
Reacting to Kaine's explanation that he opposes in-state tuition for illegal immigrants except in certain circumstances, Murtaugh said: "If there was a world championship for hair-splitting, Tim Kaine would win it. Jerry Kilgore believes . . . if you are illegally in this country, you are not eligible for in-state tuition. Tim Kaine does not believe in that position. Our ad is accurate."