Virginia voters will choose between two experienced lawmakers with radically different visions of social issues and the role of government when they elect a new lieutenant governor.
Fairfax County Democrat Leslie L. Byrne, a former congresswoman, state delegate and state senator, faces Republican Sen. William T. "Bill" Bolling, a state senator from the Richmond suburbs, on Nov. 8.
Whereas Bolling hails from the GOP's conservative wing, favoring low taxes and limited government and opposing abortion, Byrne represents her party's liberal side, supporting abortion rights, a strong role for government and tough environmental regulations.
Although the state's No. 2 job consists largely of presiding over the state Senate, the candidates have ambitious platforms.
Byrne, 59, is a familiar face to many Northern Virginians. Her tell-it-like-it-is style has driven away some politicians and voters and rallied others over two decades.
"I'm not noted for being a waffler, a hypocrite or any other of the things people associate with politicians," Byrne said.
On the campaign trail, Byrne pushes many of the priorities she had during her early days in politics: more resources for Head Start, the preschool program for poor children, and vocational education in high schools; cheaper health insurance for small businesses; and greater freight capacity on railroads to take truck traffic off the highways.
Byrne calls these "kitchen table" issues that she says appeal to ordinary voters in Virginia. She is a favorite of organized labor, supports gay rights and opposes Virginia's right-to-work law, which prohibits mandatory participation in unions. Bolling has criticized that position as anti-business.
Byrne takes pride in having gotten a safety law through the General Assembly that mandates covers on debris-carrying trucks, legislation that put her at odds with powerful business interests and their supporters in the legislature.
While her Web site exhorts voters to "Celebrate Women's Equality Day," Byrne, who was the first woman elected to Congress from Virginia, said she is not making a special appeal to female voters.
Bolling, 48, has established himself as part of the anti-tax movement in the generally moderate state Senate. He was one of 12 senators who opposed last year's $1.5 billion biennial budget, which included tax and spending increases.
Bolling says he wants to increase funding for higher education and transportation with revenue generated by a healthy state economy. He says this spending can be accomplished without new taxes. "Do I understand that we need to invest in the basic core responsibilities of state government? Absolutely," he said. "But I think that we do that by growing the economy, not just by raising taxes on the backs of families and businesses that I believe are overburdened."
Bolling also touts his Senate record on "mainstream" issues, such as sponsoring then-Gov. James S. Gilmore III's legislation in 2000 to enhance the state's health insurance program for children, and his fight against the importation of trash from other states. Laws restricting interstate trash shipments were later ruled unconstitutional.
Bolling leads Byrne in campaign fundraising. He has amassed $2.4 million, according to a campaign finance report filed Oct. 17, and had $442,766 on hand. Byrne has raised $967,506 and had $325,658 on hand.
Staff writer Chris L. Jenkins contributed to this story.
State Sen. William T. "Bill" Bolling, a Republican from the Richmond area, is running on an anti-tax platform. He has raised $2.4 million for his campaign.