The major party candidates for Virginia governor couldn't have been farther apart yesterday, as Republican Jerry W. Kilgore spoke to supporters in the state's largest suburb and Democrat Timothy M. Kaine held rallies in tiny southwestern mountain towns.
As they entered the final weekend before Tuesday's election, both candidates were surrounded by their ticket mates for lieutenant governor and attorney general and by leading party figures. Those included Sens. George Allen and John W. Warner on the Republican side and Gov. Mark R. Warner for the Democrats.
Each candidate delivered a message summing up his campaign: Kilgore said he would uphold the death penalty and fight illegal immigration; Kaine pledged to continue Warner's policies on managing the state budget, supporting economic growth and investing in education.
"The three guys on the other side have been fighting against Mark every step of the way," Kaine said, referring to the GOP ticket, in front of about 75 people in Pulaski County with Warner by his side. "If you want to do a U-turn or a 180 or go backward, I'm not your guy."
Kilgore promised his supporters that he would not raise taxes, that he would widen Interstate 66 in both directions inside the Capital Beltway, and that he would crack down on gangs and illegal immigrants.
"I will give my state police the power to arrest those illegally in this country," Kilgore said after a morning rally in Springfield.
"If they are here illegally . . . what part of illegal don't we understand?" he said.
More than 300 miles away, Kaine issued a challenge to Kilgore, who is campaigning with President Bush tomorrow: "He should stand up with President Bush Monday night and insist the federal government enforce immigration laws."
Randy Grayson of Blacksburg, who described himself as an independent voter, said at the Kaine rally in Christiansburg that he was voting for the Democrat. He criticized Kilgore's campaign ads, which have attacked Kaine's stands on such issues as the death penalty.
"I'm sorely disappointed with Kilgore's advertisements on TV," he said. "I just couldn't believe he would stoop so low to distort the other person's record."
In addition to Virginia's U.S. senators, Kilgore was joined by U.S. Reps. Frank R. Wolf and Thomas M. Davis III, as well as Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
His campaign stops had the feel of football pep rallies, with speeches spiced with football metaphors. Allen held a football in his hand while others spoke, and he handed it off to Kilgore after introducing him. When the speeches ended, they played catch with the crowd.
At a hotel ballroom in Virginia Beach and later in Newport News, Kilgore told crowds that Virginians can trust him more than Kaine. "Do you trust the candidate running on his record, or do you trust the candidate running away from his record?" he asked, arguing that Kaine has switched positions on taxes, the death penalty and gun control.
Steve Grim, 20, said that his father is in the Navy and that he supports Kilgore because he believes he'll be friendlier to military families. But most important, he said, he likes Kilgore's anti-abortion stand.
"For me, it's the number one issue," he said. "If it were Hitler versus someone pro-choice, that's the only time I could see myself voting for someone who was pro-choice."
Kaine said he personally opposes abortion but would not support making it illegal.
Kaine traveled with his own band of supporters, including his father-in-law, former Republican governor A. Linwood Holton Jr., and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.).
"We've got momentum, and we're going to win this race," Kaine told the crowds at each stop.
Kaine's final weekend swing through the southwest corner of the state put him within a short drive of Kilgore's hometown of Gate City, in a conservative region where Democrats don't often fare well. His hopes here are entwined with the popularity of Warner, who carried the "Fightin' Ninth" congressional district four years ago with a message of economic growth and improved health care.
An election cycle later, the millionaire businessman from Northern Virginia is welcomed by residents in these rural parts as one of their own. Just the mention of his name yesterday drew sustained applause, which grew to a peak at suggestions that he run for president.
"You done a good job, hope you become president," Paul Elledge, 75, told the governor after a rally of about 125 people in Wytheville.
A step away, his son, Kenneth Elledge, 45, said he was a Kaine man because "Warner balanced the budget . . . and I think he'll continue on the last four years."
Warner told the crowds that "Tim Kaine was with us every step of the way the whole time. On the other side, they fought us every step of the way."
The only colors more prominent at the rallies than red, white and blue were the maroon and orange of the Virginia Tech Hokies, who had a huge game against the University of Miami last night in Blacksburg. (Miami won 27-7.)
After Kaine spoke to about 175 supporters in Christiansburg, one woman turned to a friend and said: "We gonna win!"
Others cheered at the prospect of a Democratic victory. Then the woman leaned over again and quietly told them that she had been talking about the Hokies.
Staff writer Timothy Dwyer contributed to this report.