A June 13 editorial mischaracterized a position of Del. J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax), a candidate for lieutenant governor in today's Virginia primaries. Mr. Petersen supports parental notification for minors who want abortions, but he has voted against requiring parental consent. (Published 6/14/2005)
VOTERS IN VIRGINIA will choose candidates in party primaries tomorrow for this fall's statewide races. The campaign seems to have excited too little interest given the challenges facing the commonwealth. Since Virginians do not register to vote by party, they may cast ballots in either the Democratic or the Republican race, but not both; the polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. In each party, hard-fought campaigns feature veterans and relative newcomers to state politics.
Democrats are contesting just one statewide primary, for lieutenant governor, having unchallenged candidates for governor (current Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine of Richmond) and attorney general (state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County). There are four candidates for lieutenant governor, a job that has proved a steppingstone to the governorship in the past. All four of this year's candidates are plausible running mates for Mr. Kaine but would bring different strengths to the ticket.
Del. J. Chapman Petersen of Fairfax City is young, energetic and ambitious, as he has proved by running statewide after less than four years in the House of Delegates. Buoyed by his success in defeating a powerful, long-serving Republican incumbent in 2001 and then trouncing him in a 2003 rematch, Mr. Petersen, 37, is as brash as he is bright, a trait that has grated on some in Richmond's staid corridors of power. He has positioned himself as a centrist, disappointing some liberal Democrats by supporting parental consent and notification for minors who want abortions. He has also worked hard to reach beyond his Northern Virginia base by pushing the establishment of a four-year college in rural southern Virginia.
State Sen. Leslie L. Byrne of Fairfax County is easily the most experienced candidate in the Democratic lineup, having spent seven years as a state delegate, two in Congress and four in the state Senate, in addition to serving for two years in the Clinton White House as director of consumer affairs. She is widely recognized as smart, savvy and hardworking but almost as widely resented for her sharp tongue and slashing, go-it-alone style, which has alienated Republicans and fellow Democrats alike. She has toned that down in this campaign, maintaining a positive message in support of her consistently liberal positions.
Del. Viola Baskerville is as liberal as Ms. Byrne and as articulate. The daughter of working-class African American parents in Richmond, she has a compelling personal history. But her legislative record is thin, and while she is popular she is not regarded as a heavyweight in Richmond.
State Sen. Phillip P. Puckett of Lebanon, in southwest Virginia, is the only rural candidate among the four and easily the most conservative. Personable and unassuming, he has attempted to make an asset of his stance to the right of his Democratic rivals and the party's mainstream -- he favors gun owners' rights and the death penalty and opposes abortion -- by arguing that he is best positioned to balance Mr. Kaine's liberalism. It is thin platform from which to launch a statewide candidacy.
In the Republican primary for governor, former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore, a native of southwest Virginia, faces only token opposition from George B. Fitch, the mayor of Warrenton. In the GOP contest for lieutenant governor, we have already endorsed Sean T. Connaughton, the impressive, moderate chairman of Prince William County's Board of Supervisors. Mr. Connaughton's primary opponent, state Sen. Bill Bolling of Hanover County, a suburb of Richmond, is an anti-tax ideologue ill-suited for high office in a state whose inadequate transportation system needs new sources of revenue.
In the GOP contest for attorney general, Del. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia Beach, a longtime lawmaker who is chairman of the legislature's Courts of Justice Committee, is no less conservative but vastly more experienced than his primary opponent, Stephen E. Baril, a Richmond lawyer. Flush with large campaign war chests, the two of them have engaged in a particularly venomous contest that has spoken well of neither.