"It certainly is a pleasure to be here," the candidates said to the women at breakfast in Abingdon. "I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening." Andrew Miller told the Eighth District black caucus in Fairfax County. "Any Republicans here?" John Warner asked the crowd of men in Winchester.
Crisscrossing the state like higspeed gypsies. Virginia's current crop of candidates continued their unending quest for exposure to the voters thie weekend. From the far southwest to the Northern NecK, in cars and private planes, everyone who is seeking one of the state's three offices turned up in small towns and large cities to smile wave and shake some hands, before going on to the extent.
=Let's see, I was in Winchester by 1 o'clock Friday, escorted Miss Virginia at the coconation of the Apple Blossom Queen, rode in the Firemen's Parade, went to all three dances that night, the sports breakfast this morning and the celebrity reception, and then flew down here to Vinton," said La. Gov. john Dalton, reciting a typical schedule for someone who's running for governor.
I had to miss the parade in Colonial Heights, but I'll be at the dinner there tonight and I couldn't be in the Apple Blossom Parade today because I'm here to be in the Dogwood Parade. Last week I was in the Dogwood parade in Chariottesville and gave the welcome at the Azalea Festival in Norfolk. Quite a rat race, huh?"
It was not a time for making news; it was rather of opportunities to be seen.
This campaing weekend began actually on Friday in Weschester home of the four-day Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, which is now its 50th year. Of the nine Democrats running for nomination to the three statewide offices in the June 14 primary, four appeared at the "stag" lunch in Glaize's Packing Shed.
There they joined several hundred men standing around holding small apple juice cans filled with drinks liberally laced with bourbon from large plastic jugs stationed around the warehouse room. Overhead hung empty apple crates: other crates were upended to serve as seats while the men are a box lunch of cold fried chicken and baked beans topped off with apple pie a la mode. The highlight of the event was the visit by Elizabeth Taylor and her husband John Warner. Warner is considering running for the Senate next year.
"John does all the talking," Liz told the crowd from the platform. "I just want to say this is the first time I've been to a stag party and I think it's great WHOOPPE!" she shrieked.
Richard J. (Major) Reynolds III is competing with Del. Ira M. Lechner and Charles S. (Chuck) Robb for the lieutenant governor nomination. Reynolds and Robb both attended the stag lunch in Winchester and all three traveled 300 miles further to the south to speak at a meeting of Democratic Women's Clubs in Abingdon at a breakfast early Saturday morning.
Robb flew from Winchester to Harrisonburg where he visited the largest turkey hatchery in Virginia Friday afternoon as part of a series of visits to different terms "to learn more about the agrarian interests of the state."
Wearing plastic boots over his shoes and a white plastic coat over his suit. Robb toured the scientifically sanitary hatchery for about an hour accompanied by two reporters and a photographer. He watched turkey chicks being injected with vitamins, getting their toes clipped, their beaks singed off, and their rear ends examined to determine their sex.
"This is Chuck Robb, whose wife was President (Lyndon B.) Johnson's daughter," said tour guide Taylor Grizzard as he introduced Robb to the dozen or so workers who were alternatley injecting, debeaking, toe-cutting or "sexing" the chicks.
Robb flew on from Harrisburg to Roanoke for a fund-raiser, and followed that with a late evening visit to the Vinton Dogwood Festival talent show in suburban Roanoke. The visit to Vinton paid off. The following day when he rode in the parade with his wife, he was greeted wtih his wife,M he was greeted with great-hellos from the onlookers, more so than Reynolds and his wife who were riding a few cars behind the Robbs.
Saturday moring in Arbingdon the three lieutenant governor candidates joined the four men who are trying for the Democratic nomination for attorney general in converging on the small town of Arbingdon to speak to the over 100 Democratic women meeting at the historic Martha Washington Inn.
There, over scrambled egg, grits, apple butter and coffee, each man gave a short speech to the women. Judging from their applause, the women were maintaining neutrally, giving each man an equal share of attention. Here is a sampling of what the candidates for attorney general said:
Edward E. Lane, a Richmond attorney, streesed his 24 years as a member of the House of Delegates and a four-point list of promises: efficient administration of the 88-lawyer office, an emergency services program, a witness assistance program, and greater emphasis on prosecuting white collar criminals.
John Melnick, from Arlington, noted his campaign staff was mostly female, and spoke of his work in the House of Delegates on a bill establishing a fund for victims of crime. He also condemned "profiteering by big oil companies" and spoke of his concern for juvenile detention homes, fire fighters and party loyalty.
John Schell, from McLean, said the joh of attorney general was "a legal position, not a political one." He stressed his experience representing consumers in utility rate cases as an example of the type of expertise the attorney general should have to represent the people of the state in court.
Erwin S. (Shad) Solomon, from Bass County, said his experience as a commonwealth attorney and his back ground as a school teacher who worked his way through law school were valuable qualifications. He said angrily that a letter from another candidate, whom he did not name, asking him to pledge support to the Democratic nominee after the primary, was a "slap in the face."
After breakfast the candidates took off again. Reynolds and Robb headed for Vinton and the Dogwood Festival Parade, Lechner went back to Northern Virginia. Shortly after they left, Miller, who is running against Henry Howell for the gubernatorial nomination, was scheduled to arrive in Abingdon. Then Miller flew from Abingdon to ride in the parade in Vinton. Howell was scheduled to ride in the Apple Blossom Parade.
Saturday night, Howell wentto the White House correspondents dinner in Washington, assigned to a coveted table close to the head table. Miller ended up at the black caucus meeting at the Greater Zion Baptist Church in Fairfax, preceded there by Lechner and Reynolds.
By the end of the long day, the candidates looked tired. Their faces were dry and strained, their shirts wilted, their voices showing signs of hoarseness. Sunday it started all over again - Goochland Day, the Azalea Festival, church-going, a conference on aging - and there are six weeks before the primary stretching out ahead of them all like a long-distance marathon.