Virginia's Republican state convention acclaimed John N. Dalton as the party nominee for governor today but immediately rejected his choice for lieutenant governor and voted down Fairfax Del. Wyatt B. Durrette, the favorite in the race for attorney general.
Sen. A. Joe Canada of Virginia Beach was nominated over former state finance director Walter Craigie for lieutenant governor after Canada seconded his own nomination with a speech condemning the use of power politics in the selection of candidates.
Canada's victory represents a defeat for the conservative leaders of the Republican Party, including Gov. Mills E. Godwin, who was known to have disapproved of Canada. Among statewide Republican leaders, the only one who supported Canada was U.S. Sen. William L. Scott.
Canada, addressing the 3,000 delegates here, said, "Do we want to nominate candidates who have traveled the state and sought your vote in every city and county or do we want candidates chosen in smoke-filled rooms and endorsed in messages slipped under the door at night?"
The delegates responded by voting 958.89 for Canada, 845.40 for Craigie.
The race for attorney general was much closer. Fairfax Del. Durrette was defeated by state Sen. J. Marshall Coleman of Staunton by a vote of 905.46 to 896.71.
A week ago, Republican campaign officials said Craigie would win the nomination because of the presumed reluctance of the convention to repudiate Dalton's choice.
In the few days before the convention, however, it became increasingly clear that many Republicans resented the appearance that Godwin and a few leaders of the conservative Richmond business and political establishment, which includes Craigie himself, could dictate the choice of a party nominee.
Two other factors apparently played a significant role in Canada's winning.
Rep. Paul Tribble from Tidewater attributed Canada's victory "primarily to the fact that he is an attractive candidate who got out there early and campaigned hard. Byt the time Craigie got in, "it was too late," Tribble said.
Another factor was a quiet effort by Canada supporters to remind Republicans of a Washington Post story in 1973 that told how Craigie, then state secretary of finance, steered a turnpike bond issue management contract to Wheat First Securities, Inc., an investment firm that he was about to join as executive vice president.
Craigie has insisted that his management of the bond issue, $103 million to finance widening of the Richmond-Petersburg highway saved the state millions of dollars. The management fee to Wheat was $25,000. Nevertheless, Canada supporters told Republican delegates that the Democrats were certain to use the apparent conflict of interest charges against Craigie if he was nominated.
Canada's rugged appearance and folksy style contrastas sharply with Craigie, a reserved Richmond investment banker. Canada is expected to be a controversial candidate, partly because of a last-minute switch in his position on the Equal Rights Amendment during the last session of the Virginia General Assembly. His no vote blocked ratification by the state Senate, earlier, supported the amendment.
Coleman's victory was an upset achieved by vigorous campaining during the past year. Both Coleman, who will be 35 next Wednesday, and Durrette, 39, are considered to be two of the state party's most attractive candidates. Durette had been considered a favorite partly because his campaign was managed by Kenneth Klinge of Fairfax County, former executive director of the state party and a veteran of successful convention contests in Virginia. Durrette was cochairman of the statewide organizations of presidential contender Ronald Reagan, who was widely popular in Virginia.
The Republican ticket nominated here will oppose Democrats to be chosen in the party primary on June 14 and independents and other party candidates who file by that day.
In speeches to the convention delegates, Dalton and Godwin established a theme they are expected to pursue in the coming general election campaign by emphasizing the conservative nature of the state GOP and contrasting it with what they characterized as a national democratic party dedicated to big government.
Dalton avoided specific discussion of problems facing the Virginia state government in his acceptance speech, but promised, "This will be an issues-oriented campaign, and the Republican nominees will give the people of Virginia concrete and consistent solutions to problems.
Dalton emphasized his opposition to repeal of the state's right-to-work law, which bans compulsory union membership. He charges that one Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Lt. Gov. Henry. E. Howell, agrees with the national Democratic platform provision opposing right-to-work laws. He said the other, former Attorney General Andrew P. Miller, "didn't have the nerve to fight against (the platform provision) on the floor of the national conventions."
Miller has strongly supported right-to-work law in his primary campaign against Howell. Despite the frequent discussion of this issue by candidates, no one is knowledgeable about the Virginia General Assembly believes there is much chance that it will repeal the law in the forseeable future.
While he did not discuss specific issues today, Dalton promised to concentrate his efforts as governor on creating jobs by recruiting new industries to Virginia. He also said "We must strive to make Virginia energy independent," and said he would do so by promoting coal-mine output in Southwest Virginia and by encouraging development of oil and gas fields off the Virginia coast.
"We will develop these resources with the greatest possible safeguards to preserve our land, air and shore lines," he added.
Dalton promised the delegates that he and his running mates would conduct the "most intensive people-to-people campaign the state has ever seen." He said it will begin Sunday morning with a 10-day swing around Virginia to focus attention on the Republican ticket in the days before the Democratic Party.
Republicans have been trying to persuade conservatives of both parties to stay out of the Democratic Primary votings, which is open to all registered voters.
Miller, who is seeking to attack conservatives who have frequently voted Republican in recent statewide races, has accused GOP leaders of attempting to throw the Democratic nomination to Howell. Most Republican leaders believe Howell would be an easier opponent for Dalton.
In an action on a resolution submitted to the commission, the GOP delegates confirmed an earlier decision by the party's central committee to continue selection of party candidates at state conventions rather than in primary elections.
The proposal to hold a primary to choose next year's Senate candidate was rejected, 1,119.31 to 634.20. Delegates from the Eighth and 10th Congressional Districts in Northern Virginia and from the Second Congressional District, which includes Norfolk and Virginia Beach, voted heavily in favor of the resolution, but delegates from all other areas of the state voted against it.