IN AN UNDERSTANDABLY hoarse vitory statement to his jubilant supporters Tuesday night and again yesterday, John N. Dalton - who will become Virginia's third Republican governor since Reconstruction about bringing together people "of all political persuasions - people who had been Republicans, people who were independent-minded, pepole who were conservative, moderate and, yes, some liberals." Given the strength of his victory over Democrat Henry E. Howell, Mr. Dalton certainly would be wise to galvanize the election support his candidacy was able to attract beyond the GOP and those Byrd Democrats disenchanted with their party's candidate. With the campaign over, Mr. Dalton notes, "we are putting aside partisan political considerations."
More specifically, the governor-elect says he plans to include Lt. Gov.-elect Charles S. Robb. the Democrat's only statewide winner, in all decisions dealing with state government. Mr. Dalton goes on to say that Mr. Robb and J. Marshall Coleman, the Repulican attorney general-elect, will be included regularly in cabinet meetings and will be kept fully informed of the processes of state government. And Mr. Dalton is talking about choosing an inaugural committee that would include blacks and women among representatives from every section of the state.
Well, without making too much of these conciliatory statments, we might note that since a governor of Virginia may not succeed himself, he does hava fairly free hand to surround himself with the best talent available in abid for a strong record as statesman and leader of all Virginia. In the past, Mr. Dalton has sought out and listened to an impressive array of experts and advisers on various issues and this process may prove even more useful to him in assembling an administration team.
Indeed, if Mr. Dalton chooses now to broaden his approach to the governorship and perhaps further capitalize on the anit-Howell sentiment that contributed to his victory, he might well move toward a greater recognition of Northern Virginia. During the campaign, Mr. Dalton did demonstrate a more urbane understanding of this area than Gov. Mills Godwin has shown. All of the candidates, in fact, recognized that the people and votes in Northern Virginia mattered more than ever. It would follow that a sensitivity to the needs of this area might be a part of Mr. Dalton's belief that "good government is good politics."
On this point, Northern Virginia lost one of its most powerful advocates in the General Assembly: Democrat James M. Thomson, who was slated to become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. While those who rightly objected to his views on civil and women's rights may take pleasure in the defeat. Mr. Thomson was a major influence in winning money for community colleges in this area, and he did stand up to Gov. Godwin in behalf of appropriations for Metro. In general, Mr. Thomson was an effective leader in mustering the Northern Virginia delegation in Richmond when regionla interests were at stake.
Still, the importance of Northern Virginia - and of a broader spectrum of voters throughout the state - must be clear not only to the new governor, but also to Messrs. Robb and Coleman, each of whom managed to run to the center of his opponent. Making it all the more interesting is the likelihood if Virginia political traditions hold, that these two victors may be running against each other to succeed Mr. Dalton four years from now.
In any event, whateve media specualtion you have read or heard interpreting Mr. Dalton's victory as some sort of dramatic blow to President Carter- you can chalk it up to off-year boredom on the national political armchair circuit.There was nothing to indicate that Virginia's voters or their counterparts in New Jersey (who re-elected their Democratic governor) were sending Washington any message this time around. In Virginia, the voters may well have been thinking ahead, but not to the next presidential election; they were carefully splitting their tickets in a toward-the-middle fashion that may - over the long run - be one more cautions move awat from the old, single-party domination of statewide politics.