After the fractious and chaotic Virginia Republican convention at which upstart Nathan H. Miller captured the nomination for lieutenant governor, GOP leaders this morning held a "unity" breakfast. Only the winners showed up.
Gubernatiorial nominee J. Marshall Coleman, all smiles, joined hands with Miller and attorney general-nominee Wyatt Durrette of Fairfax and predicted the split in the party would be healed "in 24 hours." The Republican team was ready to challenge Democratic Lt. Gov. Charles S. Robb, whose campaign Coleman proclaimed was "dead in the water."
But despite Coleman's optimisn, the GOP's repudiated Old Guard, which had failed to block Miller's nomination, was sulking elsewhere when the coffee was served. Gov. John N. Dalton had "gone fishing," Coleman said. Former governor Mills E. Godwin was licking his wounds at home in nearby Suffolk.
And two blocks away, the two losing candidates for lieutentant governor, state Sen. Herbert Bateman of Newport News, Dalton's and Godwin's hand-picked favorite, and Guy O. Farley Jr., the hopeful of the Christian Right, remained in their motel rooms, still recovering from Miller's spectacular upset.
The Coleman-Miller-Durrette line-up was good news for those who talk of building a "real" Republican Party in Virginia.
But for oldtimers, who froged 12 years of Republican victories in gubernatorial races with a coalition of independents and conservative Democrats, the GOP ticket was seen as an invitation to coalition partners to return to the Democrats.
"They've turned democrats.
"They've turned away the work of 10 years in reaching out to Democrats and independents," one Republican strategist said. "Republican strategist said. "Republicans with a capital 'R' have never won a victory in Virginia; it's all been coaliction."
Robb, who offers both political conservatism and a star quality that comes from being the son-in-law of the late Lyndon B. Johnson, heads a ticket that includes former Portsmouth mayor Richard Davis for lieutenant governor and Del. Gerlad Baliles of Richmond for attorney general.
And although Coleman said today that the Democratic opposition had "disappeared" after being nominated in the same Pavilion convention center here a week ago, Robb was busy Saturday night raising $250,000 at a $5,000-a-couple fund-raiser at Berkeley Plantation near Richmond.
With Bateman defeated, the GOP ticket also lacks the geographical balance that Godwin warned could bring "dire dangers." Not only are both Coleman and Miller from the Shenandoah Valley (Staunton and Harrisonburg), but none of the three is from Richmond or Tidewater, the populous, affluent homes for both parties.
While the Democrats sucessfully silenced "loose cannon" liberals at their convention, outsiders at the Republican gathering, including many newly arrived Northern Virginia suburbanites to whom geographical balance means little and up to 800 members of the Rev. Jeffy Falwell's Moral Majority, could not be denied.
It was the vote-heavy Fairfax County delegation that set in motion the stunning turnaround that permitted Miller, a boyish-looking state senator, to fulfill the Biblical prophecy that "the last shall be first."
Not everyone agreed with GOP leaders that the result was potentially damaging. Robert Watson, campaign manager for Richard J. Davis, Miller's Democratic opponent and one of several Democrats who watched yesterday's scene, said he believed Miller to be the strongest of the three contestans.
"The other two both had baggage -- Bateman as a former Democrat and Farley because of his ties to the Moral Majority," said Watson, who added that because Miller was a virtual unknow statewide, he had no obvious weaknesses. "But I'm sure we'll find some," Watson said.
Miller, 37, a lawyer-businessman who has toiled in relative obscurity for nine years in the state legislature, came to this convention trailing his two opponents. But he benefited from a deep and bitter rift between Bateman supporters, who saw Farley as a dangerous extremist, and Farley's people, who considered Bateman a last-minute spoiler brought into the contest by party bosses intent on denying the prize to their man.
According to his computerized polls, Miller was the second choice of the majority of the delegates of both Farley and Bateman. When Farley suddenly withdrew at the start of the fourth ballot, it touched off a wild stampede that saw Miller gain an incredible 1,093 votes to overtake the startled Bateman and win the nomination.
The turning point came shortly after the third ballot when the third-place Miller, whose supporters were bailing out in favor of Bateman, telephoned Farley and boldly suggested that Farley drop out.
"I talked to Guy and told him if he didn't withdraw, I couldn't pull my votes back [from Bateman]," Miller recounted today. "I asked him to consider the situation. If he was going to do anything, he had to do it quickly to do me any good."
Farley made no promises but returned to the floor, where campaign manager John Alderson took him in tow, trying to get Farley to appeal to Miller delegates to switch to him. Alderson let go of Farley's arm long enough to plead with a key Miller strategist that it made more sense for the fast-fading, last-place challenger to give up.
And in that instant, Farley bolted to the stage for his dramatic announcement.
Farley said today that he talked to no one other than his wife, Lesle, before making his spur-of-the-moment decision. Asked what promped it, Farley said it was his desire "to have my people, who had worked so long and hard, participate in the final decision.
"I gave them no guidance, other than to vote their consciences."
Alderson and other Faley lieutenants had felt certain their man's withdrawal would give Bateman the 200 extra votes he needed to win. But to their amazement, virtually all of Farley's suporters switched to Miller.
On the fourth ballot, with all but one of 10 congressional districts reporting, Miller inched to within 40 votes of victory. Then the Bateman forces attempted to stall the convention to give their man time to recoup, a move that backfired.
"That made me mad," said Ray LaJeunese of Arlington, a Farley delegate who had switched to Bateman. LaJeunese, a stickler for party rules seized a microphone and demanded that convention chairman A. Joe Canada enforce the rule banning last-minute switches after the ballot.
Canada refused, but the heated exchange sent more Farley supporters, resenting what they saw as a last-minute attempt to steal the convention, into Miller's camp.
William A. Beeton Jr. of Altavista said that when Farley failed to give a signal on how to vote, "I went for Miller because I don't like the powermakers in Richmond trying to run the show." Others in the Campbell County delegation joined the "backlash," Beeton said.
Alderson, who was as stunned as anyone in the crowded, sprawling convention center, said afterward, "There was no deal, although I am sure some Bateman people will go to their graves believing there was."