FIRST THINGS FIRST: Every Virginian can take immediate post-election comfort in one indisputable improvement as a result of Tuesday's political events: you won't hear any more of those insultingly awful campaign ads that were offered from all sides. Clear, too, is that the Old Dominion has called for new blood in the Statehouse, if only in partisan terms, by awarding the Democratic ticket a complete victory. But beyond these self-evident day-after truths, message-readers had best beware --Virginia is not for lovers of revolution, or even testers of presidential popularity in an off-year.
That was how Charles S. Robb painted it during the campaign--he would rock no boat, change no political stripes nor do anything that might jar the revered traditions that Virginians associate with the governorship. The top job in Virginia is a royal trust for someone who is steady and reliable and who throws to his right--and that perception Mr. Robb succeeded in wresting from Republican J. Marshall Coleman.
Similarly, and by an even fatter margin of victory, the able Richard J. Davis bested Nathan H. Miller --presenting the next governor and the people of Virginia with strong experience at all levels of government and a running start at the business of managing the state. Benefiting from this discomfort index on the GOP ticket was Democrat Gerald L. Baliles, who defeated Republican Wyatt B. Durrette Jr. and who will be the next attorney general.
So what is the governor-elect talking about when he refers to a "new beginning?" Certainly you postpone those final rites for the Democratic Party in the state--it is alive and well and living in both branches of the government, even though there was a net loss in the House of Delegates elections. And however much Gov. John N. Dalton, Mr. Coleman and their party wanted Virginians to believe they "had a good thing going," a majority of voters seemed to think that thing wasn't going anywhere.
Perhaps galvanized by last-minute race-baiting and other bad acting from the far right, certain discernible groups of voters did turn in significant numbers to Mr. Robb and may look to him for some acknowledgement in the next administration: blacks, suburban moderates and traditional Tidewater Democrats did make a difference, and they will expect a hearing and some understanding in Richmond.
There is important business on the agenda, too, that will affect these and other voters across the state--redistricting; a serious review of ethics and conflict-of-interest laws for state officeholders; and the agonizing decisions on how to make do with less from Washington. If a "mandate" did not jell on Tuesday, these are the ingredients of one--and Gov.-elect Robb comes to this important mission with the support of enough people to blend a tradition of good government with a broader representation of the people it serves.