Former governor Mills E. Godwin, campaigning here on behalf of the Republican ticket, questioned today how Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gerald L. Baliles could countenance a running mate "who actually introduced a bill in the State Senate to repeal our state song, 'Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny.' "
Godwin said that and other criticisms he made of the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, L. Douglas Wilder, who is black, had nothing to do with race. Godwin said he was "not being personally critical" of Wilder and the other Democratic candidates -- "I know they love Virginia."
But he said Wilder's "record on crime, [opposition to] right-to-work [laws] and [support of] collective bargaining" put him out of step with the state's conservative traditions. There is a "marked difference" between the Republican and Democratic tickets in this year's state election, Godwin said, and GOP gubernatorial nominee Wyatt Durrette is "really one of us."
Wilder has said he introduced the legislation to change the state song because he views it as inappropriate for modern-day Virginia.
Godwin, who switched from the Democratic to the Republican party in 1973 and became the only person ever twice elected governor of Virginia, spoke to small groups at a farm in Suffolk, a luncheon in South Hill, a tobacco auction in Danville and a reception here on the lawn of the home of the president of Hampden-Sydney College, where 85 percent of the 850 students are members of the College Republican Club.
He said there are "marked differences between the two tickets in almost every respect" and called the GOP candidates "superior in every respect."
Durrette added that the Democratic lineup of Baliles, Wilder and Mary Sue Terry for attorney general is "a ticket of diversity, a ticket that doesn't know where it is going . . . . There are no differences with my running mates," John Chichester for lieutenant governor and Buster O'Brien for attorney general.
The differences in the tickets, he added, are "purely a matter of philosophy. Race and gender having nothing to do with the 1985 election."
Godwin agreed that "color has nothing to do with it." He said he criticizes Wilder for "a record that is not very responsive" to programs and policies favored by conservatives. He said the most important attribute for a lieutenant governor is that he "have the qualities that enable him to succeed the governor in the event of a vacancy."
Both Durrette and Godwin predicted that the Nov. 5 election will be close. "It's a real contest," said Godwin, who said conservative Democrats and independents may decide the winners.
The Durrette campaign has struggled for weeks with internal debates over how to attack Baliles, whom some consider a moderate-conservative who upset a more liberal candidate to win the Democratic nomination.
Some of Durrette's advisers, including J. Smith Ferebee, his finance chairman, have urged him to attack Baliles' association with Wilder because Baliles, in part, owed his nomination to Wilder's tacit support before the nomination.
Other Durrette advisers have argued that strategy might subject the GOP to accusations of racism that Democrats could exploit.
In an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters on Monday, Durrette played down reports of disputes in his campaign and insisted that Godwin "has not been involved . . . at all" in planning campaign strategy and tactics.
Godwin said today that was correct.