Virginia Gov.-elect Gerald L. Baliles has a mandate for bolder, more innovative approaches to state problems while building on the record of his fiscally conservative predecessor, Gov. Charles S. Robb, joyous Democrats said yesterday.
Democratic legislators and party strategists, crediting Robb with dispelling the image of Democrats as big spenders, said their party's sweep of statewide offices Tuesday frees Baliles to act aggressively on such issues as education and economic development without the specter of Republican attack.
"It's the lifting of a psychological barrier," said Del. Warren G. Stambaugh (D-Arlington). "You don't have to be afraid anymore of that label of crazy, radical Democrats who tax, tax, tax and spend, spend, spend. All that crap, which was never true anyway -- it just won't wash anymore."
Baliles "won't have to spend four years proving he's a fiscal conservative," said state Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax), "with the Republicans saying 'See, see, the sky is falling.' I don't think Jerry will have to worry about that."
Baliles defeated his Republican rival, Wyatt B. Durrette, by 10 percentage points in the governor's race. Democrats L. Douglas Wilder and Mary Sue Terry, candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general respectively, also were swept into office.
In Richmond, the victorious Baliles held a brief post-election news conference, but declined to discuss either the potential makeup of his transition team or possible candidates for cabinet posts. "I've made no commitments to anyone for any position," Baliles said.
Several influential Democrats predicted Baliles will continue the agenda of major themes -- led by education, roads and economic development -- set in the last four years by Robb. "If people are looking for dramatic changes and shifts and differences," said William G. Thomas, an Alexandria lawyer and Robb confidant, "I don't think they'll be there."
Several party members said they expect Baliles to be open to innovation, with the luxury of a "more truly moderate approach," in the words of one, than Robb could afford during four years of retooling the state Democratic Party as a moderate political organization, firmly in the mainstream of Virginia politics.
The election "signals a complete break from the old traditional Byrd organization," said Del. Frank Slayton of Halifax, a senior Democratic legislator. "What you are going to see is really a new generation of leadership at every level of the administration."
Slayton added, "My guess is [Baliles] has achieved his greatest ambition. He will not seek higher office and wants to leave his mark on this administration."
"Chuck knows how to be a general," one Democratic strategist said of Robb's management style. "Jerry's more detail oriented; he gets involved personally at a slightly different level than Chuck. Jerry is very well suited, by personality and style, to develop and fine-tune and implement" Robb's initiatives.
The person most widely expected to play a key role on the Baliles transition team and in the new governor's administration is Sandra D. Bowen, his campaign director. She had been deputy chief of staff to Robb and is the former chairman of the Richmond Democratic Party and the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party.
Others include Anthony Troy of Richmond, a former state attorney general who was legal counsel to the Baliles campaign, and John Daniel, an assistant state attorney general.
Lt. Gov. Richard J. Davis of Portsmouth, who lost the party nomination to Baliles, also will present the governor-elect with a list of possible candidates for cabinet positions, according to Robert (Bobby) Watson, executive director of the Virginia Democratic Party.
"There will be some people close to Dick Davis and who also worked hard for Jerry Baliles who would be interested in being involved" in the new administration, Watson said.
Darrel Martin, Baliles' campaign manager, said, "It's clear that Dick Davis did a lot to make this thing possible. Dick Davis and his followers will have a principal role" in the new administration.
Meanwhile, Robb gave Baliles a transition primer put together by David K. McCloud, his chief of staff, and the governor's planning and budget committee.
"It gives him a leg up," McCloud said.
Asked whether Robb will play a major role in naming the transition team, McCloud said, "We view it as our responsibility to do everything we can to help. At the same time, we don't want to intrude."
Among those hailing Tuesday's Democratic sweep was the Virginia Education Association, which was a strong supporter of the Democratic ticket. David L. Johnson, executive director of the association, said those concerned with education issues are looking forward to Baliles pursuing his promises of increased funding for schools and higher teacher salaries.
"We are on a roll as far as education improvements over the last several years," Johnson said. "I think it's important that that momentum continue."