The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ballots for state races set today; A1

Experts predict low turnout in primaries

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

It’s primary day, and by tonight the Republican and Democratic tickets for statewide races in November will be set.

But registrars and party officials both locally and across the commonwealth forecast a low turnout.

Turnout for primaries in Virginia is difficult to compare year to year because of differences in the ballot and races, but just more than 160,000 turned out for the Democratic contest in 2001.

There are about 104,000 registered voters in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties and the city of Winchester combined.

At this point in an election year, it’s surprising “how many people show up and don’t really know what’s on the ballot,”
Frederick County Democratic Committee Chairman Walter Eyles said.

At the end of the day, voters will fill in the middle blank of the Democratic ticket — lieutenant governor. The current lieutenant governor, Tim Kaine, is unopposed on the primary ballot for governor, along with attorney general candidate state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D- Bath County.

Del. Viola Baskerville, D-Richmond; former Rep. Leslie Byrne, of Fairfax; Del. Chap Peterson, D-Fairfax; and state Sen. Phil Puckett, D-Tazewell, are running for lieutenant governor.

On the Republican side, voters have two choices for each of the three statewide elected offices.
For governor, the ballot features Warrenton Mayor George Fitch and former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. The lieutenant governor hopefuls are state Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, and Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton. Richmond Attorney Steve Baril and Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, are the two GOP contenders for attorney general.

But the front-runner of the Republican ticket isn’t worried about his opponent today.

“We’ve known for a very long time that Jerry Kilgore will be the nominee [Tuesday] night, and we’ve been focused with all of our energies on Tim Kaine,” Kilgore press secretary Tim Murtaugh said.

“The amount of unity the Republican Party is showing behind Jerry’s candidacy is unprecedented,” he said.

Kilgore’s campaign didn’t even mention their primary opponent in their media releases the day before the primary, instead attacking Kaine for statements on a radio show on gun control.

In fact, the Republican money leader has already announced some post-primary plans — a tour with the winners of the lieutenant governor and attorney general nominations to kick off the November campaign.

His campaign is also testing its November “get out the vote” operation in 100 precincts around the commonwealth in key areas.

But the other man on the ballot said he thinks he can still pull it out today.

“I honestly believe I still have a good chance to win in the end,” Warrenton Mayor George Fitch says in a statement to media. “Ideas and experience, not party endorsements and large financial support, are going to determine who becomes the Republican candidate for governor.”

Fitch decried the early endorsement of Kilgore’s campaign by the Republican National Committee and support from state party officials as contrary to party principals.

Fitch’s camp, which sought in vain to debate Kilgore throughout the primary season, took shots at what they said was the Kilgore record on sex offenders — some 250 offenders that should be registered but couldn’t be located.

“George Fitch believes Jerry Kilgore should worry less about his accent and worry more about his work,” the campaign says in a statement.