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

Monday, June 13, 2005

Potts on the Ballot; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

WINCHESTER — He’s in.

State Sen. H. Russell Potts, Jr., R-Winchester, filed some 24,000 signatures with the Virginia State Board of Elections on Friday, more doubling the amount needed to qualify him for the gubernatorial ballot as an independent candidate in November.

Provided 10,000 are valid and 400 are from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts, Potts will appear on the ballot beside Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and the winner of Tuesday’s GOP primary between Warrenton Mayor George Fitch and former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore.

“We’re in the ballgame now,” Potts said in an interview with the Daily on Thursday. While he’s both “exhilarated and jubilant” to be on the ballot, he said it’s humbling that so many people have stepped up to the plate to help him.

“In America, all things are possible,” he said.

Just being on the ballot is a message of hope for young people in the commonwealth and the rest of the country, he said.

“America is based on the magic of belief,” he said. “As sure as God is in his heaven, Russ Potts can be the next governor.”

Friday’s filing represents the fulfillment of a journey that began before he was born — and a father’s dream.

Not long before his birth in 1939, his father packed up the Potts family and moved to Richmond. People asked his father why.

“He said, ‘Because my son is going to be the governor of Virginia some day, and I want him to be born in the state capital,’” Potts said.

“Now we launch ‘Operation Upset,’ and pull off the biggest political upset in Virginia history,” he said.

It’s going to be an uphill fight. Potts comes into the contest with lower name recognition than Kaine and Kilgore, his two most likely opponents, no major party apparatus to help with things like fundraising and “get out the vote” efforts, and a war chest that hasn’t even broken the $500,000 mark.

Kaine has raised more than $9 million and Kilgore more than $6 million.

It’s not all about money and organization, Potts said. It’s about honesty — something both Republicans and Democrats in Virginia haven’t been getting enough of lately.

Voters of both parties are “fed up with the domination” of the debate by both the far right and far left, he said.

Most Virginia residents are “moderate, independent-thinking voters” who will be very attracted to someone who’s willing to lay out the painful truths of the commonwealth’s current situation.

Both Kaine and Kilgore are telling people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear, he said. In particular, both candidates’ suggestions to put some limits on real estate taxes are “horrible suggestions” and nothing more than campaign “gimmicks.”

If elected, Potts said he’d call a special session of the General Assembly and put “everything on the table” for making traffic flow better in the state.

And he said he can have a plan in place and start working on roads by July 2006.

“Transportation is by far the most important issue,” he said.

He also says the state needs a major overhaul of its tax code, but he won’t promise anyone they will be paying lower taxes when it’s over.

“Virginia is one of the lowest tax states in the union,” he said. “If you’re looking for the ‘free lunch bunch,’ I’m not your guy.”

People will always say they pay too much in taxes, he said, but they are not willing to sacrifice things like education and roads to reduce their burden.

“I’ve never heard one constituent say, ‘You’re putting too much money into education,’” he said.

Control of local issues needs to go back to local governments, he said. And while he wouldn’t seek to completely do away with the Dillon Rule — the legal precept that forbids local governments from doing anything not expressly allowed by the

General Assembly — he would work to give much more flexibility in the areas of transportation and taxation.

Part of that might be to revisit the Byrd Road Law, the Depression-era statute that saw Richmond take over all of the commonwealth’s county road systems.

Party primaries are set for Tuesday. Election Day is Nov. 8.