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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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Kilgore: I guard right to bear arms; B1

GOP nominee boasts ‘A’ rating from the NRA

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore took dead aim at Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine’s record on guns Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call from the Boxtree Lodge in Vinton on Tuesday morning, Kilgore lambasted Kaine’s past statements on firearms, alongside Chuck Cunningham, director of federal affairs for the National Rifle Association.

The GOP candidate also introduced “Sportsmen for Kilgore,” a group Kilgore said is very different from the one announced by his opponent last week.

“Protecting the Second Amendment isn’t just some issue I stumbled on to during an election year,” he said. “I’ve spent my life guarding Virginians’ right to keep and bear arms.”

Among the major differences between the two candidates, Kilgore said, is the fact that he’s got an “A” rating from the NRA, and Tim Kaine was given an “F.”

Growing up in the Kilgore household meant knowing how to handle guns, the candidate said. A boy’s first firearm was almost a right of passage.

“Few moments in life can compare to the moment when your father gave you your first gun,” he said. “It was a moment of trust … and responsibility.”

While he doesn’t now keep firearms at his home in Henrico County, Kilgore said he has quite a collection of shotguns back on the family farm in Scott County.

“Where I’m from in Scott County, the NRA rating is kind of like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” he said.

His Democratic opponent “openly considered getting Richmond to sue gun manufacturers,” and “has actively and loudly stood on the side of gun control interests,” Kilgore said.

In an exclusive interview with The Northern Virginia Daily earlier this week, Kaine said he wasn’t bothered “overly much” by the NRA’s “F” rating, because the gun lobby has become a partisan organization.

He also said charges that he backed new restrictions on guns were baseless.

While Kaine did pay $6,600 out of his own pocket to help send a delegation to the 2000 Million Mom March, a rally for gun control in Washington, he said he did so because he was the mayor of a city with the second-highest homicide rate in the United States.

“I had a lot of sympathy for those” in the delegation, he said, which was made up largely of family members of those killed with handguns. “[Handgun control is] not my issue.”

Kaine also says he resisted serious pressure from other cities to sue gun makers.

Statements like that are just part of a makeover job, Kilgore’s campaign says, designed to show a liberal in a more conservative light.

“I like to think of Tim Kaine as the camouflage candidate,” Cunningham said. But Kaine isn’t trying to hide himself, he’s trying to hide his record, he said.

Kaine gives lip service to the Second Amendment, Cunningham said, but he’s actually supported by The Brady Campaign, a prominent gun control group.

“The ‘Brady Bunch’ endorsed Tim Kaine four years ago,” he said. “He got that endorsement the old-fashioned way. He earned it.”

Kilgore said his administration would study a number of changes to the state’s gun laws, including allowing students who want to hunt after school to keep locked, unloaded firearms locked in the trunk of their cars on school grounds.

“That was common a generation ago,” he said. “I do support the ability of individuals to leave them in their car trunks, locked. I think that’s reasonable.”

Kilgore said he’d consider legislation that would allow concealed carry permit holders to take their weapons into restaurants that sold alcohol, provided they didn’t drink while carrying.

He’d also look at rolling back the state’s limit on handgun purchases. At present, most people can only buy one handgun every 30 days.

The law was designed to prevent illegal gun dealers from buying in Virginia and selling elsewhere, but technology has made the gun market a very different place, Kilgore said.

“We were in a different age in the ’90s than we are now,” he said.
Instant background checks and stronger “straw man” laws make the idea of rolling back the law worth looking at, Kilgore said.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Trail notes...

League of Women Voters wants Potts in Debate

RICHMOND — The League of Women Voters of Virginia wants independent gubernatorial candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, included in the two remaining scheduled gubernatorial debates.

President Lulu Meese issued a statement Monday calling on voters to “remind gubernatorial candidates that democracy is best served when all certified gubernatorial candidates for statewide office can participate in debates.”

Candidates who get 5 percent in recognized statewide polls are included in debates sponsored by the league, she said. Potts has charted as high as 9 percent in polls taken to date.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato has come under fire from Potts’ campaign and editorial writers for setting a 15 percent standard for inclusion in an October debate in Richmond.

Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore and Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine will debate on Sept. 13 in Fairfax without Potts, though Kaine will debate Potts separately later in the day.

But the League of Women Voters “believes [its] policy is fair and that requiring more than 5 percent is not reasonable for a certified, independent candidate,” Meese said.

Sabato said in a recent statement that the 15 percent figure was chosen because it was the same number used in 2001 that led to the exclusion of a Libertarian Party candidate.

Lieberman stumps for Kaine

RICHMOND — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine got some national help raising money on Monday.

Former Democratic vice-presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman appeared at two fundraisers for the campaign and toured the Hatcher Child Development Center in Richmond to tout the candidate’s universal pre-kindergarten education proposal.

Kaine will also be getting some big-name help at the state level on Labor Day. Gov. Mark R. Warner will make at least three stops with the Democratic ticket during the day, including one in Harrisonburg.

Warner, who has the highest approval rating of any Virginia governor at this point in his term in the history of Mason-Dixon polling, also appears in a new set of campaign ads that launched Monday.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Candidate reaching out to women voters; B8

Lieutenant governor hopeful begins effort to get more females to polls

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

They normally don’t vote, but they might make the difference for her campaign.

That’s what Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Rep. Leslie Byrne told reporters Friday morning about “infrequent women voters,” the target of a new outreach effort.

Byrne announced her “Take Five in ’05” campaign on the 85th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which secured women’s right to vote.

The goal is to have female activists take five other women who might vote in federal, but not state elections, to the polls in November, the candidate said. Women, like other voters, are far more likely to vote during a presidential election than an off-year or state-only election.

Some “women would rather make no decision than an uninformed decision,” she said.

“[The effort is] an awareness campaign [designed to tell female voters] that there are some serious things at stake in this statewide election,” Byrne said.

Her Republican opponent, state Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, “voted against requiring insurers to cover birth control” and also voted to allow the placement of children in homes with a history of domestic violence, the candidate said.

A former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, the Democratic nominee said candidates at all levels need to do more to help those with aging parents and younger children deal with their growing responsibilities.

“Those of us in the ‘sandwich generation’ want to know what you’re going to do to help me take care of my kids and my parents,” Byrne said.

Bolling’s campaign declined to respond to Byrne’s charges specifically, saying only that Bolling was the chief patron of legislation that secured health insurance for 60,000 children in the commonwealth.

The campaign did echo Byrne’s sentiments on getting more women involved in the process.
“Sen. Bolling encourages all women to get registered to vote and participate in the process,” said campaign manager Randy Marcus.

Byrne said her campaign would not only boost her electoral efforts, but those of her fellow Democrats, gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine and attorney general hopeful state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County.

“I’ve been insistent on having as much grass-roots activity in this campaign as possible,” she said. “This is going to benefit the entire ticket.”

The long-dormant race be-tween Byrne and Bolling has recently started showing signs of life, with the two exchanging shots over Virginia’s right-to-work law and surveillance in nursing homes.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Kaine aims for vote of Va. hunters, fishermen; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine took aim at the votes of hunters and fisherman on Friday with an afternoon skeet shoot, but his opponent quickly dismissed the event as an effort to gloss over an anti-gun record.

Speaking after the shoot on a farm in Franklin County, Kaine introduced the leaders of Sportsmen for Kaine, a group of hunters and fisherman who support his candidacy.

“I am proud to stand with Tim Kaine because he’s a sportsman like myself,” said “Big Tom” Buchanan of Wythe County, a contestant on “Survivor: Africa” and one of the group’s three co-chairmen.

“We’re racing to build support for Tim, and I know he’s going to be our next governor because he’s a real survivor,” Buchanan said.

Kaine said his past work to preserve the right to hunt and fish, as well as his conservation efforts, make him the choice this November for those who enjoy the outdoors.

“I want the sportsman of Virginia to know that I am a friend,” said Kaine. “I was the legal counsel in the effort to amend the Virginia Constitution to give Virginians the right to hunt and fish constitutionally, and we are one of the few states in the country to protect that right.”

Kaine’s campaign also issued a statement brandishing his Second Amendment credentials.

Like incumbent Gov. Mark R. Warner, Kaine won’t propose any new gun laws while in office, “because he knows the best way to fight crime is to target criminals, not law-abiding citizens,” the campaign said.

Former Del. Richard Cranwell, now chairman of the state Democratic Party, also weighed in, praising Kaine for his commitment to conservation.

The lieutenant governor was a staunch supporter of the 2004 budget deal that spent $30 million to help clean up rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, all of which made the state’s waterways better for anglers, he said.

Back in Richmond, the Kilgore campaign took little time to react, calling Kaine “John Kerry without the goose.”

That’s a reference to a 2004 photo-op in which Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts and the Democratic presidential candidate, spent an afternoon duck hunting in an effort to appeal to hunters.

“Now, in 2005, Democrat Gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine has held his own Second Amendment photo-op,” the campaign says in a statement. “Anyone impressed by Tim Kaine’s shooting at skeet should take a gander at his record.”

Kaine helped put together transportation for a Richmond delegation to the Million Mom March, a rally in 2000 calling for gun control.

He and the rest of the Richmond City Council also asked the city attorney in 2001 about the feasibility of suing gun manufacturers, but were told that Virginia law makes such suits unlikely to succeed.

No further action was taken.
“It is shameful and dishonest to deceive voters during this gubernatorial campaign,” National Rifle Association chief lobbyist Chris Cox says in an e-mail to reporters.

“Anyone who supports shutting down gun shows and suing the gun industry out of existence is no friend of sportsmen,” he says.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Byrne: Cameras needed in nursing homes; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Leslie Byrne launched an attack on her Republican opponent this week using some novel ammunition: nursing homes.

The former congresswoman said at a press conference that as lieutenant governor she would support legislation that would allow residents of nursing homes to install cameras and other surveillance equipment in their rooms to document care and conditions.

“Entering a nursing home should not mean forfeiting your right or a loved one’s right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect,” Byrne said.

“The best way to guarantee quality treatment of nursing home patients is through strong family involvement,” she said.
“Allowing families to install cameras gives families another tool to protect their loved ones from the quiet terrorism of abuse and neglect.

Virginia’s retirement homes and their employees are by-and-large doing a good job, but there are exceptions, she said.

“Unfortunately, many nursing homes don’t hire enough employees to handle the patient workload and a small minority of the employees actively seeks to harm residents,” she said. “Families have a right to know if there is a problem with the treatment or care of their loved ones.”

Byrne took her Republican opponent, Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, to task for voting to table a bill she sponsored in 2003, as a state senator from Falls Church, that would have accomplished the same thing.

The plan announced Wednesday would also protect nursing homes from invasion of privacy liability and would protect other residents’ rights to privacy and not to be under surveillance if they so choose, according to Byrne’s campaign.

A spokesman for Bolling’s campaign said the candidate voted against the bill because state law already gives nursing home residents and their families the right to install surveillance cameras, provided they reach an agreement with the nursing home.

The long-dormant race for the state’s top part-time job has become more heated recently, as the campaigns prepare for the long run into November.

While technically the second-most important race on the ballot, the campaigns for lieutenant governor have so far struggled to attain anything like the visibility enjoyed by all three candidates for governor.

Bolling struck first earlier this month, pouncing on Byrne’s statement at a United Mine Workers meeting in Southwest calling Virginia’s right-to-work law “the right to be poor law,” and saying she would repeal it if given the chance.

“Repealing the right-to-work law would endanger tens of thousands of jobs in Virginia,” Bolling said. “The right-to-work law has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for the past 30 years, and Ms. Byrne’s opposition to this important law is just another example of how far out of the mainstream she is.”

Byrne later told reporters that it was highly unlikely that she’d get a chance to repeal the law, which makes it illegal to condition employment on union membership, if elected.

“The fact is, the right-to-work law is not going to come up for a tie vote in the Senate any time soon,” she told The Associated Press.

Bolling is slated to appear at the Shenandoah County Fair today. Election Day is Nov. 8.

Full Story...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Potts gets his debate, only with Kaine and later; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Gubernatorial candidates Jerry Kilgore, Tim Kaine and Russ Potts will all debate on Sept. 13.

Just not at the same time.

Kaine, the Democratic nominee for governor, said Tuesday that he would share a stage somewhere with independent candidate Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester, following his debate with Kilgore, the Republican nominee and former attorney general.

Potts and his campaign have long sought inclusion in debates between the two party-backed candidates, but Kilgore has steadfastly refused to take the stage with the senator.

Kilgore has said repeatedly that he’ll only debate a candidate “who has a chance of winning.” That has led to a cacophony of cries from editorial writers and pundits around the state demanding Potts share the stage.

Kaine, the state’s lieutenant governor, said in an e-mail to reporters Tuesday that while he understands the decision on Potts will be made by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the public should hear all three men.

“There has been some internal discussion in recent days at the Chamber as to whether or not Russ Potts should be included. I will participate either way,” he said.

A group of 15 former chairmen of the chamber wrote a letter to the group last week, asking for the independent candidate to be included in the September session.

“I respect and will honor the rules established by the debate sponsors,” Kaine said. “But I look forward to debating the issues with both of my Republican opponents that day. Virginians deserve no less.”

Calls to Potts’ campaign weren’t immediately returned Tuesday, but the campaign has made Potts’ exclusion from debates a central issue in their message to the public.

The campaign frequently sends out e-mail “debate updates” to supporters.

Over at Camp Kilgore, reaction was mild.

“We will be very interested to see how they resolve the issue of who will raise taxes first,” joked Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

What Kaine does after his appearance with Kilgore isn’t consequential to the debate scheduled beforehand.

“We’ll be debating Tim Kaine just as both campaigns agreed,” Murtaugh said.

Kaine’s campaign is simply trying to make political hay out of the debate over debates, he said. Tuesday’s announcement by Kaine was the first time the Democratic campaign had demonstrated any interest in having Potts on the stage, Murtaugh said.

“In the negotiations for the debate, the Kaine campaign never once mentioned including Russ Potts,” he said.

Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce spokesman Tony Howard said Tuesday that neither of the two participating campaigns have discussed any post-debate debate with the chamber.

The debate is one of three scheduled for this gubernatorial campaign. The first was held just across the West Virginia line at the Greenbrier Resort in July.

Kaine and Kilgore have agreed to debate around midday at the September event, sponsored by the Fairfax chamber. Tim Russert, the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” will moderate the event.

Kaine, Kilgore and possibly Potts will meet again in October at a debate hosted by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and a Richmond television station.

Potts will be allowed to participate only if he manages to poll at 15 percent or higher in two separate surveys before the debate. To date, the campaign’s high-water mark has been a 9 percent result in a Mason-Dixon poll.

Top strategist Tom D’Amore said recently that any threshold test for inclusion simply isn’t fair to Potts or the voters of Virginia, because the senator will appear on the ballot.

October’s event is the only one scheduled to be televised statewide.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Full Story...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Kilgore statement linking MS-13 to al-Qaida criticized; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore overreached when he said al-Qaida could be working with Salvadoran street gang MS-13, Democrats said Monday.

But the candidate not only stands by his statements, he also chided the Democratic Party for not taking the potential threat seriously.

Kilgore made his comments on a Charlottes-ville radio talk show last week, during which he was discussing his stance on illegal immigration.

“When [gangs like MS-13 are] contacted by al-Qaida, to work in partnership with al-Qaida, then we have a problem and we need to fix that problem,” he said.

MS-13 is the street gang that grew out of El Salvador’s civil war and has now established a presence in Northern Virginia.

Two MS-13 members were sentenced to life in prison earlier this year for the 2003 murder of 17-year-old gang informant Brenda Paz near Mt. Jackson.

Kilgore’s statements were based on various media reports, including both The Washington Post and The Washington Times, spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Monday.

Democrats were quick to jump on the statement as proof that Kilgore isn’t in touch with the fight against gangs.

“It certainly was a thunderbolt to me,” Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s At-torney Richard Trodden said during a conference call organized by the Virginia Democratic Party.

“The gubernatorial candidate must know something I do not,” the Democratic prosecutor said. Fellow Democrat Randy Sengel, of Alexandria, said he agrees.

“We haven’t seen any evidence that MS-13 is connected to al-Qaida,” he said. “I think if Mr. Kilgore has information like this he ought to communicate it to the FBI and not try to score political points with it. I certainly have not seen any evidence to support his claim.”

Even mentioning Osama bin Laden’s organization in the same breath as MS-13 does a disservice to prosecutors who are trying to fight gangs as they work deeper into the commonwealth’s rural areas, Sengel said.

“One of the most difficult aspects of prosecuting these cases right now is the phenomenon of reluctant” witnesses, he said.
Lending MS-13, which has a violent enough reputation on its own, the “additional conspiratorial power” of al-Qaida doesn’t help convince witnesses to come forward, the prosecutors said.

“We’re not going to have international intrigue in any of our gang cases,” Trodden said. “Gangs are unfortunately a hot-button issue. It sounds like he just took it a bit too far.”

Kilgore and company are taking their lead from the federal government, though, Murtaugh said, and are “treating [MS-13] as a real homeland security threat.”

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security James Loy told a congressional committee earlier this year that MS-13 had become a national security problem.

“Al-Qaida continues to be the primary transnational threat group, although we are seeing the emergence of other threatening groups and gangs like MS-13 that will also be destabilizing influences,” Loy said in February.

While it hasn’t made headlines recently, potential links between gangs and terrorism have been in the news.

Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez told reporters in 2004 that al-Qaida was courting Central American gangs to help them cross the Rio Grande.

FBI officials working to dismantle the gang have said they have no evidence of collusion between the two threats.

“If the Democrats choose not to heed the warnings of the Department of Homeland Security, that’s their business,” Murtaugh said Monday.

Full Story...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Kilgore proposes change to crime law; A1

GOP hopeful says confronting gangs is key to solution

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

MOUNT JACKSON — The beautiful surroundings near the Meems Bottom Covered bridge belie the terrible things that happened there.

That’s symbolic of Virginia’s gang problem, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Kilgore said Friday. Just like other places in rural Virginia, the big-city problem of gangs no longer stops at the city limits.

“Gangs are here,” he said, flanked by law enforcement officers from Shenandoah County.

“We have to confront them and get rid of them,” he said, proposing a change to Virginia law that would expand the death penalty to include those who order murders, not just those who commit them.

Kilgore made the remarks in a joint appearance with Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Todd Gilbert, the Republican nominee for the 15th District House of Delegates seat.

Gilbert and his opponent, Democrat Jim Blubaugh, seek to succeed retiring incumbent Del. Allen Louderback, R-Luray.

The location of the announcement is significant. The bridge is near where the body of 17-year-old Brenda “Smiley” Paz, a member of the violent Latino street gang MS-13 who had turned federal informant, was found.

Paz had been in the federal witness protection program, but left federal protection not long before she was to testify. She was four months pregnant when she was killed.

Police said Paz was stabbed to death by fellow members of MS-13, likely in an effort to keep her from testifying at the trial of a fellow gang member.

Oscar Antonio “Pantera” Grande, 22, and Ismael “Arana” Juarez Cisneros, 26, were convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of release earlier this year in connection with the murder.

Two other men, Denis “Conejo” Rivera, 21, and Oscar Alexander “Gato” Garcia-Orellana, 32, were acquitted by the same jury.

The case was tried in federal court because Virginia law does not permit the death penalty for those who do not actually commit the slaying, according to Kilgore and Gilbert.

“[Paz’s murder] was an ordered hit that came from the top of the gang,” Kilgore said.

The former attorney general said his Democratic opponent doesn’t support removing that “triggerman” rule.

Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine said at a July debate in West Virginia that he “generally doesn’t believe that an expansion of the death penalty is the best way to fight crime.”

The Kaine campaign issued a response to Kilgore’s press conference about an hour before it started.

Gang activity jumped 220 percent while Kilgore was secretary of public safety under former Gov. George Allen, the campaign said in an e-mail to reporters.

The campaign cited a Virginia Crime Commission report to the General Assembly that found the number of counties reporting youth gang activity during Kilgore’s tenure went from 10 to 22 from 1994 to 1996.

If he is elected, eliminating the “triggerman loophole” will be one of the first bills he submits to the General Assembly, Kilgore said. He also talked about other legislation designed to steer young people away from gangs.

One law would give stiff sentences for first-time gang offenses, but would allow that punishment to be deferred or dropped if defendants stay away from gangs in the future.

“They would go back to prison if they don’t stay gang-free,” he said.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Full Story...

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Debate Debate; Editorial Page

Haggling over formats for political debates is largely an insiders’ game, but the debate debate has special significance in the gubernatorial race because of the independent candidacy of Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., the Winchester Republican.

Potts has been barnstorming the state, talking candidly about a range of issues, including some the major party candidates prefer to downplay.

A recent poll put his support at 9 percent of Virginia voters and by all accounts he made a bigger splash at the Virginia Association of Counties meeting than either Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate, or Republican Jerry Kilgore, the former attorney general.

Despite those positive signs, which the Potts campaign sees as “momentum,” he has yet to earn a spot on the same stage with Kaine and Kilgore. He was excluded from their debate at the meeting of the state bar association, which said it has always invited only the two major party candidates.

The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors a debate next month, offered the same explanation, a position challenged this week by 15 former chamber chairmen who say Potts deserves to be included.

Underlying the public rationales are the antipathy of the Kilgore campaign to Potts’ insurgent candidacy and the sponsors’ fear that Kilgore, widely viewed as uncomfortable in give-and-take formats, would renege if Potts were included.

Kilgore has agreed to a third debate in October, masterminded by Larry Sabato, the U.Va. political guru, that will include Potts if his poll support reaches 15 percent, the same standard used to include “fringe” candidates in presidential debates.

That arbitrary benchmark, however, ignores Potts’ political experience, his familiarity with the issues and his willingness to confront the challenges facing the Old Dominion. He’s earned a spot on the ballot and a place in debates and Virginians deserve to hear him.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Potts agenda takes turn for the left; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — He has billed himself as the most pro-life candidate in the race. He supports tax increases only after a referendum, and has never voted for a tax increase.

But the candidate isn’t Jerry Kilgore 2005. It’s H. Russell Potts Jr. in 2003.

Changes in the candidate’s views are one reason many former supporters have thrown their support to Kilgore. Gary Chrisman, a former Winchester mayor, has been on a GOP ticket with Potts and shared campaign resources.

Chrisman is now a donor to former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore’s campaign for governor.

“I certainly think that he’s become more liberal over time,” Chrisman said. “He ran as a conservative, and I think in the beginning people thought he was conservative.”

But Potts “made a very rapid turn to the left once the 2003 election was over,” Chrisman said. Evidence of Potts’ retooling his positions on issues isn’t hard to find.

In one piece of direct mail the campaign sent out during the 2003 campaign, Potts laid out to voters why he should be the Republican nominee instead of challenger Mark Tate.

Potts touted his own anti-tax record, while criticizing Tate, the vice mayor of Middleburg, for voting to raise some taxes and fees while in office.

“[Potts] never voted for a tax increase during his 12 years in office, and voted for 55 tax reductions,” the mailer states. Potts was also a signatory to the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, on which candidates promise to oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes.

In 2004, Potts voted for the budget deal that raised taxes by more than $1.5 billion, winning him a place in ATR’s “Hall of Shame.”

In an June interview with the Northern Virginia Daily, Potts said “everything is on the table” to fix the state’s congested transportation system, including a hike in the state’s gasoline tax as part of a major overhaul of the state’s tax code.

“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.”
Potts also backed the idea of tax referenda until running for the state’s highest office.

In 2003, Potts chided Tate for preferring to allow “elected officials to force fee and tax increases on the taxpayers without their input,” while calling himself “a believer and supporter of voters’ rights to make decisions on issues affecting them and their pocketbooks through voter referendums.”

“I’d oppose the referendum because you spell referendum C-O-W-A-R-D, coward,” Potts told the Richmond Times-Dispatch earlier this year.

But there’s a big difference between a statewide referendum and a local referendum, Potts said Wednesday.

Potts supported legislation for a local referendum in 2002 to raise the sales tax in Winchester. He says he supported the measure only after 67 percent of the voters backed the change in 2001. Setting policy by referendum at the state level is an abdication of leadership, he said.

“The referendum in Winchester was passed after the [November 2001 vote],” he said.

“The only reason in the world I supported the transportation referendum in Northern Virginia was it was the only thing we had left,” he said, because the House of Delegates simply refused to play ball.

Potts did have an anti-tax record before 2003, according to Winchester City Council President Charles Gaynor, but the candidate changed with the times.

“I think the man had enough common sense to recognize that the state was in trouble,” said Gaynor, who has donated $884 to Potts for political campaigns since 2002, including $150 for his gubernatorial run.

“Why was the state in trouble? That’s the question that other two [gubernatorial candidates] want to ignore,” Gaynor said.

Ideas like abolishing parole and implementing the Standards of Learning look good on paper, but they cost local taxpayers money.

Potts’ positions represent where most Virginia Republicans find themselves now, Gaynor said.

During his first term, though, Potts supported former Gov. Jim Gilmore’s rollback of the car tax. When the state’s finances turned sour during his third term, Potts said he still supported reducing the tax when financial times got better.

“In no way am I opposed to eliminating the car tax,” he said in a 2001 interview. “We made a promise to the people of Virginia and we are going to keep it terms of eliminating the car tax, but we are not going to go into debt and we are not going to cut essential services.”

“We’re going to cut the car tax as far as we can right now and wait for another year to do the rest,” he said.

Since then, though, Potts has thought better of his support of the centerpiece of the Gilmore administration. At an event announcing his campaign, Potts told reporters that if elected governor, he’d seek to return the car tax to a pre-Gilmore status.

“I’d put it exactly where it was before Jim Gilmore was governor,” he said. “That would be a dead horse.”

“Only a fool doesn’t change his mind and alter his positions after he’s got all the information,” Potts said Wednesday.

“I was in the room when Jim Gilmore came in and said ‘Trust me, the endgame is $650 million’ [in total annual costs],” Potts said. The cost is now more than $1 billion to completely roll back the local tax.

“Do you think for a minute that FDR didn’t change his mind” about sending troops overseas after Pearl Harbor, Potts asked.

“What’s wrong with admitting that I made a mistake?” he said. The car tax cut was a “disgraceful piece of legislation.”

Potts also billed himself as the “first pro-life chairman of the powerful Health and Education Committee in over 200 years,” and touted a “consistent 12-year record of voting to protect life” in 2003.

His legislative record bears that out. During the 1995, 1996, 1997 legislative sessions, Potts voted for bills that would require parental notification when a minor has an abortion.

In 2002 and 2003, he also voted for bills that would require a parent’s permission in some cases before a minor could have an abortion. In 2005, Potts changed his positions and was given “100 percent” pro-choice rating for the session by the
Virginia branch of the NARAL, a prominent abortion rights group.

But its the definition of “pro-life” in Virginia that’s a moving target, not Russ Potts, the senator said.

“I had had a consistent record. When that far right crowd, then tried to push the envelope” in the form of “defining contraceptives as a form of abortion, I said, ‘Nope, I’m out of here.”

Further restrictions on clinics for health and safety reasons, as well as a bill requiring anesthesia for a fetus before an abortion went too far, he said.

“I happen to think that most women in this country don’t like abortion,” he said. But “they don’t like people interfering in their personal lives.”

At the end of the day, it’s the GOP, not Russ Potts that has changed, he said.

“That right-wing extremist crowd invaded my party,” he said.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Kilgore Talks About Virginia Job Market; B1

Republican makes stop in Front Royal, discusses issues

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

FRONT ROYAL — The commonwealth’s economy is booming. Just who should get the credit is quickly becoming an issue in the gubernatorial campaign.

Virginia’s economy added more than 50,000 jobs from June 2004 to June 2005, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

That’s proof that the $1.6 billion tax hike deal that concluded last year’s session of the General Assembly has helped, not hurt, the economy, according to two members of the Democratic ticket.

“Today’s job growth numbers remind us how out of touch the Republican statewide ticket’s chicken-little act has become,” Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Leslie Byrne said in an e-mail to reporters this week.

“For years they’ve been trying to tell Virginians that fiscal responsibility and common sense investments in education and transportation would drive jobs away,” she said. “Our record-setting job growth proves once again what Mark Warner, Tim Kaine and I have been saying all along: Businesses want an educated workforce, a functional transportation network and an im-proved quality of life.”

The campaign of Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic hopeful for governor, issued a similar statement. The Warner-Kaine administration has presided over the addition of some 241,000 new jobs, campaign officials said in a press release.

Republican gubernatorial contender Jerry Kilgore didn’t pull any punches when asked Wednesday about the Democratic ticket’s claims.

“[Kaine has] had nothing to do with job creation in Virginia. He’s been lieutenant governor. His only duty is to vote in case of a tie in the state Senate,” said Kilgore, who was campaigning in Front Royal.

The state is doing well, but it would have been doing better without the 2004 tax plan.

“While the unemployment numbers are low, most people are having to commute to other areas to find work,” he said. A Kilgore administration would work with local economic developers to “bring to the table tax credits” that would entice business to move closer to workers.

“We need to reach for the stars and get better paying jobs,” he said.

Kilgore also took the opportunity to defend the cost of his campaign’s initiatives. Independent gubernatorial candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester, has been highly critical of Kilgore’s spending plans.

The state budget is more than capable of paying for the GOP candidate’s spending plans for things like education and transportation, Kilgore said.

“Mine’s a plan that, if we set budget priorities, we can easily accomplish what I’m setting out to accomplish,” he said. “We’re going to get our budget house in order. We’re going to get our forecasts in order.”

Claims that Kaine and the rest of the Democratic ticket are fiscally responsible are laughable, Kilgore said.

“[The cost of] my opponent’s plan is going out the roof. We’re at $4 billion and still counting at the number of promises that he’s making,” he said. “I will do it all without raising taxes. [Kaine] won’t.”

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Trail Notes...

Eavesdropping Suit Continues

RICHMOND — The fight over the Republican eavesdropping settlement continued this week, as Democrats again attacked the Virginia GOP for trying to force an insurance company to pay a $950,000 claim.

Attorneys for the GOP’s former insurance company have subpoenaed several high-ranking Republican officials, including gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore, for materials related to the party’s lawsuit.

The Republican Party of Virginia is trying to force the insurance carrier to pay $900,000 to cover a $750,000 settlement they paid to the Democratic Party last year and $200,000 in related legal fees from an incident in 2002, in which the then-executive director of the party listened in on a Democratic strategy conference call.

Kilgore gave a deposition in the case, but it was settled before it went to trial. Some materials in the case aren’t open to the public, due to a protective order entered by the judge.

“If Jerry Kilgore really has nothing to hide, he should ask to have the protective order lifted and allow the real facts to come to light,” said Mark Bergman, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia.

State GOP officials have said repeatedly the lawsuit is simply a business dispute.

Lt. Gov. Candidates Spar Over Labor Law
RICHMOND — The long-dormant race to be the next lieutenant governor of Virginia has sprung to life, with the Republican and Democratic candidates sparring over Virginia’s right-to-work law.

Virginia is one of the northernmost states in which workers can’t be required to join a union as a condition of employment.
Speaking at a United Mine Workers event in Castlewood earlier this month, Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Leslie

Byrne said she’d roll back the state’s law if possible.

“Absolutely, I call it the right-to-be-poor law,” she said.

Byrne’s opponent, state Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, condemned the statement.

“Ms. Byrne’s proposal to eliminate the right-to-work law solidifies her position as one of the most anti-business candidates to ever seek statewide office in Virginia,” Bolling said. “The right-to-work law is an important part of our ability to attract new business and industry to Virginia and ensure a continuation of economic growth.”

GOP Party Chairman Kate Obenshain Griffin, of Winchester, also joined in, attempting to tie the statement to the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.

“Such an extreme policy endangers tens of thousands of jobs, stifles economic development and strains family incomes,” she said. “Virginians deserve not only a right to work, but also a right to know if this is what we would see in a Kaine-Byrne Administration.”

Potts Raising More Money
WINCHESTER — Fundraising is turning around for independent gubernatorial candidate state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester.

Since starting fundraising efforts in July, the campaign has raised more than $182,000, officials said in a statement this week, following a fundraiser in Winchester at the home of Claudio and Debi Buono, two of the partners in Anthony’s Inc.

“I am humbled and sincerely grateful to friends and supporters who have stepped forward to support our candidacy for governor,” Potts said.

“I am more confident today than ever that we will win this race and pull off the political upset in the history of Virginia politics. People who really love Virginia, independents, Republicans, and Democrats have stepped up to support the principles I am fighting for.”
— Daily Staff Reports

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Day labor furor hits campaigns; B2

Candidates divided on Fairfax proposal to fund centers for immigrants

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Immigration is more often than not an issue for federal officials. But a controversy in Northern Virginia has brought it squarely into the Virginia gubernatorial race.

The issue centers on a convenience store in Herndon, where day laborers gather and wait to be hired by construction companies. A number of the workers are alleged to be illegal immigrants.

Officials in Fairfax County have proposed providing funding for day labor centers elsewhere to keep workers from gathering in front of the store. That’s a bad idea, according to Republican nominee Jerry Kilgore.

“I don’t think it is too much to ask that people obey the laws of our society before they take advantage of what our society has to offer,” Kilgore said. “To reward illegal behavior is to encourage that behavior and it demeans those who have followed the rules to come to America legally.”

Speaking on a recent conference call with Del. Dave Albo, R-Springfield, Kilgore said Fairfax’s proposal would become illegal in 2006 under a law Albo successfully sponsored this year. It bars illegal immigrants from receiving certain types of public assistance.

Albo said the centers are a bad idea, unless they do some kind of screening to be sure everyone there is legally present in the United States.

Kilgore also has endorsed legislation that would allow police to hold suspected illegal immigrants who are arrested while their legal presence is verified. Similar federal legislation filed in 2003 never came up for a vote.

The statement prompted independent gubernatorial candidate state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, to unload on Kilgore.

“Mr. Kilgore’s statements are his latest attempt at playing the worst kind of politics — the politics of fear. His policy clearly aims at dividing Virginians along racial boundaries,” Potts says in an e-mail to reporters.

The “Commonwealth of Opportunity” Kilgore has said he hopes to create should be “open to all, not just a select few,” Potts wrote. Everyone should have the opportunity to improve their lot in life, just like he did.

“Mr. Kilgore’s attempts at division are not only morally wrong, but also violate the spirit of federal law and the rights of local governments to regulate local activities without interference from the state,” Potts said.

The Republican nominee also proposed giving police new powers to hold illegal immigrants and turn them over to federal officials if they’re arrested for virtually any offense.

But immigration enforcement is a federal problem, Potts said.

“For a self-described tax cutter, Kilgore is very quick to throw state and local law enforcement dollars and manpower at what is clearly a federal agency problem,” Potts said.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tim Kaine said through a spokesperson that the Kilgore proposal would harm small businesses in the area, which often depend on day laborers.

Both Fairfax County officials and immigration advocates criticized Kilgore’s stance.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Law enforcement issues have candidates sparring; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Who supports law enforcement? Not my opponent.

That was the gist of two conference calls put together by the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor on Wednesday.

The campaigns of Republican former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine took turns unloading on each other over law-and-order issues on the dueling calls.

Kaine’s camp attacked Kilgore’s record on funding for law enforcement. By opposing a 2004 deal that raised taxes by $1.6 billion, the former attorney general failed in his promise to support law enforcement, Democrats said.

“The reason I’m so excited about Tim’s run for governor is … he’s got the right idea, the big picture, as far as his support for law enforcement,” Bristol Sheriff Jack Weisenburger said.

Budget reform had a direct impact on the way sheriff’s departments operate, he said. More funding makes it much easier to keep qualified dep-uties.

“We’re having trouble keeping deputies,” he said. “You cannot keep good people without paying them an adequate salary.”
Roanoke County Sheriff Gerald Holt said a Kilgore administration would likely be a “repeat of [Gov.] Jim Gilmore days,” in which budgets for law enforcement would start to shrink.

“Public safety would certainly suffer,” he said. “Tim Kaine has been a strong supporter of budget reform for public safety.”

Across town at Camp Kilgore, the campaign put together a group of law-enforcement officials who questioned Kaine’s stance on the death penalty.

In particular, the group discussed a statement Kaine made in 1987, just before the execution of Richard Lee Whitley.

Whitley, 41, was convicted of the 1981 murder and sexual assault of his 63-year-old next-door neighbor in Fairfax County.

Kaine represented Whitley, and told reporters before the execution that “murder is wrong in the gulag, in Afghanistan, in Soweto, in the mountains of Guatemala, in Fairfax County … and even the Spring Street Penitentiary,” according to reports published at the time.

Kilgore called on Kaine to repudiate the statement during the July debate between the two men in West Virginia, but Kaine wouldn’t back down.

“Life is life. And I believe that,” he said. “And so, once again, there is an effort to come back at me because of my religious belief that life is sacred, and try to attack me for that.

“All I can do is, as I said, is put my hand on a Bible, affirming everything I believe, and swear that I will uphold the laws of Virginia and the laws of the Commonwealth,” Kaine said during the debate.

The candidate has said he we would use the “clemency power in the narrow circumstances that other governors have used it — circumstances generally involving grave doubt about someone’s guilt or innocence.”

But Virginia law gives the governor the sole ability to commute death sentences, Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Kim White said. A person who has said the death penalty is murder is “not someone I want reviewing these cases.”

The Kilgore campaign also sent reporters’ audio from a 2001 debate, in which Kaine lays out why he supported a moratorium on the death penalty. Kaine has since said he wouldn’t impose one on his own.

Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade said he found Kaine’s 1987 comments offensive, because it equated an execution to murder.

“To refer to that whole process as an unlawful process, I feel that’s the wrong opinion,” Wade said, adding that he has personal experience with the court system and capital cases, and knows how hard it is to legally take a life in the commonwealth.

White agreed, saying there is no comparison between then-Soviet occupied Afghanistan and Virginia’s legal system.

“I am not a Soviet prison guard,” added former Wallens Ridge State Prison Warden Stan Young. “Neither are my staff. I take offense at that.”

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Kaine calls for pre-kindergarten; B8

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine laid out his vision for education Tuesday, calling for Virginia to support optional statewide pre-kindergarten education.

Some “90 percent of a child’s brain growth is complete by the age of 5,” Kaine told reporters on a conference call. “The foundation of a child’s academic and economic success must be built very early. Our Start Strong initiative will provide all Virginia 4-year-olds the opportunity to attend high-quality pre-kindergarten, and enter school ready to read and ready to succeed.”

Under his plan, each community in Virginia would create councils made up of teachers, day care providers, elected officials, business leaders and others to come up with a plan to provide the service.

“Over the last three years we have seen marked improvements in our schools and our children’s performance,” Kaine said.

“The standards we have set have helped us offer high-quality public education throughout the state. Virginia has spent the last decade trying to define the floor. The next decade has to be about raising the ceiling.”

The candidate also said he’d seek to fully fund Virginia’s K-12 education system, and get more students involved in Advanced Placement and other accelerated classes, while supporting vocational and technical education.

Kaine also said he’d work to raise teacher salaries to the national average.

“The greatest impact we can have on the quality of our children’s education is by giving them the best teachers,” he said. “Demanding excellence from our teachers means better educational opportunity for our children.”

A spokesman for Kaine’s major-party opponent, GOP former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, said the goals of the plan are good, but it would be costly to implement.

Kaine’s camp says the plan would cost less than $300 million and would be phased in over four years.

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Kilgore OKs debate with Potts, Kaine; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. might get his shot at debating the Republican candidate for governor after all. He’s just got to come up with more supporters.

After months of refusing to share the stage with Potts, the campaign of former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore an-nounced Tuesday that he would participate in a televised debate in October in Richmond with both independent candidate Potts and

Democratic hopeful Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.

But all three have to be polling at 15 percent or higher to get in the door — the same standard used by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

Potts has yet to break 9 percent in any published poll since he entered the race. Until now, Kilgore has said he’d only debate a candidate “who has a chance of winning.”

“This will be an excellent chance for the people of Virginia to compare the records and the vision of the candidates for Governor,” Kilgore wrote in an e-mail.

The GOP candidate has taken much abuse from his two opponents over his refusal to debate Potts, and declined an invitation from a Roanoke television station to participate in another televised event.

Both have accused Kilgore of being afraid to stand on the same stage as the Democrat and independent with the whole state watching. But Kilgore said Tuesday he’s been planning on a televised debate the whole time.
Potts’ campaign continues to argue that Kilgore is ducking an appearance with the Winchester Republican state senator.

NBC affiliate WWBT-12 will broadcast the debate, to be moderated by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, and will make the feed available to any television station in the state, regardless of network affiliation.

Kaine and Kilgore will also meet on Sept. 13 in an event sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce to be moderated by Tim Russert, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Tom D’Amore, Potts’ top consultant, said the campaign has accepted the invitation and will be on hand for the event in Richmond.

“I think we’re probably at [the 15 percent threshold] now,” he said. Still, “we do not expect the premise that there’s a threshold of any kind.”

Getting Kilgore to accept third-party participation in any form is progress, D’Amore said, but added that he was disappointed that the station and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics would exclude Potts under any circumstance.

“We must be getting to [Kilgore],” he said.

Using the presidential standard for inclusion is just another way to try to block Potts, D’Amore said. The CPD uses 15 percent because there’s no national standard for who is and isn’t a candidate.

Virginia, on the other hand, “is blessed with standards.” Candidates are whoever is on the ballot, D’Amore said.

“That should be the only standard,” he said.

Format and rules have yet to be negotiated by the campaigns.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Democrats offer to help former GOP insurance company

RICHMOND — The Democratic Party of Virginia has volunteered to help the state GOP’s insurance provider fight a lawsuit brought by the Republicans over the 2002 eavesdropping settlement.

Del. Bob Brink, D-Arlington, and other plaintiffs sued over the incident, in which the party’s former executive director listened in on a Democratic conference call.

The Republican Party settled the case for $750,000, and is now suing its insurance provider for $950,000 to recoup the settlement and legal fees. Democrats have cried foul, saying the only reason they settled is because Republicans said they didn’t have any insurance.

“This action flies directly in the face of RPV’s earlier representation that it lacked insurance coverage,” Democratic legislators wrote in a letter to the insurance firm.

GOP officials have said that at the time, their carrier had denied coverage, and the suit is just a business matter. But Democrats say it’s a “dirty trick.”

“We are anxious to assist in any way possible to ensure that RPV and the other defendants remain accountable for their actions by bearing the cost of the settlement,” Democrats wrote.

“It is important for justice to be served in the eavesdropping case,” Brink said. “A Nebraska insurance company should not bear the financial consequences for the dirty tricks that took place. That burden should rest on the shoulders of Virginia Republicans.”

Democrats also took the opportunity to try to tie the incident to Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Kilgore. Brink pointed out that Kilgore’s campaign chipped in $125,000 of the final settlement.

— Daily Staff Report

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Senator makes local stop on ‘listening tour’ to mingle with supporters; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

FRONT ROYAL — He could be a front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, but you can’t tell it to hear him talk.

U.S. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., kicked off his 2005 “listening tour” with a stop at the North Warren Fire and Rescue hall, where he shared a barbecue lunch with supporters Monday and took questions from the crowd.

Allen, cited by many as a likely contender to succeed President Bush in 2008, wouldn’t bite when reporters asked about his future intentions and his thoughts on being considered near the top of the GOP heap.

“It’s very nice, it’s very encouraging that people say all that, but I’m focused on doing my job … as a United States Senator from Virginia,” he said.

Allen is running for office, but it’s for the job he has now. Up for re-election in 2006, the Democratic Party has yet to put forward a candidate. But speculation is rampant that Gov. Mark R. Warner may run.

Recent polls have found that Warner could knock off the incumbent.

“There’s no doubt that the Democrats have a bull’s-eye on my back,” Allen said.

As the former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee that helped knock off the “chief obstructionist” Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., beating him would be sweet revenge for the minority, the state’s junior senator said.

“They’ll try to get a self-funded, multimillionaire to run,” Allen said in a thinly veiled reference to Warner.

That’s one reason the campaign has been passing the hat in Virginia, even in a state election year.

“We have done fundraising in Virginia, but we’ve made an effort not to do an excessive amount,” Allen said. “People can only be picked over so much.”

The former governor was reticent to criticize a recent decision by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

In a speech on the Senate floor late last month, Frist said he would support a bill that would allow federal money to be spent on research involving stem cells derived from embryos, under strict rules.

Current law bans any federal money for research that requires the destruction of embryos.

“That’s his point of view,” Allen said. “I have my own point of view.”

Present benefits being derived from non-embryonic stem cells are more than enough to justify federal funding, Allen said.

Also, both the states and private interests have come up with billions of dollars to drive embryonic research without federal help.

Allen also talked with reporters about the big picture of federal spending. Deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars are a problem, but not a bigger one than national security, he said.

“In times of war there are extraordinary expenses. It’s not as if we’re not going to pay the troops, upgrade their armaments or buy more ammunition. That has to be done,” he said.

Still, there are areas that have to remain levelly funded or cut, he said. Deficits need to go down.

“We’ve got to get the economy working stronger, more people working and businesses prospering,” Allen said. An energy bill signed by President Bush on Monday will help the situation by stimulating the economy.

The bill will also help the country make better use of its coal stocks, a major source of employment in Southwest Virginia.

“We are the Saudi Arabia of coal,” Allen told the crowd, adding that he would support an effort to get the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge opened to oil exploration through the federal budget process.

While it couldn’t win approval in the energy bill, rules prohibit filibusters in the budget process.

“[Oil exploration] can be done very safely on the North Slope [of Alaska],” Allen said. “It won’t bother a single mosquito.”

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Potts not political at gala speech; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

FRONT ROYAL — One of the state’s three gubernatorial hopefuls made an appearance here Saturday evening, but the topic wasn’t politics.

Independent candidate state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, spoke to the annual “Save Our Gateway” gala at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, but he did not discuss his run for office.

Instead, Potts congratulated the group on its successful effort to keep Wal-Mart from building a new store on Strasburg Road.

“I knew when he came to this cause, we had hope,” Mayor James Eastham said, speaking before Potts. The senator was given a standing ovation when he took the podium.

Wal-Mart opponents credit Potts with convincing the world’s largest retailer to look elsewhere in Warren County for a site on which to build the proposed Supercenter.

“I want you all to look out there,” Potts said, gesturing toward the room’s massive wall of windows.

“That’s one beautiful view we’re looking at, and there’s only one view I can think of that’s more beautiful than that, and it’s right down the road there,” he said, referring to the abandoned Wal-Mart site between the two forks of the Shenandoah River.

“I want you all to revel in a great victory,” he said. “Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish when you’re not worried about who will get the credit. The magic of life itself is the word ‘we,’ not ‘I.’”

Save our Gateway’s efforts are a prime example of how democracy works in the United States, he said.

“I just knew we would prevail,” he said. “This is a democracy 101” and would be a good lesson for today’s students.

“Virginia is worth fighting for,” Potts said.

But he cautioned the group that the fight isn’t over, and won’t be until Wal-Mart has found a new location and built the store.

“Many a team has lost a football game because they didn’t punch it into the end zone,” he said.

Potts is challenging Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine and Republican former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore for the right to succeed Gov. Mark R. Warner.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Potts says Kilgore will break budget

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — Independent gubernatorial hopeful H. Russell Potts Jr. unloaded on former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore on Friday, asking the Republican candidate to “show me the money.”

“Kilgore offers Virginians a Christmas gift a day with a big red ribbon and no way to pay for these programs,” Potts said.

Kilgore has proposed to spend $20 million on in the Virginia Health Care Foundation and provide bonuses for teachers who get advanced degrees, national board certification, or engineering scholarships, among other initiatives.

Potts’ campaign places the total cost at more than $1.8 billion in new spending — including the full elimination of the car tax and the creation of a new four-year university in Southside.

“Let me see if I’ve got this right. He’s the guy that traveled all over Virginia, gave numerous speeches in opposition to the bipartisan budget reform last year and he’s now advocating all of these expensive expansions of government,” Potts said.

Kilgore opposed the $1.5 billion tax increase last year. His campaign says he was right to do so, now that the state budget has produced large surpluses for two fiscal years in a row.

Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the Republican campaign was “completely dismissive” of Potts’ charges, then produced a spreadsheet of spending proposals from Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.

Virginia already has the money for Kilgore’s proposals, which would cost nowhere near $1.8 billion, he said.

“Potts gets his calculator from the same place he gets his policy positions: left field,” Murtaugh said.

“Absolutely, we can make it work,” he said. “The state is now awash in the unexpected revenues. What we have proposed will actually be quite easy to accomplish.”

Potts has made transportation issues the central theme of his campaign, promising to put “everything on the table” to come up with a way to pay for road improvements.

He has also said he’d work to re-institute the car tax and opposes the efforts of both Kilgore and Kaine to reduce real estate taxes.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Pollsters: Potts the difference; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Maybe Jerry Kilgore does hold a lead over Tim Kaine outside the margin of error after all. It depends on what you think about H. Russell Potts Jr.

A new survey by independent pollster Scott Rasmussen released Thursday found Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore leading Democratic contender Tim Kaine by 6 percentage points — a margin identical to the survey done by the polling firm in July.

The former at-torney general leads the lieutenant governor 45 percent to 39 percent. Some 5 percent reported that they would vote for Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester who is running as an independent candidate.

Kilgore has an advantage over Kaine, but not an insurmountable one, Rasmussen said. Factors like “get out the vote” efforts and voter intensity could swing the results one way or the other, and in the heat of summer, it’s hard to get a good read on those factors.

“We won’t have a good idea about” those variables until fall, he said.

Rasmussen’s poll of Thursday contradicts a late July Mason-Dixon survey that found the race to be a statistical dead heat, with Kaine holding a 1 percentage point advantage over Kilgore, 38 percent to 37 percent. Potts polled at 9 percent.

Both polling firms say the difference between the two numbers comes down to one thing — whether to include the independent candidate.

Mason-Dixon mentions the Winchester native by name, while Rasmussen doesn’t.

“He’s on the ballot. You need to ‘ask’ Potts,” said J. Bradford Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director.

But polling a third candidate early in the race tends to skew the results this early in the race, said Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Research.

Independent runs tend to benefit from the frustration of voters in both parties and undecided voters in the months leading up to the election, he said.

When the electorate begins to break one way or the other, though, that frustration often turns into resigned support for one of the two front-runners.

There are exceptions, such as Gov. Jesse Ventura in Minnesota, who finished strong and beat both a Republican and a Democrat in November 1998, Rasmussen said. Potts has retained Ventura’s old advertising firm.

Both men agree that it’s early for polls to be spot-on.

“It’s a summer poll,” said Rasmussen. “When Mason-Dixon is polling after Labor Day” the various numbers will start to converge on the final result.

Regardless of their differing methodology, both polls share similar themes.

Both Kaine and Kilgore continue to have nearly identical favorability ratings — 50 percent for Kilgore, 49 percent for Kaine — though both have slipped slightly since July.

Mason-Dixon found the two men comparably close in late July, with Kaine’s name being recognized favorably 31 percent of the time to Kilgore’s 30 percent.

Neither man can measure up to the favorability enjoyed by incumbent Democrat Gov. Mark R. Warner. Some 67 percent of voters view the outgoing executive favorably, up 4 percent from July. Mason-Dixon found Warner had positive job approval rating of 74 percent.

Mason-Dixon’s last sample was 625 voters taken over three days, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.

Rasmussen’s survey of Thursday was taken on Aug. 3 and was made up of 500 voters, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.5 percent.

All three campaigns have said the only poll that matters is the one taken on Election Day, Nov. 8.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Kilgore proposes tuition grant boost; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Virginia’s public colleges could get crowded over the next decade. The solution, according to one gubernatorial hopeful, is to make it easier for students to go to private schools.

Jerry Kilgore, the Republican candidate for governor, told reporters Wednesday that his administration would work to increase the state’s annual tuition as-sistance grant for private college students from $2,500 to $4,000.

Increasing the grant amount would bring the state aid for private school students closer to what public college students get, leading more to enroll in private colleges, the former attorney general said.

A July report by the State Commission on Higher Education in Virginia found that enrollment in the state’s community colleges and four-year universities will increase by more than 56,000 between 2004 and 2011.

The authors found that schools might be able to keep up, but that’s by no means certain.

At the end of the day, it’s simply a better investment to try to get more students into private colleges than to beef up state schools like Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, Kilgore said.

While there are a lot more students coming into the system over the next few years, the same quirk of demographics that created the bubble will cause it to quickly dissipate, he said.

“It’ll drop off dramatically,” Kilgore said. “It’s a short-term problem.”

Raising the grant is just part of the solution, though.

“It’ll ease some of the burden, not all of the burden,” he said.

“I’m very pleased to hear that,” said Jim Davis, president of Shenandoah University in Winchester, when told of Kilgore’s plan to increase the grant. He and leaders of other private institutions have been working to get the TAG raised for years.

Private schools have already been talking to the commonwealth about the coming influx of students and what to do about them.

“We’ve offered that we feel we could take up to 10,000 more students if they could increase” the TAG, Davis said. “If you really wanted to be competitive, the closer you can get to [matching the approximate $8,000 subsidy provided to students at state universities] the better.”

Shenandoah is well-positioned to take in about 500 more students, according to Davis. The school has been growing by “about 100 students a year for the last 10 years,” he said. The school can handle “about 3,500 students at a reasonably comfortable pace.”

“Beyond that, it would require pretty significant capital investment,” he said. Still, “it’s a good interim solution.”

Over at the campaign of Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, the response was quick. Press Secretary Delacey Skinner sent out an e-mail to reporters while Kilgore was still on the conference call, criticizing the candidate’s opposition to the 2004 budget deal.

“From his opposition to the budget that invested $240 million in higher education to his weak and wavering support for a Southside university, Jerry Kilgore has been on the wrong side of Virginia’s higher education system,” Skinner says.

Kilgore also said his administration would fund 100 yearly scholarships to get more students into engineering programs.

“It’s no secret that America is lagging behind” in training engineers, Kilgore said. Paying for the scholarships — which would be given on the condition that the newly minted engineers would work in the Old Dominion for a set period — is one way the commonwealth can hold on to and improve its high-tech economy.

Scholarships would be made available to graduating high school seniors based on their entire academic record.

“Need could be one factor,” but it wouldn’t be the determining factor, Kilgore said. “It’s going to be based on getting good students into the engineering field.”

The candidate also said he’s backing a program to make more course offerings available at rural community colleges via distance learning, and increase learning opportunities for students in the business community.

“As we all know, you sometimes learn more outside of college than you do in it,” he said.

Taken together, the higher grant amounts and scholarships would cost about $21 million per year, to be paid for by “prioritizing this budget,” Kilgore said.

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Donation to GOP attorney general hopeful should be disclosed, Democrats say; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Some state Democrats are crying foul over contributions to Republican attorney general candidate Bob McDonnell, saying the donations violate the “spirit” of Virginia’s campaign finance laws.

Taking a page from the playbook of failed GOP challenger Bill Bolling, the Democratic Party of Virginia said the Virginia Beach delegate should demand that the donors of Americans for Tax Reform be disclosed.

Larry Framme, a former state Democratic Party chairman, told reporters that $260,000 in donations from American Tort Reform Association to the Virginia Conservative Action PAC, which in turn gave $252,000 to McDonnell in media purchases, goes against the spirit of full disclosure.

“It’s at least within the spirit of Virginia’s finance laws that those donors be disclosed,” Framme said. “I suspect that Bob will come forward and urge that the individual contributors be disclosed.”

If they aren’t then McDonnell should return the money, he said.

“A bunch of people we don’t know … we don’t know who they are, where they’re from …” gave money to McDonnell, he said.

“We should know who they are under the spirit of Virginia law.”

The fact that a legal reform group gave money to a committee that was supporting only anti-tax candidates is odd, too, Framme said.

“There’s another agenda at work here, that’s clear,” he said.

Virginia places no limits on First Amendment expression in the form of donations, he said, but that comes at a price.

“It’s very different from many other states, because it doesn’t limit contributions. But it does require something very, very important — full disclosure of where the money comes from,” he said.

For its part, the McDonnell campaign says the donations are legitimate. “There’s nothing to it,” campaign manager Janet Polarek said.

Campaign officials also pointed to how successful Richmond attorney and GOP primary opponent Steve Baril was in making the same charges. McDonnell won by almost a 2-to-1 margin.

Donations from businesses and groups that don’t disclose their membership lists are common in Virginia politics.

But it’s about trust, not the letter of the law, Framme said.

The former chairman said he hadn’t even talked to the Democratic candidate for attorney general, state Sen. Creigh Deeds of Bath County, before calling the press conference, but was simply concerned about the level of trust Virginians would have in their next chief prosecutor.

Attorney general candidates run on law-and-order issues, but “99 percent of what an attorney general does goes well beyond that, into things that the public didn’t even think about when they elected them,” Framme said.

That makes ethics very important.

The fact that Baril made the same charges to no avail should have nothing to do with the current campaign, Framme said.

“Primary campaigns aren’t the same as a general election campaign,” he said.

Framme also declined to contrast McDonnell’s donations to those by businesses and corporations to Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner’s One Virginia PAC.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Highway bill will pay for $141 million of I-81 work; A1

Expansion funds called ‘first step’

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Interstate 81 is just one signature away from $141 million in federally funded expansion and safety improvements.

But the law that authorizes the spending contains two provisions that could bring an end to plans by business consortium

STAR Solutions to expand the highway into a multilane toll truck-way.

Congress approved a $286 billion highway spending bill late Friday, which provides money for things such as road construction, research, bridge maintenance, bus terminals and rail connectors among a plethora of others.

The bill contains some $938 million for Virginia over the next five years, including $100 million for the construction of dedicated truck lanes on I-81.

President Bush will sign the bill sometime next week, a White House spokesman said Tuesday.

Money is the first major stumbling block for the STAR plan to build the truck lane expansion.

STAR’s 2003 proposal to the Virginia Department of Transportation was premised on securing $1.6 billion in federal transportation funding: $800 million in the current transportation bill and $800 million in the successor bill five years down the road.

This year’s bill contained just $100 million for expansion of truck capacity via the construction of dedicated truck lanes. It contains another $41 million or so for “safety improvements.”

The other major roadblock is the inclusion of language forbidding “non-compete” clauses in projects like the truck tollway expansion of I-81.

STAR’s proposal would forbid VDOT from undertaking any improvements that could substantially draw paying trucks away from the interstate. Congress acted specifically to forbid states from spending any federal dollars on projects that come with such strings.

The bill is good for Virginia, according to members of the commonwealth’s congressional delegation.

“These funds will be helpful should [the state] decide to move forward,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th. But “the commonwealth should be careful to consider both the economic and environmental consequences of the work they undertake.”

STAR sees the money as a down payment on expansion.

The bill “supports our on-going efforts to undertake multi-modal improvements to make the I-81 corridor safer and more efficient,” said Doug Dalton, a president and CEO of English Construction in Lynchburg, a member of the STAR team.
Dalton said the group is looking forward to completing its negotiations with VDOT.

There could be more money coming later, according to the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

“This funding is the first step toward making substantial improvements in the I-81 corridor to serve as a national model for improving safety and reducing congestion by separating cars and trucks,” he said. “I remain committed to seeking more funds in future authorizations to fully develop this project in Virginia.”

Over at VDOT, work with STAR is continuing, according to Tamara Neale, an agency spokeswoman.

“We’re still in negotiations with them under the [Public Private Transportation Act] process,” she said. That law allows companies to submit plans for improvements to transportation facilities for government review at no cost to taxpayers.

That submittal contained a “vision” of I-81 as a much wider road with dedicated lanes for trucks, whose drivers would pay tolls of about 37 cents per mile to use the road. But just because that’s what STAR wants to do doesn’t mean that’s what will happen, Neale said.

VDOT is conducting a separate environmental review of the I-81 corridor to determine the best balance of expansion, rail improvements and environmental impacts. That review, not the proposal submitted by STAR, will govern what the highway looks like in 20 years, she said.

“They did submit a vision of what they thought I-81 could be and how they could finance it,” she said. But “when we entered into negotiations with STAR Solutions … [it was] not for them to necessarily to build truck-car separated lanes along the entire” length of I-81.

Regardless, $141 million is nothing to sneeze at.

“You can do something with that,” she said.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Republicans confident firearms issue will boost support for Kilgore; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

A U.S. Senate bill designed to protect gun manufacturers from some types of lawsuits would not be necessary if fewer elected officials were like Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.

That was the upshot of a conference call with three Republican delegates put together by the gubernatorial campaign of former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore on Friday.

S. 397 would prohibit lawsuits against gun manufacturers or dealers stemming from the misuse of their products. But the Senate would not have to bother with such measures if local officials would not try to use the courts to attack the Second Amendment, said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

“When he was the mayor of Richmond, Tim Kaine asked the city attorney for a legal opinion … to discern whether Richmond” could sue gun manufacturers.

Virginia law precluded such an action.

Even asking about the possibility of suing gun manufacturers is proof that Kaine is out of touch with Virginia voters, said Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton.

“This is one of our sacred values,” Saxman said. “To have these companies held liable for the activities of criminals is insane.”
Voters aren’t likely to forget that Kaine paid to send people to the Million Mom March in Washington in 2000, the delegates said. The rally was held to support stronger gun control laws.

Kaine later backed away from his support of the march, and told a radio talk show that he would like to have the support of both the gun rights and gun control lobbies.

Delacey Skinner, Kaine’s press secretary, has said repeatedly that the Democratic contender has the same position as Gov. Mark R. Warner and would not support any new gun laws.

That rings hollow, according to GOP delegates.

“It would appear that Mr. Kaine is desperately trying to play both sides of the issue,” said Del. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham.
“He wants to be for gun rights and then he wants to be against them,” Hurt said. Kaine “looks like he’ll just say anything to get elected.”

Residents of rural Virginia “take very much pride in the fact that they’re able to own” and use firearms.
“I think it really is a defining issue,” he said. “Where [Kilgore] is coming from is exactly where the people in Southside are coming from.”

The right to keep and bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment is “no less important now than it was” when the framers of the Constitution drafted it, Hurt said.

For that reason, he said, gun issues will bring voters over to Kilgore’s camp.

But the latest round of polling by Mason-Dixon Research found that voters don’t consider gun issues to be very important in this year’s election. Only 1 percent of those surveyed earlier this month said guns were foremost on their minds.
Issues like education funding (21 percent) and state taxes (17 percent) were far more important to voters, the poll said.

It’s not about guns, according to the Kaine campaign. It’s about avoiding uncomfortable questions about taxes and spending.

“The truth is, while Tim Kaine holds town hall meetings across Southwest Virginia this weekend to talk about education, jobs and moving Virginia forward, Jerry Kilgore is trying to change the subject by making things up about Tim Kaine’s record,” the campaign said in an e-mail to reporters issued just minutes after the Kilgore campaign’s conference call.

Some 57 percent of those polled said they are in favor of the 2004 tax package, which Kilgore and the balance of the GOP ticket opposed.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Attorney general hopeful backs plan to collect child support; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Owe back child support? Have a cell phone? The commonwealth might be getting in touch soon.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, told reporters Thursday that he supports and would work to expand the use of cell-phone subscriber information to track down parents who owe delinquent child-support payments.

Virginia’s Department of Social Services recently sent out administrative subpoenas to a number of wireless service providers in an effort to track down 48 of the commonwealth’s worst offenders.

“I’m not afraid to say I’m not the fount of all wisdom,” Deeds said, praising the department’s actions. Virginia already has relationships with banks and utility companies that child support investigators can use to track down parents who owe back support but can’t be located.

“The Department of Social Services has hit on another good idea,” he said. Coming to terms with cell service providers would be a great improvement on the current system.

The state can issue an administrative subpoena without a judge’s approval, but it would vastly improve the system if investigators could get the information through a streamlined process.

“We’ve got to continue the successful strategy of working with the private sector,” Deeds said. And while there are privacy concerns — people do have some expectation of privacy when they get cell service — those are trumped by the illegality of not paying child support.

“These are people who are … breaking the law,” he said. “If you’re trying to get that information for another purpose” privacy concerns could be justified, “but in this situation, you’re trying to enforce an existing legal obligation.”

Deeds again cited a $2 billion gap between what children are owed in Virginia and what they’ve been paid. Statistics, he said, show that one in three custodial parents who don’t get child support payments wind up on state assistance.

“Our Department of Social Services and our Department of Child Support Enforcement do an outstanding job,” he said, but “we have piled the work on for the Division of Child Support Enforcement.”

Parents who don’t pay “create more welfare dependency. There may be a legitimate reason for that. If there is, you go to court and you figure it out,” he said.

Deeds will face Republican candidate Del. Bob McDonnell of Virginia Beach in the Nov. 8 election.

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