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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Friday, September 30, 2005

Debate hope dwindles for Russ Potts; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — A poll released Friday might mark the beginning of the end for “Operation Upset.”

But it’s not over just yet, according to the independent gubernatorial campaign of H. Russell Potts Jr.

The Rasmussen Research poll found Republican Jerry Kilgore and Democrat Tim Kaine tied at 45 percent, with Potts at 5 percent.

The poll all but guarantees that the Winchester state senator won’t be included in the only televised, statewide debate, set for Oct. 9.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics set a 15 percent threshold for participation.

Only three polling firms have been regularly tracking the Virginia gubernatorial race.

With Rasmussen’s poll already in and no new poll from Mason-Dixon Polling and Research until after the debate, it’s unlikely that the independent candidate will get the two surveys needed to put him on the stage.

“Barring a major surprise, [Potts] will not be included in the televised debate scheduled for October,” pollster Scott Rasmussen said.

“I wouldn’t count on that,” said Tom D’Amore, Potts’ top political consultant. “It isn’t over till it’s over, and that’s not just bravado.

“We think we have earned a place” on the stage, he said. “We [don’t] think the 15 percent threshold makes any sense, and we didn’t agree to it or adhere to it. We think it borders on un-American.”

Potts’ campaign does have a trifecta of bad trends — low name recognition, a comparatively small bank account and no party affiliation, said Virginia Tech political scientist Craig Brians.

With less than $1 million raised at the Sept. 1 reporting deadline and a name recognized by less than 50 percent of voters according to Mason-Dixon, Potts has a tough row to hoe.

Candidates can overcome low name recognition with money or party affiliation. They can beat not having a party affiliation with money or high name recognition.

Just look at Ross Perot, Brians said.

“[Perot] was able to crack into double digits … by spending millions and millions of his own dollars,” he said.

Fame and a party letter beside the candidate’s name on the ballot can trump having poor fundraising, as people who don’t know the candidate vote party lines.

Regardless of the cause, the trend doesn’t appear to be good, according to Bill Shendow, director of the Marsh Institute at Shenandoah University.

“He’s actually losing some support,” he said. “Some people are saying it will be a lost vote.”

But at this late date, low name recognition without the massive financial resources to get the candidate’s name on the airwaves is the kiss of death for a campaign, Brians said.

That is, “unless one of the other two [other] candidates is really, really, really incompetent,” he said.

It’s simply hard to get people to donate when they don’t know who you are, Shendow said, and it’s hard to get noticed when

you can’t buy airtime.

“It’s kind of like Catch-22,” he said. An additional year of speeches and travel may have helped the Winchester native, who announced his campaign in February.

Kaine and Kilgore were acting like candidates long before they announced their candidacies.

“That might have helped him somewhat to be more of a known quantity,” Shendow said.

Getting into the debate would have been a boon to Potts’ campaign — a chance to present himself to a statewide audience and go after both of his opponents.

The 15 percent standard seems “arbitrary,” he said. But “I’m sure the organizers needed to set some kind of threshold.”

As always, there’s a chance that the growing conventional wisdom is wrong, according to Brians.

Polling at the state level is difficult to get right, Brians said, because it’s tough to predict who is going to show up at the polls on Nov. 8 and who won’t.

“There tend to be a lot of sampling problems with [lower-level polls],” he said. “National polls are generally much more accurate.”

But then again, “polls can be a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.

“Let’s say [Potts] really does” have a large, un-polled base of support.

“There’s no way to get at that number, because the poll is only a sample,” Brians said.

“If the poll disallows him to participate in his best source of publicity,” it could draw away fundraising, which would stifle additional advertising.

From there, things spiral downward toward the inaccurate poll number.

Potts addressed his candidacy’s viability during a debate with Kaine on WTOP radio Friday morning.

“The only way in the world you ever waste or throw your vote away is when you go in behind that curtain and you vote for somebody you don’t think is the best candidate for the job,” Potts said.

Kaine and Kilgore are spending millions, but that will work against them.

“This governor’s job is not for sale at any price,” he said. “I believe sincerely that voters in Virginia are going to reflect on this as we get closer to the polls.”

“The magic number is 34 [percent], and oh yes, we can win,” he said.

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Trail notes...

Police back Kilgore in governor’s race
RICHMOND — Three police organizations have endorsed Republican former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore in his bid for governor.

Kilgore was endorsed by the Virginia State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as the Law Enforcement Alliance of America and the Police Benevolent Association.

“Jerry Kilgore has always been there for the law enforcement community,” Tommy Stiles, president of the FOP lodge, says in a news release. “We have worked closely with him when he was in George Allen’s cabinet and while he served as Virginia’s Attorney General. He has enacted tougher laws that give police officers better ability to fight crime and keep our communities safe.”

“I am honored, and humbled, to have received these endorsements,” Kilgore says in the release. “I pledge today that, as Governor, I will be law enforcement’s ally in every fight. I will always look out for those who look out for all of us.

State firefighters endorse Kaine
VIRGINIA BEACH — The Virginia Professional Fire Fighters has endorsed Democrat Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine in his bid for governor.
Union president Mike Mohler cites Kaine’s experience as a mayor and lieutenant governor, among other qualifications.

“We can’t take Virginia back to the days when fire and EMS personnel were taken for granted,” Mohler says in a news release.

“The Warner-Kaine Administration has been a great partner for us. We need to keep Virginia moving forward. That’s why we enthusiastically and unanimously endorse Tim Kaine to be the next governor of Virginia.”

During the event, Kaine spoke about the impact of the 2004 budget agreement on public safety, including resources for fire and EMS professionals.

“Virginia’s safety lies in the hands of our fire and EMS professionals,” Kaine said. “We can’t afford to give the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect ours anything less than what they need to do their jobs.”

NRA gives backing to Deeds in race
RICHMOND — The National Rifle Association has endorsed state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, in his bid to become attorney general.

“During your 14 years as both a delegate and senator in the Virginia General Assembly, you have proven to be an advocate for law-abiding firearm owners, sportsmen, and hunters,” says Randy Kozuch, director of the NRA Institute for legislative action, in a letter to the campaign.

“Your impressive firearms-related voting record reflects a true understanding of, and concern for the issues facing law-abiding gun owners,” he wrote.

Deeds was a sponsor of the amendment to Virginia’s Constitution that protects the right to hunt and fish. He has received the NRA’s endorsement in previous elections and has consistently received “A” ratings as well.

“I am proud to once again accept the endorsement of the National Rifle Association and I am pleased that they continue to recognize my strong commitment to protecting the Second Amendment rights of all Virginians,” said Deeds.

NRA backs Gilbert for office
WOODSTOCK — The National Rifle Association has endorsed Shenandoah County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Todd Gilbert, the Republican candidate for the 15th District House of Delegates seat.

The seat, also being sought by former federal worker Jim Blubaugh of Rappahannock County, is being vacated by Del. Allen Louderback, R-Luray.

“Our members will interpret your ‘A’ rating and endorsement as being a solid, pro-Second Amendment/pro-hunting candidate who supports sportsmen and gun owners on every issue,” Joel Partridge, of the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, wrote in a letter to the campaign.

“I am proud to have the support of the nation’s leading organization dedicated to the rights of hunters and gun owners,” Gilbert says in a news release.

“I don’t think that the answer to gun violence is to turn law-abiding hunters and gun owners into criminals with oppressive new laws and restrictions,” he says.

"Criminals, by their very nature, will not be shy about breaking yet another law to achieve their evil intent. As a prosecutor, I know that the only way to effectively combat violent crime is to ensure punishment for those who commit it, especially with a firearm.”

— Daily Staff Reports

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Potts’ deadline for debate looming; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — “Operation Upset” is running out of time to get its candidate on to the stage. But there’s still some time left on the clock.

Independent gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, has a little over a week to qualify for the last gubernatorial debate before voters go to the polls.

Organizers of the Oct. 9 debate in Richmond have set a 15 percent threshold for participation. To be on the stage, candidates have to have tallied at 15 percent or more in two independent polls.

Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine and former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the GOP contender, have met the standard since the earliest days of the campaign, each taking home more than 30 points in every poll this year.

Potts, however, has yet to break into double digits since announcing his candidacy in February. A July Mason-Dixon survey found his support at 9 percent, but the campaign has dropped to anywhere from 4 percent to 6 percent in subsequent polls.

The cutoff for polling is Oct. 6 at 10 a.m., according to a spokesman for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, one of the debate’s sponsors.

The Potts campaign says it still thinks the only standard that should be used to include candidates in the debate is whether they’re on the ballot.

“This is [expletive],” said Tom D’Amore, Potts’ top consultant, on Wednesday. “We don’t accept that there ought to be an artificial threshold. I think it’s an embarrassment that an institution” like the Center for Politics would exclude Potts.

Press Secretary Mike McCall said he wasn’t aware of any contact between the Potts campaign and any of the firms monitoring the race.

Potts hasn’t been mathematically eliminated from the debate yet. There will be at least one more poll released before the deadline.

A spokesman for Rasmussen Research, one of the three firms that has been polling the Virginia race regularly, said the company does plan to release a poll in the next seven days.

Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which has produced two of the most anticipated polls of the campaign so far, said Tuesday that it has no plans to poll again until after the October throw-down — with one exception.

“If [Potts] gets one [poll at 15 percent], we’ll consider doing our [next poll] earlier in order to give him the opportunity to get the second set of numbers,” said J. Bradford Coker, the firm’s managing director.

SurveyUSA has also followed the race, producing polls for WSLS-TV in Roanoke and WUSA-TV in Washington. The Washington Post also commissioned a poll earlier this month.

The Oct. 9 melee will likely carry more weight than the two previous scrums this year between Kaine and Kilgore because of the potential audience.

Moderated by U.Va.’s Larry Sabato, the debate at WWBT-TV’s studios in Richmond will be broadcast live via satellite to any television station in the commonwealth that wants to carry it.

WVPT-TV, the public television station in Harrisonburg, will carry the broadcast live.

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Kaine, Kilgore negative TV attack ads not new politics; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

With less than six weeks until Election Day, the party-nominated candidates for governor have moved their fight to television.

Both Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine and Republican former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore have launched ads attacking each other’s record in markets around the state.

The ads are true, according to spokesmen for both campaigns. They say it’s their opponents who are being dishonest.

And it’s nothing unusual.

“Negative advertising is fundamental to politics, for the same reason that any kind of political discourse involves controversy,” said Craig Brians, an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech.

“If people only say good things about themselves, voters have no information about how to compare the candidates,” he said.

“Also, positive ads are incredibly boring.”

In Kaine’s ad “Slice,” a hand with a cake server carves generous portions of a three-layer cake labeled “Virginia Schools.”

“Jerry Kilgore wants to end the state lottery, slicing out 400 million dollars from local schools,” a female voice says over ominous-sounding music.

“Kilgore promised to repeal last year’s budget agreement taking another $1 billion away from our kids’ education,” the narration continues. “Any way you slice it, Jerry Kilgore will cut education.”

That’s just not true, according to the GOP candidate’s campaign.

Kilgore has said repeatedly that his opposition to the lottery when he first ran for attorney general in 1997 was based on the fact that it wasn’t being used for its stated purpose — education.

“I recognized that the lawmakers had broken trust with the citizens,” he said in an earlier interview with the Daily. “[Lottery proceeds] still hadn’t been rolled into education” in 1997.

After the GOP took control of the legislature in the late 1990s, though, “we rolled all those dollars” into education, Kilgore said, taking away any need to roll back the state’s most popular form of gambling.

“I have not encouraged a referendum on the lottery since then because now we’re being honest with our citizens,” he said.

It’s Kilgore, not Kaine’s ad “Slice,” who is being less than honest, Kaine spokesman Jeff Kraus said.

At the time, Kilgore told supporters he opposed the lottery on ethical grounds. He changed his tune in 2005 when confronted with the issue, Kraus said.

“He’s possibly one of the most disingenuous candidates in Virginia gubernatorial history,” Kraus said.

The same goes for the charge that Kilgore would roll back the 2004 tax hikes that moved another $1 billion or so per year into the state’s educational expenditures.

Camp Kilgore vehemently denies the charge.

“I’ve said it time and time again. I’m not going to re-battle the past,” Kilgore said at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce debate with Kaine earlier this month.

While campaigns call each other names, “negative ads tend to be much more accurate than positive ads,” Brians said.

“You do want to leave your viewers with the least positive impression of your opposition while you’re not technically saying anything untrue, so there’s a fine line to walk there,” he said.

Kilgore’s people give as good as they get.

In “Water,” a bucket labeled “Kaine Record” is put under a faucet and starts to fill. It springs a leak as a male narrator talks about the Democrat’s record.

“Tim Kaine’s claims about his record go beyond the pale,” the voice says. “He says he cut property taxes. But under Kaine, real estate tax bills increased, some as much as 40 percent.”

Kaine’s campaign admits that the tax bills went up while their candidate was mayor, but the tax rate went down. The difference is higher real estate values, a boon for homeowners, according to the campaign.

The two have been fighting over the definition of “tax cut” for the better part of the year.

Kilgore’s ad also takes aim at Kaine’s record on job creation, among other things.

“Jobs? The unemployment rate under Kaine actually increased by 47 percent,” the narrator says. “The Kaine record as mayor. It just doesn’t hold water.”

Unemployment did go up while Kaine was mayor. In July 1998, the rate was 4 percent, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. When he resigned to run for lieutenant governor in September 2001, it was 5.1 percent.

Figuring the percentage increase of the percentage isn’t misleading, according to Kilgore spokesman Tucker Martin.

“The percentages we used are the employment numbers,” Martin said. “If it reflects poorly on [Kaine], then that’s an issue that he’ll have to confront.”

Negative ads don’t have to draw a bright-line connection between the candidate and the negative information, Brians said. It’s just got to spill over into the voters’ perceptions.

“[Kilgore’s ad has] changed the conversation to unemployment, and your opponent’s name is linked to it,” he said. “The Kilgore message is reinforced by examining the claims.”

And then there’s independent candidate state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, whose single “pot banging” ad hasn’t seen a lot of airplay but has generated a lot of buzz on the Internet.

It’s not a traditional Virginia political ad, Brians said.

“It’s not traditional anything advertising,” he said. “I haven’t ever seen an ad just like that that was professionally produced.”

The ad starts with one man banging on a pot chanting “We want Potts.” It ends with a crowd of people in front of the old Frederick County Courthouse, beating on cookware demanding their candidate of choice.

In the last poll by Mason-Dixon, some 51 percent of likely voters didn’t recognize Potts’ name, even after garnering lots of publicity in trying to get into debates with Kaine and Kilgore.

“It certainly is a name recognition-building kind of ad,” Brians said. “It’s in kind of a country setting, he sounds and looks very different from the other two candidates who are very contemporary looking, kind of suburban.”

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blubaugh gets VEA support; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

The Democratic candidate in the 15th House of Delegates district picked up a statewide endorsement on Monday.

Jim Blubaugh, a Rappahannock County resident and former federal employee, was endorsed by the Virginia Education Association’s political action committee.

The PAC has supported the Democratic ticket in this year’s statewide offices, but has crossed party lines in some House of Delegates races. It even backed Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, twin brother of gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore.

“This is an outgrowth of our party-blind and issue-driven philosophy,” said VEA President Princess Moss. “We stand with those who stand for public education.”

Blubaugh is running against Shenandoah County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Todd Gilbert, the Republican nominee, to succeed retiring Del. Allen Louderback, R-Luray.

“[VEA’s endorsement was] really no surprise,” Gilbert said. “I don’t think anybody should be surprised that they’ve decided to endorse a big government Democrat in this race.”

“Education has been a significant part of my life and my life experience,” Gilbert said. His mother was a teacher for 30 years, and he was a substitute teacher for 6 years.

“I’m fully committed to accountability in education, better paid teachers,” he said. “I’m committed to cutting out first and foremost the waste in education.”

Money spent on bureaucracy should be routed to classrooms as much as possible, Gilbert said.

Blubaugh, meanwhile, took issue with plans to widen Interstate 81 through the Shenandoah Valley on Monday.

Some suggestions in front of the Virginia Department of Transportation, including a plan to build an eight-lane “truck way,” are just intended to turn the valley into an even bigger freight artery, he said.

“Is this all that we can come up with — more and more highway construction?” he said.

VDOT officials have said that an environmental study, not suggestions from corporations seeking to build the project, will dictate what the highway expansion looks like.

Tolling options would drive more trucks onto U.S. 11, which would make living in any of the small towns along the highway more difficult, Blubaugh said.

The Democrat said he supports rail options. More use of rail freight “offers more opportunities for jobs for Virginia’s men and women, far less pollution and a much greater degree of safety.”

I-81 expansion is a national security issue, he said.

“When I was at the CIA and State Department, I always saw our highways as a security concern,” Blubaugh said. “Our entire transport system in this country relies on trucks and a handful of key highways. This leaves us vulnerable.

“That is why I support greater law enforcement, widening for safety, more funding for safer on and off ramps and alternative transportation.”

Gilbert said his position is close to that of his opponent.

“I’m glad Mr. Blubaugh decided to get on board with what I’ve been saying for months. We don’t need a multi-billion dollar mega-highway running through the Shenandoah Valley,” he said.

“I’m also adamantly opposed to any of the toll schemes that have been put forward,” Gilbert said. “I don’t think people should have to pay for a road that they’ve already paid for once."

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Political notebook...

House Speaker Howell chides Warner over budget draft
RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner is months away from submitting his last budget to the General Assembly, but it’s already drawing fire from some legislators.

House of Delegates Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, issued a statement this week criticizing Warner’s base budget for the 2006-2008 biennium.

As drawn, the spending plan would cut some $290 million in transportation funding from last year’s budget as well as another $100 million for water quality improvement.

“The governor proudly signed these House Republican legislative initiatives into law just a few months ago,” Howell said.

“Not only are the administration’s actions misguided, but they also fail to recognize previous fund commitments by the General Assembly clearly expressed in the Code of Virginia.”

Howell said the administration appeared to be taking a “cavalier attitude toward the law.”

The administration shot back in the form of a memo from Director of Planning and Budgets Richard Brown. Base budgets are just a place to start the planning exercise.

“It has no other significance,” he wrote.

Wolf: No Katrina aid for casinos
WASHINGTON, D.C. — One local legislator is concerned about the extension of potential tax breaks to the gaming industry in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, said on the floor of the House of Representatives that plans to give tax breaks to businesses in the hurricane zone shouldn’t include casinos.

“I cannot believe the White House is planning to provide the gambling industry in the Gulf region with special tax breaks as part of its economic recovery package,” Wolf said.

“This is a disgrace. In the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, taxpayer dollars should be helping those in need . . . the poor, the vulnerable.”

Administration officials have said the government should play favorites when it comes to rebuilding. That rubs Wolf, who opposes the expansion of gambling, entirely the wrong way.

“The state of Mississippi does not even provide special economic development tax breaks for the gambling interests,” Wolf said.

“This is outrageous,” he added. “With budget deficits growing to historic levels, tax breaks for the gambling industry do not make sense. This special interest tax break can only make a tragic situation worse.”

Wolf sent a letter to President Bush later in the day.

“I trust you will do the right thing and make sure federal resources go to the poor, the needy and the vulnerable and not the gambling interests who already have insurance to cover catastrophic events like hurricanes,” he wrote.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Mason-Dixon: Downticket races still wide open; A1

This ran in Monday's issue as an addendum to the gubernatorial poll published here Sunday.

Further down the ticket, the races for attorney general and lieutenant governor remain very much open contests, according to the latest Mason-Dixon poll.

"With the governor's race still very competitive, it is hard to predict how these races might break," said J. Bradford Coker, the managing director of Mason Dixon polling and research. "The attention of most voters will likely continue to remain at the top of the ticket."

A large segment of voters do not recognize any of the four candidates.

Lieutenant governor
State Sen. Bill Bolling, R: 39 percent
Former Rep. Leslie Byrne, D: 36 percent
Undecided: 25 percent

Attorney general
State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D: 33 percent
Del. Bob McDonnell, R: 36 percent
Undecided: 31 percent

All four candidates have also reported their financial status as of Sept. 1.

Lieutenant governor
Received July-Aug.: $311,625
Spent July-Aug.: $149,455
Total Donations: $2.0 million
Cash on Hand: $226,249

Received July-Aug.: $280,749
Spent July-Aug.: $118,919
Total Donations: $801,625
Cash on Hand: $285,398

Attorney general
Received July-Aug.: $417,939
Spent July-Aug.: $180,639
Total Donations: $1.3 million
Cash on Hand: $833,625

Received July-Aug.: $609,686
Spent July-Aug.: $199,781
Total Donations: $2.7 million
Cash on Hand: $484,463

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Race to fill 15th District seat heats up

Editor's Note: This story contains a correction from an earlier version.

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

It’s a low-dollar affair compared to the top of the ticket, but the fight to succeed 15th District Del. Alan Louderback, R-Luray, is heating up.

At the end of the July-August reporting period, both candidates had raised appreciable sums.

Democratic nominee Jim Blubaugh, a business owner and retired federal executive, brought in some $38,000 over the two months, outpacing his Republican opponent, Shenandoah County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Todd Gilbert, by more than $18,000.

Gilbert brought in $20,400, but still has more than double the cash on hand of his Democratic rival — $48,310 to Blubaugh’s $20,280.

At the bottom line, Blubaugh’s campaign has raised a total of $52,317, while Gilbert’s campaign has raised $71,127.

“I’m very happy that so many people have contributed in large and small amounts, just as I am proud to have met so many people and have been able to hear their concerns and issues,” Blubaugh said. “It is clear that when people see the choice they have, they have rallied.”

Gilbert’s campaign manager, Wade Zirkle, expressed similar sentiments.

“We are very humbled by the generosity of the people in the 15th District who so strongly believe in Todd Gilbert’s unwavering conservative values,” Zirkle said.

“Many of these people have known Todd since he was a boy, and we are grateful for their continued commitment to Todd’s conservative principles,” he said. “We are very excited about the momentum we have going into the final seven weeks of the campaign.”

Blubaugh claims more individual donors than Gilbert — Gilbert’s report lists only about two dozen donors this reporting period, while Blubaugh claims more than 125. That number couldn’t be confirmed independently Friday, as the State Board of Elections had not yet made his report available.

Of Gilbert’s donors, the single largest check, $3,000, came from the Virginia Association of Dentists Political Action Committee in Richmond.

Both men seek to succeed Louderback, who is retiring at the end of his term.

The campaign to date has been very quiet.

Neither man has made a large number of public appearance, although Gilbert did appear with GOP gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore at an event last month.

Gilbert has since announced that he will leave the prosecutors’ office next month to focus on his campaign.

The 15th District takes in Shenandoah, Page and Rappahannock counties, along with a portion of Rockingham.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Mason-Dixon: Kilgore 41, Kaine 40, Potts 6

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Jerry Kilgore leads Tim Kaine by 1 percent in a Mason-Dixon poll released Sunday, reversing Kaine’s margin from July.

But it’s still anybody’s race.

The Republican former attorney general leads the Democratic lieutenant governor by a margin of 41 percent to 40 percent, with independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. pulling in 6 percent, according to the poll, which was conducted between Tuesday and Thursday. Some 13 percent of the 625 respondents were undecided.

A July poll found Kaine leading Kilgore 38 to 37 percent, with Potts polling at 9 percent. Sixteen percent said they were undecided.

On a regional basis, the Democratic campaign holds significant leads in its expected strongholds of Northern Virginia, 44 to 36 percent, and Hampton Roads, 42 to 38 percent.

Kilgore holds a strong lead in the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont, Roanoke and Southwest, percent and in Lynchburg and Southside, 44 to 39 percent.

Richmond is almost an even split at 41 percent for Kilgore and 40 percent for Kaine.

“Nothing’s really moving,” said J. Bradford Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director. “Potts has slipped, [but] that really been about the only major change I’ve seen.”

Both party-backed candidates continue to pull support from voters who identify with the hopeful’s party. Self-identified independent voters, always the ‘swing’ voters in Virginia elections, are currently supporting Kaine over Kilgore, 36 to 32 percent.

Back in Winchester, Potts’ self-styled “Operation Upset” has seen its decline due largely to a loss of support among self-identified Republicans. In July, some 8 percent of that category went to Potts. In September, that figure was 3 percent.

Those voters have largely thrown their support to Kilgore, and are responsible for his slight move upward, Coker said.

“Right now I don’t see [Potts] as anything other than spoiler,” he said.

With less than two months to Election Day, it’s crunch time for Potts. A new round of TV ads is scheduled to hit the air this week. But getting on the air in Northern Virginia, where Potts’ transportation message has the most traction, is tough.

The Washington television market is notoriously expensive, and Potts had yet to crack the $1 million mark, according to his Sept. 15 fundraising report.

“It’ll be interesting to see if he can move the numbers,” Coker said. “If this TV [buy] doesn’t get him moving, he’ll be a non-factor by the time the third debate rolls around.”

Calls to the Potts campaign for comment weren’t immediately returned.

Both Kaine and Kilgore have some heavy endorsements behind them — President Bush and Gov. Mark R. Warner.

A poll released Saturday found President Bush’s job approval in Virginia under 50 percent for the first time, and Warner’s popularity at near-record levels.

But neither may have that much of a pull on his favored gubernatorial candidate.

Some 72 percent of voters in general and undecided voters said Bush’s endorsement would have “no effect” on their decision.

Meanwhile, 73 percent of voters and 75 percent of undecided voters said Warner’s endorsement of Kaine would also have “no effect.”

Mason-Dixon’s phone banks started just a couple of hours after Potts and Kaine left the second debate stage in McLean. But such things are hard to measure, according to Coker.

“I don’t know what effect it had,” he said.

The debate didn’t get a wide television audience outside of Northern Virginia.

Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the poll confirmed what they’ve known all along — it’s a tough race, but they’re winning.

"We didn't put much stock in the first Mason-Dixon poll" that showed Kaine leading, he said, adding that they don't have much more faith in this one.

“Poll after poll, we have maintained a consistent lead. That said, we’re taking absolutely nothing for granted in any part of the state,” he said. “We’re going to continue to run as if we’re 10 points down.”

Over at Camp Kaine, the reaction reflected the results: in line with expectations.

“I think over the course of the next month and a half there are going to be polls that show us up and polls that show us down,” said Delacey Skinner, Kaine’s press secretary.

“This is very tight race, it’s neck and neck race. I think it shows how important this decision is for Virginians.”

Election Day is Nov. 8

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Other questions from the Mason-Dixon poll

In terms of services you receive, how would you categorize the state taxes you pay in the Commonwealth of Virginia?

Much too high: 19 percent
Little too high: 25 percent
About right: 47 percent
Too low: 5 percent
Not sure: 4 percent

In order to improve transportation in Virginia, which one of the following options do you support?

28 percent — Use the state budget surplus to fund road construction
17 percent — Increase funding for public transportation
13 percent — Raise and expand tolls to fund road construction
8 percent — Raise the state gas tax to fund road construction
3 percent — Cut other parts of the state budget to fund road construction
12 percent — There is no need to increase transportation spending
19 percent — Other/Not sure

Do you feel the Standards of Learning, generally known as SOL, have improved the quality of public education?
Yes: 32 percent
No: 44 percent
Not sure: 24 percent

Which one of the following endorsements would most influence your decision regarding which candidate to support in the race for governor?

Gov. Mark R. Warner: 23 percent
Sen. George Allen: 12 percent
President George W. Bush: 10 percent
Mayor and former Gov. Doug Wilder: 8 percent
Sen. John Warner: 7 percent
Former Sen. and Gov. Chuck Robb: 3 percent
None would influence: 34 percent
Not sure: 3 percent

— Source: Mason Dixon Polling and Research. Margin of error plus or minus 4 percent.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mason-Dixon poll: Views of Bush shift in Va.; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

President Bush’s popularity has taken a beating in Virginia as of late, according to a new poll by Mason-Dixon Research.

Of 625 registered voters polled between Tuesday and Thursday, only 42 percent said his job performance was “excellent” or “good.” Some 20 percent rated him as “fair,” while 37 percent rated his job performance as “poor.”

Hurricane Katrina and Iraq seem to be the big drivers behind the slide, according to Mason-Dixon managing director J. Bradford Coker.

“For the first time since he was elected to the presidency, President George W. Bush’s overall job performance rating from Virginia voters has taken a serious hit,” he said.

In March 2001, Virginia’s voters gave Bush a combined 58 percent excellent or good rating. In October 2004, those numbers were still above water at 54 percent.

The Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont give Bush his highest marks in the state, with 49 percent in the excellent or good column. Northern Virginia has the dimmest view of his performance, with 44 percent rating his performance as poor.

Major groups tend to skew toward traditional lines. Bush does better among men than women, better among whites than blacks and much better among self-identified Republicans than Democrats and independents.

“While Bush has his share of problems, state voters do not seem to be completely abandoning him,” Coker said.
Virginia would be happy with Judge John Roberts as the next chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the poll.

Some 59 percent of those surveyed said they support his confirmation to the high court, while only 16 percent said they oppose it.

Another 25 percent were undecided.

Voters still haven’t made up their mind about the Patriot Act, though, according to the survey. Bush has said the Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of Sept. 11 terror attacks, should be renewed.

It gave the government new powers to investigate and stop terrorism, including the power to do “sneak and peek” searches and the ability to look at a suspect’s library and bookstore records with a warrant from a secret federal court.

Some 44 percent said they support the act, while 38 percent oppose it. Eighteen percent were undecided.

Among other results:

• A majority of Virginia’s voters, 54 percent, don’t ap-prove of the president’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Another 38 percent said they do approve, while 8 percent were undecided.

Voters are also unsure of the commonwealth’s ability to respond in case of a disaster in Virginia. Only 32 percent said they felt state and local officials were “adequately prepared to deal with a major disaster or emergency.”
Another 38 percent said they felt Virginia’s governments weren’t ready, while 30 percent said they weren’t sure.

• Bush’s Iraq policy has gone underwater with Virginia voters. Some 52 percent say they disapprove of the president’s handling of Iraq, while 40 percent approve and 8 percent are undecided.

• The jury is still out on the Bush administration’s handling of the economy. An evenly split 46 percent approve and disapprove of his economic policy, while 8 percent are undecided.

• Voters in the Old Dominion still favor Bush’s handling of the war on terror — 56 percent approve, while 36 percent disapprove.

• Virginia voters don’t see race as a factor in problems with the response to Hurricane Katrina, by 80 percent to 13 percent.
Among blacks polled, 33 percent said race was a factor, 48 said it wasn’t. Another 19 percent said they weren’t sure.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Campaigning by the numbers...

Rasmussen Reports poll, 9/14/2005

Results without Potts, with Potts

Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D)
41 percent, 40 percent

Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R)
44 percent, 43 percent

“Other,” state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester (I)
5 percent, 5 percent

How do voters view the current governor, potential replacements?
Gov. Mark R. Warner (D)
Liberal: 26 percent
Centrist: 45 percent
Conservative: 23 percent

Liberal: 33 percent
Conservative: 21 percent

Liberal: 10 percent
Conservative: 57 percent

Do you agree with the statement: “Voter approval be required for all tax increases in the state of Virginia.”
Agree: 59 percent
Disagree: 35 percent

Should taxpayer dollars be used to fund day laborer shelters that can be used by both illegal and legal aliens to assemble and find work?
Yes: 18 percent
No: 71 percent

Was the 2004 budget deal and $1.6 billion tax hike good for the state or bad for the state?
Good: 46 percent
Bad: 38 percent

— Source: Rasmussen Research. Margin of error plus-or-minus 4.5 percent.

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Kilgore still leads in poll; A1

Candidates report July-August financial data

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Closer and closer. Higher and higher.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore still holds a lead over Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, but it’s now within the margin of error, according to a poll released Friday by Rasmussen Research.

Meanwhile, both party-backed candidates continue to rake in millions of dollars in contributions.

Kilgore’s lead, which in Rasmussen surveys was at 6 percent as recently as August, is down to 3 percent. Kilgore nets 44 percent, Kaine 41 percent and 5 percent say they’ll vote for some other candidate.

When the question is asked with independent candidate state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, thrown into the mix, things don’t change much.

Kilgore still holds a 3 point lead, but both candidates lose some ground to Potts, 43 percent to 40 percent, respectively, with Potts polling at 5 percent. Another 2 percent say they’ll vote for some other candidate.

The poll, conducted on Wednesday night, was done a full day after the three candidates debated in two events in McLean, and likely reflects some of the fallout, Rasmussen said.

Observers said Kaine generally performed far better than Kilgore in their second head-to-head contest this year.

While the race may have narrowed since his last survey, both party-backed candidates can take some solace in the poll’s internal results.

Some 46 percent of likely voters said the 2004 budget deal, which raised taxes by $1.6 billion, was good for the state. Those voters break for Kaine by almost a 2-to-1 margin.

Another 38 percent said it was bad for the state. Those voters break for Kilgore by a similar margin.

Rasmussen asked voters about where they saw the two leading gubernatorial hopefuls on the political spectrum, and the results hewed closed to the expected lines.

Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner, who currently enjoys a 70 percent favorability rating, is perceived by most to be a centrist, with responses in a near-perfect Bell curve — 26 percent say Warner is a liberal, 45 percent say he’s a centrist and 23 percent say he’s a conservative.

Kaine’s numbers skew a bit to the left, with 33 percent saying he’s a liberal, 21 percent saying he’s a conservative. Kilgore’s numbers skew to the right. Some 57 percent of voters say he’s conservative, while 10 percent say he’s a liberal.

Meanwhile, Kilgore has pulled ahead of Kaine on two major money fronts for the first time — cash-on-hand and cash raised during the period.

Financial reports covering July and August were due at the close of business Thursday, and both party candidates reported lots of seven-digit numbers.

Camp Kilgore raked in the most cash during the period, $3.2 million to Kaine’s $2.2 million. Kilgore also has more in the war chest, $6.8 million to $5.7 million.

“This is yet another indication of the growing momentum around our campaign,” Kilgore said in a e-mail to reporters. “From the polls, to the grassroots, to fundraising, everything continues to look positive as we head toward Election Day.”

Kaine has still outraised Kilgore, $12.3 million to $11.9 million, and continues to spend more than his GOP opponent, $6.6 million to $5.1 million in this election cycle.

Kaine campaign manager Mike Henry said the campaign was thankful for Virginians’ financial support.

“Virginians know how much better off our Commonwealth is today than it was four years ago,” he said in an e-mail. “They appreciate the leadership the Warner-Kaine Administration is providing.”

Back in Winchester, “Operation Upset” is back off the financial ropes, but still far behind its two competitors.

At the end of June, Potts’ campaign had just over $135,000 left in the bank.

But the fundraising spigots opened, and the campaign took in more than $518,000 over the past two months on expenditures of $190,000. That leaves a total war chest of some $463,500 with just under two months to go until Election Day.

The lion’s share of that fundraising came from Potts’ most prolific donor, Lloyd Ross of Middleburg, who founded the Dallas-based Tuesday Morning retail chain.

Ross doubled his total donations to the Potts campaign, writing a check for $300,000 to the campaign Aug. 29. Of the $909,163 the campaign has reported in donations so far, Ross has donated $600,000.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Candidates blast track records; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

McLEAN — Tim Kaine and Russ Potts finally found some bad things to say about each other.

The Democratic lieutenant governor and Republican state senator turned independent gubernatorial candidate took the stage together on Tuesday afternoon about an hour after Kaine’s debate with GOP gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore concluded.

Potts had reserved virtually all of his criticisms in the campaign for Kilgore until Tuesday’s event. But at the Virginia Education Forum, the gloves came off.

“If you’re looking for [Gov. Mark R.] Warner II, you’re more likely to get it with Russ Potts than Tim Kaine,” Potts said. He also criticized Kaine for not being a more vocal advocate for education and other spending priorities while he was president of the Virginia Senate.

“My track record is superseded by no other legislator,” Potts said.

Potts also painted himself as “Governor Warner’s go-to guy” for important legislation in the Senate.

“It was Russ Potts’ bill that got rid of the food tax,” he said, while Kaine “only cast two votes” in his career.

The Winchester native also attacked Kaine for campaigning on his close ties to Warner.

“There you go again, Tim,” Potts said. “Mark and I.”

“There’s no mouse in your pocket,” he said.

Kaine responded in kind.

“I didn’t see Russ at any cabinet meetings. Russ needs to learn more about my record,” Kaine said. “I was a local official, where the rubber really meets the road.”

While Potts was passing bills, Kaine said, he was in local government getting things done.

“If Russ defines leadership as who goes to more committee meetings, Russ goes to more committee meetings,” he said.

The fact that there are two candidates in the race that claim the Republican label is instructive, Kaine said. Potts and Kilgore represent a fundamental split in the Virginia GOP, something that would keep either man from getting things done in Richmond.

Potts also had harsh words for Kilgore, who has refused to debate Potts unless he garners 15 percent in two polls before a scheduled October meeting, calling him “Casper the friendly ghost” on more than one occasion.

Kilgore and Potts did meet, albeit briefly, before the Kaine-Kilgore debate as the crowd shuffled to find their seats. The two shook hands and exchanged what appeared to be a few pleasant words before parting.

While the Potts-Kaine session was far more collegial in tone than the Kaine-Kilgore session that preceded it, there was some vitriol evident toward the end.

Potts blasted Kaine for proposing new programs that require money.

“It is absolutely immoral to tell people that you’re going to do all these things,” Potts said, referring to proposals like Kaine’s pre-kindergarten initiative. “We simply can’t do that and fix our roads.”

Kaine fired back, taking issue with Potts’ assertion that he’s “the only candidate out there telling the truth.”

“I think it’s insulting for you to go around and say that you’re the only one in this race telling the truth,” Kaine said.

Kaine seized on Potts’ wording, and said its proof that he’s the only candidate that can get things done. Somebody who goes around hurling charges can’t build a workable coalition.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Debate moderator keeps Kaine, Kilgore on task; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

McLEAN — Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine came to Northern Virginia prepared to slug it out over transportation Tuesday.

But the two major party gubernatorial candidates wound up throwing the most punches over abortion and taxes during a debate sponsored by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce.

Neither candidate strayed far from their talking points, often completely avoiding questions from a panel of three Northern Virginia broadcasters.

But moderator Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet The Press” pressed both men on issues of life and death, drawing the most memorable exchanges of the afternoon.

On the topic of abortion, the Republican Kilgore did his best to avoid very specific questions, saying he’d stay within the guidance of any new U.S. Supreme Court decisions, but not making a definitive statement.

“I’m a pro-life candidate running for governor. I don’t try to be two things to all people,” he said, taking a swipe at Kaine, a Democrat who has said he is pro-life for religious reasons but wouldn’t act to outlaw the practice.

Kilgore has supported “reasonable safeguards to this arena. Making sure parents were there with their minor daughters the entire period,” he said. But “I’ve never supported criminalizing women.”

Kaine saw an opening and took a shot, hammering away on Kilgore’s past statements where he has either said directly or strongly implied that he would ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life or health of the mother.

“I will veto any legislation that criminalizes women and their doctor’s decision,” Kaine said.

Kilgore demurred when asked for a yes or no answer, saying he wouldn’t answer a hypothetical question. Russert pressed the issue.

“If the legislature passed a tax increase, would you sign it?” Russert asked.

“I would veto a tax increase,” Kilgore said.

“That’s a hypothetical question,” Russert said, drawing raucous applause and laughter from the crowd.

Both men hit transportation issues hard and often.

“I’ll be a governor that gets transportation moving again in this region,” Kilgore said, pledging to veto any attempt to take money from the state transportation trust fund.

He repeatedly pledged to work to widen Interstate 66 inside the beltway and champion another crossing of the Potomac River.

Kilgore also came out with guns blazing for Kaine, starting with his past support of a gasoline tax hike.

“Asking Virginia families to pay more for a gallon of gas than they presently do is unconscionable,” he said.

The candidates also went round and round on the 2004 budget deal — Kaine lambasting Kilgore’s opposition, Kilgore faulting Kaine for his support.

“You have to ask yourself a question. Is Virginia better off as a state after four years of a Warner-Kaine administration?” Kaine said.

Kilgore’s opposition to the plan, which “pulled [Virginia] out of a fiscal ditch” shows that he doesn’t understand the state, Kaine said.

“He has said he wants to undo the damage” done by the 2004 tax package, Kaine said. “If you don’t know success when it’s looking you in the face, you can’t be a leader.”

“Just admit it, Tim, you raised taxes,” Kilgore said. “He’s afraid to say, ‘I raised your taxes,’ because he understands” that Virginians don’t support the $1.6 billion tax hike.

He also faulted Kaine’s claim to a “Warner-Kaine” administration.

“He broke ties in the Senate, folks. That was his only duty,” he said. “I know the governor would be surprised to hear that you took credit” for the 2004 budget deal.

But rolling back the tax hike is like asking to “roll back higher SAT scores, roll back being the best managed state in America and roll back our triple-A bond rating,” Kaine answered.

He also defended his decision not to take an anti-tax pledge.

“I’m going to take my oath of office, but that’s the only oath I’m going to take,” he said.

Kaine also claimed partial credit for changes at the Virginia Department of Transportation, telling Kilgore the agency “had been managed by your campaign manager into the ground.”

The 1 p.m. debate was the main event of the day, but not the only political fight on the card. Kaine later debated independent gubernatorial candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester, in another room.

Kilgore has repeatedly refused to debate Potts, saying he would only take the stage with candidates who have a chance of winning the Nov. 8 election.

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Potts introduces $2 billion plan to improve state transportation; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

It’s not a cheap plan, but H. Russell Potts Jr. says his $2 billion blueprint to fix transportation is the only one that will get traffic rolling again.

Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester turned independent gubernatorial candidate, rolled out his much anticipated transportation document at a press conference in Richmond on Monday.

And true to his word, everything is on the table.

The plan includes a potential for hikes of 1 percentage point in the general sales and motor vehicle sales taxes, interstate tolls, a $1 per pack tobacco tax, income tax increases for Virginians with an adjusted gross income of more than $100,000 per year and other increases.

Anyone who might “think there’s a free lunch and you’re going to build these roads for Green Stamps” is mistaken, Potts said in an interview after the press conference.

Still, at a cost of $2 billion per year, the fixes would cost $1.03 per licensed driver per day.

Much of the projects Potts say should be a priority are concentrated in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

“From a terrorism and transportation standpoint, we have tremendous vulnerability in Hampton Roads and the nation’s capital” area, Potts said. Evacuations would be difficult in the event of an attack or major hurricane.

But the valley hasn’t been left out.

“A key ingredient in the plan which we say we’ll start to work on July 1, 2006, is I-81,” Potts said.

Work could begin quickly on environmental impact statements for rail expansion and the addition of truck lanes at trouble spots along the 323-mile highway.

New distribution centers being built now by Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy will add more than 600,000 trucks per year to the corridor in the immediate future, he said.

It won’t be easy getting $2 billion in tax increases through the General Assembly.

The proposed tax increases are “basically a smorgasbord that we’d take to the General Assembly,” he said. Any combination could be used to get the required funding.

While 30 of 40 senators back action like he has recommended, Potts said, the House of Delegates is much more conservative when it comes to tax increases.

Friction between the two chambers held up the 2004 budget deal for weeks. But it can be done, thanks to support from the Senate, Potts said.

“We will be able to place enormous pressure on the House of Delegates,” he said.
Fiscal reality is on his side, he added.

“There was no way in the name of God that you can fix this out of the general fund,” he said. Any candidate that says they can fund transportation fixes out of the state’s common revenues isn’t telling the whole story.

“What are you going to cut out of higher education” and other spending priorities, he asked.

“Kilgore has a regional referendum plan” that could lead to do “eight-lane highways running into two-lane highways,” he said.

Potts also took a shot at Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, who has said he wouldn’t support tax hikes for transportation until the money could be safeguarded from raids by the General Assembly.

“Kaine’s ‘Al Gore lockbox theory’” would force the problem on the next governor, Potts said.

Potts is set to debate Kaine today in McLean. Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Kilgore says his views are common sense; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

His gubernatorial opponents brand his positions as anti-education, soft on illegal drugs and wrong on fiscal policy.

But former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore says his views reflect common sense — and his Southwest Virginia background.

His Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, and others have made much of the fact that Kilgore, the Republican nominee, has reservations about mandatory restrictions on pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter congestion remedy also used to make methamphetamine.

Gov. Mark R. Warner and the GOP House of Delegates leaders announced plans for such rules earlier this month.
Kaine has radio ads running in some markets charging that Kilgore’s support from the pharmaceutical industry, about $500,000 in the last published financial report, are behind his position.

That’s simply not true, Kilgore said in an exclusive interview with The Northern Virginia Daily on Friday.

“I’m the only candidate in this race for governor that has even put forth legislation and led on fighting methamphetamine,” he said. As attorney general, he championed stiff penalties for those who “cook” meth around children.

His “Meth Watch” program won praise from the federal government — and law enforcement quarters of the Warner administration.

But in places like Kilgore’s native Scott County, a late-night run for cold medicine can be an ordeal. Forcing consumers to buy only from a pharmacy would send many in his hometown of Gate City into Tennessee.

“I guess I’m the only one in this race looking out for rural Virginians,” he said. “I can support a mandatory plan that can takes [rural concerns] into consideration,” he said. Kilgore added that he’s won promises from House of Delegates Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, that a task force crafting legislation will keep rural issues in mind.

“The one person who has been AWOL on this issue consistently has been Tim Kaine.”

On the fiscal front, Kilgore wants nothing less than to completely rethink the way Richmond collects and spends money.

“We’re not going to hire agency heads that believe in the spend down model of budgeting, that you have to spend every dime in your budget or you’re going to get penalized in next year’s budget cycle,” he said.

Instead, agency heads will told to save money as they can. Leftovers at the end of the year would go two places — 25 percent for one-time bonuses in the department, 75 percent for capital projects like roads.

That includes changing the tax relationship between local governments and the state.

Now, “50 percent of the money goes back to localities [from Richmond], why does 50 percent of the money need to come from there in the first place?” he asked. “If it just needs to come [to Richmond] for [the state] to take our 20 percent, that’s not a good enough reason.”

The campaign has proposed its share of new spending during the race — more than $1 billion according to some accounts.

Kilgore has proposed spending millions on the Virginia Health Care Foundation and higher pay for better qualified teachers, and using general fund dollars to help pay for transportation improvements.

The candidate says he’ll look for ways to trim unneeded or duplicated programs to offset the costs of some of his proposals.

“I’m going to form a watchdog commission on day one, that’s going to be charged with seeking out efficient and effective government,” he said. That will include looking at the 2002 Wilder Commission report, which found some $750 million in possible savings.

One example is work force training. The state currently has 11 agencies deal with some form of work force training, according to Kilgore.

“Why do we need 11? We need one. Community colleges seem to be the places that can do this the best,” he said.

His administration also would consider and audit of all state services for efficiency.

Kilgore steadfastly refused to back away from his opposition of the 2004 budget deal, which raised taxes by $1.6 billion. Some 57 percent of respondents in a July Mason-Dixon poll said they supported the deal.

But the question was an easy one to say “yes” to, he said.

“Let’s be fair,” he said. “Ask Virginians if they favor the most massive tax increase in history when their leaders knew that the economy was growing and we were going to see a huge surplus.”

That’s one thing that would change quickly on his watch, Kilgore said.
“We’ve been totally unable down in Richmond to conduct forecasting. I know where to go to get control of the process at Planning and Budget, and our finance agencies,” he said.

At the same time, Kilgore said he wouldn’t undo the 2004 package in total.

“I’m not going to re-battle the battles of the past, but what I am going to do is have targeted tax relief,” he said, including tax credits for business development in Southside and Southwest, plus an end to the estate tax. He also supports finishing the roll back of the car tax.

Charges by opponents that his position makes him anti-education and anti-law enforcement are just a “tired old liberal tax-and-spend argument.”

“Anytime someone wants to give more money back to the people, they say you’re anti-education, anti-law enforcement, anti-everything under the sun,” he said. “That doesn’t hold water, people are smarter than that.”

“Raising taxes does not equal leading,” he said. “Raising taxes does not mean being effective.”

Kilgore has changed course on two fiscal matters in recent years — real estate taxes and the lottery.

In 2003, two bills came before the General Assembly that would of have capped local real estate tax rate increases at 5 percent per year. At the time, Kilgore told The Virginian-Pilot that the bills weren’t a good idea.

“I don’t think that moves the ball any further,” he said. “We don’t need to needlessly meddle in local government.”

In the 2005 campaign, Kilgore has made changes to real estate taxes a centerpiece of his agenda. Under Kilgore’s plan, localities would be allowed to increase assessments only 5 percent per year — making the maximum increase 20 percent every four years.

Local governments would still be free to set rates as they see fit following a public hearing.

The difference between 2003 and now, Kilgore’s campaign has said, is that the earlier legislation would have tampered with tax rates rather than holding the line on assessments. And now there is a need, Kilgore said Friday.

“At that time, we hadn’t seen the assessments skyrocket like they have over the last year,” Kilgore said. “You don’t need to needlessly meddle in local government, but when there’s a need to get involved, when they abuse their power, you’ve got to get involved from the state level.”

Massive increases around the state in the past year are simply out of line, Kilgore said.

“Those assessments came out and people were in sticker shock,” he said.

Kilgore also has changed his view of the Virginia Lottery.

Democrats have repeatedly hit Kilgore over his position on the lottery during his first, unsuccessful run for attorney general in 1997. During that campaign, Kilgore said he supported a repeal of the then 10-year-old lottery.

Kilgore said he favored repealing the lottery then, but only because it hadn’t been committed to education as promised during the 1987 campaign to enact it.

“I recognized that the lawmakers had broken trust with the citizens,” he said. “[Lottery proceeds] still hadn’t been rolled into education.”

After the GOP took control of the legislature in the late 1990s, though, “we rolled all those dollars” into education, taking away any need to roll back the state’s most popular form of gambling.

Voters have approved a constitutional amendment since then that requires that all lottery proceeds must go to fund schools.

“I have not encouraged a referendum on the lottery since then because now we’re being honest with our citizens,” he said. “We’re keeping the promise we made.”

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Politicians, signs abound at 2005 Hob Nob in the Valley; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — If the signs were any indication, Friday was Election Day. But not quite.

The mass of campaign signs, politicians and voters, though, were in place for the 2005 Hob Nob in the Valley, a joint project of the Winchester-Frederick County and Front Royal-Warren County chambers of commerce.

Local and state politicians were elbow-to-elbow all the way across the lawn at Shenandoah University’s pharmacy school on Friday, as the business community and public got a chance to just chat it up in a non-partisan event.

The largest and most obvious entourage of the evening belonged to former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore.

Flanked by supporters wearing brilliant orange T-shirts — and followed by volunteers carrying “Kilgore for Governor” signs — the Republican nominee was hard to miss.

“Any time I need to feel great about this campaign I need to come to the valley,” he said. “This is a place where we’re getting lots of support.”

Kilgore had some fun when asked what it was like campaigning in the backyard of an opponent.

“Tim Kaine doesn’t live here,” Kilgore said, drawing laughs from the crowd. “He was the mayor of Richmond.”

The target of Kilgore’s jab, independent candidate state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, wasn’t at the event himself, but did have a strong presence there.

Kilgore said his flock of supporters at the event speaks to his strength in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, and the way the campaign has been run.

“It’s all about grass roots,” he said. “If you don’t have people on the ground, you’re not going to get your folks out to the polls.”

Former U.S. Rep. Leslie Byrne of Falls Church, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, carried the banner for her party.

Friday’s event was one of Byrne’s first trips to the Northern Shenandoah Valley during her run for the state’s highest-ranking part time job.

“I’ve been here as a visitor, I’ve never been here as a statewide candidate,” she said. “It’s a little different perspective. I’m just happy it’s not raining on us.”

Events like Hob Nob are a good chance for average people to bend the ears of those in — or seeking — higher office, and those in attendance had plenty to say.

“People are very interested in our health care plan, where we open the state employee health insurance pool to allow small businesses to buy into it,” she said.

People are also talking about gas prices, Byrne said. That’s why she sent a letter to Gov. Mark R. Warner on Thursday asking him to devote more resources to the commonwealth’s gas pump watchdogs.

“The [Office of Product and Industry Standards] currently has 24 field testers for the entire Commonwealth — and five testers each week work primarily on motor fuels weights and measures,” she wrote in the letter, released to the press Friday.

“I believe that with the price of gasoline at or above $3, the temptation to cut corners is greater and so our enforcement must show a commensurate increase,” she wrote.

The massive sea of orange didn’t bother her, either, she said.

“You can import a lot of people, but you need natives who care a lot about this kind of event, and I think I see a lot of them, too,” she said. “The folks here care about politics, and whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, it’s good to see people participate.”

But it wasn’t just statewide candidates pressing the flesh Friday. Local candidates for constitutional offices in Winchester and Board of Supervisors in Frederick County also made the rounds, albeit with fewer signs.

“This event is perennially a very Republican event, but I run as a Democrat,” said Rusty Holland, the party’s nominee for the Shawnee seat on the Frederick board. Holland hopes to unseat incumbent Republican Gene Fisher.

Hob Nob is a political event, but it’s not about party affiliation, he said.

“I’m here not as a Republican or a Democrat,” he said. “But I’m here as a member of the community coming out to see some of my [potential] constituents and friends.”

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Kaine: Kilgore soft on meth; B3

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine’s campaign has opened a new front in the fight for the governor’s mansion — methamphetamine.

The Democratic gubernatorial nominee has a new radio ad in circulation that accuses his Republican opponent, former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, of opposing meth control measures because drug companies contribute to his campaign.

“[Kilgore has] done little to stop our biggest drug problem,” Montgomery County Sheriff J.T. “Tommy” Whitt says in the ad titled “Sheriff.”

Speaking over sedate acoustic strings, Whitt defends Kaine’s stand on guns, before laying into Kilgore over methamphetamine.

“Jerry Kilgore sided with his big contributors in the pharmaceutical industry and fought common sense controls on the drugs used to make methamphetamine, the biggest crime problem we face here in rural Virginia,” Whitt says.

“If Jerry Kilgore can’t stand up to his campaign contributors to fight dangerous drugs, he’s not strong enough to be governor of this great commonwealth of Virginia.”

The new ad follows on the heels of last week’s enforcement announcements from Richmond.

Gov. Mark R. Warner, the Democratic incumbent, signed an executive order last Thursday directing state agencies to come up with a plan to restrict sales of products containing pseudoephedrine.

The order looks much like legislation enacted in Tennessee and Oklahoma, although details of how stores will register purchases of the cold medicine and how much consumers will be allowed to buy have yet to be worked out.

Republican leaders in the House of Delegates said the same day that they have started working on legislation that would give the temporary directive the force of law.

Warner ordered the government to have rules in place by Oct. 1.

Kaine’s campaign pounced on the announcement, steering reporters to statements Kilgore made in January in which he said he preferred a voluntary program like Meth Watch to mandatory restrictions.

Both the ad and Kaine’s campaign statements are just flat wrong, according to the Kilgore campaign.

Mandatory programs are “the next logical step” after Kilgore’s Meth Watch program, said spokesman Tucker Martin. Meth Watch encourages retailers to report suspicious purchases of meth-making supplies to law enforcement.

“We support mandatory programs, so long as we assure that rural residents can still access the cold medicine that they need,” Martin said.

Growing up in Scott County, where getting many goods and services requires a trip over the state line, is the big reason Kilgore is cautious about restrictions, Martin said.

Tennessee requires the cold pills to be purchased from a pharmacist. For many in rural Virginia, that restriction would require a major trek if they need the pills after regular business hours.

“Over the past four years, nobody has done more to fight meth than Jerry Kilgore,” Martin said, citing Meth Watch and a number of bills creating tougher penalties for the manufacturing of meth and making the drug around children.

“The only person who has done nothing is Tim Kaine. He doesn’t have a single piece of legislation he can show that did anything to fight meth,” Martin said.

Kilgore is far and away the money leader when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry. At the close of the June 30 reporting period, Kilgore had taken almost $496,000 from the pharmaceutical industry, compared to Kaine’s $15,000.

Of that, $400,000 came from the Gregory family of Sullivan County, Tenn., which founded and ran King Pharmaceuticals in Bristol, Tenn., for years. Kilgore also has taken $35,000 from PBM Products, another drug company.

But neither produce the over-the-counter pseudoephedrine most commonly used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, according to spokesmen for both companies.

New finance reports are due mid-September. Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Watchdog group to survey state’s biennial budget ; B2

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

The commonwealth may be in fiscal high cotton, but a government watchdog group is planning to take a close look at the books for boll weevils.

Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that monitors federal spending for waste, is putting together a survey of Virginia’s biennial budget.

The group already puts out an annual “Pig Book” that catalogs projects and spending obtained by individual members of Congress that it says are of questionable priority.

It also puts out “Piglet Books” for a number of states.

“States always tend to look for more tax increases before they look for spending cuts,” said CAGW Spokesman Tom Finnigan.

The $1.6 billion tax hike in Virginia last year was just too big of a target to pass up.

“The tax increase really was the impetus,” he said. CAGW wants to take a hard look at where all the new money is going.

“There’s a number of things that we’re looking at,” he said. “Can the private sector do some of these things [that Virginia government is doing] more efficiently?”

Research for the book is done, and it will be published sometime in October. Previous states that have found their budgets in CAGW’s cross hairs include California, Ohio, Oregon, Arizona and Illinois.

Virginia’s budget does need some changes, Gov. Mark R. Warner told the state’s joint money committees this week. In particular, the actual document needs to be reorganized to make it more accessible to taxpayers.

The result will be the first major overhaul of the state’s budget in decades — and more accountability to taxpayers.

“Our goal is to put in place a performance management system that ties together dollars, services to people, policy objectives, and performance measures that show how we’re doing … into a single integrated system … for every citizen to see,” Warner said.

The long-term goal is to put state government into the same kind of performance-based budgeting that is prevalent in the private sector.

“Accountability is central to everything we do in government,” he said. “What better place is there to be accountable than in the documents that detail how we spend every taxpayer dollar?”

And there are a lot more dollars to spend.

Secretary of Finance John Bennett told the committees this week that the state ended fiscal 2005 with a surplus of $514 million in the general fund.

Most of the money will be eaten up by a required deposit in the state’s revenue stabilization, or “Rainy Day” fund, which will be close to reaching its constitutional cap of 10 percent of income and sales taxes in fiscal 2007.

The state’s balance sheet is in better shape than it has been for some time.

Fiscal 2005 was a record collection year for the general fund. State coffers took in some $13.7 billion, or 14 percent over last year’s collections.

Even so, Warner cautioned that the days of wine and roses won’t last forever. Virginia has seen boom followed by bust as recently as 2001.

“It would be exceptionally foolish for us to assume that unusually strong revenue growth from capital gains, corporate profits and the housing boom will continue indefinitely,” he said.

Growth may not continue at the same pace, but some are calling for future surpluses to be returned to the taxpayers.

Bills introduced in the 2005 legislative session by Del. William Janis, R-Glen Allen, and Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield, would have put forward a constitutional am-endment that would require all surpluses $50 million above “Rainy Day Fund” deposits to be rebated to taxpayers.

Had the failed amendments been in effect for fiscal 2005, taxpayers would have seen a rebate of just more than $19 for every resident of the state, based on the most recent Census Bureau population figures for the commonwealth.

But some in the General Assembly have said automatic rebates are a bad idea.

“Clearly if the revenue is ongoing, we can choose to grant additional tax relief,” said Sen. John Chichester, R-Fredericksburg, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, in a letter to Virginia newspapers.

But the state has needs that have been growing even faster than tax revenue.

The best decision is for the General Assembly to look at a surplus, and do their “fiduciary duty to weigh competing priorities and make the best choices,” he said.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Gilbert to quit to pursue House run; B1

By Preston Knight
(Daily Staff Writer)

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Todd Gilbert’s pursuit of political office has led him to announce his resignation from his post in the prosecutor’s office.

In a Thursday press release, Gilbert said he will officially step down Oct. 1.

Gilbert, the Republican nominee for the 15th District of the Virginia House of Delegates, said Wednesday that he needs the time to campaign, and taking that time away from the prosecutor’s office would have been unfair.

“I have been honored to represent the citizens of Shenandoah County in the courtroom,” Gilbert says in the press release.

“Now I want to represent them and all of the citizens of the 15th District in the Virginia General Assembly.”

He could not be reached for further comment Thursday.

Stanley native Kenneth Alger, who has a private practice in Luray, will replace Gilbert as assistant commonwealth’s at-torney.

For the last two years, Alger has done criminal defense work in Shenandoah and Page counties.

He, too, could not be reached for comment.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Albert T. Mitchell said it was only a matter of time before Gilbert stepped down given his run for office. Mitchell hired Gilbert in 1999.

“He knew that because of the requirements of the campaign he could not fulfill the duties in this office,” Mitchell said. “He’s always been a very conscientious and effective prosecutor. He’s able to evaluate cases very quickly and pursue them very aggressively.”

Alger’s primary court, meanwhile, will be Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Mitchell said. Amy Tisinger, the other assistant commonwealth’s attorney, will be responsible for General District Court.

They will each likely spend time in Circuit Court, where Mitchell said he would handle all drug cases.

Alger’s academic background stands out the most to Mitchell. A 2000 graduate of the University of Virginia, Alger received his law degree in 2003 from the University of Georgia School of Law, according to a press release issued by Mitchell. During that time, he worked for a Georgia district attorney’s office, the release said, and at the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office for the Middle District of Georgia.

“He’s already shown he’s an accurate and well-qualified attorney,” Mitchell said.

Gilbert spent three years as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney for the city of Lynchburg before joining Mitchell’s office.

“One of the highest honors of my life was the day I learned that I would be coming home to Shenandoah County to work on behalf of my friends and neighbors,” Gilbert says in his press release.

“Having grown up in Shenandoah County, the job of being a local prosecutor was very personal to me. I hope that in some way I have helped to make Shenandoah County a safer place to live, work and raise a family.

“I have been blessed to do a job that I love in a place that I love, and I hope that another important job lies ahead.

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Kaine talks about issues; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Critics and political opponents assail Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine as a “flip-flopper” who “stands for nothing but election.”

But look past the spin, the candidate says, and you’ll find positions that are consistent, even if they’re not simple.

One place where Kaine consistently takes fire is on matters of life and death. A Roman Catholic and former missionary, the candidate says he opposes both abortion and the death penalty, but wouldn’t move to restrict either as governor.

“I have stated since I first got into public life: I am not going to change my religious view to get elected to public office,” Kaine said at a July debate in West Virginia.

“I will protect women’s rights to make their reproductive choices. I will carry out a death sentence handed down by a Virginia jury,” he said.

Kaine’s opponents say he has flipped on the issue of the death penalty.

They cite a statement he made at a lieutenant governor’s debate in 2001, when he said he supported stopping Virginia executions until it could be demonstrated that the death penalty was proven to be absolutely fair to every defendant.

That one question doesn’t adequately address what he’d do as governor, Kaine said in an exclusive interview with The Northern Virginia Daily this week.

“[There are] two very different questions, one for somebody who’s going to be in the legislative branch … ‘What would you think of a bill that would put a moratorium on the death penalty?’” he said.

“I’ve been pretty blunt about my position” against capital punishment.

But it’s another matter entirely for a governor to single-handedly stop any and all executions in a state. Kaine says that’s a line he won’t cross, despite his personal convictions.

“The clemency powers are given for a very particular reason, I believe, to protect somebody who’s innocent,” he said.

When it comes to executive clemency, all Kaine can do is give his word. Clemency powers are all but absolute in Virginia.

But “I’ve even given [voters] a clear yardstick to judge me against,” he said, pointing to his time in Richmond city government.

“When I was the mayor of Richmond, we had a prosecutor’s office that prosecuted cases capitally. I didn’t grandstand against them, I supported the prosecutor’s office … because that was the law.”

Apart from social issues, matters of taxation have been one of the major themes in the 2005 campaign, and all three candidates have been doing their best to pick each other to pieces over them.

Kaine claims in both print statements and television ads that he reduced taxes while he was mayor of Richmond. But while the tax rate did go down twice during his tenure, actual tax bills on homes went up, due to the increase in their value.

“Assessments did go up because we were redeveloping the city and attracting population,” Kaine said. Taken with tax deferrals for home improvements, lower taxes for small businesses, along with lower utility taxes and connection fees, the lower real estate tax rates are more than enough justification for Kaine to label himself a tax cutter, he said.

Kaine has said during the 2005 campaign that he supports rolling back the state’s tax on inheritances, also called the death tax, as the federal tax is reduced over time.

But the lieutenant governor had little praise for the Virginia Senate in 2003, when the legislature was considering putting an end to the tax.

“Never has the General Assembly done so little for so many, and so much for so few,” Kaine said, talking to media outlets in February 2003. Kaine said this week that he was being critical of the way the tax was being eliminated, not the idea itself.

Kaine said he held the same position as Gov. Mark R. Warner, that “we ought to roll back the estate tax, but we have on the table already a pledge to get rid of the car tax and get rid of the sales tax on food,” he said.

“We shouldn’t leapfrog the elimination of the estate tax over pre-existing pledges. Let’s do it in connection with broad-based tax reform,” he said.

Warner’s original budget, of which Kaine continues to be a vocal supporter, contained a provision that would have significantly reduced the estate tax. Had the legislature approved the governor’s budget, the estate tax would be all but gone today.

Even so, the 2004 budget deal raised taxes by a total of $1.6 billion.

Kaine and others credit the deal with enhancing the state’s fiscal health. The state has ended the past two budget years with hundreds of millions in the bank.

Those higher tax rates shouldn’t be touched, he said, even if the state continues to rack up surpluses after the Rainy Day Fund is full.

“I would take any moneys over and above a normal growth rate and I would either rebate them to taxpayers or put them into capital improvements like transportation,” he said.

The Democrat’s campaign recently launched an initiative to reach out to gun owners and ease fears that he’d support new restriction on firearms in the Old Dominion.

Both his Republican-nominated opponent and gun rights organizations have made much of the candidate’s record on firearms.

In particular, they point out that Kaine paid some $6,600 in 2000 to charter buses for a Richmond delegation to the Million Mom March, a rally in Washington in support of new gun laws.

“I had families of homicide victims coming to me and saying that they wanted to do that, that would be a healing thing for them. As the mayor of a city with the second-highest homicide rate in the U.S., I had a lot of sympathy for those people,” he said. “I’d been to too many crime scenes and funerals.”

“I didn’t go myself,” he said. “That’s not my issue.”

Critics also point to 2001, when Kaine and the rest of the Richmond City Council asked the city attorney about the feasibility of suing gun manufacturers, but were told that Virginia law makes such suits unlikely to succeed. The candidate says he rejected the idea, even after being pressured by other mayors around the country to go forward.

“My position has always been that the best way to reduce gun violence was to go after crooks who use guns,” he said. Kaine points to his support for Project Exile, a nationally lauded effort to prosecute gun crimes through the federal courts.

Kaine’s opponents also take aim at his appearance on a National Rifle Association satellite and Internet radio show earlier this year. When pressed by the host, Kaine wouldn’t say whether he’d rather have the support of the NRA or the Brady Campaign, a prominent gun-control group.

“I’m not writing anybody off,” Kaine said.

Kaine said this week that his record is consistent on guns: a supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, but a civic leader who was concerned about Richmond’s high gun-related murder rate.

Some gun rights groups disagree. The NRA’s political arm gave Kaine an “F” rating in 2001. The rating means a candidate is “a true enemy of gun-owners’ rights.”

That doesn’t bother the candidate “overly much,” he said. “I guess I view it for what it is. NRA is a partisan organization.”

While the lobby group talks up Project Exile, it leaves out his contributions to the program as mayor of the first city where it was used, Kaine said.

“If they were going to be intellectually honest, they’d give me credit for that,” he said.

Operatives on both sides have taken Kaine and GOP nominee Jerry Kilgore to task for their spending plans. Each side accuses the other of breaking the bank with new programs.

Kaine readily admits that he hasn’t found a way yet to pay for two of his most expensive proposals — universal pre-kindergarten and a $500-per-employee health insurance credit for small businesses.

“I believe that everything I have proposed to spend, I can spend within the confines of the current budget,” he said, with those two exceptions. “I will be candid, I haven’t completely figured out how to finance them yet.”

“We spend a tremendous amount of money right now on remedial education,” he said. Getting more employees off Medicaid would also save the state money. Both programs have enough potential cost savings to make them worth looking at, Kaine said.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Meth makers targeted by Warner order; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

It’ll be much harder to buy certain cold medicines in Virginia next month.

State officials are hoping that will make it much harder to manufacture methamphetamine.

Gov. Mark R. Warner signed an executive order Thursday that will put key ingredients in the manufacture of methamphetamine behind a pharmacy counter.

Republicans in the House of Delegates separately promised to introduce legislation in the 2006 General Assembly that would make the measures permanent.

“Methamphetamine [is] a growing health and safety problem nationwide,” Warner said at a press conference in Richmond.
Police have uncovered 46 clandestine labs so far this year. A total of 75 were uncovered in all of 2004, up from just one as recently as 2000.

“This substance is not only dangerous to use, but dangerous to manufacture,” the governor said. “About 20 percent of meth labs are discovered only when they literally catch fire and explode.”

Under Warner’s order, state agencies will come up with rules that look much like laws on the books in Oklahoma and Tennessee. Both those states passed laws after police were busting more than 1,000 meth labs per year.

In Oklahoma, the results were stunning, according to Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
Before the law went into effect in April 2004, police took down about 120 meth labs.

“We were actually on pace for a new state record. Now we’re in the single digits,” he said. “The very first month [the number of lab seizures] dropped 40 percent.”

Meth “cooks” simply balked at walking into a store and showing a photo ID, Woodward said.

“They’re so paranoid, they don’t want to leave a paper trail,” he said.

The law does have limits, though.

“We haven’t seen a tremendous drop in meth use,” he said. “But we can deal with that” like other drug use issues, such as cocaine and heroin.

The details are still being worked out, but under Warner’s order, stores will have to put products containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter or otherwise take them off store shelves for non-assisted purchase.

They’ll also have to require buyers to show a valid form of photo ID to purchase the drugs and keep a log of who purchases the drugs and how much is purchased.

Different states have taken different approaches, but Oklahoma’s law worked by putting only powders and pills behind the counter.

Liquid-filled gels and other non-crushable forms are too hard for meth cooks to use.

Virginia officials have until Oct. 1 to come up with and implement rules, including limits on how much any one person can purchase.

The rules will remain in effect until July 1, but by that time, the General Assembly may have new laws on the books that look very similar.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call before Warner’s remarks, Republican leaders in the House of Delegates pledged to have legislation ready to go for the January session that will look very much like Warner’s proposal.

House of Delegates Speaker William Howell; Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Winchester; Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City; and others said the GOP was already working on new laws “not incompatible” with Warner’s order.

Kilgore, twin brother of GOP gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore, introduced a bill last year that would have taken similar steps, but withdrew it over concerns about rural areas of the state.

“I became concerned on what effect it would have on mom and pop stores out in the rural areas,” he said. Many places on the Kentucky and Tennessee borders don’t have ready access to a 24-hour pharmacy.

“It’s not my intent to keep people from purchasing pseudoephedrine for lawful purposes,” Terry Kilgore said. But the problem is such now that legislators have to act to strike a balance, while still getting precursors “behind the counter, not readily accessible.”

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Trail notes...

Kaine: Oil Companies Shouldn't Raise Prices

RICHMOND — It didn’t take long for $3 per gallon gasoline to become a political football.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine called on oil companies to hold their prices steady Thursday, in light of Hurricane Katrina.

“Virginia’s economy depends on the gasoline that fuels our cars to get us to work every morning, take our kids to school, and to keep our businesses going,” said Kaine. “I call today on our oil companies to do their civic duty and volunteer to hold gas prices steady while we work to determine the scope of the damage to Gulf Coast refineries and distribution lines.”

“At a time when the oil industry experienced an increase of $26 billion in net income last year, I call on them to match the sacrifice of citizens who are already paying over $3.00 a gallon for gas,” Kaine said. “I encourage other state and federal officials to join me in this call for an act of patriotism by America’s oil producers.”

Two major gas pipelines that serve Virginia and other parts of the East Coast were damaged. One is back in partial service, the other will be in a matter of days.

GOP nominee Jerry Kilgore’s campaign called Kaine’s statements a “shameless publicity stunt” and hypocritical, pointing out that Kaine has supported higher gas taxes in the past, including recent weeks, before Katrina struck.
— Daily Staff Report

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