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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

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“My track record is superseded by no other legislator,” Potts said.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