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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

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.