The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

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.”