Governor stands behind Kaine; B1
(Daily Staff Writer)
WINCHESTER — He’s not on the ballot, but a lot of people in the crowd sure wish he was.
Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner visited Winchester on Sunday to stump for Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, who is hoping to succeed Warner as governor.
About 100 people gathered on the Loudoun Street pedestrian mall for the event. The odd call of “four more years” from the group is reflective of voters’ opinion of the current administration as a whole.
A recent poll by Rasmussen research found 72 percent of likely voters approve of the way the term-limited governor is doing his job.
“You only get one term” as governor, Warner told the cheering crowd, standing on the edge of the fountain facing the old Frederick County Courthouse.
“But the good news is that the official title of the governor of Virginia is ‘his excellency,’” he joked. “There are times when being called ‘your excellency’ is the high point of the day.”
Warner ignored, but smiled, at calls of “Mr. President,” which drew applause. He is often mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential nominee for 2008.
Warner stuck to the soft sell, talking about the accomplishments of his administration — and how he’d like to see Kaine take over in January.
“We’ve gone from a deficit to a surplus. Virginia was named the best- managed state in America. We’ve made record investments in education,” Warner told reporters.
“I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made. But I also know that we’ve only got a one-term governor in Virginia, and somebody else has to take over that job now,” he said. “I hope it’ll be Tim Kaine.”
Warner defended the 2004 state budget he signed off on, which raised taxes by more than $1.5 billion. The state is now running a $2 billion surplus.
Even now, the budget was “absolutely” a good idea, he said. “I can assure you that we’ve got more budget requests than any surplus we have.”
“The challenge will be that we don’t go and create a lot of new spending programs that are going to drive us back into the fiscal ditch, or promise something that we can’t deliver,” he said.
Warner also made a point not to mention the Republican contender for governor, former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, by name. Kilgore has been a vocal critic of the budget increase since its introduction.
Legislators and the Warner administration should have seen that the state’s economy was growing fast enough to deal with any shortfall, making the tax hike a needless drag on the economy, according to Kilgore.
Warner said he’s “been very concerned that some of the candidates, Mr. Kaine’s opponent, there’s not a spending program that he’s ever talked about that he wouldn’t support, not a tax cut that he wouldn’t endorse.”
Kilgore has said repeatedly that the state can afford to pay for his spending proposals by prioritizing the budget — cutting out programs that duplicate efforts, doing away with programs that don’t work and making sure others work efficiently.
The GOP candidate has also made a point of saying he won’t seek to roll back the 2004 tax hikes, despite his opposition.
“I’m not going to re-battle the battles of the past,” he told the Daily in a recent interview.
Election Day is Tuesday.