Parties weigh in on election’s meaning; A1
By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)
Is Democrat Tim Kaine’s win and the GOP’s loss of two seats in the House of Delegates a mandate for moderation or a reaction to candidates?
One day after Election Day, the answer depended on who responded to the question.
Virginians like the “sensible center” they have with Gov. Mark R. Warner and want it to continue, as evidenced by the election of Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine to succeed him, Democratic leaders in the House of Delegates said Wednesday.
The center, particularly the Democratic center, is making progress in “areas that were once believed to be solid Republican strongholds, seats that were considered safe,” said House Minority Leader Del. Frank Hall, D-Richmond, on a conference call with reporters.
“We think that’s an indication that there is movement in Virginia,” he said. “That movement is toward people who are willing to reach out, to reach across [and] cooperate with each other and find some common ground.”
Vote totals seem to bear out reports of movement. Republican areas like Loudoun and Prince William counties went for Kaine in 2005 after going for Republican Mark Earley in 2001.
Cities like Harrisonburg and Virginia Beach followed suit.
“The right wing of the House Republican caucus has to take a step back and recognize that extremists and extremist policies don’t work,” said Del. Brian Moran, D-Alexandria, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus.
Warner’s 2004 budget, which contained $1.6 billion in new taxes, shows that people are more concerned about fiscal issues than social ones.
“We were able to run on that issue successfully,” Moran said, adding that he hopes GOP moderates “will work with us and help Tim Kaine become another successful governor and improve the lives of Virginians.”
At least one moderate Republican group, the Republican Majority for Choice, said Kilgore’s fate should be instructive to the GOP.
“This critical bloc will no longer be blinded by party loyalty and will demand candidates that represent the mainstream and common sense, not the social extreme,” said Jennifer Blei Stockman, national co-chairwoman of the group.
But Republican officials said voters were reacting to individual candidates, not making a broad move toward the center.
“It wasn’t a particularly good day for us, I won’t deny that,” said House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.
The GOP lost four seats but picked up two — not a good day, but not a total loss.
On the whole, “we had a lot of guys out there running and a few of them made mistakes,” he said.
Other losses, like that of Del. Dick Black, R-Sterling, to Democratic challenger David Poisson in Loudoun County were the result of incumbents not paying attention to the voters.
“Dick himself was no longer in touch with his constituency,” Griffith said.
One silver lining for the GOP is the fact that one of its seats was “won by an independent who claims to be a Republican,” he said, referring to Del.-elect Katherine Waddell, who knocked off incumbent Republican Brad Marrs in the 68th district, which takes in parts of Chesterfield County and the city of Richmond.
Waddell has been active in Republican politics before, Griffith said.
“I can’t say that she doesn’t at least have some claim to [the independent Republican] title,” he said.
The top-of-the-ticket outcome wasn’t so much a pining for Warner as a reaction to Kilgore, Griffith said — “too negative, too long.”
At both the state level and in precincts all around the commonwealth, the bottom two-thirds of the Republican ticket won, but Kilgore lost.
“You can’t say it’s a turnout factor when Republicans are winning,” he said.
A large part could be the Kilgore death penalty ads, which pre-election polls showed as backfiring.
“People were able to feel comfortable with Tim, and the ads by Jerry just backfired,” Moran said.
Politically, 2006 should look a lot like 2005, Griffith said
“I don’t think it changes it much,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s been a whole lot of [political] shift one way or the other.”
People on both sides say it’s too soon to say what the central issues of the new session will be, but even Democrats said Kaine shouldn’t expect a love affair with the General Assembly come 2006.
“As Governor Warner used to say, ‘the governor proposes and the legislature disposes,’” Moran said.
The General Assembly convenes in January.