Arlington, Va.—Former Virginia Atty. Gen. Jerry Kilgore (R.) remains the favorite to win a close race in November’s Virginia gubernatorial election. But his opponent, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D.), is close on his heels and could capitalize on any major mistakes by Kilgore.
The presence on the ballot of a third candidate, breakaway Republican state Sen. Russ Potts (I.), could also affect the outcome. Potts, who led moderate Senate Republicans to pass a large tax increase last year, is running as a spoiler against Kilgore. A recent poll by the Washington Post shows him running at 4% among likely voters, with Kilgore polling at 51% and Kaine trailing by seven points. A more recent poll by Mason-Dixon, however, shows a tighter race, with Kilgore leading Kaine within the margin of error.
Virginia governors are not allowed to serve consecutive terms. Gov. Mark Warner (D.) leaves the office as a popular governor and a likely presidential candidate for 2008.
Kilgore’s biggest mistake in this race was his reaction to an abortion question during a September debate. Kilgore refused to answer a question on whether, if Roe v. Wade were reversed, he would sign a bill criminalizing abortion. But the bleeding may have been stopped on September 27, when Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.), a national conservative leader on the abortion issue, stopped by an Arlington campaign event to endorse Kilgore.
“I expect a huge victory for Jerry Kilgore,” said Brownback, addressing the sympathetic crowd. To one voter’s concerns over the abortion issue, Brownback noted that Kilgore’s position has been mostly pro-life, even though it contains exceptions for rape and incest. “I can understand your trepidation, but if it’s moving the ball in our direction, we should be for that.”
Kilgore has found what any Republican needs to win statewide—a popular issue for voters in Democratic Northern Virginia. When the town council of Herndon, a suburb of Washington, approved the taxpayer-funded construction of a day laborer center for illegal aliens, Kilgore came out in strong opposition. In contrast, Kaine supports the day-laborer center and has called Kilgore’s opposition “mean-spirited.”
Kaine also faces problems with gun owners, who were essential to the victory of his predecessor. Unlike Warner, who won many rural votes by running as a pro-2nd Amendment Democrat—and who followed through by signing concealed-carry legislation—Kaine has long been a proponent of gun control from the time he was mayor of Richmond. Every major gun-rights group is backing Kilgore in the race.