- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2000

Republican Senate candidate George F. Allen's campaign said yesterday he won't respond in kind to the "character assassination" incumbent Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb unleashed Tuesday.

But Mr. Allen will respond to the charges about his record on race relations with radio ads from Paul C. Gillis, former head of the state NAACP, praising Mr. Allen for his work on behalf of black residents.

On Tuesday, Mr. Robb appeared in Richmond with a handful of black lawmakers from the state General Assembly to attack Mr. Allen on his racial views.

The lawmakers pointed to the fact that Mr. Allen used to have a Confederate flag in his home and that he used to keep a noose in his law office. They also criticized Mr. Allen for a news release his campaign recently issued about "extremist" groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, that were running attack ads.

"George Allen's civil rights record can more accurately be described as a record of civil wrongs," said state Sen. Henry Marsh of Richmond.

The news conference added a sharp point to a race that polls show is tightening, though Mr. Allen continues to maintain a lead as he has throughout the campaign.

Yesterday, Mr. Allen compared the attacks to President Clinton's "politics of personal destruction" and said he won't retaliate.

"I think that we ought to take the high road," Mr. Allen said. "All he's doing is just coming up with viciousness and venom and mud. I think it's a sign of desperation and that they have nothing positive to say about themselves."

Mr. Allen continued his normal schedule of appearances, receiving the endorsement of James Webb, a former secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, who had endorsed Mr. Robb in 1994.

Today, Mr. Allen will be endorsed by former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.

Still to be seen is whether black voters respond to the Democrats' message, and whether other voters are turned off by what was already seen as a messy, if not negative, campaign.

A recent poll by The Washington Post showed Mr. Robb with less than the 90 percent support among black voters that he will probably need to win. And Mr. Robb also needs black voters to turn out at a higher rate than the general voting population.

Along those lines, the state Democratic Party has printed fliers repeating the charges about the noose and the flag and is airing advertisements on radio stations with large black listenership.

"The problem they have is the African-American community is not afraid of George Bush and it's not afraid of George Allen, and they need to stir the African-American community into fear," said Ed Matricardi, executive director of the state Republican Party.

But Craig Bieber, executive director of the state Democratic Party, defended the fliers and their inclusion of the noose and flag charges as evidence Mr. Allen is out of touch with black residents' concerns.

"If he was truly sensitive to their concerns, he would disavow what he had done… . We think that is illustrative of his views on matters of civil rights and racial justice that he would not indeed view these symbols as hurtful to African-Americans."

The Allen campaign said the noose was part of Mr. Allen's collection of cowboy memorabilia, and said they do not think the NAACP is an extremist organization.

Mr. Robb's campaign spokesman, Mo Elleithee, rejected Mr. Allen's charge that the Robb campaign is desperate.

"If anyone has reason to be desperate these days, it's George Allen. He has seen his lead evaporate, momentum is clearly on Senator Robb's side, and the campaign with momentum has no reason to be desperate," he said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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