- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

The Virginia Fraternal Order of Police will not endorse anyone in the Virginia governor's race this year marking the first time since they began endorsing candidates in 1985 that police have not chosen someone.

Sgt. Dan Blake, an Albemarle County police officer and president of the state's 7,000-member association, said new rules require a candidate to win support from two-thirds of the state's lodges. Neither Republican Mark L. Earley nor Democrat Mark R. Warner managed to do that.

Some current and retired officers said that, as a former state attorney general, Mr. Earley's failure to win the endorsement is an embarrassment.

"He has the advantage, being involved in the political arena and being involved in the political side with the [Fraternal Order of Police], so they know who he is and what he stands for. To me, it's the incumbent's endorsement to lose," said Garth Wheeler, a past president of the state FOP who is supporting Mr. Warner.

He and others said they still don't know what positive things Mr. Earley has done for them.

But Mr. Earley's backers point to his support of key legislation about health and disability benefits for police and firefighters.

"He's had an open office for us, for FOP, any time we wanted to come," said Jim Gaudet, a former president of the state association.

Now that the state's public safety associations have all taken positions or chose to stay on the sidelines the count favors Mr. Warner, a businessman.

He has been endorsed by the Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs, the International Union of Police and the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters.

"These are [political] communities where Mark Warner continues to build up support, and Mark Earley, former attorney general of the state, has failed to gain any ground. That is an incredibly strong statement about his lack of support in these communities," said Mo Elleithee, a spokesman for Mr. Warner.

Mr. Earley has the endorsement of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, a national association of police and crime victims. His campaign advisers are confident his record will win them support of rank-and-file law enforcement on Nov. 6.

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