- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2001

The Virginia gubernatorial campaign deteriorated into he-said, he-said sniping this week over the television ads being run by the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Democrats say Republican Mark L. Earley started it earlier this week with his ad on statewide television.

The spot on television accuses Democrat Mark R. Warner of relying on a tax increase to fund 40 percent of his $2.25 billion transportation plan.

Thursday evening the Warner campaign answered with an ad of its own, in which the announcer says Mr. Earley has been distorting Mr. Warner's record.

The ad also says: "Mark Warner won't raise taxes. He's a fiscal conservative, with the right experience to help our families in this difficult time."

Included in the transportation plan Mr. Warner announced last week was $900 million from a sales-tax increase in Northern Virginia, but the issue would have to go to referendum first.

Republicans say counting on the tax shows Mr. Warner supports it.

Mr. Warner says the issue isn't raising taxes, it's about letting localities govern themselves.

"Mark Warner supports just as Mark Earley does allowing the voters of Northern Virginia, should they choose, to vote on a referendum. We are not proposing a referendum, we are not encouraging a referendum," said Amanda Crumley, a spokeswoman for Mr. Warner.

Mr. Earley has said he will not rule out a referendum, while adding he doesn't think tax increases are the right solution at this point. Republicans say his position is a far cry from Mr. Warner's because such increases are not part of his plan.

Mr. Earley has been going with two messages in recent days: the accusations against Mr. Warner on tax increases, and his own record as former attorney general, which he says makes him the best candidate to see Virginia through the public-safety challenges after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Warner's challenge has been to weather the attacks and in that he's been aided by some key endorsements, including that of the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, an association that represents 5,500 career firefighters in Virginia.

Yesterday, Mr. Warner received the endorsement of some police groups, including the Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs and the International Union of Police Associations.

Leaders of the groups said they count on Mr. Warner to hire more state troopers and provide money for localities to hire more police and sheriff's deputies.

But Mr. Earley's campaign staffers say they'll win the votes of law enforcement's rank and file.

"They're not representative of the street cop and the line officer, with all due respect to these organizations," said David Botkins, a spokesman for Mr. Earley. "Mark Earley's been with them day in and day out, and come Election Day, we feel confident they'll vote for the leadership and experience they know and trust."

Mr. Earley was endorsed in June by the Law Enforcement Alliance of America.

The Fraternal Order of Police has not yet announced its endorsement for governor.

The two candidates are scheduled to debate in Richmond next week, and in Roanoke the week after.

Thursday evening, the Earley campaign declined to allow Libertarian candidate William Redpath to be part of the Oct. 3 debate.

Mr. Warner's campaign had accepted Mr. Redpath's participation in the debate.

But in a letter to the Redpath campaign, Mr. Earley's campaign manager instead suggested all three candidates agree on adding another debate to the schedule instead.

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