- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

Jerry W. Kilgore, the front-runner for Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial nomination, is not endorsing any candidates for the June 14 primary.

But the former state attorney general appears in a brochure of at least one candidate.

Steve Baril, who is seeking the nomination for attorney general, has a picture of Mr. Kilgore and himself in a political brochure he handed out last week.

The picture shows the two Republicans shaking hands and smiling for the camera.

“Thanks to the work of Republicans like George Allen and Jerry Kilgore, we live in a safer Virginia,” the brochure reads, mentioning the former governor and now U.S. senator as well as the former state attorney general.

Kilgore spokesman Tucker Martin said candidates are allowed to use only older photos of the former attorney general as long as the photo does not confer endorsement.

Mr. Martin said the image seemed to fall under those guidelines.

“We are not taking sides in the primary contest,” he said. “We are happy to run with whoever the Republican voters choose on June 14.”

• Thinking it over

A Maryland delegate is considering filing an ethics complaint against House Speaker Michael E. Busch because the speaker did not note his amendments to an immigration-fraud bill and allowed lawmakers to cheer when Mr. Busch silenced him.

On the last day of the session, which ended last Monday, Mr. Busch pre-empted debate on a bill that would grant illegal immigrants litigation rights. The speaker turned off Delegate Patrick L. McDonough’s microphone and gaveled him down, as other lawmakers cheered.

The bill was approved.

“He just ramrodded that bill through at the last minute,” Mr. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican, said of the House speaker.

Mr. Busch said time was running short and he thinks he handled the floor debate properly.

“There were many pieces of legislation that were important to a lot of people and the process had to go forward,” the Anne Arundel County Democrat said.

Mr. McDonough says he feels “an ethical review is appropriate — not that much to reprimand the speaker, but to get an opinion from fellow legislators as to what is acceptable.”

• Money matters

Virginia Delegate J. Chapman Petersen raised more than $200,000 this year in his bid for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, his campaign said Friday. Mr. Petersen, Fairfax City Democrat, raised $202,795 between Jan. 1 and March 31. He has raised $517,732 to date and has $231,993 on hand.

Delegate Viola Osborne Baskerville of Richmond, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination, raised $64,678 this year and $202,150 total. She has $67,192 cash on hand.

Sean T. Connaughton, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, raised $211,000 this year and $1.2 million total in his bid for the Republican nomination. He has $637,259 on hand.

State Sen. William T. Bolling of Mechanicsville raised $157,000 this year and a total of $1.18 million total in his Republican bid. He has $600,000 cash on hand.

Virginia law forbids candidates from fundraising while the legislature is in session, which this year ran from Jan. 12 to Feb. 27.

Other candidates had not released their totals.

State Sen. Phillip P. Puckett of Tazewell and former state Sen. Leslie L. Byrne of Fairfax also are vying for the Democratic nomination.

State Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. of Augusta County dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor after failing to produce enough petition signatures in three congressional districts by Friday’s deadline.

Northern Virginia lawyer Gil Davis also dropped out of the race Friday. He failed to obtain enough signatures in two congressional districts to get on the June 14 ballot.

• Governor’s travels

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner was to leave Saturday on back-to-back international trade missions to Japan and India.

The Japan trip was to consist of confidential recruitment meetings. Then the governor heads to India on April 24 for six days. According to the governor’s office, some of those meetings still were being confirmed.

Among those expected to accompany the governor to India were Virginia business executives, Commerce Secretary Michael Schewel and representatives of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

The trip will be Mr. Warner’s fourth international trade mission.

• Stalemate redux

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch says a special General Assembly session on slot-machine gambling would be “ill-advised.”

“Special sessions are for a time of crisis in the state of Maryland,” said Mr. Busch, a longtime slots opponent. “Certainly with a balanced budget and with about a $400 million surplus, we are not in any type of crisis.”

But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he is concerned that state gamblers are contributing more than $309 million to support Delaware and West Virginia’s tax base.

“Farms are being saved, racing is being saved, jobs are being created and it’s a win-win for each and every person,” said Mr. Miller, a Prince George’s Democrat. “The big loser in all of this is the state of Maryland.”

Mr. Miller, who made a last-minute push for a compromise on legalizing slot machines before the close of the session on Monday, said at this point he hopes Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. calls legislators back to Annapolis, despite Mr. Busch’s reluctance.

“If the governor cares about politics, he won’t call,” lawmakers back, he said. “But if he cares about generating revenue for the state, then he will call a special session.”

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, has said he will support a special session, but only if Mr. Busch agreed.

• Tax relief

A coalition of conservative activists and legislators joined the property-tax-relief debate Tuesday with a proposal that goes even further than those championed by the candidates for Virginia governor.

The Tuesday Morning Group Coalition proposed amending the Virginia Constitution to base real estate taxes on the price the owner paid for the home, regardless of its current market value. The assessment would remain unchanged until the house is sold.

The measure is part of an 11-item legislative agenda announced by the coalition, which was formed in December 2001 to focus on taxes, property rights and education reform. The group claims 347 participants, representing more than 150 organizations.

The leading candidates for governor, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine and Republican Jerry W. Kilgore, also have proposed constitutional amendments to curb rapidly increasing real estate tax bills.

Mr. Kaine wants to give localities the option to exempt from taxation the first 20 percent of a home’s value. Mr. Kilgore’s plan would prohibit localities from increasing assessments more than 5 percent annually.

• Legislative surprise

An Ehrlich administration spokesman expressed surprise that two lawmakers from the lower Eastern Shore supported a bill that would require Wal-Mart to spend more on health care for its employees.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, has said the Fair Share Health Care Act could threaten Wal-Mart’s plans to build a distribution center on the Eastern Shore, jeopardizing 1,000 potential jobs.

On Thursday, Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell told the Salisbury Daily Times that the administration had expected Delegates Norman H. Conway and K. Bennett Bozman, both Democrats, to vote against the bill.

Both lawmakers have said many Wal-Mart employees were dependent on state programs for health insurance. They said they were confident the legislation, if it became law, would not derail the company’s distribution center plans.

• Christina Bellantoni and Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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