- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2005

RICHMOND — President Bush last night implored Virginians to choose Republican Jerry W. Kilgore for governor at the polls today while Gov. Mark Warner told voters that Timothy M. Kaine was the best choice in the too-close-to-call race.

The last-minute presidential rally, held at the Dominion Hangar at the Richmond International Airport, attracted several thousand supporters who cheered as Air Force One touched down.

“I know a man with character and integrity and he’s standing right next to me, and that’s Jerry Kilgore,” said Mr. Bush, who, according to polls, has a record-low approval rating of 37 percent. “Put him in office, and you’ll be proud of the job he’ll do for you.”

Mr. Bush called Mr. Kilgore “governor” after Mr. Kilgore introduced the president.

“I wish my grandparents could see this moment — their grandson introducing the president of the United States,” Mr. Kilgore said, calling Mr. Bush “a great leader for our commonwealth and our country.”

Earlier in the evening, Mr. Warner and Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat and former Virginia governor, told voters at a rally at Richmond Farmers Market that Mr. Kaine would be a better governor.

“Don’t let the polls let you think we’ve got it done,” Mr. Wilder told a cheering crowd of more than 2,000 supporters. “We need to haul and call and vote and take nothing for granted.”

Mr. Warner, a Democrat and Mr. Kaine’s main cheerleader, echoed a similar sentiment.

“It’s now down to all of us,” said the governor, who has a more than 70 percent statewide approval rating. “If we do our part tomorrow, Virginia will celebrate a great victory.”

Mr. Wilder also mentioned Mr. Bush’s appearance at the rally for Mr. Kilgore. Some in the crowd booed.

“The president is coming through tonight, but he’ll be gone tonight and we’ll be here tomorrow, the next day and the next day,” said Mr. Wilder, who became mayor of Richmond in 2004 by an overwhelming majority.

The Kaine campaign, which spent the weekend in Mr. Kilgore’s native Southwest Virginia, held rallies in Roanoke, Norfolk, Richmond and Alexandria yesterday.

Jean Dyson, 74, brought her 21-month-old great-granddaughter in a stroller to the rally at the Richmond Farmers Market. The former Richmond public-school teacher said she likes Mr. Kaine because of his religious background and his “compassion.”

“He was a very good mayor,” she said.

Mr. Bush said Mr. Kilgore trusts the people on tax issues and promised that the Republican candidate would eliminate the car tax, if elected.

However, Mr. Kilgore has not outlined a plan to phase out the car tax.

Mr. Bush also said Mr. Kilgore would bring a “culture of life” to the state.

“That’s the kind of guy you want to represent you — a person who understands how the common man thinks, a person who shares the values with the majority of people in the commonwealth of Virginia,” Mr. Bush said.

The Kilgore campaign held rallies in Roanoke, Norfolk and Abingdon before meeting with Mr. Bush.

Several hours before that rally, protesters lined the street in front of the airport and held signs with anti-war messages. One sign read: “Torture is unAmerican.”

Mr. Bush’s appearance also tied up traffic around the airport for miles.

The Kilgore campaign said the election seems to be Mr. Bush versus Sen. John Kerry, Part II, saying Mr. Kaine is “arm in arm” with “his liberal friend” Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Kerry has been sending e-mails on Mr. Kaine’s behalf, but has not come to Virginia to campaign for the lieutenant governor. Mr. Bush beat the Massachusetts Democrat by nearly nine points in Virginia in last year’s presidential election.

Mr. Kaine said he thinks Mr. Bush’s visit will turn off some voters.

“If you want federal-style, D.C. politics, then the other candidate is your guy,” he said.

Polls show Mr. Kaine with a slight lead over Mr. Kilgore, the former state attorney general. Both men were elected in 2001.

With the race nearly tied, political observers are anticipating a late night.

“We have prepared for every eventuality,” including a recount, Mr. Kaine said.

The Kilgore campaign is predicting that a recount won’t be necessary.

“It will be a decisive win for us,” said Tim Murtaugh, a Kilgore spokesman.

The race, which is the costliest in state history, has been marked with attack ads from both campaigns.

The Kilgore campaign has been widely criticized for a series of ads that hit Mr. Kaine for his position on the death penalty.

Mr. Kaine defended himself against the ads, which feature family members of murder victims. He said that as a Catholic, he opposes the death penalty personally, but he has pledged that if elected, he would sign death warrants and not use the clemency powers of the governor in “any unusual way.”

He also said he will not attempt to ban the death penalty in Virginia.

H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester, is also running for governor, and his name will appear on the ballot as an independent. He has not reached 10 percent in any statewide polls and is expected to pull a small margin today.

However, with the tight race, his candidacy could make the difference between a Kaine win and a Kilgore win.

Voters also will choose a new lieutenant governor and attorney general today.

Republican William T. Bolling is challenging Democrat Leslie Byrne for lieutenant governor. Republican Robert F. McDonnell is running against Democrat R. Creigh Deeds for attorney general.

All 100 House delegates also are up for election. Only 49 races are contested, but only a handful are considered to be competitive.

In Northern Virginia, several races pit anti-tax Republican incumbents against Democrats who have Mr. Warner’s support.

Several races are viewed as a referendum on the $1.38 billion tax increase passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2004. The tax package increased the sales, cigarette and real estate taxes to fund education, public safety and health care.

Polls show that most voters approve of the package, which also cut taxes.

Mr. Kaine and the Democrats on the ballot supported the tax package. Mr. Kilgore and most of the challenged Republican incumbents opposed the package.

Polls are open today from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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