- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

No amount of spin can change the fact that Tuesday was a bad day for Virginians who believe in lower taxes and limited government. Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who embraced the tax-increase package rammed through the General Assembly last year by Gov. Mark Warner, won the gubernatorial race by defeating Republican Jerry Kilgore.

The Democratic tide was particularly powerful in Northern Virginia, where Democrats picked up several seats. Perhaps the most disappointing outcome was the defeat of Delegate Dick Black of Loudoun County, one of the most stalwart conservatives in the General Assembly.

When the new legislature convenes in January, Republicans will still hold commanding majorities in both the state Senate and the House of Delegates. But on the subject of increasing taxes — the most contentious issue faced by the legislature during the past two years — the Senate is overwhelmingly in favor of tax increases; the House (which has been the traditional bulwark against higher taxes) remains divided almost right down the middle.

To be sure, not all of the news from Virginia is bleak. On Tuesday, Virginians elected Republican state Sen. Bill Bolling — probably the most conservative candidate on a major-party ticket — as lieutenant governor. He defeated Democratic nominee Leslie Byrne, the most liberal candidate running for statewide office. (The attorney-general race pitting Republican Delegate Robert McDonnell against state Sen. Creigh Deeds remains too close to call.) In Northern Virginia, Delegate David Albo and Delegate Jeffrey Frederick, both conservative stalwarts, prevailed over challengers backed by Gov. Warner.

The reality is that Virginia Democrats did well because they did a better job of putting forward their case. Part of this involved artfully concealing Mr. Kaine’s liberalism. But they also took advantage of national trends that do not bode well for the Republican Party, and Messrs. Kaine and Warner appear for now to have persuaded many Virginians that tax increases are plausible as a path to fiscal responsibility. Mr. Kilgore tried to take a middle-ground position: opposing tax increases, for example, but refusing to call for the repeal of last year’s tax hike. Clearly that failed. The challenge for a divided Virginia Republican Party is finding a way to persuade voters that cutting taxes — not increasing them — is the real path to prosperity.

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