Virginia Republican Senate nominee James S. Gilmore III’s stance on abortion and his ties to a company that makes morning-after pills present formidable challenges to his campaign, some conservatives say.
“Conservatives in Virginia have already demonstrated they’re willing to leave the ballot blank if they’re convinced the candidate is not with them on the issues,” said Shaun Kenney, a blogger and former state Republican Party spokesman. Mr. Gilmore’s “got to determine whether the value voters are important to his campaign.”
Mr. Gilmore, 58, was chosen over state Delegate Robert G. Marshall of Prince William County, as the Republican candidate last month by state delegates at a party convention. In November, he will face former Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat.
Mr. Gilmore, also a former Virginia governor, earned $138,750 over the past two-and-a-half years for sitting on the board of directors for Barr Laboratories Inc., according to financial records filed last month with the Senate. The Gilmore campaign said the figure represents director fees earned from 2006 through May 2008.
Barr manufactures the morning-after pill, known as “Plan B.” The over-the-counter drug can reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within three days after unprotected sex, but some pro-life advocates call taking the drug the equivalent of abortion.
Gilmore spokeswoman Ana Gamonal said Mr. Gilmorejoined the Barr board in 2002 because the company, which has a plant in Forest, Va., “is a major Virginia employer and one of the leading women’s health care firms in the world.”
“The Plan B pill … is a contraceptive, not an abortion pill,” she said.
Barr spokeswoman Carol Cox said the company’s manufacturing facilities in Forest, just south of Lynchburg, employ roughly 600 Virginians. She also said Mr. Gilmore is an “independent director” and “is neither involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, or its product selection or marketing decisions.”
During, the Republican primary, Mr. Marshall criticized Mr. Gilmore for his association with Barr and for his view that abortions within the first eight weeks after conception should be legal.
In his concession speech at the May 31 convention - at which he lost by a margin of less than 1 percent - Mr. Marshall urged Republicans to unite behind “a real pro-life principle.”
Mr. Gilmore has no plans to make concessions in his pro-life stance, saying such a move would compromise his convictions.
Mark J. Rozell, a professor of political science at George Mason University, said changing position would do Mr. Gilmore more harm than good.
“I think in the end that’s a bigger mistake because he ultimately will alienate a large segment of the population that will see any such move as opportunistic and not consistent with his own values,” Mr. Rozell said.
The Gilmore campaign has pointed that while Mr. Gilmore was governor from 1998 to 2002, he helped pass a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion, enacted a ban against so-called partial-birth abortions in the state and push legislation requiring parental notification from minors seeking abortion.
Mr. Gilmore also has won support from pro-life activists, who signed a campaign letter calling him a “strong, pro-family conservative.”