- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

RICHMOND — Republican Delegate Anne G. "Panny" Rhodes endorsed the Democratic opponent of gubernatorial candidate Mark L. Earley, who joined other top Republican officials two years ago in an effort to deny her another term.
The Richmond legislator said yesterday that she is supporting Mark R. Warner in the Nov. 6 election against Mr. Earley, the former state attorney general.
In May 1999, Mr. Earley joined Gov. James S. Gilmore III and other Republican leaders at a news conference to endorse Ruble A. Hord III in a primary against Mrs. Rhodes, a centrist who has frequently opposed the administration's tax-cutting, socially conservative agenda.
Mrs. Rhodes announced her retirement from the General Assembly earlier this year after Republican-controlled reapportionment left her with an unappealing district.
She endorsed Mr. Warner during a teleconference with reporters arranged by Virginians for Warner, a group of independents and centrist Republicans backing the Democrat.
Is this payback?
"Absolutely not," Mrs. Rhodes said. "Anybody who knows me knows I don't function that way."
She said she was supporting Mr. Warner because she was dismayed by the General Assembly's unprecedented budget impasse, which she blamed on Mr. Gilmore's determination to advance the car tax cut to 70 percent despite a slowing economy. "Fiscal responsibility is of utmost importance to me," she said.
"Delegate Rhodes is a true fiscal champion, and we are delighted to have her support," said Warner spokeswoman Amanda Crumley.
"We are also very pleased that Mark Warner's message of accountability and fiscal responsibility is one that is bringing people together from across the aisle and from every corner of the state with the belief that we can do better with a new leader in Richmond."
Earley spokesman David Botkins said Mrs. Rhodes' endorsement of Mr. Warner was not surprising.
"Panny Rhodes has been aligned with Democrats for years," he said. "She opposed George Allen on a variety of fronts during his term as governor, and she certainly opposed Jim Gilmore on numerous fronts. We certainly would have loved to have had her endorsement, but I think she is philosophically more in tune with Mark Warner than Mark Earley."
Mrs. Rhodes alluded to her 1999 primary battle in a written statement in which she also denounced Republican campaign advertising.
"Having been the target, myself, of a very negative, ugly campaign, I was disappointed to see the recent series of negative mailings and to hear about the negative radio spots," she said. "I had hoped Mark Earley would have demonstrated his leadership ability by keeping this campaign focused on the real issues and the serious financial challenges facing our state."
Republicans have tarred Mr. Warner and his running mates as the "most liberal ticket in Virginia history."
Mrs. Rhodes and Mr. Earley often have been on opposite sides in the abortion debate, but the legislator said that was not her main reason for endorsing Mr. Warner. Mrs. Rhodes supports abortion rights while Mr. Earley has led attempts to restrict abortion.
"Panny represents the feelings of a huge number of Republican women," said Virginians for Warner leader Judy Ford.

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