- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2001

The Virginia gubernatorial race is really a race within a race. Democrats already have their candidate millionaire businessman Mark Warner, who has sought office unsuccessfully in the past. Virginia Republicans, however, still dont know whether their man will be current Lt. Gov. John H. Hager or Attorney General Mark L. Earley. Both men are locked in a tight contest for the Republican nomination for the states highest office with Mr. Earley having a slight edge.
The final decision will come June 2, when the Republican nominating convention assembles in Richmond. Mr. Hager had contemplated dropping out of the race for governor in favor of seeking to retain his current job and also for the sake of party unity. However, Mr. Hager decided against this because, according to him, "Republicans said that to win in November, we need a true, consistent conservative at the top of the ticket." As the torch-bearer of the successful and ideologically conservative administration of Gov. James S. Gilmore, Mr. Hager certainly has credibility on that score. His bona fides are not in serious question.
However, the larger issue is the importance of defeating Mr. Warner a liberal Democrat cut from the same cloth as Don Beyer and Charles Robb. For one thing, he served as the liberals hatchet-man in the successful attempts to defeat Oliver North in the Senate race. Mr. Warner is very actively in favor of abortion rights supporting the traditional liberal line on this subject and he has historically been soft on crime.
The facts about Mr. Warner need to be aired but this cannot happen until the Republican Party closes ranks and turns its attention to matters outside of party politics. Whether Mr. Hager or Mr. Earley ultimately secures the Republican nomination is less important than seeing to it that Mr. Warner is not the man to occupy the governors office in 2002. That will take a cohesive effort and the full support of Virginia Republicans for the man who is to become the GOP candidate for governor.


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