- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

Republican Mark L. Earley is counting on a taped phone message from President Bush to turn out enough voters tomorrow to pull off a surprise victory in the race for Virginia governor.
Mr. Earley is surrounding himself with prominent Republicans in these last few days of the campaign, telling voters that he is ready to work with a Republican White House and is best suited to continue the last eight years of Republican governorship.
Meanwhile, Democrat Mark R. Warner, leading by between six and 10 points in both independent and private campaign polls, turned his attention to trying to bring his ticket mates along with him.
"We need this whole team come Tuesday," he told about 150 supporters in Grundy, a coal-mining town 16 miles from the West Virginia line, at a rally with lieutenant governor candidate Timothy M. Kaine and attorney general nominee A. Donald McEachin.
Both gubernatorial candidates will be flying around the state today for final rallies with their ticket mates.
Mr. Kaine is facing Republican Jay K. Katzen for lieutenant governor, and Republican Jerry W. Kilgore is running against Mr. McEachin for attorney general. The lieutenant governor's race is too close to call in the polls, while Mr. Kilgore is ahead of Mr. McEachin by double digits. Libertarian William B. Redpath is on the ballot for governor and Gary A. Reams is running for lieutenant governor, though their campaigns haven't gotten much traction.
All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are also up for election based on new districts drawn to the 2000 Census results, and there are local bond issues on the ballot across Northern Virginia.
The polls will open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Voters must show identification or sign an affidavit swearing to their identity.
Mr. Warner, 46, built a fortune estimated between $200 million and $250 million in the cellular communications industry. He opposed many of the Republican plans during the last eight years, particularly when he was chairman of the state Democratic Party in the early 1990s, but this year he has campaigned as a worthy heir to those Republican plans.
He has in effect been campaigning for the governorship since losing his 1996 U.S. Senate bid, establishing charitable organizations and venture capital firms around the state to build up a record he can run on.
Mr. Earley, 47, served 10 years as state senator before his election as attorney general in 1997. As attorney general, he championed consumer protection issues and established task forces to combat gang violence and binge drinking on college campuses.
He has seemed to be in search of an issue this year, jumping from taxes to experience to mentoring.
Neither candidate has proposed a populist plan like the Republicans' car-tax cut in 1997 or parole abolishment in 1993, meaning the race has been fought skirmish by skirmish over issues such as education, the state's economy and the candidates' trustworthiness and personal appeal.
But two issues Mr. Warner's transportation proposal and this year's budget impasse have dominated debate.
Mr. Warner has continuously attacked Republican Gov. James S. Gilmore III's administration and promised he won't allow another impasse like the one that left state employees without pay raises and cultural institutions without state aid earlier this year. Mr. Earley, meanwhile, has drifted between embracing and distancing himself from Mr. Gilmore.
Mr. Earley, though, took the offensive in attacking Mr. Warner's transportation plan, which counted on $900 million from a sales-tax increase in Northern Virginia. Mr. Warner says he just supports holding a referendum on it and hasn't taken a position on the tax itself, while Mr. Earley says he wouldn't allow the referendum.
The terrorist attacks of September 11 have also colored the race maybe most importantly by keeping Mr. Bush from campaigning in person.
Instead, the president wrote a letter being sent to Virginia voters, and this weekend recorded a phone call that a campaign spokesman said is going out to hundreds of thousands of homes.
"Mark Earley, Jay Katzen and Jerry Kilgore are the experienced leaders Virginia needs to keep the state moving forward, with a positive agenda for lower taxes, accountable schools, more jobs and a safe and secure Commonwealth," the president says in the message.
Now, with all the policies proposed, the polls taken, and the pundits' opinions printed, all that's left is for the voters to vote.
But that's the wild card in the race nobody knows whether the terrorist attacks will affect voters, and if they do, whether they will make voters more or less likely to vote.
Early signs indicate that voting will be slightly lower than the last governor's race in 1997, when 49.5 percent of registered voters turned out. But the trends also don't suggest a clear advantage for one candidate or the other.
Absentee balloting is low around the state compared to 1997, particularly in large jurisdictions like Henrico County, Fairfax County and Norfolk. But balloting was substantially ahead of 1997 in Arlington County and Alexandria both Democratic strongholds and in Republican stalwart Chesterfield County.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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