Democrat Timothy M. Kaine narrowly beat Republican Jay K. Katzen by less than 40,000 votes in the race for Virginia lieutenant governor last night, while Republican Jerry W. Kilgore easily defeated Democrat A. Donald McEachin in the attorney general’s contest.
With all votes counted Mr. Kaine had 50 percent of the vote, Mr. Katzen had 48 percent and Libertarian Gary A. Reams, who played the spoiler, walked away with 2 percent.
Mr. Kilgore won 60 percent of the vote to Mr. McEachin’s 40 percent. Mr. Kilgore is the first Republican to win a down-ticket office while a Democrat won the governorship. Democrat Mark R. Warner defeated Republican Mark L. Earley by some 5 percent of the vote.
Mr. Kilgore, on his way to the Richmond Omni Hotel, told The Washington Times in a cell-phone interview last night he was “overwhelmed” by the support he had gotten throughout his campaign.
“We feel great with what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said after his victory. “We wouldn’t have won if it weren’t for the volunteers who put in countless hours into helping us out with our campaign.”
In his concession speech in Richmond last night, Mr. McEachin told a crowd of about 1,500 supporters that “every dog has its day.”
“Good dogs have two,” he added, saying he may run again. “This was fun.”
The race between Mr. Katzen and Mr. Kaine remained a horse race well into the night. The Katzen camp squirreled themselves away to monitor the last few thousand votes shortly before 11 p.m. They refused to take telephone calls.
At 10:55 p.m., roughly 7,000 votes separated the two candidates narrow enough to justify some solitary nail-biting but by 11:20 p.m. the margin had widened to its final breadth of 39,694 votes. Even then, Mr. Katzen’s staff did not take calls from reporters.
At 11:10 p.m., Mr. Kaine widened the lead to 15,000 votes with 93 percent of the votes counted.
Mr. Katzen, 65, chose to run for lieutenant governor rather than seek re-election to his House seat in the 31st District. If he had managed to eke out a victory he could have, on occasion, made mischief for Mr. Warner. While the lieutenant governor’s post is mostly ceremonial, the official presides over the state Senate and votes to break ties. The position also often has been a starting point for higher office.
Mr. Kaine, 43, a civil rights lawyer, was Richmond’s mayor until he resigned during his run for office. He had never served in the General Assembly or run for office outside Richmond.
The two candidates offered a sharp contrast on just about everything from abortion to taxes. But more than anything else, they fought over the direction to take education in the state.
Mr. Kaine opposed a tax-credit plan for parents so they could send their children to private schools, relieving the burden from public schools. He argued it would take away money that could be used for public schools. He also said he wanted to focus on improving student test scores, building more schools and pushing for smaller class sizes.
Throughout his campaign, Mr. Kaine vowed to use his skills as a “consensus builder” if elected. As mayor of Richmond from 1998 to September, he said, the city accomplished much during his tenure. He juggled the city budget to increase spending on public education by 30 percent without raising taxes. The extra money was used to build a middle school and three elementary schools.
Mr. Katzen vowed that as lieutenant governor he would continue the Republican record of setting higher academic standards for schoolchildren and increasing accountability by implementing school report cards that would let parents know how their child’s school is performing.
Mr. Reams, the Libertarian, didn’t get much traction in the race, but his was by far the most intriguing message. As a proponent of relaxing marijuana laws, Mr. Reams conceded he didn’t have a chance in the election, but encouraged folks to vote for him as a statement about drug laws. He called his candidacy the “Reams referendum.”
Mr. Kilgore, 40, is a former state and federal prosecutor who served as secretary of public safety under Republican Gov. George F. Allen. Mr. McEachin, also 40, founded his own prominent law firm in Richmond. He gave up his seat in the House to run for attorney general. Mr. McEachin represented the 74th District.
He has laid out a plan to implement higher ethical standards for public officials, enact tougher penalties in domestic-violence cases and reform the judicial system by stripping all circuit court judges of appointment powers.
Mr. Kilgore, who once worked as legal counsel for the state Republican Party, said as attorney general, he would set up policies requiring public officials to disclose legislative-office allowances on a monthly basis. He also wants to bar legislators from representing clients before state agencies and require electronic filing of lobbyist-disclosure forms.
Mr. Kilgore and Mr. McEachin differed sharply on gun control. Mr. Kilgore campaigned as a staunch defender of gun owners’ rights while Mr. McEachin supported mandatory trigger locks and other restrictions that earned him an F on the National Rifle Association’s report card.
The attorney general acts as the lawyer for the administration and the General Assembly. He will take over a list of ongoing cases and controversies, including defending the Virginia Military Institute’s practice of saying grace before student meals, overseeing the institute’s attempt to craft a policy to address pregnant students, and pursuing the state’s appeal of a federal court ruling that the state must let the Sons of Confederate Veterans have their logo on license plates.
Staff writer Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.