- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 8, 2001

Democratic campaign officials predicted yesterday that their two gubernatorial wins Tuesday would be a springboard going into the 2002 midterm elections. But Republicans complained that the Democrats won by taking the Republicans' position on taxes, spending and other issues.
Campaign strategists said it was impossible to find the makings of any long-term trends from a couple of governor's races and some big-city mayoralty contests in Tuesday's off-year elections. It did not stop officials in both parties from making the strong claims.
Democrats cheered their takeover of governorships in New Jersey and Virginia after nearly a decade of losses, regaining control of the New Jersey State Assembly and mayoralty victories in more than a dozen cities.
Republicans pointed to news media magnate Michael Bloom-berg's victory in the New York City mayoral race, where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, and the 12-seat gain in the 100-member Virginia House of Delegates that lifted their majority to 64 seats.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the results showed that the Democrats were running on "kitchen-table, quality-of-life issues that matter to voters" who were "repudiating the stale ideas of the Republican Party."
"If you believe that the Republicans are running on stale ideas, then why did the Democrats' candidates run on them and take them?" replied Republican National Committee Chairman James S. Gilmore III, the outgoing governor of Virginia.
Democrats who won governorships Tuesday James E. McGreevey of New Jersey and Mark R. Warner of Virginia staked out right-of-center positions against higher state taxes and piling up debt through bigger spending.
Mr. McGreevey, in his final debate with Republican Bret D. Schundler, said he regretted his support for former Democratic Gov. James Florio's tax increases, and repeatedly criticized the spending increases that occurred under former Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
Though he was attacked by Republican Mark L. Earley for planning to raise taxes, Mr. Warner repeatedly promised in his heavily financed TV ads that he would not do so, and defined himself as a budget-balancer who would be more fiscally conservative.
In a conference call yesterday with reporters, Mr. Gilmore denied that the Republican Party's anti-tax issue had "lost its punch," pointing out that "Warner said throughout the campaign that he continued to favor the car-tax cut," which has been the flagship issue of Mr. Gilmore's governorship.
"Warner ran on pro-gun issues, supported parental notification on abortion and ran as a fiscal conservative. The Democrats can't be happy that he ran away from their national platform," he said.
Even pro-tax-cut conservatives yesterday said that Mr. Warner sounded like the more fiscally conservative of the two candidates.
"For the Republican Party, this was a lousy election. But for the pro-growth, fiscal conservative movement, this was not a repudiation of the anti-tax message, but a validation of it by the Democrats," said Steven Moore, head of the Club for Growth, which heavily supported Mr. Schundler's campaign.
"Democrats won by simply co-opting our message on taxes because the political center of gravity on tax issues has shifted to the right," he said.
Mr. McAuliffe, who even counted Mr. Bloomberg as a victory because he was a former Democrat, saw the results as a harbinger of things to come and proof that even though he did not personally campaign, President Bush "has no coattails whatsoever."
"There's no question that yesterday's victories will serve as a springboard heading into 2002, when I believe we can expand our Senate majority, take back the House, win key gubernatorial races and regain state legislative majorities," he said at a news conference.
Mr. Gilmore said the Republican Party heads into next year's election cycle in a much stronger position than the Democrats on several levels. "Things look very good for us. We have very strong candidates for the Senate and the governorships. We're raising lots of money at the RNC and the DNC is broke," he said.


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