- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

CHESAPEAKE, Va. Republican Mark L. Earley and Democrat Mark R. Warner yesterday returned their public-safety plans to the forefront of their race for governor amid growing public anxiety over anthrax contamination.

Mr. Earley emphasized his 31/2 years experience as the state's attorney general as he rehashed proposals made a month ago for safeguarding strategic Virginia infrastructure after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York.

In Bristol, Mr. Warner rallied with firefighters and police officers, and rehashed his own proposals, which include restoring full funding for the state police and creating a terrorism strike force within the state police.

Mr. Earley returned to his hometown and the fire station that serves his boyhood neighborhood and noted that many of the state's strategic points would be inviting terror targets, including key military outposts and the bridges and tunnels that link Hampton Roads.

"Virginia's greatest assets have now become our greatest vulnerabilities in the war on terrorism, and though we need not be afraid, we must be sober, be prepared and be ready," Mr. Earley told a gathering of supporters.

"We are home to more military command structures than any other state in the nation. We have the carrier fleet stationed here, we've got the CIA, … and we've got Quantico, and the list goes on and on," Mr. Earley said. "Because of that, it's one of the reasons Virginia was in the cross hairs on Sept. 11."

Around him stood a handful of uniformed sheriffs and deputies and Jim Gaudet, a former president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Virginia. The union itself has not made an endorsement. Mr. Warner also has held news conferences with supporters from law enforcement.

Mr. Warner has never held elected office, however, and Mr. Gaudet said that is a reason he prefers Mr. Earley.

"For us to continue to do what we need to do, we need experience, we need courage, we need leadership, we need compassion," Mr. Gaudet said. "If it's not broke, don't fix it."

Firefighters and law-enforcement officers in Bristol cheered Mr. Warner. Among them were Bristol Sheriff Jack Weisenberger and Russell County Sheriff Trigg Fields.

Both campaigns said the national anthrax scare of the past few days was not the reason for the new emphasis on public safety

"It's certainly been more in the spotlight since Sept. 11," said Warner spokesman Mo Elleithee. "This morning's events had been on the books for a while, and it's not in response to any one thing."

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