- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 20, 2001

A new poll shows Republican Mark L. Earley continuing to gain ground on Democrat Mark R. Warner in the race for Virginia governor, now trailing by 3 percent.

The poll, conducted this week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., showed Mr. Warner with 45 percent support and Mr. Earley with 42 percent support. Libertarian candidate William Redpath polled 1 percent and the remaining 12 percent of voters were undecided. Mr. Warner's lead falls within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, so the race could be considered a statistical tie.

The Earley campaign embraced the poll as a sign of momentum for their candidate and his anti-tax message, given they have closed what was a 6-point gap in Mason-Dixon's September poll.

But Mr. Warner's people dismissed the poll as flawed, arguing it doesn't reflect their internal polling or what they are seeing in response to Mr. Warner's message.

Yesterday, the two candidates touted their support in the Hispanic community, particularly in Northern Virginia.

Mr. Warner held a telephone news conference in which Hispanic business owners and executives praised him for his commitment to public education and other issues they said are important to their community.

"I like Mark because of his full commitment to a public school system that educates everyone," said George Munoz, head of Munoz Investment Banking Group of Arlington and former president of the Chicago Board of Education.

Mr. Earley announced at the Hispanic Committee of Virginia offices in Baileys Crossroads that if elected governor, he will create a Latino Affairs Advisory Commission, calling it a "substantive and symbolic" move that will allow the Latino community input in an Earley administration.

Mr. Earley was joined by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, who praised Mr. Earley's commitment to education and his advisory commission proposal.

"If nothing else, as a Hispanic that would be one good reason to elect Mark Earley," he said.

Mr. Earley also yesterday added three new television ads to the current rotation, including one that raises the abortion issue for the first time this election. Mr. Earley says Mr. Warner opposes a law that would require parents to consent before their minor children could obtain an abortion. The other two ads tout Mr. Earley's plan to recruit 21,000 mentors for youth.

Earlier this week, Mr. Warner began running an ad accusing Mr. Earley of lying about Mr. Warner's transportation plan, which includes a proposed referendum to increase the sales tax in Northern Virginia to pay for transportation projects, has become the top issue in the race.

Mr. Warner supports allowing the referendum and included $900 million from the tax increase in his $2.25 billion transportation plan, which he announced in September. He says it's an issue of local control, not an issue of tax increases.

Mr. Earley says by counting on the money, Mr. Warner has essentially advocated for the tax increase. He has spent the last four weeks trying to make that point in a series of television ads, which have forced Mr. Warner to respond with ads of his own accusing Mr. Earley of distorting the record.

This week Mr. Warner announced he has written a check for $600,000 to his campaign, bringing his personal contribution to $1.4 million, in order to combat Mr. Earley's aid from national Republican groups, which have underwritten much of his campaign.

Mr. Warner has never trailed in any poll, published or unpublished, and in most credible polls has led by at least a few points.

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