- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

As Mark Warner heads into the stretch in the Virginia gubernatorial race, he's trying to run as fast as he can from the perception that Democrats are high-tax, soft-on-crime liberals perceptions that spelled political doom for once-popular party standard-bearers like former Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer and former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Charles Robb. And it would be very understandable if Mr. Warner, who has seen a double-digit lead vanish into a statistical dead heat with GOP nominee Mark Earley in the past seven weeks or so, is more than a little bit worried about vanishing into political oblivion like Mr. Robb, Mrs. Terry and Mr. Beyer before him. Despite his efforts to recast himself as a "moderate" who will be firm with criminals, Mr. Warner has generated a significant and disturbing paper trail since the early 1990s one that should make Virginians quite wary about his protestations of being "tough" on crime.

There is a world of difference between the Warner and Earley records on crime. Mr. Warner, who was chairman of the state Democratic Party in the early 1990s, repeatedly criticized George Allen's then-revolutionary plan to abolish parole and expand prison space. While crime rates were dropping in the Old Dominion thanks to these anti-crime initiatives, Mr. Warner suggested that the Allen program was "dumb" and fiscally questionable. Mr. Warner "was on the sidelines sniping away, and consistently taking the position that we couldn't afford to do it, and that it was a waste of money, and that the money should be spent on other things," former U.S. Attorney General William Barr noted.

For his part, former Gov. and current Sen. George Allen has made it crystal-clear which candidate can be trusted to continue the Allen-Jim Gilmore crime-fighting agenda into the 21st century. "In the race for governor," Mr. Allen said in a recent speech, "only one candidate stood with us as we were fighting very hard to abolish the lenient, dishonest parole system, and that's Mark Earley." Mr. Earley, the former governor added, "dared to stand up to the criminal apologists." Mr. Earley, who was the state's attorney general, helped implement those policies, while Mr. Warner hissed at them from the sidelines. Mr. Earley also served on the state's parole abolition commission, and helped draft the legislation implementing the Allen plan.

During his losing 1996 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Mr. Warner belatedly moved to take a tougher stance on crime, supporting "three strikes and you're out" laws abolishing parole for felons. The Allen parole bill, by contrast, applied to first-time violent offenders.

"It seems to me that some people may have forgotten history," Mr. Allen says. Here's hoping that, by election day, voters' amnesia will have disappeared.

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