- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

Republican Jay Katzen and Democrat Tim Kaine, candidates for Virginia lieutenant governor, squared off in a debate in Tysons Corner last night that underscored just how similar their race is to the race for governor.

On everything from a referendum to raise the sales tax in Northern Virginia to education policy, the men mirrored their ticketmates in the governor's race Republican Mark L. Earley and Democrat Mark R. Warner. The races are so similar that, when asked about the issues on which they and their ticketmates disagreed, each candidate could find only one point.

For Mr. Katzen, the disagreement was over repealing the "one gun a month" restriction. Mr. Earley opposes changing the law, while Mr. Katzen has said he would like to see it changed.

Mr. Kaine, meanwhile, said he is morally opposed to the death penalty a point of difference between him and Mr. Warner. But Mr. Kaine said he accepts the death penalty as the law of Virginia and will uphold it if elected.

The lieutenant governor's race continues to tighten, according to a Mason-Dixon poll released last week, with Mr. Kaine holding a slight lead but with plenty of voters still undecided.

The role of lieutenant governor is mostly ceremonial the officeholder's main job is to preside over the state Senate while it is in session but the office does offer a bully pulpit to pursue an agenda.

For both candidates, a key part of that agenda is education but they take different approaches.

Mr. Katzen is a supporter of indirect tuition-tax credits. As a state delegate, he was chief sponsor of a bill that would allow businesses and individuals to contribute to a scholarship fund in exchange for a tax credit. Children from low-income families then could apply for those scholarships. Mr. Katzen said the program wouldn't divert money from public schools, but would offer those children a chance to escape failing schools.

Mr. Kaine, meanwhile, opposes the plan, arguing that it does siphon money away from public schools. He instead says the state is shortchanging localities in school funding, and he said he will work to make the state pay a greater share of local education costs.

Both men said they don't think the car-tax cut, the fifth and final phase of which is due next year, should go forward if the state revenue doesn't meet economic mileposts written into law. If revenue collections, which so far have fallen this year compared with last year, continue apace that means both men in effect would support freezing the tax cut at 70 percent.

The debate's most colorful moment may have come from Libertarian candidate Gary Reams, who wasn't part of the debate but was allowed to address the gathering, sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association at the McLean Hilton before the debate started.

Mr. Reams, whose campaign is centered on opposing current marijuana laws, reminded the audience that the job is largely ceremonial and said, given that, the race is the perfect time for voters to support him in his "Reams Reeferendum."

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