- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2001

Virginians will have an opportunity to decide on the future direction of their state next Tuesday, when they vote to elect a new governor. The right choice couldn't possibly be clearer: Mark Earley, the Republican nominee, who has compiled a very distinguished record during nearly 15 years of service as a state senator and attorney general is the best man for the job. Mr. Earley has fought tenaciously in the political trenches together with leaders like Govs. George Allen and Jim Gilmore to reform welfare; to ensure that responsible parents are notified when their minor child seeks an abortion; to cut taxes and to abolish a discredited parole system that was putting dangerous predators back out on the street after serving only a fraction of their sentences.
In 1996, when Mr. Allen was looking for a state senator to serve as a point man for a plan to overhaul the state's juvenile justice system to ensure that law-abiding Virginians are protected from violent teens, he tapped Mr. Earley for the job. "The reason I went to Mark is that he is a respected leader who understands the arguments and articulates them well," Mr. Allen said. Mr. Earley then proceeded to help craft a compromise that included tougher penalties for youthful offenders, along with more money for rehabilitation programs supported by Democrats in the General Assembly. As The Washington Post acknowledged recently, "both friends and foes agreed that Earley played a central role in the General Assembly for most of his decade there, because of his ability to compromise and build coalitions while maintaining his staunch conservatism."
During his three-and-a-half years as attorney general in the Gilmore administration, Mr. Earley continued to serve with distinction, vigorously fighting for tougher penalties against those involved in illicit sales of the painkiller Oxycontin, which has become a particular scourge in rural areas of the state; successfully defending a statute banning cross burnings and prevailing in court over the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought to strike down a law requiring a moment of silence in schools. In an effort to steer troubled youths away from crime, his office has even instituted a "mentoring" program encouraging adults to volunteer their time to work with such teen-agers.
While Mr. Earley has been compiling this distinguished record of public service, his Democratic opponent, Mark Warner, (who served as state Democratic Party chairman in the early 1990s, and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1996) has contented himself with sniping from the sidelines against virtually every reform initiative advanced by Messrs. Allen, Gilmore and Earley.
In fact, Mr. Warner has tried to reinvent himself as a tough-on-crime "moderate;" a defender of gun owners' rights; and a "fiscal conservative." But this appears to be more sham than substance. Mr. Warner, (who declined repeated invitations to meet with this newspaper's editorial board), understands political reality very well; he knows that, in a state like Virginia, which has been trending sharply toward Republicans and conservatives in recent years, the surest path to political oblivion is to get pegged by voters as an unrepentent high-tax, big spending, soft-on-crime liberal. (Just ask such former elected officials as Charles Robb, Mary Sue Terry and Don Beyer.)
Mr. Warner is the Old Dominion's version of Bill Clinton a fellow "new Democrat" who's quite capable of adjusting his beliefs when politically necessary to do so. He once suggested that Mr. Allen's prison-building initative and the abolition of parole were wastes of money. Now, he embraces them. He denounced welfare reform when it was part of the Republicans' Contract with America. Now, Mr. Warner is all for it.
This is in marked contrast to Mr. Earley. When it comes to taxing the Internet, for example, Mr. Earley supports a straightforward continuation of the current tax moratorium. But Mr. Warner has himself a "Clinton clause," if he wants to raise taxes later: He says he only favors continuing the moratorium "at this time." Mr. Earley is also committed to getting rid of the notorious car tax by next year, as scheduled. Mr. Warner, however, will only commit to ending the tax by the conclusion of his four-year term as governor. Even former Gov. Doug Wilder, who has endorsed Mr. Warner, acknowledges his "lack of candor," adding: "That question, who is the real Mark Warner? is there."
Perhaps the most important question, however, is whether President Bush (who is tremendously popular in Virginia) would be willing to join Mr. Earley on the campaign trail over the next eight days. While Mr. Bush's desire for "bipartisanship" in wartime is understandable, the reality is that politics still continue and ideas still matter. There is no inconsistency between leading a nation during wartime and spending a day on the campaign trail for someone who is fighting for the values a president believes in. Mr. Bush should go to Virginia and campaign for a man of conservative principle: Mark Earley. The Washington Times is pleased to endorse Mark Earley.


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