- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Virginia Democrat A. Donald McEachin says the next attorney general will have to be an advocate for police, sheriff's departments and other public safety agencies.
In a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday morning, Mr. McEachin said he will be tough on crime by filling 750 empty police officer and sheriff's deputy slots statewide, as well as the 100 open prosecutor positions.
"It's not more laws they need," he said. "What they need is more help, better pay, better benefits and the filling of those positions."
Mr. McEachin, a state delegate from Henrico County, has a record that shows support for traditionally liberal issues like selling gun locks with handguns and giving a tax credit to buyers for the cost. Yet he also has voted for abortion restrictions and has received awards from the conservative Family Foundation.
Mr. McEachin, who is running against Republican Jerry W. Kilgore on the Nov. 6 ballot, said he recognizes the attorney general's office can be a bully pulpit, but said its primary purpose is to interpret law.
"My job is to tell people what the law is, not what their policy should be," he said.
Mr. McEachin trails Mr. Kilgore, a former prosecutor and secretary of public safety under Gov. George F. Allen, in the polls by a significant margin. But if Virginia history is any guide, it may not matter much what the polls say about the race. For the last six elections, whichever party won the governorship has also won the attorney general's slot.
That will probably hold true this election as well, Mr. McEachin said.
The race has focused so far on Mr. McEachin's votes on gun control and the death penalty: He voted this year for a one-year moratorium on executions so the state could study the issue. But the bill failed, and Mr. McEachin says he no longer supports the moratorium because a study is due out soon.
Besides those issues, though, the next attorney general will have to pick up where the current administration leaves off. That means handling ongoing cases like the Sons of Confederate Veterans' court challenge to a state law that prohibits them from displaying their logo, including the Confederate battle flag, on specialty license plates.
A federal district court ruled in favor of the Sons, but the state appealed the case. Mr. McEachin said if the appeals court rules against the state he will continue fighting to the Supreme Court a policy he will follow in every litigation, unless he deems the action "frivolous."
Mr. Kilgore disagrees, saying if the appeals court rules against the state the ruling should be accepted.
On other issues:
Mr. Kilgore supports a law that would allow police to pull over a driver who isn't wearing a seat belt. Current law only allows a ticket to be issued for not wearing a seat belt if the car was pulled over for another offense first. Mr. Kilgore supports the current law.
Both men support the Virginia Military Institute's policy of holding grace before meals and say they can defend the policy in court.
Mr. Kilgore supports the use of red-light cameras to catch speeders as long as it's under Virginia's current lawwhich requires a police officer to review the ticket and doesn't let private companies control the process. Mr. McEachin opposes the cameras, saying they turn the notion of "innocent until proven guilty" upside down.
Mr. McEachin said he would be in favor of a law that requires drivers using cell phones to have a hands-free device. Mr. Kilgore says drivers should be left to police themselves.

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