- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2005

Failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate George B. Fitch has thrown his support behind former foe Jerry W. Kilgore.

Mr. Kilgore bested Mr. Fitch during the June 14 Republican primary for the gubernatorial nomination. Mr. Fitch spent much of the campaign criticizing Mr. Kilgore for not presenting any new ideas and challenged him to debates. The two never met during the campaign for a debate or joint public appearance.

But that all changed last week when the Kilgore campaign rolled through Warrenton, where Mr. Fitch is mayor.

The campaign sent out a press release touting Mr. Kilgore’s visit, saying he would be joined by Patricia Fitch, Mr. Fitch’s wife, and some town council members. Word on the street was that Mr. Fitch would not attend because he had a prior engagement.

To the pleasure of the Kilgore campaign, Mr. Fitch rushed back to join Mr. Kilgore and endorse his former opponent publicly.



Many Republican insiders have said Mr. Fitch, a fiscal conservative who cut wasteful spending from the Warrenton budget, would make a good Cabinet secretary for Mr. Kilgore.

• No endorsement

A leading abortion-rights group will not endorse a candidate in Virginia’s race for governor.

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia endorsed Democrats Leslie Byrne for lieutenant governor and Robert Creigh Deeds for attorney general. It also endorsed 35 House of Delegates candidates — one independent and 34 Democrats.

However, the group said in its announcement Tuesday that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine “embraces many of the restrictions on a woman’s right to choose that are opposed by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.” Ann O’Hanlon, executive director, said those restrictions include parental consent and a ban on a procedure that abortion opponents call “partial-birth abortion.”

The organization said that while it could not endorse Mr. Kaine, he would be a better alternative than the “extremely anti-choice” Republican candidate, Jerry W. Kilgore.

“Between these two men, we see more hope for the women of Virginia in Kaine’s candidacy, and we are eager and willing to work with him on these important issues should he be elected,” the organization said.

Mr. Kaine has said he personally opposes abortion, based on his Roman Catholic faith, but that he would uphold the law and would not work to outlaw abortion. Mr. Kilgore, the former attorney general, opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

Mr. Kaine, the lieutenant governor, said he understood NARAL’s decision to sit out this year’s governor’s race and reiterated his position on abortion: that he supports “appropriate and reasonable checks,” but that he opposes “the criminalization of women and doctors.”

Kilgore spokesman Tucker Martin suggested NARAL snubbed Mr. Kaine because the Democrat has sent mixed messages on where he stands.

“It demonstrates that no one can believe what Kaine says on this issue,” Mr. Martin said. “He has lost all credibility on this issue.”

• Hopefuls get help

The Greater Washington Board of Trade has endorsed four political hopefuls who are vying for seats in the Virginia House of Delegates.

The board’s political action committee, made up of business leaders, also has endorsed three incumbent delegates. All 100 House seats will be up during the Nov. 8 election.

The group endorsed two newcomers seeking open seats: Republican John Mason of Fairfax City and Democrat David Marsden of Fairfax County. They also endorsed two Democrats looking to unseat incumbents: Greg Werkheiser and Hilda Barg.

Mr. Werkheiser, a lawyer, is challenging Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican.

Mrs. Barg, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, is challenging Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William County Republican.

The board also endorsed incumbent Delegates Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax County Republican; Vivian E. Watts, Fairfax County Democrat, and Thomas Davis Rust, Fairfax County Republican.

The group said the candidates were chosen because of their emphasis on funding transportation and higher education, along with support of innovation of the health care system.

Earlier this summer the PAC endorsed six incumbent delegates.

• BRAC flak

Final deliberations are expected this week on the fate of dozens of military facilities now on the chopping block. And D.C. officials spent Friday raising fresh concerns about the possible closure of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the city’s nonvoting member of Congress, warned it could cost lives if there were a mass-casualty attack.

“The distance to emergency care would matter in case of an attack,” Mrs. Norton said. She cited Walter Reed’s critical role as an asset available to the Defense Department’s Northern Command, established three years ago for homeland defense and civil-support missions.

While the city’s permanent population is about 571,000, it swells to about 2 million during the day because of commuters and other visitors.

Mrs. Norton has called on Base Closure and Realignment Commission Chairman Anthony J. Principi to re-examine cost estimates for closing Walter Reed, and the potential negative effect on the region’s security. D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has raised similar concerns.

The BRAC recommendations call for relocating the facility’s functions to a unit within the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. While the site is just three miles north of Walter Reed, Mrs. Norton and others contend the distance in an emergency could be critical.

• The Bubba brigade

It worked for Mark Warner, so why not for Robert Creigh Deeds? Mr. Deeds, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, announced Tuesday the formation of a “Sportsmen for Deeds” committee that will trumpet his support of hunters, fishermen and gun owners. Mr. Warner formed a similar committee in 2001 as part of a rural strategy that helped him win, breaking the Republicans’ eight-year hold on the governor’s office.

“This is one of the markers in the campaign I’ve been waiting for,” Mr. Deeds said in a teleconference with reporters.

The state senator from Bath County was the chief legislative sponsor of a constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2000, guaranteeing the right to hunt, fish and trap.

“I very much grew up in these traditions,” he said.

He has opposed gun control, including the law allowing Virginians to buy only one handgun per month. Mr. Deeds said the handgun restriction has had minimal impact on sportsmen, but that it could set a precedent for further erosion of gun owners’ rights.

David “Mudcat” Saunders of Roanoke said the committee will spread the word that Mr. Deeds’ opponent, Republican Delegate Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia Beach, supported the one-gun-a-month law and opposed the constitutional amendment.

“Once Bubba gets a good look at McDonnell, he’s not going to like what he sees,” said Mr. Saunders, who was Mr. Warner’s rural strategist in 2001.

Mr. McDonnell said he opposed the constitutional amendment because it put sportsmen “at the mercy of the legislature.”

• Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

• A ‘cool’ thank-you

A Hampstead, Md., teenager said it was “pretty cool” to get a visit from U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett to thank him for his efforts to support American soldiers in Iraq.

Colin Valentine , 14, said his project started after he began communicating online with Spc. Tommy Jones, who was stationed in Iraq.

Before being called up to active duty, Spc. Jones was a high school baseball coach in Texas.

Colin said Spc. Jones put out the word over the Internet that he was looking for baseball equipment for Iraqi children.

Colin was playing baseball and was looking for a community service project, so he arranged to send the baseball gear to the children.

Mr. Bartlett’s office got a call about Colin’s efforts, and after the press helped him track the teen down, the Maryland Republican paid him a visit Tuesday evening.

• Voting investigation

A Wise County, Va., prosecutor said a grand jury will investigate accusations of vote-buying in the town of Appalachia.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Chad Dotson said the grand jury will convene in early October to look into irregularities in last year’s elections.

Some residents of a low-income housing complex have said they were approached by a supporter of a Town Council candidate and offered beer, cigarettes and even pork skins in exchange for their votes. Mr. Dotson said that in at least one case, an absentee ballot was stolen from a voter’s mailbox.

Meantime, former Gate City Mayor Charles Dougherty was arraigned Monday in Scott County. He pleaded not guilty to 37 counts of election fraud in absentee voting in his re-election campaign last year.

• Trial date set

A new trial date has been set for a former state Senate candidate from Cambridge, Md., who is facing drug charges in Wicomico County.

The trial for Grason Eckel, 49, is scheduled for Oct. 21. The trial was postponed in June to allow him to complete an intensive outpatient drug-treatment program.

Mr. Eckel was arrested in North Salisbury, Md., in March after a police dog reportedly found drugs in his car. He is charged with possession of heroin, crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

Mr. Eckel is a lawyer who ran in 2002 for the state Senate. He lost in the general election to incumbent Sen. Richard F. Colburn. He also ran in the Democratic primary for the seat in 1998.

• GOP’s tax ideas

Republican delegates in Virginia pledged to renew their efforts to repeal Virginia’s estate tax and to establish a “sales-tax holiday” for purchases of clothes and school supplies before the start of a new academic year.

House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican, said at a news conference Thursday that many other states already offer those tax breaks and that Virginia needs to match them to remain competitive.

“For me, making these commitments is simply the right thing to do,” Mr. Howell said.

Several sales-tax holiday bills have failed in recent years, but last week’s endorsement by the House Republican Caucus could improve the measure’s chances in the 2006 session. Delegate John S. Reid, Henrico Republican and a previous sponsor of the bill, said the fact that most neighboring states offer the holiday should prompt Virginia lawmakers to follow suit.

Details of the proposal have not been worked out.

Repealing the tax paid posthumously on the estates of millionaires also is not a new idea. The measure passed the General Assembly, but was vetoed by Gov. Mark Warner in 2003. Last year, it was a casualty of a three-month stalemate over the budget.

The federal government began phasing out its estate tax in 2001. Virginia is one of 20 states that continue to impose what critics call “the death tax.”

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