- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine and independent H. Russell Potts Jr. said yesterday they will debate each other immediately after a debate between Mr. Kaine and the Republican candidate.

Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester, was not invited to the Sept. 13 debate between Mr. Kaine and Republican candidate Jerry W. Kilgore. The debate will be hosted by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce at the McLean Hilton Tysons Corner. Mr. Potts also was not included in a debate last month.

“I’m very delighted that I’ll have an opportunity to passionately articulate my views, which differ dramatically from the other two candidates,” Mr. Potts said.

Kaine campaign spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said details of the Kaine-Potts debate are still in the works, but said Mr. Kaine is glad to debate the independent “to make sure Virginia voters have an opportunity to see all the candidates debate.”

A spokesman for the Kilgore campaign denounced the idea as a “political stunt” and said Mr. Kilgore would not participate in the second debate that day because he will be campaigning.

“We will certainly enjoy watching the sideshow as Tim Kaine and Russ Potts debate between themselves as two liberals who are competing for the title of fastest and best tax increaser,” Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.

Earlier this month, 15 former chamber leaders asked the chamber to include Mr. Potts.

Chamber President and CEO William D. Lecos said the chamber leadership was sticking to tradition of including only the two major-party candidates and that the leaders have since reviewed and reaffirmed the decision.

“We’re the only organization in Northern Virginia that can guarantee you that if you tune in, you are going to hear the next governor of Virginia talk about the issues he will deal with over the next four years, Mr. Lecos said.

Mr. Lecos dismissed the Kaine-Potts debate as “showmanship” and said “political stunts are a long-standing campaign staple.”

When asked his party affiliation, Mr. Lecos said he found that “immaterial” to the debate discussion and refused to answer. However, a search of the Virginia Public Access Project showed that Mr. Lecos has donated to Republican candidates.

Mr. Potts said the 24,000 signatures he collected to get on the ballot means he has “earned” his way onto a debate platform. He submitted 5,000 more signatures than Mr. Kaine.

Mr. Potts called Mr. Kilgore “cowardly” and “unprincipled” for refusing to debate him.

The University of Virginia is hosting a televised debate between Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Kaine on Oct. 9 and will not include Mr. Potts unless he reaches 15 percent in statewide polls.

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