- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2005

Candidates in tomorrow’s Virginia primaries spent the weekend shaking hands and stumping for every last vote.

At the Celebrate Fairfax festival this weekend, many voters were surprised to find an election just days away, though there were plenty of campaign workers — or, in some cases, the candidates themselves — willing to bring the uninformed up to date.

“I’ve seen the campaign signs up, but I didn’t know what was going on, honestly,” said Garrett Hutsko of Fairfax County near Fort Belvoir. “I hadn’t given it any thought and I didn’t even know there was an election. I usually vote in November.” Mr. Hutsko, a 57-year-old federal government employee, said he tends to vote Republican.

Virginians do not register by party, and voters will need to choose a party ballot when they go to the polls tomorrow to pick the candidates for the Nov. 8 general election.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Jerry W. Kilgore and George B. Fitch walked the crowd Saturday, with Kilgore volunteers handing out lots of stickers for their candidate.

Mr. Kilgore, the former attorney general, met voters while surrounded with volunteers who wore the orange shirts that have become the campaign trademark.

Mr. Fitch, the mayor of Warrenton, was not as welcome with the Republicans backing Mr. Kilgore.

“I think he’s standing on a corner somewhere by himself,” one Republican volunteer said when asked if she had seen Mr. Fitch at the GOP booth.

The most competitive statewide races tomorrow are for the lieutenant governor nominations. Both Republicans and Democrats will choose candidates for the No. 2 spot.

Volunteers for Leslie L. Byrne, a former state lawmaker and congresswoman, asked festival attendees to vote for the Democrat. Mrs. Byrne, from Fairfax, was campaigning elsewhere in the state.

“Everywhere is everybody’s territory in this race,” said Byrne campaign manager Joe Shafer, who was working the crowd. “You’ve got to go everywhere and fight for every vote.”

Delegate J. Chapman Petersen of Fairfax City, another Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, also was not in attendance at the festival. He was flying around the state to visit each region before the primary, stopping in Wise County, Danville, Roanoke and Norfolk. On Friday, he spent the day meeting voters at two Northern Virginia Metro stations.

Candidate Sean T. Connaughton, Triangle Republican, walked the crowd and met voters. Mr. Connaughton, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, was trailed by volunteers, some family members and someone wearing an elephant costume.

“You’ve got to be there Tuesday — it’s my November,” he told supporters Saturday. “Make sure to tell everybody.”

Volunteers for his opponent, Sen. William T. Bolling, Hanover Republican, were on hand at the festival.

Some political insiders believe that Mr. Connaughton would help the Republican ticket in November because he is from Northern Virginia, the largest voting bloc in the state.

Residents attending the festival could vote absentee at the Fairfax County Government Center where it was being held. Many campaign staffers encouraged attendees to do so.

“What election?” was the reaction from many.

Judith Bull of Fairfax said she would vote tomorrow, even though she was not familiar with the candidates in her district. “It’s important to vote because it determines a lot of people’s futures,” she said.

Michael Hon, a government contractor who considers himself a Democrat, said he is quite aware of the election and criticized growing voter apathy.

“There needs to be more effort to get the vote out,” said Mr. Hon, 30, of Centreville. “People should try to pay more attention to the primary.”

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