Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Anti-tax groups targeting Republican delegates who last year voted for the largest tax increase in Virginia history largely failed to deliver at the polls Tuesday, unseating only one incumbent.

There were 19 House Republicans who voted for the increases, but only six delegates faced challenges from anti-tax candidates in the primary. Those incumbents who won their party’s nominations said yesterday the anti-tax groups were in the minority, but the groups still claim a victory.

Delegate Gary Alan Reese, Fairfax County Republican, lost the party’s nomination to opponent Chris Craddock, a youth minister and soccer coach.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said removing even one incumbent sends a signal to others.

“There will be an effort by some on the left to say people didn’t mind the tax increase or because not everybody was primaried and not everybody was defeated that that was somehow an endorsement of the tax increase,” he said.

But, Mr. Reese and the other incumbents did not campaign on the fact they raised taxes, a move which “tells you that the candidates think the voters don’t think it was a particularly a good idea,” Mr. Norquist said.

Paul Jost, chairman of the Board of Directors of the anti-tax group Virginia Club for Growth said the group can claim two victories, which includes the retirement of Delegate James H. Dillard II. The Fairfax County Republican voted for the tax increases last year.

“If we lost all the primary races, we wouldn’t be any worse off than we are right now,” Mr. Jost said before the primary. “All we can do is win. We’ve gotten rid of Dillard.”

Mr. Jost said taking out one or two of the tax raisers sends a message that future increases will not be tolerated. “If we take out a few of their friends, they will be a little bit more in line next time,” he said.

The general election is Nov. 8.

Delegate Robert D. Orrock Sr., one of the targeted incumbents, said yesterday the anti-tax groups were not able to convince most voters. The Caroline County Republican on Tuesday defeated his anti-tax opponent, Shaun Kenney, with 55 percent of the vote.

“If there’s a message from this, it’s that the majority of Republicans are not one-issue voters,” Mr. Orrock said.

He said many who voted for him didn’t agree with his single vote to raise taxes, but supported him for his overall record.

Mr. Craddock mounted a challenge against Mr. Reese because of the incumbent’s tax vote. He also campaigned that Mr. Reese was too liberal on social issues.

“So many people came out because they want to keep our taxes low,” Mr. Craddock said yesterday. “But it was not just a single issue — it was just the whole ball of wax. Our three-pronged attack was that we will keep taxes low, bring more money to Northern Virginia and that people want traditional moral values.”

Mr. Craddock won the party’s nomination with 66 percent of the vote.

Mr. Reese, who has served in the House since 2002, did not return calls yesterday. He previously told The Washington Times he viewed Mr. Craddock as “extreme.”

Mr. Reese said he has never been part of the “far right,” and does not like when conservative groups tell delegates how to vote on social bills. “I’ll make up my own mind,” he said.

Last year, there were two major votes on the tax increases — one for $750 million and one for $1.38 billion. After the House passed the first tax package, the Senate tacked on additional taxes, increasing the total figure before the House voted on it a second time.

Mr. Reese, a former Fairfax County School Board member, voted for the first increase, but not the final compromise, which raised the state’s sales, cigarette and real estate transaction taxes.

Mr. Reese had raised $157,076 in his re-election bid, and Mr. Craddock raised $71,872, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections.

In November, Mr. Craddock will face former Fairfax County School Board member Chuck Caputo, a Democrat, and Libertarian candidate Chuck Eby in the Republican-leaning 67th District seat.

The anti-tax groups think the Republican nomination of appellate lawyer Michael J. Golden to replace Mr. Dillard is another victory.

Mr. Golden campaigned on reducing the property-tax burden for residents and said he opposed last year’s state tax increases. He will face Democrat David Marsden in November.

Mr. Orrock said he is worried the infighting in the Republican Party might benefit the Democrats at the polls this fall.

“We gave them an excellent test case within our own party to develop campaign strategy,” he said. “I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that the actions [of anti-tax groups] could result in us losing some seats come November.”

Yesterday, the statewide Republican ticket began a tour of Virginia, promising to defend the values of “faith, family and freedom” if elected.

On the Republican statewide ticket are former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore as the nominee for governor, state Sen. William T. Bolling of Hanover as the nominee for lieutenant governor and Delegate Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia Beach as the nominee for attorney general.

The Democrats plan to hold a rally in Williamsburg Saturday.

On the Democratic statewide ticket are Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaineas the nominee for governor, former U.S. Rep. Leslie L. Byrne of Fairfax as the nominee for lieutenant governor and state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County as the nominee for attorney general.

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