- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

ROANOKE — Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine kicked off his gubernatorial campaign with a hopscotching airplane tour of the state yesterday, promising voters fiscal responsibility, a pro-business administration and bipartisanship.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, officially began his campaign at a midday rally here, before flying to similar events in Herndon, Norfolk and Richmond. At each event, he was flanked by his family, including his father-in-law, former Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton.

Mr. Kaine said one of his campaign themes is to “keep Virginia moving in the right direction,” an attempt to remind voters that electing him will continue the legacy of Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat who is popular in the traditionally Republican state.

Mr. Kaine, 47, said when he and Mr. Warner took office in 2002, they inherited a fiscal mess from a Republican administration.

“Only by showing bold leadership and by bringing Democrats and Republicans together were we able to turn things around,” Mr. Kaine told nearly 300 supporters who gathered at a fire station in downtown Roanoke.

Mr. Kaine, who so far faces no challengers for his party’s nomination, also tried to draw clear distinctions between himself and his main challenger, former state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican.

Mr. Kilgore is expected to kick off his gubernatorial campaign with a statewide tour Monday. Other gubernatorial candidates, Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch, a Republican, and Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., a Winchester Republican who is running as an “independent Republican,” have not yet released details of the starts of their campaigns.

At each stop yesterday, supporters, waving blue and red “Tim Kaine for Governor” signs, applauded and cheered when Mr. Kaine addressed them.

In a nearly 30-minute stump speech, Mr. Kaine told supporters that if elected governor, he will work on economic development in all parts of the state. He also said he will announce today a plan that would reduce taxes for homeowners.

Mr. Kaine did not disclose details of his plan to reporters who accompanied him on the tour yesterday. In his speeches in Roanoke and Herndon, Mr. Kaine said the state must try to offset the real estate tax assessments and soaring tax bills.

“We all appreciate when the values of our homes and farms legitimately increase,” Mr. Kaine told supporters in Roanoke. “But too many Virginians are feeling squeezed by the amount of tax hikes on their homes.”

He also said he will run the state like a business and support fully funding the state’s core education needs.

Mr. Kaine, who served as a Richmond City Council member and mayor before becoming lieutenant governor, said he will help small businesses succeed.

He praised the bipartisan coalition that last year helped pass a $1.38 billion tax reform package to fund the state’s education, health care and public safety needs.

Anti-tax Republicans, including Mr. Kilgore, opposed the package, which included tax increases and cuts.

Addressing his opponents, Mr. Kaine said the state must move forward to achieve success. “To those of you who stood in the way of progress, it’s time to get out of the way,” he said, as supporters cheered him on.

Many supporters said they will vote for Mr. Kaine because they like Mr. Warner. “I think Mark Warner has done an excellent job, and I feel like Tim will continue that,” said Diane Crow, a 62-year-old Troutville resident who attended the rally in Roanoke.

Later in the day, Mr. Warner joined Mr. Kaine at a rally at the Herndon Municipal Center, where he promised some 400 supporters that electing Mr. Kaine as Virginia’s next governor would continue his legacy.

“The next governor of Virginia must be Tim Kaine if we are going to keep that progress moving forward,” Mr. Warner said. “He’ll make sure that the commitment we made to fully fund public education will be maintained.”

To reach out to the region’s Hispanic population, Mr. Kaine began his speech in Herndon with a phrase in Spanish, as Mr. Warner has done during his visits.

Mr. Holton, who served as a Republican governor from 1970 to 1974 when Democrats controlled the General Assembly, introduced Mr. Kaine at each event.

Earlier in the day, bad weather forced Mr. Kaine to cancel a planned visit to Wise County in far Southwest Virginia, where Mr. Kilgore is from. But, he spoke to the nearly 250 supporters via a conference call. Mr. Kaine is scheduled to travel to Big Stone Gap Sunday.

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