- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III yesterday said he will be a candidate for public office again because Republicans are losing elections by giving inconsistent messages on taxes.

Mr. Gilmore, the last Republican to hold the state’s top job, said Republican gubernatorial nominee Jerry W. Kilgore was not critical enough of the $1.38 billion tax increase championed by Gov. Mark Warner last year.

“I’m frankly concerned,” Mr. Gilmore told The Washington Times. “My intention is to speak out on these issues and help provide leadership any way I can and speak up on what direction I think the state should be going.”

Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat who ran as Mr. Warner’s logical successor, was elected governor last week by a six-point margin.

Under Mr. Warner, the Republican-controlled General Assembly last year narrowly passed the largest tax increase in state history, raising the sales, cigarette and real estate transaction taxes and cutting the food tax and income taxes for the poorest Virginians.

Mr. Kilgore opposed the tax increase and pledged to veto any others unless they had been put to voters in a referendum. However, his reluctance to try to repeal the 2004 tax increases cost him support among proponents of fiscal restraint.

Mr. Gilmore said the state Republican Party must develop a message that protects taxpayers.

“The Republican Party is going to have to make a decision that it will have to make a stand on principles and values,” he said. “It is about what they can do for the taxpayers and working people of the state. We have to speak up for the people. If we don’t do that, they may as well elect Democrats.”

After lawmakers passed the tax increase to fund the state’s growing budget, Virginia officials announced a large surplus. The state has a surplus of more than $2 billion leading into the next two-year budget cycle.

Mr. Gilmore accused Mr. Warner of deceiving Virginians in order to pass the “unnecessary” tax increase.

However, Mr. Warner has said that he inherited a fiscal crisis from the Gilmore administration, which had grossly underestimated the cost of eliminating the state’s car tax.

Mr. Warner, a Democrat with more than 70 percent statewide approval ratings, will submit his final budget next month and will include a proposal for spending the surplus. The legislature will consider the plan during its 2006 session.

The Virginia Constitution bars governors from serving a second consecutive term, although they may seek office again after sitting out a term.

Mr. Gilmore has hinted that he might be interested in a gubernatorial encore or a run for the U.S. Senate when Republican John W. Warner retires.

“I’m sure I’ll be a candidate at some point,” Mr. Gilmore said yesterday.

In 1997, Mr. Gilmore was propelled to victory in the governor’s race with his pledge to end the car tax.

The former governor joined Mr. Kilgore’s gubernatorial campaign kickoff tour in March but was not seen with the Republican candidate on the campaign trail after that.

“I did everything I was asked to do, and I think I could have made a larger contribution than I was asked to do,” Mr. Gilmore said.

Kilgore campaign manager Ken Hutcheson said Mr. Gilmore did not offer further help. “I don’t think he ever made it known he was interested in campaigning,” Mr. Hutcheson said.

Mr. Gilmore said Republican William T. Bolling, who last week was elected as lieutenant governor, delivered the right campaign message.

Mr. Bolling, who will take office in January, agreed with Mr. Gilmore’s assessment that Republicans must focus on low taxes.

“If there is one issue that separates the Republican Party from the Democratic Party it is our belief that working men and women know how to spend their money better than the government,” Mr. Bolling said. “If we ever become the party of higher taxes, then we have taken away the most important issue that separates our philosophy with their philosophy.”

Mr. Bolling said Mr. Gilmore has been an “effective leader” in the past and that “no doubt he can be an effective leader for our party and our commonwealth in the future.”

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