- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

Jerry W. Kilgore and Timothy M. Kaine, battling through the final 48 hours of a too-close-to-call gubernatorial race, hopscotched across Virginia yesterday, with Mr. Kilgore talking up their differences on the death penalty, taxes, transportation and illegal aliens in hopes of energizing conservative voters.

Mr. Kaine, the state’s lieutenant governor and a Democrat, opposes the death penalty as a practicing Catholic, but says he would uphold the law and sign death warrants.

Mr. Kilgore, the former attorney general and a Republican, has criticized Mr. Kaine for once calling for a moratorium on the practice so it could be studied.

Both continue to run negative TV ads to define their positions in last-hour attempts to win the right on Tuesday to replace Gov. Mark Warner, and Mr. Kaine challenged his opponent to confront President Bush on illegal immigration tomorrow, when the president is scheduled to appear at a Kilgore rally in Richmond.

“He should stand up … and demand that he enforce the federal immigration laws,” Mr. Kaine said.

“Virginia doesn’t need a governor who’s going to be a patsy and who is going to let the federal government get away with not enforcing the laws,” the former Richmond mayor said.

Mr. Warner, on the stump with Mr. Kaine yesterday, called the death penalty ads “embarrassing.”

A TV ad from Mr. Kilgore depicts family members of murder victims criticizing Mr. Kaine.

“Being as liberal as he is in the death penalty, [Mr. Kaine] is not representing everybody in the state,” says one man whose son and daughter-in-law were killed. “I don’t trust Tim Kaine when it comes to the death penalty.”

Mr. Kaine has said his faith won’t prevent him from upholding Virginia law.

“My faith teaches life is sacred, that’s why I personally oppose the death penalty,” Mr. Kaine said in a response ad. “As governor, I’ll carry out death sentences handed down by Virginia juries, because that’s the law.”

Mr. Kaine does not support expanding the death penalty, as Mr. Kilgore does, to gang members who order killings.

The majority of voters agree more with Mr. Kilgore on the death penalty, according to a poll conducted last week by Rasmussen Reports. However, 36 percent of those surveyed said the negative ads make them more likely to vote for Mr. Kaine.

The gubernatorial hopefuls also differ on taxes, particularly on the tax increase, the largest in state history, passed last year by the Republican-controlled legislature.

Mr. Kaine supported the $1.38 billion increase as a “needed investment” in state education, public safety and health care. He calls it “the right thing to do for Virginia,” which was in danger of losing its prized AAA bond rating.

Most voters agree, according to polls.

Mr. Kilgore, who opposed the increase, says it was unneeded and should have been subject to voter approval. The state’s more than $2 billion budget surplus since has bolstered his argument. If elected, Mr. Kilgore would veto any tax increase that is not first put before voters. “I trust the people,” he says.

But Mr. Kilgore has angered anti-tax groups for saying he won’t try to repeal the 2004 package, which also cut the food tax and income taxes for poor Virginians. He pledges to phase out the car tax, end the estate tax and offer tax credits to families who buy school supplies and for those who buy long-term health insurance.

Both candidates say they would not raise taxes for transportation, though they agree the state’s roads are a critical need.

Mr. Kaine would try to restore taxpayers’ trust in Richmond with a lock on the Transportation Trust Fund. The procedure could not be completed until at least 2009 because it is subject to legislative and voter approval. He vows to veto any tax increase passed by the legislature before the lock is approved.

Mr. Kilgore would create regional transportation authorities with the power to impose tolls on roads and to hold local voter referendums on tax increases for roads.

Independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., who has failed to reach 10 percent in polls, has said he would raise more than $2 billion in taxes to pay for transportation projects. Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester, says the state must be willing to increase taxes to make Virginia a great place to live and work.

On illegals, Mr. Kaine and Mr. Kilgore have sparred over a day-laborer center approved in Herndon that would be supported by private grants and with $400,000 in taxpayer funds from Fairfax County.

At a stump rally in Springfield yesterday, Mr. Kilgore said taxpayer dollars should not be used to cater to illegals. “What part of illegal does Tim Kaine not understand?” he asked about 300 supporters.

Mr. Kaine says Herndon officials are dealing with a tough local problem and state government should not interfere. He says he supports “wise” state limits on benefits and services for illegals, unless public health or public safety demands it.

Mr. Kilgore has said he would sign an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to train 50 state troopers and give them special authority to detain illegal aliens.

He also said he would attempt to sanction businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens by seeking legislation or issuing an executive order that would deny state contracts and tax credits to such companies.

On education, Mr. Kaine has proposed giving 4-year-olds universal access to pre-kindergarten. Mr. Kilgore has a plan to give bonuses and merit-pay raises to the state’s best teachers.

The three candidates have raised $42 million combined in the race to succeed Mr. Warner.

cKeyonna Summers contributed to this report.

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