- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

RICHMOND — Democrat Timothy M. Kaine was elected governor of Virginia last night, defeating Republican Jerry W. Kilgore in a bitter and costly battle for the state’s top post.

Mr. Kaine captured 1,006,587 votes, or 52 percent, while Mr. Kilgore received 902,264 votes, or 46 percent, with 2,390 of 2,395 precincts reporting.

Mr. Kaine will succeed Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat who is barred by law from seeking a second consecutive term.

In his victory speech, Mr. Kaine said it has been a long and difficult campaign, but in the end, “we proved that people are more interested in fiscal responsibility than in ideological bickering.”

“It’s time to build on that progress and together write the next chapter in Virginia history,” Mr. Kaine told cheering supporters who gathered at the Richmond Marriott.

In his concession speech, Mr. Kilgore thanked his family, staff and supporters. In a choked voice, Mr. Kilgore said Virginians are “the luckiest people on earth.”

“There is no reason tonight to hold your head in defeat,” he told his supporters gathered at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, across the street from the Marriott. “There is every reason to look up in pride.”

Independent gubernatorial candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. got 43,634 votes, or 2 percent. Mr. Potts, who was in Winchester yesterday, conceded the race early in the evening.

“I stand tall and stand proud,” he said. “I entered this race on principle, and I leave it on principle.”

Republican William T. Bolling narrowly defeated Democrat Leslie L. Byrne in the race for lieutenant governor.

Mr. Bolling won 964,951 votes, or 51 percent, with 2,390 of 2,395 precincts reporting. Mrs. Byrne captured 934,583 votes, or 49 percent.

Republican Robert F. McDonnell held the slimmest of leads over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds last night in the race for attorney general.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. McDonnell led by just more than 9,000 votes over Mr. Deeds, with more than 1.9 million votes cast.

“This race is not over,” Mr. Warner said last night with Mr. Deeds at his side. “This race is too close to call. All we ask — all we demand — is that every vote is fairly counted.”

The results were close enough that the losing candidate will be able to demand a recount. State law allows for a recount when the margin of victory is less than 1 percent.

As Mr. Kaine was declared the winner, some Kilgore supporters who gathered at the convention center held a vigil. Across the street at the Richmond Marriott, Kaine supporters cheered.

Meanwhile, two House delegates lost re-election bids last night, and Democrats picked up two other Republican seats in Northern Virginia. However, Republicans will maintain control in the 100-member House.

Several registrars said voter turnout at precincts in Northern Virginia was slightly less than expected and lower than the turnout during last year’s presidential election.

There are 4.5 million registered voters in Virginia, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Hours before the polls closed, the Kaine campaign told reporters that Democrats had a “more aggressive” turnout operation this year than in 2001, the last gubernatorial election.

“We believe we are going to win this,” said Mo Elleithee, a Kaine campaign spokesman. “They ain’t beatin’ us. And if they ain’t beatin’ us, we’re gonna beat them.”

Kilgore spokesman J. Tucker Martin said the campaign felt good about the areas the Republicans targeted, such as the outer suburbs of Northern Virginia. “It’s strong where we need it to be strong,” he said.

Mr. Martin also said the last-minute rally with President Bush on Monday night in Richmond helped the Republican get-out-the-vote efforts.

“This is a conservative state, and on the day before the election, we stood with President Bush, and they sent out an e-mail from [U.S. Sen.] John Kerry and you don’t win elections in Virginia that way,” he said.

Mr. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, sent the e-mail on his own.

Mr. Elleithee said Mr. Bush’s visit to Richmond fired up the Democratic base. Mr. Bush has a record-low 37 percent approval rating in nationwide polls. He fares slightly better in polls taken in Virginia, which twice supported him for president by wide margins.

Mr. Kaine is the lieutenant governor, and Mr. Kilgore is the former state attorney general.

Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester, will return to Richmond in January for the legislative session. He is chairman of the powerful Senate Education and Health Committee, a position his conservative colleagues may try to strip from him because he bucked the party to run as an independent.

The governor’s race was one of the closest in modern history, with Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Kaine deadlocked in the polls for months.

Political observers viewed Virginia’s race as a referendum on national Republicans and Mr. Bush.

The three gubernatorial candidates raised more than $40 million combined in their efforts to succeed Mr. Warner. Most of the money was spent on television attack ads.

Mr. Kilgore’s ads criticized Mr. Kaine as a liberal who can’t be trusted on taxes, on issues involving illegal aliens and on the death penalty.

Mr. Kaine quickly defended himself and ran ads featuring Mr. Warner, a possible 2008 presidential contender who is enjoying more than 70 percent job approval in statewide polls.

Mr. Kaine is personally opposed to the death penalty because he is Catholic, and he once called for a moratorium on the practice so it could be studied.

Mr. Kilgore, who wants the practice expanded so gang members who order murders can be executed, repeatedly criticized Mr. Kaine’s position.

Mr. Kaine had said that if elected, he would uphold the law and sign death warrants. He also said that he would not use the clemency powers of the governor in any “unusual way” and that he would not attempt to ban the death penalty in Virginia.

On taxes, Mr. Kaine sided with Mr. Warner last year when the legislature passed a $1.38 billion tax increase to pay for education, health care and public safety. Polls show most voters approve of the package, which also cut taxes.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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