- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Jerry W. Kilgore often evokes his hometown of Gate City while campaigning to be Virginia’s next governor.

The small town in Southwest Virginia is filled with good people with good values, and he and twin brother Terry grew up on a tobacco and cattle farm and learned about the benefit of hard work, he says.

“Growing up in Gate City, some things mattered a lot, and others didn’t matter much at all,” Mr. Kilgore says in a biographical video explaining his rural roots. “Responsibility mattered, hard work mattered, family and faith mattered.”

It’s those values the Republican professes as he touts a reform agenda on the campaign trail.

Mr. Kilgore was the first in his family to go to college. After law school, he served as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Scott County, Va., and as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia.

In 1994, then-Gov. George Allen, a Republican, tapped Mr. Kilgore, then 32, to be his secretary of public safety. Mr. Kilgore worked with Mr. Allen when the Allen administration abolished parole. Mr. Kilgore managed 11 state agencies, including the Virginia State Police and the Department of Corrections.

Mr. Allen, now a U.S. senator, is one of Mr. Kilgore’s biggest cheerleaders, saying his former Cabinet member would be the best leader for Virginia.

“Some people said, ‘Oh, gosh, he’s so young,’ but I just thought Jerry is a good commonsense person with the right experience, a lot of experience for somebody his age,” Mr. Allen said.

Mr. Kilgore, now 44, said he has deep admiration for Mr. Allen. “So much of my governing has been molded by George Allen, his philosophy that government can help when it can, but most of the time, it just needs to get out of the way,” he said.

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, also supports Mr. Kilgore, who with brother Terry volunteered to help on Mr. Warner’s first campaign in 1978.

Mr. Kilgore lost a bid for attorney general in 1996, but captured more than 60 percent of the vote on his second try for the post in 2001. He served as attorney general until February, when he resigned to campaign full time for governor.

As attorney general, he toughened penalties for gang-related crimes and sought restrictions on benefits afforded to illegal aliens.

Mr. Kilgore thinks gang members who order killings should be subject to the death penalty, and has proposed eliminating the so-called “triggerman rule,” which prohibits such punishment.

During the campaign for governor, Mr. Kilgore, who is staunchly pro-life, has appealed to centrist business leaders and social conservative groups. He recently won key endorsements from the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee and the National Rifle Association.

Some have criticized Mr. Kilgore for refusing to say if he would sign a state ban on abortion if the new U.S. Supreme Court were to hand the issue back to the states.

Mr. Kilgore has said as governor he would not seek legislation that makes criminals of women, but did not rule out legislation that would affect doctors.

“I support life-affirming legislation and most of the time in supporting that legislation, you do hold doctors accountable,” he said after an Oct. 9 debate with his main challenger, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat.

Mr. Kilgore also plays to an anti-tax base, saying the $1.38 billion tax-increase package the Republican-controlled state legislature passed in May 2004 was unnecessary.

Mr. Kaine, who is campaigning on the tax increase, says it provided needed funds for education, public safety and health care.

“Jerry Kilgore stood against us every step of the way,” Mr. Kaine said. “I’m proud of that decision. It was a tough one. It wasn’t politically popular, but it was the right thing to do for Virginia.”

Several anti-tax conservatives have criticized Mr. Kilgore for not promising to repeal the increase if he were elected.

Instead, Mr. Kilgore promises to put any tax increases to a voter referendum. Some criticize Mr. Kilgore’s proposal as weak leadership, but a Rasmussen Reports survey of 500 likely voters last month showed that most favor the idea.

He also 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. He also has a plan to give bonuses and merit-pay raises to Virginia’s best teachers.

Mr. Kilgore has been criticized for agreeing to only three debates with Mr. Kaine, and for refusing to debate independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester. Mr. Kaine has debated Mr. Potts three times.

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