- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

The two main party candidates vying to be Virginia’s next governor have long traded barbs, but as the polls have tightened both campaigns have gone negative.

Democrat Timothy M. Kaine during the weekend began airing a television spot titled “Slice” — an ad that Republican Jerry W. Kilgore calls an attack that disregards the facts.

“Any way you slice it, Jerry Kilgore will cut education,” the ad says, showing an image of someone slicing a frosted cake decorated with the words “Virginia schools.”

Mr. Kilgore, whose campaign runs the Web site www.KaineRecord.com, has posted a new ad that criticizes Mr. Kaine’s service as mayor of Richmond.

“He says he cut property taxes, but under Kaine, real estate tax bills increased,” the ad states.

Mr. Kaine’s record “just doesn’t hold water,” and the ad continues with an image of water spilling from a bucket filled with holes.

The Kaine campaign said Kilgore operatives went negative first, airing an ad that compared Mr. Kaine to failed Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. That ad, which ran in the spring, was paid for by the Republican Governors Association.

Both campaigns defend their ads as simply defining their opponent’s respective records, while crying foul against each other.

“If Tim Kaine thinks discussing what happened when he was mayor of Richmond is negative, then it is going to be a long 50 days for him,” said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

“If Jerry Kilgore thinks that talking about his record is negative campaigning, it’s going to be a long month and a half until Election Day,” said Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner.

Several recent polls show the two major party candidates are neck and neck.

Independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. has dismissed his two major party opponents as resembling “two kids in a sandbox.”

Negative campaigning is nothing new to Virginia voters, although they had a brief respite from it in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“This is an inevitable part of election politics, particularly when a race is as close is this one,” said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University.

Mr. Rozell said voters consistently say they don’t like attack ads, but they tend to respond to and remember negative messages better than positive ones.

Immediately after September 11, “nobody wanted to hear that stuff,” he said.

The 2000 Senate race between George Allen and Charles S. Robb was ugly, and the 1997 race between James S. Gilmore III and Donald S. Beyer Jr. offered plenty of negative ads. Mr. Allen’s race for governor in 1993 was just as bad.

“A lot of these campaigns went intentionally negative when they had to make a move,” Mr. Rozell said.

Miss Skinner said the “Slice” ad is an “accurate portrayal” of things Mr. Kilgore has said about education funding. Mr. Murtaugh said the ad “recklessly disregards the truth” and complained that the claims aren’t backed up with newspaper or document citations.

The ad says Mr. Kilgore wants to end the state lottery, “slicing” $400 million from schools.

Mr. Murtaugh said Mr. Kilgore wanted the lottery to be put to a referendum because its profits were not going to the schools as promised when voters passed the measure in 1997. Since the legislature fixed that problem in 2000, Mr. Kilgore has supported the lottery, Mr. Murtaugh said.

The “Slice” ad also states that Mr. Kilgore “promised” to repeal the 2004 budget agreement and take $1 billion from education.

Mr. Kilgore opposed the $1.38 billion tax increase used to fund the budget and has repeatedly said it was not needed and should have been put to the voters.

However, he said last week at a debate with Mr. Kaine that he will not try to repeal the increase.

Miss Skinner called the Kaine Record Web site a “gross distortion” that includes quotes taken out of context. “We’re going to continue to set the record straight when they make distortions,” she said.

Mr. Murtaugh said all the Kilgore ads are factual, but there is some spin to them.

Consider the claim about property taxes increasing in Richmond. As mayor of Richmond, Mr. Kaine cut property tax rates by 3 cents per $100 of assessed value. However, as assessments increased, so did the tax bills, even with the reduced rate.

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