- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 4, 2005

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine last week urged oil producers to hold the line on gas prices at the pump in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and quickly rising fuel costs.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat and the current lieutenant governor, has little or no authority to affect gas prices. He said he hopes other politicians join him to influence the oil producers to do the right thing.

“It’s time now to look directly at oil producers and ask them to show a sense of patriotism and sacrifice,” he told reporters on a conference call. “It’s time for the industry to show some sacrifice as well.”

Mr. Kaine said oil producers showed a $26 billion increase in net income in the past year and said they could use those profits as a cushion to avoid a surge in gas prices.

Mr. Kaine said during the campaign he had heard little about the slow creep of gas prices over the past year, but in the past two weeks voters have been bending his ear about prices at the pump. “It’s really hit a critical mass,” he said.

A spokesman for Republican candidate Jerry W. Kilgore dismissed Mr. Kaine’s effort as “smoke screen by conference call.”

Spokesman Tucker Martin criticized Mr. Kaine for his support of a tax package last year that would have increased the gasoline tax.

In February 2004, Mr. Kaine supported a Senate proposal to increase the gas tax, but that proposal was rejected by the legislature. The $1.38 billion tax increase package later approved did not raise the tax.

“Tim Kaine knows full well that a focus on gas prices goes along with a focus on his record of supporting higher gas taxes,” Mr. Martin said.

Mr. Kaine responded: “This isn’t the time to talk about the gas tax.”

A Wilder blessing

One by one, the three men running for governor visited the only Virginia mayor who has been governor, each seeking Democrat L. Douglas Wilder’s blessing.

Democrat Timothy M. Kaine, a former Richmond mayor, came calling Wednesday, just as his opponents — Republican Jerry W. Kilgore and Independent H. Russell Potts Jr. — had done the previous week, to discuss Mr. Wilder’s 10-point list of urban concerns.

Mr. Wilder, now mayor of Richmond, said that if he makes an endorsement, it won’t be until after a televised statewide gubernatorial candidates’ debate scheduled for Oct. 9, the Associated Press reported.

Each candidate knows the edge he could gain among black and urban voters with an endorsement from Mr. Wilder, the first and only elected black governor who won four out of every five votes cast in last fall’s mayoral race.

“We have similar backgrounds, in many instances,” said Mr. Potts, the irascible dissident Republican now running on his own, just as Mr. Wilder did briefly for the U.S. Senate in 1994.

“We have never been reluctant to take on the establishment, so to speak, and we have been forthright in our objections to the so-called ‘good ol’ boy network’ and the, quote, ‘anointing’ of people …who would want to run for public office,” the four-term state senator said after his Aug. 24 audience with the mayor.

Mr. Kilgore enjoys cordial relations with the moderate-to-conservative Mr. Wilder, as have several Republicans. He found everything on Mr. Wilder’s list to his liking, particularly item No. 2 — legislation that would require citywide voter approval for all municipal tax increases or new taxes.

Mr. Kilgore has a similar proposal for requiring referendums for any new state taxes or regional transportation-project levies.

“He’s not just coming just to ask for a lot more money here or there,” Mr. Kilgore said during his Aug. 22 meeting.

“He’s asking for new powers, new authority and ways to address the education issues that urban areas see, ways to direct public-safety issues, and ways to run his city effectively and efficiently with the powers he needs to run it. And that’s going to be a message heard by the Republicans that control the General Assembly.”

Mr. Kaine, who championed changes Mr. Wilder sought to Richmond’s charter to expand mayoral authority, said he knows firsthand the challenges Mr. Wilder faces and praised his aggressive approach to handling them.

“I signed on for a tough tour of duty in 1994,” Mr. Kaine said, noting the year he was elected to the Richmond City Council. “When I signed on, [Richmond had] the second-highest homicide rate in America. We’d just had a bond-rating downgrade.”

Mr. Kaine’s tenure in Richmond government, particularly his years as mayor, figure into this year’s election because Mr. Kilgore has tried to use Mr. Wilder’s words to portray Mr. Kaine as a mediocre mayor.

“Would I have called him a mediocre mayor? I haven’t said so,” Mr. Wilder said, noting that under the form of city government in place at the time Mr. Kaine was in office, a mayor had little more authority than a council member.

“I think he did the best job he may have been able to do under the circumstances that he confronted,” Mr. Wilder said. He also said he did not think Mr. Kaine had taken undue credit for several city improvements during the late 1990s, including a deep reduction in the city’s crime rate and the construction of new public schools.

“So the question is, you take Kaine out of the picture, who was going to be there to do any of that leadership? I don’t hear another name come up,” Mr. Wilder said.

Mr. Wilder’s endorsement — or the lack of one — is among the most suspenseful and unpredictable developments each statewide election.

In 1994, after abandoning his own independent candidacy, Mr. Wilder belatedly endorsed his rival, Democratic U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb, who narrowly defeated Republican Iran-Contra figure Oliver North.

In 1997, Mr. Wilder withheld his endorsement of Democratic Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer, who lost the governor’s race in a landslide to Republican James S. Gilmore III.

Mr. Wilder’s October endorsement of Mr. Robb’s 2000 re-election bid couldn’t save Mr. Robb’s seat from Republican George Allen. The next year, Mr. Wilder endorsed Mark Warner, the first Democrat to retake the governor’s office since Mr. Wilder left in 1993.

Morality play

Former Frederick, Md., Mayor Ron Young says remarks by current Mayor Jennifer Dougherty at a Democratic Party picnic were directed at him and are an “act of desperation.”

Mr. Young is challenging Miss Dougherty in a party primary Sept. 13. He spoke to the Frederick News-Post after Miss Dougherty told Democrats last week that someone at the gathering was named in documents seized in 2002 from a woman who ran a prostitution service.

“Someone should come clean on it,” she said. And she said the party’s leaders should be of “high moral caliber.”

Mr. Young confirmed that he was named in a police interview with one of the prostitutes, but said he was told he was not on the client list and says he didn’t use the service.

The only public official named on the list was Mr. Young’s son, Blaine Young, who was then a city alderman.

Political hardball

Virginia gubernatorial candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. pressed the flesh at the Washington Nationals-St. Louis Cardinals baseball game a week ago.

Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester and big sports fan, stood outside the game until the third inning greeting fans and handing out fliers to try and attract the Northern Virginia vote.

“We’re just working our fannies off, I’ll tell you that,” said Mr. Potts, who is running as an independent.

Mr. Potts said that although the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, where the Nationals play, is located in the District, not Virginia, he met plenty of voters from the commonwealth that day.

• Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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