- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said yesterday that Democrats can retake both houses of the General Assembly in elections next year and promised to lead an aggressive fundraising campaign to make it happen.

Mr. Kaine’s remarks came during a speech at the state’s AFL-CIO convention in Vienna, where he thanked organized labor for its help in electing him last year over Republican Jerry W. Kilgore.

“I feel very strongly that Virginia is trending in a much more progressive direction politically,” he told a crowd of several hundred labor delegates. “I feel it because of the way we won in November. We won counties that haven’t gone Democratic in 25 years.”

Mr. Kaine said the victory goes beyond his individual campaign and reflects broader demographic changes in the state. He noted a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau that showed high levels of immigration in Northern Virginia. He said retirees who once flocked to Florida are now settling in places such as Williamsburg in Fredericksburg.

He cited his victory in generally Republican counties such as Loudoun and Prince William in Northern Virginia, Henrico in the Richmond area and James City near Williamsburg as evidence of Democratic inroads throughout the state.

All of this bodes well for Democrats in 2007, he said, when all 140 House and Senate seats will be up for grabs. Republicans hold a 57-40 advantage in the House, with three independents, and a 23-17 advantage in the Senate.

“I think we can win both houses in 2007,” Mr. Kaine said. “We will win in unusual ways. We’ll win in places people didn’t predict and we’ll win with candidates people didn’t expect.”

Mr. Kaine also told the audience, “I’m raising money at a pretty fast clip, and it’s all going to state legislative races.”

Shawn Smith, the Virginia Republican Party’s executive director, disputed Mr. Kaine’s assertion that the demographic changes in Virginia favor Democrats. After Mr. Kaine beat Mr. Kilgore in November, the Republican Party formed a Northern Virginia Strike Force to assess the party’s standing in Virginia and what it needs to do to be successful.

“Virginia is in the midst of significant demographic changes, and we must acknowledge them and adjust our strategies to their realities,” Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Kaine also predicted Democrats would pick up at least one congressional seat in U.S. House races this year. He did not specify, but incumbent Republican Thelma Drake of Norfolk is considered vulnerable.

And while Mr. Kaine acknowledged that “it’s virtually impossible to defeat an incumbent U.S. senator,” he praised Democratic challenger James H. Webb Jr. and said, “Take a look at his opponent George Allen, and you’ll see he’s starting to stumble in recent days” — a reference to the uproar caused when Mr. Allen taunted a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian descent by calling him “macaca” and telling the Fairfax County native, “Welcome to America.”

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