- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

KING GEORGE, Va. — Sen. George Allen hit the road in a 35-foot van yesterday, embarking on a multiweek tour of the commonwealth and portraying himself as an outsider more comfortable with “all y’all” than Beltway insiders.

The Republican combined re-election campaigning with his 11th annual “listening tour,” greeting factory workers, retirees and other ordinary Virginians.

He told them he is working to make the country more energy-independent and touted the importance of science and math education as he stopped here and in Fredericksburg and Bowling Green.

“I call it bringing the senator’s office to the people, to hear from the people,” Mr. Allen, 54, told business leaders at a Fredericksburg breakfast. “I wish that people in Washington would listen to the common sense of people in the real world. I’d like to listen to y’all.”

Virginia Republicans once thought their freshman senator would cruise to victory this fall, allowing him to start the White House bid he has been considering.

But with national Republican poll numbers tanking, Virginia Democrats are energized by the campaign of former Navy Secretary James H. Webb Jr., a former Republican and decorated Vietnam veteran.

Mr. Webb, who trails Mr. Allen by double digits in polls and badly in fundraising, has done his own “kitchen-table” tour, talking about the need to raise the minimum wage and fund stem-cell research.

The audience responded with laughter when Mr. Allen talked about the atmosphere of national politics.

“The way that things are done in Washington are just so strange and I hope I never get to thinking the way they do up there,” he said.

He told a Bowling Green crowd that the Senate “actually did something worthwhile” last week by passing a bill to open the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas exploration.

The royalties would be shared with the Gulf states, something Mr. Allen said would work in Virginia.

Mr. Allen, who serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he would like to see the moratorium on coastal exploration lifted in Virginia.

Oil and gas royalties could go to fund coastal towns, transportation and higher education to help keep tuition affordable for in-state students, he said.

Mr. Allen praised employees at the GE Birchwood Power Facility in King George, noting their clean-coal technology is “way ahead of where this country needs to be” and sets a good example for global competitiveness.

At the first three stops, Mr. Allen did not mention his party affiliation. He talked about President Bush twice, but only after a voter questioned him.

The senator, who has given solid support to the president, told the voter that he wants Mr. Bush’s tax cuts to be permanent.

However, he said he doesn’t support Mr. Bush’s plan to grant what some call “amnesty” to illegal aliens.

Mr. Allen said he was frustrated with the “filibustering and obstruction” of Democrats last week to block a bill that would have reduced the so-called “death tax,” which Republicans added to a measure that would have raised the minimum wage.

A Webb spokeswoman said Mr. Allen is pandering to large corporations and noted his opposition to increasing the minimum wage.

“It is extremely politically expedient to do one thing in Congress and then go out and throw the rhetoric out when he wants to,” said Kristian Denny-Todd.

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