- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2006

RICHMOND — House Republicans yesterday rejected Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s nominee for secretary of the commonwealth, voting down a gubernatorial secretary appointee for the first time in the state’s history.

The House voted 55-42 along party lines to strip Daniel G. LeBlanc from a measure confirming Mr. Kaine’s 34 agency head appointments and his chief of staff.

One independent joined 54 House Republicans in voting to reject Mr. LeBlanc, a past president of the Virginia AFL-CIO and a past member of the Democratic National Committee. Two independents sided with the Democrats in protest.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, was visibly angered, saying the vote was reminiscent of “McCarthy-style politics” and suggested a lack of respect for the governor.

“They’re going to regret it,” Mr. Kaine told reporters. “I think they’ll realize that there was a huge error in doing this, but they have indicated that that’s the way that they want to play it.”

The Senate unanimously had approved the appointment of Mr. LeBlanc and the other nominees earlier this session.

House Republicans were worried about Mr. LeBlanc’s ties to unions and his opposition to Virginia’s 59-year-old right-to-work law, which bars compulsory union membership.

Mr. LeBlanc was arrested 17 years ago, along with 5,000 others, during a union protest at a coal plant in Southwest Virginia. He also once compared the right-to-work law to segregation and plantation work.

Mr. Kaine repeatedly has said he would veto legislation aimed at overturning right-to-work laws.

“If it were up to Mr. LeBlanc, everyone would be forced to join a union,” said Delegate John A. Cosgrove, Chesapeake Republican.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith said lawmakers must “take unprecedented action when there are concerns that are also unprecedented.”

The Secretary of the Commonwealth researches candidates for more than 4,000 appointments to boards, agencies and commissions. The office also receives requests for pardons, clemency and restoration of rights, but is not responsible for setting policy.

However, Delegate Timothy D. Hugo, Fairfax County Republican, said the position is not devoid of policy-making, adding that the secretary “will have a tremendous amount of influence.”

He said Mr. LeBlanc’s choice for appointments could lead to “de facto unionization of state workers.”

Several Republicans said they were uncomfortable with Mr. LeBlanc’s position that violent felons should be allowed to have their voting rights restored.

The legislature has never rejected a nominee since the Cabinet system was created in the 1970s under Gov. A. Linwood Holton, Mr. Kaine’s Republican father-in-law.

Furthermore, the secretary of the commonwealth office has long been filled with governors’ political cronies.

Anita Rimler held the post under Mr. Kaine’s Democratic predecessor, Gov. Mark Warner. She had been the chief fundraiser for his 2001 gubernatorial campaign.

Anne P. Petera, a Republican National Committeewoman, served in the position under Republican Gov. James S. Gilmore III.

Mr. Kaine said he has tried to be bipartisan, noting that two former Republican delegates serve in his Cabinet and that he appointed the wife of his political opponent to a top post.

Marty H. Kilgore, wife of Mr. Kaine’s Republican gubernatorial opponent, Jerry W. Kilgore, was unanimously confirmed yesterday as Mr. Kaine’s nominee for the executive director position at the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation.

The governor said Republicans have slapped his open hand. “The intent of what they have done is extremely clear and the response will be clear.”

Delegate Kenneth R. Plum, Reston Democrat, said that when his party was in the majority, they confirmed nominees they didn’t approve of.

“The conclusion always was it was up to the governor to make these selections,” he said. “Once you start picking and choosing, there’s no end to that process.”

Mr. Gilmore told The Washington Times yesterday that he does not worry the vote sets a precedent, adding that some of his lower-level nominees were rejected.

Mr. LeBlanc “was probably a victim of this effort of the governor to jam a tax increase down the House’s throat. They are tired of being pushed around and being told they have to increase taxes,” he said.

Mr. Kaine said Mr. LeBlanc will be considered for a position in the Kaine administration that is not subject to confirmation by the legislature.

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