- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Sen. George Allen yesterday suggested that his Democratic opponent, James H. Webb Jr., has a connection to a heckler who accosted him Tuesday, while Mr. Webb said the incident exemplifies what is wrong with politics.

Mr. Allen referenced the incident during which liberal blogger Mike Stark confronted him in Charlottesville, prompting the Republican’s supporters to tackle him.

“What the people of Virginia deserve in the last few days of the campaign is my opponent to say to these allies and people associated with him that this is not appropriate,” Mr. Allen said during a campaign stop at a business park in Fairfax.

The Webb campaign says it has no link to Mr. Stark.

Mr. Webb, who was campaigning in Richmond yesterday, said the incident shows that the two parties are at each other’s throats because of the “emotional” election.

“It’s one of the frustrations in dealing with the political process right now — we’ve become so antagonistic,” Mr. Webb said as he began a discussion with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students in Richmond.

“For the good of the country, I don’t think we should be engaging in that sort of conduct,” he said. “We can have healthy debate and we can talk about differences without having to have the kind of confrontation that happened [Tuesday]. We don’t need that.”

Mr. Webb did not specify whether he was talking about Mr. Stark’s behavior or the assault. Mr. Stark, a University of Virginia student, said Tuesday that he planned to file charges, although no charges were filed as of yesterday.

Mr. Stark told Washington Post Radio yesterday that he was “baiting” Mr. Allen, who has been known to lose his cool on the campaign trail.

In August, Mr. Allen singled out a Webb volunteer taping his campaign event in Southwest Virginia, calling the Indian-American man “macaca,” a term considered derogatory in some cultures.

Since then, Mr. Allen has faced accusations that he used the “N-word” in the 1970s. He also has struggled through questions about his Jewish heritage.

Mr. Webb has said he could have used such incidents against Mr. Allen, but chose not to because they are “not relevant to what I’m trying to do.”

Mr. Allen, standing beside Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, said the election on Tuesday should be focused on issues that affect voters “rather than encouraging this sort of disruptive, provocative behavior.”

“This is typical of what my opponent has done, and his allies, trying to provoke incidents,” Mr. Allen said. “I wish he would try to rein that in.”

Both men have said the other is engaging in “vicious” personal attacks, while polls show that voters are irritated by negative campaigning.

Mr. Webb, who spent the day with Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, told VCU students that he “never really wanted to run for public office,” but was forced to act out of frustration over the handling of the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, among other issues.

“Looking at all those things, I just said, ‘Well, I either have to shoot my TV or try to do something about this,’ ” he said.

In Northern Virginia, Mr. Allen discussed taxes. “I think we should give the death penalty to the death tax,” he said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Stark loudly asked Mr. Allen whether he ever spit on his first wife, alluding to a rumor that has been floating on liberal blogs.

Mr. Allen, who was campaigning with Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who is serving as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, ignored Mr. Stark as an Allen campaign volunteer blocked him.

“You’re going to need to leave now. Get out the door,” the Allen volunteer said as another man held Mr. Stark in a headlock.

Other Allen supporters tackled Mr. Stark, saying: “Now you’re getting personal.”

Mrs. Dole called the incident disturbing and asked Mr. Webb to apologize. “An ally of James Webb’s campaign shouted diatribes in a sleazy attempt to create a political incident,” she said.

When told about Mrs. Dole’s request yesterday, Mr. Webb said: “I don’t even know what happened [Tuesday]. I certainly regret the conduct of certain people there.”

Meanwhile, most jurisdictions in Virginia are reporting slight to sizable increases in the number of requests for absentee ballots. Most officials attribute the increase to an aggressive campaign to encourage voters to use such ballots.

James Alcorn, a policy adviser with the state elections board, said yesterday that 101,852 requests for absentee ballots had been made as of last week, slightly higher than normal during congressional election years. The number of requests is comparable to that of 1994, he said.

Some local elections officials attribute the increase to the Senate race and the constitutional marriage amendment proposal.

• Tarron Lively contributed to this article. Christina Bellantoni reported from Richmond.

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