- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

NORFOLK — The vice president and then the president came to southeastern Virginia to raise campaign money for first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake.

Yesterday, Laura Bush did the same.

The first lady was the featured guest at a fundraising pancake breakfast at a downtown hotel. About a dozen protesters gathered across the street, holding signs that read “No More War” and “Protect Seniors, Not Drug Companies.”

About 350 people paid $150 to $5,000 to attend the event, raising $150,000 for the Drake campaign, said Tim Murtaugh, Mrs. Drake’s campaign manager.

Combined, the president, vice president and first lady have raised $850,000 for the campaign.

Mrs. Bush praised Mrs. Drake as an advocate for children, preserver of Virginia’s natural resources, supporter of tax cuts and champion of military members.

The first lady also said the congresswoman is “a thoughtful, positive and powerful part” of the serious national dialogue needed for President Bush to accomplish his goals for the rest of his term, including rebuilding the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and keeping the country safe from terrorism.

“Thelma’s dedication to the people of Virginia and her achievements remind us of why she must be re-elected,” she told the enthusiastic crowd. “Thelma understands that America faces challenges too important to be reduced to simple politics.”

Before Mrs. Bush’s 10-minute speech, Mrs. Drake introduced the first lady as “America’s favorite mother,” adding, “And she even has America’s favorite mother-in-law.”

Mrs. Drake has raised almost twice as much money as her Democratic challenger — $1.4 million to Philip J. Kellam’s $730,000 as of June 30, according to the Federal Election Commission.

But she has been the target of television ads by the liberal political group MoveOn.org, so she said having Republican luminaries campaign for her is a boon.

“They know the tenor of this campaign,” Mrs. Drake said after the event. “They know the money that’s being spent by outside groups such as MoveOn.org, and they’re helping me to be able to run my own campaign.”

Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at a dinner in Norfolk in February that raised more than $200,000 for Mrs. Drake.

In May, Mr. Bush attended an invitation-only, $5,000-a-plate luncheon in Virginia Beach that raised about $500,000 for Mrs. Drake, who was in Washington to vote on a military quality-of-life appropriations bill.

Mrs. Drake is on the House Armed Services Committee and represents the Republican-leaning 2nd District, which includes Virginia Beach, the Eastern Shore and parts of Norfolk and Hampton, and has a strong military presence.

As for Mrs. Bush’s visit, Mrs. Drake said it was “such a great endorsement to have a woman who is such a champion for women, for girls, for education, to take her time and come here in support of my campaign. … Everyone loves Laura Bush.”

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