- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Virginia’s gubernatorial election is a year away, but state Democrats and Republicans on Monday were talking about the impact of Gov. Tim Kaine‘s absence on the Democratic presidential ticket and preparing to finish his term.

Virginia Republicans say their chances of retaking the governorship for the first time in years will not be hurt if Mr. Kaine remains in office through 2009. However, state Democrats say the national attention given to Mr. Kaine bolsters their hopes of holding on to the seat.

“I think the fact that Kaine has raised his national profile and that Kaine will be so close to the Obama administration is a definite benefit for the commonwealth of Virginia, and I think that will play out in the 2009 election as well,” said Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, had long been rumored to be on Mr. Obama’s shortlist for a running mate. Instead, the senator from Illinois announced Saturday that he had chosen Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware.

Had Mr. Kaine been selected, he likely would have resigned the governorship to join Mr. Obama on the campaign trail. That would have placed Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, in line to finish the current term.

Such a scenario could have boosted momentum for Republicans, who have not held the governor’s seat since James S. Gilmore III left office in 2002.

Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William Republican and chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said that now that Mr. Kaine is out of the running, the 2009 race is the “same as it’s been.”

But he conceded that having Mr. Bolling in office and running to keep the governor’s seat could have made the Republican path clearer.

“I think we’ve got a great shot at taking back the governor’s mansion, and that was the case two months ago,” Mr. Frederick said. “Of course, if Kaine had been picked as the vice-presidential nominee and he had resigned … [having] the incumbent governor running for re-election - that would have been easier.”

Mr. Bolling is running for re-election and backing the gubernatorial bid of Republican Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, who had been reluctant to comment on whether he would relinquish his run in the event that Mr. Bolling became the incumbent.

On Monday, McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker Martin said “the playing field looks the same” after the frenzy of speculation surrounding Mr. Kaine.

“Everything remains where it was,” he said. “The attorney general will run for governor, the lieutenant governor will run for re-election as our ticket mate and the party is united.”

Bolling spokesman Randy Marcus also said the joint ticket brings “a proven record of accomplishment and experience in state government.”

“If we effectively communicate their record of results and vision for the future, the McDonnell-Bolling team will win in 2009 regardless of any other factors,” he said.

Two Democrats vying to replace Mr. Kaine are Sen. R. Creigh Deeds and Delegate Brian J. Moran, who both said the national spotlight on Virginia during the vice-presidential vetting process will only help their chances.

Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for Mr. Moran, Alexandria Democrat, said a Democrat should have an easier time succeeding Mr. Kaine.

“Delegate Moran was excited for him, but we’re certainly happy to have him staying as governor,” Mr. Ferguson said. “He has proven a successful formula to win in Virginia.”

Mr. Deeds, Bath County Democrat, said the fact that Mr. Kaine was on Mr. Obama’s shortlist is “a testimony to his ability.” He also conceded the battle against an incumbent Republican would have been difficult, but said he is not focusing on such speculation.

“Tim Kaine is a good man, and a smart guy and he’s a good leader,” Mr. Deeds said. “We move on.”

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