- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

Delegate Robert G. Marshall yesterday criticized fellow Prince William County Republicans for supporting former Gov. James S. Gilmore III’s U.S. Senate bid, saying they should stop “fooling” their conservative base and come clean about Mr. Gilmore’s stance on abortion.

“I don’t know how they can blink at 700,000 abortions and still say he supports the sanctity of life,” Mr. Marshall said of Delegates Scott Lingamfelter and Jeffrey M. Frederick’s endorsements of Mr. Gilmore despite his belief government should not intrude during the first eight weeks of pregnancy. “That’s the tipping point for me.”

Mr. Marshall, 63, Mr. Gilmore, 58, and political newcomer Robert Berry, 51, are running for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. John W. Warner at the May convention. The winner will likely face Mark Warner, the popular former Democratic governor.

Yesterday, Mr. Lingamfelter responded by saying Mr. Marshall was “a friend” and he promised Mr. Gilmore support before Mr. Marshall entered the race.

“To suggest that Scott Lingamfelter is less of a conservative because Jim Gilmore is a friend is like saying the Rock of Gibraltar is less of a rock because it got rained on,” he added.

Mr. Marshall has wooed conservatives for months by casting himself as the “authentic pro-life” candidate and by warning Republicans “a bunch of right-to-lifers… will sit on their hands” if Mr. Gilmore represents them in the general election.

Mr. Gilmore said last year: “There has to be some time for the baby to form in the womb, which I think happens at eight weeks. And after that, I think that abortion should be limited except to save the life of the mother.”

Mr. Marshall said such a philosophy results in roughly 700,000 abortions a year. (His estimate is based on a 2004 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that states 61 percent occurred in the first eight weeks, and Guttmacher Institute data that states 1.21 million abortions were performed in 2005.)

Mr. Marshall is still considered an underdog largely because of Mr. Gilmore’s name recognition, military background and political experience, including a stint as attorney general and chairman of a congressional commission that assessed the country’s ability to respond to terrorist attacks.

Mr. Gilmore appears to have won the most support at the “mass meetings” local committees have held to select the thousands of Republican delegates who will attend the May convention.

Mr. Gilmore, the son of a butcher, has brushed off the attacks and lined up pro-life support from a number of top Republicans, including Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — potential rivals in the 2009 governor’s race.

“We have the support of a large number of pro-life leaders in the state of Virginia and, really, that is the only thing Bob Marshall has run on in any serious way,” he said.

Mr. Gilmore also says that when governor he helped pass a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion, enact a ban against so-called partial-birth abortions in Virginia and push legislation requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortion.

Chris Freund, spokesman for the Virginia Family Foundation, said the pro-life community “appreciated” Mr. Gilmore’s accomplishments as governor. But he added “we are against abortion from the moment of fertilization on” and “we would like to educate Governor Gilmore further on when life begins and see whether he would be willing to take a position that is closer in line with ours.”

Mr. Freund said of Mr. Marshall: “There are not too many legislators who more passionately fight for pro-life causes than Bob Marshall. I think everybody knows that.”

Many Republican agree that Mr. Marshall’s core principles are nearly impeccable. But attacks against his colleagues illustrate why some Republicans think he is not a team player.

The maverick style earned Mr. Marshall headlines last month. He was involved in the successful constitutional challenge of the General Assembly’s decision to delegate taxing powers to an unelected body in Northern Virginia.

Now he hopes the abortion issue will help him make more inroads.

“I just had a unit chairman call me up from Southside Virginia and he said ‘Some of us are just learning about Jim Gilmore’s positions on this,’ ” Mr. Marshall said. “For primary votes, for people in the convention arena, this is very important.”

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