Monday, November 8, 2004

With the presidential election over, Virginia politicians now are gearing up for statewide races that will take place next year.

Most of the attention will focus on the gubernatorial race, but there are a host of candidates already campaigning and fund raising for the state’s lieutenant governor and attorney general contests.

There are eight persons seeking to become lieutenant governor, who presides over the state Senate and who immediately succeeds the governor.

Republicans running for their party’s nomination for the post are state Sen. William T. Bolling of Mechanicsville, Delegate Joe T. May of Leesburg, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton and Gilbert K. Davis, a Fairfax lawyer who filed a sexual-harassment suit against President Clinton on behalf of Paula Jones in the 1990s.

Democrats running for their party’s nomination for the same post are Delegate J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen of Fairfax; Viola O. Baskerville of Richmond; state Sen. Leslie Byrne of Fairfax, a former congresswoman; and state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett of Tazewell.

In the attorney general race, Delegate Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia Beach and Richmond lawyer Steve Baril are running for the Republican nomination.

Democrats running for the nomination are state Sen. Robert Creigh Deeds of Charlottesville and Sen. John S. Edwards of Roanoke.

The Republican Party of Virginia will hold a straw poll Dec. 3 and 4 to gauge support for the Republican candidates for attorney general and lieutenant governor.

The straw poll will be held during the party’s annual advance, which kicks off the new campaign season. The event will be held in Hot Springs, Va.

Party Chairman Kate Obenshain Griffin said December will start an “exciting” time as Republicans try to take back the governor’s mansion.

“The straw poll will give each candidate an opportunity to test the strength of their grass-roots organization and gauge early support,” she said.

The state party has not held a straw poll for at least a decade.

Though several candidates have not officially announced their plans to run for office, many of them have begun fund raising.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Mr. Bolling has raised $612,940 as of June 30, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that compiles campaign-finance data. Mr. Connaughton has raised $501,097. Mr. May has raised $266,630. Mr. Davis, who ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general in 1997, has raised $88,618, the data shows.

As of June 30, Mr. Petersen has raised $83,323, while Mrs. Byrne has raised $18,666. Fund-raising totals for Mrs. Baskerville and Mr. Puckett were not available as of June 30.

In the attorney general’s race, Mr. McDonnell has a narrow fund-raising lead. He has raised $801,871, while Mr. Baril has raised $784,690.

Mr. Deeds has raised $60,784 and Mr. Edwards has raised $5,355.

Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, is expected to run for governor next year. Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, is also expected to run.

Neither of them has officially announced his candidacy, but they are neck and neck in fund raising. Mr. Kaine has raised $3.22 million. Mr. Kilgore has raised $3.37 million.

The next campaign-finance reports are due early next year.

All 100 lawmakers in the House of Delegates are up for re-election in November 2005.

Before then, at least one special election will be held to fill the seat that will be vacated by Delegate Thelma Drake. The Norfolk Republican was elected to the 2nd Congressional District last week.

When election results are certified, Mrs. Drake will resign from her Virginia House seat and Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, will schedule a special election before the General Assembly convenes Jan. 12.

There are several candidates interested in the 87th District seat, which was once held by a Democrat.

The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported yesterday that former television reporter Paula Miller will probably seek the Democratic nomination for Mrs. Drake’s seat. Michael Ball, financial planner and chairman of the 2nd District Republican Party, is interested in the seat on the Republican ticket and two others are considering running as independents, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

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