Monday, October 23, 2006

Democrat James H. Webb Jr. yesterday spoke of fighting for economic fairness, a message he hopes will be the winning ticket in the neck-and-neck race against Republican Sen. George Allen.

“I’m a firm believer that you measure the health of society at its base, not at its top,” Mr. Webb said, after receiving an endorsement from Hispanic leaders in Arlington.

“The true motivation for my doing this is the breakdown that has come in our society along economic lines in a way that I don’t think the United States has seen in more than 100 years,” he said. “We must be fair to everyone in this country, and we must have people in the United States government who understand that.”

Emphasizing his point, Mr. Webb told a crowd of about 50 supporters that corporate profits are at an all-time high, while salaries and wages are at an all-time low in terms of percentage of national wealth.

Mr. Webb said that when he was 24, chief executive officers earned 20 times the salary of the average American worker. Today, business executives earn 400 times the salary of the average worker.

Chris La-Civita, a spokes-man for Mr. Allen, said Mr. Webb’s message is “nothing more than tried and true class warfare.”

With two weeks until the Nov. 7 election, Mr. Webb, 60, and Mr. Allen, 54, are in a statistical tie.

The race could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, and sets the agenda on the Iraq war, immigration reform and President Bush’s tax cuts.

J. Walter Tejada, a Democrat on the Arlington County Board, said yesterday that Mr. Webb’s early opposition to the war, his push to raise the minimum wage and his ideas on immigration resonate “very well” in the Hispanic community.

“He knows what it’s like to be poor,” Mr. Tejada said. “He also feels earned citizenship needs to be an option for those who can show they have done well, not violated law, who pay taxes. Why should they be denied the opportunity in this country if they have been here for many generations in some cases?”

Mr. Webb, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, favors a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens who are in the U.S.

“People who say ‘no amnesty’ or that we are not going to do anything with the individuals who are here are basically looking at a fairy tale,” Mr. Webb told reporters yesterday. “The people who actually have put down long roots in these communities, we need to find a process to bring them properly into society and into the work force.”

Mr. Allen opposes amnesty.

“A path to citizenship equals amnesty,” Mr. LaCivita said. “A path to citizenship equals billions in federal spending. A path to citizenship equals rewarding illegal behavior.”

Mr. Allen yesterday was in Southside Virginia with Republican Sens. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and David Vitter of Louisiana. Last night, Mr. Allen joined first lady Laura Bush at a fundraiser.

Mr. Allen is expected to receive an endorsement from U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Hispanic groups today.

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