News Analysis

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — The “Old Dominion” of Virginia is supposedly a bastion of right-wing Republicanism, but there is a good chance that a moderate Democrat will win the gubernatorial election on Nov. 8, succeeding another moderate Democrat.

The Republican candidate for governor, former Attorney General Jerry Kigore, and sections of the GOP have tried to make the “menace” of immigration from El Salvador, Mexico and other Latin American countries a central theme in the election campaign, but the public does not appear to be buying it.

In fact, earlier this summer, some Republicans in the Legislature called for Virginia to be declared in a “state of emergency” because of “massive illegal immigration,” but immigration of any kind, though noticeable especially in the northern part of the state, is not seen even by conservative Virginians as a rampaging menace.

Although there has been a controversy about public funding for a day laborers’ center in Herndon, about 15 miles west of Washington, D.C., which would presumably serve the needs of the many immigrants who look for construction work in this booming area, the voters do not seem to be getting too excited about the immigration issue. As a result, some GOP politicians have backed away from the anti-immigrant movement in embarrassment.

The Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine, has followed the strategy of associating himself with the popular present governor, centrist Democrat Mark Warner. Although the Virginia AFL-CIO has endorsed Kaine, he has cultivated ties to business, as has Kilgore.

In addition, Kaine has touted his record as former mayor of Richmond as evidence that he is a good fiscal and administrative manager. He has focused on plans to improve the state’s educational system, especially boosting preschool programs. Kaine and Kilgore both have ambitious plans regarding transportation: Kaine is supporting a commuter rail link from Washington to Dulles Airport, while Kilgore is pushing an expansion of Interstate Route 66 going from Northern Virginia to the nation’s capital.

Concerning social and economic issues, Kilgore has emphasized opposition to abortion and to higher taxes, but in a recent debate he refused to commit to specific actions to deal with either issue. Meanwhile Kaine has stated that he, as a Roman Catholic, opposes both abortion and the death penalty, but will carry out whatever the law demands in both cases.

Republican state Sen. H. Russell Potts is also running on a platform of moderation, but currently has very low polling numbers. Polls show Kilgore slightly ahead of Kaine with less than one month to go.