Sunday, May 29, 2005
Potts considers himself GOP, but does not conceal disdain for Kilgore
The independent state senator also endorsed Sean Connaughton and Steve Baril in their respective races.
The latest from our Blue Ridge Caucus politics blog
From The Roanoke Times
So Potts had no qualms about casting an absentee ballot in the open GOP primary for governor, even though he hopes to run against the winner this fall. It should surprise no one that Potts voted for little-known Warrenton Mayor George Fitch over the heavily favored Jerry Kilgore, the former attorney general for whom Potts rarely conceals his disdain. Potts said last week that he also chose Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton for lieutenant governor over state Sen. Bill Bolling of Hanover County. And he picked Richmond lawyer Steve Baril for attorney general over Virginia Beach Del. Bob McDonnell.
Potts minced no words when explaining his selections during a phone interview.
"A Kilgore-Bolling-McDonnell ticket would be the most extreme, right-wing ticket in Virginia history," said Potts, who is still collecting petition signatures to qualify for the Nov. 8 general election ballot. The primary is June 14.
Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh was equally blunt in responding to Potts' declaration.
"Voting in the primary, which is his right, and then openly discussing his choice proves that there is no principle at stake here for Russ Potts," Murtaugh said. "It is strictly personal. He is an angry, spiteful man."
Potts has been in the Senate for 14 years and chairs the Education and Health Committee. He sparred with the state GOP over fiscal matters and social issues in recent years before deciding to mount an independent gubernatorial bid. The state party's governing body passed a resolution in March declaring that Potts "is no longer a member" of the GOP and expressing "extreme disappointment at the betrayal of the Republican Party" by the four-term senator.
Potts shrugged off the state party's rebuke, saying, "I never left the Republican Party."
Fitch, who happens to live in Potts' Senate district, has tried to run to the right of Kilgore on issues of taxes and spending. Potts said he disagrees with Fitch philosophically, but likes the Warrenton mayor. Potts also complained that state party leaders have denied Fitch a legitimate chance to compete for the nomination.
Kilgore, Kaine push insurance plans
Two major-party candidates for governor advanced health insurance plans last week, offering revamped versions of proposals that fell flat in this year's General Assembly session.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine called for corporate income tax credits to help small businesses buy health insurance for their workers. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees would be eligible for the credits of up to $500 per worker. Businesses could receive an additional $100 credit by paying at least 10 percent of the cost of insuring dependents of their employees.
The proposal would cost as much as $300 million if all businesses participated, but Kaine predicted that amount could be partly offset by savings in Medicaid benefits that some uninsured workers now receive.
Kaine championed the same proposal during the legislative session, but it languished in the Senate Finance Committee. The proposal emerged from a study committee Kaine assembled last year to address the issue of health coverage for small businesses.
Kilgore said he wants to provide income tax credits to encourage people to purchase long-term care insurance for themselves or for their elderly parents. Businesses that make long-term care insurance available to their employees also would be eligible for the credit under Kilgore's plan. A similar proposal was tabled this year by the House Finance Committee.
Kilgore said his proposal also could help reduce Medicaid costs in the future. Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income patients, covers costs for about 70 percent of nursing home patients nationwide. Many experts fear such costs will skyrocket as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age.
Kilgore also said his administration would work closely with the federal government to expand access to health savings accounts, which allow people to save for qualified medical expenses on a tax-free basis. He also said he would commit $20 million in state funds to the Virginia Health Care Foundation to help provide medical facilities in every underserved county.
RNC official reassures Kilgore-backers
Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman visited Richmond on Thursday to remind Kilgore-backers that the RNC is ready to help the likely GOP nominee.
"We're going to do whatever we can to help make sure that Jerry Kilgore becomes the next governor of this state," Mehlman told reporters after lunching with Kilgore and supporters at the Richmond Marriott.
Mehlman said RNC financial, tactical and staff assistance will help Kilgore's campaign generate "an unprecedented voter turnout, voter registration and voter ID effort" in Virginia, one of just two states electing governors in 2005.
The Democratic National Committee already has pledged $5 million to help Kaine's campaign and coordinated Democratic campaign efforts. Mehlman would not say how much money the RNC will pump into Kilgore's campaign, allowing only that the RNC "will be supportive, be helpful and be decisive."
Kilgore strengthened his ties to the national party last year by chairing President Bush's Virginia campaign. Much of the organization behind that effort has remained in place for Kilgore. Its strength will be tested for the first time in the June 14 primary.
Kaine spends weekend in Southwest Virginia
Kaine is spending the Memorial Day weekend in Southwest Virginia. He was scheduled to campaign Saturday in Abingdon and attend Ralph Stanley's bluegrass festival in Coeburn. He will participate today in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. And on Monday, he will visit Roanoke's Festival in the Park about 3:30 p.m. and participate in the Mayor's Youth Council and Salem Kiwanis Memorial Day program at 7 p.m. at Sherwood Memorial Park in Salem.Governor
Jerry Kilgore (R), jerrykilgore.com, (804)421-9966
George Fitch (R), georgefitch.com, (540)341-7900
Tim Kaine (D), kaine2005.org, (804)673-2100
Russ Potts (I), russpotts.com, (800)919-0281
Bill Bolling (R), billbolling.com, (804)746-9830
Sean Connaughton (R), connaughton4ltgov.com, (703)393-4198
Viola Baskerville (D), violabaskerville.com, (804)303-5238
Leslie Byrne (D), lesliebyrne.org, (703)573-0960
Chap Petersen (D), petersen2005.com, (804)675-1055
Phil Puckett (D), puckettforltgov.com, (276)889-2731
Steve Baril (R), stevebaril.com, (804)353-4605
Bob McDonnell (R), bobmcdonnell.com, (757)499-2944
Creigh Deeds (D), creighdeeds.com, (804)355-2807