Sunday, February 20, 2005

Controversy likely won't affect Jerry Kilgore's campaign

Political analysts say Democrats and voters should not make the governor-hopeful accountable for his mother.

A local election controversy that has touched Jerry Kilgore's hometown and his family is not likely to play a role in his campaign for governor, two political observers said.

Last year, a close race for mayor in Gate City led to a lawsuit and allegations of misconduct by local election officials. Kilgore's mother, Willie Mae Kilgore, is voter registrar in Scott County.

Although a special prosecutor is considering possible criminal charges, the case is not expected to become a campaign issue.

"This campaign would have to get incredibly nasty for mothers to be considered legitimate targets," said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist.

"That's one I believe the Democrats will stay away from," he said. "The old 'Your mother wears Army boots' attack usually backfires. Mothers are special."

Political analyst and Emory & Henry College president Thomas Morris said he, too, doubted that the investigation would even be raised, much less seen by voters as relevant.

Even if criminal charges were to be filed, Sabato doubted that the news would resonate statewide. "Ninety-five percent of Virginians have never heard of Gate City, and couldn't find Scott County on a map," he said.

And assuming voters did hear about the scandal, they might be reluctant to hold it against Jerry Kilgore.

As Sabato put it: "Is he his mother's keeper?"

Kilgore's campaign declined to comment on the matter.