A message that doesn’t resonate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2005

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Tim Kaine stopped in Suffolk Friday morning at Art’s Kitchen to press the flesh with local supporters. Apart from the towering height (6-feet-9) of Frank Koncz, whom I had the pleasure of meeting, what impressed me the most about the gathering was the large number of local elected officials who turned out, I assume, to show support for Kaine’s candidacy.

They included Sheriff Raleigh Isaacs, Treasurer Ron Williams, Mayor Bobby Ralph, City Council members Linda Johnson, Calvin Jones, Leroy Bennett and School Board member Billy Whitley. That’s quite a showing for a hastily arranged event and shows the degree of support Kaine has locally.

While I had been leaning toward Kaine, it was Friday’s appearance at Art’s that cemented my support. His message – often wrapped in the phrase &uot;Mark Warner and I …&uot; to play up his association with Virginia’s popular governor – was positive and his vision for Virginia is one of growth and continued investment in vital infrastructure such as transportation and education.

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In addition, he is at least talking about the need for Virginia municipalities to have the tools they need to manage growth, perhaps the top item on Suffolk’s General Assembly wish list. The proposal has been summarily dismissed by the General Assembly and it will take the support of a governor to even have a prayer against the influential shelter industry, which opposes it. Such legislation is key to keep property taxes in Suffolk as low as possible and to keep it from becoming overrun with sprawl.

What’s more, I admire Kaine for undertaking a campaign for the highest office in a state in which the population is something like 130 percent in favor of the death penalty, while he is personally opposed to it.

Kaine’s opposition does not stem from some kind of liberal bent, as his opponent’s campaign would have you believe, but from his religious convictions as a Catholic.

Catholics are pro-life. The church teaches that all human life is sacred, including the unborn and those we consider to be sub-human, such as the fiends mentioned in Jerry Kilgore’s ad who murdered the Winchester state trooper and the couple near Richmond. Only God is empowered to make decisions over the life or death of an individual, the thinking goes.

The church’s teachings are at least consistent. What’s more, Catholics are generally among the most conservative voting bloc, supporting Ronald Reagan and George Bush during his first run for the presidency.

Kaine had to know he would be pummeled for his beliefs, and he was.

I was at first critical of Kaine’s response to the ads about his opposition to the death penalty (I thought they were too weak and feared that it positioned him as the &uot;wimp&uot; in the race, but polls are showing that I was wrong (I’m sure it wasn’t the first time that day), and that the emotional, Hitler-referencing appeals are backfiring on Kilgore campaign which pulled them last week.

The election is a week from today and voters are being presented with two starkly different visions of Virginia’s future. One, represented by Kaine, is of continuing the successful policies of the wildly popular Warner which have brought growth and prosperity to the state; the other, represented by Mr. Kilgore, is of reverting back to the failed and discredited policies of the Allen/Gilmore years which squandered resources and brought the state to the brink of financial calamity.

Despite what you may be thinking, I do not dislike Mr. Kilgore and in fact, feel sorry for him. He’s a likeable fellow and his commitment to public service is admirable. His campaign, however, had many obstacles, chief among them being the success of Warner policies with which his opponent has closely aligned himself.

What’s he going to say? &uot;By electing me, our long state nightmare of prosperity and investment in the future will end. I pledge to bring irresponsible fiscal policy and neglect of infrastructure needs back to Richmond.&uot;

It’s not a message that resonates.

Please go to the polls on Tuesday. The stakes are high.

Andy Prutsok is publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or at andy.prutsok@suffolknewsherald.com.