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Warner's an unknown? Never mind. It's the well-known I fear
Recent events make it difficult to focus on the upcoming election, but it is worth Virginians' while to do so.

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Date published: 11/4/2001

SURE, THERE ARE the volleys of candidates' television commercials. There have been debates. Newspapers have plenty of stories about the candidates, their campaign promises and the depth of their pockets.

But I don't think Tuesday's election in Virginia is competing very favorably in people's minds with the events of Sept. 11 or America's war on terrorism or the risk of exposure to anthrax. It doesn't help that New Jersey is the only other state with an election. Election Day is not a national event this year.

So sometimes--and this is one of those times--things need to be made extra simple and clear for voters whose minds are otherwise occupied.

For Virginia's own good, the time is right for a change in leadership in Richmond. Unlike former Gov. George Allen, Gov. Jim Gilmore doesn't have much to show for his four years--no parole reform, no welfare reform, no
juvenile-justice reform, no obscene surplus of prison cells.

Thanks to Gilmore's tunnel vision on repealing the car tax, Virginia is in the worst possible position to absorb the economic downturn and the costly aftermath of Sept. 11. The state could be facing a revenue shortfall of as much
as $1 billion.

You can expect more of the same, dangerous Gilmore free-lunch gibberish with Mark Earley, the Republican candidate for governor.

Earley is already advocating his own budget hocus-pocus by telling Northern Virginians they can have the road improvements they want without voting themselves onto the tax-hike highway.

How long can voters let themselves be duped by such promises of reduced taxes with no compromise in services? It's a wonderful vote-winning strategy until that doggoned reality sets in. Doesn't it matter when teachers or police officers don't get their pay raises?

Virginia's fiscal crisis means tax cuts and political pork are even more difficult to justify. Campaign promises should be renamed for what they are: wish lists.

Question: When is it better to trade the devil you know for the devil you don't know?

Answer: When the devil you don't know is Mark Warner.

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