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Recent events make it difficult to focus on the upcoming election, but it is worth Virginians' while to do so.
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Though many Virginians may feel they hardly know Warner, they do know that the Democratic candidate for governor has run an excellent campaign. That means he has chosen quality people to run it, and that indicates he would surround himself with quality people once he's in the Governor's Mansion.
They also know that he's a self-made millionaire, which suggests not that he can afford to buy himself into office, but that he understands how to manage money.
I give Warner high marks for two particular decisions during the campaign.
First, he sided with an effort by Northern Virginians to hold a referendum on whether to levy a sales-tax increase to pay for highway improvements.
No matter what Earley says, Warner is not endorsing a tax increase. He is backing their democratic effort to learn if residents are willing to put their money where their gridlock is.
Second, Warner was extremely quick to pay his respects to the victims of Sept. 11 and their families, and offer thanks to emergency and rescue personnel who have given so much of themselves. His hastily updated campaign ads effectively targeted a constituency in mourning.
The Earley campaign, on the other hand, continued to run
the same old ads, seemingly unaware that no issue, no election, matters anymore unless it is set in the context of post-Sept. 11 America.
What else doesn't Earley get?
He doesn't get that Virginia can't afford to complete the repeal of the car tax next year. Gilmore strong-armed this year's installment through by ignoring his agreement to repeal the tax only if the state could afford it.
Unlike Gilmore, Earley doesn't have a deal to renege on with the General Assembly. The dollars will be doing all the talking next winter, and what they'll be saying is that there aren't enough
of us to go around.
Earley's failure to separate himself from Gilmore's cockeyed car-tax optimism should cost him the vote of every Virginian with a measurable IQ. Among those Virginians are many Republicans--such as those
state senators who stood up to Gilmore's bad judgment and questionable methods.
As the campaign draws to a close, Virginia voters would do well to focus on the matter at hand. This election is no less important than any other--it's just that certain events have compromised our ability to