How it feels to win the big race. 

The Winners

It feels good to win. Just look at these guys.

For their first joint portrait since winning the top three jobs in the state, Attorney General-elect Jerry Kilgore, Gov.-elect Mark Warner and Lt. Gov.-elect Tim Kaine meet at Chicken's, the venerable sandwich shop in the state Capitol. And they act pretty much like you would if you had just won one of the top three jobs in the state.

"You're on my right," Warner tells Kilgore, half-joking. "Tim, you sit on the left. I'll be statesmanlike in the political middle." Laughing, they do just that. Then they make Style photographer Chad Hunt pose for a few snapshots with them, loudly giving him politicians' tips on acting natural while having a portrait taken. "Just relax!" Warner says with a guffaw, slapping Hunt on the back.

Getting to this giddy point takes a lot of work. None of the winning candidates had won a statewide election before grabbing the brass ring this year. But all of them had plenty of experience.

Warner made many millions in the cell-phone business and then became head of the state Democratic Party. A few years ago he ran for Senate against John Warner, the ex-husband of Elizabeth Taylor who one wag dubbed the Senator from Central Casting. Mark Warner lost — but not by much. Suddenly, the politician-wannabe became a contender.

This year, he trounced his rival Mark Earley. It didn't hurt that the Republican Party acted more like a dysfunctional family than a bona fide political operation.

Kaine, meanwhile, wasn't supposed to be on the ballot at all. The Democrats had built up Emily Couric, a well-respected state senator from Charlottesville, and expected to run her for the No. 2 spot. But when cancer forced Couric from the race — eventually, it took her life — Kaine gamely stepped up to the task. Kaine, an attorney with impressive civil-rights-litigation credentials, had no statewide experience, though his time as Richmond mayor had won him a lot of fans in this city. But he took his cheery pragmatism on the road and in November walloped Republican Jay Katzen. He's now the presumed Democratic front-runner for governor in 2005.

To win that fight, though, he'll have to get past Kilgore, the guy the Republicans expect to win. Kilgore wins big — not by a little but by a lot. He swept the race for attorney general, handily beating Donald McEachin, the Democratic candidate. And Kilgore knows his way around the Capitol — he's a former state secretary of public safety (under then-Gov. George Allen) and has lived in Richmond for years. He's soft-spoken and cheerful, and in his publicity photos looks like a movie actor. He looks like a serious contender to be Warner's replacement.

But all that's four years in the future. On this afternoon at Chicken's, all three politicians (all of them have law degrees, by the way) are all smiles. For now.

— Greg Weatherford

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