Red Dawn 

For Kilgore campers, life after the election is filled with uncertainty, boredom.

After Tim Kaine was declared Virginia's next governor Nov. 8, public attention immediately shifted to his plans for his administration. What would he do to improve roads and schools? Whom would he appoint as his closest advisers? What about the inaugural ball?

Few wondered what the losing team was going to do.

Martin, 28, is trying to figure that out for himself. An ardent Republican and lifelong Virginian born in Hopewell, Martin hopes to remain in Richmond and work in politics. But he knows there aren't exactly hundreds of job opportunities for political spokesmen and speechwriters. And, he wistfully observes, "No job is as cool as the job you just had."

The Kaine-Kilgore match was the biggest campaign Martin had ever worked on. It was also one of those rare races in which the outcome was unclear until the final hours. When Kaine started leading by 5 percent on election night, he and Tim Murtaugh, Kilgore's press secretary, dismissed it. "Ahh, see, that means just the liberal precincts are coming in," Martin recalls saying.

Later that night, he and Murtaugh were standing outside Kilgore's war room on the 18th floor of the downtown Marriott (Kaine was encamped on the 17th) when they heard a man's voice echoing in the stairwell below.

"The guy comes out with a cell phone," Martin says, "and you hear him say: 'It's a win. No, it's a win. Kaine won.'"

Murtaugh and Martin looked at each other. Two minutes later, their phones started ringing as reporters clamored for a quote.

Then, Martin says, Kilgore came into the room with his two children, Klarke and Kelsey.

"They were taking it hard," he says. "And [Kilgore] said, 'You know, I've never subscribed to the theory that everybody's a winner.' He said: 'Everybody's not a winner. There are winners in life, there are losers in life. Tonight we lost. And that's it.' And I thought that was great, because his kids are right there and they need to take a lesson away from it."

At Kilgore's request, Martin had written both a victory speech and a concession speech the week before. He'd sent Murtaugh a draft of the latter to look over. "I said, 'Don't you want to read it?' He goes, 'No, I'm not reading it. I'm deleting it.'" Indignant, Martin retorted, "It wasn't fun for me to write it, either."

Kilgore read the speech Tuesday night, and then his staff marched through the throngs of Kaine supporters and returned to their suite to drown their disappointment. Martin got home at 2:30 a.m. to find several Kaine signs stuck in his yard. He sort of expected it, he says. In his Democratic-leaning Fan neighborhood, "I'm kind of like the Dallas Cowboys fan at a Redskins game," he says.

Martin, along with other Kilgore staffers, spent a good portion of the following Wednesday at the Sidewalk Café, reminiscing. "Even if you lose, you always remember the end of it as fun," Martin says. The 16-hour days. The Dumpsters overflowing with pizza boxes. The military video clip of a cruise missile hitting a bunker, which the Kilgore team played every time they slammed the Kaine campaign with a surprise attack.

"At the end of the campaign," Martin says, "you're drinking Red Bulls like water and the whole office is addicted to caffeine gum. Oh yeah, I was buying five, six packs of that. And everybody was chewing it."

The Monday before Election Day, President George W. Bush stopped briefly in Richmond to make a public appearance with Kilgore. "Our boss is onstage with the leader of the free world," Martin says. "The Air Force One is parked on the tarmac. … And I remember thinking: You want to talk about feast or famine. In 24 hours, either that guy is the governor of Virginia and best friends with the president, or we're all unemployed."

As it turned out, the latter came to pass. Kilgore has been relaxing with his family and allowing his life to resume some normalcy, says Martin, who joined Kilgore at a tailgate party for the University of Virginia-Virginia Tech football game a few weeks ago. (Kilgore's alma mater, UVa., lost.) During the campaign, Martin says, Kilgore had a driver and box seats for the games. "And now he's just Jerry the dad with his kids and wife at the football game."

Kilgore's staff, most of whom are his longtime friends and associates, are trying figure out their futures. "I think the unique thing about Jerry's team," Martin says, "is that all of us were friends with Jerry. … And the majority of us would have gone with him to the administration, most likely."

Murtaugh, who walked into Sidewalk Café to meet Martin on a recent Tuesday, seemed a little tired of talking to reporters and said nothing about his plans. Joe Carico, senior adviser to the campaign, just became a judge in Wise County.

Ken Hutcheson, Kilgore's campaign manager, is a veteran Virginia campaigner who will doubtless pop up again in the next election cycle. As he wrote in an irate, post-election e-mail to Virginia Club for Growth President Phil Rodokanakis, who staunchly criticized Kilgore's politicking, "I have worked my tail off for the last 11 years in this party and will continue to do so, very successfully I might add."

It's a good bet that the professional campaigners on Kaine's team, such as Campaign Manager Mike Henry and Press Secretary Mo Elleithee (who was also Gov. Mark Warner's spokesman during the 2001 campaign), will move on to other races as well. Kaine has not yet announced who from his campaign staff will accompany him to the governor's office.

Although he's kicked the caffeine-gum habit, Martin's eager to get going on another campaign — and urges others to try too. Everyone should work with a campaign once in his or her life, he says. "And I think if you are around it, you'll never not vote in your life." S


Latest in News and Features


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation