August 10, 2005 News & Features » Cover Story


The Next Governor (part 2) 

Where do they stand? Candidates Kaine, Kilgore and Potts step up to our questions.

So here's our version of a print "debate." Style interviewed the three candidates, asking them the same 24 questions and recording their responses. In our Aug. 3 issue, the would-be governors talked about fixing urban schools, what they admire about each other (or not), and whether people are born gay or choose their sexual orientation. They even came clean about the times they told lies — but coincidentally, all three offered examples from their childhoods. We're sure only the purest truth has been spoken since then.

In Part Two of our interview with Potts, Kilgore and Kaine, they discuss their positions on privatization, their thoughts on Richmond's performing arts center, and what they like to sing in church.

Style: What social injustice do you consider to be egregious to the point of encouraging Virginia's youth to march against it?

Kaine: That is a real good question. One in seven Virginians don't have health insurance — and you ask, what is an injustice that's egregious? … There's only one thing that ever makes me feel ashamed, and that is I meet people every day who are paying taxes and buying me insurance, and they don't have insurance themselves. Because I'm a state employee, I'm insured. My insurance is paid for by a whole lot of people, including a lot of poor people.

Kilgore: I think it would have to be failing schools. I want to make sure that every kid has the same opportunity I had, growing up in far Southwest Virginia, that they can go to a school that gives them the opportunity to succeed. I mean, education opened up so many doors for me.

Potts: I think there's a multiple of injustices — racial injustices, people who are discriminated upon for employment possibilities or advancement because of racial backgrounds or because of a person's persuasion — whether they're gay or not.

I hate prejudice of any kind. And the reason for that is because of my background of having grown up in such a poverty childhood. I was the little boy that had the holes in the sweater, that lived in the ramshackle apartment house with just a fireplace for heat. … I remember going to a seventh-grade dance and I had a hole in the sweater. … I came home that night and cried because I'd been made fun of. I've never forgotten that, and I made up my mind: I've never, ever in my life made fun of people. … We're all God's children.

Are there circumstances under which you'd place a moratorium on the death penalty? If so, what are they?

Kaine: A moratorium bill gets introduced every year by the legislature, but it never passes. And so that is kind of a hypothetical question that gets one vote and thrown out. I would never as governor interpose my own will for the will of the people as expressed in the law of Virginia; that would not be consistent with the oath I take. I've made it plain that my personal feeling is I'm against the death penalty. I think life is sacred and I'm against abortion and the death penalty.

Kilgore: No.

Potts: No. There would be no circumstances that I would place a moratorium on the death penalty. That's the biggest difference in Mr. Kaine's views and mine. And while I respect that — because I really do believe he's a man of faith and sincerity — I strongly believe that [convicted snipers Lee Boyd] Malvo and [John Allen] Muhammad are examples of two common, merciless murderers and criminals who deserve the death penalty. … Now, that being said, I would explore every avenue — be it DNA testing or every bit of evidence. And if some commonwealth's attorney would call me as governor and say we have found new evidence here … and we think you should take another look at this … I would explore every avenue there.

What is your position on privatizing Virginia's roads and jails?

Kaine: I like to work for private-sector solutions. Unique among the folks in this race, I have a lot of actual private-sector experience. I ran a law firm with 130 employees in Richmond, Paris and Guangzhou, China. I've done a lot of economic development deals as mayor. I think there are a number of road projects where a private-sector answer would be great, but I don't think privatization is the answer for all our transportation problems. When you build new roads, public-private partnerships are great. It doesn't fit quite so well with existing infrastructure. I view it as a tool that you can use to solve some of your transportation needs. It's not the be-all and end-all. Similarly with prisons and corrections. I don't think the right answer is all privatization or none. There have been well-run private correctional facilities, including juvenile correctional facilities. At the same time, I would be extremely reluctant to say that's the answer to all of our challenges. We have these existing institutions, and we have a responsibility to run them and run them well.

Kilgore: I've led the effort in Virginia to ... have the first private prisons operated in the commonwealth. You know, at the end of the day, you've got to do a cost-benefit analysis on roads. I know we'll be doing more of a public-private agreement in the future that will require tolling and other innovative mechanisms to build those roads. And I support some privatization of roads as we go forward.

Potts: I'm opposed to privatizing our jails. And I would be in favor of exploring every avenue to fix our roads, to be totally flexible. But I believe in private ownership of Virginia's roads, public-private partnership and totally government ownership of roads. Everything has to be on the table. The other two candidates have waffled around on this, and one has advocated referendums, which is spelled c-o-w-a-r-d. The referendum is Tuesday, Nov. 8. You're either going to elect a transportation governor or you're going to elect mediocrity. … We have the worst transportation crisis of any state in America right now, because we've gone longer than any other state, 1986, in addressing our road disrepair. And we've added 2.4 million people to the population rolls since then.

What state law would you repeal if you could?

Kaine: That's a real interesting question. There is something that's real unjust that Virginia needs to change — and that personally means an awful lot to me. I've done a whole lot of work with people with disabilities. And the current Medicaid rules basically mean that if you have a disability and you work, you can't work more than a certain number of hours because as soon as your income gets to a [certain] level, all your Medicaid benefits get cut off. There are thousands of people with disabilities in Virginia who work and love to work, and they want to be productive, and they want to pay taxes and contribute to society and earn more for themselves — but they have to stop working at, like, 19 or 20 hours a week or they'll lose their Medicaid benefits. It's an example of a rule or law that just makes no sense and is maddening.

Kilgore: Oh goodness. … What state law would I repeal if I could. Let me think about that one. … I would repeal the triggerman rule for the death penalty. Under Virginia law right now, the only way you can face the death penalty is if you actually pull the trigger in the murder. But that's not the way criminals operate today. We have gang members who have put a green light on any police officer in Hampton Roads. I think they should be just as culpable as the person, the lackey they're ordering to pull the trigger.

Potts: I would not repeal, but I would tweak and refine the Dillon rule, which is too restrictive on localities — particularly when you look at the decisions we have to make in transportation, i.e., land-use policies and allowing localities to take their destiny into their own hands. If, in fact, Chesterfield County has the wherewithal and the resources to build a road on their own, and there's not state money to do so, we should allow them to do so.

Do you support the creation of the performing arts center in Richmond? How should it be paid for?

Kaine: Yes. We did something this year I strongly supported — the budget amendments that we put in to provide support. We had surplus dollars. It's good to use surplus dollars on capital projects. … I believe arts and culture is a real part of what we do and often it's a very important economic development investment. Of course you have to balance it with other key priorities.

Kilgore: I do, and I've worked with the organizers here to allow some state bonding for the construction of the facility. Then, you know, it's got to be a public-private — where the public sector and the private sector have to have a partnership, where the majority of the funds are raised from the private sector.

Potts: I do support it. Because, in all due respect, downtown Richmond has fallen far behind the downtowns of — and the reason I know this, I've done business with every city in the South — Jacksonville, Florida; Jackson, Mississippi; Montgomery, Alabama; Birmingham, Alabama; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Charlotte; you name it. And it can be a tremendous revitalization, and drive a lot of energy, and help all the ancillary things that come along with that. ... And I admire the leadership of the Ukrop family and so many people who have stepped up. … [It should be paid for] by a combination of public and private.

Finish the sentence, Gov. Mark Warner's legacy as governor will be …

Kaine: Bringing Virginians together to rescue the state budget and fund education.

Kilgore: Hmmm … One of his legacies will be the uh, the uh, innovations he brought to the table in [the] technology arena, to consolidate so many of our technology services in the commonwealth and look for efficiencies there.

Potts: A kind, decent, thoughtful leader who reached across party lines and emphasized that you govern from the middle. He'll go down as one of Virginia's great governors. He's a great guy. We have a tremendous relationship and friendship. … And I must say, I do strongly believe this in my heart, that of the three candidates, I would be more like him.

Homeland security increasingly has been a matter of concern and investment. How do you describe your commitment to it and to what degree is it a priority?

Kaine: I've been very active with the Warner administration, and we've created a cabinet-level position for homeland security. I've been very supportive of that. I've been on the Secure Virginia Panel, and I've worked real hard to make sure we invest what we need to, to make Virginia safer. One of the things we've done is we've rekindled relationships with our military installations. We didn't have those relationships for a while — they were doing their thing; we were doing ours.

Kilgore: My background is in public safety, and I'm concerned, just as other Virginians are concerned, that Virginia is a target for terrorist attacks because we have Northern Virginia, the Washington metropolitan area, and we have the ports in Hampton Roads. And homeland security, we have to be ever mindful of that in state government; with one strike, it shuts down our economy. …We have to be committed, we have to be ever resilient in our fight against terrorists and protecting the homeland.

Potts: Absolutely, strong commitment with a proven track record, having served on the Senate Finance Subcommittee that funds homeland security. … Our committee provided for the funding of the boats in Hampton Roads that patrol … additional funding for security for the tunnels in Hampton Roads, and also for beefing up security around the Pentagon. ... Who would be a strong, decisive leader and who would implement the death penalty for anybody who was part of any terrorism attack in Virginia? It'd be Russ Potts.

Transportation officials say the only way to address long-term road construction needs will be toll roads or increased taxes. How do you propose to pay for roads?

Kaine: What I'll do first, we have a transportation trust fund right now — transportation dollars we pay go into it, and yet the legislature can pull the money out for things other than transportation. And they have done it. I'm very much on trying to lock up the state's transportation trust fund so that the monies we put in are only used for transportation. … I want to use the surplus dollars. We had a surplus last year and again this year. There are some who say the surplus shows we didn't need to do budget reform. But what I say is the surplus enables us to do transportation. We did $850 million in transportation spending this year with a budget that started July 1 that we only had available because we did budget reform last year. So I want to continue to use surplus dollars. And when you use a dollar for transportation, you can also draw down more federal dollars.

Kilgore: Well, I propose to use general fund dollars, which is the fastest revenue source that we are seeing and experiencing. We've seen $2.2 billion in economic growth come into the commonwealth since the … 2004 session of the General Assembly. We need to use some of that growth revenue on transportation, a huge quality-of-life issue in our future. I also propose to create a regional transportation authority to empower the region. … [to] guarantee them that the money raised there will be spent on that region. They can toll, they can bond, they can raise taxes, if they go to the voters, with their permission to raise taxes. But all in all, I trust the regions to set their regional priority needs. … I support abuser-fee legislation, to require those who abuse the privilege to drive to pay more to drive on the roads in the future. That would be habitual offenders, those with excessive speeding tickets, individuals like that. That could bring in almost $100 million.

Potts: We have to put everything on the table, and we have to capitalize on our triple-A bond rating. In my plan, we will allocate 27 percent of the money we raise by tolls, private investment, gasoline tax — everything has to be on the table. And anybody that doesn't include the gasoline tax is not being frank and forthright. And we full well know there is no way we can fund our transportation improvements out of the general fund. … I would include rail and mass transit as a key component. I would address right out of the box four initial projects in year one … two in Northern Virginia, two in Hampton Roads. And we would phase in our plan over six, 10, 20 years.

How would you spend the state's half-billion-dollar surplus?

Kaine: I'll tell you, nearly half to two-thirds of it immediately has to go into the state's rainy day fund by a constitutional provision. We're trying to replenish the state's savings account. There's another legal provision that will require about $50 million to go into the state's water quality improvement fund — basically Chesapeake Bay and river cleanup. So that's great. That's going to leave us $150 to $200 million. I would probably divide that equally between transportation and — every year we see Medicaid increases for seniors and we almost always have to go into a surplus or some extra revenue to cover that. It's primarily for either low-income people and their medical care or the cost of seniors in nursing homes.

Kilgore: I would … on my better-pay-for-better-teachers plan, and pour some of it into additional transportation funding.

Potts: There is no surplus. There absolutely is no surplus. It's the biggest misnomer and falsehood, and Jerry Kilgore ought to be ashamed of himself. If you have $20,000 in the bank, and you have $25,000 of bills, you don't have a surplus. And the fact of the matter is … we have over $800 million facing us in a shortfall for fully funding the SOLs; we have a $1 billion shortfall in funding the pension fund; we have a $466 million shortfall in funding the 950 [$950 million annual] cap on the car tax. … And, in total, we have over $6 billion in obligations that are not budgeted for in 2006.

If you had been among the first settlers at Jamestown in 1607, what do you think you would have contributed to history?

Kaine: Wow. We all have our little bit of good that we bring to the table. I've always been, I think, very, very good in helping diverse people get along. And so, anytime when I've been in any setting, I almost always end up as, you know, managing director of my law firm or mayor or the president of a nonprofit board. I think the reason why I have ended up in these positions of leadership is because I can look at a very diverse group of people and get them to pull the oar the same way. And so I'm sure that in that situation my role would have been stopping disagreements among the settlers and also doing reach-out to the Powhatan tribe.

Kilgore: I think I would have wanted to create, to make sure that we create a Virginia of opportunity, where the children are educated and seek the best for our country.

Potts: I would have focused on the reason that I came here, to this promise of America, to this new world that I had … where all men are created equal. … First you have to understand that there were three basic premises people settled in America, not necessarily in this order: One was religious freedom, two was economic opportunity, three was public education. … I would have focused on the [three] things this America that I'm now a part of, this new world, will be able to emphasize. ... And I believe that is why we're such a great nation.

Do you have a favorite hymn? Morning beverage? Favorite read on the campaign trail?

Kaine: I used to sing in a gospel choir; I was our tenor soloist. That's tough. There's this song, "Give Me a Clean Heart," which is probably my favorite — either that or "No, Not One," an old-timey hymn that's just really beautiful. [Sings] There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus. ... Black decaf coffee is my morning beverage, and then I switch to Dr. Peppers at about 11 a.m. Read? I read tons of books — I mean, I'm always reading something. I'll just tell you what I'm reading right now and that's "A House for Mr. Biswas," which is this really great novel by this guy V.S. Naipaul. It's about an older guy in Trinidad who buys a house for the first time and what a mark of pride that is for him.

Kilgore: Hymn: It would have to always be "Amazing Grace." Morning beverage: Diet Coke. Favorite read: I read all types of daily newspapers, I just finished the book "Born Fighting," which is a history of the Scotch-Irish, Scottish-American history in Virginia. And the first three words in that book are "Gate City, Virginia." It was a great read; it just talks about the influence Scottish Americans have had.

Potts: Hymn: "How Great Thou Art." Morning beverage: Coffee. Favorite read: I just finished reading "Cinderella Man," which is the biography of Jim Braddock. And that's what's going to happen here in this governor's race. Jim Braddock pulled off the biggest upset in the history of the heavyweight championship when he beat Max Baer. And Russ Potts is going to pull off the biggest upset in the history of Virginia politics. S

Letters to the editor may be sent to:

Click here for Part 1



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