August 03, 2005 News & Features » Cover Story


The Race Is On (part 1) 

The three men who want Warner's job weigh in on education, roads and each other.

Style: In a sentence or two, how would you define good government?

Kaine: Good government is government looking to do innovative things to always improve people's quality of life and do so in a way that draws people together.

Kilgore: Honest government.

Potts: A government that's open and encourages participation by as many groups as possible. Diversity of opinion and diversity of background is extremely important. That's what made this a great country.

Political pundits have remarked that what this race has lacked so far is a driving issue and/or slogan respective to each candidate. What is that issue for you, and what would be your catch phrase or mantra for addressing it?

Kaine: My passionate issue in public life is education. I've been very active with my wife in our kids' schools — they go to the Richmond Public Schools. I was the mayor of a city that hadn't built schools in a generation, and I got four brand new schools built and renovated, and reopened the Maggie Walker High School. I fought very, very hard as part of the Warner administration for better funding of schools. Education is the most urgent issue facing us, because we're in a world economy where we're competing with very, very accelerated education systems around the globe, and we want our kids to do well. The way I characterize the race is: Let's go forward not backward.

Kilgore: My catch phrase is honest reform. I want to be the candidate that brings honest reform to every aspect of government. I'm the candidate running for governor this year that you can trust to fulfill the promises he's making.

Potts: Investing in Virginia's future.

Who is your biggest campaign contributor; who is your biggest fan?

Kaine: I think right now the biggest contributor to my campaign is Sheila Johnson. Sheila lives right on the border between Loudoun and Fauquier counties. She's a great philanthropist and a real active businesswoman and a super person. She and her husband founded BET. My biggest fan is definitely my wife. Anne can never come to a campaign event with me or political event because she's a juvenile court judge, and that's not allowed. But I couldn't do it if it weren't for her. I guess if there were a close second it would be her dad — [former Gov.] Linwood [Holton Jr.] is really pulling for me. But Anne is the champion of the campaign.

Kilgore: My biggest campaign contributor would be the Republican Governors Association [through its Honest Leadership for Virginia PAC]. Who is my biggest fan? I would have to say it would be Klarke and Kelsey, my kids. [laughs]

Potts: Lloyd Ross, who is the founder of Tuesday Morning Companies, which is a retail chain. He sold that company. And he is contributing $300,000. I have four biggest fans — my three daughters, and my little grandson, Duffy. … My very biggest fan is my wife, Emily. And I'm the biggest fan of my wife. … We're celebrating our 40th anniversary on Nov. 27.

Even as we celebrate strides and innovations in Virginia's schools, rising rates of violence, truancy and poor performance still plague inner-city classrooms. What would you do specifically to improve urban schools?

Kaine: Well, first I'm really proud of the fact — for example in Richmond — that the Richmond schools have come such a long way in terms of how few schools were accredited a few years ago and now two-thirds or maybe three-fourths of the schools are accredited. I applaud school districts all over the state for embracing accountability and improvement. … I took a vow to visit schools in every city and county in Virginia — I've been to 118 of 134, and I'll finish by the time I'm done being lieutenant governor. …

One of the things that strikes me is we've paid a lot of attention to testing; we've paid very little attention to teacher evaluation. And most organizations, when you want to improve, focus on personnel. … I think there ought to be a legal requirement that there be regular and comprehensive evaluation of every classroom teacher in Virginia, and that's something I'm going to push dramatically for. … The second thing I strongly believe is we should expand — and Governor Warner and I have done this fighting for an education budget — pre-K opportunities. Pre-K is a wonderful thing, especially for at-risk kids, because every kindergarten teacher will tell you, there are kids who come in really ready to learn, and there are kids who aren't yet ready.

Kilgore: Now, I have a better-pay-for-better-teachers plan that will bring performance pay to the public school system, but it will also give bonuses to those "impact teachers," as I describe them, that agree to teach in a lower-performing school system. I do support, as another option, greater choice for parents in failing school districts. I supported the legislation last session of the General Assembly that would give tax credits to businesses that would provide scholarships to kids in lower-performing school districts.

I cannot think of anything more discouraging for a parent than to be forced to send their children to failing schools on a daily basis. I can't imagine being in that situation, and I want to give parents a greater hope. And for violence in the schools, we're working very hard. We have a Class Action program that's an innovative prevention program, that works with kids on the state of Virginia law, that directs them away from gangs and other criminal activity.

Potts: I think we have to place a greater emphasis on parental involvement. We have to widen the circle, widen the circle, widen the circle of community leaders, and encourage and inspire the parent-teacher associations to take a more active role. The biggest single reason for the violence and absenteeism and disruptive practices of the students in our schools is the lack of parental involvement. … You don't have to be wealthy to be involved with your youngsters. As poor as I was, my dad never missed a Christmas recital, or a Little League game, or whatever presentation at school. … We've done a terrific job of setting those [standards of learning] up. Now we have to go back and tweak it so you're not teaching to the test, and learning to the test.

Do you have a nickname? If so, how'd you get it?

Kaine: You know I've never had a nickname. I'm Timothy Michael Kaine and it's always been Tim. I think when I was little I wanted a nickname because I thought it would be cool. But none ever stuck.

Kilgore: I don't have a nickname.

Potts: Pottsie. Kids would kid me about that, and my football teammates — and they just called me Pottsie. And my dad's nickname lots of times was Pottsie.

Of the 50 states, Virginia ranks last in what it spends on criminal defense for the indigent. Do you think the state needs to spend more?

Kaine: The state definitely needs to spend more. We've made some strides in this during the Warner years as we've done budget reform. It's always a good idea to compare what we do with other states. And so when we learn that we're way out of whack with other states, it really is helpful. Providing better defense makes the whole system work better. I've talked with Chief Justice [Leroy] Hassell of the [Virginia] Supreme Court and it's a high priority for him. He and others have convinced me that we need to do better.

Kilgore: I do. I think we need to train indigent defense attorneys to a greater degree and the state pick up the cost of the training. And we need to pay the counsel higher hourly rates. ...

Potts: Absolutely. That's not the kind of statistical championship we want. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. This is Virginia, 12th largest state, and the 12th wealthiest state in the union — we can do better. To get to the middle of the pack, we have to incrementally address it. ...

What is the most important thing you learned from a grandparent?

Kaine: Wow. What comes to mind immediately is my grandmother, Pauline. She had a very comical sense of life and wonderful sense of humor. Most of it was intentional. I think my brothers and I developed a great sense of humor because we had a very funny grandmother who had a real good perspective on life.

Kilgore: Hard work, from my grandfather. That if you get up every day and work hard — he was a full-time farmer — then you're going to be successful. It may not be financially, but you're going to be personally successful.

Potts: The work ethic. My grandfather was so proud of me because I literally worked harder than any youngster that I was in school with. I started paying for my clothes when I was 8 years old — there was a clerk at the J.C. Penney who knew my sweater size and helped me pick out my school supplies. My mother worked from 4 to midnight in a cannery in an assembly line, and the most money she ever made was $42 a week. … My dad had a variety of jobs. So I learned from my grandfather and my parents. I started delivering newspapers — you had to be 10 to get the job (and I told them I was 10) …. And I started delivering milk when I was 14 years old and throughout high school.

Have you ever told a lie? If so, give an occasion and why.

Kaine: I remember a very good lecture that my mother gave me one time — remember it like yesterday. I was sitting downstairs in our house and a friend of mine called to see if I wanted to do something. And I said, "Yeah, you know, I can't do anything right now because I'm about to do something with my family." The reality was I was just sitting there watching TV, and I was too lazy to do anything. But I didn't want to say that to my friend so I kind of told this white lie. My mother happened to be passing by the door when I said that, and she said, "Well, that's not true." And I said, "I know but I didn't want to tell my friend that." She said, "Tim, never tell lies, even small lies like that, because once you start down that path you start to not even recognize the difference between telling a lie and being truthful."

Kilgore: On one occasion — of course you know I have an identical twin brother — I didn't step up … when our second-grade teacher stormed into the room after a guest had been there and one twin had been talking excessively, and she picked the wrong twin at the time and punished my brother. [laughs] He has never let me live that one down.

Potts: Oh sure. When the teacher asked if we threw those spitballs, absolutely I did. The teacher used to come in, and he had the habit of hitting the blotter with a flat hand. And we put the thumbtacks under the blotter. When he accused me of it, of course I denied it! Absolutely.

Since former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder took over as Richmond's mayor, he's called City Hall a "cesspool of corruption" — created, in part, by former City Manager Calvin Jamison, whose strongest supporter at one point was former mayor Tim Kaine. What does this say about Kaine's ability to govern?

Kaine: What it should tell people is that Tim Kaine isn't afraid of a hard leadership challenge. Most people in Richmond or outside of Richmond sit around and gripe and complain about Richmond but would never try to do anything about it. In 1994 when I got elected [to City Council], we had just had our bond rating downgraded, we had the second-highest homicide rate in the United States, hadn't built any schools in 25 years, we were losing population, losing jobs, and very few people were willing to get involved to make something happen. I was in office for four terms. At the end of my four terms, had everything in Richmond been solved? Nope. But we cut our homicide rate by 55 percent with Project Exile. We had become one of Forbes magazine's 10 most business-friendly cities in the United States. I built four new schools and reopened Maggie Walker High School; restored train service to downtown; got a convention center built downtown; reopened the George Washington canal system; and did a whole series of projects that Money magazine called us the best mid-sized city in the South. So we came a long way in eight years.

Now, when I left City Hall, I still wasn't happy. … I worked real hard to reform the city charter so we could have an elected mayor with executive power, the only city or county in Virginia that has that. I was a reformer and brought the city an awful long way. When I finished up and became lieutenant governor I continued to fight for reform. Anybody who wants to come after me on stuff in Richmond, I look them in the eye and say, "Look, I have the guts to sign up for a tour of duty and make a difference, and I would encourage anybody else do the same." I'm really proud of my time in local service.

Kilgore: I think the last thing Virginia needs is a mediocre mayor serving as governor. Governing Magazine, when asked to rank the city of Richmond's management team under Mayor Kaine's leadership, they gave them a C-plus. … Mayor [Wilder] is right, he oversaw a cesspool of corruption, except the mayor refined his answer after he'd been in office… and called it "oceans and oceans" of corruption. That says a lot about where I think Virginia will be if [Kaine's] elected.

Potts: I have tremendous respect for Mayor Wilder. … I think there's a lot of the substance in what Mayor Wilder says about a lot of the problems he inherited. Mayor Wilder has a mandate from the people of Richmond to fix these problems, and he is a decisive leader and he'll do it. … And I believe that we would be a very effective team working together. …

I think that it shows that the people want more decisive leadership. Tim has unfortunately shown, on numerous occasions here now, that he would not be a decisive governor. He knows the No. 1 problem facing Virginia is transportation, so he comes up with one idea, and that is a lockbox that precludes you from decisive action until 2009. He waffles all over the place on questions that are asked to him — "If Roe v. Wade is bounced back to the states, what would be your position on that?" — and you can't get a straight answer out of him. …

Jerry Kilgore has agreed to one televised debate with Tim Kaine and none with Russ Potts. What does that say about Kilgore's ability to publicly defend his beliefs?

Kaine: I think the debate issue is very serious for Virginians because Jerry has not agreed to do a debate with me that would be televised statewide. The only debate he's accepted is at noon on a weekday in Fairfax that would be televised on a local channel. He made us sign an agreement at the Greenbrier debate that we would not show the video of it to anyone — or he was not going to appear at the [upcoming] debate. If you're afraid to stand up in front of people, tell them where you stand and answer their questions, then that should raise a real red flag as to whether you're the kind of person who can make tough leadership decisions that the state needs.

Kilgore: I'm out defending my beliefs every single day around Virginia. I was just meeting with the Virginia Manufacturers Association today, their membership. I met with LandAmerica executives earlier today. I, from all accounts, won the first debate before the Virginia Bar Association. We have a second debate scheduled that will be televised with Tim Russert before the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce. We, I'm sure, will have a third debate that will be televised statewide.

There are many ways to reach out to the voters; I'm using every angle possible. We're doing pure retail politics by working fairs, festivals and parades. I get citizens coming up to me all the time, giving me new ideas or asking me questions. I'm using e-mail and Internet to promote our agenda for Virginia. So we're reaching out to Virginians every day. I'm very glad to promote my agenda of honest reform.

Potts: That he's a wimp. And that speaks volumes to Virginians that he doesn't have the competence and character and conviction — and the courage — to look the people in the eye. ... You asked me any darn question that you want and I answered it. ... People expect the next governor of Virginia to be forthright and look them in the eye.

Russ Potts is the only one of three candidates who supports gay adoption by couples. What does that say about his commitment to the institution of marriage and family?

Kaine: I disagree with Russ on that. But I know him personally — he's a committed family man. I support the current Virginia law. Russ would like to expand it to allow adoption by gay couples; Jerry would like to change it so no gay or lesbian person could ever adopt. Right now, Virginia law says a married couple can adopt, and that's the only couple that can adopt. … But an individual can adopt if that individual can show it's in the best interest of the child.

Kilgore: Tim Kaine also supports gay adoption by single individuals. I'm the candidate committed to making sure that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think Virginia has stated in the public policy of the commonwealth you ought to strive for the ideal and support the ideal, and … support families first.

Potts: I've consistently supported marriage as between a man and a woman, and I voted for the Constitutional Amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a women. ... I've been married to the same woman for 40 years, and I have three daughters. But we're all God's children and I believe we have to be sincere and open-minded and generous about our fellow man, and our fellow women.

Do you believe that people are born into this world with a predetermined sexual orientation, or do all gays and lesbians consciously choose a homosexual lifestyle?

Kaine: Yes. My experience in just talking to people over the years has been that while there may be some element of choice involved with some, by and large people are born with a sexual orientation.

Kilgore: I've always believed it's a choice, but to be quite honest about it, I don't really know.

Potts: I believe that they are predetermined, born. Let me say, I can't imagine that a benevolent, kind, generous God that we worship … I can't imagine that a gay person arrives at those pearly gates to meet Jesus Christ, and/or if you're Jewish, to meet God, that there's no place in his kingdom. I can't imagine. I don't believe that. Now, obviously, you know I support the institution of marriage as being between a man and a woman. That's how I feel. That's who I am.

What traits do you admire most in your opponents?

Kaine: I know both Jerry and Russ pretty well. I honor their commitment to public service. It's not easy doing what we do. Russ has served honorably in the Senate of Virginia; Jerry has served honorably in a number of governmental positions, most recently as attorney general. And look, I know how hard this is, how few people understand it, how the criticism can feel. I know how difficult it is to do when you've got young kids, and Jerry's got two young kids.

Kilgore: … At least Russ Potts is being honest with us, because he wants to raise taxes. And I admire Tim Kaine's commitment to being in the arena. It's tough running for statewide office, now he's done it twice. It's tough, I'm sure, serving on City Council and serving as mayor of the city of Richmond. And that takes a commitment to public service that I admire.

Potts: (Kaine) He is a man of deep faith. Fine family man. And he's a good friend. There's a strong mutual respect that we have for each other. … (Kilgore) Good family man. [Pauses for about 20 seconds.] That's about it. S

Next Week:

In Part Two, the candidates discuss their stands on privatization, how they'd fix our transportation mess and which state law they'd repeal if they could. They also think ahead to Gov. Mark Warner's legacy and imagine 1607.

Letters to the editor may be sent to:



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