Va. Gov. Race: Poll Gives GOP 7-Point Lead (10/23/97)
Car-Tax Issue Lifts Gilmore In Virginia (10/23/97)
A Battle Of Moderates In Virginia (5/8/97)
Gilmore Takes Virginia Governor's Race
Car-tax issue lifts Republican to victory; GOP also wins lieutenant governor, attorney general posts
By Thomas H. Moore/AllPolitics
WASHINGTON (Nov. 4) -- Virginia Republican Jim Gilmore rode a wave of loathing for the state's personal-property tax on automobiles all the way to the governor's mansion.
CNN has declared Gilmore, the state's former attorney general, the winner over Democratic Lt. Gov. Don Beyer. The race remained close up until the campaign's final weeks, when Gilmore started pulling away.
Gilmore's coattails carried the lieutenant governor's office into the GOP column and kept the state attorney general's office there as well. But the state House of Delegates remained narrowly Democratic.
John H. Hager beat Democrat L. F. Payne in the lieutenant governor's race, giving Republicans the tie-breaking vote in the state Senate. Mark L. Earley vanquished Democrat William D. Dolan in the attorney general's race. This gives the GOP control of Virginia's top three state offices for the first time ever.
Gilmore succeeded in centering the campaign on his cornerstone promise to slash the state's car tax. The levy costs Virginians hundreds and even thousands of dollars in annual taxes on their cars, depending on how expensive they are.
Gilmore proposed ending the tax on cars valued up to $20,000. Beyer belatedly offered a plan to offset the car tax with a credit of up to $250 for families earning up to $75,000, but Gilmore continued to set the terms of the debate.
Beyer tried to fight back with negative ads tying Gilmore to Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition, and he hammered his opponent's anti-abortion stance.
But Beyer's bid to counter Gilmore's car-tax plan fell short. Despite a last-minute campaign swing through the state from President Bill Clinton, who asked at a Beyer rally how Virginians could "knowingly damage the education of our children and the future of your state," Gilmore's vow to slay the car tax held the day.
Beyer was also hurt by his failure to attract the endorsement of the state's last Democratic governor, Doug Wilder. The state's first African-American governor, Wilder declined to make any endorsement, a move interpreted by many as anger over his belief that Beyer did not pay enough attention to the needs of the state's black population during the campaign.
Gilmore, 48, was a county commonwealth attorney for six years before being elected Virginia's attorney general in 1993. He resigned his position earlier this year to campaign full-time for governor.
Beyer, 47, used his family-owned group of northern Virginia automobile dealerships as a springboard to two terms as lieutenant governor.
Virginia law bars governors from serving consecutive terms, a rule that kept the popular Republican incumbent governor, George Allen, from running again.
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Tuesday Nov. 4, 1997
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