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Virginia Gov. Race Turns Nasty

If there were any doubt that the gubernatorial race between Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) is tightening, check out the two new ads the Republican nominee put up earlier this week.

The first, entitled "Stanley," opens with a man --Stanley Rosenbluth -- holding a picture of his son and daughter-in-law, both of whom were murdered by Mark Sheppard in the early 1990s, Rosenbluth speaks directly to the camera: "Tim Kaine voluntarily represented the person who murdered my son. No matter how heinous the crime, he doesn't believe that death is a punishment."  Sheppard was convicted and sentenced to death in 1994. Kaine played a role in Sheppard's unsuccessful death row appeal; Sheppard was executed in 1999.

"I don't trust Tim Kaine when it comes to the death penalty and I say that as a father whose had a son murdered," says Rosenbluth at the ad's close. A longer, 60-second version of the ad covers much of the same territory, but it includes the line: "Tim Kaine says that Adolf Hilter doesn't qualify for the death penalty."

The second Kilgore ad follows much the same formula. Kelly Timbrook, the wife of a slain police officer, tells the story of how her husband -- Rick -- was murdered by Edward Bell, who is currently on death row for the crime. "When Tim Kaine calls the death penalty murder, I find it offensive and I don't trust Tim Kaine to uphold that law," she says. [The Post provides a full transcript of both ads in today's edition.]

The Kaine campaign immediately shot back with a response ad. "My faith teaches life is sacred," Kaine says to camera as he sits in a dimly lit room with wood paneling and books as a backdrop. "That's why I personally oppose the death penalty. But I take my oath of office serious and I'll enforce the death penalty."

Kilgore's decision to significantly raise the stakes in the ad war would seem to indicate this race is closing and the Republican candidate made a strategic decision to go for the knockout blow. Swinging so hard carries an inherent risk of blowback if voters perceive the ads to be over the top. Wait a week and then check out polls to see whether Kilgore's gambit pays off.

One other interesting note on the Virginia TV battle -- a small skirmish within the larger fight. Kilgore's media consultant is Scott Howell; Kaine's is Karl Struble. Howell and Struble have faced off in a number of high-profile races in recent years. In 2002, Howell directed the media strategy for then-Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R), who took a Georgia Senate seat away from incumbent Max Cleland (D), a Struble client. Two years later, Howell topped Struble again, this time in the South Dakota Senate race between John Thune (R) and then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D).

So, will Struble exact revenge in Virginia next month?

Sidenotes: Be sure to check out's Race to Richmond blog for continuing coverage of the Virginia campaign. Here's The Post's write-up of the ads:  "Kilgore Ads Seek to Divide Democrats."

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 13, 2005; 8:10 AM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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Your site is realy very interesting.

Posted by: Dublin Accommodation | March 22, 2006 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Seems that the GOP has found THEIR nasty/scurilous attack ads work well to incite emotional repsonse of voters to garner votes...Dates back long time ...Think of aainstvarious Dems...find it disgusting, the ads and the outrageous hyporisy for they then shout it all about that only dems and libs and etc are purveryors of the repulsive ad campaigns...Astounding that they are given credit as working ...there should be a voter response that gets the message across that such DO NOT for the putrid messages seem to get the GOP the vote and that is disgusting!!!

Posted by: Bozwell | October 14, 2005 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I just received the following e-mail:

Yesterday, Jerry Kilgore said that people whose faith says the death penalty is wrong or those who have represented death penalty cases aren't "entitled" to serve as governor. Here is a list of people who aren't fit to govern, under Jerry Kilgore's definition:

· Governor Jeb Bush (R), Florida - Roman Catholic - carried out 17 executions:

"Jeb Bush supports the death penalty, but still offers the following: 'I take advice from the leader of my church very seriously,' Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida said at a press conference the afternoon before the Mass. 'I also have a duty to uphold the laws of the state. I don't believe this necessarily has to be in conflict,' he said." [Catholic News Service, 4/24/05]

· Governor Michael Easley, (D), North Carolina - Roman Catholic - carried out 20 executions

· Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, (R), California - Roman Catholic - carried out 1 execution

· Senator Rick Santorum, (R), Pennsylvania - Opposes the Death Penalty

· Senator Sam Brownback, (R), Kansas - Opposes the Death Penalty

· Kilgore Donor, Attorney Ken Starr, (R) - volunteered to represent Virginia death row inmate Robin Lovitt's appeal

· Chief Justice John Roberts - assisted in the appeal of a death row inmate

Posted by: kaine supporter | October 13, 2005 2:59 PM | Report abuse

kilgore lost my vote, those adds are misleading and dispicable,but knowing virginia they will probably be effective because kaine won`t fight back.

Posted by: jmt | October 13, 2005 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I have been unlucky enough to have two close friends murdered in two different incidents. I am also a Catholic. My religion as well as my own sense of morality told me then as it does now that the death penalty is wrong. From what I understand every major religion has also taken the stance that the death penalty is wrong. It is bad enough in this modern age to be a death penalty supporter but to campain on this is simply disgusting. By the way you cannot be PRO-LIFE and also be a death penalty supporter. It is a contradiction in terms.

Posted by: Mark Esposito | October 13, 2005 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I am a conservative, pro-capital punishment Republican and I found Mr. Kilgore's ads exceptionally offensive. The Constitution states that those accused of serious crimes should have the assistance of counsel in their defense. Mr. Kaine's pro bono representation of these individuals should be lauded as an example of an attorney giving back to his community and aiding in the sucessful administration of the criminal justice system. The assertion that an attorney is morally culpable for the actions of his client is so absurd it would be laughable able had it not come from an Attorney General.

Posted by: EHS | October 13, 2005 12:45 PM | Report abuse

One of your commentators mentioned a "fear" that a future governor of Virginia might commute all death sentences as was done in Ohio.

While I personally would welcome such an event, I do think it worth mentioning that the commutations that happened in Ohio were a result of evidence of many miscarriages of justice where innocents were put to death on death row. If that same problem were to be shown in Virginia, then I can't see how anyone in the state would be able to continue to support capital punishment in that system.

I recommend the commentator read "Ultimate Punishment" by Scott Turow as a good resource on the reality of Capital Punishment as it is practised in the United States.

Posted by: Outside Observer | October 13, 2005 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't like either of them and am voting for Russ Potts. I encourage everyone else to do the same.

Posted by: Rich | October 13, 2005 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I do not like the smear campaigns of any politician. However, I have to respond to Mr.Kaine saying his faith teaches him that life is sacred. I have read that he is of the Christian faith. If so, his faith and church should have taught him Psalm 139: 13-16. Mr. Kaine, you can not "pick and choose" which portions of the Bible you wish to believe.

Posted by: jws | October 13, 2005 10:58 AM | Report abuse

They are both the scum of the Earth. Why do I find myself in a state election that mirrors the presidential election where I am forced to pick the lesser of two evils.

Posted by: kme | October 13, 2005 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Highlights an important inconsistency in both parties' stance on life: The Dems often condemn the death penalty, even for mass murderers, child molesters, the scum of the earth, but then support abortion. In the same vein, the GOP folks often condemn abortion as murder but then wholeheartedly support the death penalty.

I say be consistent: Either support death or support life, but don't be in the middle.

Posted by: anon | October 13, 2005 10:41 AM | Report abuse

What I wish the Kilgore ads would highlight is the decision of then-Ohio-Governor Dick Celeste to simply commute all the death sentences in the state of Ohio right before he left office in 1991. The question should raised if Virginians would want their governor to do the same. Kaine says he won't but do you honestly believe that to be the case?

Posted by: Mark | October 13, 2005 10:39 AM | Report abuse

The Kilgore ads are a disgrace to the Commonwealth of Virginia and an affront to the Constitution of the USA. According to Constitution and Virginia law, every person accused of a crime in the USA is entitled to an attorney. If Mr Kilgore does not believe in that basic tenent of our criminal justice system, he has no business running for governor or any other public office.

Posted by: RTB | October 13, 2005 10:18 AM | Report abuse

The personal, deceitful attack that Mr. Kilgore's campaign has launched shows his lack of moral principles to govern.
Mr. Kaine's campaign ads- at least the ones I have come across - have been a lot more positive and focused. To me, this is sufficient to decide who will get my vote.

Posted by: SAI | October 13, 2005 10:16 AM | Report abuse

So Kaine defended a murderer. Last I checked, everyone in this country was entitled to an able defense regardless of crime. Why is this radical? Also, the death penalty has lots of opponents. In fact, the only political position the American Society of Criminology has taken in its decades of existence is an anti-capital ounishment stance. Are Virginia's voters really this stupid that they are willing to be emotionally scammed by this doofus Kilgore?

Posted by: Crim gal | October 13, 2005 9:43 AM | Report abuse

So Kaine defended a murderer. Last I checked, everyone in this country was entitled to an able defense regardless of crime. Why is this radical? Also, the death penalty has lots of opponents. In fact, the only political position the American Society of Criminology has taken in its decades of existence is an anti-capital ounishment stance. Are Virginia's voters really this stupid that they are willing to be emotionally scammed by this doofus Kilgore?

Posted by: Crim gal | October 13, 2005 9:43 AM | Report abuse

You tell us the narrative of Kilgore's attack ads, but make no attempt to verify their accuracy. There is no reporting here. Don't you work for a newspaper? Elsewhere it has been reported, regarding the first ad, that Kaine was appointed to serve. It has also been reported that the killings were part of a drug deal gone bad. Are these things true? If so, at least one of the ads is wildly misleading. Stenographers belong in court rooms, we need reporters in newsrooms. Do your job.

Posted by: GC | October 13, 2005 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Chris, do you think these will be effective? When I first saw it, I thought it was well-made but also that it felt very dated. It had a whiff of early 90s to it.

Is the death penalty really that important an issue today in VA?

Posted by: Ffx | October 13, 2005 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the post, but isn't your headline false-balance mush? Is it really the "race" that's turned nasty? Or Jerry Kilgore? Let's tell it like it is.

Posted by: Flash | October 13, 2005 9:21 AM | Report abuse

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