Senate hopefuls stump at Shad Planking

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 21, 2008

WAKEFIELD—The race for John Warner’s seat in the U.S. Senate began in earnest at the Wakefield Ruritan Club Wednesday, as hundreds of people turned out to eat shad and hear from the top three contenders for that job.

Former Virginia governors Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Jim Gilmore, a Republican, were joined on the stage at the 60th annual Shad Planking by Republican Bob Marshall, a member of the House of Delegates from Northern Virginia.

Each of the three men marked the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings and then set out to rally his troops in what has become Virginia political tradition.

Noting that &uot;people don’t trust either political party enough to write them a blank check,&uot; Warner told the crowd that his campaign would seek to engage Virginia’s &uot;radical centrists&uot; during this election cycle.

Calling for change in Washington, D.C., he said, &uot;We need to be proud of the direction our country is headed.&uot;

Warner suggested that, while his opponents &uot;are competing to see who can be the most conservative,&uot; he better represents Virginia voters.

With supporters for all three candidates waving signs in the audience, Gilmore gave a fiery speech in which he asked voters to consider his past performance when deciding whether to support him.

&uot;When I ran for governor of Virginia, I told you what I was going to do, and I did it,&uot; he said.

He pointed to the reduction in the car tax and keeping Internet service tax-free as examples of his fidelity to his promises.

Gilmore said that issues such as energy independence and health care set Republicans and Democrats apart in this election. He promised to work for proposals that would lead America away from dependence on foreign oil and to fight against any effort to move toward taxpayer-funded universal health care.

He also pledged to oppose setting a &uot;date certain&uot; for U.S. forces to leave Iraq.

Marshall, who is competing with Gilmore for the Republican nomination, pointed to his record in support of the definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman as evidence of his being in step with Virginians, noting that his position was vindicated by Virginia voters during a referendum on the issue.

He noted that his position as a litigant against the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority had put him at odds with many of the General Assembly members attending Wednesday’s event.

But the Virginia Supreme Court decision that essentially vacated the authority and a similar one in Hampton Roads had affirmed a bedrock principle of the American form of government.

&uot;No taxation without representation,&uot; he thundered to an appreciative audience.

Marshall also acknowledged having seen &uot;NO OLF&uot; signs and stickers along the side of the road and on the Ruritan Club grounds.

He said a decision either way on locating a Navy training airfield at one of the proposed sites in Southampton, Sussex or Surry would have long-term effects on those counties.

He also blamed Virginia Beach officials for putting the state and the Navy in the position of potentially having to rely on Southside Virginia to come to the rescue of encroached Hampton Roads training facilities.

&uot;What Virginia Beach did not do years ago is having effects on farmers around here, and that’s not fair,&uot; he said, alluding to the fact that Virginia Beach had allowed development to threaten Oceana Naval Air Station’s future.

Marshall also said that Oceana’s future could be in doubt — regardless of any OLF decision — when the new generation of fighter aircraft begins to replace the F/A-18 Super Hornet in a few years.

He suggested that the Navy should prove that the master jet base still would be viable with the new fighters before forcing farmers to give up their land to build an OLF.

Neither former Gov. Jim Gilmore — the other Republican seeking nomination — nor former Gov. Mark Warner, the Democratic candidate for John Warner’s senate seat, addressed the OLF issue during their Shad Planking remarks.

Gilmore stopped at a booth operated by Virginians Against the Outlying Landing Field as he was leaving the event. He spoke briefly to VAOLF members and traded business cards with Barry Steinberg, the attorney representing Southampton, Sussex, Surry and Greensville counties in their fight to derail the Navy’s plans to locate an OLF in Southside Virginia.