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Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 1999 /23 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Cal Thomas

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Virginia makes history --
PEOPLE TEND TO READ too much into "off-year'' elections, spinning the results in ways that seem most favorable to their position. But there can be no doubt that Republicans winning the Virginia House of Delegates and the State Senate for the first time ever is a development of some significance. Florida is the only other Southern state to have united government under Republican control.

Several factors contributed to the impressive Republican victory in Virginia. First, Republicans were unified under the leadership of Gov. Jim Gilmore, who rode into office two years ago on a pledge to phase out the state's hated annual car tax, which he has fulfilled. A politician who keeps his word these days is refreshing.

Second, Gilmore was unashamed to preach a conservative message and to be identified as a conservative. At an election-night celebration, Gilmore said, "Liberalism is a washed-up relic of the past.'' In Virginia, maybe. The problem is sending it to the ash heap of history at the national level.

The third reason Virginia Republicans did well was that they were confident. That optimistic spirit attracted voters and funding for the legislative campaigns. The money was crucial to communicating the message to voters. Republicans cannot rely on the press, especially television journalists, to fairly and accurately state their positions, so they must have the money to buy the time to tell their stories themselves. In the Virginia race, the cash was there.

The only Democrat still holding statewide office is Sen. Chuck Robb, who was reserved following the Republican victory. Perhaps he hears the approaching hoofbeats of former Virginia Republican Gov. and Senate candidate George Allen, who many believe will win Robb's Senate seat next year.

In a telephone interview with Gov. Gilmore, I asked if there were lessons that Republicans in other states and in Congress could learn from the historic GOP achievement in Virginia. Gilmore thinks Republicans need to do a better job of explaining the benefits of their policies in the lives of individuals. Too often, he thinks, Republicans argue the philosophy of tax cuts and smaller government without properly translating it so that individuals can understand how such things benefit them.

For example, he says, "we don't just tell people they'd be better off paying lower taxes, we tell them they could buy their children better clothes, better books, hire a tutor, take better care of their mother or live in a nicer house.''With education emerging as the top issue for 2000, Gilmore believes that objective standards for academic achievement and personal behavior will leave no one behind.

Virginia could serve as a model for what united government in Republican hands can do. If the Virginia government performs well, Republicans might use it as an example of what they could achieve nationally should voters maintain or expand the GOP majority in Congress while electing a Republican president. Perhaps looking toward that possibility, Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson traveled to Richmond to join the victory celebration. Nicholson noted that President Clinton had campaigned for Democrats in Virginia, saying the election ought to be a referendum on the accomplishments of the Clinton-Gore administration. "It was,'' said Nicholson.

Democrats did well in several mayors' races, but Republicans maintained their huge lead in governors, 31 to 17.

The U.S. Senate race will bring some attention to Virginia next year, but the possibility of a successful legislative strategy to reduce the size, cost and reach of government could make Virginia a laboratory in a political experiment that has great potential for Republicans in the 2000 elections. guy?

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