Friday's Winchester Star reports that:
Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. is primed to make arguably the most flamboyant splash of his political life today.
The Winchester Republican will announce his run for governor at a 10 a.m. press conference in the Old Senate Chambers in Richmond. Sources say he will run as an independent.
Potts, who has served in the upper chamber of the Virginia General Assembly as a Republican, seems to be modeling his bid on that of former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker, who was a Republican U.S. Senator from that state before running for the state chief executive's post as an independent.
In fact, Potts has hired one of Weicker's campaign consultants, Tom D'Amore.
On the Democratic side, Lieutenant Govenor Tim Kaine faces no opposition for his party's nomination. Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, who has been the presumptive Republican nominee since November 2001, may face Warrenton Mayor George Fitch in the June primary, if Fitch can collect a sufficient number of petition signatures to get his name on the ballot. (Potts faces that same hurdle as an independent, although he has until June 14 at 7:00 p.m. to turn his petitions in.)
Provided all these candidates remain in the race, the November election may not be as boring as we expected it to be.
Were it not that the Republican Party, in Virginia as across the country, is so hierarchical, George Fitch could prove a formidable opponent to Kilgore in the party primary. As noted in a Virginia News Source editorial,
Prior to his taking office, Warrenton was one of the highest taxed towns in the state of Virginia. Due to Mayor Fitch’s determination to put the breaks on reckless spending and ensure taxpayer money was well spent, Warrenton now has the lowest property taxes of any community in Virginia.
Through his initiatives, real estate taxes were slashed 77%, personal property taxes cut by 55%, and business taxes are down 22%. George accomplished all this while eliminating the town’s debt, doubling Warrenton’s reserves, and improving local government services.
Al Aitken, chairman of the grass-roots property-tax reform group, VOTORS (Virginians Over-Taxed on Residences) notes on the group's web site that Fitch is the "one gubernatorial candidate who supports the VOTORS proposal for a constitutional amendment to reform our Commonwealth’s property tax system."
Even the Libertarian Party of Virginia (which apparently is running no statewide candidates this year) has noticed Fitch. An article on the LPVA web site by Robert Dean (who, as a Libertarian candidate for Mayor in Virginia Beach last year, earned 43 percent of the vote) explains:
Fitch believes that the $800 million in savings found by the Wilder Commission Report should be fully implemented instead of collecting dust on a General Assembly shelf. He proposes that a portion of the savings be applied to the protection of the Chesapeake Bay program.
Asked about the small businessman and the Business, Professional, Occupational, License tax, George Fitch believes it should be eliminated. The tax was levied to help pay for the War of 1812 and is collected on a business whether or not they even make a profit.
In “Miracle on 34th Street”, when a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing. Unlike Santa Claus, George Fitch doesn’t have a long white beard, a red velvet suit or the potbelly usually associated with the jolly man bringing gifts.
Unlike the lawyer also vying for the Republican nomination, Fitch has a success story of government reform without pain; its been called “The Warrenton Miracle.” It’s a story that should ring well with voters of Virginia who are on the verge of tar and feathering politicians who have an insatiable appetite for more of their hard-earned money.
Potts and Fitch are two Republican mavericks with quite different views of how the taxpayers' pockets should be picked. It will be interesting to see what contributions to the gubernatorial campaign debate these two candidates will make.
Competition, in politics as in commerce, is healthy. More candidates with varied (but strongly held and well-expressed) views can only be beneficial for the voters. Voters without an authentic choice on election day are powerless and effectively disenfranchised. Voters with a real choice control their own destiny.