Hunting for hunter's votes in Virginia

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Mark Taylor/Roanoke Times

Friday, October 19, 2001

Hunting for your vote

For the first time in recent history, both candidates for governor are after the sportsman's ballot.

In the campaign for Virginia's governorship, one trend has become clear. Candidates Mark Earley and Mark Warner want the sportsman's vote and they want it bad.

Perhaps at no time in recent history have candidates so vigorously courted the state's hunters, anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts.

Blaze orange "Sportsmen for Earley" and "Sportsmen for Warner" signs dot the landscape of Southwest Virginia. Stickers featuring the same logos decorate the bumpers and windows of cars and trucks and minivans.

On what issues do the men agree? How often do they disagree? Does one or the other stand out as the sportsman's choice?

Roanoke Times outdoors editor Mark Taylor recently spoke with both candidates, asking each the same questions about their outdoors-related beliefs, philosophies and plans if elected. Here's what they had to say:

Mark Earley questions and answers:

Q: Tell me about the role outdoor recreation has played in your life?

A: It's played a big role. I grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia, and I started hunting, fishing and trapping when I was really young. My brother and I spent a lot of time fishing on the Elizabeth River crabbing. We trapped muskrats along the banks of the Elizabeth River. We did that to make some money. My dad had a boat so we were always out in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer fishing for flounder or rockfish, or spot and croaker. Then as I got older I started hunting. My dad was a member of hunt club in Southampton County. We used to go down there every fall. We'd usually hunt dove and squirrel and deer. So it was a big tradition in our family. I think some of the best memories I have growing up, bonding with my dad, being with brother, are in the outdoors, hunting and fishing.

Q: In campaigning you've met countless voters who love the outdoors. What are some of the big issues they are raising to you, and how do you plan to address those issues if elected?

A: I think a lot of people who hunt and fish are concerned to make sure those traditions aren't threatened by extremist groups like PETA and others. One of the things I'm going to do is make sure we vigorously enforce our new constitutional amendment in Virginia that guarantees the right to hunt and fish. I was very involved in supporting the passage of that both at the grass roots level as well as in court. When I was the Attorney General we had to go to court to defend a lawsuit by PETA basically attacking our right to have a referendum on that issue. So I think we constantly have to be vigilant about the people who want to impose their kind of politically correct view of the world on us, and would take away our rights of hunting and fishing. So that's a big concern I hear and I'm going to be very vigilant about that.

And I think secondly I hear the concern about wanting to make sure there continues to be an adequate amount of open space in Virginia for outdoor activity, that those open spaces are accessible to be used for hunting, for fishing, for other outdoor activity and that's why we're going to be aggressive in pursuing both the maintenance upkeep and new acquisition of that space.

Q: Why should sportsmen support your running mates?

A: The running mates on the republican ticket are, of course, Jay Katzen running for lieutenant governor and Jerry Kilgore running for attorney general. Both of these men have very strong connections to the sporting traditions here in Virginia. Both of them are very strong supporters of the second amendment. Jay Katzen served for eight years in the house of delegates and has compiled a very strong record in support of the sportsmen of Virginia and hunting and fishing. Jerry Kilgore has served as a prosecutor in the United States government. He was secretary of public safety under George Allen. He comes from Southwest Virginia and he's also a strong supporter of sportsmen and the tradition of hunting and fishing and conservation. I think we've got a ticket from top to bottom that shares the views that are really important to the sportsmen of Virginia. We want to continue those traditions and continue that support.

Q: The board of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is heavily weighted toward commercial fishing interests. What are your plans, if any, to increase on the board representation among recreational fishing interests?

A: I think any board needs to be balanced. It needs to have a balanced view of what its roles and responsibilities are and it has to have balanced representation of all of the different stakeholders in the community. So on my appointments to that board I'm going to make sure it has good representation that reflects the interests of all Virginians. It's important that we protect the commercial fishing industry in Virginia. It's also important that we protect the recreational opportunities for sportsmen. The challenge of that board is to find that balance. I'm committed to having a board that actually strikes that balance.

Q:What is your fondest outdoor memory?

A: I think it's early days of dove hunting I did with my dad and my brother. My dad started taking me hunting when I was probably about 12 years old and I just remember those hot fall days when dove season would come in, sitting out in a peanut field or a corn field in Southampton County, hunting with my dad. It was just great. I have great memories of it. It was just tremendous.  

Q: In surveys, sportsmen have said that access to land for recreation is a problem in Virginia. What role, if any, should the state play in acquiring more public land and why?

A: I think the state has a very positive role to play. In fact one of the things I want to do is governor is to preserve more of the open space in Virginia that's available for recreation use, for hunting, fishing, for outdoor activities. We plan to have a v very specific attempt to do that that I think is really going to be positive for future generations.  

Q: How do you see the role of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries evolving to, among other things, meet the growing demand of a new kind of customer base that goes beyond hunters and anglers? For example birders, wildlife watchers, mountain bikers?

A: I think the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is a very important agency and I think as governor you have to appoint people to that who really support Virginia's hunting, fishing traditions, who support conservation, and who also support the wide range of outdoor activities that Virginians are fortunately enjoying more and more and demanding more and more access to. I want to make sure that I appoint members to that board who have that perspective. I think we've got good leadership at our director level on that board and we want to keep that going. I also think it's very important that we make sure that the funds that are set aside for that agency are not raided by the General Assembly, and are kept and used for the reasons that they've been assigned.  

Q: Like so many government agencies, the VDGIF faces constant budget struggles. What are your thoughts on moderately increasing license fees — something we haven't seen in years — to help bring more cash into the department?

A: I would favor more supporting them though general fund revenues. I want to make sure we keep our fees at a level where people can participate. That's something we can always review, but I would prefer to keep the fees at a level that's affordable unless we have no other alternative.  

Q: Let's say the General Assembly approves a bill to allow hunting on Sunday in Virginia. Would you sign the bill or not, and why?

A: I'd have to look at that and see what the pros and cons of that are. I don't really have a definite feeling set in stone, although my personal feeling has always been that Sunday ought to be a day set aside more for family.  

Q: Last year's push for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the rights of Virginians to fish, hunt and harvest game got a lot of attention. What was your position on the amendment and what did you do publicly to back up that position?

A: I strongly supported the constitutional amendment for the right to hunt to fish in Virginia. I think it was important because we do have extremist groups who would seek to limit those groups. So it was important to put it in the constitution. We sent out a number of letters around the commonwealth of Virginia, thousands literally, encouraging people for the referendum to put up signs in support of the referendum and encouraging them to come to the polls and vote. I was involved in the grass roots activity to encourage people to come out and support that. Secondly, as attorney general I was involved legally in defending that referendum because PETA, the group that has its national headquarters in Norfolk, filed suits against Virginia trying to stop that referendum. As attorney general I went to court representing the commonwealth of Virginia to make sure that that referendum went forward and we won that case. So we were involved both at the policy level, the grass roots level and the legal level.  

Q: Virginia's waterways face many threats, including pollution from agricultural run-off, sedimentation, development and acid rain. As governor, what would you do to slow down or even stop the degradation of our lakes, streams and coastal waters?

A: I think one of the most important things we can do is to provide money, state money, to our farmers to institute the best management practices that are going to help with a lot of our runoff issues around the commonwealth. We've got best management practices that are in place but a lot of times there aren't the funds available in the agricultural community to institute those best practices. I think that's a strong role the state has to play.

Secondly I've been, as attorney general, very vigilant and aggressive in enforcing our laws in Virginia against those who would pollute, both civil laws and criminal laws. As governor I'd do the same thing as well.  

Q: Does Virginia need more, fewer or the same number of gun laws? Why?

A. I think what we need to do in Virginia is strongly protect the second amendment. I think we've got a number of very positive things we've done in Virginia to show that the way you fight crime is by fighting criminals, not by suspending the rights of law-abiding citizens. So, I'm a strong supporter of the second amendment and would veto any bill that would attempt to weaken the second amendment in any way.  

Q: You and your opponent both have made a push to be the sportsman's choice for governor. Why the big effort to attract that group of constituents?

A: For me it's a group of constituents I've had the privilege of serving over the last 10 years in the state senate, and four years as attorney general. It's a group I come out of. It's important to me personally because of my experiences both growing up and today, and wanting to make sure we have in Virginia the opportunity to pass on to the next generation the tradition of hunting and fishing and outdoor activity. For me it's personally important and I want to make sure the sportsmen of Virginia know that for the last 14 years I've been serving their interests and promoting their interests and I'm going to continue to do so as governor. I have the experience and the leadership to do that.  

Q: In a few sentences tell me what sets you apart from your opponent as the sportsman's best choice for governor?

A: I think probably the biggest difference is experience and leadership. I've been there for 14 years in the senate and as attorney general promoting the interests of sportsmen and protecting second amendment rights, promoting conservation, making sure extremist groups like PETA don't institute bumping boat schemes out in the Chesapeake Bay and don't derail our hunting and fishing rights. It's a long record of experience and leadership and I think in times like these experience and leadership that's conservative is very important to Virginians, and that's a big difference between myself and my opponent.

Mark Warner questions and answers

Q: Tell me about the role outdoor recreation has played in your life?

A: I've been somebody who has enjoyed camping and hunting and fishing. I grew up around the country and have always enjoyed the outdoors. I know how important it is part of so many Virginian's lives. That's why I'm so proud of the fact that folks like Sherry Crumley who put together the whole fishing and hunting amendment last year are supportive of my campaign and heading up, I think, the largest sportsman's organization a campaign has seen in recent history.

Virginia's outdoors and recreational opportunities are the greatest in the nation. They need to be preserved. They need to be valued. I think we have tremendous opportunities from an economic development standpoint to do more in terms of eco-tourism in particular. How we can encourage better utilization of our outdoor resources will be a priority for my administration. We have a tremendous amount of land available for hunting in Virginia. I wouldn't want to see that restricted in any way.

Q: In campaigning you've met countless voters who love the outdoors. What are some of the big issues they are raising to you, and how do you plan to address those issues if elected?

A: Many sportsmen are supporting my campaign because they know I support individual second amendment rights and believe that law-abiding citizens should have the right to keep and bear arms. There are also concerns about sprawl, in terms of making sure we maintain open space. As a candidate whose laid out extensive open space and conservation easement program, I think that's one of the reason they feel supportive of my campaign. I think there's also a lot of interest about further development of our outdoor resources. The fact that I've that I've put together a comprehensive tourism initiative that focuses on better marketing of Virginia's outdoor resources I think has also gained me support.

Q: The board of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is heavily weighted toward commercial fishing interests. What are your plans, if any, to increase on the board representation among recreational fishing interests?

A: I would like to see more more recreational and sport fishing input. I would consider re-instituting the Governor's Cup fishing tournament. I think we have great fishing, not only in lakes and rivers, but in the bay and deep sea fishing. Those are economic tourism opportunities we ought to take better advantage of.

Q: Why should sportsmen support your running mates?

A: I think my running mates understand the importance of Virginia's great outdoors and the fact that sportsmen's rights need to be protected.

Q:Tell me about the role outdoor recreation has played in your life?

A: I've been somebody who has enjoyed camping and hunting and fishing. I grew up around the country and have always enjoyed the outdoors. I know how important it is part of so many Virginian's lives. That's why I'm so proud of the fact that folks like Sherry Crumley who put together the whole fishing and hunting amendment last year are supportive of my campaign and heading up, I think it's the largest sportsman organization a campaign has seen in recent history. Virginia's outdoors and recreational opportunities are the greatest in the nation. they need to be preserved. They need to be valued. I think we have tremendous opportunities from an economic development standpoint to do more in terms of eco tourism in particular. How we can encourage better utilization of our outdoor resources will be a priority for my administration. We have a tremendous amount of land available for hunting in Virginia. I wouldn't want to see that restricted in any way.

Q:What is your fondest outdoor memory?

A: Two. One is going to boy scout camp as a kid. We'd go each year to a different location. I was living in the Midwest at that point. Each year to a different camp for a week to 10 days and my dad was one of the scout leaders. I just have great memories of camping in the boy scouts. More recently doing whitewater rafting on the Russell Fork at Breaks Park in Southwest Virginia. We did a late afternoon ride in some rough water. The guide broke his nose and almost lost the boat. I was speaking later that evening at a school in Grundy and having a lot of the folks think I was crazy for having done the whitewater. Breaks Park is one of the most special places we have in Virginia.

Q:In surveys, sportsmen have said that access to land for recreation is a problem in Virginia. What role, if any, should the state play in acquiring more public land and why?

A: I strongly believe in an open space preservation initiative. I believe we need to take a portion of the recreation tax, an amount up to 40 million dollars a year when full phased in for the state to purchase open space and preserve it. I believe in greater utilization of conservation easements to conserve open space. Whatever I can do to encourage other landowners to make their land available to hunting and other recreation purposes I would do.

Q:How do you see the role of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries evolving to, among other things, meet the growing demand of a new kind of customer base that goes beyond hunters and anglers? For example birders, wildlife watchers, mountain bikers?

A: I think we have enough natural resources that all of those outdoor pursuits can coexist. I think development of a healthy eco-tourism opportunity, particularly in Southwest Virginia, is a great opportunity for Virginia. Why is it when people think about going to the mountains they normally think about going to the mountains of western North Carolina or eastern Tennessee, but not the mountains of Southwest Virginia. I think from both an economic development standpoint and a standpoint of greater utilization and preservation

Q:Like so many government agencies, the VDGIF faces constant budget struggles. What are your thoughts on moderately increasing license fees — something we haven't seen in years — to help bring more cash into the department?

A: I believe the VDGIF needs resources if we're going to ask it to play an expanded role, it's going to take on not only hunters and anglers but mountain bikers, birders, hikers. The question of increasing fees is one solution but it wouldn't be my top choice.

Q:Let's say the General Assembly approves a bill to allow hunting on Sunday in Virginia. Would you sign the bill or not, and why?

A: I would sign it with a local option provision.

Q:In campaigning you've met countless voters who love the outdoors. What are some of the big issues they are raising to you, and how do you plan to address those issues if elected?

A: Many sportsmen are supporting my campaign because they know I support individual second amendment rights and believe that law-abiding citizens should have the right to keep and bear arms. There are also concerns about sprawl, in terms of making sure we maintain open space. As a candidate whose laid out extensive open space and conservation easement program, I think that's one of the reason they feel supportive of my campaign. I think there's also a lot of interest about further development of our outdoor resources. The fact that I've that I've put together a comprehensive tourism initiative that focuses on better marketing of Virginia's outdoor resources I think has also gained me support.

Q:Last year's push for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the rights of Virginians to fish, hunt and harvest game got a lot of attention. What was your position on the amendment and what did you do publicly to back up that position?

A: I supported the amendment on public record. Sherry Crumley, who led the effort for the passage of the amendment, has graciously agreed to be the chairperson of my Sportsmen for Warner campaign and her support and advice have been invaluable in this campaign. I'll look to her and other leaders of that effort for making sure that basic right is always protected.

Q:Virginia's waterways face many threats, including pollution from agricultural run-off, sedimentation, development and acid rain. As governor, what would you do to slow down or even stop the degradation of our lakes, streams and coastal waters?

A: I believe we need to get rid of the political people inside the Department of Environmental Quality and put environmental professionals in charge. That means ensuring the long-term usability of our lakes and streams and rivers, and protecting those waterways as one of our greatest assets.

Q:Does Virginia need more, fewer or the same number of gun laws? Why?

A: I think we've got enough gun laws. They ought to be enforced. And I strongly support an individual's second amendment rights. It's an individual's right. It's part of our constitution and it needs no further encroachment.

Q:The board of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is heavily weighted toward commercial fishing interests. What are your plans, if any, to increase on the board representation among recreational fishing interests?

A: I would like to see more more recreational and sport fishing input. I would consider re-instituting the Governor's Cup fishing tournament. I think we have great fishing, not only in lakes and rivers, but in the bay and deep sea fishing. Those are economic tourism opportunities we ought to take better advantage of.

Q:You and your opponent both have made a push to be the sportsman's choice for governor. Why the big effort to attract that group of constituents?

A. I'm proud of the fact that our campaign has reached out to sportsmen. Sportsmen are all across Virginia, not just in rural Virginia. I think oftentimes government has ignored their rights and not recognized they're an important part of Virginia history and tradition. I'm proud of the sportsmen support we have. I think we have the largest sportsman organization in recent campaign history. Virginia sportsmen know they will have a governor that will stand up for them in my candidacy.

Q:Why should sportsmen support your running mates?

A: I think my running mates understand the importance of Virginia's great outdoors and the fact that sportsmen's rights need to be protected.

Q:In a few sentences tell me what sets you apart from your opponent as the sportsman's best choice for governor?

A: My opponent supported efforts to fingerprint gun owners. He supported efforts to cut back on funding to clean up our lakes and streams. His law firm represented PETA. Initially he was not supportive of the hunting a and fishing amendment. I don't believe that is a record that has the best interest of sportsmen at heart. While he will criticize me for statements made years ago, my strong support of the hunting and fishing amendment, my strong commitment to open space preservation, the fact that so many leaders in the sportsmen community are supporting my campaign is the best evidence that I will be the candidate that will most protect sportsmen's rights.

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NRA Report Doesn't Back Earley Or Warner

By R.H. Melton and Craig Timberg, Washington Post Staff Writers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001; Page B01

RICHMOND, Oct. 16 -- The National Rifle Association's newly published report card on Virginia political candidates makes no endorsement in the governor's race, a neutral stance that Democrat Mark R. Warner's campaign hailed as a turning point in their race against Republican Mark L. Earley.

In the November issue of the American Hunter, a monthly magazine arriving at Virginia households over the next few days, the NRA gives a letter grade to all statewide and legislative candidates except Earley and Warner, both of whom have spent months courting the politically muscular gun rights organization.

Earley running mates Jay Katzen and Jerry W. Kilgore received an A-plus and an A, respectively, in their bids for lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The NRA said in the magazine and through spokesmen tonight that it might still mail a gubernatorial endorsement letter to its 100,000 Virginia members before the Nov. 6 election, but strategists for both Warner and Earley said they were uncertain how much impact such a late communication would have.

Warner campaign manager Steve Jarding said he doubted that the NRA would follow its published neutrality with a strongly worded endorsement of either candidate.

"We've reached out to all groups in this campaign, including hunters and gun owners, and we endorse Second Amendment rights," Jarding said. "This is further evidence that the positive campaign is working."

Christopher J. LaCivita, Earley's senior campaign strategist, said he held out hope that a formal NRA endorsement was imminent. "I sure would hope so, considering on two different occasions in debates Mark Warner showed he did not know what the NRA did, let alone what the positive impact of the group has been."

Privately, NRA executives have said they were disappointed by Warner's performance during an Oct. 3 debate, in which he appeared tongue-tied on NRA issues and confused about the essence of the constitutional amendment on the right to bear arms.

At the same time, there appears to be continuing internal wrangling at the NRA about whom to support in the race -- and whether to endorse someone at all, according to activists in the group and strategists for the two gubernatorial campaigns. In any event, no decision could be reached by the magazine's printing deadline.

Any endorsement decision is "too important to let a magazine deadline dictate on what we'll do in this election," said Randy Kozuch, the group's director of state and local affairs.

The NRA, which generally backs Republicans in statewide races, struggled with its decision this year, partly because of Warner's ardent courtship but also because of Earley's lukewarm support among gun rights proponents.

For example, the Republican former attorney general angered the NRA by supporting Virginia's one-gun-purchase-a-month law when the state Senate passed it several years ago.

Both candidates have said they would oppose efforts to repeal that law.

Warner has said Virginia does not generally need more gun laws, but he would sign bills to give local officials the power to prohibit guns in recreation centers.

In other campaign developments today, Earley and Warner won competing endorsements from Republicans, including a former governor who said he was once again bolting the GOP to side with the Democrats this year.

A. Linwood Holton Jr., Virginia's governor in the early 1970s, said Warner was "the candidate to lead Virginia out of the budget mess" created by an impasse between Gov. James S. Gilmore III and fellow Republicans in the General Assembly.

Sen. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax), who has tangled repeatedly with Gilmore on the budget and other issues, also endorsed Warner, citing Earley's opposition to a proposed Northern Virginia referendum to raise taxes for transportation.

"He has written off Northern Virginia," Barry said. "I thought it was a major mistake."

Meanwhile, the core group of GOP senators who battled Gilmore on the budget hosted a fundraiser for Earley in Richmond tonight. "We have no beef with him," Sen. John H. Chichester (R-Stafford) said of Earley.

"The party's unified," added Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle (R-Virginia Beach). "The disagreement we had with Governor Gilmore is of secondary importance now."
 
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