The death penalty issue is prominent in Virginia’s campaign for governor. Republican candidate Jerry W. Kilgore enlisted four prosecutors to challenge Democrat Timothy Kaine’s uncertainty over the deterrent effect of capital punishment, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Kaine, attempting to blunt a Kilgore fusillade on the death penalty that opened Tuesday with two commercials featuring the families of murder victims, turned to Democratic prosecutors for help. The Kilgore campaign cited a study by the University of Chicago showing that 18 lives are saved every time someone is executed. The former attorney general has proposed expanding the death penalty to include, among other crimes, a conviction for ordering a murder.
Four prosecutors spoke with reporters in a conference call arranged by the Kilgore campaign after publication in The Times-Dispatch of Kaine’s remarks on the death penalty. “Most nations have decided not to have the death penalty,” the lieutenant governor said. “And and many are very safe. I don’t think — I don’t think it’s needed to be safe.” Kilgore, sensing capital punishment may be the issue with which he finally opens a lead in a race considered a tossup, is expected to emphasize the death penalty for a third consecutive day. A political strategist credited with lining up rural support for Gov. Mark R. Warner in 2001 said Kaine needs to change the subject from the death penalty and other so-called values issues that have particular resonance in the countryside. “Referring to an ad featuring a man whose drug-user son and daughter-in-law were slain in a drug deal, consultant Dave Saunders said, “I personally think its politically powerful. It’s a white Willie Horton ad.”