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CANDIDATES FOR TOP SLOTS GAIN ENDORSEMENTS
 

Kilgore supported by FOP; Kaine backed by firefighters, VCOPS

 

By Tyler Whitley

Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

 

Former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, the Republican candidate for governor, will be endorsed today by the Virginia State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

 

The police group also is backing the GOP nominee for attorney general, Del. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia Beach, while his Democratic opponent, Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath, picked up the backing of the traditionally Republican National Rifle Association.

 

Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine was endorsed by the state firefighters and readied to announce, perhaps this afternoon, the support of some Republicans and independents under the banner "Virginians for Kaine."

 

Among the group's leaders: financier James C. Wheat III of Richmond, a major Republican benefactor in 1997 and 2001 and treasurer of U.S. Sen. George Allen's winning GOP campaign for governor in 1993.

 

The 8,500-member FOP has not endorsed a Republican for governor since backing Allen 12 years ago.

 

The group backed Democrat Donald S. Beyer Jr. in 1997. Neither candidate for governor met the super-majority threshold required for an endorsement in 2001. A majority vote was required this year.

 

"Kilgore has always been there with us in the past," Tom Stiles, president of the FOP, said yesterday. "When he was secretary of public safety under Gov. Allen, he was a leader in a lot of issues for us."

 

Kaine, the lieutenant governor, yesterday won the endorsement of the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, a union of fire and emergency-management services personnel.

 

McDonnell was chosen by the FOP for his longtime support of law-enforcement issues, from additional retirement benefits to the death penalty.

 

"Bob McDonnell is our top cop and we want to see him" as attorney general, said Stiles. "He's always been there for us."

 

Deeds' endorsement by the NRA was equally glowing.

 

"You have proven to be an advocate for law-abiding firearm owners, sportsmen and hunters," said Randy Kozuch, director of the NRA's state and local affairs section.

 

"Your impressive firearms-related voting record reflects a true understanding of, and concern for the issues facing law-abiding gun owners," he wrote in his endorsement of the Democrat.

 

In endorsing Kilgore the FOP also cited his support of the death penalty. Kaine opposes it for religious reasons but says he will enforce it because it is state law.

 

Stiles also said the FOP welcomed Kilgore's opposition to the $1.4 billion tax increase enacted by Gov. Mark R. Warner and supported by Kaine in 2004. That the state now has a healthy surplus shows the widely backed tax increase was not needed, Stiles said.

 

The firefighters and the Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs, a police union that backed Kaine last week, said they were supporting the Democrat because the tax increase provided much-needed money for law enforcement and public safety.