Jerry Kilgore (politician)

Jerry Kilgore (politician)

Jerry Walter Kilgore, (born August 23, 1961), a Republican, is a former Attorney General of Virginia. In the 2005 race for Governor of Virginia, Jerry Kilgore was defeated by then Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat. Currently, he is a partner with the law firm McGuireWoods and a senior advisor with McGuireWoods Consulting in Richmond, Virginia.



Born in Kingsport, Tennessee on August 23, 1961, Jerry Kilgore earned his bachelor's degree from Clinch Valley College (now the University of Virginia's College at Wise) and his law degree from the College of William and Mary. His twin brother, Terry Kilgore, is currently a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Early career

During 1987 and 1988, Kilgore served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. Kilgore was Secretary of Public Safety under Governor George F. Allen from 1994 to 1998. He was elected Attorney General of Virginia in 2001 by a wide margin.

Kilgore is known for his conservative views on social issues, especially with respect to gun control, religion, and abortion. He was critical of Governor Mark Warner's fiscal policy, particularly the 2004 budget that included substantial tax increases. Kilgore garnered national attention for his opposition to the Herndon day-laborer center, and he has traditionally held the view that laws regarding illegal immigration should be enforced stringently.

2005 Election

Jerry W. Kilgore easily won the primary election against Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch to become the 2005 Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia. He ran against Lt. Governor Tim Kaine, the Democratic nominee, and state Sen. Russ Potts, a pro-choice Republican running as an independent candidate. Early in the race, Kilgore showed solid 10+ leads in the polls, but Kaine steadily closed the gap and ultimately defeated Kilgore by a margin of 52% to 46%.

Kilgore's campaign was at times criticized for taking steps to avoid debates; Kilgore refused to debate Potts for the majority of the campaign, at times leaving Kaine and Potts to debate each other in his absence. He agreed to debate only with Kaine (excluding Potts), and only if the footage could not be aired in campaign commercials. During this debate, he refused to answer whether or not he would make abortion a crime. This apparent public moderation of his previously open and hard-line stance on abortion troubled some of his conservative supporters.

He was further criticized for failing to limit his negative advertisements to 50% of his campaign's total publicity as Kaine proposed. One such advertisement featured a father whose son had been murdered by a man currently on Virginia's death row; the father expressed doubt that the sentence would be carried out if Kaine were elected and alleged that Kaine would not even have authorized the execution of Adolf Hitler based on an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch [1]. The negative reaction to the mention of Hitler combined with Kaine's pledge to carry out the death penalty and explanation of his personal opposition as arising from his Catholic faith helped to neutralize what many observers thought would've been a potent issue for Kilgore.

In trying to explain how a solid Republican could lose a traditionally Republican state by such a large margin, political commentators have cited numerous key factors. Kaine's campaign had many political advantages, including his association with the state's popular Democratic Governor Mark Warner and defense of Warner's 2004 budget priorities, his "response ads" to Kilgore's death penalty advertisements, which featured him speaking to voters about his religious convictions, his relentless in-person campaigning across the state, and his opposition to tax increases. In contrast, Kilgore's campaign had many political disadvantages, including a backlash over the death penalty ads that Kilgore's campaign ran in the fall, the relatively low poll numbers of then-President George W. Bush at the time the election, and a bitter division between the moderate and conservative wings of the Republican party over tax and spending priorities.


External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Randolph A. Beales
Attorney General of Virginia
January 12, 2002 – February 1, 2005
Succeeded by
Judith Jagdmann
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mark Earley
Republican Nominee for Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
Bob McDonnell

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