Rebel With a Cause

Paul Goldman

Playing Hardball with

the Kilgore Brothers
Del. Terry Kilgore's vote sets up political crossfire over renovation of Capitol Square. Goldman offers a way to avoid the trap -- and for Dems to win big.


Anyone who still underestimates the Kilgore brothers has been playing football without a helmet for too long. These mountain boys, as Spike Lee might say, have got game. Take, for example, how Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, voted against the controversial $118 million financing package for renovating the buildings around Capitol Square -- a suspected boondoggle, as reporter Jeff Schapiro has noted, for the insiders in the state's political establishment.

Given the alleged lack of resources in the state budget to adequately fund core state needs, spending tens of millions to fix up the Old Finance Building rather than, say, renovating old school buildings will be hard to explain to the electorate. Some of these millions is going to give the politicians and bureaucrats new office space, and many more millions will go to politically connected law firms, lobbying organizations and financial houses at a time when kids are forced to go to school in leaky trailers or sit in outmoded buildings erected during the height of segregation.


In Kilgore country, in far Southwest Virginia, gold-plating the Capitol complex is sure to be a political issue on the road toward 2005. Terry Kilgore is smart, as were the other 13 members of the House of Delegates to vote against it, including House Democratic leader Frank Hall. They see what is coming, and they want to protect themselves.


My bet: Attorney General Kilgore is keeping his powder dry here, waiting to see how much money some key GOP insiders make on this deal, as the contracts are slated to be awarded by a new procedure, one that has already been questioned by Schapiro in his weekly column. If politically connected Republicans don't share sufficiently in the spoils, then don't be surprised to see Attorney General Kilgore make an issue of these tens of millions.


So, I read Del. Kilgore's vote as a shrewd move. It gives the Kilgore boys leverage over Warner and Democratic insiders, and could win big friends on the GOP side of the equation.


They are 24/7 when it comes to getting the Kilgore's moved into the Governor's Mansion.


Now, let me propose a better approach for the Democrats: one that does the right thing in the current fiscal crisis, will prove politically popular across Virginia, and will make the Kilgore brothers sing our tune for a change.


First, take that money and build schools for our children, not marble edifices for our politicians. Admittedly, Jefferson's Capitol, home to the oldest legislature in the New World, needs some maintenance among other improvements. But the immediate needs can be handled without leading Schapiro down the yellow brick road to the mother lode. 


Second, erect another statue. All these new $118 million in construction materials will not hide the obvious: There is not a single statute on the Capitol Square featuring an African-American or a female Virginian. The last new statute erected on the grounds was the likeness of former Governor and Senator Harry F. Byrd, the foremost segregationist in Virginia's political history.


Truth was, the Byrd Machine tried to keep Virginia for "their kind," and those of us who know our history also know this never included most Virginians. Harry and his henchman ruled with an iron grip for half a century.


He got his statute. Let it stand, for it serves as a reminder of many things, all which we need to remember, not forget. But now, it seems to me, the time has come to put some balance in the scales of political justice. We can no longer turn our heads and pretend that we don't see.


Imagine: Four centuries since Jamestown, the whole world watching and not a single statute on our Capitol Grounds showing we get it. There is no reason for our elected officials to allow us to be held up to such international ridicule.


To me, the idea of finally erecting a statute in Capitol Square to honor the women and African-American heroes who built Virginia hardly seems controversial at all. But here we are, and nothing has yet been done, at least as best as the average citizen can determine. Given the normal governmental process required to change this unacceptable condition by 2007, there isn't time to waste.

Green stuff alone will not restore our state capitol square to it's proper glory. The tourists and media due to arrive in 2007 are coming to see how far we have come since the first harsh winter at Jamestown.


This is not measured in bricks and mortar and the convenience of a new parking garage. The New World gave birth to an individual freedom which electrified the minds of people everywhere.

It started in Virginia. It is our revolution. Let's make sure the whole world knows how much pride we take in it.


-- March 10, 2003



(c) Copyright. All rights reserved. Paul Goldman. 2003.


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Paul Goldman, the Rebel With a Cause, was chief political strategist for the past two winning Democratic governors in Virginia and was credited with leading a "revolution in American politics" by The New York Times for his role in breaking America's 300-year-old color barrier in national politics.


You can reach him at