Virginia's Battle Royal

June 07, 1994

To the strains of the "The Marine Hymn" and the theme from "Rocky," Virginia Republicans in convention nominated Oliver L. North to run for the U.S. Senate last Saturday. The state's Republican senator, John W. Warner, had said beforehand that he would support Republican J. Marshall Coleman as a third party candidate if Mr. North was nominated. Mr. Coleman's aides were at the convention collecting signatures on a petition to put him on the November ballot.

So were aides to former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat, and a lot of Republican delegates were signing his petition, too. Gov. George Allen, a Republican, said he wanted to. It's not as crazy as it sounds. Mr. North's best -- perhaps only -- chance in November is in a four-way race.

Many Republicans are expected to vote in the state's June 14 Democratic senatorial primary, which is open to all. Some will vote for Sen. Charles S. Robb. They believe his lifestyle scandals make him a weak candidate. Some Republicans doubt that and will vote for a Robb opponent.

The national Republican Party, particularly its Senate wing, is being subjected to an exquisite torture by all this. Mr. North's fame and fortune are due to his lying to, defiance of and oft-stated disgust with Congress. No wonder Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole declined an opportunity to endorse him Sunday and has scheduled a meeting with Marshall Coleman. But whether Virginia elects a Democrat or a Republican in November could determine if it will be Majority Leader Dole next January. Mr. Coleman, of course, could give the Senate a Republican majority, but he is a weak reed to lean on. He has lost statewide races to Senator Robb and Governor Wilder.

Mr. North says he is not interested in what non-Virginians, such as Senator Dole, think of his candidacy. What hokum! About 80 percent of his campaign funds have come from non-Virginians. Non-Virginians have a right to an opinion on this race, since we all have a stake in the outcome. The Senate's business is the nation's business.

We would hate to see Virginia oust Senator Robb for a Senator North. The former, despite some unsavory personal behavior in the past, is a good legislator who is trying to make his party more responsible than it has been. The latter, despite his credentials as a heroic patriot in combat, is as irresponsible as any politician we've seen since Sen. Joe McCarthy, whose demagogy his much resembles, was disgracing the Senate in the 1950s.

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