Independent candidate for governor, H. Russell Potts Jr., told members of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce (GRCC) he expects to celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary, Nov. 27, at his next residence: the governor’s mansion in Richmond.
Although it will be an uphill battle for the four-term state senator, who is nearly 30 points behind the two big party candidates, an optimistic Potts told the group Friday he’s right where he wants to be.
As part of its ‘meet the candidates’ series, GRCC invited Potts to the chamber to give members an opportunity to hear his campaign platform, said Mark Looney of Cooley Godward LLC, a member of the GRCC’s executive committee. Democratic candidate Tim Kaine spoke to the chamber in mid-June and Republican candidate Jerry W. Kilgore visited the chamber last Monday.
Riding the "Straight Talk Express," Potts, 65, made the stop in Reston to talk about his candidacy to be the 77th governor of Virginia.
Speaking to about 25 people at the chamber’s headquarters on Fountain Drive, the senator from Winchester and dark horse candidate in this year’s gubernatorial race focused his talk around the issue of transportation, an issue dear to the hearts of Northern Virginians.
"I’d like to be the education governor, but the next governor of Virginia has got to be the transportation governor," Potts said, recognizing the congestion in the area and around the state.
"We need one plan for Virginia transportation," said Potts, "not regional referendums." Kilgore, the Republican candidate, introduced the idea of regional transportation authorities that would raise and spend transportation funds, leaving decisions to voters in those regions. Potts criticized the plan at the event Friday.
"Let me tell you how to spell referendum: C-O-W-A-R-D," said Potts. "We could have eight-lane highways running into two-lane highways because one locality would vote one way and another would vote another way."
IF ELECTED, POTTS said he would hold a special session on transportation where "everything would be on the table." Potts isn’t shy to tell people that new streams of revenue will be needed to fund transportation, more than what’s available in the General Fund. "You’re going to be paying for transportation for the rest of your life," said Potts. "We’re going to tell every Virginian that." He said his plan will include four to six major projects and that the complete plan will be released soon. "We’re going to come out with a number," said Potts, referring to the price tag of his plan, and he added that the plan will also show where the money comes from.
In the most recent statewide poll conducted by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, Potts had 9 percent of the vote, trailing the two major party candidates just less than 30 points. In the poll, Kaine had 38 percent of the vote and Kilgore had 37 percent, tied in a statistical dead heat.
According to Potts, he’s drawing inspiration from other long-shot candidates. "Jesse Ventura [former independent governor of Minnesota] won the Minnesota race in the last 10 days," said Potts, adding that he thinks his campaign can do the same. "We’re absolutely convinced we’re going to get to 35 [percent of the vote]."
In February, Potts, who had been serving as state senator as a Republican, announced that he was running for governor as an "independent Republican." Potts switched parties because he said the GOP had moved too far to the right.
"There was no way I was going to allow 4 percent of the population to decide who the next governor would be," said Potts in an interview, referring to the Republican primary.
Potts acknowledges that by entering this race, he’s changed its dynamic. "This election won’t be won on God, guns and gays — some have been, but this one won’t be," said Potts.
He called those subjects wedge issues that won’t be involved in his campaign. "They are calculated to take your mind off the important issues," said Potts adding that by being in the race he’s forced the candidates to be for something rather than "being anti, anti, anti."