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With Days to Go, Democrats Campaign Endlessly

Harris Miller and Jim Webb will face off in Tuesday's primary race for U.S. Senate.

Until the Mount Vernon Democratic Committee's barbecue and candidate forum in Lorton on Sunday, Adrienne Kitts was unsure which candidate she wanted to support Jim Webb or Harris Miller in Tuesday's Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

But Kitts opted to back Webb after hearing him promise to stand up against the Bush Administration on foreign policy issues like the Iraq war, the showdown over nuclear weapons with Iran and the warrantless wiretapping of American telephone calls.

"We're in a mess," said Kitts, an Alexandria resident. "Iraq, possibly Iran — we need a strong voice against all that. Jim Webb seems like he could keep the Bush Administration in check. We need a voice like his in Congress. Where has Congress been? It's like we have no Congress."

Webb, a Falls Church author and Vietnam veteran, will face Miller, a McLean resident and former technology lobbyist, in the statewide June 13 primary race. The two Democrats are vying for the chance to unseat U.S. Sen. George Allen (R) in November.

With only days left in their primary campaigns, Webb and Miller toured Northern Virginia in a last-ditch effort to raise funds and meet voters over the weekend at places like the Mount Vernon Democrats' barbecue, the Herndon Festival and the Leisure World Retirement Community in Lansdowne.

"People want a change — and the first change they want is to get rid of George Allen," said Miller, standing atop a picnic table as he addressed Democrats at Occoquan Regional Park.

As June 13 approached, both candidates garnered several marquee endorsements. Webb won the backing of U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. Miller, meanwhile, received the endorsement of the entire Alexandria City Council, including Alexandria's mayor, Bill Euille.

The dueling Democrats said Tuesday's election will likely hinge on voter turnout. Miller said he is hoping 4 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, but conceded that is an "optimistic estimate."

"People just don't think June 13 is a voting day," Miller said. "But if we can turn out the vote, we can show the Republican Party that Democrats really want a change."

FOR THE BULK of their campaigns, the rival Democrats kept their mudslinging aimed at Allen, insisting the one-term incumbent and 2008 Republican presidential hopeful has been a "rubber stamp" for the Bush Administration. Allen, they said, has failed to question the increasingly deadly and expensive Iraq War, the rising federal deficit and tax cuts chiefly benefiting the wealthiest Americans.

However, as June 13 approached, the debate between Webb and Miller took a decidedly feistier tone.

Miller criticized Webb in mailings, questioning the former Reagan Administration U.S. Navy Secretary's credentials as a Democrat.

"Even this week, he was defending Ronald Reagan as a great president," Miller said.

For his part, Webb called his opponent "the anti-Christ of outsourcing" during a televised debate last month, referencing Miller's past support of tech job outsourcing when he was president of the Information Technology Association of America.

Webb asserted that he was the stronger candidate in the race, with the best chance of unseating Allen.

Heading into the primary, Miller reported nearly twice the amount of campaign cash than Webb. However, Miller's fundraising total included $500,000 of his own money, allowing him to have a more visible appearance around Virginia in statewide mailings and TV spots.

LITTLE OF THE PARTISAN bickering was evident Sunday, as the two Democrats outlined their views before Democratic voters from across Northern Virginia.

Miller urged voters to support him, promising to find "real solutions" to curtail rising federal debt, alleviate skyrocketing gas prices and to find an exit strategy for the Iraq war.

"He's going to make the best Senator," said Linda Monk, a Miller supporter from Mount Vernon. "He's got a long track record of supporting Democratic candidates. He's worked down in the trenches with us."

Webb, whose campaign has focused on national security issues, pointed out that he opposed the Iraq War long before U.S. troops invaded the country in 2003. Five months prior, he wrote a column highlighting the lack of an exit strategy.

Webb also pledged to address "presidential overreach" and to work toward greater economic and social fairness for all Virginians.

"We need someone who can stand up to the Bush Administration," he said.

Whatever happens Tuesday, both candidates said they would support the winner. "We need to beat George Allen for the good of the country and for the good of the Democratic Party," Webb said.

Scott Surovell, chairman of the Mount Vernon Democratic Committee, said the winner of the June 13 primary will have a good shot at unseating the Republican incumbent.

"I think we can kick his butt," Surovell said.