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November 8, 2005

A referendum on current views of the death penalty?

As previously noted in this post, the death penalty played a large role in the closely contested race for Governor in Virginia.  Democratic nominee Tim Kaine expressed a moral objection to the death penalty, though he insisted he would still carry out executions as governor.  And Republican nominee Jerry Kilgore ran television ads featuring relatives of murder victims criticizing Kaine for representing a death row inmate and for once supporting a moratorium on executions in the state.

Though surely many other issues were on voters' minds as they went to the polls in Virginia today, I do think we might view the Virginia election results as an (imperfect) gauge of the modern political status of the death penalty.  Though the race for Governor in Virginia certainly is not, as my post title hints, a referendum on current views of the death penalty, I do suspect that politicians around the nation can and should draw some lessons from the ultimate results.  If Kaine prevails, one might reasonably conclude that speaking out against the death penalty (at least at a personal level) does not doom a candidate even in a Red state.  But if Kilgore prevails, one might see the results as more evidence of the potential political hazards of saying anything that can be portrayed as soft on crime.

UPDATE:  Tim Kaine is being declared the winner in the Virginia race for Governor.  Though the media focus will be on what this might mean for President Bush and for the Republican party in future elections, I am intrigued by what this might means for the death penalty in Virginia and for the politics of crime in future elections.

November 8, 2005 at 08:33 PM | Permalink

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