Russ Potts

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H. Russell "Russ" Potts Jr. (born March 4, 1939) was a Republican state senator in Virginia from Winchester. He was an independent candidate for governor in 2005, receiving 2.22 percent of the vote in a race won by Democrat Tim Kaine. He chaired the Senate Education and Health Committee in the Virginia General Assembly. He represented the same Senate district that was once represented by Harry Byrd, Sr.

Background[edit]

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Potts graduated from the University of Maryland with a major in journalism and a minor in political science. Potts is a former sports editor for the Winchester Star and has worked athletic positions with the University of Maryland and Southern Methodist University. He was also once vice president of the Chicago White Sox. Since 1982 Potts has owned Russ Potts Productions Inc., a small business in sports promoting; the company claims to have "promoted more sporting events than any other entity in North America."

Political views[edit]

Potts most frequently refers to himself as a "moderate Republican," and has criticized the Republican Party for being too far right politically to be in touch with the people it represents. Potts' moderate views on abortion and taxes have led some Republicans to label him a Republican In Name Only. Virginia pundits disagreed on how he would affect the November gubernatorial election, and both the Kilgore and Kaine campaigns announced his candidacy to be in their favor — the former because of Potts relatively liberal views, and the latter for his appeal to moderate Republicans. Potts was considered an underdog to both of these candidates, trailing behind them in popular and financial support.

2005 campaign for governor[edit]

Potts ran as an independent in the Virginia gubernatorial election, 2005.

Republican opposition[edit]

On March 7, 2005, the Winchester City Republican Committee declared that it no longer recognizes Potts as a member and called on him to resign his Senate seat. [1] Some Republicans believed Potts' gubernatorial campaign as an "independent Republican" would split the Republican vote between Potts and Jerry Kilgore, but most polls have shown Potts' votes coming from both Kaine and Kilgore. Lloyd Ross, founder of the Tuesday Morning retail chain and frequent contributor to Republican campaigns, donated $300,000 to the Potts campaign. [2]

In April 2005, Lieutenant Governor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine, in his role as president of the Senate, refused to entertain a motion to strip Potts of his committee assignments. His ruling was upheld on a 27-9 vote. [3]

Kilgore refused to debate Russ Potts, a decision which columnist Barnie Day said could strengthen Potts' underdog appeal and was a poor decision by Kilgore. [4] It is unclear whether or not this had any effect on the outcome of the election.

Debates[edit]

Russ Potts polled 9% in a Mason-Dixon poll, but then dropped to 6% in a September poll. He needed to poll 15% in two separate polls to qualify for participation in the October Kaine-Kilgore debate. This poll was taken before Potts' TV ads premiered.

Although Potts was excluded from the final debate, he agreed to be sequestered in an office at Richmond's WTVR-TV during Sunday evening's debate and was not allowed to hear any of the questions nor any of the answers offered by his opponents. Minutes after the debate ended, Potts was taken into WTVR-TV studios where the station played back the debate in real time and recorded Potts' answers to each of the debate questions. WTVR-TV announced plans to air key segments of the 'virtual debate' on seven consecutive nights at 11 p.m., beginning Sunday October 16 through Saturday October 22. Each segment focuses on one or two debate topics and presents the complete, timed answers from Mr. Kaine, Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Potts. The station also announced plans to present a composite one-hour virtual debate among the three candidates at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 23.

Kilgore attempt to split Democratic vote[edit]

In the last week of the campaign, Jerry Kilgore's campaign sent out a direct mail piece contrasting Potts with Tim Kaine and encouraging "progressive" voters to support Potts. The piece was billed as a "2005 Official Democrat and Progressive Voter Guide," but a notice in small print, turned 90 degrees to the rest of the piece and placed next to a picture so as to resemble a photo credit, noted that it was paid for by "Virginians for Jerry Kilgore". [5] The State Board of Elections imposed a $100 fine for the violation. [6]

References[edit]

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