Story by Chris Graham
Russ Potts knows why Jerry Kilgore failed in his bid to become Virginia’s next governor.
“He has nobody but himself to blame. The issue that did him in is the debate issue,” Potts told The Augusta Free Press.
Potts, an independent who ran for governor and won 2.2 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election, was unsuccessful in his bid to earn inclusion into any of the three debates that featured Kilgore and Democrat Tim Kaine, who won the governor’s race with 51.8 percent of the votes cast.
The Winchester state senator said it was Kilgore who kept him out of the debates – and Kilgore and his handlers did make it clear that they did not want to participate in any joint events with Potts, who was blasted by the GOP for his decision earlier this year to bolt from the party to run for governor.
“I think he exposed a tremendous vulnerability in terms of his lack of confidence and his lack of willingness to engage. I think if people saw, particularly independents and moderate Republicans and Democrats, who are not just party regulars, if people saw him for what he is, they would see that he exposed himself there,” Potts said.
“Not only do I think it was morally wrong to do what he did, and ethically wrong, it wasn’t good political strategy. Quite frankly, what he should have done is let me in the first debate, get it over with, get that behind you, and then say, hey, I’ve already debated him,” Potts said.
Potts also directed some of his venom on the debate-exclusion issue toward Larry Sabato, the moderator of the final debate featuring Kaine and Kilgore, which was broadcast live statewide last month. Potts said Sabato, a University of Virginia politics professor and the director of the school’s Center for Politics, and Kilgore “had a collusion thing going on” that kept him out of that debate.
“I think they did great harm to Virginia there,” Potts said.
“I think the people of Virginia would have been well served to have been able to see me in that debate, to have been able to see me express the issues, to have been able to see me look them in the eye and say, show me the money. We need to fix the transportation system. We have something important to do here. And the people are up to it. They just need, crave, hunger for leadership,” Potts said.