Friday, November 24, 2006

1994 senatorial race flashback

The 2006 Virginia senatorial race, which was won by Jim Webb, was much in the national news. As was the 1994 campaign in Virginia, which was for the same seat in the Senate. Over that summer 12 years ago a four-way race developed, as three candidates challenged the Democratic incumbent Chuck Robb for his seat in the U.S. Senate.

Republican Ollie North was nominated by a convention at the Richmond Coliseum. Former governor Doug Wilder, a Democrat, threw his hat in as an independent. Marshall Coleman, a Republican former attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate (he has lost to Wilder in 1989), ran as an independent, too. Naturally, both Wilder and Coleman were seen as spoilers by many observers.

The 24-hour news cycle was all over the circus-like story of the four heavyweight candidates. Then in late August I issued what was then my fourth set of collectable cards -- “Campaign Inkbites: The ‘94 VA Senate Race.”

Mercurial Wilder suddenly withdrew in October. Wooden Coleman stayed the course, with stubborn Sen. John Warner as his chief backer. North, the dandy, raised and spent over $25 million, then a new record for the most ever in a U.S. Senate race, any state. In the end the awkward Robb outlasted them all, as Warner and Coleman saw to it Virginia was spared a Sen. Ollie North.

Without the context of this campaign's news being fresh, some of my attempts at humor may not work so well now, hopefully a few of the caricatures are still fun to look at (click on the images to enlarge them). Wisely, Sabato bought the original artwork for his card. (I still have a few of the originals left, in case anybody is looking for an ususual gift item.)

Below the reader will see a 1994 newspaper article about that card collection and scans of 12 of the 15 cards that were in the set. This edition was lucky with publicity -- an AP story and a five-minute spot on CNN followed on the heels of this Virginian-Pilot piece.
The Virginian-Pilot
September 6, 1994

By David Poole and Dwayne Yancy

Odds and ends from the past week of Virginia's U.S. Senate campaign:
I'll swap you two Doug Wilders for a Tai Collins. The colorful U.S. Senate race has spawned a set of trading cards featuring the four candidates and a host of supporting characters - including the former Miss Virginia who gave a nude massage to Chuck Robb in a New York hotel.

There’s U.S. Sen. John Warner sounding defensive about his hand-picked candidate, Marshall Coleman: “Why should I strain to name an office he hasn't sought, or an abortion stance he hasn't taken? The point is: Marshall isn't Ollie.”

There’s conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh assessing the race: “The choice in Virginia is simple. You’ve got a stained, lap-dog liberal, a bleached and petulant liberal, a fair-weather conservative, and a genuine, world-class hero.”

There’s political pundit Larry Sabato reporting on the latest poll results: “Fifty-one percent said the race is so embarrassing they plan to leave the state.”

The “Campaign Inkbites” are the brainchild of F.T. Rea, a Richmond artist who a decade ago issued a similar deck of cards commemorating a massive death-row escape at Mecklenberg Correctional Center. The set of 15 Senate cards is available at Biff’s bookstore [also at Chickens, the snack bar in the State Capitol] in Richmond for $12 a pack.

The most unflattering likeness in the set is that of Sabato, whose green skin gives him the look of a vampire.

“Ironically, he’s my best customer,” Rea said of Sabato. “He bought 12 packs.”