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Democrats Optimistic They

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and former Governor and announced U.S. Senate candidate Mark Warner took the same stage in Arlington Tuesday beaming with optimism about their Democratic Party’s ability to gain a majority in the Virginia Senate in the November election, now just six weeks off.

Speaking before a crowd of about 300 guests at an event for Kaine’s “Moving Virginia Forward” organization, the two state Democratic Party leaders said that their party’s candidates are currently leading in the polls in all but one race.

“It’s not a slam dunk. It’s not going to be easy. But if it all comes together, we will be the majority leaders of the Senate,” stated State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, also on the podium for the event.

While there was no talk of also winning a majority for the House of Delegates, Warner noted that his party’s chances have been improved by efforts of conservatives within the state GOP to roust out incumbent Republicans who’d worked on bi-partisan lines in Richmond to move the state forward.

He cited gains made under his and Kaine’s administrations, noting that Forbes.com named Virginia the “best state for business” in the U.S. in 2006 and 2007, and that Education Week magazine ranked Virginia as the state where a child has “the best chance of life success.” Also, he said, the Kaiser Foundation recently declared Virginia “the best state in the U.S. for signing up children for health insurance.”

Remarking on the enthusiasm of the crowd assembled at the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton Tuesday, Kaine said, “We should bottle this energy and take it everywhere.”  But he added that while Northern Virginia used to be where he’d come to get energized to carry his efforts to the rest of the state, now crowds like Tuesday’s are showing up all over Virginia.

Brian Moran, chair of the House of Delegates’ Democratic caucus and reportedly in line to run for governor in 2009, said that the Democratic candidates reflect a wide diversity, from military and law enforcement leaders to educators.

But in one key state senate race in Fairfax County, the outcome could be influenced by the results of a critical candidates’ forum scheduled tonight by a consortium of regional gay and lesbian advocacy organizations.

While all candidates are expected to be grilled about their stands on gay and lesbian issues, unanswered questions on the subject concerning one conservative Democratic candidate could turn the considerable clout of the county’s gay and lesbian electorate, and those who respect its issues, against him.

J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen is running as the Democrat in the 34th Senate District that butts up against Falls Church on its eastern border. He is known as a conservative in an increasingly-progressive district, and his stand on gay and lesbian issues could put him to the right of his opponent, popular Republican Jeannemarie Devolites Davis. That may be determined by tonight’s forum.

Among questions about Petersen are those articulated by Democratic bloggers in the state regarding his continuing affiliation with defectors from the Episcopal Church, who’ve aligned with the virulently anti-gay Bishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.

A life-long member of the Truro Church in Fairfax City, Petersen had the option of remaining aligned with “continuing Episcopalians” at that church, or joining the defectors, who have as among their major grievances with the national Episcopal Church its elevation of an openly-gay clergyman to standing as a bishop in 2003.

The fact that Petersen joined the defectors is particularly significant at Truro Church, because the leader of that congregation’s defectors, the Rev. Martyn Minns, was not only a key instigator in defections throughout Virginia last December, but has been elevated as the head of the national association of defectors aligning with Akinola. Akinola holds that gay people should be jailed for merely being homosexual, as should anyone who is found talking in support of gay marriage.

The forum tonight will be held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia, 10383 Democracy Lane, Fairfax, starting at 6:45 p.m. It is being co-sponsored by Equality Fairfax, Equality Virginia, Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club and the Log Cabin Republicans of Virginia.