Virginia gubernatorial election, 2005

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The 2005 Virginia gubernatorial election was held on November 8, 2005, following a Republican primary election on June 14, 2005. Tim Kaine (D) ran against Jerry Kilgore (R) and Russ Potts (I), and won the election with 51.72% of the popular vote.[1]

Race background

Mark Warner, the Democratic governor elected in 2001, had an approval rating close to 80% in polls during the 2005 campaign season.[2] Although he was popular, he could not run for re-election due to Virginia's term limits. Warner went on to become a member of the US Senate in 2008. The term limits Virginia imposes on its governors are more strict than any other state in the country: under the commonwealth's constitution, no governor may serve back-to-back terms.


Governor of Virginia General Election, 2005
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngTim Kaine 51.7% 1,025,942
     Republican Jerry Kilgore 46% 912,327
     Independent Russ Potts 2.2% 43,953
     None Write In 0.1% 1,556
Total Votes 1,983,778


General Election Candidates

Democratic Party Tim KaineGreen check mark transparent.png
Republican Party Jerry Kilgore
Independent Russ Potts

Candidate Background

  • Tim Kaine was an attorney in private practice before being elected to the city council of Richmond, Virginia. He was later elected mayor of Richmond by the city council, which until 2004, chose the mayor from among its membership. He spent a total of seven years on the city council, including his time as mayor. In 2001, Kaine was elected Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, serving under Governor Mark Warner. As Lieutenant Governor, he served as President of the Senate of Virginia.
  • Jerry Kilgore was secretary of public safety for Governor Allen before resigning to run for, and ultimately be elected as, attorney general in 2001. Previously he was with the US Attorney's Office and the Republican chairman of the 9th Congressional District.[3]
  • Russ Potts was elected into the Virginia Senate in 1992 and served as Chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee.[4] Earlier in his career, Russ founded his company, Russ Potts Productions Inc, an organization that promotes and organizes major sporting events.[5]

Primary candidates

Democratic candidates

Republican candidates

  • Jerry Kilgore
  • George Fitch
Candidate Background
  • George Fitch, a Virginia businessman, was the Mayor of Warrenton. He is also known as being one of the founders behind the Olympic Jamaican bobsled team. Disney later adapted the team's story for the movie Cool Runnings.[6]

Nominating conventions

Nominating Conventions in Virginia

The candidate selection process in Virginia differs between the political parties. According to the Code of Virginia:[7]

“The duly constituted authorities of the state political party shall have the right to determine the method by which a party nomination for a member of the United States Senate or for any statewide office shall be made. The duly constituted authorities of the political party for the district, county, city, or town in which any other office is to be filled shall have the right to determine the method by which a party nomination for that office shall be made.”

Democratic Party

The Democratic Party in Virginia used conventions to select nominees for statewide offices between 1981 and 2001 before shifting to primaries. The Virginia Democratic Party switched to the convention format for the 1981 election cycle to moderate the party after independent candidate Henry Howell won the 1977 primary. The nominating convention proved successful for Democrats in the 1980s with the election of Chuck Robb in 1981, Gerald Baliles in 1985 and Douglas Wilder in 1989. The change back to primaries in 2001 took place because of significant losses in state elections by the Democrats in 1993 and 1997.[8]

  • Like Mark Warner before him in 2001, Kaine ran unopposed in 2005 so no Democratic primary was held.

Republican Party

The Republican Party in Virginia has used conventions to select nominees for statewide offices for much of its history. Republicans have only used primaries to nominate candidates in 1949, 1989, 1997 and 2005.[8] The convention process used in most elections draws from delegates selected by Republicans during municipal and county conventions. The number of delegates per county depends on the strength of the Republican Party in past elections.[9]

Delegates cast their votes on separate ballots for each statewide office. Any candidates who are uncontested automatically receive the party’s nomination. Contested races start with a ballot to determine if a candidate can surpass the 50% threshold. A candidate who wins more than 50% of first-round ballots receives the nomination for that office. If the first round of ballots does not clear this threshold, the two candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated. The balloting process cuts candidates in each round until three candidates remain. A ballot is taken to eliminate a third-place finisher and a final ballot is taken between the two remaining candidates.[10]

Governor of Virginia Republican Primarary, 2005
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngJerry Kilgore 82.8% 145,002
George Fitch 17.2% 30,168
Total Votes 175,170
Election Results Via: Virginia State Board of Elections


Kaine was behind Kilgore in the polls for most of the race. All polls before November showed Kilgore in the lead, some by as many as ten points. It wasn't until November 2nd, six days before the election, that a poll showed Kaine ahead.[11]

2005 Gubernatorial Race Polls
Poll Kaine (D) Kilgore (R)Potts (I)OtherUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Survey USA
November 7, 2005
Roanoke College's Center for Community Research Conducts Voter Poll
November 1, 2005
Survey USA
October 16, 2005
AVERAGES 47% 42% 4% 1.33% 5.67% +/-4.07 653.67
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Campaign finance

This election was the highest spending election in Virginia's history reaching $42 million, beating out 2001's gubernatorial election by nearly 1/3 more.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

General Election

Kaine won election to the position of Governor of Virginia in 2005. During that election cycle, Kaine raised a total of $18,086,822.

Kilgore lost the election to the position of Governor of Virginia in 2005. During that election cycle, Kilgore raised a total of $22,299,311.

Potts lost the election to the position of Governor of Virginia in 2005. During that election cycle, Potts raised a total of $1,114,223.

  • Kaine, the winner of the general election, spent the least amount of money per vote. Kaine spent $6.81 less than Kilmore and $7.72 less than Potts.

Primary Elections

According to the Virginia Public Access Projects' results from November 8, 2005, Jerry Kilgore spent $6,486,426 in the primary election.


Tim Kaine

Kaine's campaign closely associated him with the popular, then governor, Warner. The two made many appearances together throughout the state. Kaine also talked openly about his Catholic faith which lead to attack ads by the Kilgore campaign who deemed him too soft for the job and unable to follow through with Virginia's death penalty.[12]

Jerry Kilgore

Jerry Kilgore's campaign ran many attack ads against Kaine, many focusing on his moral opposition to the death penalty. One of the most discussed ads featured a citizen whose son was murdered. The man claimed that, if Kaine had the chance, he would not even give Adolf Hitler the death penalty.

Russ Potts

Potts campaign focused on Pott's plans for transportation and education in Virginia.

Website Comparison

Campaign Website Comparison
Timkaine website.png Jerrykilgore website.png Russpotts website.png
October 28, 2005
October 25, 2005
October 28, 2005
The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine was used to recall these screen captures of the websites from 2005.


Russ Potts television ad, "We Want Potts!" - 2005

Jerry Kilgore's television attack ad against Tim Kaine - 2005

See also

External links

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