Home Virginia Politics Flashback to 2005: The Kilgore Clan

Flashback to 2005: The Kilgore Clan


From the RK archive, thought this was relevant given the recent allegations of corruption directed at Terry Kilgore (tobacco commission favoritism, role in getting Phil Puckett to resign and throw control of the State Senate to the Republicans, etc.).  The more things change…

Gate City: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree?

By: Lowell

Published On: 3/26/2005 2:00:00 AM 

This is a photo of Willie Mae Kilgore, mother of Jerry Kilgore, and voter registrar of Scott County.  She is also involved in an election “controversy” (some might say “scandal”) stemming from the May 2004 Mayor's race in Gate City, Jerry Kilgore's home town.  In that election, Charles Dougherty “won” by just 2 votes (357-355) over Mark Jenkins.  In June 2004, the election results were thrown out by a three-judge panel and Jenkins became interim Mayor, pending a special election in May 2005.

However, the “controversy” didn't end there; according to the Roanoke Times, “a Roanoke-area prosecutor [was]…appointed to pursue possible criminal charges stemming from the election.”  Also, according to the Roanoke Times, Jenkins claims that the office of registrar Willie Mae Kilgore, was largely responsible.  Jenkins is quoted as saying, “If the registrar's office had been run as a professional office that followed the guidelines, this never would have happened.”  Meanwhile,  “A second lawsuit claims that Kilgore is an 'active political partisan' who uses her office to benefit Republican candidates.” 

What does this have to do with Jerry Kilgore?  Maybe nothing, maybe something, we don't know yet.  It's certainly possible that there's a connection to the fact that Jerry's mother (Scott County registrar) , father (long-time chairman of the Scott County Republican Party), and extended family essentially run a small-time political machine in that part of Virginia.  It's also possible that the many indications of cronyism, corruption, and arrogance displayed by the Kilgore family over the years have nothing – nothing whatsoever – to do with Jerry or his brother Terry. 

Well, maybe we're a bit cynical, but let's just say we tend to believe there's something to the sayings “where there's smoke there's fire” and “the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.”  For now, though, we simply hope to find out more from our own investigations and also through tips from helpful readers. 

The Gate City/Willie Mae Controversy: It's Baaaaack!

By: Lowell
Published On: 4/3/2005 2:00:00 AM

Several of us have been having a lively exchange at my post, Gate City:  the apple doesn't fall far from the tree?”.  In that post, I brought up the election “controversy” swirling around Jerry Kilgore's mother, Willie Mae, down in Gate City.  In doing so, I questioned the actions of a public official,  given that Willie Mae Kilgore is the Scott County Registrar of Voters.  I also wrote:


It?s certainly possible that there?s a connection to the fact that Jerry?s mother (Scott County registrar) , father (long-time chairman of the Scott County Republican Party), and extended family essentially run a small-time political machine in that part of Virginia. It?s also possible that the many indications of cronyism, corruption, and arrogance displayed by the Kilgore family over the years have nothing – nothing whatsoever – to do with Jerry or his brother Terry.

Well, maybe we?re a bit cynical, but let?s just say we tend to believe there?s something to the sayings ?where there?s smoke there?s fire? and ?the apple doesn?t fall far from the tree.? For now, though, we simply hope to find out more from our own investigations and also through tips from helpful readers.

The Gate City piece led to a flurry of exchanges between writers here at RaisingKaine, supportive readers, and a couple of anonymous Kilgore supporters (or, who knows, Kilgore family members?) who were outraged at our supposed “attacks” — in the article and subsequent comments — on the Kilgores.  One of the outraged readers called himself “Addison.”  Later, however, it turned out that he was NOT the “Addison” of Sic Semper Tyrannis fame.  He then wrote an apology under the name “Not Addison.”

In response, I have the following to say.

“Not Addison:”  I accept your apology as well.  However, I would like to make a few points as well.  First, Jerry Kilgore, Terry and Willie Mae are all public officials.  As such, they often advocate policies which affect “real people.”  Worse than that, they are often harmful to those “real people.”  Cuts to education and health care?  Very harmful.  Running a corrupt political machine in Gate City?  Certainly harmful to the residents of that town. Executing minors on flimsy evidence?  Deadly to those whose DNA may or may not later exonerate.  Whoops!!

Second, I would point out that the Kilgore campaign HAS attacked Tim Kaine personally, including most recently the sincerity of his religious beliefs!  They keep calling him a “liberal” as a sort of curse word, even though Kaine is a centrist Democrat.  They have hired Scott Howell, (see the appropriately shadowy photo of Howell at left) one of the nastiest, slimiest political consultants around, as their chief strategist and media advisor.  Remember that Scott Howell, as we have pointed out here numerous times, was the guy who slandered former Georgia Senator Max Cleland, a Vietnam War hero and triple amputee, as a Saddam- and Osama-loving traitor.  Hey, isn't Max Cleland a “real person” too?  Isn't calling someone a traitor a bit nasty?  And isn't it a bit hypocritical for Kilgore supporters to complain about ad hominem attacks against their candidate when Jerry himself has gone and hired the worst of the worst when it comes to ad hominem and even race baiting?

Third, I've got to say I'm a bit surprised that conservative Republicans, who love to pride themselves on being “tough” and “strong” and “not-PC,” would all of a sudden be so dang SENSITIVE about peoples' feelings getting hurt.  I wonder what THAT is all about!

Finally, let me just remind eveyone here that this is POLITICS, not tiddlywinks.  It's a rough game, “all's fair” and all that if you choose to run for public office.  If you don't like a bit of rough and tumble action once in a while, perhaps you might want to take up another career?  Regardless, what you've seen on RaisingKaine to date, I would argue, is NOTHING compared to what you've already seen and will CONTINUE to see from the Kilgore campaign.  By the way, I would remind our Republican friends what some members of their own party did to Bill Clinton, for instance, accusing him of being a drug-running murderer, among other things.  RaisingKaine hasn't even gotten within one thousandth of that degree of nastiness, and we never plan to.  When it comes to Jerry Kilgore's record, the truth is bad enough!

To conclude, I think I speak for all of us here at RaisingKaine that we intend to continue poking fun at the Kilgores while also pointing out their heinous and irresponsible policies, exposing their cronyism, corruption and incompetence, and rebutting their attacks on our man, Tim Kaine.

Thanks again for your apology, “Not Addison.”


Lowell (also not “Addison”)



Jenkins: It's not Just About Willie Mae

By: Lowell
Published On: 8/6/2005 1:00:00 AM

Gate City's current mayor, Mark Jenkins, who initially “lost” the May 4, 2004 election against former mayor Charles Dougherty, Jr. before he was declared the victor after voter fraud was exposed, has some choice comments about the Kilgores – Willie Mae and Jerry, in particular — in today's Roanoke Times.  The main charge Jenkins makes is that, aside from Dougherty and Willie Mae Kilgore (Scott County Registrar of Voters), Jerry Kilgore himself made inappropriate comments when he was still Attorney General of Virginia that “delayed a criminal investigation into the matter.”  According to the Roanoke Times:


A July 2004 article in the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News quoted Kilgore as saying that while mistakes were made, “no one appears to have done anything deliberately.”

Kilgore also said Gate City needed to “move on.” The Republican has since stepped down as attorney general to run for governor.

Jenkins said it was inappropriate for the then-attorney general to publicly downplay a controversy that involved both his hometown and his mother, Willie Mae Kilgore, the longtime voter registrar of Scott County.

No one in the registrar's office has been charged with a crime.

But, Jenkins said, “I still maintain that the wrongdoings that have been brought to light by the indictments … could not have gone on had the registrar been properly performing her job.”

Right, in other words either Willie Mae Kilgore was doing her job as Scott County Registrar of Voters, in which case she was FULLY aware of what was going on.  Or, she wasn't doing her job, in which case she is incompetent.  Defenders of the Kilgores, Chad Dotson and others, please take your pick.  You can't have it both ways.  Oh, and by the way, why do YOU have such a “man-crush” on Jerry and Terry Kilgore, and why are you “drooling” so much over the Kilgore family in general?  Seriously, is this the best the Republican Party of Virginia has to offer?  What gives?  Are we all back in 7th grade here, or what? 

Anyway, I'm hopeful that we'll finally find out a lot more about the growing Gate City voter fraud scandal now that Mark Jenkins is speaking out more freely and forcefully about the Kilgores than he had previously.  Perhaps Jenkins' willingness to speak more freely has to do with the fact that someone (Dougherty) actually has been indicted on 37 felony counts of voter fraud in the case.  Also, perhaps Jenkins has realized that, in order to see justice done in this case, the whole Kilgore machine will need to be exposed.  I don't know. 

However, what Jenkins is saying is clearly important.  For starters, it directly contradicts the (false/contrived) “outrage” of Jerry Kilgore's supporters that a) the hubbub is all coming from a bunch of “desperate” liberals stooping to attacks on Jerry Kigore's mother; and b) the scandal has nothing to do with Jerry Kilgore and does not speak to the ethics (or lack thereof) of the Kilgore family in general.  Both of these claims are categorically false and/or highly questionable at best.  Let's get real:  Willie Mae Kilgore is a public official, Scott County Registrar of Voters both currently and also when the voter fraud took place.  And Jerry Kilgore made comments as Attorney General of Virginia about the case, prejudging it and obviously seeking to delay or dismiss any potential investigation of his mother.  This is serious stuff, whether you guys like it or not.  Some of you are attorneys and even state officials, so you should certainly understand this.

Sure, on one level this is still a “small-town scandal involving a candidate's mother,” as “one political observer” says in the article. But as Bob Denton of Virginia Tech points out, it's also “a problem for the [Jerry Killgore] campaign…relat[ing] more to the image and the character issue.”  Denton adds that:


As attorney general, “it is a risky thing to comment about something in your hometown that involves your relatives,” Denton said. “You are the chief cop in the commonwealth of Virginia, so to speak, and to make any statement, good or bad, is risky indeed.”

By the way, for those who claim this is all a “partisan attack on Jerry Kilgore's mother, blah blah blah,” I would point out once again that Mark Jenkins is a REPUBLICAN.  In other words, this is not about partisanship, it's about exposing CORRUPTION by the Kilgore family and its allies and about seeing justice be done.  And, according to “Jenkins and other critics:”


…the registrar's office has become an arm of a powerful Kilgore family that controls the political machinery of Scott County, a solidly Republican portion of far Southwest Virginia.

Willie Mae Kilgore's husband has been the chairman of the county Republican Party for years, Jenkins said. Her other twin son, Terry Kilgore, has represented Scott County as a delegate in the General Assembly for more than a decade. A third son, John, heads the county's economic development authority.

So, when the Chad Dotsons of the world dismiss the concerns of Republicans, Democrats, and independent political observers about this case, I'm forced to wonder what THEIR agenda is.  I mean, besides winning the governor's mansion at all costs, what's with their “jones” for the Kilgores anyway?  Are the Kilgores just SOOOO likeable and impressive as human beings and representatives for the Republican Party or what?  Is there something else here, like the fact that the Kilgores are powerful in the same part of the state as most of the “defenders” happen to come from?  If not, why would they be so eager to argue that the Scott County Registrar of Voters, who happens to be the mother of Jerry and Terry Kilgore, had absolutely nothing to do with the Gate City Mayoral voter fraud case, the investigation into which continues, by the way?  [UPDATE 10:15 AM: Or, could it be that both Jerry and Terry endorsed your run for Commonwealth's Attorney in Wise County? Not to mention “Taliban Bob” McDonnell.]

I begin to think that they “doth protest a bit too much.”  Also, I note their tendency to resort to the first and last refuge of those with nothing to say:  attack the person (“ad hominem”) making the argument.  For instance, we here at RaisingKaine apparently have an unhealthy, bizarre infatuation going with Rex McCarty, even though most of us (myself included) have never even met the man.  What next, are you guys going to argue that Mark Jenkins isn't REALLY a Republican?  Whoops, shouldn't give you any ideas!

In other words, how much more silliness, evasion and obfuscation are we going to have to put up with before the grownups take over?  Luckily, there ARE grownups moving along with their investigation into the scandal, including into the role of Willie Mae Kilgore.  Perhaps they should also look into the role of Jerry Kilgore and his inappropriate comments on the case (ever hear of “recusal,” Jerry?) when he was Attorney General.

One last point:  if you Republicans think that the Gate City scandal does NOT relate to the Kilgores, I want to smoke what you're smoking.  And, if you think that this is the ONLY reason we Democrats don't like Kilgore/Bolling/McDonnnell (not to mention Marshall, Albo, Craddock, etc.), you're highly mistaken.  We find their ethics troubling, no doubt about that.  But we also oppose their right-wing, irresponsible policies in many, many areas.  And we strongly, unequivocally believe that Tim Kaine will make a far, FAR superior Governor than Jerry Kilgore.  Now, why don't you all try to make a counterargument without resorting to ad hominemn attacks?  It might be an interesting intellectual exercise for you guys.  Hey, give it a shot, what do you have to lose?  On second thought… Heh.


Willie Mae Kilgore: Registrar for All the People or Just Some of Them?

By: Tabitha
Published On: 10/8/2005 1:00:00 AM

For months, Raising Kaine bloggers have written about how Willie Mae Kilgore's actions in the May 4, 2004 Gate City Mayoral election, if not illegal, reeked of impropriety. Today, the Roanoke Times published an article detailing the ways in which Willie Mae has walked a “fine line” in her position as Scott County Registrar of Voters.

The article asks the following questions:


But what if the mother who contributes thousands of dollars to the campaigns of her two sons, plus some money to the party they represent, is also a local election official responsible for registering voters, handling absentee ballots and overseeing the operations of elections?

Is that a conflict of interest?

Sure seems like it.

Let's be clear: the problem isn't that Willie Mae Kilgore has made more than $8,000 in political contributions since 1996.  It is not illegal for a registrar of voters to contribute to a campaign or a party in Virginia, although a manual for registrars published by the state Board of Elections advises against the practice.  Nor is it illegal that Willie Mae gave nearly all of those contributions to her son Jerry, with $300 also going to Jerry's twin brother Terry, who represents the very county (Scott) where Willie Mae is Registrar of Voters.  However, the manual clearly states:


While the law does not imply that a registrar must be apolitical, it strongly implies that the registrar should do nothing — other than voting — that presents the public appearance of favoring one candidate over another.

In other words, Willie Mae is more than willing to risk the appearance of favoritism.  Why would she do that?  Obviously, because it is more important for her to contribute money to her sons' campaigns than it is to appear impartial in her officially neutral position as Scott County Registrar of Voters.  The problem is, all this makes one wonder what else Willie Mae Kilgore might be willing to do to get her sons elected. 

Meanwhile, according to the Times:


Last month, a report issued by the Commission on Federal Election Reform was critical of the widespread practice of having election officials with party ties or candidate loyalties in charge of a process it called “the heart of democracy.”

Even worse, according to the Times, “Willie Mae Kilgore is one of just two registrars — out of 134 statewide — who contributed $100 or more to a campaign over the past nine years.”  In other words, most Voter Registrars in Virginia concur that such contributions are not proper.  Fairfax County Registrar Jackie Harris, former president of the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia, is quoted by the Times, “We tend to avoid things like that like the plague.”

Supporting a family member is one thing.  However,  as the Times points out, “the $120 Kilgore gave to the Republican Party is another matter.”  As Mark Rozell, public policy professor at George Mason University explains:


It's not the amount.  It's the fact that person has crossed over the line and publicly become associated with the interests of one political party over the other. That's the rub.

The article points out another bit of intrigue:


As attorney general in 2003, [Jerry] Kilgore was asked to clarify the extent to which election officials can participate in political activities. 

In an opinion requested by an Albermarle County Electoral Board member, Kilgore wrote that electoral board members and registrars should act in a nonpartisan fashion while performing their official duties.


Unfortunately, as Rex McCarty (running against incumbent Terry Kilgore) correctly points out, “[Willie Mae Kilgore] has shown time and time again that she is a Republican and not a neutral player in the game.”  The problem is, a Registrar of Voters supposed to represent ALL the people, not just the Republicans.

Of course, the Kilgores and their supporters will dismiss all these questions and concerns as whining by a bunch of liberals.  That's what they always do when they don't have the facts on their side – ad hominem attacks.  However, I would point out that, when questions about the Scott County registrar's office first surfaced last year during a disputed Gate City town election, the Kilgores similarly dismissed the complaints as partisan potshots.  And guess what?  Since that time, 37 felony count indictments have been handed down against former Gate City Mayor Charles Dougherty, Jr.

And the investigation obviously isn't finished yet, considering that some of those indictments were for conspiracy.  Lawrence Haake, president of the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia, points out that, legally, conspiracy cannot take place unless more than one person is involved.  It seems that Mr. Haake may have unintentionally hinted at where this case is headed, when he stated:


“But the reality is that she's not operating in a vacuum. … Willie Mae Kilgore couldn't throw the election to her sons if she wanted to unless everyone in the process joined her in that conspiracy.”

What an interesting suggestion.  Thank you Mr. Haake, for mentioning it. 


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