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Feuding Virginia Democrats Risk Losing State House to Republican

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DEMOCRATS, stung by several election defeats since President Clinton took office, face another potential debacle next month in Virginia.

If disaster strikes in the governor's race here, experts say Democrats will have only themselves to blame. Analysts attribute the party's troubles in the Old Dominion to the ``terrible troika'' - the highly unpopular Democratic governor, Democratic senator, and Democratic president.

Mr. Clinton, while regaining some of his political halo nationally, remains badly out-of-favor with Virginia's conservative voters. They don't like the president's social and taxation policies. Making matters worse, the state is being pounded by defense cutbacks ordered by Clinton.

Meanwhile, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and Sen. Charles Robb, the state's two leading Democrats, are locked in a political feud that would do credit to the Hatfields and the McCoys. They seem more focused on the 1994 Senate race, when they will be opponents, than on this year's contest for governor.

The Robb-Wilder quarrel has frayed the Virginia Democratic Party, dismayed and disgusted voters, and sharply diminished prospects on Nov. 2 for the party's candidate for governor, Attorney General Mary Sue Terry.

Without the constant Democratic bickering, pollster Del Ali at Mason-Dixon Opinion Research says, Ms. Terry would breeze past her Republican opponent, George Allen. Yet Terry has blown her earlier 29-point lead and now trails seven points behind Mr. Allen, a former congressman and state legislator.

As Election Day approaches, Governor Wilder shows little sign of relenting in his war with Senator Robb. Under his official letterhead, the governor last week sent political reporters a reprint of the latest scathing editorial attack against Robb.

The article, written by the dean of Virginia's political scientists, Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia, charges the senator with ``shocking indiscretions'' while he was governor from 1982 to 1986.

Dr. Sabato accuses Robb of partying ``week after week after week'' with a ``sleazy Virginia Beach social set'' where ``cocaine was plentiful and was openly displayed and used.'' Pat Robertson connection

All this has added to the impetus among Virginians to toss out their top Democrats. Indeed, Allen might be widening his lead even more but for one factor - his connections to the Virginia-based Rev. Pat Robertson, a religious broadcaster.


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