For nearly a year now, I have pondered the question of whether Jerry Kilgore’s effeminate voice might be a problem for Virginia voters. Can a guy whose whole campaign is based on being a tough guy get around the problem of his softer side? Might he change his campaign strategy to turn this personality trait into a positive? Or would he fight like hell to make sure that his voice wasn’t broadcast by TV or radio? (I think we all know the answer to that one.) The issue bubbled up in the spring, with many people confusing Kilgore’s Southwest Virginia accent with the vocal mannerisms in question, and then disappeared. But with Tim Kaine accusing Kilgore of being anti-gay, the Washington Blade has presented the question of whether the Kaine campaign is, in a round-about fashion, accusing Kilgore of actually being gay:
Though Kilgore did not mention it in the debate, some observers believe that the Kaine campaign is actually using anti-gay tactics against Kilgore.
In an April 27 editorial titled “Gubernatorial gay-baiting” in the Cavalier Daily newspaper of the University of Virginia, Opinion Editor Mike Slaven wrote that the Kaine campaign had “crossed the line” into “using stereotypes to harness bigotry” when it debuted a radio ad, called “Weak,” that suggested Kilgore is “too weak to lead Virginia” and says, “Jerry Kilgore is not being straight.”
This ad came on the heels of an anti-Kilgore Web site www.jerrytheduck.com that encourages visitors to listen to an audio clip and “hear Jerry quack.” Some believe that this is an attempt to draw attention to Kilgore’s voice, which Slaven described as “gay-sounding.”
A highly publicized discussion of whether Kaine is making fun of Kilgore’s rural accent, is actually about whether Kaine is making fun of Kilgore’s effeminate voice, Slaven wrote.
“Rural accents have rarely kept candidates from office. Sexual rumors have,” he wrote.
I have a totally different reading than Mike — I think the Kaine campaign is simply implying that Kilgore’s tough-guy act is just that — an act. I can only assume that the Blade is being tongue-in-cheek when they write that Kilgore didn’t bring this matter up during the debate; whether on the defense or the office, this just isn’t a top that Kilgore wants to raise in public.
If Kilgore is lucky, this is the last time that the issue will surface before November 8. If he’s unlucky, some newspaper will do a story about it, kind of like Mike Shear’s story last November, only this time acknowledging the elephant in the middle of the living room.