Virginia: God, Guns, and Oliver North
Mark J. Rozell and Clyde Wilcox
In early 1994, Virginia Senator Chuck Robb appeared to be the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent to seek reelection. Once touted as a potential Democratic presidential candidate, Robb spent much of his first term defending himself against charges that he had attended parties where drugs were used, had engaged in extramarital affairs, and had known that his aides had possessed illegally taped cellular telephone conversations of longtime rival Governor Douglas Wilder. Playboy magazine had featured an account of his alleged affair with Tai Collins, replete with pictorial. Robb's own account of their encounter—that they had disrobed, drank a bottle of champagne, and then stopped at a backrub—struck most Virginians as unlikely.
Robb's difficulties were even more evident when he launched his campaign in March 1994. He issued a letter to Virginia Democratic leaders and activists in which he admitted to having had extramarital sex, although he denied on other occasions that this contact had ever included intercourse. This fine distinction made him no friends among moral conservatives, who disapproved of any extramarital sexual contact, or among liberals, who found his behavior sexist and his account implausible.
Yet on election night, Robb survived a nationwide Republican tidal wave to win a surprisingly easy victory over Republican candidate Oliver North. North spent approximately $20 million, more than four times Robb's total, and had a huge volunteer army that covered the state with placards. He had the strong endorsements of Reverend Jerry Falwell and Reverend Pat Robertson and could count on the organizational efforts of the Christian Coalition, the Family Foundation, and the National Rifle Association. In the home state of the former Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, however, North failed to carry Lynchburg