updated 6/14/2005 11:03:29 PM ET 2005-06-15T03:03:29

Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore easily won the Republican nomination for governor Tuesday over a small-town mayor best known for bankrolling the Jamaican bobsled team in the 1988 Winter Olympics.

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Kilgore’s victory with more than 80 percent of the vote sets up a November contest with Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine in the race to succeed Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat barred by Virginia’s Constitution from running for a second term. Kaine was unchallenged in the Democratic primary.

The race is already attracting national attention, with word that President Bush plans to campaign for Kilgore next month.

Kilgore made little ado of the victory, sharing pizza with his staff in a low-key gathering at his headquarters.

“Tonight is just another rung in the ladder, another step on the journey,” Kilgore said.

In another primary Tuesday, former state Rep. Jean Schmidt won the nod to represent the GOP in an Aug. 2 special election in Ohio to replace former Rep. Rob Portman, who was appointed by President Bush as U.S. trade representative.

Lawyer Paul Hackett won the Democratic primary but is a long shot. Only one Democrat has represented the congressional district in the last 54 years. Eleven Republicans and five Democrats competed in the election.

Virginia Republicans hoping to win back the governor’s office rallied behind Kilgore from the outset and wrote off his opponent, George Fitch, an anti-tax crusader making his first run for state office. Kilgore considered the primary a formality, and focused on Kaine instead.

Real estate taxes an issue
Both Kilgore and Kaine have proposed arresting the sharp climb in real estate taxes, particularly in affluent and fast-growing suburban areas.

Kilgore, 43, stepped aside last winter after serving more than three years as attorney general. During his tenure, Kilgore built a reputation for aggressively prosecuting wife beaters, cracking down on methamphetamine labs in rural Virginia and pursuing professional computer spammers.

The 56-year-old Fitch developed a small but fierce following among the GOP’s anti-tax activists. In Fitch’s six years as mayor of the quiet horse country town of Warrenton, municipal property taxes were slashed while services were cut, consolidated or outsourced to private vendors.

Fitch drew attention in 1988 when he brought a team of Jamaicans to the Calgary Olympics to compete in the bobsledding event. He paid their way after government and corporate sponsorship fell through.

The Jamaicans finished 10th, and their story, with a comedic twist from Disney, was told in the 1993 hit movie “Cool Runnings” starring John Candy.

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