The race between U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., R-Rocky Mount, and Democratic challenger Tom Perriello continued to intensify Thursday, as Goode portrayed Perriello as a carpetbagger while facing new questions about his Danville office’s connections to a 2003 film that depicts gay sex, violence and drugs.
“Tom Perriello continues to refute that he is a New York lawyer,” Goode’s campaign said in a statement. “But the fact is clear that he took the New York bar and not the Virginia bar.”
Perriello’s spokeswoman Jessica Barba pointed out that Perriello was raised in Albemarle County and was only based in New York for two years while he was working overseas in conflict zones.
“Tom was born and raised in the 5th District of Virginia,” she said. “These kinds of divisive tactics of trying to portray Tom as a stranger to the district are just desperate and wrong.”
Goode, a six-term incumbent, also responded Thursday as revelations emerged that a brochure from Toronto’s InsideOut gay and lesbian film festival in 2003 listed the taxpayer-funded fax machine in Goode’s congressional office as a contact number for the gay-themed art house film “Eden’s Curve.”
Goode said he intends to convene a meeting of his Danville staffers to investigate who was responsible and whether or not taxpayer money was spent on promotion of the movie.
“It wasn’t authorized by me and I think it’s wrong whoever did it,” Goode said. “It was absolutely improper.”
The apparent ties between Goode’s office in Danville and the film were revealed Thursday on several Democratic blogs, including Raising Kaine and Daily Kos.
Two weeks ago, it was discovered that Goode and his wife were thanked in the closing credits of “Eden’s Curve,” which is based on a true story of a young Danville man who goes off to college and explores his homosexuality, eventually becoming involved in a tryst with a male professor.
Goode’s press secretary of 12 years, Linwood Duncan, appeared in the film as the college’s dean who kicks out the professor after the campus finds out about the professor’s sexual relationship with the protagonist. Duncan resigned as Goode’s spokesman on Monday, citing worsening health problems.
Duncan, who has said that he neither saw the film nor read its full script, said Thursday that he was perplexed why Goode’s office fax line was listed as a point of contact for “Eden’s Curve.”
“I’m as shocked as you,” he said. “I had nothing to do with that. It’s news to me.”
Jerry Meadors, the co-writer and producer of “Eden’s Curve,” also said that he is baffled as to how Goode’s fax number found its way into a gay and lesbian film festival brochure that was promoting his film and others.
“I have no idea why that fax number would have been listed,” Meadors said. “Anybody could have put it there.”
Goode has said that he never saw “Eden’s Curve” and has no intention of ever seeing it.
Goode was thanked in the film’s credits, Meadors said, because Goode and his wife, Lucy, had been patrons of an earlier play in Danville titled “The Walk of Fame Café” that also featured Duncan and other “Eden’s Curve” actors. The 1999 production at Averett University, Meadors said, was a benefit for a local community theater.
Goode secured a $150,000 earmark in 2003 to help finance a $3.5 million renovation of Danville’s North Theater. Meadors, the theater’s artistic managing director, pointed out that the earmark came long after “Eden’s Curve” was filmed in fall 2001. Danville businessman Roy Gignac led the theater’s refurbishment project. Gignac has contributed nearly $10,000 to Goode’s campaign committee in recent years.
Perriello’s campaign had largely declined to comment on the story until Thursday. Many unanswered questions remain about the controversy, Barba said.
“Congressman Goode needs to take some responsibility for the actions of his congressional office,” she said.
The race between Goode and Perriello is growing increasingly fierce with four days remaining before the election.
Also in Goode’s statement on Thursday, the congressman accused Perriello of having New York residents make phone calls on Perriello’s behalf to residents of the 5th District, which includes the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene and Nelson.
“Tonight, Southside Virginians will hear the sound of New York accents on their telephones,” the statement said. “Citizens in New York City will be participating in a phone bank calling Southside Virginians and asking them to vote for Tom Perriello. Once more, liberal New Yorkers are attempting to push their ideas on 5th District Virginians.”
Goode has portrayed Perriello as an outsider from New York in stump speeches and in his campaign’s TV and radio ads. Perriello, Goode said, is relying on the campaign contributions from out-of-state supporters.
The phone banking activity in New York on behalf of Perriello, Barba said, was being hosted by a longtime friend of Perriello’s who had wanted to assist in his bid to unseat Goode. The Perriello campaign, she added, has more than 500 volunteers from within the 5th District and such phone banking is occurring on Perriello’s behalf across the country and elsewhere in Virginia. “This has become a national race, whether Congressman Goode likes it or not,” she said.
The Democratic National Congressional Committee has spent nearly $300,000 in the district on behalf of Perriello this week, according to campaign finance records.
The National Republican Congressional Committee also spent an unknown sum on TV advertising for Goode on Thursday, buying ads on stations in Roanoke and Lynchburg. Campaign finance records for the transaction had not been posted by the Federal Election Commission by press time Thursday.
The Perriello campaign announced late Thursday that WDBJ, Roanoke’s CBS affiliate, had agreed to suspend airing one of the NRCC’s TV ads that states that Perriello supports same-sex marriage.
Jeffrey A. Marks, president and general manager of WDBJ, said the ad cites as its source an article about Perriello that ran in the Christian Science Monitor. However, the Perriello campaign pointed out that the newspaper ran a correction about the Democrat’s position on the issue, which is that he does not support more government intervention in defining marriage.
“We’ve suspending running an ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee,” Marks said. “We asked for further substantiation … We’re waiting to see if the sponsor can provide additional information.”
TV stations cannot refuse to air political ads by candidates for federal office, but are allowed to refuse ads that are paid for by third-party organizations, such as the DCCC or the NRCC. “We are in no way taking sides,” Marks said.