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By J.R. Williams - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Former U.S. Sen. and Virginia Gov. George F. Allen likes to say there's an "urgency" to keeping America competitive against other countries that are "pedal to the metal."
"We are facing greater competition internationally than what we were facing in the 1980s," he said. "We can't guard. We can't wait around."
Allen spoke Wednesday night at the Hampton Inn on Berryville Avenue for the fifth J. Kenneth Robinson Dinner and fundraiser, which honors the former state senator and congressman. Tickets for the crowded event sold for $65 and benefited its sponsor, the Winchester Republican Committee.
Allen completed several days of touring the state with his stop in Winchester. He reprised themes discussed at his last visit in January at a town-hall meeting sponsored by the conservative group Americans for Prosperty: reduce government spending and regulation, capitalize on natural resources to create jobs and strengthen national defense.
"In 2012, I think this is going to be an election that is every bit as important in the trajectory of our country as was 1980," he said after being introduced by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel. "We're either going to continue with diminished opportunities and decline, or we're going to begin ascending again. I think it's time for an American comeback."
The game has changed for Allen since January. He's now a candidate to reclaim his U.S. Senate seat from Sen. Jim Webb -- who is retiring -- and is the likely frontrunner in a wide field of Republican candidates.
He raised $1.5 million in the first quarter of 2011, according to a statement from the campaign in April. Democrat and Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced his candidacy for the seat on April 5.
Allen told the local group that the United States needed to "take back its own destiny" by reining in regulations from such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency.
"We need to get our economy moving again, and the way you do that is with the right economic policies," he said. "The fact that we in America have the highest tax on job creators in the world ... how does that help America become more competitive for investment in jobs?"
One way to accomplish that, he said, is to allow the exploration of natural gas and oil off Virginia's coast.
"If we'd like to explore off our coast, we ought to be able to do so and have those revenues shared with Virginia, [so] we can use it for roads and transportation," he said.
"Friends, we have the solutions, the good, common sense ideas that will help our economy."
Vince DiBenedetto, who helped organize the event for the Republican committee, said local support for Allen hasn't changed since he represented Winchester when it was a part of the 7th Congressional District.
"There's just a tremendous amount of support for him. Always has been," DiBenedetto said. "Of course, 2012 is going to be one of the most hotly contested, closely watched races in the country for both president and the Senate. It's nice to have him here early."