The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Thursday, May 16, 1996                 TAG: 9605160010
SECTION: FRONT                    PAGE: A14  EDITION: FINAL 
TYPE: Editorial 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   66 lines


Nineteen months are left in the administration of Gov. George Allen, and the exodus is under way.

Though Democrats talk about rats deserting a sinking ship, the defections have more to do with Virginia's constitution than with the administration's internal workings. Each of the bigwigs who've left has an individual story, but there is a common theme:

Virginia governors can serve only one term consecutively. In an administration as partisan as Allen's, few of the ships' officers are likely to retain power if the GOP loses command of the boat. It's time to start scouting for another vessel.

First to go was Secretary of Health and Human Resources Kay Coles James, who now occupies a prominent post at Regent University. With a national reputation in conservative circles, James was unlikely to find fulfillment in the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts job of putting welfare reform into action. James prefers higher profile assignments. Her bags were probably packed from the moment welfare-reform policy was set.

Next came Anne Kincaid, Allen's director of constituent affairs. Rumor had it that Kincaid was dissatisfied with the slowed pace of the Allen revolution and concerned about possible conflicts between her job and her husband's role as a lobbyist. She left in early May, praising Allen and citing unspecified plans to get back to campaigning.

Superintendent of Public Instruction William Bosher announced earlier this month that he was leaving to head Chesterfield County schools. A good soldier for the Allen team, Bosher nonetheless had friends on both sides of the political aisle. Some legislative leaders believe he was uncomfortable with Allen's more doctrinaire positions, such as refusing federal Goals 2000 money. The larger incentive for Bosher, who formerly headed Henrico County schools, probably was a chance to stay on in suburban Richmond with a $16,000 pay hike.

The day after Bosher announced his departure, Peter Schmidt disclosed his. A former cement-block executive who lives in Virginia Beach, Schmidt headed the Department of Environmental Quality through a tumultuous period. Greeted skeptically at first by some environmentalists, he departed with good marks for accessibility and fairness. But he was reputed to have been frustrated by close oversight from the office of National Resources Secretary Becky Norton Dunlop.

Friday, Deputy Public Safety Secretary Carl Baker became the latest to go. State police superintendent under Allen's predecessor, Baker made the rare transition from a Democratic era to Allen's Republican one. He too left for a higher-paying post, as Chesterfield County police chief.

So long as Virginia government remains a highly competitive two-party sport, and so long as governors are destined to spend half of their single term as lame ducks, high turnover in the waning days of an administration is inevitable.

Virginia is the only state in the nation with this limitation. Back when the state was run by a string of interchangeable Democratic governors, the people who kept the ship of state afloat stayed at their posts from term to term.

To the detriment of managerial stability and competence, that day has passed. It's one more reason why a one-term governor has become an unaffordable anachronism. by CNB