The differences stretch from budget cuts to abortion to whether they should get together for a debate.
The winner will take on Connolly, who is running for a third term. Connolly beat businessman Keith Fimian (R) by less than 1,000 votes in 2010, but the district has been redrawn to be more favorable to Democrats. Connolly is also expected to benefit from having President Obama atop the ballot and from amassing a campaign war chest many times larger than that of either Republican candidate. Nationally, neither party puts the race in the top tier of competitive contests.
Turnout in the congressional primary is likely to be low, especially because the state held the primary for the Republican presidential nominee in March. “A lot of people do think there already was a primary,” Vaughn said.
Making the rounds
Knocking on doors in Oakton on a recent afternoon, Vaughn introduced himself to voters by saying that he is concerned about the federal debt.
“I always make clear that’s the reason I’m running — the debt,” Vaughn said. “That is a huge difference between us. I have a complete plan for how we get back to a reasonable, responsible budget.”
Making the rounds in a similarly upper-middle-class neighborhood in Lorton, Perkins began his pitch by noting that he is a retired military officer, which helps him connect with the district’s sizable population of veterans.
Perkins said federal spending was the number one issue, by a wide margin, among voters his campaign heard from, with jobs and the economy coming in second and national security issues third.
Both Perkins and Vaughn advocate spending cuts, but at a different pace.
“The basic message I’m trying to get at is we didn’t get here overnight,” Perkins said. “We’re not going to solve this problem overnight.”
Perkins contends that Vaughn’s proposed cuts are drastic and unrealistic. Vaughn counters that Perkins doesn’t support enough real cuts to fix the debt problem.
Like a small but growing number of Republicans across the country, neither Perkins nor Vaughn has signed the anti-tax pledge circulated by Grover Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform.
“That doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about high taxes. I’m just more concerned about the debt,” Vaughn said.
Perkins said he declined to sign the pledge because “I do not believe I should sign away my ability to make hard calls.”
Vaughn’s campaign has tried to make an issue of abortion, sending out a mailer that says that Perkins is “pro-choice” and that Vaughn “supports passing a federal law that would define ‘personhood’ to include the unborn and protect them from abortion.”