Escalating attacks in Va. House’s 33rd District race between LaRock and Daniel

November 4, 2013

With little time left before Tuesday’s general election, two candidates vying for the Virginia House of Delegate’s 33rd District seat have engaged in a volley of escalating attacks.

Dave LaRock, a staunchly conservative Republican who defeated 20-year incumbent Del. Joe T. May in a stunning upset in the Republican primary, is locked in a contentious battle with Democrat Mary Daniel, a lawyer and a member of the Berryville Town Council.

The opponents have exchanged barbs throughout their campaigns, a back-and-forth that has escalated in recent weeks. Daniel has called attention to LaRock’s position on social issues such as abortion and has questioned his absence at several debates. LaRock accused Daniel of not supporting volunteer firefighters because of a campaign donation she received from a union representing professional firefighters.

In a statement last week, LaRock said that Daniel should return a campaign contribution of $10,000 from an international firefighters union that LaRock said was “directly opposed to volunteer firefighting.”

Daniel owed voters an explanation for “the conflict between her stated support for volunteers and the anti-volunteer policies” of her campaign contributor, LaRock said in a campaign statement.

Daniel said she resented the implication that she could not support both professional and volunteer fire and rescue personnel.

“My grandfather, Oscar Costello, was a professional firefighter, the chief in Herndon,” she said in a statement. “My great uncle, Billy Costello, was a volunteer for over 50 years with the Ashburn Department in Loudoun and helped create Loudoun County’s Fire and Rescue Training Academy . . . in our district, volunteers work alongside professionals to keep all of us safe.”

In a historically conservative territory, Democrats have expressed hope that LaRock’s hard-line views might help Daniel, a self-described moderate, win over voters.

Daniel’s campaign manager, Doug Dodson, said the sources of LaRock’s campaign contributions and his tea party ties reveal a narrow range of supporters.

“He can’t appeal to anyone outside of the tea party,” Dodson said of LaRock. “He’s too extreme for the district.”

LaRock and his fellow Republicans maintain that the 33rd District — which encompasses much of western Loudoun, a closely watched bellwether jurisdiction in local and national elections — is solid red and won’t be turning blue this time.

In a statement Wednesday, LaRock’s campaign manager responded sharply to mailers sent by Daniel’s campaign, alleging that LaRock had voiced support for a failed 2009 state Senate bill that would have required women to report a miscarriage within 24 hours or risk criminal penalty.

Daniel Davies said the mailers were part of a “deliberately manipulative” campaign.

“Dave and other Republican are campaigning on bringing jobs and economic growth, lower taxes and fiscal responsibility,” Davies said in the statement. “Daniel and other Democrats are campaigning on lies about social issues.”

LaRock, who led Daniel in campaign fundraising in the summer, fell behind for the first time in September. That pattern continued last month, with Daniel pulling in more than $132,000, and LaRock reporting about $115,000, according to campaign finance records.

A third candidate, Libertarian Patrick Hagerty, has received no contributions, records show.

Caitlin Gibson covers Loudoun County for The Washington Post.
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