Rep. Frank Wolf’s challengers face uphill battle


Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R) is Virginia’s longest-serving member of the House of Representatives (Alex Wong/Getty Images )
October 25, 2012

Over more than three decades in Congress, Virginia Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R) has seemingly become all but immune to political challengers.

Virginia’s longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, Wolf has been elected 16 times by a loyal electorate in Virginia’s sprawling and diverse 10th Congressional District, which encompasses highly populated eastern suburbs of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties as well as rural swaths of Clarke and Frederick counties.

Wolf’s approach to political campaigning is as consistent as his election victories: “I run on what I have done,” he says. “I present my record.”

This November, Wolf faces two new opponents: Democrat Kristin Cabral, a Harvard-educated former federal prosecutor from Fairfax County who has accused Wolf of being “out of touch” with federal budget needs as well as women’s issues, and independent candidate Kevin Chisholm, an engineer who decries “partisan gridlock” and has said that energy issues and tax reform would be his top priorities if elected.

During his lengthy tenure, Wolf has established a reputation for providing strong constituent services, and his supporters applaud his focus on local issues such as transportation and crime. With traffic congestion among the top concerns of Northern Virginia residents, Wolf has consistently pushed to reduce toll increases on the Dulles Greenway, and played an influential role in securing funding for Metro’s Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport and eastern Loudoun.

Wolf, 73, has been among the most outspoken members of Congress on global human rights issues, and has also called for greater accountability in the administration’s handling of the war in Afghanistan.

In terms of fundraising, Wolf has a clear advantage: Federal records show that he has raised just over a million dollars during this election cycle, while Cabral’s campaign reported just over $250,000. Chisholm, the independent candidate, said he has received less than $5,000.

To counter Wolf’s experience, Cabral and Chisholm have appealed to voters to consider the benefit of a new perspective in Congress. Both emphasize that they are not politicians, and therefore not beholden to partisan loyalties.

Cabral has been particularly outspoken about women’s issues, pointing to Wolf’s vote against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and his vote to defund Planned Parenthood. She has said that her first legislative action would be to increase support for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, part of the Small Business Administration, to encourage local women to start their own small businesses.

“[Wolf] is a career politician,” Cabral said in an interview. “He’s out of touch, and he votes with his obstructionist Republican Party . . . that is not in the interest of the 10th Congressional District.”

Before a standing-room only crowd at the Great Falls Grange on Monday, Wolf and Cabral each addressed nearly 20 questions at the first of two debates between the candidates. Chisholm was permitted to deliver introductory remarks, but did not participate in the debate itself.

Wolf repeatedly reminded voters of his record: To address the rising threat of gangs, he enlisted the assistance of the FBI and helped form a task force that is now a “national model”; when the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line extension was in doubt, he helped secure the needed funding; when it came to addressing the nation’s fiscal problems, he was among 38 members of the House who supported a bipartisan alternative budget based on the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission.

Without political experience to draw from, Cabral repeatedly returned to the idea of “fresh leadership” and bipartisan cooperation, noting that Wolf often votes in lockstep with his party — an observation that drew murmurs of approval from the majority of Wolf supporters in the crowd. She also questioned Wolf’s ability to bring tax dollars back to the 10th District.

“Where is the same solid federal funding for rail to Dulles, like other major transportation projects have received?” she asked. “Why are federal taxes not coming into the district to work for us?”

She noted Wolf’s dedication to international human rights, but suggested that the congressman should focus more on the needs of Americans and his community.

“I believe that charity begins at home,” she said.

Caitlin Gibson covers Loudoun County for The Washington Post.
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