Candidates See Time to Pounce
Thursday, June 8, 2006
For the first time since Republican Rep. Thomas M. Davis III began representing Virginia's 11th District, two Democrats are competing for their party's nomination to challenge him.
Ken Longmyer and Andrew Hurst will face off in Tuesday's primary hoping that President Bush's sinking popularity will open a door for a Democrat to unseat one of Northern Virginia's best-known politicians. The winner will face the six-term congressman in the general election Nov. 7.
Longmyer, 68, is a retired Foreign Service officer from the Falls Church area who challenged Davis in 2004. He says he has spent the two years since that loss getting to know the district's voters and the issues they care about, giving him name recognition and connections to party leaders that make him the candidate to beat next week.
Hurst, 36, a lawyer from Springfield making his first run for office, says his fundraising edge -- he's raised about twice the money Longmyer has -- his energy and his ideas make him a better opponent to Davis.
Both men are campaigning against the Bush administration as much as they are the congressman, saying he is closely tied to an unpopular war in Iraq and ever-growing ethics scandals in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Although Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) won the 11th District by 13 points in November, Davis routinely captures 60 percent of the vote, and the Democrats acknowledge that he will not be easy to beat. Davis also will face Green Party candidate Ferdinando C. Greco, 45, a businessman and math tutor, in November.
Hurst and Longmyer agree on many issues. They oppose the war and have been critical of the federal budget deficit. They say Davis has not brought enough transportation funding to the district, a large swath of central Fairfax and Prince William counties. And they say Davis, despite attempts to cast himself as a moderate, votes with the Bush administration most of the time.
Hurst's message is focused on ethics. As chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, Davis "hasn't done a thing to address the issue I'm most passionate about: campaign ethics reform," Hurst said. He added that he had not taken money from political action committees.
Longmyer, a former teacher who held positions in the State Department and other federal agencies, has made his persistence and long experience in government the hallmark of his campaign.
"I stepped out in '04 when no Democrat was willing to do it, because they figured Tom was invincible," Longmyer said. "I've shown a willingness to stick my neck out."
The candidates have expressed themselves on issues concerning illegal immigration. Hurst, at a picnic for Democrats on Sunday in southern Fairfax County, said Republicans are "making a crisis where there are problems but not a crisis" and asked supporters not to "bash immigrants." Longmyer called illegal immigration "no joking matter" but said the immigrants must have the same access to health care and education as those born in this country.
Each candidate needs to convince Democrats that he has the best chance to beat Davis, who said he had broken with the GOP majority on several issues and held four hearings on the companies getting contracts to rebuild Iraq. "I'm running on my record," said the congressman, who lives in Vienna.
Hurst, a partner in the law firm Reed Smith LLP, called Longmyer a "very nice man" and said that "we've had a very constructive race."
"He just hasn't been able to garner the resources and energy to give Tom Davis a good race," Hurst said.
Hurst had $122,305 in campaign money through May 24, $22,500 of it his own money, campaign finance records show. Longmyer had $76,370, putting in $11,200 of his money. Davis, meanwhile, has $1.8 million in the bank.
Longmyer said Hurst's fundraising edge is less important than a lack of experience. "I just don't think he's ready yet. One minute he chides members of Congress for lusting after money, and the next moment he's talking about how much money he's raised."