For Congress in Virginia

Monday, October 30, 2006

AFTER SIX terms in Congress representing Northern Virginia's 11th District, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III , a one-man political whirlwind, is a force to be reckoned with. Energetic, practical and astute, he is a deal-maker's deal-maker who has used his considerable clout as chairman of the House Government Reform Committee to good effect.

One example is his bill to give the District of Columbia's delegate in Congress full voting rights -- a proposal that would, at last, enfranchise the District's mostly Democratic residents while placating the GOP by adding a second new congressional seat for mostly Republican Utah. Another example is his important proposal to ensure Metro's future with $1.5 billion in federal funding over a decade -- a fat carrot conditioned on Maryland, Virginia and the District together dedicating an equal amount to the transit system. The bill, which still faces hurdles in the Senate, is a smart and creative bit of legislating.

Mr. Davis is a partisan Republican but also a moderate and a pragmatist who knows how to strike deals with Democrats. That alone makes him part of a small fraternity and an important one for a congressional district that is itself politically moderate -- and increasingly Democratic.

His Democratic opponent, Andrew Hurst, is a thoughtful, articulate lawyer. He has bruised Mr. Davis by spotlighting his partisanship and fundraising -- voting with the Bush administration the great majority of the time and sharing his own campaign cash with right-wing Republican candidates for Congress elsewhere. However, Mr. Hurst, whose own local civic involvement has been slight, concedes he is no match for the incumbent on local issues.

In Virginia's 8th District, we have been critical of Rep. James P. Moran Jr. , a Democrat whose past bouts of hot temper, atrocious judgment and ethical bumbling cast doubt on his fitness for office. Nor have we forgotten his pernicious remark that Jewish Americans bore special responsibility for leading the nation into war in Iraq.

However, neither major party has come up with a viable alternative to Mr. Moran, and after more than two decades in public office, including five years as mayor of Alexandria and 16 years in Congress, he appears unlikely to be dislodged. Mr. Moran has broken with his party in backing sensible free-trade measures and is pressing for infrastructure improvements to help absorb the 20,000 new military employees whose jobs are to be relocated to Fort Belvoir. He had a decent record in the past two years in Congress. He is well liked by many of his constituents, who have been willing to overlook his missteps because he remains conscientious about his duties in office and attentive to local concerns. There is something to admire in all that, and it is the basis for our endorsing him this year, with the above-stated reservations.

By contrast, his Republican opponent in this year's race, attorney Tom M. O'Donoghue, is a blank slate on issues of special concern to the 8th District. Mr. O'Donoghue, a major in the Army Reserve and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is intelligent and eager to serve. But having all but ignored local questions during the decade-plus he has lived in Northern Virginia, he is ill-equipped to represent the area in Congress. An independent candidate, James T. "Jim" Hurysz, is running a hard-line anti-growth campaign; he has little local support.

In Virginia's 10th District, we endorsed Rep. Frank R. Wolf , a Republican, in a previous editorial.

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