Challenger to Davis Hopes to Ride Tide

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By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 2, 2006

The race to represent Virginia's 11th Congressional District has looked a lot like other Capitol Hill campaigns this fall: A Democratic newcomer takes on a popular GOP incumbent, hoping a national mood unfavorable to Republicans will help carry the election.

This is how Democrat Andrew Hurst, 36, a lawyer from Springfield, started his campaign to unseat six-term Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R). And his message has been consistent: A "culture of corruption" in Washington needs to change.

"Congressman Davis has voted with President Bush 90 percent of the time," the political newcomer said.

Davis, 57, controls a prominent committee on Capitol Hill and has outraised his opponent 10 to 1. He's one of Northern Virginia's most recognizable politicians, routinely capturing about 60 percent of the vote. Yet, this year, the incumbent acknowledges he is taking nothing for granted.

"If you want a hard-core Democrat, he's your guy," Davis said of Hurst. "I'm an independent moderate who's respected on both sides of the aisle. No one's ever heard of Andy."

Independent Green Party candidate Ferdinando Greco, 43, also is on the Nov. 7 ballot. The 11th includes central Fairfax and western Prince William counties and Fairfax City. It's considered a swing district because residents split their votes.

In stump speeches and several debates, the candidates have clashed over the war in Iraq, immigration, health care, campaign contributions and a Metro rail tunnel under Tysons Corner. Davis voted to go to war; however, he now criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the conflict but says withdrawing too soon would be irresponsible. Hurst opposes the occupation and says it is time for the United States to leave.

While Davis says illegal immigration can be stopped by a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, Hurst calls that solution ineffective and says the real problem is U.S. businesses that won't crack down on a labor force they need.

Davis acknowledges that the new Medicare prescription drug plan is not perfect, but he supports it; Hurst says the government could have secured a better deal for seniors by negotiating directly with drug companies.

Hurst accuses Davis of filling his campaign treasury with money from special interests; Davis says his opponent's support from trial lawyers represents a special interest. On the Tysons Corner tunnel, a plan rejected by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) last month in favor of a less expensive above-ground rail line, Hurst accuses Davis of disappointing constituents who would have benefited from an underground line. Davis said the decision was Kaine's, although he expressed skepticism that the federal government would help fund a Metrorail extension if a tunnel option created delays and greater expense.

Hurst, a partner in the law firm Reed Smith LLP, cut his teeth in politics as a Democratic activist. He won the party primary in June. Davis was Board of Supervisors chairman in Fairfax and Mason District supervisor before his election to Congress. A former chief House fundraiser, Davis now heads the Committee on Government Reform. He stresses his delivery for constituents in the 11th, citing federal money to widen Route 123 as an example.

Davis had $1.5 million on hand and spent $1.8 million through Sept. 30, according to campaign finance reports released last week.

Hurst had $74,300 on hand and spent $219,282, the reports show.

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