Rep. Wolf May Face Toughest Campaign

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 2, 2006

Democrat Judy Feder has mounted one of the most competitive campaigns that Republican Rep. Frank R. Wolf of Virginia's 10th Congressional District has faced since he was first elected 26 years ago.

Feder, 59, is a well-respected public policy expert who has raised more than $1 million, outpacing Wolf in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, according to finance reports. She has pounded Wolf for his close ties to President Bush and his support of the war in Iraq. And in a district with several pockets becoming more Democratic in recent elections, national political observers have given her a better chance of winning than they gave most of Wolf's previous challengers.

And yet Wolf, 67, is enormously popular in the 10th District, which sprawls from McLean to the Shenandoah Valley. He has spent the past quarter-century building a record that includes securing Metro funding, fighting gang violence and calling attention to human rights violations around the world.

"It's a tough race against him," said Robert D. Holsworth, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "He hasn't made a set of mistakes that leave his district angry at him."

But Holsworth noted that Wolf was on the "wrong side" of today's "most salient" issue: the war in Iraq. And Feder will benefit Tuesday if opposition to the war continues to mount.

She also will benefit from the efforts of Democrat James Webb, who is trying to unseat U.S. Sen. George Allen (R) and whose campaign will concentrate much of its get-out-the-vote efforts in Northern Virginia. She will benefit if a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage draws voters to the polls in Northern Virginia, where a recent poll shows a majority oppose the idea. And she will benefit if voters decide they care more about changing leadership in Congress than about rewarding Wolf's record and retaining his experience.

Wolf is campaigning on his record. He has used his authority as chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee to encourage telecommuting for employees of the departments of Justice, Commerce and State. He demanded an investigation into possible price gouging by oil companies after Hurricane Katrina, and he has voted to increase federal investment in alternative energy sources.

Wolf, who lives in Vienna, is a friend of such anti-sprawl groups as the Piedmont Environmental Council. Like Feder, he opposes a $1.3 billion proposal by Allegheny Power and Dominion Virginia Power, which may need federal approval, to erect a power line through pristine countryside in six 10th District counties, including Loudoun and Prince William.

He says that he is not always partisan on Capitol Hill and is not in lock step with Bush. He pushed for the formation of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission reviewing the administration's policies in Iraq, for example.

One of Wolf's passions has been calling attention to human rights abuses worldwide. He has traveled abroad dozens of times, to such strife-torn places as Afghanistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Tibet.

Aside from Feder, two other candidates are challenging Wolf: independent Neeraj Nigam of Sterling and Libertarian Wilbur Wood of Clarke County. Nigam is campaigning to reduce taxes while protecting education and improving traffic. Wood said he would fight for greater accountability in government and less government involvement in people's lives.

Feder is spending most of her time criticizing Bush and Republican leaders in Congress. In cable TV ads, public appearances and a series of mail pieces, she repeatedly states how often Wolf has voted with Bush -- for the war, for tax breaks, for oil companies and for a Medicare drug program that some seniors have found confusing and expensive.

Among the changes Feder would push for are a phased withdrawal from Iraq and the removal of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, more government investment in alternative energy sources and new spending patterns for federal transportation dollars to discourage sprawl and reward smarter growth.

Feder is on leave from her job as dean of Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. She was a leading architect of President Bill Clinton's attempt to enact universal health coverage.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company