10th Congressional District

In Uncertain Final Days, Feder and Wolf Battle for Swing Vote

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 4, 2006

The signs showed up yesterday morning along Route 7 in Loudoun County. On a white backdrop, Republican Frank R. Wolf appeared to be eating dollar signs. Beneath him were the sneering words "Frank Wolf. Just another corrupt Republican."

Wolf's campaign manager said he was appalled at what appeared to be a "new low" for Democrats. The handlers of Democrat Judy Feder, who is giving Wolf the toughest challenge of his 26 years in Congress, didn't like the sign either. Neither side can afford to alienate swing voters who have supported Wolf in the past, so as if to underscore the growing uncertainty of the outcome in Virginia's 10th Congressional District, both sides quickly dispatched supporters to remove the signs.

Feder, the dean of Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute, has raised more than $1 million and gained attention for closing the gap with Wolf by trying to link him with President Bush, the war in Iraq and congressional ethics questions.

Wolf is fighting back. He is criticizing Feder over her role as a leading architect of President Bill Clinton's universal health care plan, and he accuses her of having no transportation policy in a district in which traffic dominates voters' lives.

The candidates are airing an equal number of searing ads on broadcast television and radio, dropping harsh direct-mail pieces and calling thousands of homes seeking support across the sprawling 10th District, which meanders from McLean to the Shenandoah Valley.

An independent poll last month put Wolf -- a popular incumbent who has built a record by securing highway funding, courting preservationists and becoming an international leader of human-rights advocacy -- ahead by 5 percentage points.

But some political analysts say the momentum of U.S. Senate candidate James Webb, the Democratic challenger to Republican George Allen, could mean that more Democratic voters come to the polls, particularly in Northern Virginia.

Local election officials in Fairfax and Loudoun -- increasingly Democratic-leaning communities that are home to about two-thirds of the 10th District's likely voters -- said they are expecting near-record turnout this year.

"This is a tough year," agreed Wolf's campaign manager, Dan Scandling.

Scandling said Wolf is running his campaign no differently than in past years, and he noted that Wolf's challenger in 2004, James R. Socas, also spent nearly $1 million and aired tough ads on TV.

"We're in the mail. We're on the radio. We're on the TV," Scandling said. "We're doing phones. We're doing everything a campaign does in the closing days. We take every race seriously."

Each side is objecting strenuously to accusations lobbed by its opponent -- and objecting to the opponent's objections as well. Feder spokeswoman Marisa McNee scoffed at the idea that the Democrat has no roads plan and pointed to language on the campaign's Web site outlining how Feder wants to use federal highway dollars to encourage smarter, transit-oriented growth.

Scandling responded: "Where's her plan for I-66? Where's her plan for Interstate 81?"

Similarly, Scandling protested Feder's accusation in her TV ad that Wolf has stood silent during such congressional improprieties as the Abramoff lobbying scandal and the more recent House page scandal. In 2004, Scandling noted, Wolf led efforts that prompted FBI and Justice Department investigations into lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with Congress.

In response, McNee said Wolf, in a party-line vote on House rules, voted to weaken ethics rules in 2005.

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