For First Time in Decades, Voters Face an Open Seat

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 7, 2007

When Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax) announced his retirement in March, it led to an event unseen in a generation in the 34th House District, which covers Great Falls and parts of Vienna, McLean and Herndon: a race for an open seat.

The primary contest between the two Democrats vying to replace the 40-year political veteran squares two longtime district residents with impressive civic records against each other: Margaret G. Vanderhye, who sits on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, and R.C. "Rip" Sullivan Jr., a lawyer who's been appointed to several boards and commissions. The winner will face Republican Dave Hunt in the general election.

The primary candidates, both running for the first time, list identical bread-and-butter issues as their top priorities: transportation, education and the environment. Both support more money for community colleges and increasing funding for public schoolteachers. The candidates agree that future transportation projects should be linked to growth more closely and that Virginia needs to embark on an aggressive plan to use renewable sources of energy to help deal with environmental issues.

Vanderhye has sought to talk up her years of appointments to local, state and national commissions. In the early 1990s, she was appointed by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder (D) to serve as a citizen liaison on transportation and environmental panels; she was also selected by President Bill Clinton to participate on the National Capital Planning Commission, which provides overall planning guidance for federal land and buildings in the Washington area.

She was appointed by former governor Mark R. Warner (D) and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which will have the power to disburse money for road and rail projects. Vanderhye said those experiences have given her a familiarity with crafting policy and working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

"I can hit the ground running in November," said Vanderhye, the mother of two who has lived in the McLean section of the 34th District for 22 years. "I've advocated for legislation, I've drafted legislation, and I've seen it through."

Vanderhye has picked up some key endorsements from chapters of the Sierra Club and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.

Sullivan, a commercial litigator from McLean, began his civic affairs career working for an organization that helped develop the U.S. Institute of Peace, a group that researches international relations. He said improving the state's health-care system, especially offering services to the uninsured, is an essential part of his platform.

Sullivan said he would support efforts to help small businesses band together to purchase health care for their employees. He said Virginia needs to consider plans in other states, such as Wisconsin and Massachusetts, to help develop proposals to address health care.

"We need to make sure that every kid in Virginia is insured," Sullivan said, adding he would favor developing programs to help insure all children.

Sullivan, who moved to Fairfax in 1974, has also served on the boards of several nonprofit groups that work with the region's poor, and he serves on the Fairfax Consumer Protection Commission.

The two candidates are competing in a district that has become solidly Democratic. The district supported both Kaine and Sen. James Webb (D) by wide margins.

Through March 31, Vanderhye, who says she does government relations consulting on the side, had raised $129,098; Sullivan had raised $107,163.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company