3 Candidates, Including Republican, Offer Wolf Rare Opposition

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More than a year before the 2008 election, the race to unseat U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) is already getting crowded. Three challengers, including a Republican, have emerged in recent weeks to take on the veteran congressman, who has never had a primary opponent in 26 years in office.

A Democrat and a Republican from Loudoun County have announced that they plan to challenge Wolf, of Vienna. They join Democrat Judy Feder, dean of Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute, who lost to Wolf in November but has filed to run again.

Wolf has earned wide support in the 10th District, which stretches from the dense suburbs of Fairfax and Manassas to the rural corners of Loudoun to Winchester. He is known for his support of transportation and anti-sprawl efforts domestically and human rights internationally.

Wolf's performance in last year's election and the region's growing number of Democrat-leaning voters have emboldened those who would replace him. Although he received 57 percent of the vote, the margin was slimmer than in previous years. Feder, then a political newcomer, raised a credible $1.5 million for her campaign.

Like Feder, the two Loudoun residents have no experience in public office.

Democrat Mike Turner, who works for a nonprofit fundraising organization, said he plans to file his candidacy papers this week. He will face Feder in a Democratic primary next summer.

Turner and Feder are trying to capitalize on President Bush's unpopularity in Virginia, largely driven by the war in Iraq. A recent poll of Virginia independents conducted by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University found that Bush is viewed as the worst of the past nine presidents.

Turner criticizes Wolf's support for Bush and the war.

"The war brought his lack of leadership into stark relief," said Turner, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel.

He said he decided to challenge Feder, for whose campaign he volunteered last year, because "she had her shot, she fell short and now it's my turn."

For the first time since 1980, Wolf will face an opponent from within his party. Vern McKinley, an Ashburn resident who works as a financial consultant for foreign institutions, filed his candidacy papers last month. He has attacked Wolf from the right, accusing him of supporting "continued expansions in the power of the federal government, some of which were led by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi," according to his Web site.

"This is an opportunity to show people there are alternatives, not just to stick with someone just because there isn't someone challenging him," said Lisa Bell, spokeswoman for McKinley's campaign.

McKinley was in Kosovo, Serbia, on business and was unavailable to comment yesterday, Bell said.

Yesterday, many Republican officials in Loudoun and Prince William counties expressed skepticism about McKinley's campaign, which they said was out of step with even the more conservative ranks of the area's GOP.

And although the Northern Virginia electorate has supported many Democrats in recent years, GOP leaders said they are confident that Wolf will retain his seat.

"My speculation, based on the turnover in seats [in Congress to the Democrats] in the last election cycle, is that the Democrats smell some blood in the water," said Virginia Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun). "But it won't be Congressman Wolf's."

May himself faces a Democratic challenge this fall for the first time since 1997, from Leesburg Town Council member Fernando "Marty" Martinez.

Wolf has little doubt about winning reelection next year, but "you have to take every race seriously," said Dan Scandling, Wolf's spokesman.

"That's the beauty of America: Anybody can run for any office," he added.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company