Rivals Share Many Issues But Take Different Directions

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 1, 2007

Traffic congestion, illegal immigration and growth are among the top issues for both candidates in the race for Prince William County's 29th Senate District this year.

The incumbent, Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D), said that he has offered strong solutions to each of the problems during his career in office and that his seniority in the General Assembly makes him the more effective candidate.

His opponent, Robert S. FitzSimmonds (R), has sought to portray Colgan as being out of touch with the district, particularly on illegal immigration.

The 29th District includes western portions of Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

Colgan, 81, said he's running out of "a sense of duty" and is concerned that the transportation package passed this year does not address the state's needs. He said he supports a sales tax on gas but admitted it would be hard to get such a measure through the General Assembly. He touted his recent efforts to bring money to projects throughout the district, such as increased funding for Virginia Railway Express.

On illegal immigration, Colgan, who is running for his ninth term, supports a plan being considered by the state that would fund a facility to hold illegal immigrants while they await action by federal authorities. He said that there needs to be better enforcement of current federal laws and that the state needs to crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

FitzSimmonds, 55, said he would punish employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, deny in-state tuition benefits at public universities to students who are here illegally and require information on legal status for all public school students.

The two candidates said the abusive-driver fees passed this year should be repealed in January. The fees, part of the transportation plan, are designed to raise millions each year by imposing surcharges on fines for Virginia drivers convicted of serious traffic offenses. But they have sparked an outcry.

"I would vote to repeal them and reimburse the folks their money," said Colgan, who voted against the fee legislation when it came up in previous sessions but voted for the amendments to the 2007 transportation bill that made the fees law. "It was a bad idea from the start."

FitzSimmonds, who owns a medical transcription business with his wife, Debbie, said he is opposed to new taxes and would look for savings in state government to fund transportation projects, although he did not name specific programs that he would target. He also said the current transportation plan is insufficient.

"This year's plan is not a transportation solution," said FitzSimmonds, who ran unsuccessfully against Colgan in 1999. "It does not even begin to meet the need."

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