By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 2, 2007
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg endorsed state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis for reelection yesterday, helping the Fairfax County Republican position herself to the left of her opponent on the issue of gun control in a district that has increasingly voted Democratic.
Bloomberg, who also appeared with Davis on CNN's "The Situation Room," said illegal sales of handguns in Virginia have put weapons in the hands of criminals in New York. He said tougher gun laws, including measures supported by Davis, are needed to slow violent crime in the nation's cities.
"I support candidates who don't let ideology get in the way of common-sense thinking," Bloomberg (I) said at a news conference at the Dulles Hyatt in Herndon. "I don't think that party label has anything to do with it. It's what is right for America, for the states, for Virginia."
Davis is locked in one of the most competitive races on the ballot for Tuesday, when all 140 seats in Virginia's House of Delegates and Senate will be decided. In the heart of Democratic-leaning Fairfax, she faces J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen, a former state delegate and Fairfax City Council member whose votes in the legislature against some gun restrictions have been a consistent target for Davis.
Davis says Petersen veered to the right on gun issues to prepare for his failed bid for lieutenant governor in 2005. Petersen has opposed measures to allow local jurisdictions to ban guns in libraries and other government buildings, and he supported a measure allowing gun owners to carry weapons in their vehicles while on school property.
"He turned his back on the district he was representing in order to attract voters downstate," Davis said.
Petersen had his own news conference yesterday, at which he received an endorsement from the International Union of Police Associations, which represents officers and sheriff's deputies. He criticized Davis for relying on an out-of-state politician for support. He also defended his gun votes by noting that a majority of lawmakers supported the measure exempting concealed-weapon permit holders from a ban on firearms on school property. Even then-Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) signed the bill into law, he said.
"There's no evidence that this law has led to any violence or put anybody at risk," Petersen said. In a reference to the slayings of 32 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech this year, he added: "In the wake of Virginia Tech, she's trying to get a rise out of people."
Davis is trying to position herself as a left-of-center moderate to appeal to those in the 34th Senate District, who have voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in recent statewide elections. She worked feverishly during the last legislative session to help push through a transportation package sending $400 million annually to Northern Virginia for road and transit improvements. She has embraced the agenda of Equality Virginia, a gay rights organization that seeks the inclusion of sexual orientation in state anti-discrimination laws.
Petersen has reached out to Equality Virginia, too. He also regularly points out that a vote for him could help Democrats take control of the Senate.
"Independence is very important," Davis said yesterday, with Bloomberg at her side. "I'm very proud of the fact that I have been able to move across party lines in order to get the job done."
The race has turned aggressive. Petersen has criticized Davis's vote for the transportation bill because it created seven local taxes and steep new fees for the most egregious driving offenses. He also held a news conference last week to accuse Davis of putting his family's safety at stake by publishing his home address, telephone number and family members' names on a mailing to district voters.
Both candidates are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive network airtime for sharply worded political advertising. Davis, the wife of U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), is also spending her husband's political money. Her most recent campaign finance reports show that the congressman gave nearly $200,000 in an in-kind donation by purchasing TV advertising time. According to the State Board of Elections, such an ad must disclose the name of the purchaser, but the ad in question states: "Paid for and authorized by Jeannemarie Devolites Davis."
The state senator said the disclosure was appropriate because her campaign paid to produce the ad and to make the initial purchase of airtime. Her husband's committee paid for an extension of air time, and she disclosed the contribution as required by law, she said.
Bloomberg acknowledged that endorsing a legislative candidate in another state is unusual, but he said the gun issue is of such importance to him that the trip was worthwhile.
This is not the first time Bloomberg has entered Virginia's political waters. A former Democrat and Republican, Bloomberg alienated Virginia gun-rights supporters -- and even Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) -- by sending investigators to track down gun dealers in the state who had illegally sold weapons to undocumented buyers or convicted criminals who then took the weapons to New York. The investigators found seven dealers who had done so, Bloomberg said.
Kaine and others criticized Bloomberg and said he should work with Virginia law enforcement agencies to enforce federal and state gun laws. But Bloomberg maintains that his first priority is protecting the safety of his 8.2 million constituents.
"It's the mayors that go to the funerals, that give the eulogies, that have to rush to the hospitals in the middle of the night," he said.