Republican Stands Alone in Congressional Race
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Nov. 4 will be a lonely day for Rep. Frank R. Wolf. With the retirements of Rep. Tom Davis and Sen. John W. Warner, Wolf, who is vying for his 15th term this fall, will be the only Republican incumbent on the ticket in Northern Virginia.
The circumstances say as much about Democratic gains in the area as they do about Wolf, Virginia's longest-serving member of the House. A respected figure whose face is well known in the 10th District, he is relying on the good will he has built over a 28-year career to lead him to victory, despite the dark cloud hovering over the GOP this year. Northern Virginia has supported Democrats in some recent elections, and Democrats are optimistic that they will take the seats left open by Warner and Davis.
But he faces a potentially bruising fight against an energetic and well-funded Democratic challenger, Judy M. Feder, whom he defeated in 2006 but who is aiming to capitalize on the anti-GOP mood.
Feder, former head of Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute, is wagering that the region's Democratic shift has taken a firm hold in the 10th District, which spans a diverse area from McLean to Manassas to Winchester and includes tens of thousands of new voters for whom Frank Wolf might not be a household name.
She hopes to benefit from a ticket that includes presidential hopeful Barack Obama (D) and former governor Mark Warner (D), who is running for John Warner's seat. She has adopted Obama's mantra of change, calling Wolf an entrenched politician who has walked in lockstep with President Bush and has failed to evolve with his district.
"Twenty-eight years is a long time to be in Congress," Feder said. "I think that he is a nice guy. Much of the district is appreciative of his service. But . . . people don't see him acting on the issues that they care about," such as health care, the foreclosure crisis and transportation, she said.
Feder faces an uphill battle: She is up against a popular incumbent who has persevered even while his district supported Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in 2005 and Sen. James Webb in 2006, both Democrats.
Wolf is known as much for his focus on local causes as he is on international human rights. In recent years, he has lobbied against toll increases on the Dulles Greenway and vocally opposed a 65-mile transmission line planned by Dominion Virginia Power. He has been instrumental in attracting federal funding to the Metrorail extension to Tysons Corner, Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.
At the same time, he has spoken out against human rights abuses in China and Sudan. He urged Bush to boycott the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics because of human rights concerns. Wolf also sponsored the legislation that created the Iraq Study Group.
He said he is known on Capitol Hill for his ability to reach out to Democrats.
"I try to bring people together to solve problems," he said. "I have never divided the community. You've never seen me do that."
His greatest asset, however, may be his roots in the district. During a visit this summer to a health clinic for poor families in Loudoun County, Wolf had a familiar experience.