GOP Takes Page From Democrats in N.Va. House Races
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Republican and Democratic legislative leaders are paying closer attention to several Democratic-held House of Delegates seats in Northern Virginia amid speculation that the Democratic wave of recent elections is waning.
Three legislative districts in particular have appeared on political radar screens: C. Charles Caputo's 67th District on the Fairfax-Loudoun line, David E. Poisson's 32nd District in eastern Loudoun County and Margaret G. Vanderhye's 32nd District in McLean and Great Falls.
President Obama's approval ratings have sagged. The economy has not recovered. Angst is growing about health-care reform and government spending. The antiwar, anti-President George W. Bush tailwind that helped push all three of these Democrats into office has subsided.
Caputo, who has served just two terms, entered office in 2006 after beating a conservative Republican, Chris Craddock, who had knocked off Republican incumbent Gary A. Reese in a primary. Notably, Caputo earned Reese's endorsement.
Poisson also has served just two terms, after coming to office in 2006 by beating another conservative Republican: Richard H. Black. Poisson became known as one of the hardest-working candidates of the year, knocking on thousands of doors and talking endlessly about transportation and growth as a way to provide contrast to Black's focus on social issues.
Vanderhye has served a single term, winning an open seat after the retirement of moderate Republican (and former House Appropriations chairman) Vincent F. Callahan Jr.
In other words, all three seats have been held recently by Republicans. All feature Democrats who won by presenting themselves as pragmatic moderates either in contrast to their opponents or, in the case of Vanderhye, in line with her predecessor. And all present opportunities for Republican challengers to recapture districts with lots of independent voters who don't always vote for the same party.
Here's the competition:
James M. LeMunyon, a 26-year resident of Northern Virginia, is challenging Caputo in the 67th. A technology entrepreneur and a former congressional chief of staff, LeMunyon is taking no prisoners. He sent out a mail piece last week slamming Caputo for missing one day of a special transportation session last year. Caputo said he was ready to return if it appeared there would be a close vote, but there wasn't.
Tag Greason, who is challenging Poisson in the 32nd, is a businessman, Army veteran, soccer coach and scout leader who lives in Ashburn. Greason ran unsuccessfully for school board in the past and has a rich history of civic involvement during his six years living in the 32nd. He even used to talk frequently to Poisson about being a legislator, but Poisson said those days are over.
Barbara J. Comstock, challenging Vanderhye in the 34th, is a veteran Washington operative. Now a partner in her own lobbying firm, Comstock is a former communications director at the Justice Department, the former chief counsel to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a former senior aide to U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.).
It's worth noting that all three of these districts are (completely or in part) within the 10th Congressional District, a Republican-leaning territory represented by Wolf and stretching from McLean through Fairfax and Loudoun and west to Winchester.
It's also worth noting that all three of the challengers are using the playbooks of Democrats who have won in Northern Virginia or statewide in recent elections. They are talking about pro-business policies, transportation and protecting education. They are staying away from social issues. And they are knocking on lots of doors.
And finally, it's worth noting that some say all of these Democrats are safe, others say none of them is and still others say the really interesting races are elsewhere.