Friday, October 23, 2009
AS RECENTLY as a decade ago, the Republican Party's grip on Virginia's House of Delegates looked secure. But as the state has turned purple and as Republican hard-liners have repeatedly blocked efforts by Democrats and their own party's dwindling corps of moderates to address the state's critical transportation problems, voters have turned increasingly against the GOP. Having lost control of the state Senate, the Republicans' fiat in the House is now shaky, too.
Nonetheless, most (though not all) of the Republican candidates for the House in Northern Virginia, which has the state's worst traffic and most urgent need for new road funding, are publicly opposed to raising taxes to deal with it -- even while many acknowledge privately that taxes must be part of any realistic solution. With all 100 House seats on the ballot Nov. 3, most Republicans have fallen into lockstep with their party's gubernatorial nominee, Robert F. McDonnell, whose fanciful transportation plan would do little to deliver a 21st-century transportation network. In this respect, Republicans in the most economically dynamic region of the state have broken with a core segment of their base, businesses, many of which have called publicly for tax increases to get traffic moving again.
Beginning today, The Post's endorsements in Northern Virginia's contested House races appear in bold type; the rest will be published in subsequent editions.
To determine your legislative district, go to: http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/cms/Index.html. Then click on "Voter Registration Status" (under Quick Links), fill out the form, click on "Find" and then "My Ballot." (Yes, too, we wish it were easier.)
District 13: In what is possibly the state's fastest-growing and most-populous district, Del. Robert G. Marshall has distinguished himself by standing still; he remains the author of off-the-wall legislative antics that even members of his own Republican Party regard as clownish. In addition to making hay with wedge social issues (like trying to outlaw in vitro fertilization), he has also done his best to impede transportation funding proposals that would benefit his own district. An infinitely better choice is John Bell, a sober, sane Democrat who has extensive budgetary expertise from years spent as a finance officer for the Air Force. He would bring practical and managerial expertise to a job that Mr. Marshall has treated as a pulpit for his pet peeves.
District 32: Having served just four years in the House of Delegates, incumbent Del. David E. Poisson, a Democrat, remains a relative newcomer, but he is a knowledgeable problem-solver who cares deeply about public and higher education. A lawyer in private practice, he has also been instrumental in making road improvements in his district, for example by easing access to the Loudoun campus of Northern Virginia Community College. His Republican challenger, Thomas "Tag" Greason, is a glib businessman who believes you can slash taxes while simultaneously improving schools and roads. A neat trick, but not one that occurs in the real world.
District 34: The incumbent, Democrat Margaret G. Vanderhye, is one of the most impressive freshman delegates in Richmond -- smart, effective, and deeply knowledgeable about state and local concerns. The last attribute is a result of her 20 years of civic involvement. Unusually for a newcomer to the House, she has already won passage of several substantive bills, including one that would help marshal private funds for poor women struggling with breast or cervical cancer. Her challenger, Barbara Comstock, was a political appointee in the Bush administration. She is articulate and well briefed but unlike Ms. Vanderhye has had no significant involvement in state or local issues. She's also one of a minority of Republican candidates in Northern Virginia to sign a no-new-taxes pledge; that undercuts her own proposal to take a bipartisan approach to solving transportation problems.
District 35: Mark L. Keam, the Democratic candidate, is one of the most promising new faces in local politics and an American success story -- the son of Korean immigrants who arrived in this country nearly destitute. A lawyer and corporate executive, he is a thoughtful, serious community activist whose idealism is informed by solid experience on Capitol Hill and in the telecommunications industry. He'd make a more promising lawmaker than his opponent, James E. Hyland. Mr. Hyland is a lawyer-lobbyist with 20 years of experience on the Hill, and he briefly led the Fairfax County Republican Party. But he is also a hard-liner who opposed moderates in his own party when they acted to safeguard the state's finances and public schools by backing then-Gov. Mark R. Warner's tax package in 2004.
District 36: Kenneth R. Plum, the conscientious, tough-minded leader of the Democratic Caucus in the House, is a 30-year veteran lawmaker, widely respected in Richmond. His Republican opponent, Hugh "Mac" Cannon, is pleasant but unschooled in state and local issues.
District 37: In his first term, Democrat David L. Bulova was quick to convert his considerable knowledge of local issues into a solid legislative record. He has had the guts to back tax increases for urgently needed transportation projects, education improvements and protection of water resources. Neither of his two opponents offers a serious challenge: Independent Christopher F. DeCarlo (a busy man, since he's also a candidate for Fairfax County School Board) would hack every budget to the bone, and Independent Green Party nominee Anna M. Choi has been barely visible on the campaign trail. Mr. Bulova is by far the best choice.
District 38: Danny R. Smith, the Republican candidate, is a bright, independent-minded civic leader who cares about promoting affordable housing. A Realtor and corporate executive, he would bring a refreshingly bipartisan sensibility to Richmond. He's a better choice than his opponent, L. Kaye Kory, a sincere but lackluster Fairfax school board member who beat incumbent Robert Hull in a Democratic primary.