With accusations by the two Democrats and their supporters growing increasingly hostile, a Northern Virginia primary battle over a state Senate seat has become one of the most bitter election confrontations in the Washington suburbs this spring.
Del. Raymond E. Vickery's (D-Fairfax) decision to challenge incumbent Sen. Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun) has split Democrat from Democrat as the two progressive legislators go after votes among Loudoun County and western Fairfax County residents.
A sampling of the charges exchanged so far:
"Vickery throws bills at the General Assembly like a man might throw flypaper at files," fumed Waddell yesterday as he discussed his and Vickery's legislative records.
Waddell, 46, an airlines customer relations representative, said more of his legislation actually gets through the General Assembly and becomes law. Vickery, 37, an attorney, disputes this contention, arguing that he is the more effective lawmaker.
"Charlie says he has a great batting average as if being a legislator were a ballgame, but the legislation he has advanced has not been all that significant," claimed Vickery, a Vienna resident who was elected to the House in 1973.
Waddell, who lives in Sterling and was elected to the Senate in 1971, is particularly rankled by what he claims are Vickery's last-minute "smear tactics" and unethical campaign attacks. The distortions of his and his opponent's stands have become so great, Waddell said, that he filed a formal grievance with the Fairfax County Fair Campaign Practices Committee.
Vickery, however, is also smarting from what he says are unfair and erroneous campaign charges - and intimations - from his opponent.
"He's begun to attack me for being a lawyer, implying that lawyers go down to Richmond and look for loopholes in bills," Vicery said. "And he says family wealth is the major source of my campaign money."
Those remarks offend him personally, Vickery said, since he has made a "tremendous sacrifice" financially to serve in the assembly. Family contributions to this campaign total $150, he said.
Waddell, who said he expected to spend about $6,000 on the primary compared to about $11,000 Vickery said he expected to spend, denied making disparaging remarks about lawyers. But he did say, however, that the Senate needs "more balance" in a body where 28 of its 40 members are now attorneys.
As for the influence of Vickery's wealth in the campaign, Waddell said his challenger's family contributed substantial amounts to each of Vickery's past campaigns.
"He knows he's behind, and he's getting desperate," said Waddell. When the "smoke has cleared, it will show that this has been a foolish campaign," he said.
Indeed, many Democratic party regulars in the 33rd Senate District where the Waddell-Vickery race is being played out wondered aloud when Vickery announced plans to abandon a "safe" House seat to make his Senate bid.
As Waddell stresses, he and Vickery "vote together 95 percent of the time" on legislative matters, and enthusiastic supporters or both men were disturbed at the thought of losing either one of them in a largely conservative assembly.
But Vickery has insisted throughout the campaign that "there are some very real differences between us" that he would gladly point out to voters if only he could pin Waddell down on the issues.
The challenger points to his support for the merit selection of state judges and Medicaid abortions as areas where he and Waddell disagree. The incumbent says he voted against "using tax dollars for abortions as a matter of conscience" and opposed - along with other lay members of the Senate - a judicial selection process he feared would let the "big law firms" have too much influence.
Vickery says he opposes the death penalty, health and safety exemptions for church-operated day care centers, instant bingo and any statewide initiative or referendum process that might foster a Proposition 13-type bill and jeopardize funding for Northern Virginia schools and the Metro system, Vickery says.
Waddell, sarcastically calling Vickery's initiative and referendum stance "the three faces of Ray," said his opponent initially supported such measures. He scoffed at Vickery's suggestion of a funding threat, praising the initiative and referendum process as a way to effect legislative reforms and circumvent the influence of special interest groups.
Each candidate has accused his opponent of misrepresenting the other's legislative contributions on certain issues and of falsely implying they have the support of groups trying to remain neutral in the campaign.
Waddell is particularly incensed at a Vickery press release he said took more credit than was proper for fighting high utility costs and "implied that I was on the other side when I've sponsored so much legislation to protect consumers."
Neither does he like Vickery's continued reference to a Virginia newspaper poll taken last session that rated Waddell last among his Senate colleagues in effectiveness. Though Vickery says he is more effective, Waddell noted Vickery's newspaper poll rating was "just a fraction" above his.
Even Vickery's efforts to set up a formal debate against Waddell, the acknowledged front-runner, angers the incumbent.
"Being a Harvard lawyer and a Fullbright scholar, he's obviously better trained in public speaking and he might do better," said Waddell.