Outside on the windy fairgrounds, pilot Frank Gallegos was having a devil of a time getting a 75-foot-high red, white and blue hot-air balloon off the ground.
But inside the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, where the Arlington County Fair took place last weekend, fair political winds were blowing and Ted Lattanzio was having no trouble handing out 3,000 helium-filled yellow balloons emblazoned with "Ted Lattanzio for Delegate."
Lattanzio and the three other candidates for the Republican nomination for the Virginia House of Delegates say there's been no problem getting their campaigns off the ground. And the political atmosphere, they contend, is decidedly Republican.
Lattanzio, E.J. (Jay) Jarvis II, Georgia Delyannis and Michael H. Steinmetz have been campaigning fast and furiously to win the three GOP nominations for the 22nd District that will be decided in the Sept. 8 primary. The 22nd District covers all of Arlington.
With thousands of people attending over the weekend, the fair gave the four another chance to meet potential voters. While Steinmetz walked around shaking hands, the three other candidates took to the booths. Laden with campaign materials, Lattanzio handed out balloons; Delyannis gave out peaches -- "My slogan is 'Georgia's a peach of a gal' "; and Jarvis distributed Redskins schedules that included the primary and general election dates.
But the carnival atmosphere surrounding the fair too often extends to Richmond, the Republican hopefuls charge. They say the four Democratic incumbents are ineffective because their liberal posture alienates them from their conservative colleagues.
"We need somebody to negotiate with the rest of the state delegates, who are 3-to-1 Democrats but they are conservative Democrats," Delyannis said, echoing the sentiments of the other Republican candidates. "We need a constructive dialogue with the rest of the state. Maybe then they'll turn around and listen to us."
Like her three Republican colleagues, Delyannis favors repeal of the state sales tax on food and prescriptions.
"We've been taxed to death and I feel strongly that we're not getting a fair share in return. The money just goes to Richmond and we don't get back what we send down there," added Delyannis, who has worked as an office administrator for a law firm. "I support the Metro system, but I don't think we should be taxed separately for it. They (the legislature) slapped us with a gas tax to fund the Metro system and I think that money should come out of the general fund instead."
While she advocates equal rights for women, Delyannis says the Equal Rights Amendment is in a "no-win situation" and she would have to "reevaluate how Arlington feels about it" if the ERA should come up for a House vote. The Voting Rights Act, which requires Justice Department approval for redistricting plans to assure nondiscrimination, should be applied nationwide instead of just to southern states, she said.
Delyannis called crime "the number one social issue today." Juries, she said, should be given information on a criminal's background before determining a sentence, and the state should have stiffer bail and parole requirements. She also favors mandatory prison sentences for persons convicted of using a gun in the commission of a crime.
Jarvis, who works for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., also called crime the main issue and advocated mandatory sentences for violent crimes and mandatory five-year sentences for criminals convicted of using a gun. He echoed Delyannis' call that juries be given background information on the criminal before setting a sentence.
"We need to build more prisons, even if it means a reduction of money going to other programs," Jarvis added. "Our prisons are terribly overcrowded now and we've got to get these criminals off the streets."
Jarvis said the gasoline tax is insufficient and a new source of revenue -- possibly an increase in the cigarette tax -- must be found to finance rapid transit and highway systems. And while he favors noise abatement controls on airplanes, Jarvis opposes reducing flights to National Airport because of the tourism revenues the county would lose.
Jarvis said he is "on the fence" about ERA until he learns more about Arlingtonians' opinions on the issue, but that he opposes extension of the Voting Rights Act because it discriminates against the South.
He favors elected instead of appointed school boards and would like to see a reduction in the number of administrators in state and local education departments.
Lattanzio, who works for the National Rifle Association, advocates stricter enforcement of mandatory jail sentences for violent criminals and anyone using a weapon in a crime. He also supports repeal of the early-parole law and expansion of the state prison system.
Noting that this summer's federal budget cuts will reduce state revenue, Lattanzio said he would work to ensure that Arlingtonians get "a dollar's worth of service for a dollar's worth of taxes." With much of the money coming to the state in federal block grants, he said, the funds should be spent in "areas the citizens are more interested in as opposed to the federal government's telling the state how to spend it."
Lattanzio promised to work to control state income tax increases caused by inflation by indexing the income tax so the taxpayer's tax bracket doesn't jump when he receives a cost-of-living salary increase. He also favors state energy tax credits similar to the federal government's and state exploration of alternate energy sources.
On transportation needs, Lattanzio said the state highway department should focus on maintaining existing highways rather than building new roads and should increase mass transit funding.
Lattanzio opposes ratification of the ERA and favors the extension of the Voting Rights Act. He also advocates legislation to allow localities to decide whether they want elected or appointed school boards.
Steinmetz, who works for the Public Service Research Council, an organization that opposes collective bargaining by public employes, says teacher salaries in the state are substandard and should be increased if qualified teachers are to be retained.
On crime, he called for tighter parole restrictions and criticized legislation passed last year that allows earlier paroles because of prison overcrowding.
The future of the Metro system, Steinmetz contends, has been jeopardized by increasing costs caused primarily by employe salary increases ordered in binding arbitration. State legislation permitting binding arbitration in salary disputes should be repealed, he said.
"I'm not anti-union," Steinmetz explained, "but against the extension of certain privileges which go above and beyond any needs."
Steinmetz opposes the ERA, saying existing legislation can accomplish what the amendment would, and he favors extension of the Voting Rights Act.