While budget and economic matters dominate their legislative agendas, five Northern Virginia candidates for three House of Delegates seats have a shopping list of issues ranging from education to taxes they hope to pursue if elected.
The three races are for new single-member districts created by the General Assembly last winter. Under the new reapportionment plan, all delegates will be elected for only one year instead of the traditional two.
In one district, the 41st, incumbent Republican James H. Dillard II is virtually assured of election. Dillard, a nine-year legislative veteran, has no opposition this year. Although Virginia allows write-ins, rarely has a write-in candidate won. Dillard's new district covers south-central Fairfax County.
In two other districts, the 34th and the 40th, both Republican incumbents are being challenged by Democrats.
In the 34th, Democrat Joseph W. McDonald is challenging incumbent Vincent F. Callahan. Callahan has been a delegate for 15 years and is House minority leader. The district covers Falls Church, McLean and parts of north-central Fairfax County.
The 40th District race pits Democrat C.J. (Brad) Bradshaw against Republican incumbent Robert E. Harris, who has been in the House nine years. The 40th District covers southwestern Fairfax, two Prince William precincts, Evergreen and Greenville Farms.
All five candidates, despite some differences in approach, agree the assembly's top priority when it convenes next winter will be the state budget.
"With the cutback in federal funds to the state, the session's emphasis is going to be the budget and how we allocate funds," said Bradshaw, a Catharpin resident who is the only Prince William County candidate. "We've got to set our priorities and make cuts where it won't really hurt people. And that will be linked to how the legislature helps Gov. Robb with economic revitalization in Virginia."
His opponent, Harris, agrees money will be at the forefront of issues.
"Virginia has a soft economy and rising unemployment, which have reduced the revenue flowing into the state," Harris said. "So as a tandem issue we must address policies relating to job opportunities in the state to make sure our current policies are not inhibiting job growth in selected industries and that we stay competitive in attracting new businesses and that our ports are competitive with others along the eastern seaboard."
Each of the five candidates also has legislative goals, many related to the budget, that he hopes to achieve in the next term.
Republican Dillard, 48, a teacher in Fairfax County, would like to stiffen drug paraphernalia laws and establish a small-claims court system.
"Virginia is one of 12 states that doesn't have them," said Dillard, who lives in Annandale. "I think they're extremely necessary and the courts ought to be more responsive to the needs of individual citizens who have to go through lengthy, costly and technical procedures now . . . . There ought to be a more reasonable method to get small claims settled."
Candidates in the contested races say a number of issues are on their lists of priorities if elected to the House of Delegates. 34th District
Education and the state correctional system are high on Republican Callahan's list of priorities. "We need more money and higher faculty salaries for George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College," Callahan said.
"Salaries are very important, particularly at the community colleges where the average salary is not as high as the public schools. It's very difficult to get a math teacher in places like that because we can't pay them competitively."
Callahan, 50, who lives in McLean and owns a publications firm, said the state prison system is overcrowded and expected to get worse by the end of the decade. "We have no place to put prisoners and they're backed up in local jails . . . . We're going to need a drastic revision of who's put in jails and for which reasons . . . . We need more buildings . . . but the priority for construction of these places is not very high with the public."
His opponent, 29-year-old Democrat McDonald, is disturbed that Northern Virginians are not getting their fair share of state funds and services. McDonald, a political researcher who lives in Falls Church, said he also is concerned about cuts in social service programs and would like to transform the State Corporation Commission, which governs utilities, from three appointed members to five elected members.
On the social service programs, McDonald said he would like to repeal the sales tax on food and medicine and shift the burden to luxury items, such as liquor. Federal cuts, he added, "threaten the people who are least able to defend themselves: the elderly on fixed incomes and the working poor."
More money should be spent on preventive care for the elderly to head off later, more expensive hospital costs paid through Medicare, he said. And while there is "lots of waste" in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, he added, cuts there must be made prudently "so the innocent don't suffer." 40th District
Republican Harris, 48, who handles energy and environmental programs for Rockwell International, said he hopes to introduce at least two bills aimed at achieving "tax fairness" for Northern Virginians. One calls for a new formula for distributing state highway funds to localities. He said that money is crucial to aiding commuters in his rapidly growing district.
Harris, of Annandale, also hopes to reintroduce indexing state income tax. Northern Virginians, who form 25 percent of the state's population, pay a far greater proportion of the state's income taxes -- almost 38 percent. Harris contends that disparity is caused by "bracket creep," which in turn is caused by inflation.
His opponent, Bradshaw, a 48-year-old retired Air Force officer, also is interested in "tax fairness" and said he wants to increase the state's contribution to maintaining, upgrading and expanding his district's road system.
Bradshaw said higher education issues also must be addressed, including increased funding for state and community colleges. Bradshaw said he believes the state also needs to contribute more funds to help speed integration at colleges that could lose federal funds because of racial imbalances.
Bradshaw also said he would like to have tougher bail criteria for repeat offenders, who though small in number commit the bulk of crimes, and wants to introduce legislation to allow citizens to petition for binding initiatives on the ballot.