Arlington Republican Tom Dennison's campaign this fall to oust Virginia state Del. James F. Almand, a Democrat, from Virginia's 47th House District seat will be filled with uphill struggles. Chief among them, Dennison said, is that he will be fighting most of these battles alone, without any serious support from his own party.
Dennison and members of his party say that Republicans are ignoring him. "I don't pass the litmus test of being right-wing enough" for local Republicans, Dennison said. "I have a background which could appeal to people, but the right-wingers don't like me . . . . The venom still flows."
"I don't expect Tom Dennison to get much support from the party," said one GOP loyalist, requesting anonymity.
Other Republicans echoed that statement. Dennison said he has had to assemble his own campaign committee, as well as raise his own funds.
The problem surfaced last year when Dennison surprised party leaders by announcing his candidacy for the party nomination in the County Board race.
He was denied that nomination shortly after he called the local party "a cesspool of hate" run by "right-wing crazies" and "Neanderthals." "That was a polite statement," he said last week, just months after he surprised party leaders again by filing for the GOP nomination in the 47th District race.
Dennison said that the Arlington Republican Committee's precinct operations group has been mapping strategy for the Nov. 5 election without him.
The district covers 10 western Arlington County precincts and two in Fairfax County.
Only one of the Republican candidates to whom he has donated money over the years has sent him a check so far this year. The Fairfax County Republican Committee sent him a small check, but the Arlington committee does not give local candidates any funds.
That makes it harder to raise the $15,000 he says he'll need to campaign as a "Teddy Roosevelt Republican" against Almand, who is planning to raise $15,000 to $20,000 in his bid for a sixth term.
Recently, Dennison said, Fairfax County Supervisor Thomas M. Davis, a Republican, was glad-handing Almand at a reception and virtually ignoring him, the GOP standard-bearer.
"That will give you a picture of how I'm being blocked," Dennison, a 63-year-old retired federal employe and former union president, said last week. "It's just another little problem I have to contend with."
Recalling a recent Dennison political appearance, the GOP loyalist said, "I've never seen one candidate, in one paragraph, attack the legal community, the medical establishment, the state bureaucracy and the county bureaucracy. Frankly, I was embarrassed."
The occasion was supposed to have been a Dennison-Almand debate. But Almand ignored Dennison's broadsides, delivered in his booming voice, including the charge that the Democrat has worked only for "lawyers, liberals and special interest groups."
"I plan to run a positive, issue-oriented campaign and emphasize my record," said Almand, a soft-spoken lawyer and former prosecutor who will be 37 by Election Day. He dismisses Dennison's charges as "political rhetoric," but said he will not ignore an opponent.
Instead, Almand recites his record of lobbying for or introducing bills to secure more state funds for Metro, local roads, education and jail construction, and his record on other legislation to aid the victims of crime, the elderly, tenants and users of day-care programs.
"I've been the chief sponsor of almost 100 bills and resolutions which have been enacted by the General Assembly," said Almand, who would be the senior Northern Virginian on the courts and general laws committees, if reelected. He is also a member of the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission.
Almand has been endorsed by the political action committees of several unions, including the AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education, and by the local and state teachers' organizations.
But Dennison, who was a union president when he worked at the former Department of Health, Education and Welfare as a computer systems administrator, said Almand is "antiunion" and cites as an example Almand's vote to apply the state's right-to-work laws to the Metro transit system.
A member of the Sierra Club, Dennison said he is very interested in environmental issues, including cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and preventing uranium mining in Virginia, positions Almand also takes.
Both men support the transfer of the federally owned National and Dulles International airports to a regional authority.