In the race for Virginia's 29th Senate District seat, a social conservative who ran a Manassas antiabortion counseling center is trying to unseat longtime Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D), who faces only his second challenger in six terms in office.
Republican Robert S. FitzSimmonds III, 47, has focused his campaign on socially and fiscally conservative issues, from his support of tax credits for private schools and home-school programs to his complaints about state spending increases and pledges not to raise taxes or add new ones.
Colgan, 73, an icon in Manassas-area politics, is playing up his credentials as a veteran of the General Assembly in his bid for a seventh term, noting that his reelection would make him the Senate's third-most-senior member.
The 29th District, considered a conservative bastion, stretches from Lake Ridge and Dale City across the county's west end to the Fauquier County line.
The district has been a prominent target in the Republican bid to gain control of the General Assembly in Tuesday's election. Although FitzSimmonds was not the state party's favorite in June's primary race--he defeated G.E. "Buck" Waters, the former president of the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce--the joint state Republican caucus pumped $20,000 into his campaign this month, according to finance reports filed this week. He received an additional $10,000 from U.S. House of Representatives Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.)
"The biggest difference between the two of us is taxation," FitzSimmonds said of Colgan, noting Colgan's vote for a bill, killed in committee, to increase the state sales tax by 1.5 percent to cover the loss of the car tax. "I believe in a smaller, localized government."
FitzSimmonds lives in Manassas and is a consultant to the Manassas Crisis Pregnancy Center, an antiabortion counseling center where he served as executive director for seven years. His wife, Debbie, teaches his four children, ages 5 to 13, at home. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for state Senate in 1985 in Charlottesville.
Colgan, who lives in Nokesville and has the largest campaign war chest of the Prince William legislative races, highlights his record as a 24-year assembly veteran who has helped bring millions of dollars in transportation money to Northern Virginia.
He attacks FitzSimmonds's endorsement of tax credits for private and home schools as a threat to public schools.
"To do that would reflect negatively on public education," he said, pointing to a recent George Mason University study that put the cost of such credits at $850 million over five years.
Colgan said he has refused to make a no-new-taxes pledge because he cannot predict the state's spending needs and doesn't want to "have my hands tied."
FitzSimmonds said a Republican takeover of the Senate would sharply diminish Colgan's power in Richmond. But he also said Northern Virginia did not start to see increased transportation funding until James S. Gilmore III (R) was elected governor in 1997.
Colgan collected $166,604 in campaign donations as of Oct. 20 and had just less than $62,000 in the bank, campaign filings show. FitzSimmonds had received $100,301, $21,000 of the money a personal loan to himself. He reported having $29,000 in the bank.