There's not much gray area in the race for the District 31 seat to the Virginia House of Delegates, where a Democratic newcomer, Meredith L. Gorfein, is challenging the conservative voting record of three-term Del. Jay K. Katzen (R-Markham).
The district includes all of Rappahannock County, parts of Warren County and most of Fauquier County. In the early days of the campaign, shortly after Gorfein threw her hat in the ring, Katzen said he had no views on her opinions, because he didn't know what they were.
He has opinions now.
In four candidate forums and in interviews with the local media, Katzen has highlighted their differences on "the Constitution, taxes and same-sex marriages."
Katzen, 63, said Gorfein's stand in favor of gun control meant she would "rewrite" the Second Amendment; her push for increased school funding would require many new taxes; and her support of same-sex marriages are out of line with a traditionally conservative district.
Gorfein, 55, has assailed Katzen's voting record against gun control measures and in favor of providing tax credits to the parents of private school students. She said he failed to stop legislation aimed specifically at stripping Fauquier and Rappahannock counties of a procedure to limit certain types of residential growth.
"The choices are clear," Gorfein said at a recent campaign event in Warrenton.
Katzen couldn't agree more. "We differ on quite a few things," he said.
Katzen, a retired State Department official, won the last three races by large margins and enjoys an enormous fund-raising advantage. As of Monday, Katzen reported raising $122,358, with about $39,873 on hand; Gorfein had raised $15,584 and had $4,347 on hand.
Gorfein, a vineyard owner from Washington, Va., who works part time at Oasis Winery, has been trying to bridge this gap with weekly news conferences in which she has outlined her positions.
During one such news conference, she was critical of a vote by Katzen in the last session against a provision banning from school parking lots rifles belonging to properly licensed students who were going hunting after class. "I don't support guns at school at any time," she said.
The law was enacted, but Katzen has vowed to fight any new gun control legislation, saying that there are enough rules and regulations. "We need to enforce the laws already on the books," he said. "We don't need any more laws."
Gorfein, who taught English and drama in public schools, has also criticized Katzen's record on education. She pointed to the fact that he received the lowest rating of any state legislator on a "report card" put out by the political wing of the Virginia Education Association.
That low grade came in part because Katzen has supported giving tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools. Katzen said such credits would ease the workload of public schools and create a net growth in the per-student spending for public schools.
Gorfein said that if private schools were to benefit from public subsidies, they should have to undergo the same types of standardized testing required of public schools before parents could receive the tax credits. "Mr. Katzen does not support public education," she said. "He supports private education."
Gorfein also criticized Katzen's legislative record on giving local jurisdictions authority over development.
Katzen voted to allow the Virginia Department of Transportation to permit the construction of cellular phone towers on rights of way owned by the state. Local environmental groups have opposed this option vehemently. Katzen said he now supports such permitting only with the approval of the Board of Supervisors.
He said his current position is consistent with his earlier vote, because that earlier vote "just codified what already was being done."
Katzen, responding to criticism from Gorfein, said he did all he could to stop House Bill 2324. That legislation, signed by the governor earlier this year, stripped Fauquier and Rappahannock of their special exception permitting process, under which certain residential developments required approval from the supervisors when they otherwise would have been permitted to build by right.
Katzen noted that support for the bill was bipartisan and that the legislation had a Democratic sponsor in the House of Delegates.
"It was her party that supported it," Katzen said.
No matter, Gorfein said. "It happened on his watch."
Katzen, who has strong support among conservative Christians in the state, said he would decide soon after the election on whether to make another run for lieutenant governor, this time for the 2001 race. He cut short a bid in 1997.
The three other incumbents who represent Fauquier in the General Assembly are running unopposed. They are Del. Joe T. May (R-Leesburg), 62, an owner of a Sterling-based electronics company; Sen. Kevin G. Miller (R-Harrisonburg), 69, a retired James Madison University business professor; and Sen. H.R. "Russ" Potts Jr. (R-Winchester), 60, a sports promoter.
CAPTION: Democrat Meredith L. Gorfein has assailed the conservative voting record of Republican Del. Jay K. Katzen. "The choices are clear," Gorfein said. "We differ on quite a few things," Katzen agreed.