Mark Jarvis is running to unseat a Republican delegate who supported tax increases, but he says he has a broader vision for Virginia politics, and it starts with encouraging "moral leadership" in the General Assembly.
Politicians "are not making principled decisions on the issues anymore," he told a potential voter during a recent afternoon walk through a neighborhood here. "We want our [community] to be a light to the entire world. God will honor a moral message to the entire district."
Jarvis said he thinks his opponent in the June 14 GOP primary, freshman Del. Edward T. Scott (Madison), is one of the Richmond politicians who has strayed from strict Christian principles when making decisions on certain legislation.
"I think he is way out of line with our values here in the 30th District," said Jarvis, 55, a minister and former pastor at the Open Door Baptist Church. He cited as an example Scott's vote against a measure that would have required minors to receive parental permission before they could obtain certain contraceptives. Jarvis describes himself as the "only candidate that is pro-life" in the race.
"We need to stand on principle in everything we do," he said.
Scott and 16 other GOP delegates broke with their party leadership during last year's legislative session and supported an increase in taxes to fund education and other services. Activists who oppose tax increases said they would challenge them because of that vote.
And they have. But the issues in some of this year's Republican primary campaigns go beyond adherence to fiscal values. Scott and some other GOP mavericks also stand accused of abandoning the Republicans' social values.
Social issues are highlighted in the 30th District campaign. The district includes Culpeper, Madison and Orange counties, just beyond the outer fringe of the Washington suburbs. It's a region where farms extend for miles and the Blue Ridge Mountains are just a glance away.
Scott is 39, a native of Culpeper and manager at a farm supply co-op. He said his record does indeed reflect the conservative values of his community.
The delegate disputed Jarvis's claim to be the only "pro-life" candidate. "We want to make sure that abortion is rare in Virginia and across the country," he said. "We should be encouraging adoption and other alternatives to abortion."
He said he supported bills that would require fetuses to be anesthetized during an abortion performed in the first trimester. He also has supported legislation that would mandate tougher standards on abortion clinics, requiring them to match the standards for ambulatory surgery centers.
He added that in the 2005 session, he co-sponsored a bill to allow local governments to begin their meetings with prayer.
"If you look at my voting record in total, you'll find a very principled voting record," Scott said.
"At the same time," he said, "we have to be pragmatic in looking at legislation." Scott voted against requiring parental notification on contraceptives because, he said, he was concerned about the legal ramifications and about federal regulation of certain contraceptives. "We have to consider the consequences and unintended consequences" of legislation, he said.
Challengers to the maverick Republicans have said that the issues of taxes and social legislation belong together as part of a conservative "pro-family" platform. Low taxes are a "family value" they say, as is a hard line on abortion and access to certain contraceptives for minors.
Students of Virginia politics said that the challengers' platforms illustrate a shift in the state's political coalitions, particularly in contested GOP primaries.
"An evolution of the whole process of coalition-building on the right is taking place," said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of political science at George Mason University. "Years ago, we used to talk about the divide between the social and the economic conservatives. Now the coalitions have changed."
Jarvis's supporters said that his message will catch on, particularly in a Republican primary in which many of the voters will be party loyalists.
"People here are looking for people who will fight for those traditional values that our country was based on," said the Rev. Dwane Pugh, pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Orange.
Others said that district voters will separate the social and fiscal issues and that they will see Scott's vote for the tax plan as a vote to bring more money for schools to his constituents.
"The district is Republican; the district is conservative," said John J. "Butch" Davies III, who represented the district in the 1990s as a Democrat and now serves on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
"But people here realize it's not just one issue. It's education, it's transportation. I don't think our district has become a district where religious values are the sole issue of debate."
Jarvis had raised $27,457 by March 31, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. The largest donation, $17,667, came from the Virginia Conservative Action PAC, which is supporting challenges to the delegates who supported the tax increases.
Scott had raised $62,191. His largest contributor, at $10,000, was Leadership for Virginia, a political action committee whose primary mission is to aid those delegates.