Three Fairfax County Republicans are competing in a primary campaign to challenge Democratic Del. Stephen C. Shannon in this fall's general election, hoping the first-term lawmaker is vulnerable in the swing 35th District.
Two of the GOP hopefuls, James E. Hyland and Arthur G. Purves, are familiar faces to voters in a district anchored by Oakton and Vienna: Both have lost other political races. Edward M. Robinson, by contrast, is a first-time candidate who has dramatically outpaced his rivals in fundraising, with $116,000 raised as of March 31.
All three take strong stands against raising taxes and criticize Shannon for voting last year for the tax increases that Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) helped push through the General Assembly.
Hyland, 44, is a lawyer from Oakton who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the 1990s and more recently lost a bid to become county supervisor from the Providence district. He says he would not have voted for the tax package. The deal pumped millions of dollars into school spending but contained no new money for transportation. This year, the General Assembly did approve some new spending on transportation services.
"I think raising taxes for the first time in 20 years and not voting a cent for transportation [in 2004] was a mistake," said Hyland, who supports a cap on property taxes. He said he would be a "leader in fighting more aggressively for the needs of Northern Virginia," including more money for schools, roads and public transit.
Hyland, a former GOP chairman from the Providence district, worked as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill for 18 years. "Having worked in a legislature, I'm better off. I don't need on-the-job training," he said.
Purves, 56, is president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance and is running for his fourth local or state office in six years. His beliefs are as passionate as when he first challenged former Board of Supervisors chairman Katherine K. Hanley (D) in 1999: He says government is driving up taxes with unnecessary spending on social programs, schools, health care and welfare.
"There is something more important than getting elected, and that is trying to mold public opinion," said Purves, a software development manager from Vienna. He has not signed a tax-cap pledge because he says it would be ineffective. "What we need to do is force candidates to say where they're going to cut spending before they're elected."
Robinson, also of Vienna, has had a career in fundraising and development for universities and worked for former secretary of state Colin L. Powell's America's Promise, a nonprofit group working to improve the lives of children.
Robinson called the atmosphere among Richmond politicians "poisonous and mean-spirited." He said one of his biggest concerns is the influence of special interests in state politics but declined to be specific. "I've received 50 surveys, from the [National Rifle Association] down to the hunting dog association, about where I stand on issues," he said.
Robinson said he believes he can be more effective than Shannon at representing Northern Virginia's interests in Richmond but declined to be specific. He said he has knocked on 6,000 doors in the district and heard voters' concerns about high property taxes and gridlock. He said he supports a cap on property taxes.
Most of Robinson's campaign donations through the March 31 filing deadline had come from friends outside the district, he said. Purves had raised $1,000 and Hyland $28,261, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Shannon defended his vote for the tax increase, calling it "a record investment in public education" that helped maintain a favorable bond rating for Virginia.
He said that this year's infusion of cash for transportation spending would not have been possible otherwise.
"The folks who took anti-tax pledges in the last election cycle learned a difficult lesson, which is that people here don't buy it," he said.