Del. Harry J. Parrish (R-Prince William), a powerful force in Manassas and county politics, is being challenged for the first time in a primary in his 23 years in the state House of Delegates.
And his opponent, Steve H. Chapman, an energetic entrepreneur riding a wave of conservatism, thinks the longtime moderate politician and his organization can be toppled.
The campaign for Tuesday's primary has been a classic matchup between two generations, two ideals within the statewide party and two sects of Republicans in Prince William vying for control of the local GOP committee. The unprecedented battle has generated spirited debate, well-attended rallies and strange happenings.
Debbie FitzSimmonds, president of the Bull Run Regional Republican Women's Club, likened the primary to domestic strife. "It's a family disagreement, and we come together in the end," she said. "It's very important that we honor someone like Parrish that has dedicated 50 years of his life to politics. . . . On the other hand, one of the beauties of our system is that incumbents are not like Supreme Court justices. They are not there for life."
Chapman, who acknowledges living in three different residences within seven months to mount a campaign against Parrish, has been charged with voting illegally and election fraud for allegedly lying about where he lived in the fall.
Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert, a Democrat, and all Circuit Court judges have recused themselves from the case, and it will be prosecuted by the Chesterfield County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. The trial has been set for September.
Chapman also was served with a summons in late April for letting his dog run loose in August 2004. The yellow Labrador named Nixon died several months ago, but Chapman must still face the charge in July.
He has accused Parrish of using political power to influence the legal troubles, an allegation Parrish denies.
The back-and-forth between 27-year-old Chapman and 83-year-old Parrish has become the talk of the town as Chapman knocks on doors each evening and Parrish successfully rounds up longtime supporters to blanket their lawns with his campaign signs.
FitzSimmonds, who said she is neutral, said she hopes the primary stays on the issues.
The differences between the two candidates are evident on almost every issue.
Chapman said he will not introduce any new taxes if he is elected. He has support from the Virginia Conservative Action political action committee, a group hoping to unseat Republican delegates like Parrish who broke with the party and voted for a tax increase last year. The tax revenue was used to increase spending on education and other services.
Parrish, who has the support of Leadership for Virginia, an organization backing candidates who voted for the tax plan, said the state had to raise taxes because a stalemate threatened to shut down the government. "If they want to oust me because I did what was best for the well-being of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, so be it," he said.
On guns, Chapman believes in a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, while Parrish believes in prohibiting weapons where alcohol is served.
On abortion, Parrish would limit the procedures to cases of rape, incest and medical threats to the mother's life while Chapman said there should be no exceptions.
Both men list improving transportation as a top priority. Parrish said he is waiting for a House committee to convene for a study, and said he does not have an immediate answer to the problems of funding road repair and construction. But he noted that building roads takes time.
"It 'takes time' is not the answer," said Chapman, whose transportation plan includes adopting a constitutional amendment to prevent the state's Transportation Trust Fund from being used for other purposes.