Republican Chris S. Craddock, who is locked in a close race for a House of Delegates seat in western Fairfax County, has received nine traffic tickets in the past five years, including a citation last month for reckless driving, according to county records.
The 27-year-old youth minister was cited for nearly half the tickets he received in a three-month period in 2001, when he was cited three times for an expired registration and failure to obey a traffic sign. In addition, he has received three speeding tickets over the five-year period.
"I've made mistakes. I've paid for them," Craddock said. "That's all I think about as far as this is concerned. I don't know really what else to say."
Craddock's Democratic opponent, C. Chuck Caputo, 67, a former Fairfax County School Board member who is running in his first delegate race, said the driving record calls into question his opponent's fitness to serve as a public official. During the campaign, Caputo has touted his experience as a School Board member and his support for public schools.
"Speeding tickets happen. But when you're talking about repeated tickets, it's a problem," Caputo said. He said he has received a few speeding tickets in his 45 years of driving.
"The traffic tickets speak for themselves, but it causes me to question whether he's a viable candidate for this district," Caputo said.
The contest between Craddock and Caputo in the 67th District, which includes parts of western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun County, is one of the more closely watched delegate races this year. Libertarian Party candidate Chuck J. Eby Jr. of Fair Lakes also is running.
The district is considered heavily Republican -- it is the only Fairfax County district that voted for President Bush last year. Craddock, who defeated Del. Gary A. Reese in the June Republican primary, has presented himself as an anti-tax, socially conservative candidate and has been supported by some of the most conservative groups in the state.
Democrats have targeted the district because they believe that Caputo, who has strong ties to the district, can appeal to swing voters and some Republicans. He has been endorsed by Reese, who has called Craddock "too extreme" for the district.
Democrats hope that Caputo will be one piece in a strategy to pick up as many as four seats this year in the 100-member House. Democrats hold 38 seats.
Of the infractions, court records show that three of the tickets were for speeding -- one for driving 25 to 29 mph over the speed limit, another for driving 19 mph over and the third for driving 15 mph over.
An additional ticket that Craddock received last month, for failure to display an inspection sticker, is still pending. He said he does not know whether he's going to challenge it or simply pay it. Craddock said the fact that they have become a campaign issue is indicative of the race Caputo has run since he entered several months ago.
"Ever since we've gotten into this race, Caputo has known he can't win this election on the issues," Craddock said. "The only thing he's done this whole time is send out stuff smearing me and our campaign workers."