An Oct. 23 Metro article about the Virginia House of Delegates race between Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick (R-Prince William) and Prince William County Supervisor Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge) incorrectly reported Frederick's age and place of business. Frederick, 30, is the founder and chief executive of GXS Strategies. (Published 10/25/2005)
When Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry carried several precincts in eastern Prince William County last year, state Democrats noticed and decided it was time to try to wrest a House of Delegates seat from Republican control.
Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) and the Democratic House Caucus tapped popular, longtime Supervisor Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge) to run against Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick, a conservative freshman who upset 17-year incumbent John A. "Jack" Rollison III in the 2003 Republican primary and later coasted in winning the general election.
Kerry's healthy showing in the 52nd District -- he won one precinct by 69 percent -- and Barg's powerful name-recognition have turned what could have been a routine reelection bid by Frederick into a bitter battle between the two parties and what insiders call a race between "two incumbents."
The election has drawn attention from Warner and former House majority leader Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) as the Democrats try to gain a seat in a county where two state senators and three local officeholders, including Barg, are Democrats. Meanwhile, the GOP is trying to stave off a loss in a county where the demographics are changing quickly amid an influx of former Fairfax County residents and Central American immigrants.
"It's always difficult to face an incumbent," said Rick Coplen, chairman of the Prince William County Democratic Committee. "But this is perceived as a very winnable seat."
Brian Murphy, chairman of the county Republican Committee, acknowledged the increasingly Democratic leanings of the district, which includes populous Woodbridge, but he said Frederick is not an ordinary candidate.
"Unfortunately, they can't match the grass-roots energy" of Frederick, Murphy said.
Frederick, 28, is chief executive and founder of GSX Strategies, which uses Internet technologies for political groups and governments. When he ran against Rollison, he made the controversial move of claiming the domain "jackrollison.com," making it impossible for Rollison to use it.
Frederick, who grew up in Fairfax County and moved to Prince William five years ago, said he has knocked on more than 15,000 doors.
He said he knows that he is a target of the Democrats. "Out of 12 freshman Republicans and Democrats, I was the only one to vote against the governor's budget," he said.
Barg, 72, is a rarity in today's fast-growing county -- a Prince William native, raised on the eastern end's Cherry Hill Peninsula in a big, well-known family of 11 children.
As the owner of two popular shoe stores and a beauty salon, Barg was tapped to run for supervisor in 1987 and has held the office since then.
Barg and Frederick have focused their campaigns on immigration and transportation.
Last year, two dozen Latino day laborers were arrested and charged with loitering in front of a 7-Eleven in Woodbridge. The roundup spotlighted the county's split between supporters and opponents of immigrants, especially at town hall meetings that Barg organized to encourage dialogue. She also set up a task force on day laborers that later recommended that the county consider using public dollars to fund a center.
Barg, who was on the task force, said that the recommendation was not a directive and that she does not support tax dollars for a center.
Frederick, who is of Colombian descent and often notes that he is the legislature's only Latino, has accused Barg of stealing his ideas on immigration, even in her campaign materials. "I guess imitation is a form of flattery. She likes it so much she copied it," he said.
Barg said she was insulted. "I don't have to steal Jeff's literature," she said.
She also questioned Frederick's support of allowing illegal immigrants to attend Virginia state colleges.
Frederick said that Barg has lied about his position on the issue. Frederick said he does not support in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. In the past, he has said he does not support in-state tuition but supports open campuses.
On transportation, Frederick said that Barg and the Board of County Supervisors have helped increase congestion by voting for more development.
Barg said that Frederick tries to take credit for transportation improvements funded by the state budget that he opposed.
Their nonstop attacks on each other are noticeable to drivers along Route 1, which has become strewn with campaign signs big and small.
Denny Daugherty, a local Republican leader who has steered the party toward becoming more conservative, said the campaigns have been spirited. But he questioned why the Democrats have not been able to evolve and had to turn to a veteran like Barg to challenge Frederick. "They have been unsuccessful in bringing new candidates," he said.
But Barg said "the right-wingers" supporting Frederick do not have the support of moderate Republicans. "I've been encouraged by both sides of the fence," she said.