Voters in the 42nd House District will decide between a longtime incumbent and a political newcomer in one of the most competitive races for the House of Delegates this year.
Del. David B. Albo, 43, is facing his most serious challenge for re-election since the Republican took office in 1994. His opponent is Gregory A. Werkheiser, 32, a business lawyer and moderate Democrat. Werkheiser has excited many in his party who think he could snatch the Republican seat in a district that has voted Democratic in recent years, going for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential election.
If reelected, Albo is poised to chair the powerful Courts of Justice Committee, which has jurisdiction over criminal laws and judges. He is running on a record of fighting taxes, including those included in Gov. Mark R. Warner's 2004 budget, and on being part of a team that has brought about major transportation programs, such as the reconstruction of the Springfield interchange.
Werkheiser believes voters are frustrated with Albo's record and with increases in property taxes and traffic congestion that have occurred during the delegate's tenure.
"We're not in a better place; we're in a worse place. Many people want new energy and new ideas," Werkheiser said in an interview from his campaign office in Springfield.
On many issues, the candidates' views are polar opposites.
Albo has put illegal immigration at the forefront of his campaign, touting legislation he sponsored to deny driver's licenses and benefits such as welfare and Medicaid to many illegal immigrants. If reelected, he said, he will work to authorize local and state officials to detain illegal immigrants for certain crimes.
"Illegal immigrants, I believe, are ruining this country. They are costing you so much money you don't even know it," he said at a debate sponsored by the West Springfield Civic Association on Oct. 5.
Werkheiser argues that immigration issues should be left to the federal government and that deputizing local and state officials to enforce federal laws would cost taxpayers even more money and ultimately detract from local law enforcement's ability to deal with other crimes.
To curb the area's increasing gang activity, Albo advocates tough penalties and has introduced stiffer sentencing laws for gang-related crimes, while Werkheiser supports efforts to keep young people from joining gangs through stronger social programs as well as increasing police resources to deal with gangs.
Werkheiser said he can help bring serious improvements to the area's transportation network. He advocates extending Metro to Fort Belvoir and promoting alternatives to driving, such as bus rapid transit and telecommuting. He also supports widening Interstate 95 and says funding for new projects could be made available in part by safeguarding state transportation funds so they are not diverted for other uses.
Albo has proposed building a toll-funded Washington bypass, widening the Beltway and I-95, and increasing capacity on Metro. He has a plan to charge people with criminal driving records or excessive violations an annual fee to renew their driver's licenses, which he said could raise $188 million a year.
Both candidates agree that Fairfax County schools need more funding to maintain their high quality. Werkheiser argues that he could do a better job than Albo of keeping local tax money in Fairfax to fund schools. He supports making tuition to public universities and colleges more affordable and increasing teacher salaries to make them more competitive.
Albo is a Springfield native who attended local public schools while he was growing up and came back home after attending the University of Virginia and University of Richmond law school. As a lawyer, he defends traffic violators in court, and he has sponsored bills in the legislature to strengthen Virginia's drunken driving laws.
Werkheiser, who comes from rural Pennsylvania, has been a resident of the southern Fairfax district for four years. He attended the College of William and Mary and University of Virginia law school, and founded a nonprofit organization to encourage civic involvement among young people. He worked as a speechwriter for Warner during his failed Senate bid in 1996 and now publicly counts Warner as a campaign supporter and someone with whom he shares a view of how state government should be run.