In the 51st District race for state delegate, Republican Michele B. McQuigg, a four-term incumbent who has focused recently on improving the overall efficiency of state government, faces Democrat Earnest W. Porta Jr., a financial executive who says that easing traffic and improving education and health care will be his top priorities if elected.
McQuigg has lived in Occoquan Landing since 1973. She served on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors from 1992 to 1998 and has been a member of the House of Delegates since then. McQuigg, who trained to be a teacher, said her seniority within the majority party and her experience with the legislative process make her a legislator who can get things done.
"I've basically been there, year in and year out," McQuigg said. "I know the complexity of the issues. I know the people."
Two years ago, she sponsored the "roadmap to Virginia's future," legislation intended to make the budgeting process more accountable. It requires state agencies to create strategic plans, ties the budgeting process to measurable standards and requires an annual report card to help taxpayers judge whether money is being spent effectively.
"It changes the whole dynamic of how we do budgeting," McQuigg said.
McQuigg is a senior member of the House Courts of Justice Committee, a position she said will help her do more for the county.
Transportation remains a major concern, said McQuigg, adding that she is finalizing the details of her plan. "There's no silver bullet," she said.
She has not taken a position on high-occupancy toll lanes. McQuigg said she has supported commuter parking lots and intersection improvements, and favors the idea of bus rapid transit lanes along primary roads and interstates, although not along secondary roads, as Porta does.
Porta said he would bring fresh energy to Richmond and the will and expertise to deal with vexing issues such as traffic.
"The issues over time have become so difficult and so complex that too many politicians are unwilling or unable to deal with them," he said. "So they try to distract voters."
Porta has lived in Northern Virginia since 1987 and Occoquan since 2002. He has been a financial executive for 15 years and recently stepped down from his position as vice president and treasurer for Georgetown University in the District to work on a doctorate in history and run for state office. This is his first campaign.
Porta said he supports creating dedicated bus rapid transit lanes on interstates and feeder roads, such as Old Bridge Road, as a relatively inexpensive way to get drivers to commuter lots and Metro. He said there is enough room on medians and shoulders on many secondary roads to create the lanes, while McQuigg said they would require trees and homes to be bulldozed. Porta said he opposes high-occupancy toll lanes, which he said would thwart carpooling, "the one thing that is working."
Because sprawl and traffic go hand in hand, Porta said, he would push for giving local government more tools to deal with development, such as a law granting counties authority to stop development if infrastructure such as roads are not in place first.
On health care, Porta said he supports policies that encourage low-income families on Medicaid to seek preventive care, as a way of avoiding costlier treatments down the line. He would work to direct resources toward home and community-based care for the elderly, which he said they tend to prefer over more expensive nursing home care. He said he would find ways to reduce administrative costs, such as those associated with billing the uninsured.
On education, Porta supports the idea of voluntary, universal pre-kindergarten and raising teacher salaries to the national average. "We need to reach a consensus on priorities," he said, "and fund those priorities."