- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

Republican J. Randy Forbes election to an open Virginia congressional seat shows that President Bushs agenda is a winner, GOP leaders said yesterday.
Mr. Forbes ran solidly on Mr. Bushs Social Security and tax plans while his Democratic opponent, state Sen. L. Louise Lucas, ran against the administrations plans in Virginias 4th Congressional District, a swing district in the states southeastern region that was held by a Democrat for 18 years.
"What took place in Virginia, in a previously long-term Democrat seat, is a harbinger of good things to come for those people who believe, as President Bush does, in providing tax relief and saving Social Security through individual accounts, and faith-based initiatives," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer after Mr. Bush met with Mr. Forbes yesterday. "All those items were on the agenda, particularly Social Security was on the agenda, in this Virginia election."
But Mary Broz, spokeswoman for Virginias Democratic Party, disagreed.
"That doesnt quite wash," she said. "You cant read more into it because there isnt anything there. It was a race that was fought on a local level."
Democrats said Mr. Forbes never mentioned the president or his agenda in his campaign ads, and said Mr. Forbes actually sounded like a Democrat at times with his support for a plan to cover the cost of prescription drugs.
"Randy Forbes reached out to the voters with our message very effectively," said Mark Nevins, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "He just got more votes."
Republicans counter that Mrs. Lucas and Democrats turned the president into an issue. In a news conference with Mr. Forbes yesterday, fellow Virginians Gov. James S. Gilmore III and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, chairmen of the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, respectively, said the victory shows voters rejected Democrats "scare tactics" and attacks.
Both parties spent heavily in the race, as did special interests such as the National Federation of Independent Business and labor unions. Mr. Davis said the final spending tally would probably exceed $6 million, with each campaign spending about the same.
The election was particularly important because of redistricting. Republicans said that if Mrs. Lucas had won, the district would have been strengthened for her, since it would have been difficult to take minorities out of her district. But with Mr. Forbes victory, Republicans in the General Assembly will try to strengthen his district through redrawing the lines.
Mr. Forbes, 49, will be sworn in tomorrow to succeed Rep. Norman Sisisky, a Democrat who died in March while serving his 19th year in the House. The balance in Congress will then stand at 222 Republicans, 210 Democrats, one vacancy and two independents — one of whom votes with Republicans, and one of whom votes with Democrats. The breakdown is now the same as it was before Rep. Michael P. Forbes from New York switched from Republican to Democrat in July 1999. He lost the Democratic primary for his seat in 2000.
Democrats said the race doesnt have any implications for the 2002 midterm elections, but Mr. Davis said it does show a weakness for Democrats in the South.
"They have a problem because their philosophy is so disconnected to a majority of people in these districts. They are not a national party at a national level. They have local Democrats who run as Democrats locally but buck the party on a lot of issues. By contrast, we were pleased to bring Dick Cheney. We were happy to bring in the speaker of the House."

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