- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

Looking toward today’s Senate primary in the Old Dominion, you might question the electoral cliche that “all politics is local.”

Many pundits are predicting that the Democratic primary for the Virginia U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican George Allen will have implications that reach far beyond the Shenandoah Valley caverns or the Hampton Roads tunnel or the congested lanes of Interstate 66.

Some are even suggesting that Virginia voters should make their choice of veteran Fairfax party leader Harris N. Miller or Falls Church war veteran James H. Webb Jr. based on who has a better chance to beat Mr. Allen in the November general election.

As the conventional wisdom goes, the outcome of the fall election may well determine whether the well-heeled, charismatic Mr. Allen will seek the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

Since Virginia primaries are open to all voters regardless of party affiliation, a few political observers report that Republican strategists are encouraging their members to vote for Mr. Miller in the primary, thinking that he is the weaker opponent for Mr. Allen.

Who knows? But with an anticipated low turnout, it is clear that this early summer bellwether will be a photo finish determined by too few voters with a narrow-minded focus. A referendum on the Iraqi war perhaps?

It’s too bad for state and local interests that too many outside meddlers appear to be more interested in perpetuating the deep polarization between the two major political parties at the national level than in providing what Virginians need for Virginia.

So it’s up to Virginia voters to thoroughly check each candidate’s record, go to the polls today and cast their ballots based on principles, not party.

Which contender will fight for an equitable tax code, affordable and accessible health care, strengthening public schools, work-force housing and transportation funding, all for developing and maintaining sustainable communities? Which candidate knows the first thing about anti-gang initiatives or immigration issues, topics that will consume the state’s urban and suburban areas as well as the rest of the nation? Who will work to ensure the human rights and privacy of all citizens? Which one supports a military draft?

Bob James, former vice president of the Black Caucus of the Virginia Democratic Party, said Mr. Harris and Mr. Webb both bring strengths and weaknesses to the table.

“Virginians should pick a candidate whose platform and past record, to whatever extent they have a past record, is more consistent with Virginia values,” Mr. James said.

I doubt those values should include the bitter bickering the campaign has seen in recent days.

“The campaign has been more negative than might be desirable, and I don’t think that’s good,” Mr. James said.

Keep in mind that this once no-nonsense state is in the throes of an ideological war where the Republican-controlled legislature can’t even get a budget passed.

Mr. James, a government lawyer and an Arlington father of two, has been “overwhelmed” with e-mail, mailings and candidates and supporters knocking on his door. However, he said, “I’ve never witnessed the elected and party officials as divided” between the state and local levels and the national level.

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