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Candidates on the march for votes in Virginia

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2007

Virginia Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis continued her July Fourth tradition yesterday morning: walking with her husband, U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, in the Fairfax Independence Day Parade, shaking hands and smiling for photos.

This year, the two Republicans were joined on the parade route by John "Chap" Petersen, Mrs. Devolites Davis' opponent in the November general election, and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, both Democrats.

The dueling appearances appeared to portend a contentious campaign.

"It's going to be a race that we haven't seen in Virginia for quite a while," said James Parmelee, president of Republicans United for Tax Relief, who bellowed the Davises' names through a bullhorn along the parade route. "There's going to be a lot of money and a lot of volunteers. It's really like a U.S. Senate campaign, it's so big."

Democrats are concentrating their efforts on nine state Senate seats in the Nov. 6 election, when all 140 seats in the General Assembly are open.

Most observers see Fairfax County as Democrats' best chance to win the four seats they need to control the upper chamber. Mr. Kaine underscored that yesterday by appearing with Democratic candidates at six Independence Day events in Northern Virginia.

"I feel like in both the House and Senate, Fairfax is fertile ground so we will be up here a bunch," Mr. Kaine said. "We expect a number of the races up here are going to be real close, and those are the ones I will be spending a lot of my time and resources on."

Mr. Davis is considered to have the best chance to keep the U.S. Senate seat of John W. Warner in Republican hands should Mr. Warner, 80, announce his retirement. He suggested that his re-election in November is proof that his wife can hang on to her seat.

"I have won 11 races up here in some of the toughest years against tough opponents," Mr. Davis said.

Mrs. Devolites Davis said her record shows that she fights for her constituents, regardless of how popular an issue is with her party. She backed a proposal to tighten background checks for buyers at gun shows and supported a plan forbidding state employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

She also was part of the small group of Republican lawmakers who hashed out a transportation deal this year after a long-running feud between anti-tax conservatives in the House of Delegates and centrists in the Senate.

"I just think I am the perfect fit for the district because I am where my constituents are on every issue," she said. "The incumbent re-election rate in Virginia is 97 percent, so you have to make a very good reason to fire somebody, and I just don't think my opponent has that reason."

Mr. Petersen, a former state delegate, points to the transportation agreement as the latest example of how Republican leadership has shortchanged the region.

"By and large, Fairfax is a donor to the state budget, and I think that's why people are frustrated," the lifelong Fairfax resident said. "They say, 'Look, you know Northern Virginia is the most populated part of the commonwealth. Why is it we have to raise taxes over and above state taxes in order to get basic state services. It doesn't make sense.' That's a legitimate argument."