- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2003

Republicans David Hunt and Howard Lind are vying in next month’s primary to challenge state Sen. Janet D. Howell, Fairfax County Democrat, in what would become one of the most competitive races in Northern Virginia this fall.

Both men are conservative Republicans who describe themselves as pro-life and supporters of the Second Amendment, which gives Americans the right to bear arms. Transportation, education and taxes are key issues in both campaigns.

The biggest difference is their stand on last fall’s transportation referendum, which was rejected by voters.

Voters in nine Northern Virginia jurisdictions were asked to decide whether the government should raise the sales tax by a half-cent to fund transportation projects in the region.

Gov. Mark Warner and most Northern Virginia lawmakers, including Mrs. Howell, supported the referendum.

Mr. Hunt, a small-business owner, supported it; Mr. Lind, a retired Navy officer, did not.

“I supported it because we have a $1 billion transportation deficit for the next 20 years and there is not enough money coming to this region from the state,” said Mr. Hunt, 37, of Great Falls. “Like many other Republicans, I held my nose and felt I had to support it.”

But Mr. Lind, 43, of McLean, said if elected he would make sure more money came to the region while opposing any tax increases. He also said he would have a greater chance of defeating Mrs. Howell because he was an outspoken critic of the referendum.

“I am the voice of the taxpayer,” said Mr. Lind, who is a homeland security consultant. “While Dave was standing with Janet Howell supporting the tax hike, I was out against it. I don’t think he would have a leg to stand on against her simply because of that.”

Mr. Hunt said he would better serve Northern Virginia because he worked for three years as an Appropriations Committee staff member in Richmond. “I know how Janet Howell operates and what she has and hasn’t done for the community because I have seen it first-hand,” he said.

The race to unseat Mrs. Howell has become a Republican top priority. The primaries are June 10.

As a result of the latest redistricting, Mrs. Howell’s district, which covers Reston, Herndon, Great Falls and McLean, is almost equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Gary Thomson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said the changing dynamics of both chambers over the past five years allows Republicans to focus on Mrs. Howell’s seat in a way they may not have done before. Republicans control the Senate 23-17 and the House, 64-34-2.

“This seat is there for the taking and the contrast with Janet Howell will be a big contrast,” Mr. Thomson said. “Our statewide numbers, with control 23-17, allow us to focus attention to seats that we wouldn’t have done before.”

Mr. Hunt has raised $152,232, of which $97,280 is his own money, and Mr. Lind has raised $28,176, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that monitors campaign expenditures.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Howell, who was first elected in 1991, has raised more than $250,000, as of March.

Mr. Lind said he is not worried about the difference in funds.

“I have enough money on hand for the primary,” he said. “I have been saying all along this election is going to be about the message, and our message is better.”

Both candidates have been holding fund-raisers and meeting with conservative organizations in hopes of turning out the vote. Summer primaries typically have low voter turnout, so grassroots support is important.

Both me have said they would support the candidate who wins the primary.

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