- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

The special election to fill the empty 87th District House of Delegates seat on Dec. 14 is shaping up as a showdown between an anti-tax Republican and a Democrat who wants to make transportation funding her top priority.

Republican Michael Ball and Democrat Paula Miller are running for the Norfolk seat vacated by state Delegate Thelma Drake, who was elected to Congress earlier this month.

Mrs. Drake, Norfolk Republican, has one year left in her two-year term. She will not return to Richmond for the legislative session that begins Jan. 12.

The rare, off-cycle election features two candidates who mostly fall along party lines, particularly on taxes.

Mr. Ball, 43, is an independent financial adviser. He also is the chairman of the 2nd District Republican Party and opposed the $1.38 billion tax increase passed by the Republican-controlled legislature earlier this year.

Mrs. Drake, who opposed the tax increase, has endorsed Mr. Ball. “We would have been much better off not raising that sales tax, and now we have a surplus,” he said. “I would have voted no.”

Mr. Ball, a lifelong Norfolk resident, ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the House five years ago.

He has volunteered in the community as a neighborhood watch captain, and with his church and civic league.

Mr. Ball serves as executive director of advancement at Regent University and is on the board of Norfolk State University. He also served four years on the Virginia State Crime Commission. He was appointed to the Norfolk Arts and Humanities Commission.

Mrs. Miller, 45, is a former television news reporter and has lived in Norfolk for 20 years. She has been endorsed by Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, who is helping her raise money.

Her No. 1 priority if elected will be transportation, she said.

“We’ve got to solve this transportation issue or we are going to come to a standstill,” she said. “We will only accomplish this through a bipartisan effort. We are going to have to work together.”

As a reporter for the Norfolk CBS affiliate WTKR-TV for 15 years, Mrs. Miller covered government and politics, as well as the military community and police.

She is now the public information officer for the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, and was responsible for handling the media during the Washington-area sniper trial last year.

Her husband, George Schaefer, was elected to be clerk of the circuit court in Norfolk last November.

Mrs. Miller has been involved in community affairs as a volunteer. She is a member of the Virginia Beach Crimesolvers Board. She has the endorsement of Delegate Kenneth C. Alexander, Norfolk Democrat, and several prominent local officials.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican, said Republicans anticipate holding onto the seat, but he noted that nothing is guaranteed.

“It’s not a lock-solid Republican seat,” he said earlier this month. “The district leans to Democrats.”

Democrats said they will fight to capture the Norfolk seat they held before Mrs. Drake took office in 1996.

Delegate Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said he is confident the party can compete for the seat.

“It’s an opportunity for us to increase our numbers,” he said.

Democrats hold 37 of 100 seats in the House. Republicans hold 61 seats. There are two independents.

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