- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

RICHMOND — A senior Republican delegate yesterday announced he will not seek re-election to his Fairfax County seat and warned legislators they will need to raise taxes if they want to fund core education needs.

House Education Committee Chairman James H. Dillard II told his colleagues he leaves the House with a heavy heart. “I would hope my being here has made Virginia a little bit better place to be,” said Mr. Dillard, who has served for 32 years.

Mr. Dillard, 71, is the third most senior delegate, behind only Appropriations Committee Chairman Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax County Republican, and Lacey E. Putney, Bedford independent.

Many political insiders expected that Mr. Dillard would retire. Some thought Mr. Dillard would be challenged by a conservative Republican in the June primary. Mr. Dillard, who is pro-choice, voted for last year’s $1.38 billion tax increase.

All 100 delegate seats are open in November’s elections.

Mr. Dillard said yesterday he often is asked if he is a liberal, a conservative or a moderate. “I’m not any of those; I’m a Virginian,” he said in a speech, choking back tears.

Mr. Dillard also reminded lawmakers that the state will need $2.3 billion to fund core services in coming years, and said this year’s $850 million transportation plan will not even scratch the surface to fix the state’s road problems.

Mr. Dillard said it would cost the state $50 billion to adequately fund Virginia’s transportation needs. “The only thing that I see is some kind of fuel tax,” he said.

Delegate Kristen J. Amundson praised Mr. Dillard, who is a retired teacher.

“Back when I was just a PTA mom, parents knew Delegate Dillard was in Richmond fighting for their interests,” the Fairfax County Democrat told her colleagues. “You have made an enormous difference in the lives of more than a generation of schoolchildren.”

Mr. Dillard also has been an advocate for state parks and natural resources, and played a key role in developing the Standards of Learning and Standards of Quality for public schools.

Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, Colonial Heights Republican and a high school government teacher, said he considers Mr. Dillard one of the “most principled” persons he knows.

He said even though he does not always agree with Mr. Dillard’s politics, he admires the delegate for taking a stand on issues.

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, called Mr. Dillard a “passionate advocate” for education and praised him for his independence and for being a “moderate voice” among the Republican House Caucus.

“He’s served the commonwealth well,” the governor said yesterday.

Mr. Dillard’s colleagues gave him a lengthy standing ovation and offered him their best wishes.

“We wish you many, many years of smooth sailing,” said House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford County Republican.

Mr. Dillard has long enjoyed sailing, and will be featured on the silver screen as an extra in “The New World,” a movie about Jamestown that was filmed in Virginia last summer.

Mr. Dillard, who served in the U.S. Navy in the 1950s, grew a scruffy beard to play the part. The movie is expected to hit theaters later this year.

Delegates also paid tribute yesterday to Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, Virginia Beach Republican who will not seek re-election to his House seat because he is running for attorney general.

“Thank you so much for giving me the honor of serving the citizens of Virginia together with you for the last 14 years,” Mr. McDonnell told his colleagues. “This great gift of public service that we all share is a marvelous and treasured gift.”

Several of his friends became teary-eyed as they roasted Mr. McDonnell on his legislative career and his sometimes long-winded speeches. They also praised the delegate.

“Very few of us will leave a lasting legacy,” said Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican. “If you look back at Bob’s career here … all of the dramatic changes in Virginia have had Bob’s fingerprints on it.

“There has never been a kinder, gentler, more decent and fair person that has ever served this body,” Mr. Albo said as he fought back tears. “Bob, we’re going to miss you.”

Mr. Howell also offered a rare endorsement of Mr. McDonnell’s candidacy from the speaker’s podium. “I probably speak for a lot of the people here when I say we look forward to working with you down the street over the next four years,” he said.

Delegate Glenn M. Weatherholtz, Harrisonburg Republican, also announced yesterday that he will retire from the seat he has held for nearly 10 years.

Yesterday’s announcements came a few days after Delegate Allen L. Louderback, Page County Republican, announced that he will not seek re-election in November. Mr. Louderback has been a member since 2000.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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