- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Republicans and Democrats say they are ready to pour money and manpower into the growing Northern Virginia suburbs — the anticipated front line of next year’s legislative races.

“All of the Republicans in Northern Virginia will be battling it out,” said Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican. “Last year, [Democrats] spent half a million trying to beat me up.”

Delegate Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat, agreed. “Any district in Northern Virginia would be worthy of our attention and resources,” he said. “The golden crescent is turning Democratic.”

Republicans said Democrats are premature in thinking James H. Webb Jr.’s victory over Sen. George Allen in Northern Virginia last month is a sign the Republican Party has lost footing in the region and will be in trouble in next year’s election.

“I think there is a lot of pop analysis going on right now,” said Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, Prince William County Republican. “When you scratch the surface a little bit, you see it is more complex than that. Federal, state and local elections have different characteristics.”

On the local level, Republicans still control the boards of supervisors by wide margins in Loudoun and Prince William counties.

Also, Reps. Thomas M. Davis III and Frank R. Wolf, both Republicans, handily won re-election in two of Northern Virginia’s three congressional districts, and Republican Jackson H. Miller won the state House seat left open by the death of Delegate Harry J. Parrish, Manassas Republican.

Both parties say Republicans will get a significant financial boost now that Ed Gillespie, former head of the Republican National Committee, is chairman of the state party.

“I think that is a real concern for Virginia Democrats,” said Mr. Moran, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “He brings a wealth of experience and contacts. I [am] concerned with his fundraising ability and his experience. It also keeps us on our toes.”

Mr. Gillespie told party loyalists Saturday at a Republican luncheon, where he was officially named chairman, that the party is at a “critical juncture” in part because of the recent election losses and that his mission includes reunifying members across the state.

Mr. Davis said Saturday the Republican Party can make its message more appealing to the changing face of Northern Virginia by fielding more candidates who are minorities and women.

Mr. Lingamfelter said the Republican Party’s conservative agenda clearly still plays well in some parts of Northern Virginia.

Voters in Prince William and Loudoun overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage,” while most Democrats opposed it. Voters in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax opposed the amendment.

In 2002, voters in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park rejected a referendum to raise the sales tax a half cent per dollar in Northern Virginia for transportation.

Those results bode well for Republicans who were elected on a no-new-taxes pledge and hurt Democrats who have proposed new taxes for roads and mass transit, Mr. Lingamfelter said.

Still, Republicans said they realize the changing political landscape in Northern Virginia could play a major role in next year’s campaigns, when all 140 members of the General Assembly are up for re-election. Currently, Republicans control both the House and the Senate.

“You used to be able to run a horse with an ‘R’ on it in Loudoun County and win, but you can’t do that anymore,” James Rich, chairman of the Republican Party’s 10th Congressional District Committee, told The Washington Times earlier this year.

In the 2000 U.S. Senate race, Mr. Allen won Loudoun by 14 points. Earlier this month, Mr. Webb squeezed out a win in Loudoun by a little more than one point.

Republican Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick presumes Democrats will have him in their cross hairs in his Prince William County district. In 2000, Mr. Allen won Prince William. Mr. Webb won the county last month.

“When they look at the fact that my district went for [Democrats] John Kerry, Jim Webb and Governor [Timothy M.] Kaine, their mouths start to water,” he said.

Last week, Mr. Frederick sent an e-mail to supporters warning them that he was the “Governor’s No. 1 target for defeat next year” and asking them to contribute “spare bucks” to his re-election effort.

“As you may recall, my re-election in 2005 was the most costly House race in Virginia history,” he said. “I have every expectation that the Governor will again throw hundreds of thousands of dollars into my opposition’s campaign.”

Mr. Frederick is convinced his push to reform the Virginia Department of Transportation, slow growth through land-use reform and redistribute money in the state budget to the most gridlocked regions will help shield him from Democratic attacks.

Mr. Moran said he remains confident Democrats can gain some ground in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, where voters increasingly have supported their party candidates in statewide elections and are tired of sitting in traffic.

“Clearly, we have some momentum,” Mr. Moran said. “We just toppled a Republican icon in the state. If we can beat George Allen, we can beat anybody.”

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