- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The two candidates in Virginia’s 11th District congressional race are facing criticism for their political connections - divisive tactics in a region long held by a Republican whose moderate stands helped him keep his seat in an increasingly Democratic district.

“That’s no longer the nature of politics [in Northern Virginia]. It’s bitterly partisan, highly divided,” said Virginia Commonwealth University political science professor Robert D. Holsworth.

Attacks and accusations have punctuated the race between Democrat Gerry Connolly and Republican Keith Fimian to replace retiring Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Republican who has represented the district since 1995.

Mr. Fimian’s membership on the board of the Catholic business group Legatus has been targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with mailings saying the group promotes other organizations with an anti-female agenda. Legatus was started by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.

The committee alsobegan running a 30-second cable TV ad in the district, which includes parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, that highlights Mr. Fimian’s pro-life views and says his home-inspection company has been sued more than 40 times and been hit with an IRS tax lien.

“The more we learn about Keith Fimian, the more troubling it is,” the ad states.

DCCC spokeswoman Kyra Jennings said the ad is relevant because it shows Mr. Fimian’s “anti-choice views” and “bad business practices.” The DCCC also notes that Mr. Fimian has received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from those connected with Legatus, but that Ms. Jennings emphasized the committee is not attacking Mr. Fimian’s Catholic faith.

“Given that Keith Fimian has touted his business credentials, the people of Northern Virginia deserve to hear about the way he’s really running his business,” she said.

The Fimian campaign has dismissed the ad and mailings as misleading and false and says that the Catholic League has called on Mr. Connolly to denounce the “bigoted anti-Catholic attacks.”

Fimian campaign manager Zack Condry said that his candidate’s company, U.S. Inspect, performs roughly 155,000 home inspections a year and that the lawsuits are the result of a “very few disgruntled folks.”

“These attacks are the Connolly con game,” Mr. Condry said. “He wants to mislead people so they don’t look at his failed record of high taxes, economic mismanagement and personal corruption.”

Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee has criticized Mr. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, for holding onto campaign funds donated by Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat.

Mr. Connolly’s campaign has received $7,000 from groups associated with Mr. Rangel, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Mr. Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is the subject of a House ethics panel investigation for issues that include initially failing to pay thousands of dollars in taxes.

“Connolly’s long-standing defense of embattled Rangel and his refusal to donate the tainted funds is further proof that Gerry Connolly is more interested in defending the status quo in Washington than he is in being an independent voice for his district,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said.

Mr. Fimian also has criticized Mr. Connolly for having political ties to members of the Tysons Land Use Task Force and said the Democrat stands to gain from a development proposal that the county Board of Supervisors voted last week to move further along.

Connolly campaign manager James Walkinshaw called the Rangel issue “desperation tactics from inside-the-Beltway Republicans” and said there are no plans to return the donated money. He also called the Tysons task force charges a “ridiculous accusation.”

“In the last couple weeks, we’ve seen kind of some desperation tactics from the Fimian campaign, specifically with some kind of ridiculous last-grasp attacks,” Mr. Walkinshaw said. “I think it’s just a sign of desperation.”

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