Centreville's Mark Calhoun is running as an Independent in the Dec. 17, special election for the 40th-District seat in the House of Representatives. It became vacant when the former delegate, Republican James K. "Jay" O'Brien, became the senator representing the newly re-drawn 39th Senate district.
But being an independent is just fine with Calhoun. He may not have the backing of a big, political party, but he prefers it that way.
"As an independent, I have control over the way I run a campaign," he said. "I'm conservative in my leaning and I like to be in charge."
Calhoun, 33, has lived three years in Singleton's Grove and is a newspaper distributor in Alexandria. He obtained a bachelor's in history in 1999 from Christendom College in Front Royal. During summers while attending college, he taught the Catholic faith to schoolchildren attending a summer camp from various parishes.
A bachelor, he joined the Singleton's Grove board of directors in 1999 and is currently president of the homeowners association, as well as coordinator of the community's Neighborhood Watch program.
In the upcoming election, Calhoun will be vying against Republican Tim Hugo of Clifton, plus Democrat Carol Hawn and fellow Independent Joe Oddo, both of Centreville. It's the first time Calhoun's ever run for office, but it's been on his mind.
"It's something I've thought of a lot," he said. "I'm interested in national issues, but I wanted to run for something local."
He considers his pro-life stance his most important issue, and he stands firm on it. "I'm pro-life without exceptions," said Calhoun. "I don't believe exceptions should be made in the case of rape or incest because we're still talking about a human being."
Regarding education, he believes that, if parents choose to send their child to a private school, they shouldn't have to pay the full amount of taxes that go toward public education, since they're not availing themselves of it. "They shouldn't have to pay twice," he said. "And they could use this money because private schools are very expensive."
In the transportation arena, Calhoun is against the construction of Metrorail to Dulles. "They can build a highway especially for buses that would cost one-tenth of what it would cost to build the Metrorail," he explained. "It would work out so much better if people could invest more in their local neighborhood."
If so much money wasn't spent on the rail system, he contends, "People would have more money in their pockets so they'd be able to buy a house closer to where they work. They wouldn't have to move farther west to find something they can afford." Calhoun would rather see people living and working in a smaller area — the Northern Virginia suburbs, rather than Washington, D.C. — because, he said, that would also mean less cars on the road.
"When the Vienna Metro [Station] was built, it was supposed to reduce congestion on I-66, but that hasn't happened," he said. "And if people had more money, they'd be more inclined to spend it in their local area."
Calhoun is also pro Second Amendment — the right to bear arms. Furthermore, he said, "There shouldn't be any mandated trigger locks. As well-intentioned as it may be, I think the vast majority of people who own guns store and operate them in a safe manner, without being told to do so."
Calhoun believes that legislation mandating trigger locks might get gun owners "into trouble needlessly, when they're not doing anything wrong. It would prevent them from quick access and use of their gun, and they'd always have to have the key with them."
Although the local area generally votes Republican, he believes his chances in the special election are good. "Things are going my way," he said. "I got onto the ballot with the exact number — 125 — of signatures I needed. That's a good sign."
Calhoun also believes that the average voter "is intelligent and has an outlook very much like my own — that the way you improve society is by doing what is right, no matter the cost to yourself.
"If you do what's right for others, then I believe you'll be cared for, too," he said. "I care about my fellow man as much as anyone else does, and I think what people really want in a politician is someone who puts himself last and cares about his neighbors first."
Someone who thinks Calhoun could be that politician in the 40th District is Gretchen Robinson, officer manager for Sequoia Management Co., which manages Calhoun's homeowners association. She's known him about a year and speaks about him in glowing terms.
"He's a very competent, intelligent, young man," she said. "He's very well-informed on all the issues. I think he would be a real asset to the community to serve in that capacity." Robinson said Calhoun seems to be community-oriented, thorough and conscientious, as well as someone who's good with people.
"We're all behind him here, at Sequoia," she added. "He impresses me as someone who'll do a good job."