Transportation and education are the key issues mentioned by the three candidates vying for the 32nd House of Delegates seat. Patti Morrissey of Lowes Island and David McWatters of Sterling are running against incumbent Richard "Dick" Black, also a Sterling resident, to serve a two-year term.
Black took office in 1998 after a special election following then Del. William "Bill" Mims' special election victory to fill a mid-term vacant state senate seat.
As a delegate, Black serves on the Transportation, Education, Courts of Justice, and Privileges and Elections committees. He retired after 31 years of service with the U.S. Marines and is an attorney and career prosecutor.
"We need a strong leadership that comes from family values and that is pro-business," Black said, adding that with the number of families in the county, "it's important to have a safe, moral environment to raise children."
Black mentioned a few of the bills he sponsored that address families and schools, including bills that require parental consent for abortion, Internet pornography to be filtered at public schools, drug-free zones at bus stops and expanded powers for school safety officers. "I've worked very hard to keep a safe environment at schools," he said.
Another issue for Black is transportation. In 2002, he introduced the Northern Virginia Bond Bill that provided $29 million for transportation improvements in Northern Virginia. This year, he worked on a constitutional amendment that failed to pass the Senate to prevent raids on the Transportation Trust Fund. "I'm continuing to work on that," he said.
Black also worked on establishing funding and state approval for the Route 15 expansion project and worked with Leonard "Hobie" Mitchel, member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, on the Route 28 improvement project to expand the roadway to eight lanes and turn the intersections into limited-access interchanges. "I introduced legislation that allows [expansion of] Route 28," he said.
Black also wants to address the increased costs of health insurance, the increase of gang activity in the state and tax increases of any type. "I'm very tough on taxes," he said. "One of my goals is to make sure we have a low tax environment in Northern Virginia. ... For the upcoming session, I'll be watching very closely to block higher taxes."
Black fought against the 2002 sales tax referendum to provide additional transportation funds in Northern Virginia. "It's important to know the difference between me and my opponents. Both of my opponents favored the sales tax referendum, and they were public about it," he said. "Both of my opponents deserted the Republican party. ... I'm a staunch consistent Republican. I favor family values. I'm against higher taxes."
MORRISSEY, Democrat candidate for the seat, believes Loudoun needs a representative to solve practical issues and focus on those issues that touch residents' daily lives. "That's what our delegate needs to focus on, not on some ideological agenda," she said.
Morrissey commutes every day to Arlington, where she is a national security analyst for the Pentagon and handles long-range planning and information warfare for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She has two children in Loudoun schools and is a member of the county's Advisory Commission on Youth and the Governor's Secure Virginia Panel, which focuses on funding entities that will help prepare the state for a crisis or terrorist incident.
Morrissey plans to focus on reducing traffic congestion and improving the efficiency and safety of roadways, promoting education and better managing county growth if she is elected to office. "It all comes back to two things, that we can manage our growth and get money back from the state to manage the stresses from that growth," she said.
Morrissey wants to see a higher return on state income taxes, which decreases each year. She noted that Loudoun lost $62 million this year, money that should be used to reduce classroom size and address transportation, she said. She wants more private-public partnerships to work on transportation projects to spread the costs. "We got to add additional resources," she said. "We need to keep working toward mass transit solutions."
Morrissey also plans to focus on educational issues. "We are still growing. As more families [move to Loudoun], we can't lose the quality of education, but we can't keep putting the burden on property taxes," she said.
Morrissey wants to see that teacher salaries are kept competitive. "Right now, they're lower than Fairfax," she said. "We want teachers to live in the community. We got to make sure they're paid enough and there's affordable housing available to them."
McWATTERS is running as an independent and, like his opponents, plans to focus on education, transportation and taxes. He chose to run as an independent, so he would not be "beholden to either party," he said. "The citizens are getting fed up with business as usual. ... I feel that most of the population has come to the conclusion that we are not being well represented," he said. "[Black] does not support this area, and the voters are getting fed up. He doesn't represent the mainstream citizen."
McWatters served on the Board of Supervisors from 1996-2000 and is an associate broker with Long & Foster and retired from serving 21 years in the Marines. He is a member of the Economic Development Commission and serves on several transportation committees and county task forces.
If elected, McWatters plans to increase the amount of funding the state provides for public education, transportation and public safety. "We're a donor region for the state. We're getting less and less back every year," he said. "We need a complete overhaul of the Virginia tax structure and how funds are allocated."
McWatters plans to seek membership on tax review committees for new legislation while in office. "I have a reputation for lobbying against increases in certain taxes, like transfer taxes and impact fees," he said.
Another of McWatters' goals is reducing congestion that in turn can give residents more quality time with their families, he said. "More and more money is allocated to maintenance," he said. "We need to get light rail or buses to Dulles Airport and beyond. ... We need to have a public-private partnership with the government and corporations, encouraging employees to telecommute."