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Votes

State Senate: Howell Readies for Hunt

Pointing to experience, Howell seeks another term.

After six elections and more than 11 years in office, one might think state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) would be tired of knocking on doors and stumping for votes. Not true.

"I really enjoy being out with people and campaigning and being out with people," Howell said. "It's always a wonderful opportunity and I am looking forward to it."

On Friday June 6, friends and supporters of Howell including Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, gathered at the Reston Community Center for the senator's reelection kick-off rally. Howell told her supporters that, if elected, her top priority would be to reform the state's tax structure. "We must act urgently to provide for our future and to take the burden off our over-burdened homeowners," Howell said.

Howell also stress her experience as a factor that she thinks will help her in the fall campaign when she takes on political newcomer, Dave Hunt. Howell is the first and only woman ever to serve on the

Senate Finance Committee and only the second woman, and first non-lawyer, to serve on the Courts of Justice. In a recent interview, Howell talked about her upcoming campaign with Republican nominee Dave Hunt and her priorities if elected:

ON HER CAMPAIGN

"We do have a campaign and we are rearing to go. We've just been waiting to see who my opponent would be. I will be door knocking, as always. I will be going to all the community events and providing good constituent services. I think it is going to be a spirited campaign — spirited and positive, at least I hope so. It will largely revolve around leadership, experience and clout. And we are quite positive that Democrats will take back the Senate, it is do-able."

ON EXPERIENCE

"Even if the Republicans stay in control [and Hunt were to win], he would be bottom in seniority. I am the second most senior woman in history in the Senate and the only one ever to serve on the finance committee. I am number 10 overall in seniority. Actually, I am currently 12, but two people senior to me aren't running for reelection, so at worst I will be 10th and may be climbing. The people in the 32nd District, in effect, have invested in me for the last 12 years and it is starting to pay off."

ON DAVE HUNT'S STRENGTHS

"He seems like a nice guy and he seems energetic. Oh and you know what else? And he's clearly rich. He spent over $150,000 of his own money for 4,000 votes. I'd been told last summer that he was going to put large sums of money into his campaign. I wasn't surprised at that. It's constitutional. I don't have the resources to do that myself. He has very few individual contributors."

ON CHANGING PRIORITIES

"I think my knowledge base and expertise have increased. My priorities haven't changed, period. I am still committed to public education and higher education, providing quality infrastructure and making sure we take care of our most vulnerable citizens. A large percentage of my legislation has been in the public safety area, particularly in regards to women and children and I am currently on the Secure Virginia Panel which is doing the homeland security planning for the states."

ON THE FAILED TRANSPORTATION SALES TAX REFERENDUM

"[Because we both favored it], I think that makes it a non-issue. Right now we are in the horrid situation of there being virtually no money. We are fortunate that Gov. Warner has brought back honesty to VDOT and its planning functions. There are things that we can be doing that are innovative and we just need to get on with them. I am working very hard to bring rail to Dulles. In all likelihood, we will need to be doing in phases which is actually not that different from what it always would have been. I mean you don't do it all at once. Now, we are just going to be more focused on where the phases should be. It makes no sense for [phase one] to end in Tysons. I would like to see it go as far as Herndon. When you consider just the logistics, it should be do-able and it is certainly what I am pushing for."

ON THE NEXT LEGISLATIVE SESSION

"This coming session is absolutely crucial to the future of Virginia because we must restructure our tax system. We have a governor, now, who is prepared to do that. Those of us on Senate Finance are prepared to do that. We have a good shot at it because it won't be an election year. The reason that this is so important is because we have to find a way to take the burden off our overburdened homeowners and unless we restructure it will be very difficult to do that without harming the services people really depend on. I am quite sure we will have the Senate working with the governor. The challenge will be to get the House to act responsibly on this."

ON THE PROPOSED TECHWAY

"I have always felt we needed the information, so I am glad that there will be additional looking at where the best location would be if there was to be one. I am absolutely confident that it won't be in Fairfax County. I don't support it in Fairfax County. The world changed on 9/11 and the reality is that we need additional bridges over the Potomac."

ON ABORTION

"I have always said I would vote for partial-birth abortion ban that was constitutional, but the bills that have been before me on the Senate floor have not been constitutional because they did not provide for the health of the mother. I am convinced the Republicans put those bills up, knowing they were unconstitutional and in effect, wasting state resources. The people of this district are pro-choice. They truly believe it is a private decision between a woman and her doctor and they have continually supported me on this issue."