Centreville's Jim Mitchell hopes the third time's the charm. He ran unsuccessfully for 67th District representative in 1997 and 1999 — garnering 49 percent of the votes in the latter race.
This time, he's vying against Republican incumbent Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R) for the 37th District seat, and he's the officially endorsed candidate of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. And he believes he's got the credentials and the credibility to go all the way.
"There's no question, this is a Republican-leaning district," said Mitchell. "But there's also no question that I've had Republican support in the past. As a businessman who's met a payroll and run a business for over 20 years, I'm going to appeal to the pro-business, chamber of commerce Republicans. I'm also going to appeal to the socially moderate Republicans concerned about their schools."
In July, Mitchell and his wife Marion will celebrate their 25th anniversary. Sully Estates residents, they have three children. Son Ryan, 21, is working in Iowa; son Pat, 19, is a theater-arts major at George Mason University and daughter Tara, 16, is a Westfield High sophomore.
Mitchell, 45, has a bachelor's degree in American history and a law degree from American University. He's president of Metropolitan Title and Escrow Co. in Chantilly, graduated from Leadership Fairfax, co-chairs the Centreville Strategic Planning Task Force and belongs to the Herndon-Dulles Chamber of Commerce.
Mitchell served on the WFCCA Land-Use Committee and was the Boy Scouts' Sully District chairman and a scoutmaster for several years. He's currently on the Centreville Community Foundation's board of directors, is Westfield High's theater-boosters vice-president and is on the Residential Housing Assistance Committee of Western Fairfax Christian Ministries.
Now, Mitchell is running for the state Senate because he's "really frustrated with Ken Cuccinelli. I think, first and foremost, he's an enemy of public education. He held a recent town meeting and told Westfield High PTA representatives that Fairfax County schools are adequately funded and don't need any extra money from the state.
"I find that to be an appalling statement," said Mitchell. "Westfield is in its third year and has classroom trailers and more on the way. It's already overcrowded and we're still not building our schools fast enough. Our teachers are still underpaid, compared to other teachers in the metropolitan area, so it makes it difficult for us to keep the best and the brightest."
Mitchell said Cuccinelli got elected in a special election, promising to go to Richmond and bring back more state tax dollars for Fairfax County. "He accomplished nothing," said Mitchell. "He makes speeches. He made people in Richmond angry — and even alienated members of his own party — because of his stances on the issues and his inability and unwillingness to compromise."
But, said Mitchell, things can't be accomplished in the legislature unless lawmakers can work with each other: "I do real-estate settlements for a living, and I know how to work with a large variety of people with different interests and goals, bring them together and resolve problems."
Mitchell said that he's also done the same thing on a community level with his Boy Scout fund-raising activities and during his WFCCA stint. He also said that his experience with Leadership Fairfax, which trains business and government leaders, gave him further experience in this area.
THE DIFFERENCE between Cuccinelli and himself, said Mitchell, is that "Cuccinelli is about making noise, and I'm about solving problems and getting work done. And I worked to help elect Gov. Mark Warner in 2001 in a bipartisan effort — showing that I can work with people from both parties. I work with Republicans every day — we all have the same values and background."
"Cuccinelli thinks the job is about making speeches on right-wing, social issues," said Mitchell. "I think it's about patching potholes, building highways and schools, and solving real, everyday life problems."
Mitchell said the whole system by which Virginia collects and spends its money needs to be reworked. It's possible, he said, if senators and delegates talk and work together effectively — "and that's not going to be possible as long as people like Cuccinelli are in the Virginia Senate."
"We're in a vulnerable place," said Mitchell, addressing anti-terrorism. "The National Reconnaissance Office is here, and [Chantilly] is 27 miles from the White House. This is not the time to be talking about reducing the size of government and cutting back on government spending. We need more police officers on the street and more firefighters. This is a time for government to step up and increase its ability to protect the citizens — and that's going to cost money."
According to Mitchell, the old, "tax-and-spend" Democrat was someone who wanted to hand out money through the public-welfare system — which pretty much no longer exists. Instead, he said, government has to fulfill its core responsibilities with regard to transportation, public safety and funding public education from kindergarten through public universities. But under Cuccinelli's agenda, Mitchell said, "Those fundamental responsibilities of government are at risk."
The fact that Cuccinelli is the incumbent doesn't ruffle Mitchell one bit. "He's been in office less than one year and was the least-effective of the 140 members of the General Assembly," said Mitchell. "Virginia Free, a pro-business group, rated all 40 senators on pro-business issues, and he rated dead last."
Mitchell said that his issues will appeal to his Democratic base as well as to the pro-business and moderate Republicans.
"And that's going to be a majority of voters in this election," Mitchell said. "That's why I'm going to beat Ken Cuccinelli. There's only one candidate here that's about hard work and responsibility — and that's me."
Supporters LuAnn Maciulla McNabb and Don DeBragga agreed. Mitchell and McNabb served together on the Centreville Strategic Task Force, and she described him as smart, moderate in his positions and someone who listens.
"He's lived here a long time, so he really knows the Centreville community," she said. "His children have gone through [our] public schools, which is important to me as an education advocate. And he really understands taxes, business and economics."
Realtor Don DeBragga of Greenbriar has known Mitchell, personally and professionally, for 10 years and calls him a do-er and a progressive leader who takes a common-sense approach to finding solutions. "He's ethical and competent, knowledgeable and a good mediator," said DeBragga. "He gives back to the community and has given generously of his time to things that make a difference, such as Scouts."
Contributions to Mitchell's campaign can be mailed to: Friends of Jim Mitchell, P.O. Box 230568, Centreville, VA 20120.