Former state delegate John H. "Jack" Rust Jr. announced Monday his decision to run and reclaim his old delegate seat currently held by J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen. Rust, a Republican, represented the 37th District from 1996-2001, until Petersen, a Democrat, defeated him in the November 2001 election.
"There are things that I want to go back and finish that need to be done," Rust said, citing tax reform, unemployment compensation and health care as some of the issues he would like to work on. "I think it’s time for a change."
As a delegate, Rust served on the Courts of Justice, Finance, Health, Welfare and Institutions and Labor and Commerce committees. He had been vice chairman of a joint subcommittee to study the creation of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, as well as chairman of a joint subcommittee studying funding requirements of the Virginia Employment Trust Fund. He had also been recognized as a "Tech Ten Legislator" by the Northern Virginia Technology Council in 1999 and as "Legislator of the Year" by the Virginia Treasurers Association in 1998.
In addition to serving as delegate from 1996-2001, he also served from 1980-82 as delegate. Before that, Rust was Fairfax City attorney from 1974-78.
Rust decided to run partly because he saw Petersen’s actions as "out of step" with the district. Unlike Petersen, who had several tax bills in this past session, Rust argued that when he was in office, he only voted for a tax increase once, for gasoline taxes paid into the Transportation Trust Fund.
Two bills Petersen had introduced this past session would have allowed counties to raise the cigarette tax from 5 cents to 50 cents, with the revenue going toward capital projects for public schools.
"I think I’m much more in tune with what the district wants to do. … I don’t think Chap has met a tax he didn’t like," said Rust, calling Petersen’s attitude a "tax-and-spend mentality."
Petersen in turn welcomed the competition Rust will provide. He said that his advantage is representing "the neighborhoods and the community associations of the 37th District."
Petersen had served on the Fairfax City Council from 1998-2001.
"It’s a free country. I’m glad for the competition, I look forward to it," Petersen said.
When asked why he’s seeking re-election, Petersen replied, "I fill a role down in the state legislature of someone who’s not afraid to fight the system. …This area needs a voice to challenge the leadership in Richmond."
Fairfax County supervisor Gerald Connolly (D-Providence), whose district abuts Fairfax City, said Rust may have a hard race before him.
"I think it will be a very difficult thing because I don’t think Chap has made any mistakes," Connolly said. "He will have strong local government support."
But Rust said his prior experience, his close ties to General Assembly leadership, as well as his anti-tax increase stance make him a better representative for the 37th District.
"I’ve done a good job in the past," Rust said. "I think I can make a big difference."