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Votes

Oprison: Cut Taxes

Chris Oprison, candidate for the 33rd district, is running on an anti-tax platform.

If residents of western Loudoun see a clean-cut young man in a "W 2004" hat on their front door steps in coming weeks, don't worry — he's not selling anything but himself.

Chris Oprison, 34, is going door to door to ask voters to choose him. He's running against Del. Joe T. May (R) in the 33rd District, which covers western Loudoun and Clarke County.

Both are Republicans; no Democrat or Independent has entered the race. The primary is June 14.

Oprison, an attorney and Leesburg — soon to be Lovettsville — resident, was inspired to make his first run for office when May made a controversial vote in 2004 to end the budget debate in the General Assembly.

May was one a group of 16 Republicans who voted for the 2004 state budget, ending days of deadlock on the issue. The budget included a $1.5 billion tax increase for residents.

"It got a lot of people up here, including me, upset," Oprison said.

May has defended his vote by pointing out that as the budget debate wore on, a compromise was crucial.

"We were down to within a few days of shutting down state services if we didn't achieve a budget," May said. "I think it was the responsible thing to do."

Oprison is a strong fiscal and social conservative who has served on the Loudoun County Republican Committee. He's vowed to not only vote against all tax increases, but reduce taxes as well.

As Oprison sees it, there's two elements to the budget: the collection side and the expenditure side.

"What I want to do is refocus attention on the spending side," he said. "There's a lot of wasteful spending."

OPRISON FOCUSED on the Virginia Department of Transportation as an example of inefficient spending. If elected, he would propose an annual audit for the department to nail down where money can be saved. Currently, an audit is performed only sporadically.

Transportation has become, in recent years, a priority for May, who is vice chairman of the General Assembly's Transportation Committee. His three-year-old Rural Rustic Roads program allows dirt roads to be paved in place at about $100,000 a mile rather than converted to a two-lane highway at $1 million a mile as per VDOT's regulations.

Oprison, however, thinks he can save the state "hundreds of millions of dollars" by performing the annual audit.

"VDOT certainly needs help and they've been receiving some help," May said. "It's much easier to make those suggestions from afar."

Oprison also wants to see an overhaul of the budget process from top to bottom, calling the current budget system "expenditure-based" and "antiquated."

"We need to be getting more than 16 or 20 cents per each dollar we're sending to Richmond," Oprison said.

Both Loudoun County Chairman Scott York and Vice Chairman Bruce Tulloch have urged Loudoun's state representatives to increase the amount of tax money returned to the county. Last year, the county received roughly 18 cents for every dollar in taxes sent to Richmond, not including tax breaks individual taxpayers receive.

SO FAR, OPRISON has raised $100,000 through a grassroots campaign. While he has a series of meet-and-greets and fund-raisers scheduled for the coming weeks, the heart of his campaign can still be found on the doorsteps of western Loudouners.

"We're running a strong grassroots campaign. We're focusing on the people," said Oprison's campaign manager, Andrew Tyrrell. "He just needs to keep that up."

Tyrrell has experience ousting an incumbent Republican. In 2003, he worked on the campaign of Del. Jeff Frederick, a Republican representing Woodbridge.

Oprison is May's first challenger since the 1997 election. In his 12 years as delegate, May has faced an opponent three times.

Even in the years he's had no opposition, however, May has gone door to door to greet voters. He believes his experience and track record will put him ahead again this year.

"I used the same skill set to dealing with Virginia's problems that I sometimes have to use in business," said May, who is president of E.I.T. in Sterling. "That includes making tough financial decisions."

OPRISON HAS RECEIVED endorsements from Morton Blackwell, a member of the Virginia GOP National Committee, the anti-tax group Virginia Club for Growth and the Virginia Conservative Action PAC.

Oprison and his team are on their way to walking the entire 33rd district, with the goal of walking it again before the primary. The basic nature of Oprison's campaign visibly invigorates him as he gets ready to head out for another Saturday on foot.

"It's getting out, knocking on doors," Oprison said.

Chris Oprison

Age: 34

Family: Wife, Jennifer, married seven years; three children.

Occupation: Attorney, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, Washington, D.C.

Education: University of California, Los Angeles; George Washington University.

Military: Marine Corps prosecutor, honor graduate of Marine Corps Officer Candidates School at Quantico and the Naval Justice School in Rhode Island. Active duty, 1998-2002.

Resident since: November 2003.