With his opponent in November's general election determined, Democratic candidate Dave Marsden is moving forward in his bid to win the seat formerly occupied by the man whose campaign he once managed.
Marsden, who once served as an aide to Del. Jim Dillard (R-41), said he believes his strongest suit in helping him replace the retiring delegate will be his experience managing both agencies at the county and state level.
"I have a track record of getting things done that’s based on experience. That’s how you get things done," he said. "You can’t just suddenly have an epiphany that comes to you, and you suddenly figure out how to solve the world's problems."
He cited his 17 years as superintendent of the Fairfax County Juvenile Detention Center and six months as acting director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice as the largest factors in his qualification for office.
"I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats to get legislation I wrote through the General Assembly that made our juvenile correctional system safer, improved public safety and helped law enforcement officials out," said Marsden. "I’m concerned my opponent is tied to national tax and education groups that are all about being anti-tax, and for school vouchers at the expense of supporting our wonderful public schools."
Marsden's opponent, Republican Michael Golden, is a Fairfax attorney who has placed his decision to sign the national "No Tax" pledge front and center in his campaign. Marsden said he believes that decision is unwise.
"The only pledges I’ve ever taken are when I got married, and to support the laws and constitution of the commonwealth of Virginia when I was sworn in as a probation officer back in 1970," he said. "I think you handicap yourself and you give up your independence when you give your pledge to a national organization that is a, I’ve done the research, a lifetime pledge."
GOLDEN RESPONDED by citing Marsden's political record and his endorsements, which include Board of Supervisors chair Gerry Connelly (D-At Large) and Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock).
"He's been a tax-and-spend liberal throughout his political career," said Golden. "He's endorsed by people who have supported 80 percent property tax increases over the past six years. Quite frankly, I don't think he's met a tax increase he didn't like. When you have … a $1.5 billion surplus, promising not to raise taxes is the only thing that seems to be responsible to this district."
Golden also added that the notion of a lifetime pledge wasn't accurate.
"He's mischaracterizing the nature of the pledge," he said. "It deals with your term in a particular office. It's a notion of revenue neutrality. But the ultimate question we have here, and a clear distinction, is that we have one candidate who thinks the tax burden is too high … and another who thinks the tax burden could be raised, and I think that's bad policy."
This will be the first foray into politics for Marsden, 57, who managed Dillard's successful 1999 bid for the General Assembly.
Marsden said Dillard was "a real role model" to his political aspirations, but said he has no qualms about crossing the aisle and taking up the Democratic mantle in the General Assembly.
"I served under Governor Gilmore and Governor Warner, and I saw two huge differences between those administrations," said Marsden, who was appointed by Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) in 2000 as chief Deputy of the DJJ.
"(Gilmore's administration) was all about what not to do — don’t distract from our message, stay quiet, do your job. The Warner folks came in and said, 'Hey we can’t do everything, but give us your best,'" said Marsden of the relationship of his agency to the two governors. "When I got back after the stalemate on the tax issue, it was pretty clear to me I would be very uncomfortable running as a Republican."
To date, Marsden said the Democratic party has "welcomed" him.
"There’s part of that Republican message that’s important to me, about personal accountability," said Marsden, who said he supported civil contracts for homosexuals and no government intervention on the issue of abortion.
"I don’t think you can govern effectively from that far out on the extreme right," he said of Golden, who defeated Bill Finerfrock in the Republican primary on June 14, winning 74 percent of the votes.
A GRADUATE of Woodson High, where he won the state hurdles title as a senior, Marsden has lived in the same Burke home since 1977, and said he is putting Northern Virginia's issues front and center of his campaign.
"We’re all about getting our fair share from Richmond," he said. "We need to do something about our property tax problem here, and what we need to do is find revenue sources that don’t come from the residents of this county." Marsden also believes his experience running the Fairfax County detention center provides him "unique qualifications" in the area of gangs.
"We were able to treat kids locally and effectively," said Marsden of his time managing the detention center.
"You have to hold these gang leaders accountable … but we also need to be sensitive to the idea that we need to find the vulnerable kids in our district who are the kind of kids who are likely to be seduced by the gang message, and we need to get adults involved in their lives and get them into the kind of activities that allow them to say no to gangs."