September was a rather lonely month for Del. Bob Brink, who is unopposed in his quest to retain his seat in Virginia’s General Assembly.
Brink has been attending civic association forums and going door-to-door to meet constituents, but admits it’s not quite the same without an opponent.
“I think I owe it to these folks not to take them for granted,” said Brink, a Democrat who has represented the 48th District, in central and north Arlington, since 1998. “But I would prefer to have an opponent. I enjoy debating the issues.”
Because he is running unopposed, Brink is concentrating more on his goals for the upcoming legislative session, which begins in mid-January, then on campaign promises and electioneering.
“People know Bob, and know what he has done, so we don’t need to do sound-byte campaigning,” said Tom Connally, Brink’s campaign manager. “He understands the concerns and issues in great depth and the success he has had in the past is one reason he is unopposed.”
Raised in Chicago, Brink moved to Arlington in 1972 after a stint in the Army, which included a tour in Vietnam. After graduating from The College of William and Mary’s law school, Brink worked as a Congressional aide for 15 years. During the first Clinton administration he served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs. He was first elected to Virginia’s General Assembly in 1998, when Julia Connally, whom he previously had worked for as campaign manager, retired.
“I think any staff person who watches their boss closely thinks, ‘hey, I could do that,’” said Brink, who has been married to his wife Debbie for 30 years and has two grown children. “I have always been interested in shaping policy and I finally had the chance to run for office.”
When asked to list his strengths as a legislator, Brink, renowned for his self-deprecating humor, asked facetiously, “how many hours do you have?”
“What I bring to the table is a background in the legislative process,” Brink said. “I always try to draw solid pieces of legislation that don’t have unintended consequences.”
BRINK HAS CONSISTENTLY heard from constituents that Arlington’s transportation woes are a major concern. As the Metro system begins to show its age, and the county’s highways are consumed by gridlock, the legislature will have to devote more funding to solving the region’s transportation problems, he said.
In this year’s session, Brink hopes to shepherd another constitutional amendment on home-owner’s tax relief through the House of Delegates. Last year a similar amendment was killed in the state Senate. The act would have exempted up to $100,000 of the value of one’s home from taxation.
His proudest accomplishment to date in the legislature has been the Children’s Health Insurance program, which provides medical care for working low-income families. Brink collaborated with the Warner administration to lower the eligibility requirements and improve the program’s outreach and information campaign.
“It’s very rewarding to see kids getting medical care and be off to a better start,” Brink said.
Delegates and senators vote on nearly 3,000 bills in the approximately 60-day session, a condensed scheduled that vexes Brink. He wishes he had more time to spend crafting bills and drumming up support for worthwhile legislation.
The legislature gets side-tracked debating “divisive” social issues, instead of devoting more time to passing acts that could benefit communities, Brink said. He points to “various assaults” on a women’s right to choose and the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, as well as the much-ridiculed “droopy-pants bill.”
This year Brink expects a contentious debate over immigration issues, especially in the wake of the controversy surrounding Herndon’s new day-laborer site.
“Republicans believe the state should impose its will on localities trying to deal with a real problem,” he said. “Arlington tries to regulate and control the process that otherwise is bad for the community.”
Because he has no opponent, Brink has spent much of the campaign season stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine and other local Democrats running for office.
“I’m optimistic about this election,” he said. “Tim will maintain the progress we’ve made over the past for years and I think we have a good chance to gain a couple of seats in the legislature.”
<ro>Del. Bob Brink (D)
FAMILY: Wife, Deborah; children, David and Eliza
CAMPAIGN MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 7516, Arlington Va. 22207
CAMPAIGN PHONE: 703-531-1048
WEB SITE: www.bobbrink.org
OCCUPATION: Legislative Consultant
EMPLOYMENT: EB&T Strategy Group LLC
EDUCATION: BA, Monmouth College (IL); JD, College of William and Mary
QUALIFICATIONS: eight-year record as member of House of Delegates