At a fund-raising auction for Halley Elementary School in Fairfax Station two years ago, Andrew Hurst noticed U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R) had promised dinner with himself and Del. David Albo (R-42) to the highest bidder.
Hurst approached the six-term congressman, shook his hand and asked how much cash the donated dinner would likely fetch for the elementary school.
Davis told him the dinner probably wouldn't raise terribly much because fewer voters know him in that corner of the 11th Congressional District.
"I won't get much because no one knows me out here. But if a lobbyist was bidding on it, I'd get $20,000 easy," Hurst said Davis told him.
It was in that moment, Hurst said, that he decided he was unhappy with Davis representing him in the U.S. Congress.
"I want to change the way Congress does business," Hurst said last week at a debate at the Fairfax County Government Center. "I'm here to tell you folks, until the way Congress works is altered, things are not going to get better."
Hurst, a 36-year-old attorney from Springfield, is one of two Democrats vying for the chance to challenge Davis in November.
The other candidate in the June 13 primary election is Ken Longmyer, a 67-year-old Falls Church resident and retired diplomat who lost to Davis with 38 percent of the vote in 2004.
Speaking before 80 Democrats at the April 18 debate, the two candidates found one thing on which they could wholeheartedly agree: Davis is part of the GOP "culture of corruption" and should be kicked out of office.
"We need an honest representative to represent us," Longmyer said. "Tom Davis doesn't work for us anymore. He's been working for Gingrich, DeLay and George W. Bush."
Davis did not return three calls for comment over the past week.
A KEY STRATEGY of both Democrats appears to be to link Davis with alleged House Republican ethics scandals, which have led to U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-Tex.) forthcoming resignation and former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's (R-Calif.) conviction for tax evasion and accepting bribes from defense contractors.
"You're not going to sneak up on [Davis] with a cutesy policy position," Hurst said. "You're going to get him right between the eyes on campaign finance and corruption."
Hurst said Davis is the "epitome of the culture of corruption."
"He's the guy who lets all this happen," Hurst said, pointing out that the House Committee on Government Reform, which Davis chairs, has investigated steroid use in professional baseball and the federal government's Hurricane Katrina response, but has failed to push for tough ethical reforms for Congress and lobbyists.
Earlier this month, Davis' committee unanimously approved two bills addressing ethics. The first, HR 4975, would deny federal retirement benefits for any congressmen or congressional staffer convicted of crimes that violate the public's trust and are punishable of up to a year in prison. The second bill, HR 5112, would implement various reforms for the executive branch, including doubling to two years the amount of time procurement officials must wait before being employed by a federal contractor with whom they worked in their official capacity.
Longmyer said that although Davis has a reputation of being a pragmatic centrist Republican, his voting record tells a different story.
"If you look at his voting record, it's almost identical to Tom DeLay and all the other reactionaries."
Eric Lundberg, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, said Davis is an honorable politician with a long history of aiding Fairfax County.
Criticizing Davis' ethics, Lundberg said, betrays a lack of ideas on the part of Hurst and Longmyer.
"They're just trying to smear the people who are trying to govern and that's not appropriate," Lundberg said.
Another major Davis supporter, 11th District GOP Chair Becky Stoeckel said she "can't fathom" why Democrats would accuse Davis of ethically unsound behavior.
"To paint Tom with such a broad brush, based on the actions of others, just shows that they don't know Tom Davis," said Stoeckel, a Fairfax City resident.
APART FROM the corruption charges, both Democrats outlined their views on a range of issues at the debate.
On the Iraq war, Longmyer said his foreign policy experience would prepare him well for asking skeptical questions of the Bush Administration's handling of the conflict.
"We need people like me in Congress, who can say 'Mr. President, slow down. We remember Vietnam. We remember Iraq. And we're going to ask some tough questions,'" Longmyer said.
Longmyer, who said he has opposed the war since before it began, supports pulling out of Iraq as soon as the U.S. generals believe it is viable.
"As long as we stay in there, we end up killing more, we make more enemies and we just spiral downward," Longmyer said. "I would not be the president's rubber stamp."
Hurst also supports pulling out soon, backing U.S. Rep. John Murtha's (D-Pa.) proposal to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq and establish a timetable for Iraqis to fully take over security of their nation.
"How would I get out of the war?" Hurst said. "I'd leave."
Hurst added he believes Bush should be impeached, or at least censured, for misleading the country into supporting the war and for authorizing the wiretapping of Americans' overseas phone calls without a warrant or congressional oversight.
"You can go down the list of baloney that this administration had pulled that are impeachable offenses," Hurst said.
Longmyer stopped short of calling for Bush's impeachment, but said the best way to address complaints about the administration and the direction of the country is to "throw the rascals out" in an election.
BOTH LONGMYER and Hurst agreed that one of the top issues facing the nation is the 45 million Americans who lack health insurance.
To address the problem, Longmyer said he supports a nationalized health care system. "It should be affordable to everyone, it should be accessible to everyone, and it should be first class care. We have failed in America."
Hurst said he doubts the country is ready for a national health care service. He believes health care can be made more accessible by: expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program to cover all children 6-years-old and younger and by creating an incentive program to allow small businesses to voluntarily pool together to buy group health insurance.
After an audience member asked a question about illegal immigration, Longmyer declared the situation a "crisis" and said reforms must address national security, but also be humane and economically realistic.
Hurst said the illegal immigration state of affairs is far from a crisis. Instead, he believes Republicans are using the issue to drive a wedge between Democratic voters and to play on citizens' xenophobic fears.
Hurst advocated for an easier path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently in the United States and said he supports strengthened borders. He does not, however, support building a fence along the nation's borders.
"Build a fence? I think that's the stupidest idea I've ever heard," he said.